Current Events in November 2018

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    A low-gluten diet could be the key to better gut health

    A study found that even for non-Celiac sufferers, consuming gluten in smaller doses has health benefits

    In recent years, eating gluten-free has become trendy among many consumers, regardless of whether or not they suffer from Celiac disease. Cutting out gluten has been thought to have countless health benefits, including a reduced risk for heart disease or obesity, though not all sources agree.

    There has been countless back and forth between experts and consumers on the health benefits of following a gluten-free or low-gluten diet, but researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that a low-gluten diet can improve gut health for all consumers.

    “We demonstrate that, in comparison with a high-gluten diet, a low-gluten, fiber-rich diet induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria, reduces hydrogen exhalation, and leads to improvements in self-reported bloating,” said lead researcher Oluf Pedersen. “Moreover, we observed a modest weight loss, likely due to increased body combustion triggered by the altered gut bacterial functions.”

    A change in diet

    The researchers conducted an experiment that involved 60 middle-aged adults, none of whom had any gastrointestinal diseases, who followed one of two diets over the course of two eight-week trials.

    The researchers compared a high-gluten diet (18 grams of gluten per day) with a low-gluten diet (two grams of gluten per day), and had the participants leave six weeks in between in which they ate regularly and consumed about 12 grams of gluten per day.

    The participants that followed the low-gluten diet experienced many of the benefits that those who suffer from gastrointestinal issues receive from a gluten-free diet. They reported less bloating and less overall intestinal discomfort over the course of the experiment, while some even lost weight.

    While the researchers saw this as a positive sign, they also discovered that the reason for overall improved gut health came from the makeup of the food, as opposed to a reduction in gluten. The dietary fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are wildly different than what’s found in white bread, pasta, or cereal, and the former is better for consumers’ overall gut health.

    However, the researchers warn that more long-term studies need to be conducted before doctors start advising their patients to change their diets.

    “We find dietary fibres -- not the absence of gluten alone -- to be the primary cause of the changes in intestinal discomfort and body weight,” Pedersen said. “By now we think that our study is a wake-up call to the food industry. Gluten-free may not necessarily be the healthy choice many people think it is.”

    Pedersen notes that many mass-produced food items may be free of gluten, but they’re also free of the vitamins and nutrients our bodies need to have a full, healthy diet.

    “Therefore, there is an obvious need for for availability of fibre-enriched, nutritionally high-quality gluten-free food items which are fresh and minimally processed to consumers who prefer a low-gluten diet.”

    In recent years, eating gluten-free has become trendy among many consumers, regardless of whether or not they suffer from Celiac disease. Cutting out glute...

    Elon Musk’s SpaceX gets the all-clear to deploy 7,000 internet-delivery satellites

    Internet access in rural America gets another much-needed boost

    Elon Musk is in the news again, but this time it’s in a good way.

    Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has been given the all-clear to further build out its global, high-speed, satellite-driven wireless network dubbed "Starlink."

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the company’s proposal to "operate a new very-low-Earth orbit constellation of more than 7,000 satellites using V-band frequencies."

    What’s V-band, you say? Patrick Gannon at BusinessCom explains that the system relies on "outfitting customers with small antennas” which can then be used to “deliver high speed fixed and mobile broadband directly to consumers."

    This is the second approval the FCC has given Musk and his satellite idea. Earlier this year, the agency gave Musk’s plan for a 4,425-satellite broadband network the go-ahead.

    When SpaceX gets everything in place, the network will total nearly 12,000 satellites that should -- in theory -- cover the globe with internet access for nearly everyone, everywhere. For people in rural America, that’s a welcome relief, and Musk is playing directly into the FCC’s way of thinking in that regard, too. In August, the FCC announced that it’s making a giant investment in rural America by putting billions on the table to create broadband for 700,000 homes and businesses.

    When? How fast? How much?

    If you’re anxious, you might want to slow that roll a bit. The Starlink network might not be fully functional until somewhere around 2025. But consumer patience will have a definite payoff. The proposed speed of Starlink’s internet connection is a gigabit a second, the same as fiber.

    However, how much Starlink’s internet service will cost is up for debate.

    "Starlink will make vast amounts of money going head to head with the existing networks in currently lucrative markets (which also have rapidly growing demand),” wrote one observer on Quora.

    "Because it has lower costs, it can be very profitable with lower prices. Since it also happens to provide coverage everywhere in the world that has no internet now, it can afford to offer those services in currently unserved areas at extremely low prices because this traffic adds almost no extra costs."

    Does the world still trust Musk?

    What’s that adage -- get knocked down seven times, get up eight? Musk has certainly shown that level of resilience.

    After the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) forced him to resign as Tesla chairman amid allegations of fraud, Musk got back to his old form. On Thursday, he stared down naysayers in announcing that Tesla "bought some trucking companies" to help boost its Model 3 delivery capacity and help it emerge from what he’s dubbed "delivery logistics hell."

    Musk’s move should help Tesla end the year on a good note. He tweeted Thursday that the automaker has "acquired trucking capacity" that will ensure Model 3 deliveries arrive before the end of the year for orders placed by Nov. 30.

    Elon Musk is in the news again, but this time it’s in a good way.Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has been given the all-clear to further build out its...

    T-Mobile executive says Sprint deal could close in the first quarter of 2019

    The deal is currently being scrutinized by regulators

    At a recent conference in Barcelona, T-Mobile’s Chief Financial Officer said there’s a possibility that the company’s $26 billion acquisition of Sprint will be finalized as early as the first quarter of 2019.

    At the end of April, T-Mobile agreed to buy Sprint, saying the two companies needed to join forces so they could build a robust 5G network that can compete with Verizon and AT&T.

    The deal is currently being scrutinized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The FCC is studying the engineering aspects of combining T-Mobile and Sprint, while the Justice Department is examining the competitive aspects.

    T-Mobile’s CFO J. Braxton Carter said on Friday that the companies have provided 25 million pages worth of documents to the DOJ and filed a 600 page public information statement with the FCC. The companies have also held meetings with other U.S. government departments.

    “The only remaining thing that is happening is depositions with the DOJ, which have started and will be completed in a few weeks,” Carter said at the conference, according to Reuters. “At this point, it’s more pointing to the second quarter as more probable (but) it could still be first quarter.”

    Carter noted that, together, the two smaller telecom companies can create a much faster network.

    "The combined assets of Sprint and T-Mobile can create 8 times the 5G capacity that either of us could do on a standalone basis and 15 times the speed," the executive said.

    Opposition from consumer groups

    Earlier this week, federal regulators kicked off the first auction of 5G spectrum. Germany is expected to start its 5G auctions early next year.

    The merger has been the target of opposition from consumer and labor groups, who have expressed concern that the deal could hurt consumers.

    Back in May, a group of Democratic lawmakers said they worried a merger would result in higher costs for consumers. In August, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) predicted that the merger would result in the loss of 24,000 retail jobs.

    Meanwhile, T-Mobile has said that the merger will be good for consumers.

    “This is another step forward in creating the new T-Mobile, so we can deliver on our promise to bring robust competition to the 5G era, giving consumers more for less and creating jobs,” John Legere, T-Mobile's CEO, said in a statement.

    At a recent conference in Barcelona, T-Mobile’s Chief Financial Officer said there’s a possibility that the company’s $26 billion acquisition of Sprint wil...

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      USDA announces recall of raw turkey products connected to salmonella outbreak

      Health officials are urging consumers to be careful when handling raw turkey

      Amid an ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey, Jennie-O Turkey has issued a recall for a specific line of its ground turkey products.

      The company recalled 91,388 pounds of its raw ground turkey products after the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found that a sample of the products tested positive for a salmonella reading matching the outbreak strain.

      The samples used in the investigation were produced on September 11, 2018, the USDA said. Consumers who may have the recalled product in their freezer are urged not to eat it. Instead, the USDA says consumers should throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

      Ongoing outbreak

      The outbreak started in November of 2017 and has sickened at least 164 in 35 states since then. One person in California has died and 63 people have been hospitalized.

      Federal health officials said previously that the outbreak appeared to be “widespread in the turkey industry,” but stopped short of naming any specific brands linked to the outbreak. Earlier this week, consumer advocacy groups put pressure on the USDA to name the brands linked to this particular strain of salmonella.

      “The USDA should immediately make public which turkey producers, suppliers, and brands are involved in this outbreak — especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner,” Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “This information could save lives and help ensure consumers take the precautions needed to prevent anyone in their home from getting sick.”

      Continuing investigation

      The USDA maintains that there does not appear to be one single source of the outbreak, suggesting that the outbreak “might be widespread in the turkey industry.” The agency said it’s been working closely with the CDC and state public health and agriculture partners to investigate the illness cluster.

      “Patients have reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different stores, handling raw turkey pet food and/or raw turkey, or working with live turkeys or living with someone who handled live turkeys,” the USDA said in a statement.

      “FSIS continues to work with the CDC and state health departments on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available. Based on the continuing investigation, additional product from other companies may also be recalled.”

      With Thanksgiving about a week away, health officials are urging consumers to follow these four guidelines while handling food:

      • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.

      • Separate: Separate raw meat from other foods.

      • Cook: Cook to the right temperature.

      • Chill: Refrigerate food promptly.

      Amid an ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has recalled a spe...

      Tesla buys trucking companies to increase deliveries

      The company says using trucks drastically cuts down on the time it takes to get cars to the East Coast

      Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that his company “bought some trucking companies” to help boost its Model 3 delivery capacity and help it emerge from what he’s dubbed “delivery logistics hell.”

      Musk tweeted Thursday that the automaker has "acquired trucking capacity" that will ensure Model 3 deliveries arrive before the end of the year for orders placed by Nov. 30.

      The CEO and former chairman wrote that using a fleet of trucks instead of trains cuts down on the amount of time it takes to get cars to the East Coast by “over a month.”

      Under the new time frame, consumers will get an additional six weeks of ordering time to take advantage of the $7,500 EV tax incentive before it gets cut in half after December 31.

      Higher delivery rate

      In September, Musk tweeted about how Tesla was facing some hangups in getting Model 3s delivered to customers. Later that month, he claimed the company was seeking to navigate logistics challenges by building some of its own carriers.

      Now, the CEO says Tesla has purchased multiple trucking companies and secured contracts with major haulers to “avoid trucking shortage mistakes of last quarter.”

      "Tesla just acquired trucking capacity to ensure Model 3 can be delivered in US by Dec 31 if ordered by Nov 30," Musk said.

      New Model 3 buyers who place an order by the end of the month can expect a delivery by the end of the year and get access to the full $7,500 federal tax credit.

      Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that his company “bought some trucking companies” to help boost its Model 3 delivery capacity and help it emerge from wha...

      Bernie Sanders takes aim at Walmart

      Senator introduces bill to force big retailers to raise workers' wages

      Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to prevent the nation's largest retailer from buying its own stock until it raises workers' wages.

      The bill, called the Stop Walmart Act, actually targets all large publicly traded corporations. It would prevent companies from buying their shares on Wall Street unless they pay all employees at least $15 an hour.

      Sanders and bill co-sponsor Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) say Walmart plans to use its profits to purchase $20 billion of its own stock over the next two years when it could be using the money to raise the standard of living for its employees.

      Stock buybacks are common among large companies since it generally boosts the companies' stock price. It benefits shareholders, as well as the company, which sees the value of its stock holdings go higher. Stock buybacks usually increase the value of a company's stock while raising workers' wages often reduces profit margins, which sends stock prices lower.

      In recent years, most publicly traded companies, including Apple, have embraced stock buybacks as the preferred method of returning cash to shareholders. Another method is the payment of dividends.

      Takes aim at Walton family

      Sanders made his proposal unusually personal, pointing out the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton owns 50 percent of Walmart stock with a reputed net worth of around $180 billion. Sanders claims 55 percent of Walmart employees are food insecure.

      “While tens of thousands of Walmart workers are struggling to survive, Alice Walton had no problem amassing a private art collection worth half a billion dollars," Sanders said. "Enough is enough. The time is long overdue for the Walton family to pay its workers a living wage. If large, profitable corporations like Amazon and Disney can pay all of their workers a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, so can Walmart."

      The measure, which has little chance of passage in a Republican-controlled Senate and being signed by a Republican president, also would require Walmart and other large publicly traded companies to allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave to be used to care for themselves or a family member.

      It would also place controls on executive pay, limiting the CEO's salary to 150 times the median pay of the company's employees.

      At the beginning of this year, Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour. Since then, however, Amazon has boosted worker pay to at least $15 an hour.

      Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to prevent the nation's largest retailer from buying its own stock until it raises workers' wages....

      Exercise could help prevent drug relapse in fight against addiction

      Researchers are confident that the findings will be helpful for those struggling with addiction

      Drug addiction continues to plague tens of millions of Americans each year, and while no single treatment option works for everyone, a new study found that exercising regularly could be beneficial.

      Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took on the project to explore the ways exercise affects addicts’ responses to environmental cues, and ultimately their decision to relapse or stay clean.

      Jonathan Sweedler and Justin Rhodes based the study off of past research that has shown how many addicts often relapse after being in the same place where they once did drugs or are around the same people they used to do drugs with.

      Though past studies have investigated the link between exercise and the ability to retrain the brain to avoid drugs, Sweedler and Rhodes wanted to know why it exists. They discovered that exercise works to alter the levels of peptide in the brain, which can change the positive, rewarding feeling that many addicts feel after taking a drug.

      Movement is key

      The researchers conducted the experiment on mice, administering cocaine injections over the course of four days. The mice were also put in special cages so they were able to associate the specific place with the drug.

      After the injections, the mice were moved to different cages for 30 days, where some of them were given running wheels. At the end of the 30 days, the mice were reevaluated.

      Upon being reintroduced to the site of the cocaine injections, the mice that had been exercising were not only unhappy with the old environment but also showed differences in their brain chemistry.

      The groups of mice had different levels of peptide in the brain at the end of the 30 days. For the non-exercising mice, the researchers noticed a decrease in the levels of peptide derived from actin -- a protein that is often associated with drug-seeking, as it affects both learning and memory.

      These results were positive for the researchers, as exercise was found to be a key in addicts avoiding relapse.

      Countless benefits

      Though many consumers may think exercising is nothing more than the key to losing or maintaining a healthy weight, much research has been done to show the countless benefits associated with exercise that go beyond just physical fitness.

      However, many adults and children across the country aren’t reaching the recommended daily amount of physical activity. Studies have found just 23 percent of adults and one in three children are hitting daily goals.

      Keeping children active is particularly important, as researchers have found that many habits that start in childhood will last through adulthood. Additionally, children who are physically active were found to be at a lower risk of developing depression.

      Exercising -- even just engaging in light activity -- has been found to help those battling cancer, make us feel biologically younger, and can even reduce the risk of fall-related injuries for Alzheimer’s sufferers. For those with busy schedules, you can still reap the rewards by exercising only on the weekends. The rewards will be greater than just a trimmer physique.

      Drug addiction continues to plague tens of millions of Americans each year, and while no single treatment option works for everyone, a new study found that...

      Gas prices follow oil prices lower

      Crude's free-fall is a holiday gift for motorists

      Heading into next week's Thanksgiving holiday, motorists in just about every part of the country will find lower gasoline prices, making the trip to Grandma's house a little less expensive.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular $2.65 a gallon, down seven cents a gallon from a week ago. That's 13 cents cheaper than a month ago.

      The average price of premium is $3.23 a gallon, down six cents from last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.24, just two cents lower than last week.

      The reason for the big drop in prices at the pump is the price of oil, which has been in a free-fall for weeks. After rising to an unseasonably high price because of impending sanctions on Iranian oil, the price has come crashing back to earth. West Texas crude is selling for around $57 a barrel, down about $20 from its recent high.

      Prices could keep going down

      Gas prices are likely to keep falling because the latest numbers from the Energy Information Administration show U.S. oil supplies continue to grow, rising for an eighth straight week.

      "Growth in global crude production, including in the U.S., combined with weaker than expected global crude demand for the fourth quarter are leading some market observers to worry that the global crude supply glut from 2017 has returned," AAA said in its latest market update.

      But the bad news for the oil market is great news for consumers, who paid unseasonably high prices for fuel long after the summer driving season ended. Absent refinery issues, nearly every state saw its average gas price decline.

      Delaware's average price fell 9 cents a gallon, making it the state with the cheapest gasoline in the nation. Even Hawaii, which is consistently the highest priced state for gasoline, experienced an eight cents a gallon drop in the average gasoline price.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.86)
      • California ($3.67)
      • Washington ($3.44)
      • Alaska ($3.33)
      • Oregon ($3.25)
      • Nevada ($3.24)
      • Idaho ($3.05)
      • Utah ($2.97)
      • Montana ($2.91)
      • Wyoming ($2.90)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      These states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas, the survey found:

      • Delaware ($2.31)
      • Missouri ($2.33)
      • Oklahoma ($2.35)
      • South Carolina ($2.37)
      • Texas ($2.37)
      • Louisiana ($2.38)
      • Alabama ($2.40)
      • Mississippi ($2.41)
      • Virginia ($2.42)
      • Arkansas ($2.43)

      Heading into next week's Thanksgiving holiday, motorists in just about every part of the country will find lower gasoline prices, making the trip to Grandm...

      LÍLLÉbaby recalls baby carriers

      The sliding chest-clip strap can detach from the shoulder strap

      LÍLLÉbaby of Golden, Colo., is recalling about 6,600 Active Series baby carriers.

      The sliding chest-clip strap can detach from the shoulder strap, posing a fall hazard to the child in the carrier.

      The company has received three reports of the chest straps detaching from the carrier, including one child that fell out of the carrier. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves LÍLLÉbaby Active Series baby carriers that can be worn by the caregiver with the baby strapped into the front or back position.

      The recalled carriers are the Active Series-Pro 6 in 1 in Space Dye Cobalt and Space Dye Grey and the Active All Seasons in Slate.

      Each carrier has a yellow colored tag on the front neck support, outside of the carrier and on the back, chest clip pad, both of which have “LÍLLÉ” printed in black lettering and “baby” printed in white lettering on the label.

      The baby carriers, manufactured in China, were sold at LILLEbaby.com and Amazon.com from September 2018 through October 2018, for about $160.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled carriers and contact LÍLLÉbaby to receive a free replacement baby carrier and a full refund. All known purchasers will be notified directly about the recall.

      Consumers may contact LÍLLÉbaby toll-free at (855) 554-5531 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MT) Monday through Friday, by email at customerservice@lillebaby.com or online at www.lillebaby.com and click on the Safety link at the bottom of the page for more information.

      LÍLLÉbaby of Golden, Colo., is recalling about 6,600 Active Series baby carriers.The sliding chest-clip strap can detach from the shoulder strap, posin...

      Ron's Home Style Foods recalls ready to eat chicken salad

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Ron’s Home Style Foods of Houston, Texas, is recalling approximately 6,912 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken salad.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following RTE chicken salad items, produced and packaged on October 22, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 5-lb. bulk packages of “Ron’s Home Style Foods CRANBERRY PECAN WHITE MEAT CHICKEN SALAD” with a “Use by” date of 11/25/2018.
      • 5-lb. bulk packages of “Ron’s Home Style Foods CHICKEN SALAD SUPREME” with a “Use by” date of 11/25/2018.
      • 32-lb. bulk packages of “Ron’s Home Style Foods THE SANDWICH FACTORY CHICKEN SALAD” with a “Use by” date of 11/16/2018.
      • 32-lb. bulk packages of “Ron’s Home Style Foods HONEY PECAN WHITE MEAT CHICKEN SALAD” with a “Use by” date of 11/21/2018.
      • 12-oz. plastic container of “Texas Kitchen Salads Cranberry Pecan White Chicken Salad” with a “Use by” date of 11/25/2018.
      • 12-oz. plastic container of “Texas Kitchen Salads Chicken Salad Supreme” with a “Use by” date of 11/25/2018.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-32049” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to institutional and retail locations in Texas.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact Brandon Woodall at (713) 640-2082.

      Ron’s Home Style Foods of Houston, Texas, is recalling approximately 6,912 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken salad.The products may be contaminated...

      Vaping industry warns it could ‘face dire consequences’ after FDA announces crackdown on teen vaping

      The FDA is going after flavored e-cigarettes that it says are marketed to non-smoking teens

      A popular talking point for the e-cigarette industry is that vaping helps cigarette addicts quit smoking. But that doesn’t appear to be what e-cigarettes are actually designed to do.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that its own research found that vaping has increased by 80 percent in high schoolers and by 50 percent in middle schoolers, suggesting once again that non-smokers are an important target market to the vaping industry.

      Those teens are then more likely to turn to traditional cigarettes -- some of which are sold by the same business interests that have entered the vaping market.

      “The data show that kids using e-cigarettes are going to be more likely to try combustible cigarettes later,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a lengthy statement Thursday about his agency’s plans for an industry-wide crackdown. “This is a large pool of future risk.”

      While some proponents have claimed that cracking down on vaping will be a boon to Big Tobacco, the cigarette industry has actually invested heavily in e-cigarettes. Philip Morris is currently aggressively lobbying Australian regulators to overturn a country-wide ban on vaping.

      The United States approach to regulating vaping would be less stringent.

      Banning flavors

      To combat what they say is an “astonishing” rise in teen vaping, the FDA is pursuing a ban on selling flavored e-cigarettes at any stores where people under the age of 18 are allowed.

      Such a policy would ban flavored products from convenience stores and gas stations, though tobacco and vape shops would still be able to sell flavored pods.

      The FDA will also make an exception to those rules for mint, menthol, and tobacco flavors because they say that people trying to quit traditional cigarettes have found those flavors helpful.

      The agency is, however, following through on plans to crackdown on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

      Juul, a vaping brand that has gained a cult-like following among teens, said it has agreed to stop selling its Mango, Fruit, Cream, and Cucumber flavored pods at 90,000 retail stores, though the company claims it was never trying to get kids hooked.

      “We launched flavors like Mango, Fruit, Creme, and Cucumber as effective tools to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes, and we do not sell flavors like Gummy Bear or Cotton Candy, which are clearly targeted to kids,” the company said online.

      Industry panic

      But research has suggested otherwise. In 2016, researchers at the UCSF School of Medicine found that vaping actually made people 28 percent less likely to quit cigarettes. Experts say that cigarette addicts should stick to e-cigarettes with large cartridges if they are vaping to quit.

      The FDA’s announcement appears to be sending chills through the vaping industry.

      The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, one of the vaping industry lobbying groups, is planning a meeting in December with other vaping trade groups to organize against “the many issues facing the vaping industry at the Federal level.”

      “It's time for us all to stop viewing each other as the enemy and start working together -- or we will face dire consequences as an industry,” the group’s Executive Director Mark Anton wrote today on Facebook.

      A popular talking point for the e-cigarette industry is that vaping helps cigarette addicts quit smoking. But that doesn’t appear to be what e-cigarettes a...

      USDA facing pressure to name turkey brands tied to salmonella outbreak

      With Thanksgiving just around the corner, consumer advocacy groups want health officials to share more details about the outbreak

      Following a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey, public health officials are under pressure to release the names of the turkey brands linked to the outbreak.

      The CDC said last week that the outbreak, which has been going on since November of 2017, appears to be “widespread in the turkey industry.”

      To date, 164 people in 35 states have been infected. More than 60 people have been hospitalized and one person in California died as a result of the infection. The states most affected include Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, and New York.

      Source hasn’t been identified

      On Wednesday, Consumer Reports raised questions about how the USDA is handling the outbreak and pressured the agency to name the brands linked to this particular strain of salmonella.

      “The USDA should immediately make public which turkey producers, suppliers, and brands are involved in this outbreak — especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner,” Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumer Reports, said in a statement.

      “This information could save lives and help ensure consumers take the precautions needed to prevent anyone in their home from getting sick,” Halloran said.

      The USDA countered by saying, “it would be grossly irresponsible and reckless to associate producers with an outbreak investigation, when a link from an establishment to an illness has not been made. It’s also not helpful to consumers.”

      "To be abundantly clear, FSIS has NOT identified a source or supplier of the product or products that are making consumers ill, but we continue to work around the clock with our federal and state public health partners to solve this,” the USDA said in a statement.

      Handling raw turkey carefully

      In a warning to consumers last week, the CDC said the strain of salmonella causing the outbreak has been linked to 22 slaughterhouses and seven turkey processing facilities. No products have been recalled.

      Federal health officials are not advising consumers to avoid buying or eating turkey. The CDC has, however, advised consumers to cook turkey thoroughly, making sure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit so that salmonella and other foodborne germs are destroyed.

      The agency also advises people to be sure to wash their hands before and after cooking and to clean any surfaces the raw turkey comes in contact with.

      “At the moment, there is no actionable information for consumers, other than to remind them that this is an ongoing investigation and that consumers should always handle raw turkey carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning,” the USDA said.

      “This outbreak is a reminder that raw turkey products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick.”

      Following a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey, public health officials are...

      Google Maps is ready for Thanksgiving. Are you?

      Seldom-used features could help you avoid holiday traffic and make mincemeat of other holiday hassles

      Lydia Maria Child probably never imagined that when she wrote the song “Over the Hill and Through the Woods To Grandma’s House We Go” in 1844 that someday there would be an app for that.

      With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, holiday travelers might thank Google Maps for doing its homework in determining the best and worst times to leave for that Thanksgiving road trip.

      “Unsurprisingly, the day before Thanksgiving between 3-4pm is the worst time to hit the road, but traffic clears up significantly by 6am on Thanksgiving morning,” writes Genevieve Park, Google Maps’ Chief Traffic Avoider. “After Thanksgiving, try your best to avoid the Friday or Sunday afternoon rush by leaving in the morning instead, when there are significantly less cars on the road.”

      Those day-before journeys are most problematic in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Raleigh, and Washington D.C. -- all metros where Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving traffic will be heavier than that of a typical Wednesday.

      Hot spots? Black Friday?

      Google’s data says that Black Friday traffic shouldn’t be any different than a normal Friday, but avoiding areas where’s there’s a heavy concentration of malls and big box stores would be a wise move.

      There is a feature inside of Google Maps that’s worth its weight in gold. When someone Googles, let’s say, “Kroger,” the results contain the typical listing, directions, phone number, hours, photos, Q&A, and reviews. But if you scroll down past all of that, there’s a section called “Popular Times” with live data detailing when the heaviest store traffic is and how long the waiting lines are.

      When you’re stocking up for Thanksgiving and planning trips to the bakery, the grocery store, the liquor store, or looking for a restaurant to host a family get-together, this feature might come in handy.

      Besides maneuvering traffic, Google Maps’ folks have prepared a cadre of holiday survival tips that the search king thinks might come in handy between now and the end of the holiday season. Included are suggestions on pit stops, sharing your ETA (estimated time of arrival) with the folks at your destination, remembering where you parked the car, or how to collaborate with friends and family in planning a “what-do-we-do-next” moment.

      To access Google Maps’ complete set of features listed in this article, it would be wise to make sure your Google Maps app is up to date.

      Does Google know too much about us?

      Google Maps’ endgame is a far cry from an app purloining data to sell on the open market. Despite all the nefarious uses of personal data that consumers have sweated through with Facebook and others, Google appears to be very transparent about what data it collects and the power it gives the end-user in controlling the exchange of that data.

      Google demonstrates how it uses user data for its Maps app in the video below.

      Lydia Maria Child probably never imagined that when she wrote the song “Over the Hill and Through the Woods To Gran...

      FCC begins first 5G spectrum auction

      It brings revolutionary wireless service a step closer

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken the first step toward large-scale deployment of 5G wireless service by opening new high-band spectrum for auction.

      Bidding by various providers began Wednesday on 1.55 gigahertz of available airwaves. Other auctions will follow in early 2019.

      “These airwaves will be critical in deploying 5G services and applications,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “And we’re not stopping there. Between the auctions this year and next, the FCC will push almost 5 gigahertz of spectrum into the commercial marketplace over the course of the next 15 months. To put that in perspective, that is more spectrum than is currently used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers combined.

      In fact, 5G will need that space because it has been described as a fundamental, not incremental change in broadband technology. Not only will connectivity be faster and with much less latency, capacity will be greatly expanded.

      While 4G networks connect millions of cellphones and tablets used by consumers, 5G networks will support billions of connected things, such as smart appliances. The network can also connect cars and significantly improve highway safety.

      Connecting cars

      It can connect vehicles and dramatically improve auto-safety and mobility. It can connect health care devices that take medical care out of the clinical environment and move significant portions of diagnosing and monitoring into consumers’ homes and everyday lives.

      You might notice your current 4G network service can get sluggish when a large number of users are connected to the same tower or streaming data at the same time. With 5G deployment, there will be small cells scattered throughout the coverage area, dramatically increasing the network capacity and speeds available to consumers.

      Economic leadership

      “5G is about our economic leadership for the next decade and, with today’s auction, the FCC takes another solid step forward in winning the global race to 5G,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. “The high-band spectrum we begin auctioning today will be critical to 5G and the innovations that next-gen wireless will unleash—from faster broadband to autonomous cars, from smart ag to telehealth and the Internet of Things (IoT).”

      Both Verizon and AT&T have begun the limited rollout of 5G services in select markets. This week Verizon conducted what it said was the world's first 5G data transmission on a smartphone on a commercial 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) network. Verizon 5G Home is currently available in limited areas of Sacramento, Los Angeles, Houston, and Indianapolis.

      AT&T began 5G service this year in Dallas, Waco, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Oklahoma. It plans to add a total of 12 more markets by the end of the year.

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken the first step toward large-scale deployment of 5G wireless service by opening new high-band spectrum...

      Consumers aren't ready to see the end of brick-and-mortar retailers

      Despite the popularity of online shopping, many people aren’t ready for a world without stores

      The advent of online shopping has left consumers with essentially no reason to leave their homes or interact with their fellow shoppers. From fresh groceries, to furniture, to clothes and electronics -- anything can be ordered online and delivered conveniently to consumers’ doorsteps.

      Despite the obvious convenience factor and how widespread online shopping has become, University of Arizona researcher Sabrina Helm explored consumers’ attitudes about online shopping versus going to a brick-and-mortar retailer, and the findings may be surprising.

      Helm found that most consumers -- even those devoted to online shopping -- identified several ways that the extinction of physical stores can be detrimental to our society, particularly where social interactions are concerned.

      “The majority said this would be terrible,” said Helm. “There’s a sense that brick-and-mortar stores are part of the social fabric of our society. If they disappear, many are concerned about the economy and what this will do for jobs and revenue for communities.”

      Changing retail scene

      There’s no question that retail isn’t what it used to be. However, despite the ease of use and access that comes with online shopping, Helm’s goal was to discover consumers’ attitudes about the changing retail market.

      “We set out to figure out how consumers perceive and make sense of this change, and what they anticipate for the future -- for themselves and for society -- if this retail change is persistent,” Helm said.

      The researchers started by assessing consumers’ attitudes towards shopping in stores versus online. They scoured the comments section on news articles that detailed either the change to the retail scene or physical store closures. They even conducted an online survey to better gauge consumers’ shopping habits and perceptions.

      The results were as to be expected. Those that preferred going to stores liked the social experience of being in a brick-and-mortar locations, in addition to being able to touch products before committing to buying them. Online shoppers were drawn to the wide variety of options available to them, and the ease of use -- particularly for customers with disabilities or mobility issues.

      Regardless of preference, though, consumers aren’t trying to see the end of physical shopping spaces.

      “Brick-and-mortar stores play an important role in consumers’ lives and society, and in most consumers’ minds, they should survive,” Helm said.

      What do consumers want?

      Despite the push to keep physical stores open, Helm also notes in her research that consumers have all the power moving forward.

      As easy and convenient as shopping online is, brick-and-mortar shops need to consider consumers’ needs if they want to keep their doors open.

      “[Consumers] have more impact on how companies make decisions than they’ve ever had, and consumers also perceive themselves to have that power,” Helm said. “It’s up to retailers to increase consumer preference again for brick-and-mortar shopping and keeping people in the store starts with the basics.”

      Supermarkets feeling the change

      Perhaps no industry has felt the changing retail market as much as supermarkets in recent years.

      The evolution of grocery shopping was on the horizon as long as four years ago, with many consumers anticipating a shift in how they buy food. Recently, however, the game has changed completely -- mainly due to Amazon’s tireless efforts.

      Last June, the internet giant acquired Whole Foods, and the rest was history. By September, customers were ranking Amazon as the number one spot for online grocery shopping.

      Slowly but surely, Amazon’s dominance in the grocery world continued to spread, and Whole Foods began offering Amazon Prime members great discounts. Prime members receive Whole Foods’ affinity program benefits, landing them weekly sales and discounts on some of the most popular items.

      Prime members also receive exclusive delivery options, and the opportunity to pick up orders curbside without ever having to go into the store.

      Just in time for Thanksgiving, Whole Foods is offering Amazon prime members holiday specials. In addition to deals on turkeys, Prime members can expect extended pickup and delivery times on Thanksgiving Day.

      But while the supermarket game has changed rapidly, and though many consumers take advantage of the technology, Helm’s research shows that complete extinction is not what consumers are looking for.

      The advent of online shopping has left consumers with essentially no reason to leave their homes or interact with their fellow shoppers. From fresh groceri...

      Lyft to launch default tipping option next month

      The company is rolling out a number of driver-friendly features

      In December, Lyft will launch six new driver-friendly updates -- including default tipping, mid-ride tipping, and rating protections -- to a limited number of passengers, with a wider rollout planned for 2019.

      The ride-hailing company announced on Thursday that “select” passengers will see a default tipping option in the app’s settings next month. If riders choose this option, the company will automatically apply their specified tip percentage to the driver’s earnings when they don’t rate a trip or add a tip themselves.

      An in-ride tipping option will let riders leave a tip during their ride as a way to ensure riders don’t forget to tip at the end. Lyft said it found that riders open the app during more than half of trips, suggesting an in-ride tipping option could result in an earnings bump for drivers.

      “We’ve seen that Lyft riders open the app during 53 percent of trips, and we’re making it easier for them to tip when they do,” the company said in a blog post.

      Changing driver rating system

      The company will also start asking riders to justify any rating less than five stars and will exclude low ratings for circumstances that were outside of a driver’s control, such as bad traffic.

      Additionally, if a rider doesn’t leave a rating, Lyft will default to giving the driver a five-star rating. The company said it found that most people who don't rate drivers tend not to do so because everything went smoothly.

      Moreover, the company will remove the single lowest rating from a driver's profile for every 100 rides as a way to “protect good drivers from one-off low ratings that can have an inflated impact on their overall average.”

      Lyft is also launching an event planner feature designed to give drivers a heads up about upcoming local events. The app will also display a demand graph that shows the busiest hours of the day.

      “And that’s just the start. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for even more improvements, every one designed to help you reach your goals,” the company said.

      In December, Lyft will launch six new driver-friendly updates -- including default tipping, mid-ride tipping, and rating protections -- to a limited number...