Current Events in November 2018

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    Following new blood pressure guidelines may help millions with cardiovascular issues

    Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is the key to improved heart health

    As over 100 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, consumers should be informed of any potential treatment options available to them.

    Recently, researchers from the University of Utah Health found that adhering to the latest blood pressure guidelines from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) may be the key to preventing millions of cardiovascular issues in the coming years.

    “Treating high blood pressure is a major public health opportunity to protect health and quality of life for tens of millions of Americans,” said lead researcher Adam Bress. “Achieving these lower goals will be challenging.”

    Following the guidelines

    The ACC/AHA guidelines lowered the standards for what is considered high blood pressure in an effort to have healthcare professionals try to help patients at earlier stages.

    According to the researchers, most cardiovascular issues occur in patients whose blood pressure is above 140/90 mm Hg -- what was previously considered hypertensive. However, under the new guidelines, patients’ blood pressure would be considered hypertensive at 130/80 mm Hg, while a healthy reading would be 120/80 mm Hg.

    The researchers used information from the ACC/AHA guidelines, the seventh Joint National Committee (JNC7), the eighth Joint National Committee (JNC8), and several population-based databases to predict the ways cardiovascular health can be improved in the coming years.

    They foresee over three million cardiovascular issues could be prevented if patients stick to the ACC/AHA’s 2017 guidelines.

    While adhering to these guidelines could be beneficial to millions of Americans, researchers from the ACC/AHA also suggest that many more people will be classified as having high blood pressure. More young people will now be included in this demographic, and the researchers expect more men to be affected than women.

    Putting patients first

    Though the researchers think these findings could help millions of people prevent future health complications, they are also aware of the risks associated with diagnosing more people with high blood pressure.

    Not only is cost a major factor, but healthcare providers that prescribe high blood pressure medication will need to monitor all patients to ensure that they don’t experience any adverse side effects.

    Overall, Bress and his team believe that medical professionals need to work together with their patients to determine the best course of treatment.

    “A conversation and shared decision making between provider and patient about benefits and risks of increasing the dose of a medication or adding a new medication to achieve a lower target are important,” Bress said. “Benefits to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure are clear and may often outweigh risk of minor, transient side-effects.”

    Maintaining healthy blood pressure

    Recent studies have explored the countless benefits associated with consumers maintaining healthy blood pressure. For diabetes sufferers, keeping blood pressure under control was found to reduce the number of patients who experience extreme hypertension -- which often leads to organ failure.

    “Given the fact that the presence of severely elevated blood pressure is the strongest driver of damage to vital organs in individuals with diabetes, the most important intervention for preventing hypertensive emergencies would be to better manage patients’ blood pressure,” said lead researcher Irina Benenson.

    A recent study also found that teens with high blood pressure could actually be at risk for organ damage. Researchers determined that testing teenagers’ blood pressure has often provided inconclusive results, as many whose numbers fall within normal levels were found to be suffering from organ damage.

    Changes to diet, exercise, and weight were found to effective for treating teens’ high blood pressure, though medication is sometimes necessary.

    As over 100 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, consumers should be informed of any potential treatment options available to them.Recent...

    Steroid use linked to premature death in men

    Researchers say there are countless health risks associated with steroids

    Steroids most often dominate sports headlines, as athletes tend to be some of the biggest offenders of using performance-enhancing drug.

    Though these compounds have been known to increase muscle mass and help those looking to stay in peak physical condition, athletes aren’t the only ones using them. Healthcare professionals have also prescribed steroids for various health conditions, but it is important for consumers to know the negative health risks.

    Now, researchers have found that taking anabolic steroids such as testosterone could lead to premature death -- particularly for men.

    “This study has shown that anabolic steroids are associated with a range of side effects that can be directly attributed to their pharmacological activities,” said lead researcher Dr. Henrik Horwitz.

    More than just muscles

    To get a better look at the side effects that come from anabolic steroids, the researchers analyzed 545 men who all tested positive for testosterone and compared them with 5,450 men who had no drugs in their system.

    After an average of seven years, the participants were re-evaluated, and the researchers assessed their overall health. While the increased risk of death was perhaps the most startling finding, the researchers found that taking anabolic steroids presents a variety of different health risks.

    Those who were taking testosterone were three times more likely to die due to the substance, and they were admitted to the hospital at a higher frequency than their clean counterparts. Steroid-users were also at a greater risk of developing acne, erectile dysfunction, and gynaecomastia -- a condition that causes a male’s breast tissue to swell.

    Over the long-term, anabolic steroids can cause several other health problems, including but not limited to:

    • Liver damage

    • Tumors

    • High blood pressure

    • An enlarged heart

    • Kidney problems or failure

    • Changes in blood cholesterol

    In the short-term, steroids can have an effect on users’ personality, increasing irritability and aggression while also impairing judgment.

    Steroids can be become addictive; experts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that a combination of therapy and medication can be helpful in fighting addiction. Patients have taken antidepressants; pain medication for the muscle and joint pain; and a hormone regimen for symptoms associated with steroid withdrawal.

    Steroids most often dominate sports headlines, as athletes tend to be some of the biggest offenders of using performance-enhancing drug.Though these co...

    GM recalls Buick Encore, Chevrolet Spark, Traverse and Trax vehicles

    The airbags may not deploy in the event of a crash

    General Motors is recalling 12 model year 2019 Buick Encore, Chevrolet Spark, Traverse and Trax vehicles.

    The Sensing Diagnostic Module (SDM) on these vehicle may not have been turned off of "manufacturing mode," preventing the airbags from deploying in the event of a crash.

    Failure of the airbags to deploy in the event of a crash can increase the risk of injury.

    What to do

    GM will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the SDM module to the correct mode, free of charge.

    The recall began November 6, 2018.

    Owners may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300 and Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 18365.

    General Motors is recalling 12 model year 2019 Buick Encore, Chevrolet Spark, Traverse and Trax vehicles.The Sensing Diagnostic Module (SDM) on these v...

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      Model year 2018 Ford Explorers recalled

      The fuel pressure sensor may leak fuel

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 144 model year 2018 Ford Explorers equipped with 2.3L or 3.5L GTDI engine.

      Due to an assembly error, the fuel pressure sensor may leak fuel.

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

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel line assembly, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 3, 2018.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 18S35.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 144 model year 2018 Ford Explorers equipped with 2.3L or 3.5L GTDI engine.Due to an assembly error, the fuel pressure s...

      After a huge buildup, consumers may be ready to shop this Black Friday

      Retailers are offering better deals and competing to improve the shopping experience

      Americans may pause for a long holiday weekend filled with feasting and football, but for the nation's retailers, it's showtime.

      By now, consumers should be aware of the deals available from all the brick-and-mortar and online stores since the ad slicks have all leaked and are published all over the internet. You can check out some of the best deals here. The next few days will be all about making the sale -- getting consumers into the stores and onto the websites.

      Some stores will be open for at least a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. Nearly all will open at the crack of dawn on Black Friday. Our friends at BestBlackFriday.com have compiled this handy list of store openings.

      Amazon has been rolling out daily deals since the beginning of November, but it’s saving its doorbusters for the big day itself. Target and Walmart have also tried to entice consumers with early online deals. It seems to be working.

      Early online sales are up over last year

      Verizon tracks digital commerce with its Holiday Retail Index and reports that consumers are buying more online at this point than last year. Traffic was up 4.19 percent on Saturday compared to the last Saturday before Thanksgiving 2017. On Sunday, it was up over 14 percent compared to last year.

      "The early engagement from retailers appears to be paying off as traffic this year continues to grow from years past," said Michele Dupré, group vice president of Retail, Hospitality & Distribution, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “A strong trend in consumer confidence is highlighted by shopper’s interest in the early Black Friday deals that we started learning about in early November. The challenge will be to see if this trend can be maintained throughout the season."

      An analysis by Internet Retailer projects consumers will spend nearly 120 billion online in November and December, a 15 percent increase over last year's total. Meanwhile, consumers are being urged not to overlook their local, independent merchants.

      "America's 30 million small businesses reflect the unique character of their communities and Small Business Saturday is a day for consumers to support the local retailers that make their towns and cities special," said U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon. "When Americans shop at small businesses, they are supporting economic activity and job growth in their neighborhoods during this holiday season."

      The deals will continue on Cyber Monday, but most probably won't be announced until the weekend so they don't upstage Black Friday. Retail analysts say Cyber Monday may offer some of the best deals of the long weekend since retailers can make last minute adjustments to compensate for a less-than-stellar Black Friday.

      And if your wallet seems lighter after the long weekend, it probably is. According to a forecast by Salesforce, 40 percent of holiday spending will be done in the first week of the holiday shopping season.

      Americans may pause for a long holiday weekend filled with feasting and football, but for the nation's retailers, it's showtime.By now, consumers shoul...

      Romaine lettuce linked to E. coli outbreak

      Consumers are urged not to eat any brand or form of romaine lettuce

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Tuesday in a food safety alert that E. coli concerns have rendered romaine lettuce unsafe to eat.

      The agency is advising consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. Restaurants are advised not to serve it, stores are being told not sell it, and people are advised not to buy any brand or form of romaine lettuce.

      To date, 32 people in 11 states have been infected with the outbreak strain tied to the product. Thirteen people have been hospitalized, where one individual developed a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths have been reported.

      The illnesses linked to this particularly dangerous strain of E. coli began in October. This strain is different from another linked to tainted romaine lettuce that occured over the summer, but it is similar to one that occured last year.

      Although health officials have confidence that the current outbreak is linked to romaine lettuce, they haven’t been able to identify a single distributer or grower at the root of the outbreak -- a fact which FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called “frustrating and unfortunate.”

      Broad warning

      At this time, the agency doesn’t have enough information to request that suppliers issue a recall. But with Thanksgiving just a few days away, Gottlieb said the agency felt it needed to put out a warning right away.

      “I think we felt increased pressure to try to communicate earlier and more substantively with the public given that we know people are going to sit down for holiday meals,” Gottlieb said.

      Until the contamination can be identified, stores and restaurants are being told to pull romaine products from shelves and consumers are advised not to eat it in any form, even if washed.

      “The quick and aggressive steps we’re taking today are aimed at making sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak, to reduce risk to consumers, and to help people protect themselves and their families from this foodborne illness outbreak,” the FDA said in a statement. “This is especially important ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when people will be sitting down for family meals.”

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Tuesday in a food safety alert that E. coli concerns have rendered romaine lettuce unsafe to ea...

      Many former Toys 'R' Us employees to get severance pay after all

      Two hedge funds put up $20 million for severance fund

      The holidays can be a particularly grim time to lose your job and get no severance pay. Just ask the employees of bankrupt toy retailer Toys 'R' Us.

      But now, KKR and Bain Capital, two hedge funds that are liquidating the company, have had a change of mind and are establishing a $20 million fund to pay many of the employees who have lost their jobs.

      Under bankruptcy law, the owners of Toys 'R' Us assets are not required to offer severance packages. Their decision, announced in a joint statement, follows growing public pressure from former employees and members of Congress.

      TRU Financial Assistance Fund

      The two companies are establishing the TRU Financial Assistance Fund they say will pay "certain" former Toys 'R' Us employees who lost their jobs as a result of the liquidation. KKR and Bain Capital are each putting up $10 million.

      They have retained the services of  Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, whose experience in administering these types of payments include the 9/11 Fund, BP Oil Spill Fund, GM Ignition Switch Compensation Fund, OneFund Boston, and the OneOrlando Fund.

      “This is a valuable and important step designed to provide a degree of financial relief to eligible former employees of Toys 'R' Us," Feinberg said. "We are now disseminating a draft of the Protocol outlining the terms and conditions of eligibility so we can gauge employee reaction and comment.”

      Worker input

      Biros said the fund will be governed by a transparent, straightforward and simple process designed to offer financial relief. She said she expects affected Toys R Us employees to have input.

      “KKR and Bain Capital's creation of this fund will bring real support to the thousands of dedicated Toys 'R' Us employees who lost their jobs," said Tracy Forbes, a former Toys 'R' Us manager at the company’s Chandler, Ariz., store. "We hope other firms will follow their lead and contribute.”

      Money will be awarded to eligible employees based on hours worked, historic earnings, and tenure. To become eligible employees must have worked at Toys 'R' Us for at least a year and earned no more than $110,000 and no less than $5,000 per year.

      In their joint statement, the two hedge funds said they had been Toys 'R' Us shareholders for 12 years and had advocated "for a very different outcome than what occurred." They said their voluntary move to establish the severance fund was a reaction to what they called "an extraordinary set of circumstances."

      The holidays can be a particularly grim time to lose your job and get no severance pay. Just ask the employees of bankrupt toy retailer Toys 'R' Us.But...

      Uber makes wheelchair-assisted rides available

      The service starts in six U.S. markets and will grow from there

      If companies could buy mulligans, Uber would probably scarf up all it could.

      So far in 2018, the company has suffered through harassment charges from its employees, settled a data breach suit with all 50 states, and saw one of its self-driving cars strike and kill a woman in Arizona.

      Maybe Uber’s latest move will breed some good karma.

      The company announced on Tuesday that it’s improving the “experience” for riders in wheelchairs by partnering with MV Transportation, the largest privately-owned passenger transportation contracting services firm in the United States.

      “We believe that ridesharing has the potential to significantly improve mobility for people with disabilities,” wrote Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO in a blog post.

      “Over the years, we’ve invested in technologies and features to support more people’s ability to easily move around their communities. And drivers on the Uber platform are already expected to accommodate riders with service animals, as well as riders using folding wheelchairs or other assistive devices. But we know there is more that can be done, and believe that ridesharing can further improve options for riders who use motorized wheelchairs or scooters and want reliable access to wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs).”

      The thriving mobility market

      With baby boomer consumers continuing to age, the mobility market continues to grow.

      Finding wheelchair-accessible transportation is not an easy task. Most ride providers aren’t equipped for that option or want to go to the expense of buying mobility-ready vehicles.

      Uber took note of the limited paratransit market and partnered with Boston’s paratransit pilot program to see what possibilities that niche might hold.

      “Because Uber doesn’t own the cars on our platform, historically we’ve relied on people using their own cars to use WAVs on the Uber app, but there simply aren’t enough people who personally own WAVs who also choose to drive with Uber,” Khosrowshahi said.

      Where and how much

      To start, MV’s drivers and wheelchair-accessible fleet can be contracted via Uber’s app in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, and Toronto. The next phase of the initiative will include Los Angeles and San Francisco.

      For the first phase, at least, Uber is pricing the WAV rides the same as UberX. According to UberEstimator, UberX rides start out at 97 cents a mile.

      If companies could buy mulligans, Uber would probably scarf up all it could.So far in 2018, the company has suffered through harassment charges from it...

      Credit card interest rates are high and going higher

      Consumer's credit card debt has risen this year, along with interest rates

      The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates three times in 2018 and may do so again next month. For consumers carrying large credit card balances, that means higher finance charges.

      Heading into the holiday shopping season, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) warns consumers to keep interest rates in mind while pointing out that the current average rate on credit cards is at its highest point in nearly 20 years. Each time the Fed hikes the federal funds rate, it goes even higher.

      “As interest rates have risen, financing holiday purchases with credit cards has grown more expensive,” said Steve Brobeck, a senior fellow at CFA. “Consumers with high credit card debt levels should be particularly cautious about increasing their debt during the holiday season.”

      Credit card debt and interest rates have been rising in tandem. The Fed reports outstanding revolving credit rose from $855.6 billion in 2013 to $1 trillion in August 2018, an increase of 22 percent. Some of that amount gets paid off at the end of each month, but much of it accumulates into larger credit card balances. This year, CFA projects consumers will spend tens of billions of dollars more in credit card interest than they did in 2013.

      Credit card defaults are down

      So far, consumers appear to be handling this extra debt. S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian recently reported the credit card default rate is actually lower in the first 10 months of 2018 than the same period last year. But it's still 3.09 percent compared to 0.92 percent for auto loans, whose default rate is slightly higher this year.

      "Continued good economic results are supporting rising consumer spending without any significant increase in consumer credit defaults," said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Compared to a year earlier, default rates in the three major categories – mortgages, auto loans and bank cards – are down.

      Blitzer says October was the sixth straight month of falling credit card default rates. The rate is down 77 basis points from its April 2018 peak. The overall credit default rate -- which includes mortgages and auto loans -- is 0.82 percent, the lowest in over two years.

      The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates three times in 2018 and may do so again next month. For consumers carrying large credit card balances, that me...

      Quaker Oats recalls Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereal

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      The Quaker Oats Company is recalling a small quantity of Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereal.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses related to Salmonella have been confirmed to date.

      The recall includes only 21 17.1-oz., boxes of Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereal with UPC code 0 30000 6211 1 and Best Before Dates of JUL 30 19 or JUL 31 19 purchased after November 5, 2018 at the following Target stores:

      StoreAddressCityStateZip
      Super Target4001 N 132nd StOmahaNE68164
      P-Fresh4250 Rusty RdSaint LouisMO63128
      Super Target10800 E 21st St NWichitaKS67206
      Super Target8201 S 40th St.LincolnNE68516
      P-Fresh1040 NE CoronadoBlue SpringsMO64014

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (800) 234-6281, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (EST) or online at cu.pepsico.com/capncrunch.

      The Quaker Oats Company is recalling a small quantity of Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereal.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella....

      Model year 2018 and 2019 Honda Odysseys recalled

      The power sliding doors may stick and not properly latch to the door strikers

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 107,774 model year 2018 and 2019 Honda Odysseys.

      The power sliding door latch assemblies may stick and not properly latch to the door strikers.

      If the power sliding doors fails to latch, the doors may open while the vehicle is moving, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the left and right power sliding door rear latch assemblies, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 20, 2018.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's numbers for this recall are Z33 and O36.

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 107,774 model year 2018 and 2019 Honda Odysseys.The power sliding door latch assemblies may stick and not proper...

      Green Cedar Dairy recalls Ackawi cheese

      The product is contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Green Cedar Dairy of Dearborn, Mich., is recalling Green Cedar Ackawi cheese.

      Samples of the product collected and tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested positive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following product, sold at retail stores in East Dearborn and Dearborn Heights Mich., is being recalled:

      • Green Cedar Ackawi cheese in small clear plastic shrink wrapped packaging bearing a “sell by” date of March 26, 2019, or later. The “sell by” date is on a white sticker on the back of the product.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Hussam Harb at (313) 584-4499, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm (ET).

      Green Cedar Dairy of Dearborn, Mich., is recalling Green Cedar Ackawi cheese.Samples of the product collected and tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Admi...

      Car dealers roll out their best deals for Black Friday

      But lack of confidence in the process could keep some consumers away

      The nation's car dealers are making a bid for a bigger slice of Black Friday spending this year by rolling out dozens of deals they hope will entice holiday shoppers into new car showrooms.

      If past years are any indication, the strategy will work. People in search of a good price on a new set of wheels may bypass the mall this year.

      If you're looking for an SUV, your Ford dealer will be offering zero percent financing for 60 months and $1,500 cash back on a 2018 Ford Escape. It comes with Ford's MyKey, a 4.2-inch display screen, Bluetooth, voice recognition, and a USB port. Options like navigation and adaptive cruise control are part of a higher trim level.

      The 2019 Kia Sportage also comes with interest-free financing for 60 months but lacks the cashback offer.  The base model comes with a USB port, satellite radio, and a five-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth. If you upgrade to a higher option package, you get a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

      Acura lease deal

      Kelley Blue Book (KBB) has highlighted a handful of attractive new car deals available in November, all of which will be offered on Black Friday. Acura dealers will be offering the Acura ILX on a 36-month lease for $199 a month. It requires $2,499 down.

      For economy-minded shoppers, your Ford dealer is offering $4,000 cash back on the purchase of a Ford Focus. According to KBB, the car sells for around $18,661, meaning you can drive it away for less than $15,000.

      Ford is offering $5,000 cash back on the purchase of a Ford Explorer, which KBB says you should be able to purchase for just under $32,000. Chrysler is offering $4,500 on the Jeep Cherokee, with a Fair Purchase Price of just under $30,000.

      If you're in the market for an SUV, November is a great time to buy or lease with cash back and lease deals on top models," said Allyson Harwood, associate editor for KBB. "The Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, and Hyundai Tucson offer great value and practicality in a small SUV package. The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee offer more room at a higher price point, but the savings this month could make them more affordable and worth a closer look."

      Lack of confidence

      Despite the competitive deal-making, new car sales have slowed in recent months -- reportedly because of market saturation. But a survey by Capital One Auto Finance suggests another possible reason. It found consumer concerns over the current car buying process, particularly transparency and the time it takes to make a purchase.

      "The car-buying process does not need to be a source of stress. And this current state of trust and transparency in car-buying needs to be addressed," said Jeff Rabinowitz, managing vice president of Capital One Auto Finance.

      The survey found only 6 percent of buyers think the process is completely transparent. Only 20 percent said they feel "very confident" when shopping for a car.

      The nation's car dealers are making a bid for a bigger slice of Black Friday spending this year by rolling out dozens of deals they hope will entice holida...

      Consumer group warns parents about toys that may be dangerous

      U.S. PIRG’s annual report highlights potential issues with slime and 'smart' toys

      Toys are a lot safer than they were decades ago, but that doesn't mean some playthings can't be harmful. In its 33rd annual report, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) found a number of toys it says should not be under the tree this Christmas.

      "This year’s investigation uncovered slime products with toxic levels of boron, and a failure by Amazon to appropriately label choking hazards," the authors write. "We also found a toy that could cause hearing damage and highlighted smart toys that have cybersecurity issues."

      U.S. PIRG says it examined various brands of toy slime and found some that contain boron concentrations that are as much as 15 times the limit allowed by the European Union. Boron is a natural substance sometimes taken as a supplement, but excessive exposure can carry negative physical side effects.

      U.S. PIRG says ingesting boron or borax can cause nausea, vomiting, and long-term reproductive health issues. It notes that Jordan and Canada are among the countries that have taken action to limit or ban slimes with high boron content.  

      Choking hazards

      For small children, choking is always a potential hazard. This year's "Trouble in Toyland" report identified toys with small parts that lack the necessary warning labels when sold online.

      In particular, the report identifies Hatchimals and L.O.L. Surprise toys as those containing small parts that are marketed to children as young as two.

      The report also urges parents and other gift-givers to use discretion when buying "smart" or "connected" toys because of privacy issues. The report highlights cybersecurity findings of the Mozilla Foundation. It also cites advice from the FBI, which has urged consumers to consider cybersecurity prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes or trusted environments.

      Privacy issues

      "In some cases, toys with microphones could record and collect conversations within earshot of the device. Information such as the child’s name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities may be disclosed through normal conversation with the toy in the surrounding environment," the authors warn.

      The report concludes that the collection of a child’s personal information and a toy’s ability to connect to the internet raise concerns for privacy and physical safety.

      The consumer group also urges parents to be on the lookout for recalled toys that could still be in their home. In the last 12 months, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been working with manufacturers and distributors to initiate more than 40 recalls of toys and other products for children.

      Toys are a lot safer than they were decades ago, but that doesn't mean some playthings can't be harmful. In its 33rd annual report, U.S. Public Interest Re...

      Take out the flu before you fly out for Thanksgiving

      Travelers interacting with seniors should take extra precaution

      If you haven’t gotten your annual flu shot and find yourself with extra time between flights this holiday season, you can be immunized at many U.S. airports.

      According to a report from ThePointsGuy, most of the major airline hubs have clinics where passengers can get a flu shot. Those include:

      • Chicago - UI Health O’Hare Urgent Care Clinic: At O’Hare in Chicago, travelers can get a quick flu shot at pop-up kiosks in Terminals, 1, 2, and 3 operated by the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System.

      • Hawaii - Daniel K. Inouye International Airport: Flying to Hawaii? If you’re going through Oahu and looking for a clinic, there’s one on the ground floor of Terminal 2 of the Honolulu airport where flu shots may be available. To confirm that the clinic offers flu shots, call (808) 836-6643 before going.

      • Las Vegas - Code 3 Emergency Room & Urgent Care at LAS: Flu shots should be available at Code 3 inside Las Vegas’ McCarran.

      • Nashville - Travelers can get immunized at the CareHere! Walk-in Clinic located at the Concourse C Exit at BNA.

      • New York City - JFK Advanced Medical P.C.: Many international travelers will find themselves at hubs like JFK in New York City. One of the pluses at JFK is that they offer a shuttle that will take you directly to the airport’s medical center. On top of flu shots, JFK’s clinic also offers other vaccinations for pneumonia, malaria, measles, and more.

      • Phoenix - US CareWays at PHX: The US CareWays can be found at Phoenix SkyHarbor’s Terminal 4. The clinic offers flu shots and a wide range of urgent care services.

      • San Francisco - SFO Medical Clinic: The SFO Medical Clinic provides travel medicine, urgent care, and even immigration physicals. It also accepts checks and credit cards and can make sure you leave with the paperwork necessary to file a claim with your health insurance provider.  San Francisco airport has a clinic specializing in travel health and urgent care.

      Are flu shots really that important?

      Even though protection against the flu continues to improve, we’re not out of the woods completely. And if you’re flying out to see grandma and grandpa -- or anyone over age 65 -- remember that they’re at an even greater risk.

      “Annual flu vaccination is important for seniors not only to protect their own health, but also to help protect the health of the people around them,” writes Families Fighting Flu.

      And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) echoes that.

      According to the CDC, people 65+ have a greater chance of flu complications, and the majority of flu-related deaths and hospitalizations occur with seniors. If you’re traveling over the holidays and are even the slightest bit concerned about the flu, the CDC offers travelers a detailed list of precautions in dealing with the bug.

      Got the flu shot but still traveling?

      The CDC’s list of precautions doesn’t currently include influenza, but there are more than a dozen domestic and international outbreaks and alerts that travelers should be aware of and do their best to protect themselves against.

      “People who have not gotten a flu vaccine for the current season and are traveling to parts of the world where influenza activity is ongoing should get a flu vaccine to protect themselves during their trip,” warns the CDC.

      If you haven’t gotten your annual flu shot and find yourself with extra time between flights this holiday season, you can be immunized at many U.S. airport...

      Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be dangerous

      Deep frying a turkey can raise your chances of a holiday mishap

      Preparing Thanksgiving dinner should not be a dangerous undertaking. But in recent years, new hazards have emerged because more chefs have decided to deep-fry their turkey.

      For starters, a turkey is a large object to drop into a pot of boiling oil. Things can and do go wrong.

      For starters, you need a lot of oil to completely submerge a 30-pound turkey. The oil must be heated to at least 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That's a lot of oil heated to a very high temperature. Splashes and spills can cause fires and serious injury.

      If you are determined to cook a turkey this way, experts agree that children and pets should be kept far away from the deep-flying setup. Don't use your deep fryer until you've read the directions.

      It's also important to know whether you have an indoor fryer or an outdoor fryer. If it's an indoor appliance, never use it outdoors. If it's made for the outdoors, never use it indoors.

      Don’t drink and fry

      If you are cooking outdoors, never leave your cooker unattended, even though it could take a couple of hours to cook the bird. Also, it is never a good idea to consume alcohol while deep frying a turkey.

      Firefighters produced the video below to demonstrate how dangerous it can be to deep fry a turkey if the oil spills out of the pot and comes in contact with the heating surface.


      Why Fry?

      If deep-frying a turkey is so prone to hazards, why do people do it? Perhaps the reason is the fact that cooking a turkey in the oven can be an imprecise method. Frying the bird in a pot of boiling oil delivers a turkey that is almost always crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside.

      Unfortunately, deep-frying mishaps aren't the only holiday cooking hazard. The National Fire Protection Association reports Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving.

      In 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,570 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving. Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths.

      Preparing Thanksgiving dinner should not be a dangerous undertaking. But in recent years, new hazards have emerged because more chefs have decided to deep-...