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    Wells Fargo agrees to pay $575 million to settle state investigations

    The agreement follows years’ worth of legal troubles

    Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $575 million to settle allegations made by all 50 states and the District of Columbia that the bank violated consumer protection laws, Iowa’s attorney general announced on Friday.

    The bank will also create and implement a review program that will allow consumers who have not received restitution through other programs to seek a review for possible relief. The agreement follows several years’ worth of allegations that the bank engaged in practices deemed to be either unethical, dishonest, or illegal.

    In 2016, Wells Fargo revealed that employees had opened millions of checking and credit card accounts without customers' knowledge or consent in an effort to meet sales goals. The bank was also fined for selling insurance to auto loan customers without their knowledge.

    In October, Wells Fargo reached a $65 million settlement between the State of New York and Wells Fargo over the improperly opened accounts.

    “Wells Fargo’s conduct was unlawful and disgraceful,” California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, said in a news release on Friday. Under the settlement, California will get almost $149 million.

    "This agreement is unique and one of the largest multi-state settlements with a bank since the National Mortgage Settlement in 2012," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a statement. “This significant dollar amount, on top of actions by federal regulators, holds Wells Fargo accountable for its practices."

    In a statement of its own, Wells Fargo said the agreement, which must first be approved by a judge before it’s finalized, “underscores our serious commitment to making things right in regard to past issues as we build a better bank.”

    The bank’s troubling business practices have resulted in over $2 billion in fines and an “unprecedented” action by the Federal Reserve to limit Wells Fargo's growth until the bank changes its management culture and risk control procedures.

    Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $575 million to settle allegations made by all 50 states and the District of Columbia that the bank violated consumer protect...
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      Amazon rumored to be planning a Whole Foods expansion

      The company wants to put more customers within range of its two-hour Prime Now delivery service

      Amazon is reportedly planning to expand Whole Foods stores across the U.S as part of an effort to bring its two-hour delivery offering to more consumers, particularly those in rural areas, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

      Amazon is said to be interested in moving into more suburban areas and utilizing spaces that are “slightly larger” than its existing locations, the Journal said, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

      The e-commerce giant, which acquired Whole Foods in June 2017 for $13.7 billion, will be “using extra space in its stores to accommodate Amazon delivery and pickup from online orders.”

      “Amazon offers Prime Now, a two-hour delivery option to members of its Prime subscription service in more than 60 cities, and online grocery pickup from Whole Foods stores in as little as 30 minutes from nearly 30 cities,” the Journal said.

      “Amazon plans to expand those services to nearly all of its roughly 475 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., according to another person familiar with the plans. Amazon also wants to use benefits for Prime members to attract new customers to Whole Foods and draw them back more often.”

      The report said Whole Foods employees have scouted regions of Western North America for potential retail spaces in parts of Idaho, southern Utah, and Wyoming. At the present time, there are no Whole Foods stores in these areas.

      Amazon is reportedly planning to expand Whole Foods stores across the U.S as part of an effort to bring its two-hour delivery offering to more consumers, p...
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      Newspaper printing presses may have been targeted in cyberattacks

      Some subscribers were unable to get their Saturday papers

      Numerous major newspapers saw print operations disrupted on Saturday due to a suspected foreign cyberattack on their printing presses.

      An anonymous source told the Los Angeles Times, one of the papers affected, that there is evidence that the disruption was an intentional hack designed “to disable infrastructure, more specifically servers.”

      The source added that it appears to be a “foreign entity” that was behind the attack. The FBI is reportedly investigating.

      The attack targeted the Los Angeles Times’ downtown printing press. The Times shares the press with the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Tribune, and the West Coast bureau of the New York Times, all of which also fell victim. Some subscribers were unable to receive their papers on Saturday as a result.  

      “A disruption to our print production systems caused delays in the delivery of some of our newspapers Saturday,” says a public statement from the Tribune Publishing Company.

      Numerous major newspapers saw print operations disrupted on Saturday due to a suspected foreign cyberattack on their printing presses.An anonymous sour...
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      How to get the most out of a balance transfer credit card

      A study shows that most consumers end up paying a balance transfer fee

      Consumers struggling to pay off credit card debt would be wise to consider a balance transfer credit card in 2019, but picking the right one and using it effectively is key to making it pay off.

      CompareCards, a division of LendingTree, has studied the terms and conditions of more than 160 balance transfer cards and found that there are still plenty of zero percent introductory rate options. But it’s important to read the fine print and use the cards to your full advantage.

      The study found that 41 percent of consumers have applied for a balance transfer card in the past, but 40 percent of them have failed to pay off the entire balance during the zero percent introductory period. After the introductory period, the interest rate often adjusts to one that is higher than the national average.

      The advantage of zero percent, of course, is the entire payment goes to pay down the balance. If you have been paying $200 a month on your old card, chances are most of that amount goes to pay interest. Paying $200 for 15 months with no interest charges will reduce a balance by $3,000.

      Length of introductory period vs. balance transfer fee

      The study points out the need to carefully choose a balance transfer card. The length of the zero percent introductory period is an important factor, but so is the balance transfer fee most cards assess. It is a fee based on the amount of money being transferred, and it can be hefty -- especially on large balances.

      Most cards charge at least 3 percent of the transferred balance, but some charge as much as 5 percent. Even at 3 percent, transferring $10,000 results in an upfront fee of $300. The study shows that only one in six consumers who transferred a balance in the past were able to avoid the balance transfer fee.

      Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards, says consumers can achieve some real savings with a balance transfer card as long as they understand the fees, deadlines, and other quirks that can come with this tool.

      “Don’t wait, though. Credit card interest rates continue to rise and as they do it is likely these offers will get less and less attractive,” Schulz said.

      Here are three options

      The Chase Slate balance transfer card remains an attractive option for its combination of no transfer fee and fairly long introductory period. Consumers get 15 months of zero percent interest.

      The Amex Everyday Credit Card from American Express also offers 15 months of interest-free payments with no balance transfer fee.

      The Citi Simplicity Card offers 21 months at zero percent interest, but that extra six months of interest-free payments come at a hefty price. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5 percent of the transferred balance, whichever is greater.

      Consumers struggling to pay off credit card debt would be wise to consider a balance transfer credit card in 2019, but picking the right one and using it e...
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      Former Sears CEO makes 11th hour offer for company’s assets

      The retailer will live to fight another day

      At the very last minute, former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert made his $4.6 billion bid official, saving the long-time retailer from liquidation. It ended a suspenseful Friday when it appeared likely that Sears was at the end of its rope.

      Terms of the offer were not made public and it must still be ratified by the Sears Holdings board of directors in January.

      The offer comes from an affiliate of Lampert’s hedge fund and is only for 425 of the remaining Sears and Kmart stores. The company had already announced that it would close another 80 stores, bringing the 2018 total to more than 250.

      It closes what has been a bleak year for Sears Holdings and its employees. Amid the store closings, the company declared bankruptcy in October.

      The company was holding out for a Christmas miracle, hoping that several interested parties would bid up the price of Sears’ remaining assets. In the end, however, Lampert was the sole player.

      While $4.6 billion is a lot of money Lampert previously positioned most of his offer as forgiveness of existing debt. However, Sears desperately needs operating capital to keep going.

      Sears and Kmart stores have steadily lost foot traffic as more consumers shifted to online channels. Its fortunes also declined with America’s shopping malls, many of which now contain empty storefronts.

      Never adapted to the internet

      Oddly Sears -- which pioneered the concept of retail catalog sales -- never adapted to the internet age, losing out not only to Amazon but also its brick and mortar competitors like Walmart, Target, and Macy’s.

      Retail analysts say its remaining value lies largely in its brands and intellectual property, which includes Kenmore appliances and Die Hard batteries.

      Sears sold its Craftsman tools brand to Stanley Black and Decker earlier this year for $775 million but still gets royalties from new third-party sales, as well as a 15-year license for the brand.

      At the very last minute, former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert made his $4.6 billion bid official, saving the long-time retailer from liquidation. It ended a susp...
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      TSA is switching to floppy-eared dogs to sniff for bombs and drugs

      Dogs with floppy ears are less intimidating, the agency says

      Nobody likes a tattletale, but looking cute might win over some friends. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reportedly phasing its pointy-eared dogs out of sniffing duties because people generally prefer floppy ears.  

      “We find the passenger acceptance of floppy-ear dogs is just better,” an agency spokesman told the Washington Examiner.

      The TSA uses hundreds of dogs across the country to sniff luggage for bombs or drugs. When a pointy-eared dog retires, the TSA says they are now making a conscious effort to replace it with a floppy-eared dog.

      It may not be much comfort to people trying to fly across the country with a joint or something else illegal, but children apparently find floppy-eared dogs to be less frightening.  

      “It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children,” the spokesman added.

      Nobody likes a tattletale, but looking cute might win over some friends. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reportedly phasing its pointy-...
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      Showing calorie content information alters which foods we choose to eat

      Menus that show pictures and calorie counts were proven to affect consumers’ orders

      Adding calorie counts to menus has been a popular point of discussion recently. While some believe it’s key to pushing consumers to make healthier food choices, others are convinced the act is pointless.

      Though researchers have spoken out on both sides of the argument, a group of researchers from Dartmouth College recently found that restaurants that have both pictures of food and calorie counts are more likely to sway consumers’ ordering habits.

      “Our findings suggest that calorie-labeling may alter responses in the brain’s reward system when considering food options,” said researcher Andrea Courtney. “Moreover, we believe that nutritional interventions are likely to be more successful if they take into account the motivation of the consumer, including whether or not they diet.”

      The brain’s role

      The researchers had 42 undergraduates participate in the study, with students looking at nearly 200 images of food both with calorie counts and without.

      The group was split almost evenly between those who dieted and those who didn’t, as the researchers believed the two groups would make different food choices. Everyone was shown the same images, and most of them included fast food items.

      While hooked up to an fMRI machine, the participants were asked to rate how much they wanted to eat the food on a scale from one to four, and then how likely they’d be to choose the food items in the dining hall on the same scale.

      The researchers found that both dieters and non-dieters were affected by the combination of food pictures and calorie counts. After seeing both, the participants were less likely to choose the unhealthy items.  

      However, when the calorie counts came off the food pictures, the results were a bit different. Those who dieted regularly were more likely to continue to avoid fattier foods, whereas the non-dieters didn’t have the same response.

      The researchers saw these results as positive, as they further prove that consumers who are looking for healthier options will continue to seek them out when calorie counts aren’t available. However, when calorie counts are present, they help guide consumers’ choices.

      “In order to motivate people to make healthier food choices, policy changes are needed that incorporate not only nutritional information, including calorie content, but also a public education component, which reinforces the long-term benefits of a healthy diet,” said researcher Kristina Rapuano.

      Posting calorie counts

      Earlier this year, chain restaurants with at least 20 stores were required to start providing customers with calorie information as part of the Affordable Care Act.

      Though experts went back and forth on the pros and cons of this venture, the goal was to have consumers making healthier choices when they eat out.

      Later in the year, researchers explored the effects of having calorie counts on menus and found that consumers were more likely to order something with fewer calories when the calorie information was in a prominent place.

      “What this paper shows is that a trivially simple intervention could increase the power of calorie information on menus,” said researcher Steven Dallas. “The calorie labeling policy should not necessarily be deemed a failure, and could in fact become a powerful tool in combating the obesity epidemic.”

      Adding calorie counts to menus has been a popular point of discussion recently. While some believe it’s key to pushing consumers to make healthier food cho...
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      R. L. Zeigler recalls chicken and pork red hot sausages

      The products may be contaminated with pieces of metal

      R. L. Zeigler Co., of Selma, Ala., is recalling approximately 11,664 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) poultry and meat sausages.

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically metal pieces.

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

      The following RTE Red Hot chicken and pork sausage items, produced on November 29, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 24-oz. plastic packages containing approximately 9 links of “ZEIGLER A TRADITION OF GREAT TASTE RED HOTS” with a “Use By Jan 24 19” date.
      • 24-oz. plastic packages containing approximately 9 links of “EXTRA HOT ZEIGLER A TRADITION OF GREAT TASTE RED HOTS” with a “Use By Jan 24 19” date.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. P-9156S” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

      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 about the recall may contact Jeff Berry at (334) 410-9845.

      R. L. Zeigler Co., of Selma, Ala., is recalling approximately 11,664 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) poultry and meat sausages.The products may be contami...
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      Vermont Packinghouse recalls raw intact bone-in beef products

      The products may contain vertebral column

      Vermont Packinghouse of N. Springfield, Vt., is recalling approximately 10,828 pounds of raw intact bone-in beef quarters from cattle identified as being over 30 months of age.

      The products may contain specified risk materials (SRM) -- specifically vertebral column.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions or injuries due to consumption of these products.

      The following products are being recalled:

      • White butcher paper wrapped packages of fresh T-bone and Porterhouse steaks from Walden Local Butcher Shop in Boston, Massachusetts.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact at Arion Thiboumery of Vermont Packinghouse at (802) 886-8688 ext. 2001.

      Vermont Packinghouse of N. Springfield, Vt., is recalling approximately 10,828 pounds of raw intact bone-in beef quarters from cattle identified as being o...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls E400 Coupe and C300 4Matic Coupe

      Steering ability may be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe and one C300 4Matic Coupe.

      The steering coupling may not have been correctly locked during manufacturing.

      If the steering connection was not properly locked, the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and steering rack may come loose, reducing steering ability and increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the steering coupling and lock it correctly if necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 31, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe and one C300 4Matic Coupe.The steering coupling may not have been c...
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      Sears could face liquidation without last-minute buyer

      The bankrupt retailer has set today as the deadline for a rescue offer

      It’s been a rocky year for Sears Holdings, and it could end with the venerable retailer turning out the lights.

      The company has set a deadline of the end of business today for a buyer to step in and purchase about 500 stores and its Kenmore appliance brand. Sears say it needs that cash infusion to keep its remaining Sears and Kmart stores open.

      In bankruptcy court, Sears said it has received interest from “multiple parties,” but as of yet, none has stepped forward publicly to make an offer except for the hedge fund controlled by former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert.

      But Lampert hasn’t officially put that offer on the table and only has hours left in which to do so. He is reportedly offering $4.6 billion for the assets and has said it would allow thousands of Sears and Kmart employees to keep their jobs.

      October bankruptcy

      Sears Holdings filed for bankruptcy protection in October as it faced a huge debt payment. At the time, it was seen as the last shot at becoming solvent, and major creditors gave the company the leeway to try.

      At the time of its bankruptcy filing, Sears also announced it was closing another 142 stores, the latest in a wave of closings of unprofitable stores, in hopes of stopping the flow of red ink.

      Last month, Sears opened discussions with Service.com to sell its home improvement business, but the $60 million price tag amounts to a drop in the bucket to the capital the struggling retailer requires.

      What’s next?

      Unless there is a secret bidder waiting until the last minute, that leaves Lampert and his hedge fund as the only players and, for now at least, that bid has not been formally offered. Neither Lampert nor Sears Holdings are offering a comment on the status.

      Without a last-minute bid, Sears could begin the process of liquidation to pay off creditors. Another option could be to extend the deadline into 2019 in hopes of finding a buyer then.

      In addition to declining sales, Sears’ Kenmore washers haven’t exactly been giving the company positive press coverage. Christopher Elliott, a columnist for King Features Syndicate, writes that he has received an increasing number of complaints from readers who say the glass lid of their Kenmore Elite washer spontaneously shatters.

      An analysis of ConsumerAffairs reviews of Kenmore washers did not reveal any reports of shattering lids, but it did indicate that consumers are reporting some operational issues.

      It’s been a rocky year for Sears Holdings, and it could end with the venerable retailer turning out the lights.The company has set a deadline of the en...
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      FDA head plans to meet with e-cigarette makers

      The agency’s head wants to discuss commitments made last month and why some manufacturers are ‘changing course’

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to meet with the heads of e-cigarette companies to discuss ways to combat the alarming rise in teen vaping.

      FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has said previously that youth use of e-cigarettes has reached an “epidemic” proportion, said Thursday that he’s contacting e-cigarette makers “to meet to discuss commitments they made last month, and why some are changing course.”

      “There’s no reason manufacturers must wait for [FDA] to more forcefully address the epidemic. Yet some already appear to back away from commitments made to FDA and the public,” Gottlieb tweeted.

      “The vaping community that supports harm reduction for adults should also focus more of their efforts on select manufacturers that are primarily responsible for the youth epidemic if, like [FDA], they seek to preserve these opportunities as a way to transition adult smokers,” he said.

      Last month, the FDA said it planned to roll out new restrictions on flavored e-cigarette products. The new restrictions included a ban on the sale of fruit and candy flavored e-cigarettes at convenience stores and gas stations, as well as stricter age verification rules for online sales of the products.

      Efforts to limit youth access

      Tobacco giant Altria, Juul Labs, and other e-cigarette makers have all said that they support efforts to reduce youth access to e-cigarettes. Juul said in November that it would no longer sell many of its flavored e-cig pods in retail stores, as these products have been shown to appeal to youth users.

      The e-cigarette company also shuttered many of its social media accounts over concerns that teens were spreading and retweeting the company’s messages on platforms like Twitter.

      Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a warning about e-cigarette use among teens, in which he urged aggressive steps to combat the “epidemic” of teen use. Adams specifically singled out Juul in the advisory when he said that it’s critical that strategies to curb tobacco use be applied to products “including USB flash drive-shaped products, such as Juul.”

      In response to the advisory, Juul’s Senior Director of Communications Victoria Davis said in a statement that the company was “committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products.”

      “We stopped the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use,” Davis said.

      “We are committed to working with the Surgeon General, FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort,” she said.

      Earlier this month, Juul Labs announced that it made a $12.8 billion deal with Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and makers of Marlboro cigarettes. The deal brought Juul’s valuation to an estimated $38 billion.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to meet with the heads of e-cigarette companies to discuss ways to combat the alarming rise in teen...
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      Gas prices still dropping ahead of 2019

      Falling prices at the pump are putting more money in consumers’ pockets

      Consumers may find it easier to pay their holiday shopping bills in January because they’ll be spending less for gasoline.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.29 a gallon, down seven cents a gallon from last Friday. The price marks a 2018 low. The average price of premium gas is six cents lower than a week ago, at $2.89 a gallon. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.01 a gallon, down four cents from last week.

      Nine of the 10 lowest-priced states have an average gas price below $2 a gallon. AAA reports that in 83 of the last 90 days, the national average price of fuel has gone down. However, that trend might not last.

      “All eyes are on OPEC to kick off the year,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “Many are waiting to see if they stick to their promise to cut crude production by 1.2-million b/d and if the proposed cuts will be enough to restore balance to the market.”

      If OPEC cuts production, it could increase the price of oil, which has dropped to its lowest point in more than three years. Lower oil prices reduce costs for refiners, and the savings eventually get passed along to consumers.

      Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, reports that 32 percent of the states have gas prices below $2 a gallon. He says 1 percent are selling gas below $1.75 a gallon.

      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 ($3.40)
      • California ($3.38)
      • Washington ($3.13)
      • Alaska ($3.06)
      • Nevada ($2.95)
      • Oregon ($2.90)
      • Arizona ($2.68)
      • Utah ($2.63)
      • Connecticut ($2.64)
      • New York ($2.64)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Missouri ($1.87)
      • Oklahoma ($1.95)
      • South Carolina ($1.96)
      • Alabama ($1.97)
      • Texas ($1.97)
      • Mississippi ($1.97)
      • Louisiana ($1.98)
      • Kansas ($1.98)
      • Iowa ($2.00)
      Consumers may find it easier to pay their holiday shopping bills in January because they’ll be spending less for gasoline.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey sho...
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      Inspired Organics recalls Organic Almond Butter

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Inspired Organics is recalling Organic Almond Butter that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following product by Inspired Organics, which Lipari Foods began shipping on October 31, 2018, is being recalled:

      ProductLipari Item #SizeBest By DateLot #UPC
      Organic Almond Butter96706716oz02/20239863669742540

      The product was sold in retail stores throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call customer service at (800) 729-3354, from 8:15 am – 4:30 pm (EST) Monday through Friday.

      Inspired Organics is recalling Organic Almond Butter that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported to date.T...
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      Model year 2019 Mercedes GLC300s recalled

      The power steering assist could be deactivated

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling seven model year 2019 GLC300s.

      An internal sensor within the electric power steering unit may fail, deactivating the power steering assist, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering unit, free of charge.

      An interim letter will be mailed beginning January 25, 2019, to notify owners of the issue. A second letter will be mailed once remedy parts are available.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling seven model year 2019 GLC300s.An internal sensor within the electric power steering unit may fail, deactivating...
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      Apio recalls five Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups

      One sample of the products tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes

      Apio, Inc. of Guadalupe, Calif., is recalling five SKUs of Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups (bowls).

      The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found one random sample of an Eat Smart product tested positive for Listeria Monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been linked by health officials to this recall.

      Products with the following UPC and lot codes are being recalled:

      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Asian Sesame – UPC 7 09351 30241 1, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Avocado Ranch – UPC 7 09351 30177 3, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Raspberry Acai – UPC 7 09351 30178 0, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Sweet Kale – UPC 7 09351 30240 4, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Tropical Lime – UPC 7 09351 30179 7, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Avocado Ranch/Ranch ET Avocats – UPC 7 09351 30195 7, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Raspberry Acai/Framboises ET Acai – UPC 7 09351 30196 4, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Sweet Kale/Chou Frisé Doux – UPC 7 09351 30243 5, Lot 112 331

      The recalled products were shipped to retail and distributor customers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

      In Canada, the products were shipped to retail and distributor customers in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them or returned them to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Apio toll-free at (800) 626-2746, or online at www.eatsmart.net.

      Apio, Inc. of Guadalupe, Calif., is recalling five SKUs of Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups (bowls).The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) fo...
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      Consumer holiday spending was the strongest since 2012

      A Mastercard report shows spending jumped 5.1 percent

      Worries about economic weakness have contributed to Wall Street's worst December since the Great Depression, but a new report from Mastercard shows consumers are doing their part to keep the economy going.

      The credit card company reports holiday sales rose 5.1 percent to $850 billion, the biggest increase since 2012. E-commerce sales rose 19.1 percent over last year. In the wake of the report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average scored its largest one-day point gain in history, rising nearly 1,100 points on Wednesday.

      “From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Incorporated. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”

      Analysts also credit a strong economy and low unemployment for the big increase in holiday spending. Amazon added to the holiday cheer as it reported selling a record number of items throughout the holidays this year.

      The company said its best-sellers include Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa VoiceRemote, and Echo.

      “This season was our best yet, and we look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019," said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer. "We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than one billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime.”

      Consumers added to their wardrobe

      Mastercard reports consumers spent heavily on apparel, with that category growing 7.9 percent over last year. In fact, Mastercard said it was the best year for clothing sales since 2010.

      Home improvement spending was up a robust 9 percent while at the opposite end of the scale department store sales dropped 1.3 percent compared to 2017. Electronics and appliances were also lower, falling 0.7 percent. Consumer furniture and home furnishings grew by 2.3 percent.

      Mastercard analysts say spending might actually have been higher if not for some bad weather in many parts of the country during the prime holiday shopping period. They point to cold weather on Black Friday morning on the East Coast and wet weather conditions the weekend of December 15-16, on both the East and West coasts.

      Weather conditions were also poor on Friday, December 21, in the East, with a number of storms that may have impacted the final frenzy of shopping.

      Worries about economic weakness have contributed to Wall Street's worst December since the Great Depression, but a new report from Mastercard shows consume...
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      Net neutrality battle to move to the courts in 2019

      The process could eventually move to the Supreme Court

      Not enough votes were gathered in the House of Representatives by the end of the year to use the “legal loophole” that would make it possible to undo the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules, so the legal battle is headed to the court of appeals.

      The FCC, led by Republican chairman Ajit Pai, voted in December 2017 to roll back the Obama-era rules that would require all internet traffic to be treated the same. The rules were officially repealed in June of this year.

      Since then, lawmakers in several states, including California, have voted to reinstate net neutrality protections at a state level. However, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of California in September charging that the state’s new net neutrality rules law place “unlawful burdens” on the federal government's efforts to deregulate the internet.

      Moving to appeals court

      Now, CNET reports that Democrats were unable to garner enough votes to use the Congressional Review Act as a way to undo the FCC's decision to wipe net neutrality rules from the books.

      “Attorneys general from 22 states, along with several activist groups and tech companies like Mozilla, have filed suit, accusing the FCC of arbitrarily rolling back the rules and overstepping its authority to ban states from passing their own protections,” CNET reports.

      “The heated legal battle could eventually end up at the Supreme Court, where all eyes will be on the newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who questioned the FCC's authority to adopt the original net neutrality protections,” according to the tech website.

      Matt Schettenhelm, a legal analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said he expects the next phase of the legal battle over net neutrality to “be mostly about waiting for litigation." Oral arguments are scheduled to begin on February 1 at the Federal Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

      Not enough votes were gathered in the House of Representatives by the end of the year to use the “legal loophole” that would make it possible to undo the F...
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      Amazon set a record for holiday sales in 2018

      The company said more items were ordered worldwide than ever before

      In a post on its website published the day after Christmas, Amazon said broke holiday sales records once again.

      This year, customers across the globe ordered more items on its site than ever before. The e-commerce giant had the same news to report about its holiday sales last year.

      In this year’s announcement, Amazon said its Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers were among its top sellers this holiday season. Other best-sellers included the Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

      The company said consumers used Alexa to listen to “hundreds of millions more hours of music this holiday season compared to last holiday season.” Amazon’s digital assistant was also instructed to turn on holiday lights “tens of millions of times.”

      Customers also used Alexa to help them create cocktails. Amazon said Alexa helped make “hundreds of thousands of cocktails this holiday season — with eggnog and Moscow Mule being the most requested drinks.”

      In the toy category, some of Amazon’s best-sellers included LOL Surprise! dolls in the Glam Glitter series and Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster. Carhartt clothing and accessories were top-sellers in the fashion category, and Bose QuietComfort Wireless Headphones were popular purchases in the electronics category.

      Record-breaking sales

      Amazon didn’t share any specific numbers on its holiday sales, but dubbed this season its “best yet.” The company said it added “tens of millions” of people who signed up for Prime memberships, both for paid memberships and free trials.

      More than a billion items shipped for free during the holiday period, Amazon said. The company also noted that the online stores of smaller and medium-sized businesses made up more than 50 percent of Amazon’s sales leading up to Christmas.

      “We look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019. We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than one billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer.

      The news of Amazon’s record-breaking holiday sales comes the same week Mastercard put out a report showing an increase in e-commerce sales this year.

      Online sales rose 19.1 percent over last year, according to the credit company. Holiday sales in general rose 5.1 percent this year to $850 billion -- the biggest increase since 2012.

      In a post on its website published the day after Christmas, Amazon said broke holiday sales records once again. This year, customers across the globe o...
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      Home prices rose again in October

      Sales are slowing down, but buyers find that prices aren’t

      The housing market has cooled in recent months with home sales slowing from their redhot pace, but the prices consumers are paying for homes is still going up.

      The monthly S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index shows home prices rose an average of 5.5 percent in October even as pending home sales, as measured by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), fell 2.6 percent.

      Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said that ten straight months of decline certainly isn’t good news for the housing market.

      “The recent rise in mortgage rates have reduced the pool of eligible homebuyers,” he said.

      But that hasn’t stopped home prices from rising. The Index gauges housing in all nine U.S. Census divisions and found October’s rise in the median home price matched September’s results.

      Las Vegas leads the way

      Prices rose the most in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Phoenix. The median price in Las Vegas was up 12.8 percent, followed by San Francisco at 7.7 percent and Phoenix close behind with a 7.6 percent year-over-year increase.

      Even measured on a month-to-month basis, the price of putting a roof over your head is climbing, albeit at a much slower rate. October home prices were 0.1 percent higher than they were in September.

      Normally, when sales slow down so do prices, but this market is different. Since the recovery from the 2008 housing crash, the number of available homes has steadily declined. There is still enough demand for homes to support the value of those that are available, and in some cases push them higher.

      Mortgage rates are now a factor

      Rising mortgage rates also create headwinds for potential buyers, making monthly mortgage payments that much more expensive. David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says that means homes sales are likely to remain on their downward trend.

      "The combination of higher mortgage rates and higher home prices rising faster than incomes and wages means fewer people can afford to buy a house,” Blitzer said. “Fixed rate 30-year mortgages are currently 4.75 percent, up from 4 percent one year earlier.”

      At the same time, home prices are up 54 percent since bottoming in 2012. Consumers who hope to sell their homes in 2019 may find they have to be more flexible on price. Potential buyers, meanwhile, may have a little more bargaining power.

      The housing market has cooled in recent months with home sales slowing from their redhot pace, but the prices consumers are paying for homes is still going...
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      Model year 2018 Hyundai Elantra GTs recalled

      The sunroof may not detect an obstacle while closing

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 86 model year 2018 Hyundai Elantra GTs.

      The panoramic sunroof motor may be incorrectly programmed, preventing the sunroof from detecting an obstacle while closing.

      If the sunroof does not detect an obstacle while closing and then retract, there could be an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the panoramic sunroof, replacing it as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin February 15, 2019.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 179.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 86 model year 2018 Hyundai Elantra GTs.The panoramic sunroof motor may be incorrectly programmed, preventing the sun...
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      Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales recalls raw ground turkey

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella Reading

      Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales of Faribault, Minn., is recalling approximately 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella Reading.

      The following items, produced on October 22 and October 23, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 3-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 and 11/13/18 on the side of the trays.
      • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.
      • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O TACO SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.
      • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O ITALIAN SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.
      • 3-lb. packages of “Jennie-O Ground Turkey 85% LEAN | 15% FAT” with a “Use or freeze by” date of 11/13/18 on the side of the trays.
      • 2.5-lb. packages of “Jennie-O Ground Turkey 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with a “Use or freeze by” date of 11/13/18 on the side of the trays.
      • 3-lb. packages of “STATER BROS. 85% LEAN | 15% FAT ALL NATURAL Ground Turkey” with a “Use or freeze by” date of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. P-579” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the side of the tray, were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

      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 regarding the recall may contact Hormel at (800) 621-3505.

      Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales of Faribault, Minn., is recalling approximately 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey.The products may be contaminated with S...
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      Christmas gasoline prices are at a two-year low

      Falling oil prices are giving motorists a holiday gift

      Motorists hitting the road over the Christmas holiday will get the gift of lower gasoline prices, as prices at the pump have fallen to another 2018 low.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.35 a gallon, four cents lower than last Friday. It’s eight cents lower than at this time a year ago.

      The price of premium is $2.94 a gallon, also down four cents in the last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.04 a gallon, down from $3.08 a week ago.

      Falling gasoline prices are largely a byproduct of the oil market, which has seen oil prices slide below $50 a barrel. The Energy Information Administration reports U.S. crude oil supplies declined slightly for the third straight week, but so far it hasn’t affected the price.

      At $2.35, the holiday gas prices are the cheapest consumers have seen during December since  2016. GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, Patrick DeHaan, reports the national average price is the lowest since August 2016. He says 31 states have at least one station selling gasoline below $2 a gallon.

      “AAA expects 102 million Americans to drive to their holiday destination this year, which is a four percent increase year-over-year,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “No doubt cheaper gas prices are fueling their decision to hit the road.”

      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 ($3.47)

      • California ($3.41)

      • Washington ($3.15)

      • Alaska ($3.09)

      • Oregon ($3.00)

      • Nevada ($2.99)

      • Wyoming ($2.70)

      • Arizona ($2.70)

      • Utah ($2.69)

      • Idaho ($2.67)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Missouri ($1.92)

      • Oklahoma ($2.01)

      • South Carolina ($2.01)

      • Alabama ($2.01)

      • Texas ($2.01)

      • Mississippi ($2.01)

      • Louisiana ($2.03)

      • Kansas ($2.03)

      • Tennessee ($2.07)

      Motorists hitting the road over the Christmas holiday will get the gift of lower gasoline prices, as prices at the pump have fallen to another 2018 low....
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      Model year 2008-2019 Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus LX 570s recalled

      The front passenger, knee and passenger seat-mounted side airbag may fail to deploy

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 89,740 model year 2008-2019 Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus LX 570.

      Over time, the seat belt tension sensor wire harness may break and deactivate the front passenger airbag, knee airbag, and passenger seat-mounted side airbag.

      In the event of a crash, deactivated air bags can increase the risk of injury .

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      Interim notification letters are expected to be mailed on February 11, 2019. A second notification will be mailed once remedy parts are available.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (888)270-9371 or Lexus customer service at (800)255-3987. Toyota's numbers for this recall are Lexus Interim J2L and Remedy JLL, Toyota Interim J15 and Remedy J05.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 89,740 model year 2008-2019 Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus LX 570.Over time, the seat belt tensio...
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      Emergency software patch issued for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

      Attackers can install programs, modify data, and create new accounts

      Heads up, Internet Explorer users! Microsoft issued an emergency software patch early Thursday to sew up a major security hole in its Internet Explorer (IE) web browser that allows hackers to weasel their ways into Windows-based computers.

      Microsoft has Google to thank for its quick response. Google tipped off its fellow tech titan that the browser’s vulnerability would allow an attacker to engineer arbitrary code in the context of the current user.

      If an attacker was successful in hacking their way in, the vulnerability could gain the con artist the same user rights as the current user. Once inside, an attacker could install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.

      “In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit the vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website, for example, by sending an email,” wrote Microsoft.

      En garde

      According to KrebsOnSecurity and their sources at cyber exposure company Tenable, the vulnerability affects these versions of Internet Explorer:

      • Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 7 to Windows 10 in addition to Windows Server 2012, 2016 and 2019

      • Internet Explorer 9 on Windows Server 2008

      • Internet Explorer 10 on Windows Server 2012

      “Customers who have Windows Update enabled and have applied the latest security updates, are protected automatically,” wrote Microsoft in its warning message. “We encourage customers to turn on automatic updates.”

      Are you a Windows 10 user? You can manually check for updates here. For assistance related to earlier versions of Windows, go here.

      There was no word on any vulnerability for users who employ Microsoft’s browser extension for Google Chrome.

      Heads up, Internet Explorer users! Microsoft issued an emergency software patch early Thursday to sew up a major security hole in its Internet Explorer (IE...
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      Apple to allow consumers to gift in-app purchases

      The company altered its guidelines to make it possible

      Apple has altered its App Store Guidelines to allow consumers to gift in-app purchases to friends and family, according to MacRumors. The company previously prevented users from doing so.

      Prior to the change, Apple said apps "should not directly or indirectly enable gifting of in-app purchase content, features or consumable items to others."

      On Wednesday, Apple tweaked its guidelines to say, “Apps may enable gifting of items that are eligible for in-app purchase to others." The tech giant notes that the gifts can only be refunded to the original purchaser and cannot be exchanged.

      Since the gifting policy is new to Apple, it’s not yet clear how the company plans to implement the change.

      Currently, users can gift an app to someone else by tapping the three dots icon next to its price and selecting the “Gift App” option from the menu. From there, the recipient will be sent an email with a credit for the app.

      Apart from making the revision to section 3.1 of its guidelines, Apple hasn’t provided details on how in-app gifting will be handled. The company is expected to offer more information about gifting support for in-app purchases in the near future.

      Apple has altered its App Store Guidelines to allow consumers to gift in-app purchases to friends and family, according to MacRumors. The company previousl...
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      Consumer groups pushing for investigation of Google’s Play Store practices

      Lawmakers also want an investigation in whether Google is violating children’s privacy laws

      On Tuesday, nearly two dozen consumer, privacy, and public health groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Google’s Play Store allows children to download apps that put their personal information at risk.

      The groups argued that the tech giant’s app store is endangering children by allowing apps that violate privacy laws, contain adult content, or include manipulative advertising in a section of its Play store designed for children, the Associated Press reported.

      The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy were the primary groups to file the complaint. In it, they argued that some apps that Google deems appropriate for children are “sharing kids’ sensitive personal information without the required parental consent.”

      Now, a group of U.S. lawmakers are also putting pressure on the FTC to launch an investigation into whether Google is breaking privacy laws.

      Regulators want an investigation

      In a letter to the FTC, Democratic Senators Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal, and Tom Udall encouraged the agency to initiate an investigation to determine whether Google is violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

      “The FTC is statutorily obliged to enforce COPPA and protect American consumers from unfair and deceptive practices,” the senators wrote in a letter to the FTC’s five commissioners. “We’ve brought to your attention a number of pressing concerns that call into question Google’s compliance with existing laws, and we encourage you to initiate an investigation into the aforementioned concerns as soon as possible.”

      Representative David Cicilline (D -Rhode Island) is also in support of an investigation into the matter, the AP reported.

      In a statement to the media, Google said it takes these issues “very seriously” and that it’s continually working hard to “remove any content that is inappropriately aimed at children from our platform.”

      In 2014, the FTC charged both Google and Apple with unfair practices involving kids. Google agreed to refund consumers $19 million in Google Play purchases that were made without parents’ consent, and Apple agreed to refund $32.5 million for the in-app purchases made on its devices without parents’ consent.

      On Tuesday, nearly two dozen consumer, privacy, and public health groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Google’s P...
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      TerraTrike recalls adult tricycles

      The trike may power forward unexpectedly

      TerraTrike of Grand Rapids, Mich., is recalling about 450 TerraTrike Rambler E.V.O adult tricycles.

      The torque sensor in the wheel can activate unexpectedly and cause the trike to power forward, posing crash and injury hazards.

      The firm has received five reports of the torque sensor activating while not pedaling. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves yellow TerraTrike Rambler Electrical Vehicle Option ( E.V.O.) recumbent pedal-powered trikes with an electric assist wheel.

      The trikes have two wheels in the front and one wheel in the back with a large black hub motor. “Terra Trike” is printed on the front of the back rest area. The model name “Rambler E.V.O.” is located on the front outrigger tube that connects to the front left wheel.

      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 (frame) and India (torque sensor), were sold at authorized TerraTrike dealers, independent bicycle dealers and recumbent bicycle specialty stores nationwide and online at www.TerraTrike.com from August 2017, through October 1, 2018, for about $3,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled trikes and return them to the place of purchase for a free speed sensor installation and a software upgrade.

      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 Falco E.V.O. Recall” near the bottom of the page for more information.

      TerraTrike of Grand Rapids, Mich., is recalling about 450 TerraTrike Rambler E.V.O adult tricycles.The torque sensor in the wheel can activate unexpect...
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      Adam Bros. Farming recalls red & green leaf lettuce and cauliflower

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria

      Adam Bros. Farming of Santa Maria, Calif., is recalling red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce and cauliflower harvested from November 27 – 30, 2018.

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

      None of the recalled products have tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and no illnesses have been reported.

      The following products are being recalled:

      Red Leaf Lettuce – Adam Bros. Family Farms Label: Carton Tag Numbers:

      204-27245 331-18, 253-27267 331-18, 204-27267 331-18, 203-27267 331-18, 253-27267 332-18, 204-27267 332-18

      Pallet Tag Numbers:

      1635961, 1635962, 1635977, 1635978, 1635979, 1635980, 1635981, 1635982, 1635983, 1635984, 1635985, 635986, 1635988, 1635989, 1635990, 1635991, 1636104, 1636105, 1636106, 1636107, 1636108, 1636109, 1636110, 1636111, 1636120, 1636121, 1636173, 1636174, 1636175, 1636176, 1636177, 1636178, 1636179,  636187, 1636188, 1636189, 1636190, 1636234, 1636235, 1636236, 1636237, 1636238, 1636239, 1636240,  1636241, 1636242, 1636243, 1636297, 1636298, 1636299, 1636300, 1636301, 1636302, 1636303, 1636304, 1636305, 1636306, 1636376, 1636377, 1636378, 1636379, 1636380, 1636381, 1636382, 1636492, 1636493, 1636494, 1636495, 1636496, 1636497, 1636498, 1636499, 1636500

      Green Leaf Lettuce – Adam Bros. Family Farms Label: Carton Tag Numbers:

      204-27247 331-18, 253-27268 331-18, 204-27268 331-18, 204-27268 331-18, 204-27268 332-18

      Pallet Tag Numbers:

      1635842, 1635843, 1635844, 1635845, 1635846, 1635847, 1635848, 1635849, 1635850, 1635851, 1635872,  1635873, 1635874, 1635875, 1635876, 1635877, 1635878, 1635879, 1635880, 1635881, 1635951, 163 5952, 1635953, 1635954, 1635955, 1635956, 1635957, 1635958, 1635959, 1635960, 1635963, 1635964, 1635965, 1635966, 1635967, 1635968, 1635969, 1635970, 1635971, 1635972, 1635973, 1635974, 1635975, 1635976, 1636062, 1636063, 1636064, 1636065, 1636066, 1636067, 1636068, 163606, 1636070, 1636071, 1636101, 1636102, 1636103, 1636112, 1636113, 1636114, 1636115, 1636116, 1636117, 1636118, 1636119, 1636180, 1636181, 1636182, 1636183, 1636184, 1636185, 1636186, 1636373, 1636374, 1636375, 1636501, 1636502, 1636503, 1636504, 1636505, 1636506, 1636507, 1636508, 1636509

      Cauliflower – Adam Bros. Family Farms Label:

      Carton Tag Numbers:

      203-27263 331-18, 203-27263 333-18, 203-27263 334-18, 204-27268 332-18, 203-27268 334-18, 203-27263 332-18, 203-27263 334-18

      Pallet Tag Numbers:

      1635882, 1635883, 1635884, 1635885, 1636072, 1636073, 1636074, 1636075, 1636076, 1636140, 1636141, 1636142, 1636143, 1636307, 1636308, 1636309, 1636310, 1636314, 1636593, 1636594, 1636595, 1636596, 1636597, 1636598, 1636599, 1636600, 1636601, 1636716, 1636717, 1636718, 1636719, 1636720, 1636924, 1636925, 1636926, 1636927, 1637046, 1637047, 1637170, 1637171, 1635886, 1635887, 1636077, 1636078,  1636144, 1636145, 1636311, 1636312, 1636602, 1636603, 1636604, 1636605, 1636721, 1636722, 1636928, 1636929, 1637048, 1637049, 1637172, 1637173, 1635888, 1636079, 1636146, 1636313, 1636606, 1636607, 1636723, 1636930, 1637050, 1637174

      The cauliflower was distributed to wholesalers in Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tijuana, Mexico, and Canada.

      The red and green leaf lettuce was distributed to wholesalers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington and Canada. The red leaf lettuce only was distributed to a wholesaler in Minnesota and Tijuana, Mexico.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase or destroy them.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (805) 925- 0339.

      Adam Bros. Farming of Santa Maria, Calif., is recalling red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce and cauliflower harvested from November 27 – 30, 2018.The...
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      Manhattan Toy recalls children’s books

      A metal grommet attaching a fabric flap to a page in the book can detach

      The Manhattan Toy Company of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 1,200 children’s soft books sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      A metal grommet used to attach a fabric flap to a page in the book can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.

      The firm has received one report of the metal grommet detaching from the page. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves “Find the Bear” soft fabric books with a variety of fabric flaps sewn or attached to the pages.

      The front cover has blue and purple horizontal stripes and a panda bear’s face sewn on. The Manhattan Toy logo is printed on a sewn-in label on the side of the book.

      Lot code “208150 AJ” is printed on another sewn-in label.

      The books, manufactured in China, were sold at independent specialty retailers nationwide and online at Amazon.com, Buybuybaby.com, Manhattantoy.com and other websites from March 2017, through July 2018, for about $18.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled books away from children, stop using them and return them to the place of purchase or contact Manhattan Toy for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Manhattan Toy at (800) 541-1345 Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) and Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (CT) or online at www.manhattantoy.com and click on “Recalls” for more information.

      The Manhattan Toy Company of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 1,200 children’s soft books sold in the U.S. and Canada.A metal grommet used to att...
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      Flying over the holidays? Be ready for stronger security screening

      There have been lots of airline-related changes in 2018, so make sure you’re on top of everything

      It’s the holiday season, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expecting a sleighful of flyers. Between December 19 and January 5, the agency estimates more than 40 million passengers will go through its security screening checkpoints, an increase of 6 percent from 2017.

      "TSA’s layered approach to security and its dedicated screening workforce will be hard at work securing the aviation system, from the moment travelers make their flight reservation to when they arrive at their destination this holiday season,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in the agency’s holiday travel advisory.

      Pre-airport checklist

      If the holidays are the first time you’ve flown this year, you should know that stronger security measures were put in place earlier in 2018. As a result, flyers may experience a more thorough screening process.

      To make your trip through security as stress-free as possible, the TSA recommends...

      • Arriving at the airport at least two hours early;

      • Putting all electronics in a place where you can get to them quickly and easily for scanning;

      • Separating foods, powders, and any other materials that might clutter bags and raise security questions;

      • Making sure all liquids meet the 3-1-1 standard (3.4 oz bottle or less; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger); and

      • Noting that there are special requirements for formula, breast milk, and juice if you are traveling with an infant.If you’re traveling with an infant.

      While it’s too late now, consumers should consider applying for a TSA Pre-Check to dramatically reduce their security clearance time on future flights. On top of shorter lines, Pre-Check flyers also gain the benefit of not having to remove shoes, the 3-1-1 liquids bag, laptops, light outerwear jackets, or belts.

      Catch up on all the airline changes

      If you’re flying through Denver over the holidays, you might get to try out a new screening system.

      In partnership with the TSA, Denver International Airport (DEN) -- named a favorite in a recent consumer satisfaction survey of airports -- is the first U.S. airport to try out a new breed of checkpoint security screening called Enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology (eAIT).

      The new system has several pluses, like easier screening for flyers with mobility issues, but the one passengers will probably like most is that instead of holding their arms over their heads, they can keep them down and close to their sides when going through the body scanner. The new technology reduces scan time to under a second.

      If the Denver test run is successful, TSA might add the new screening technology at other airports.

      Airlines have gone through a lot of changes in 2018 -- from how service animals are dealt with to new standards for seats. To catch up on all airline-related consumer news, check out ConsumerAffairs Airline and Airport News section.

      It’s the holiday season, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expecting a sleighful of flyers. Between December 19 and January 5, the ag...
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      Facebook gave tech giants access to user data, report alleges

      The company says no access was granted without users’ consent

      The New York Times reports that Facebook allowed some large tech companies like Amazon to access users’ private messages. In response, Facebook says it never did so without its users’ consent.

      In an investigative report, the newspaper cited internal Facebook documents that it said showed the tech giant gave partners like Amazon, Microsoft, and Spotify far wider access to users’ data than it had previously disclosed.

      The Times reports Facebook exempted its major business partners from privacy rules that are designed to shield users’ data. The report says the exchange -- allowing partners access to data -- is one reason the social media company has become so profitable. In an age of personal, highly targeted marketing, user data is a prized -- and extremely valuable -- commodity.

      ‘Clearing things up’

      Facebook’s reaction to the Times piece was nearly instantaneous. In a blog posting this morning entitled “Let’s Clear Up A Few Things About Facebook’s Partners,” Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of Developer Platforms and Programs at Facebook, said the grant of access was designed to help users accomplish certain tasks.

      By sharing the data, Facebook said users were able to access their Facebook accounts or specific users on other platforms built and maintained by Facebook partners, such as Apple, Amazon, Yahoo, and Blackberry.

      Facebook says the sharing also enabled Facebook users to see recommendations from Facebook friends on other platforms, something the company contends enhances the social experience.

      “To be clear: none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC,” Papamiltiadis wrote.

      Conflict

      The Times report is in conflict with the company response on one key point. The newspaper investigation said Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of nearly all of a user’s friends without consent.

      The report also alleges Facebook gave its partners the ability to read, rewrite, and even delete users’ private messages. In many cases, users’ consent was granted when they chose to sign into another account using their Facebook login.

      The Times also quotes executives at major Facebook partners -- such as Netflix, Spotify, and the Royal Bank of Canada -- as being unaware they had been granted this access. The newspaper concludes that Facebook is sharing personal data on a scale that far exceeds what it has disclosed.

      For its part, Facebook insists that no user data was shared without that person explicitly giving consent, but that consent could have been something as routine as signing into a partner’s platform with their Facebook account.

      The New York Times reports that Facebook allowed some large tech companies like Amazon to access users’ private messages. In response, Facebook says it nev...
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      Surgeon general issues warning about teen use of e-cigarettes

      Health officials are ramping up their attacks on ‘vaping’

      The federal government is stepping up its war against e-cigarettes, used by some smokers to wean themselves off cigarettes but feared by public health professionals because they are exposing teens to nicotine.

      U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has issued a public health warning, saying he is concerned that there has been a large increase in teenagers using the products. E-cigarettes create vapor from liquid that contains nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes.

      Public health officials are concerned that young people who get hooked on nicotine from their use of e-cigarettes will eventually begin smoking. They also worry about other chemicals in the vapor they say is harmful.

      In his advisory, Adams said he is concerned about the increase in teen “vaping” because it isn’t clear what nicotine will do to a developing adolescent brain.

      “Brain development begins during the growth of the fetus in the womb and continues through childhood and to about age 25,” Adams warned. “Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain.”

      Rapid growth in use by teens

      Adams said he is concerned that e-cigarette use has become popular among young people, noting its use has become exponentially widespread over the last five years. Adams says the use of e-cigarettes is higher among high school students than adults and that more young people use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes.

      Adams singled out the e-cigarette product Juul for special condemnation because it appears to be highly popular with teenagers. In his advisory, Adams said Juul’s sleek design is easy to conceal and doesn’t emit much of an odor. Adams says parents should be vigilant and look for signs that teens are using e-cigarettes.

      In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented a huge increase in sales of Juul products, noting that sales increased from 2.2 million devices sold in 2016 to 16.2 million devices sold in 2017. The study found that Juul was found to contain more nicotine than any other brand of e-cigarette.

      ‘No redeeming benefits’

      “There are no redeeming benefits of e-cigarettes for young people,” Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said at the time. “The use of certain USB-shaped e-cigarettes is especially dangerous among youth because these products contain extremely high levels of nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain.”

      Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to restrict the sale of fruit and candy-flavored e-cigarettes at convenience stores and gas stations. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said expressed alarm at what he called the “disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth and the resulting path to addiction.”

      The federal government is stepping up its war against e-cigarettes, used by some smokers to wean themselves off cigarettes but feared by public health prof...
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      Mercedes-Benz USA recalls vehicles with possible steering issue

      The steering may become stuck in one position

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 6,162 model year 2015-2016 Mercedes Benz C300' model year 2017-2019 C300 Cabrio, C300 Coupe, C63 Cabrio; model year 2015 C63S AMG; model year 2018-2019 C300, C350e, C63 AMG, C63S AMG Cabrio; model year 2018 C63 AMG Cabrio, C63 AMG Coupe, C63S AMG, C63S AMG Coupe, E300, E400 Cabrio, E400 Coupe; and model year 2019 CLS450, E450 Cabrio, and E450 Coupe rear-wheel drive vehicles.

      A locknut in the steering rack may break under high load, possibly causing the steering to become stuck in one position.

      A car that cannot be properly steered has an increased risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering rack, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 25, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 6,162 model year 2015-2016 Mercedes Benz C300' model year 2017-2019 C300 Cabrio, C300 Coupe, C63 Cabrio; model year...
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      Inspired Organics recalls Organic Sunflower Butter

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Inspired Organics is recalling Organic Sunflower Butter that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      Inspired Organics, distributed exclusively by Lipari Foods in Warren, Mich., to food service and retail stores throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada, is being recalled:

      • Product: Organic Sunflower Butter
      • Lipari Item #: 967064
      • Size: 16oz
      • Best By Date: 10/2019
      • Lot #: 099
      • UPC: 863669742526

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call the company's customer service at (800) 729-3354, 8:15 am – 4:30 pm (EST) Monday through Friday.

      Inspired Organics is recalling Organic Sunflower Butter that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported to date....
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      Ford recalls F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty trucks

      The park pawl assembly may not be be secured

      Ford Motor Company is recalling four model year 2019 Ford F-250 Super Duty, F-350 Super Duty and F-450 Super Duty trucks.

      An incorrect transmission case casting may cause the park pawl assembly to not be secured, possibly resulting in unintended vehicle movement, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners and dealers will inspect the transmission case, replacing the transmission as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall was expected to begin December 3, 2018.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 18S36.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling four model year 2019 Ford F-250 Super Duty, F-350 Super Duty and F-450 Super Duty trucks.An incorrect transmission case...
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      T-Mobile gains Sprint merger approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States

      The two wireless providers must still receive approval from the FCC and the DOJ

      T-Mobile has been granted approval for its proposed merger with Sprint following “several months of negotiation with company representatives,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

      T-Mobile said in a statement late Monday that the $26 billion takeover was cleared by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

      The company said the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense (collectively referred to as Team Telecom) also confirmed that it has no objections to the merger.

      “We are pleased to achieve both of these important milestones in the journey to build the New T-Mobile," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. "We are a step closer to offering customers a supercharged disrupter that will create jobs from day one and deliver a real alternative to fixed broadband while delivering the first broad and deep nationwide 5G network for the United States...We look forward to continuing our discussions with the remaining regulatory agencies reviewing our transaction to share our story and subsequently achieve similar positive results.”

      Facing opposition

      T-Mobile and Sprint filed the proposed deal with the FCC on June 18. Obtaining approval by CFIUS was an important step in the process of moving forward with the deal, but the merger must still be approved by antitrust officials, including the FCC and DOJ.

      Following a brief delay in September, the FCC has resumed its review of the proposed merger of the two wireless providers.

      The deal is opposed by a number of parties, including a group called the 4Competition Coalition Last week, the group announced a new alliance aimed at preventing the merger from happening.

      Critics of the deal say it would reduce competition, cost thousands of jobs, and lead to higher prices for consumers. If the two companies merge as planned in the first half of 2019, the number of wireless providers in the United States will drop from four to three.

      T-Mobile and Sprint have argued that joining forces is necessary to introduce 5G services.

      T-Mobile has been granted approval for its proposed merger with Sprint following “several months of negotiation with company representatives,” the Wall Str...
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      Homelessness continues to grow, but there’s new hope for affordable housing

      HUD is stepping up efforts to promote housing development across America

      As homelessness continues to inch higher, many of America’s cities wrestle with how to get people off the streets, out of shelters, and into affordable housing.

      In the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s new Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, the only silver lining inside the homeless cloud was that homelessness among veterans fell 5.4 percent and homelessness experienced by families with children declined 2.7 percent nationwide since 2017.

      "Our state and local partners are increasingly focused on finding lasting solutions to homelessness even as they struggle against the headwinds of rising rents," said HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

      Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, pointed to a lack of affordable housing as “the fundamental obstacle to making further progress in many communities."

      The affordable housing dilemma

      Finding affordable rental housing anywhere in America is problematic for those who walk that line between homelessness and four walls they can call their own.

      As U.S. News and World Report discovered in its annual "Best Places to Live" study, moving to a new home is no easy task, especially for those who opt to move to a completely different part of the U.S.

      "You’re not only considering the type of house or apartment you want, but you're also weighing whether you’ll be able to afford the area, send your kids to good schools, get to work easily and a number of other major factors," wrote Devon Thorsby, U.S. News’ Editor, Real Estate.

      While New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami are off the affordability scale, there are places like Des Moines where residents spend 23.5 percent of their earned income on housing.

      Zillow found most affordable homes are in the Southeast and Midwest. Those regional cities that offer a better bang for the real estate buck include Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the median monthly rent is $786, and Greenville, South Carolina, where rent will only set you back $762 a month.

      Help is on the way

      HUD Secretary Ben Carson says that improvements are being made to help consumers attain affordable housing. He says HUD can help by promoting more housing development across the country.

      In his best effort to dispel the reports of bleak conditions for first-time homebuyers, Mr. Carson told the Wall Street Journal that given escalating home sales and rental prices, for homelessness "to be relatively flat is actually pretty good."

      Carson’s agency already has an initiative called Housing First on its feet. Housing First’s baseline motive is that a homeless person or family’s most basic need is having stable housing. If there are other issues that may affect the household -- for example, sobriety -- those can and should be addressed once housing is obtained.

      Technology is stepping up to help, as well. Earlier this year, Texas-based ICON teamed up with New Story, a California-based non-profit to create 3D-printed affordable homes, costing under $10,000 and benefiting those in need.

      As homelessness continues to inch higher, many of America’s cities wrestle with how to get people off the streets, out of shelters, and into affordable hou...
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      Twitter contacts users about security flaw

      Country codes of some users’ associated phone numbers may have been leaked

      Twitter has notified some users that a bug may have exposed their personal data.

      Those affected had an associated phone number on their account. The data leak shared the country code of the associated phone number, “as well as whether or not their account had been locked,” Twitter said in a notice.

      The company hasn’t provided an estimate for how many accounts potentially had information exposed. Twitter initially spotted the issue in November, but it didn’t disclose details of the problem until earlier this week for reasons that remain unclear.

      “No action is required by you and we have resolved the issue,” Twitter said.

      Malicious actors

      Twitter said “unusual activity” came through one of its support forms for contacting the company. The company found a large number of inquiries from IP addresses in China and Saudi Arabia.

      “While we cannot confirm intent or attribution for certain, it is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors,” Twitter wrote.

      While the amount of information exposed in the leak was minor in comparison to other breaches that have occured this year, TechCrunch noted that malicious actors could have used the security flaw to “figure out in which countries accounts were based, which could have ramifications for whistleblowers or political dissidents.”

      Users who may have had their country code improperly shared were contacted directly. Twitter has stated that full phone numbers were not leaked and users don’t have to do anything in response.

      Twitter has notified some users that a bug may have exposed their personal data.Those affected had an associated phone number on their account. The dat...
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      Housing starts surged in November

      But apartment construction accounts for most of the increase

      The Commerce Department reports housing starts surged 3.2 percent in November, a report that would appear to suggest a reversal in the recent housing market slowdown. But a closer look at the numbers shows that isn’t the case.

      Builders aren’t putting up single-family homes, which are in short supply in the “starter home” category. Instead, nearly all the new construction in November was focused on building more apartment buildings.

      With rising home prices and the highest mortgage rates in a decade, consumers aren’t buying as many homes, but people have to live somewhere. With more consumers renting their homes instead of buying, builders are adding to the supply of apartments. This comes as good news for renters who prefer to remain renters. Not only will there be more apartments to choose from, but an increase in the supply should also keep rents stable.

      In early December Apartment List, an online rental marketplace reported its national rent index increased by 0.1 percent month-over-month, the second straight monthly increase after a slight dip in September.

      Year-over-year, the increase is only 1.3 percent, a much lower rate than home prices have risen. It’s also a lower rate of rent increases when compared to both 2016 and 2017.

      Fewer single-family homes

      Meanwhile, the latest housing data shows builders are shying away from new single-family home construction. Single-family housing starts plunged 4.6 percent last month and were down more than 13 percent year-over-year.

      Builders find small starter homes less profitable than more expensive luxury homes, but they are finding it hard to sell those more expensive homes in the current market. In its latest report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said pending home sales tumbled 2.6 percent in October.

      NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the recent rise in mortgage rates has reduced the pool of eligible buyers. Many could end up in those new apartments now under construction.

      The Commerce Department reports housing starts surged 3.2 percent in November, a report that would appear to suggest a reversal in the recent housing marke...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls E450 and E63S wagons

      The tailgate spoiler may detach while the vehicle is moving

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 16 model year 2019 E450 4Matic and E63S AMG wagons.

      The vehicles have a tailgate mounted spoiler that may not be properly attached and therefore could detach while the vehicle is being driven.

      If the spoiler detaches while the vehicle is moving, it can become a road hazard, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and correct the mounting of the spoiler, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 19, 2018.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 16 model year 2019 E450 4Matic and E63S AMG wagons.The vehicles have a tailgate mounted spoiler that may not be...
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      Google’s location tracking finds itself at the center of a new class action lawsuit

      Android users’ data is collected 10 times more than iPhone users’ data

      Separate class action lawsuits focused on Google’s location tracking mechanism amid claims that the tech titan unlawfully stored user location information have been combined into a single suit in California.

      According to TopClassActions, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila approved a consolidation of six proposed Google class action lawsuits in order to “promote efficiency and avoid the possibility of inconsistent judgments.”

      The lawsuits claim that to completely block Google from saving location data, a user would have to disable the “web and app activity” setting in their account. Google reportedly failed to inform users about the setting, nor did it disclose that the setting was “crucial” in the company’s power to track and store user data.

      “Google improperly baited users into using its applications and functionalities without worrying about their privacy by representing to users that they could control Google’s access to their location data and allowing them to opt out of giving Google their location data, then Google switched users into allowing it to collect their location data,” one of the Google tracking class actions stated.

      The U.S. Supreme Court waved that red flag in a separate case where chief justice John Roberts commented that when a third party has access to the information stored on one’s cell phone, that entity “achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user.”

      The backstory

      The genesis of the Google suit started with an investigation by the Associated Press (AP), in which computer science researchers at Princeton University were able to create a visual map of the movements of the study’s subject as he moved around with his Android phone that had Location History toggled off.

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

      Following the Associated Press’ scrutiny, Google updated its disclosures. However, plaintiffs in the Google class action lawsuits claim that this was “too little, too late and does not absolve the company of liability.”

      The AP’s findings were confirmed by Vanderbilt University computer science professor Douglas C. Schmidt in a separate study.

      “Google counts a large percentage of the world’s population as its direct customers, with multiple products leading their markets globally and many surpassing 1 billion monthly active users,” Schmidt concluded.

      “A major part of Google’s data collection occurs while a user is not directly engaged with any of its products. And while such information is typically collected without identifying a unique user, Google distinctively possesses the ability to utilize data collected from other sources to de-anonymize such a collection.”

      The data that Google collects

      Since Google found itself under the heat lamp on the matter, it’s seemingly doing its best to make sure users know what data they’re allowing the company to collect and use.

      When “Web & App Activity” is on, Google saves information like:

      • Searches and other things you do on Google products and services, like Maps

      • Your location, language, IP address, referrer, and whether you use a browser or an app

      • Ads you click, or things you buy on an advertiser’s site

      • Information on your device like recent apps or contact names you searched for

      • Websites and apps you use

      • Your activity on websites and in apps that use Google services

      • Your Chrome browsing history

      Do you have an Android phone?

      The magnitude of Google’s data collection is significant, especially on Android mobile devices where it’s estimated that those devices send 10 times more data to Google than iPhones. And when you multiply that data times the two billion active monthly users that connect to the world using that platform, the data net that Google casts is vast.

      Google might argue that it’s codependent on Android since it’s the ecosystem for many related products ranging from wristwatches to coffee machines. Nonetheless, Google’s ability to give or deny data collection is squarely on users’ shoulders.

      If any of this unnerves you as an Android owner, the best next step to take is following Google’s guide to data collection for Android.

      iPad and iPhone users should also double-check their Google data collection settings, as should anyone who relies on a desktop or laptop for connecting to the internet.

      Separate class action lawsuits focused on Google’s location tracking mechanism amid claims that the tech titan unlawfully stored user location information...
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      California drops proposal to tax text messages

      Regulators said a recent FCC ruling prevents the state from adding a texting surcharge

      California regulators have dropped their proposal to levy a surcharge on text messages made by state residents. The California Public Utilities Commission said a new ruling by the FCC prevented the state from adding a tax on text plans.

      "On Dec. 12, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a declaratory ruling finding that ‘text messaging’ is an information service, not a telecommunications service, under the Federal Telecommunications Act," the CPUC said in a statement.

      The CPUC said that texting could have been subject to state tax under California law if it were considered a telecommunications service.

      "In light of the FCC's action, assigned Commissioner Carla J. Peterman has withdrawn from the CPUC's Jan. 10, 2019 Voting Meeting" the text tax proposal.

      “Illogical, anticompetitive and harmful to consumers”

      Last week, the agency said it was pushing for the text tax in the hope that it would help increase funds for programs that provide telecommunications services to low-income residents. A vote on the measure was set to happen on January 10.

      The proposed measure faced stiff opposition from the wireless industry, business groups, and others.

      The CTIA, a trade group representing wireless companies, argued that the measure would have created inequity "between wireless carriers and other providers of messaging services," such as WhatsApp, iMessage, and Skype.

      "Subjecting wireless carriers' text messaging traffic to surcharges that cannot be applied to the lion's share of messaging traffic and messaging providers is illogical, anticompetitive, and harmful to consumers," the CTIA said in a legal filing.

      State residents also voiced their opposition to the idea.

      "Of course California wants to tax your text messages. They would tax your toilet use if they could, " one Twitter user said.

      California regulators have dropped their proposal to levy a surcharge on text messages made by state residents. The California Public Utilities Commission...
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      Arguments with coworkers can affect your sleep

      A study shows office tensions can cause consumers’ partners to struggle at night too

      For many consumers, the majority of the day is spent in the company of coworkers. Whether it’s at lunch or during meetings, time spent with colleagues can either be a nice respite from the busy work day, or it can be a cause for greater stress.

      Now, researchers from Portland State University found that those who have frequent disagreements or arguments with their coworkers may have trouble sleeping at night. And the restlessness could extend to their partners if the couple works in the same field or company.

      “Because work-linked couples have a better idea of what’s going on in each other’s work, they can be better supporters,” said lead author Charlotte Fritz. “They probably know more about the context of the incivil act and might be more pulled into the venting or problem-solving process.”

      Sharing stress

      Fritz and her team surveyed over 300 couples in a variety of different fields to examine the way they handle workplace arguments -- and how it affects their sleeping habits.

      The participants were asked questions about how often they felt preoccupied with negative aspects of work once the work day ended, and also how many times during the night they woke up or couldn’t fall asleep because of work-related issues.

      The researchers found that those who experienced incivility at work were more likely to bring those frustrations home with them, which also led to insomnia or trouble sleeping. The participants’ spouses were also found to have trouble sleeping when the couple worked either in the same company or field of work.

      Fritz and her team suggest that the best way to combat these struggles and make life outside of work less stressful is for employees to do their best to fully engage in outside activities once the work day is over. Additionally, they called for workplaces to provide civility training for all employees in an effort to instill a more positive atmosphere in the workplace.

      “Not talking about work or not supporting your spouse is not the solution,” said Fritz. “They can talk about work, vent about it, discuss it, but then they should make an explicit attempt to unwind together and create good conditions for sleep.”

      Cultivating a positive work environment

      There are several ways for consumers to go about making the work environment as positive and enjoyable as possible.

      A recent study found that coworkers should only offer advice to each other when first sought out or specifically asked.

      The researchers found that those who receive unsolicited advice may start to question their self-esteem or role in the workplace, and they may even feel hostile towards the coworker that provided the advice. However, when people wait to be asked and can then offer their assistance or expertise, the help is often appreciated by both parties.

      “Right now, there’s a lot of stress on productivity in the workplace, and to be a real go-getter, and to help everyone around you,” said researcher Russell Johnson. “But, it’s not necessarily the best thing when you go out looking for problems and spending time trying to fix them.”

      For many consumers, the majority of the day is spent in the company of coworkers. Whether it’s at lunch or during meetings, time spent with colleagues can...
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      The Weekly Hack: Save the Children gave $1 million to con artists

      Home electric car chargers don’t need wifi capabilities, researchers warn

      One of the country’s largest charities admitted in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filings that it sent nearly $1 million to a fraudulent business in Japan and another $9,000 to a hacker’s account in Africa.

      “We have improved our security measures to help ensure this does not happen again,” Stacy Brandom, chief financial officer of Save the Children Federation, told the Boston Globe. “Fortunately, through insurance, we were ultimately reimbursed for most of the funds.”

      In the larger heist, hackers broke into a Save the Children Federation worker’s email. The hacker created invoices to make it appear as though nearly $1 million was going toward purchasing solar panels for health clinics in Pakistan.

      And in Africa, a vendor that Save the Children works with also had his email hacked. When they sent him his bill, it went to the hacker instead.

      In both cases, the money was transferred to the thieves via wire transfer. The FBI has repeatedly warned consumers and businesses that hacking into someone’s email, posing as the victim, and asking for payments via wire transfer is a popular cyber theft tactic.

      Homeland Security contractors

      Homeland security officials say that it’s “extremely hard” to keep its systems secure following the revelation that Navy contractors and subcontractors have repeatedly fallen victim to hackers.

      The contractors have suffered more than a handful of security breaches over the past year and a half, according to internal Navy documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

      "Attacks on our networks are not new, but attempts to steal critical information are increasing in both severity and sophistication," Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said in one of the documents

      "It's extremely hard for the Defense Department to secure its own systems," Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, told the Wall Street Journal.

      Officials are blaming the hacks on China.

      Community college

      A virus on the Cape Cod Community College computer system allowed hackers to access its entire payroll database and directly secure over $800,000.

      After catching the hack, school officials contacted the FBI, and the agency has been able to block $278,000 worth of the transfers so far.

      Home electric car chargers

      A security firm studying the home chargers of electric vehicles says that the devices are vulnerable to hacking and probably shouldn’t be equipped with WiFi capabilities.

      For its report, security firm Kaspersky examined the home charger sold by ChargePoint Home, a popular third-party vendor.

      The WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities of the charger made way for security flaws that could allow hackers to remotely control a car’s charging process, or worse. Hackers could also potentially cause damage to the car or control where it is able to drive.

      Kaspersky says that ChargePoint Home fixed the security flaw after it alerted the company, “but the question remains as to whether there is any reason to implement wireless interfaces when there is no real need for them.”

      One of the country’s largest charities admitted in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filings that it sent nearly $1 million to a fraudulent business in Japan...
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      Gas prices fell to a new 2018 low this week

      But the low prices may not last very long in 2019

      Gas prices are giving consumers a Christmas bonus heading into the holidays, as it costs less to fill up this week than last week. In fact, gasoline prices have hit another low for 2018.

      The national average price of regular gasoline is $2.39 a gallon, five cents less than last week and six cents lower than this time a year ago.

      The average price of premium gas is under $3 a gallon for the first time this year, falling four cents to $2.98 a gallon. The price of diesel fuel is $3.09 a gallon, also four cents less than last Friday.

      Weak oil prices are giving motorists a break at the pump, with crude oil prices hovering just above the $50 a barrel mark. Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson, says month-over-month statewide gas price averages have fallen by double digits in every state so far in December.

      “For some in the Great Lakes and Central states of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri, state gas prices are as much as 40-cents less than they were in November,” she said. “In some states, gas prices are nearing $2 per gallon – something that hasn’t been seen since December 2017.”

      AAA expects the average gas price to remain well below $2.40 gallon into the end of the year, but the low prices might not last much beyond that. The Energy Information Administration reports U.S. oil supplies declined for a second straight week last week after building up a huge inventory over the previous weeks.

      With inventories falling, AAA said it expects tighter supplies will boost oil prices in early 2019, which in turn will make gasoline more expensive.

      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 ($3.56)

      • California ($3.41)

      • Washington ($3.19)

      • Alaska ($3.11)

      • Nevada ($3.05)

      • Oregon ($3.02)

      • Idaho ($2.79)

      • Utah ($2.78)

      • Wyoming ($2.77)

      • Arizona ($2.73)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Missouri ($1.97)

      • Oklahoma ($2.04)

      • South Carolina ($2.04)

      • Alabama ($2.06)

      • Texas ($2.07)

      • Louisiana ($2.07)

      • Kansas ($2.08)

      • Mississippi ($2.09)

      • Ohio ($2.12)

      • Iowa ($2.13)

      Gas prices are giving consumers a Christmas bonus heading into the holidays, as it costs less to fill up this week than last week. In fact, gasoline prices...
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      California considering taxing text messaging

      State regulators say adding surcharges on text messaging will help sustain its Public Purpose Programs

      California is considering enacting a tax for text messaging to help fund a program that makes telecommunications services available to low-income consumers.

      In a filing, the state’s Public Utilities Commission said adding a texting surcharge could help keep its Public Purpose Programs afloat. As consumers have migrated toward texting instead of making phone calls, the voice call revenue for these programs have dropped.

      The budget rose to $998 million in 2017 from $670 million in 2011, and revenue from the telecom industry that funds the program fell to $11.3 billion last year from $16.5 billion in 2011, according to a report from California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

      “This is unsustainable over time,” CPUC stated in its report.

      "Parties supporting the collection of surcharges on text messaging revenue argue that it will help preserve and advance universal service by increasing the revenue base upon which Public Purpose Programs rely. We agree," CPUC said.

      Wireless industry pushing back

      A vote on the tax -- which would likely appear as a flat surcharge in the small print of bills -- hasn’t yet happened. While the proposal is on the table, the wireless industry, business groups, and others are expressing their opposition to the idea.

      "Of course California wants to tax your text messages. They would tax your toilet use if they could, " one Twitter user said

      The CTIA, a trade group representing wireless companies, has argued that texting is an information service on par with email, not a telecommunications service subject to the agency’s ability to tax services.

      "Subjecting wireless carriers' text messaging traffic to surcharges that cannot be applied to the lion's share of messaging traffic and messaging providers is illogical, anticompetitive and harmful to consumers," CTIA's filing said.

      Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council business-sponsored advocacy group, called the proposal “a dumb idea.”

      “This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it’s almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have.”

      “May be a wash”

      The CPUC contends that enacting a texting surcharge would have a minimal effect on consumers.

      "If more surcharge revenues come from texting services, less would be needed from voice services," a CPUC spokesperson told the Mercury News in San Jose, California. "Generally, those consumers who create greater texting revenues may pay a bit more, whereas consumers using more voice services may pay less."

      Several business groups fighting the proposal have calculated that the new charges for wireless consumers could total about $44.5 million a year.

      California is considering enacting a tax for text messaging to help fund a program that makes telecommunications services available to low-income consumers...
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      Toyota recalls vehicles with Takata airbag inflator issue

      The airbag inflator may rupture, resulting in injury or death

      Toyota is recalling about 65,000 Toyota model year 2003-2005 Model Year Corollas, model year 2002-2005 Sequoias, model year 2003-2005 Tundras and model year 2002-2005 Lexus SCs.

      The vehicles were subject to previous recalls where front passenger airbag inflators were replaced with new Takata-produced, non-desiccated airbag inflators as a remedy.

      A safety defect may arise in the Takata inflators due to propellant degradation occurring after prolonged exposure to high absolute humidity and high temperature cycling.

      Activation of such inflators may result in an airbag inflator rupture, causing sharp metal fragments to pass through the airbag and spray directly at the driver and passengers, increasing the risk of serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Toyota dealers will replace the front passenger airbag inflator or the airbag assembly with an improved one produced by non-Takata suppliers at no cost.

      The recall is expected to begin in early January 2019

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 331-4331 and Lexus customer service at (800) 255-3987.

      Toyota is recalling about 65,000 Toyota model year 2003-2005 Model Year Corollas, model year 2002-2005 Sequoias, model year 2003-2005 Tundras and model yea...
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      Blame for the Marriott Hotel data breach pointed directly at China

      Consumers can’t be too careful, but the U.S. continues to step up its efforts to protect against cyberattacks

      The recent Marriott Hotel cyberattack that gleaned personal data from nearly 500 million guests in the hotel’s database has been tied to China. The Marriott data not only included credit card information, but passport data, as well.

      On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the data heist was part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering effort that also hacked health insurers and the files of millions more who have government security clearances.

      This seemingly tit-for-tat move comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s plan to take action against China’s economic and cyber policies. Among those actions are indictments against hackers employed by China’s military and its civilian spy agency, the Ministry of State Security.

      The Marriott breach is just another downed pin in China’s bowling for data game. In October, Bloomberg reported that a Chinese subcontractor added a computer chip to the motherboards used in servers supporting major U.S. companies and government agencies, including the CIA.

      Once in place, the chip could have allowed the Chinese government to steal data and conduct surveillance. And in June, a group of China-based hackers went after military contractors in the United States; they were reportedly interested in learning how those contactors run their business.

      Hacker hell

      Hacking is on a trajectory to become consumers’ biggest nuisance. There’s seldom a week goes by that personal data isn’t jeopardized by someone who thinks they can ransom that data into cash.

      Despite the 24/7 threat that personal data may be jeopardized, consumers do have options to protect themselves. Protecting personal data can be affordable and, if compromised, identity theft is easy to report. While consumers are quick to blame the business associated with the hack, companies like Marriott have stepped in to help affected consumers.

      The Federal Trade Commission has built a one-stop website -- IdentityTheft.gov -- devoted to helping consumers report and recover from identity theft. The agency also produced a video laying out the steps consumers should take if they fear their personal data has been thieved.

      The recent Marriott Hotel cyberattack that gleaned personal data from nearly 500 million guests in the hotel’s database has been tied to China. The Marriot...
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      Google CEO testifies before Congress

      The executive received tough questions from both Democrats and Republicans

      After declining to appear before Congress earlier this year, it was Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s turn in the hot seat on Tuesday.

      Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee and answered questions about how giant technology companies are impacting American democracy. Democrats peppered Pichai with questions about privacy while Republicans wanted to know if Google was censoring conservative voices.

      Lawmakers from both parties wanted to know if Google planned to launch a censored search engine in China.

      Pichai’s comments are seen as important because there is growing bipartisan support in Congress to consider some type of regulations on tech companies that have become a major force in American life in the last decade.

      Denial

      Under pointed questioning, Pichai denied that Google tries to filter out or suppress conservative points of view in its search engine, news search, and YouTube platform. Several GOP lawmakers appeared to be unconvinced. Even President Trump has at times entered the debate, accusing the search giant of favoring progressive points of view.

      Pichai insisted Google’s algorithms do not favor any point of view, and Democrats on the committee said it really doesn’t matter, pointing out the First Amendment allows Google to promote any point of view it chooses.

      The bigger issue, Democrats insist, is user data and how Google protects and uses it. Pichai said over 160 million Google users had checked their privacy settings in the last month, and the company was currently working on ways to make it even easier for users to control their data.

      When some lawmakers repeatedly pressed Pichai about how Google collected data from their phones, the Google CEO deflected the questions, saying it all depended on the device they were using.

      Wiggle room on China plans

      As for Google’s plans in China, Pichai said there is nothing definite in the works, leaving the company a lot of wiggle room. Recent published reports have said Google is developing a Chinese search engine that would block search terms the government finds sensitive.

      When some lawmakers pressed the CEO to rule out developing a censored search engine for Chinese consumers, Pichai didn’t rise to the bait. “We always think it’s our duty to explore possibilities to give users access to information,” he said.

      A lot is at stake for Google and other large technology and social media companies as pressure is building for some type of regulation. One area of agreement among both parties could be additional protections for user data, similar to those implemented by the European Union earlier this year.

      Pichia answered questions for three and a half hours. If you want to watch the whole thing, the video is below.

      After declining to appear before Congress earlier this year, it was Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s turn in the hot seat on Tuesday.Pichai testified before...
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      Energy efficient homes can result in big savings, study finds

      Consumers and builders have shied away from zero energy homes over concerns that they are more expensive upfront

      Americans buying new solar panels may now be paying millions more on their initial purchase thanks to new tariffs, but that’s no reason to shy away from energy-efficient home technology.

      New homeowners and builders are avoiding energy efficient homes over the mistaken belief that they are prohibitively expensive, according to a new report by an environmental think tank.

      The Rocky Mountain Institute analyzed the cost and savings linked to two types of energy efficient homes -- zero energy homes and zero energy-ready homes. The former produces more renewable energy than it uses, and it is only attainable for homes that capture enough sunlight, while the latter can be be built anywhere.

      Zero energy-ready homes, according to the Department of Energy, are certified as such if they have airtight construction, non-toxic construction materials, good air quality, energy-efficient appliances, and higher levels of insulation and window performance.

      These homes are also built in such a way to allow for solar panels to be installed at a future date, if the homeowner cannot afford to install the panels initially. When that happens, the homes would then have the potential to be zero energy.

      Sales of homes that are under construction or have yet to be built represent a major market for developers, but only a small fraction of those homes are slated to be energy efficient.  

      Most home builders believe that green homes will be a tough sell and that they will add more than 5 percent to total costs. Consumers have also avoided buying green homes over cost concerns.

      “These perceptions are preventing or disincentivizing stakeholders from acting in their own long-term interests,” the Rocky Mountain Institute says.

      Saving money over time

      According to the non-profit’s research, building a zero energy-ready home actually only adds somewhere between .9 to 2.5 percent to total housing costs. A zero energy home costs more, an average of 6.7 to 8.1 percent higher than a regular home.  

      But living green will eventually save homeowners thousands of dollars over a home’s lifecycle, the institute says, pointing to research that the typical consumer keeps their home for 12 years before selling it.

      The benefits vary from region to region, but they are most obvious to homeowners in the midwest. In Detroit, for example, a zero energy-ready house without solar panels costs $1,574 more than a typical house, and the energy savings would be reaped in less than two years.

      InsideClimate news recently toured energy efficient homes under construction in Michigan. The builder said that such homes are also more comfortable because they have better temperature control.

      Houses currently account for 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States.

      Americans buying new solar panels may now be paying millions more on their initial purchase thanks to new tariffs, but that’s no reason to shy away from en...
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      McDonald’s announces plan to cut antibiotic use

      The fast food giant is aiming to prevent medically important antibiotics from being used in its beef supply chain

      McDonald’s has unveiled its plans to reduce the use of antibiotics in its beef. The fast food chain said Tuesday that it will take two years to decide how much of the antibiotics that are important to human health it can cut from its beef supply.

      Ultimately, McDonald’s is aiming to address concerns about the overuse of antibiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO), the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all stated that they consider antibiotic resistance a threat to public health.

      In October, a study revealed that most burger chains in the U.S. earn scores of “F” when it comes to their antibiotic policies.

      Public health threat

      McDonald’s now says it will take steps to “measure and understand” the use of antibiotics in 10 of its largest markets and strive to reduce their use by the end of 2020. The chain says it will begin reporting progress in achieving its goal to curb antibiotic use in 2022.

      “McDonald’s iconic position and the fact that they’re the largest single global purchaser of beef make it hugely important,” said David Wallinga, a senior health adviser for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

      Overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals has been fueling antibiotic resistance and contributing to growing problems with drug-resistant "superbugs" that can't be easily treated, according to the World Health Organization.

      In August, the FDA pledged to “launch some new programs” to combat the overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry.

      “For all of these reasons, it’s critical that we implement good antimicrobial stewardship practices in human healthcare and veterinary settings,” the FDA’s Scott Gottlieb said. “We must continue to take new steps to slow the development of resistance and extend the usefulness of these lifesaving drugs.”

      McDonald’s has unveiled its plans to reduce the use of antibiotics in its beef. The fast food chain said Tuesday that it will take two years to decide how...
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      Delta eliminating zones from boarding process

      The airline is switching to a color-coded boarding system

      In an effort to minimize delays and speed up the passenger loading process, Delta Air Lines has revamped its boarding process. Starting January 23, Delta will switch from zone boarding to a new process based on ticket type and color.

      Each fare tier -- including business class, first class, premium economy, Comfort+, main cabin, and basic economy -- will be assigned a different color. The colors associated with each fare class will be displayed on screens and signs at the gate prior to boarding.

      Delta will still board passengers that need extra time first, then board premium passengers sitting its Delta One suites. Delta Comfort+ passengers will board ahead of Platinum and Gold Medallions who are seated in the Main Cabin.

      "SkyMiles Medallion Members and eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express credit card members will continue to receive priority boarding,” Delta said.

      After that, Delta will board economy passengers by announcing Main Cabin 1 through 3, instead of Zone 1 through 4 as it did previously. The last group to board will be Basic Economy, previously called Zone 4.

      With the alterations, the airline said it hopes to "encourage fewer customers to line up in the gate area.”

      “We have been listening to our customers about the stress they often feel at the gate before boarding, and implementing small changes for years,” said Delta chief marketing officer Tim Mapes in a statement. The new system “is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

      In an effort to minimize delays and speed up the passenger loading process, Delta Air Lines has revamped its boarding process. Starting January 23, Delta w...
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      9Lives Protein Plus Wet, Canned Cat Food recalled

      The product may contain low levels of Thiamine

      The J.M. Smucker Company is recalling 9Lives Protein Plus wet, canned cat food.

      The product may contain low levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1).

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following products, distributed to a variety of retailers nationwide, are being recalled:

      Product NameUPC CodeProduct SizeBest if Used By Date
      9Lives® Protein Plus® With Tuna & Chicken79100215494 pack of cans,
      5.5 oz each
      Mar. 27, 2020- Nov.14, 2020
      9Lives® Protein Plus® With Tuna & Liver79100217484 pack of cans,
      5.5 oz each
      Apr. 17, 2020 - Sept.14, 2020

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should stop feeding them to their cats and dispose of them.

      Consumers with questions or who would like to receive a refund or coupon for replacement product, should email the company by completing this form or calling (888) 569-6828, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM (ET).

      The J.M. Smucker Company is recalling 9Lives Protein Plus wet, canned cat food.The product may contain low levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1).No illne...
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      More than 10,000 Verizon employees accepted buyout offer

      The company is moving forward with its restructuring effort as it prepares for 5G launch

      On Monday, Verizon said that more than 10,000 employees (or around 7 percent of its workforce) accepted its buyout offer, first announced in September.

      The carrier said previously that it aimed to save $10 billion by 2021 and thin out its workforce as part of its effort to prepare for the launch of its 5G network service.

      In addition to cutting costs, the buyout program was intended to give Verizon "an opportunity to find more efficiencies in the size and scope of our V Team and help expedite the building of an innovative operating model for our future," CEO Hans Vestberg said in a memo to employees in September.

      Restructuring ahead of 5G rollout

      Verizon offered 44,000 employees across all of its business segments three weeks’ pay for every year at the company, up to 60 weeks. Verizon promised earlier this fall that its cost-cutting drive wouldn’t affect sales executives or managers in "crucial company roles.”  

      The end dates for the employees who accepted the buyout offer range from the end of 2018 to June 2019.

      “For those who were accepted, the coming weeks and months will be a transition. For the entire V Team, there will be opportunities to work differently as we prepare for the great things to come at Verizon,” Vestberg said in a note to employees.

      Verizon is currently taking steps to prepare for the rollout of 5G network service.

      “These changes are well-planned and anticipated, and they will be seamless to our customers,” Vestberg said in a statement. “This is a moment in time, given our financial and operational strength, to begin to better serve customers with more agility, speed and flexibility.”

      On Monday, Verizon said that more than 10,000 employees (or around 7 percent of its workforce) accepted its buyout offer, first announced in September....
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      Women at increased risk for breast cancer for up to 20 years after childbirth

      Researchers say age and heredity could play a large role

      Pregnancy comes with several health risks, both for mothers and their babies. Though nine months of pregnancy come with countless doctor’s appointments and a keen sense of attention to women’s bodies and overall health, research has shown why that shouldn’t stop after the baby is born.

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health found that women could be at risk for developing breast cancer for up to 20 years after childbirth.

      “What we saw was this pattern where risk was highest about five years after birth, and then it gradually declined as time went on,” lead researcher Dr. Hazel Nichols told CNN.

      Women at risk

      The researchers collected data from 15 cohort studies to explore the likelihood of women developing breast cancer post-childbirth. All of the women involved in the study were under the age of 55, and those who had given birth were compared with those of the same age who had not.

      For the women who had experienced childbirth, their risk for developing breast cancer was higher than for those who hadn’t. The researchers found that the risk could last for up to 24 years post-birth, but it was at its highest level five years following childbirth.

      The risk of developing breast cancer was highest for women who had the disease in their family lines, in addition to women who had children later in life. However, a mother’s decision to breastfeed didn’t affect their risk of developing breast cancer.

      The researchers are hopeful that the findings from this study will urge healthcare providers to make the most informed choices for their patients and promote preventive breast cancer measures.

      Other breast cancer risks

      With nearly one in eight women in the United States at risk of developing invasive breast cancer, it’s important that consumers know some preventive measures associated with the disease.

      Last year, researchers found that women that took just 81mg of aspirin on a regular basis were less likely to develop breast cancer. However, that wasn’t the case for women that took a different painkiller or a higher dosage.

      The researchers explain that aspirin can work as an aromatase inhibitor, which reduces the amount of estrogen in the blood and can therefore help to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

      “We did not by and large find associations with the other pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen,” said Dr. Christina A. Clarke. “We also did not find associations with regular aspirin since this type of medication is taken sporadically for headaches or other pain, and not daily for prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

      Researchers also found that for postmenopausal women, losing weight was effective in reducing the risk of breast cancer.

      While gaining weight wasn’t found to be a direct link to breast cancer, the study participants that gained weight were over 50 percent more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer -- a strain of the illness that doesn’t respond to traditional hormonal therapy. Conversely, those who lost weight over the course of the study were just 12 percent likely to develop breast cancer.

      Pregnancy comes with several health risks, both for mothers and their babies. Though nine months of pregnancy come with countless doctor’s appointments and...
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      Volkswagen recalls previously repaired Audi Q7s and Q5s

      The interim repair may allow fuel to leak

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,987 model year 2007-2012 Audi Q7s and model year 2009-2012 Audi Q5s.

      These vehicles were previously repaired with an interim repair of installing butyl tape to the fuel pump flange, until replacement remedy parts became available.

      The butyl tape may not prevent fuel from leaking. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump flange and install butyl tape, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 31, 2018.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at (800)-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 20BJ.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,987 model year 2007-2012 Audi Q7s and model year 2009-2012 Audi Q5s.These vehicles were previously repaired...
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      Amboy Group recalls chicken breasts

      The products may contain milk, egg and soy, allergens not declared on the label

      Amboy Group of Woodbridge, N.J., is recalling an undetermined amount of raw boneless and skinless chicken breasts.

      The products may contain milk, egg and soy, allergens not declared on the label.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following raw boneless and skinless poultry items, produced from December 5, 2016, through December 5, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 16-oz. plastic trays of “Shop Rite Ready To Cook BONELESS & SKINLESS Chicken Breast Italian Style Panko Breaded.”
      • 16-oz. plastic trays of “Shop Rite Ready To Cook BONELESS & SKINLESS Chicken Breast Sundried Tomato Panko Breaded.”
      • 16-oz. plastic trays of “Shop Rite Ready To Cook BONELESS & SKINLESS Chicken Breast Parmesan Panko Breaded.”
      • 16-oz. plastic trays of “Shop Rite Ready To Cook BONELESS & SKINLESS Chicken Breast Mustard Panko Breaded.”

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. P-33789” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in New Jersey.

      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 about the recall may contact Logan McNamara at (732) 682-8329.

      Amboy Group of Woodbridge, N.J., is recalling an undetermined amount of raw boneless and skinless chicken breasts.The products may contain milk, egg an...
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      Honda recalls model year 2019 Honda Ridgelines and Pilots

      The right side curtain airbag may not deploy properly

      American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 403 model year 2019 Honda Ridgelines and Pilots.

      The mounting holes for the clip that secures the right center pillar trim panel may be larger than intended.

      In the event of a crash necessitating right side curtain air bag deployment, the clip may not hold the center pillar trim panel in position and it may potentially interfere with the curtain air bag deployment.

      If the curtain air bag does not deploy as intended, it can increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will install a bracket on the right center pillar that will securely hold the center pillar trim clip, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 25, 2019.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is D3D.

      American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 403 model year 2019 Honda Ridgelines and Pilots.The mounting holes for the clip that secures the right center pil...
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      Skip Hop recalls convertible high chairs

      The legs on the highchair can detach from the seat

      Skip Hop of New York is recalling about 41,000 Tuo convertible high chairs sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The legs on the highchair can detach from the seat, posing fall and injury hazards to children.

      The firm has received 17 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Skip Hop’s Tuo convertible high chairs with charcoal gray or silver/white with clouds fabric.

      They have a reversible seat pad, removable tray, 5-point harness, beechwood footrest and legs. The high chairs can be converted into a toddler chair.

      One of the following style numbers and corresponding date code can be found on the back of the chair:

      Style Number

      Date Codes

      304200

      (charcoal gray)

      HH5/2017, HH6/2017, HH7/2017, HH8/2017, HH9/2017, HH092717, HH030518, HH05182018, HH05312018

      304201

      (silver/white with clouds)

      HH092917,  HH010518

      The high chairs, manufactured in China, were sold at Babies ”R” Us, Buy Buy Baby, Target, Kohls, Dillards and other children specialty stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com and Skiphop.com from June 2017, through December 2018, for about $160.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled high chairs and contact Skip Hop for a full refund or an e gift card of equal value.

      Consumers may contact Skip Hop toll-free at (888) 282-4674 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.skiphop.com and click on “Product Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Skip Hop of New York is recalling about 41,000 Tuo convertible high chairs sold in the U.S. and Canada.The legs on the highchair can detach from the se...
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      iPhone users report major headaches with cellular data not working

      If you haven’t upgraded to the newest version of iOS, wait until the coast is clear

      Apple woke up on Monday to a giant problem attributed to its latest iPhone operating software update. Forbes reported that iOS 12.1.1 is "killing" the data of many iPhone users and forcing them to go online via WiFi.

      "Major issues using cellular data," and "I’m concerned that this is potentially a bigger issue than just iOS 12.1.1" commented frustrated users on Twitter.

      Gordon Kelly, Forbes’ consumer tech reporter, deduced that with more than a billion iPhones in active use, the issue "is clearly having a sizeable impact on a number of users."

      Apple’s newest iPhone software had good intentions -- stability improvements for dictation, DoNotDisturb upgrades, the ability to make iPhone use "less addictive," and FaceTime improvements among them -- yet, the company apparently failed to heed reported issues from users and released the update anyway.

      "Consequently, I would advise anyone who has yet to upgrade to iOS 12.1.1 to do so cautiously," Kelly wrote. "With any minority problem, the odds are on your side that you will escape unharmed, but those who are affected are hit with one of the worst problems a smartphone owner can have."

      What to do

      While this problem can be a giant hassle, it’s not Apple’s modus operandi to leave issues like this unmet.

      In fact, the company is already addressing the problem on its Twitter channel.

      "We want to help resolve any issues you may be experiencing with iOS 12.1.1. Have you noticed whether these issues seem to be happening only with certain apps? Please DM us the answer here to get started," the company tweeted. Its support team is available every day to answer your questions, from 5am-8pm PST, on the company’s Twitter channel.

      Should you be worried?

      While the company won’t "confirm security issues until an investigation has occurred and patches or releases are available," there are no reports that personal data has been breached as part of the issue iPhone users are experiencing.

      ConsumerAffairs searched for proven fixes but was unable to find any that users claimed success with -- restarting and resetting network settings and rolling back the system software to a previous version among them.

      If you have an iPhone that’s impacted by the data/WiFi issue, your best bets are to either a) be patient until Apple rolls out a fix; or b) contact Apple and ask for help.

      However, if your operating system hasn’t been updated to 12.1.1, it may be wise to turn off "Automatic Updates" in your system settings until the problem has been corrected.

      Apple woke up on Monday to a giant problem attributed to its latest iPhone operating software update. Forbes reported that iOS 12.1.1 is "killing" the data...
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      Feds launch investigation into fake net neutrality comments

      Sources say the Justice Department is looking into whether crimes were committed

      The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the fake comments that were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the runup to the agency’s controversial net neutrality vote.  

      The Justice Department is looking into whether the fraudulent comments, which potentially number in the millions, constitute a crime based on the fact that millions of people’s identities were posted on the FCC’s website without their permission.

      BuzzFeed News reported over the weekend that two organizations that had previously received subpoenas regarding a separate New York attorney general’s office investigation confirmed that they had received new subpoenas from the FBI.

      “The reports are the first that federal investigators are taking in interest in the case, which was already subject to an investigation previously announced by the New York Attorney General’s office,” BuzzFeed reported. “Both organizations had previously been subpoenaed by New York and said the scope of those subpoenas were similar.”

      Fake net neutrality comments

      Over 22 million comments were filed to the FCC’s digital comment system ahead of its vote to ultimately roll back Obama-era net neutrality rules. Since then, researchers have analyzed how many of the comments were actually unique and in favor of rolling back the regulations.

      A study conducted earlier this year found that 99.7 percent of unique comments (meaning those that weren’t made through campaigns that filed fake comments using the names of real people) were in favor of keeping net neutrality protections.

      The FCC maintained for several months that its comment system was the target of a cyberattack, preventing consumers from utilizing the website to voice their opinion on the proposed net neutrality decision. Chairman Ajit Pai later admitted that the so-called cyberattack never took place.

      Pai said recently that about 500,000 of the comments were linked to Russian email addresses. However, he has refused to release the data logs because he says the information must be kept private in order to help prevent cyber attacks.

      Releasing the data logs would also violate the privacy interests of Americans who commented on the net neutrality repeal, he said.

      Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the agency’s only Democratic chairperson, argued that the regulator is trying to "hide" behind Freedom of Information Act exemptions.

      The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the fake comments that were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the runup...
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      Amazon reportedly evaluating airports as potential Go store locations

      The company could open its grab-and-go stores at major U.S. airports

      Amazon is eyeing airports as locations for its cashier-less Go stores, according to Reuters.

      The e-commerce giant -- which has opened seven Go stores since January and has plans to open as many as 3,000 by 2021 -- reportedly spoke to officials at several major U.S. airports regarding the possibility of putting Go stores in terminals.

      “The lead for Amazon Go requested a meeting,” said a June 27 email from a technology adviser who supports Los Angeles International, according to Reuters. “Interested?” To which the representative replied, “Yes. Thanks!”

      A representative for Amazon's cloud unit also asked San Jose International Airport for a meeting and referenced Amazon Go as "one of many possibilities we can discuss.”

      However, since these initial exchanges with airport contacts, no additional information has been provided by Amazon about whether its Go stores are headed to the nation’s busiest airports.

      Considering airports

      Amazon’s Go stores allow shoppers to move through aisles and pick up items such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries. When shoppers are ready to leave, they can simply walk out of the store without having to pay a cashier first.

      The company is able to fulfill its “no lines, no checkouts, no registers” promise by relying on sensors and cameras placed throughout the store. These allow Amazon to track what customers take out of the store and charge customers’ credit cards accordingly.

      The company hasn’t offered any further details on whether its automated stores will be built into airports, but that may be because it’s taking time to consider how to navigate the challenges of operating in airports. For example, workers would need a security clearance to staff concessions after security checkpoints.

      Financial constraints may also be under consideration. Previous reports suggested that just one Amazon Go store required more than $1 million in hardware to build. Additionally, leasing retail space at airports can be costly.

      Amazon is eyeing airports as locations for its cashier-less Go stores, according to Reuters. The e-commerce giant -- which has opened seven Go stores s...
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      Big tobacco eyes cannabis industry and Juul

      The parent company of Philip Morris is investing in a Canadian cannabis firm

      When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month that it would crack down on e-cigarette companies that sell their products online or in convenience stores, citing research that e-cigs were getting teens and other non-smokers hooked, Juul steadfastly denied that its products were intended for anyone other than consumers trying to quit cigarette addictions.

      That already questionable assurance from Juul just became a little more difficult to believe. Altria, the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris, has announced that it is discontinuing MarkTen and Green Smoke, their two lines of e-cigarette brands. In place of those, Altria is instead reportedly planning to buy a stake in Juul, sources familiar with the deal told CNBC.

      Juul has yet to officially confirm the news. But it wouldn’t be the brand’s first partnership with a tobacco company. The e-cigarette brand, valued at $16 billion, partnered with Japan Tobacco International back in 2011.

      The news comes as some consumers’ rosey views of legal cannabis also appears poised to get corrupted by tobacco interests. Altria is reportedly investing $1.8 billion in Cronos, a Canadian cannabis firm that is taking off with legalization up north.

      "Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria," Howard Willard, Altria's CEO, said in an announcement.  

      When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month that it would crack down on e-cigarette companies that sell their products online or in co...
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      Study: Millennial renters face huge obstacles to buying a home

      Nearly half have nothing saved for a down payment

      There's a new survey of millennial renters, and it's not good news for the housing market. Apartment List surveyed 6,400 millennial renters about their plans for homeownership.

      The good news? Most want to purchase a home at some point in the future. The bad news? Most currently lack the financial means to do so. Nearly half admit to having saved nothing for a down payment.

      It's significant because this younger generation of renters makes up what should be the next wave of homebuyers. Today, millennials nearly outnumber baby boomers, most of whom already own a home.

      Facing headwinds

      But millennial renters face a number of headwinds. There is a shortage of available housing for entry-level buyers. Sales of expensive homes have slowed considerably, but a starter home is still hard to find.

      Because of declining inventories, starter homes that are on the market are carrying a higher price tag than just a few years ago. Meanwhile, mortgage rates are rising, making a monthly payment more expensive.

      The Apartment List survey found just 4.9 percent of millennial renters expect to purchase a home within the next 12 months, while a third say they don't expect to become homeowners for at least five years. And even that might be overly optimistic, the study shows.

      "We analyze millennial saving rates to estimate that two-thirds of millennial renters would require at least two decades to save enough for a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced condo in their market," the authors write. "Just 11 percent would be able to amass a 20 percent down payment within the next five years."

      Student loan debt

      Student loan debt appears to be the major contributor to a lack of savings. The study estimates that 23 percent of college graduates who are not still paying off student loans will be able to save enough for a down payment within five years. Only about 12 percent of those still paying off loans will be able to do that.

      A recent study by real estate marketplace Zillow estimates student loan debt reduces a buyer's budget by $100,000. According to the study, the maximum a renter with student debt could afford to pay without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing and student debt is $269,400. That means they could buy just over half of the homes currently for sale.

      There's a new survey of millennial renters, and it's not good news for the housing market. Apartment List surveyed 6,400 millennial renters about their pla...
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      Model year 2016-2018 Ford Focus vehicles recalled

      The clutch may fracture

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,828 model year 2016-2018 Ford Focus vehicles equipped with a 1.0L Fox GTDI engine and a 6-speed manual transmission.

      The clutch may fracture, resulting in damage to the transmission assembly and possibly a transmission fluid leak.

      A transmission fluid leak in the presence of an ignition source such as hot engine or exhaust components can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will update vehicles with software that detects and prevents prolonged clutch slip, and will replace the clutch, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 7, 2019.

      Owners may contact Ford at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 18S07.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,828 model year 2016-2018 Ford Focus vehicles equipped with a 1.0L Fox GTDI engine and a 6-speed manual transmission.T...
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      Kawasaki USA recalls off-highway utility vehicles

      The rollover protection structure can fail to protect consumers

      Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 1,000 Kawasaki Mule Pro off-highway utility vehicles.

      The rollover protection structure (ROPS) can fail to protect consumers, posing an injury hazard.

      No incidents or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves 2018 and 2019 Mule Pro utility vehicles.

      The four-wheel, off-highway utility vehicles were sold in black, green, white, red, bronze, silver, camo and blue. They have side by side seating for three to six people and automotive style controls.

      Mule Pro is printed on the right and left front fender. Kawasaki is printed on the cargo box. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is located on the steel frame between the right front lower A-arm mounts.

      Year

      Model

      Model Code

      Vin Range

      2018

      Mule Pro-DXT (EPS)

      KAF1000AJF

      JKAAFCA1XJB501117 through JKAAFCA11JB501152

      2018

      Mule Pro-DXT (EPS)

      KAF1000BJF

      JKAAFCB18JB503625 through JKAAFCB18JB503642

      2018

      Mule Pro-DX (EPS)

      KAF1000EJF

      JKAAFCE1XJB502410 through JKAAFCE18JB502437

      2019

      Mule Pro-FXT

      (EPS/LE/Camo/Ranch)

      KAF820AKF

      JKBAFSA13KB501645 through JKBAFSA14KB501671

      2019

      Mule Pro-FXT

      (EPS/LE/Camo/Ranch)

      KAF820BKF

      JKBAFSB15KB513858 through JKBAFSB18KB514230

      2019

      Mule Pro-FXT

      (EPS/LE/Camo/Ranch)

      KAF820CKF

      JKBAFSC19KB513036 through JKBAFSC19KB513361

      2019

      Mule Pro-FXT

      (EPS/LE/Camo/Ranch)

      KAF820DKF

      JKBAFSD18KB506741 through JKBAFSD1XKB506787

      2019

      Mule Pro-FX (EPS/LE)

      KAF820FKF

      JKBAFSF13KB506336 through JKBAFSF10KB506603

      2019

      Mule Pro-FX (EPS/LE)

      KAF820GKF

      JKBAFSG18KB504354 through JKBAFSG1XKB504355

      2019

      Mule Pro-FXT

      KAF820JKF

      JKBAFSJ19KB508972 through JKBAFSJ15KB509343

      2019

      Mule Pro-FXR

      KAF820KKF

      JKBAFSK14KB504620 through JKBAFSK17KB504630

      The utility vehicles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Kawasaki dealers nationwide from August 2018, through September 2018, for between $13,000 and $17,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled utility vehicles and contact a Kawasaki dealer to schedule a free repair. Kawasaki is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Kawasaki toll-free at (866) 802-9381 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.Kawasaki.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 1,000 Kawasaki Mule Pro off-highway utility vehicles.The rollover protectio...
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      Mercedes-Benz vehicles with seatbelt issue recalled

      The seatbelt pre-tensioners may not activate in the event of a crash

      Mercedes-Benz (MBUSA) is recalling 5,433 model year 2019 C300 4Matic Cabriolets, C43 AMG Cabriolets, C300 Cabriolets, C300 Coupes, C300 4Matic Coupes, C43 AMG Coupes, E450 Coupes, E53 AMG Cabriolets, S450s, S560s, E450 Cabriolets, E450 4Matic Cabriolets, E450 4Matic Coupes, E53 AMG Coupes, S450 4Matics, S560 4Matics, S63 AMGs and S65 AMGs, and Mercedes-Mayback S650s and S560 4 Matics.

      A correctly fastened seatbelt may be inaccurately detected as being unfastened, preventing the seatbelt pre-tensioners from activating in the event of a crash.

      If the seat belt tensioning does not activate in the event of a crash, the risk of injury can increase.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the seat belt buckles, free of charge.

      An interim letter will be mailed beginning January 25, 2019, to notify owners of the issue. A second letter will be mailed once remedy parts are available.

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

      Mercedes-Benz (MBUSA) is recalling 5,433 model year 2019 C300 4Matic Cabriolets, C43 AMG Cabriolets, C300 Cabriolets, C300 Coupes, C300 4Matic Coupes, C43...
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      The Weekly Hack: Data on tens of millions of Marriott customers and Quora users was stolen

      Hackers may have been mining data from 1-800 Flowers customers for years

      Security experts say that a hack resulting in the passport numbers of 327 million Marriott customers getting stolen would have been worse if their actual, physical passports were stolen. Thanks for your security expertise, captain obvious.  

      "There is a difference between having your passport number stolen and actually having the physical document stolen,"  Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center, said in an interview with CNET.

      The publication CNET reiterated for the people in the back that “your passport number is not the same thing as your actual passport.”

      The assurance comes after Marriott Hotels announced last Friday that a “data security incident” involving a Starwood reservations database may have revealed information about 500 million guests.

      “For approximately 327 million of these guests, the information includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number...account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences,” the statement from Marriott says.

      Passport numbers are just another tool that can help identify thieves impersonate people. In response to the massive breach, Marriott is enrolling affected people in free identity theft monitoring for a year and setting up a dedicated hotline and website. The chain says that law enforcement is already involved.

      Quora

      Should I vaccinate my 9-year-old against diphtheria? People who turned to Quora to answer that and other pressing questions got more than they bargained for when hackers reportedly stole information belonging to 100 million users.

      Quota announced Monday night that the data includes private messages that were exposed after a “malicious third party” somehow hacked the systems.

      While regular users’ passwords were stolen, people who used the site with anonymous guest accounts were reportedly safe from the breach.  

      “It is our responsibility to make sure things like this don’t happen, and we failed to meet that responsibility,” Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo wrote Monday.  

      “We recognize that in order to maintain user trust, we need to work very hard to make sure this does not happen again.”

      1-800 Flowers

      Something that might not bode well for an on-time flower delivery: it took 1-800 Flowers four years to discover that data pertaining to its Canadian customers was hacked.

      The breach affected 75,000 Canadian orders made from August 15, 2014 to September 2018, and the data included names and credit card information. The service says it takes the attack “very seriously” and adds that its United States customers are not affected.

      Security experts say that a hack resulting in the passport numbers of 327 million Marriott customers getting stolen would have been worse if their actual,...
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      A new plan to rescue MoviePass shows up at the box office

      If you go to the movies only once a month, you might be better off paying as you go

      Here we go again.

      MoviePass is rolling out its umpteenth pricing plan. This time, the movie subscription service swears it’s got it right. Not that the company hasn’t said that before, but it’s holding out hope that there’s still a few believers out there.

      Mind you, there’s a 50-pound can of if’s, and’s, or but’s, but here’s the basics:

      Select plan - $10 a month: Subscribers can see three movies per month, but they’ll have to pick from a menu of titles MoviePass will announce weekly. Subscribers can forget seeing a flick during opening weekends or anything other than standard-issue 2D movies.

      All Access plan - $15+ a month: Same as the Select plan except moviegoers can see their choice of any three 2D movies they like.

      Red Carpet plan - $20+ a month: Like the others, there’s a cap of three movies a month, but subscribers can also see specially-formatted films such as 3D or IMAX.

      Will it work this time?

      "What we announced is a solid business plan that will be profitable,” said Mitch Lowe, MoviePass’ CEO, in an interview with CNN. "It actually accelerates our point of time of being profitable versus the go-to-a-movie-everyday (model)."

      What Lowe seems to be banking on is the 85 percent of consumers who go to the movies three times a month or less. In MoviePass’ way of thinking, the remaining 15 percent go to the movies so much that it jeopardizes the 85 percent that make the model profitable.

      "We already know what the average usage will be in this model and, believe me, it’s closer to one than it is three," Lowe said.

      Casual fan or aficionado?

      If you live in New York City, where the price of going to a movie runs $16.81 a person, or Silver Springs, Maryland, where an average ticket runs $14.42, rolling the dice on a $15 subscription may make sense. But if you live anywhere else, you should weigh the cost of going to see what you want when you want versus having to kowtow to a restrictive plan like MoviePass’ basic tier.

      If there are movie aficionados on your Christmas list, CNN reported that Lowe felt they might be "better served" by AMC’s subscription service, "Stubs A-List."

      Here we go again.MoviePass is rolling out its umpteenth pricing plan. This time, the movie subscription service swears it’s got it right. Not that the...
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      Gas prices are lower than at this time last year

      It's been 18 months since that was true

      Gas prices continue to fall, but the cheapest fuel has now moved to the nation's heartland, leaving higher-than-normal prices in the Southeast. For the first time this year, motorists in Kansas and Iowa are enjoying some of the lowest prices in the nation.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.43 a gallon, the cheapest it's been all year. The price is six cents lower than a week ago and is now below the average price of one year ago.

      The average price of premium gas is $3.03 a gallon, also six cents lower than last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.12 a gallon, five cents lower than last week.

      “Cheap crude oil prices are driving fuel savings at the pump,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “Last week, crude dropped to its lowest point of the year at $50 a barrel. However, this week’s Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting could cause crude oil prices to jump if the organization decides to reduce crude production.”

      Tiny Delaware has the cheapest average gas price of any Mid-Atlantic state, and its annual decline in gas prices is the third largest in the U.S. It also has the third largest year-over-year difference in pump prices in the country -- 18 cents a gallon.

      Some of the biggest price declines during the week occurred in states with the highest prices. Even Hawaii, which remains the most expensive state for gasoline, saw prices drop this week by 11 cents a gallon.

      At the same time, some Midwestern states saw fuel prices go up this week. The average price of regular is up three cents a gallon in the last week in both Ohio and Michigan. It's four cents higher in Kentucky.

      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 ($3.61)
      • California ($3.48)
      • Washington ($3.26)
      • Alaska ($3.18)
      • Nevada ($3.11)
      • Oregon ($3.09)
      • Idaho ($2.86)
      • Utah ($2.84)
      • Wyoming ($2.82)
      • Arizona ($2.77)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Missouri ($2.01)
      • Oklahoma ($2.08)
      • South Carolina ($2.08)
      • Texas ($2.10)
      • Alabama ($2.11)
      • Kansas ($2.12)
      • Mississippi ($2.12)
      • Louisiana ($2.13)
      • Iowa ($2.17)
      • Delaware ($2.18)
      Gas prices continue to fall, but the cheapest fuel has now moved to the nation's heartland, leaving higher-than-normal prices in the Southeast. For the fir...
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      Model year 2018 Volkswagen e-Golfs, Golf Rs, and Audi A3 Sedans and RS3s recalled

      The rear seat head restraints may have reduced stability

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 169 model year 2018 Volkswagen e-Golfs and Golf Rs, and Audi A3 Sedans and RS3s.

      The rear seat frame head restraint guide sleeves may be incorrectly welded to the seat frame.

      In the event of a crash, the rear seat head restraints may have reduced stability, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Volkswagen and Audi will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the guide sleeves for incorrect welds, replacing the rear seat frame, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298 or Audi customer service at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's numbers for this recall are 72H8 (VW) and 72H9(Audi).

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 169 model year 2018 Volkswagen e-Golfs and Golf Rs, and Audi A3 Sedans and RS3s.The rear seat frame head restr...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls various vehicles with airbag issue

      The status of the passenger side airbag may not display correctly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 104,663 of the following vehicles equipped with Audio 20 head units and automatic child seat recognition:

      Model year 2018 C300 Cabriolets, C300 Coupes, C300 4Matic Cabriolets, C300s, C300 4Matic Coupes, C300 4Matics, C43 AMG Cabriolets, C43 AMG Coupes, C63 S AMG Cabriolets, C350e Plug-In Hybrids, C63 AMG Cabriolets, C63 AMG Coupes, C63 S AMG Coupes, C63 AMGs, C63 S AMG; and

      Model year 2018-2019 GLC300 4Matic Coupes, GLC300s, GLC63 AMG Coupes, GLC300 4Matisc, GLC350e Plug-In Hybrids, GLC43 AMG Coupes, GLC43 AMGs, GLC63 S AMG Coupes and GLC63 AMGs.

      The status of the passenger side airbag may not display correctly.

      If the passenger airbag is incorrectly displayed as 'ON' when it is not, a front seat passenger may be unaware that the airbag will not deploy in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the audio head unit software, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 2, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 104,663 of the following vehicles equipped with Audio 20 head units and automatic child seat recognition:Model y...
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      ELM Pet Foods recalls dry dog food

      The products may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D

      ELM Pet Foods is recalling Elm Chicken and Chickpea Recipe dog food that may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D, which when consumed at very high levels, can lead to serious health issues in dogs including renal dysfunction.

      Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss.

      The following items, with multiple UPC codes manufactured between February 25, 2018, and October 31, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 3lb ELM CHICKEN AND CHICKPEA RECIPE - UPC (0-70155-22507-8) TD2 26 FEB 2019; TE1 30 APR 2019; TD1 5 SEP 2019; TD2 5 SEP 2019
      • 28lb ELM CHICKEN AND CHICKPEA RECIPE - UPC (0-70155-22513-9) TB3 6 APR 2019; TA1 2 JULY 2019; TI1 2 JULY 2019
      • 40lb ELM K9 NATURALS CHICKEN RECIPE – UPC (0-70155-22522-9) TB3 14 Sep 2019; TA2 22 Sep 2019; TB2 11 Oct 2019

      The recalled products were distributed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. NJ, DE, MD.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should stop feeding them, dispose of them or return them to the retailer for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact ELM Pet Foods at (800) 705-2111 8am-5pm (EST) Monday – Friday, or by email at customerservice@elmpetfoods.com.

      ELM Pet Foods is recalling Elm Chicken and Chickpea Recipe dog food that may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D, which when consumed at very high levels,...
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      Britain raises new privacy concerns about Facebook

      Social media company pushes back against 'selective leaks'

      Facebook finds itself once again in the crosshairs as a British parliamentary group released company documents showing the social media giant used member data to help friends and punish rivals.

      A British parliamentary committee released emails that focus on how Facebook operated during the period of its most rapid growth, from roughly 2012 to 2015. The documents show that Facebook executives considered member data to be their most prized commodity and used it to profit from its accumulation.

      The documents also show that CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were intensely involved in decisions that had the objective of keeping members as engaged on the site as possible.

      In one series of emails, Zuckerberg raised the prospect of charging developers for access to user data in an agreement to obtain user data from the developers.

      “It’s not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network, he wrote. "So ultimately, I think the purpose of (the) platform — even the read side — is to increase sharing back into Facebook.”

      User data issues

      Facebook has been wrestling with user data issues since March when it revealed that user data was unlawfully transferred to a political marketing firm, which used it in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook has said it was slow to respond to that issue but has since increased user data safeguards.

      Facebook had taken steps to keep the documents private. Those materials have been under a court-ordered seal as part of a lawsuit in California involving Facebook and an app developer.

      In a statement Wednesday, Facebook said the documents were selectively leaked to "suggest things that are false." The company says the documents don't tell the full story.

      Congressional response

      Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a frequent Facebook critic, said it should not be up to Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives to decide who has access to user information.

      "When he testified before Congress, Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly insisted that Facebook does not sell its users’ data," Markey said. "We now know, however, that Facebook executives discussed requiring companies to buy digital advertisements in order to access users’ personal information."

      Markey says if there is any evidence of a pay-for-data model it would "fly in the face" of the statements Facebook has made to Congress and the public.

      Facebook finds itself once again in the crosshairs as a British parliamentary group released company documents showing the social media giant used member d...
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      Blood test to help diagnose Alzheimer's in testing stages

      Researchers are confident in the early results

      Testing for Alzheimer’s disease can be a long, costly, and tiresome process for patients, but researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have been working to make the testing process easier on patients.

      The group has developed a blood test that would evaluate the level of tau -- the leading protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s -- before a patient is even showing signs or symptoms of the disease.

      “A blood test for Alzheimer’s disease could be administered easily and repeatedly, with patients going to their primary care office rather than having to go into a hospital,” said Dr. Dominic Walsh. “Ultimately, a blood-based test could replace cerebrospinal fluid testing and/or brain imaging. Our new test has the potential to do just that.”

      Though the test is currently in the testing stages, Dr. Walsh is calling it a “transformative breakthrough” based on the early results.

      How it works  

      Tau is a protein in the brain that is most typically associated with Alzheimer’s. Though tau can develop through a number of different related molecules, the researchers were able to create a model that differentiates between the individual types of tau to ensure that the blood test comes up with the most accurate result.

      The researchers have conducted two trials so far with participants from Harvard’s Aging Brain Study and the Institute of Neurology in London. The first group consisted of 65 participants and the second group had 86.

      Everyone involved in the study donated samples of plasma and cerebrospinal fluid, which helped the researchers look at the breakdown of the tau protein and see exactly what was linked to Alzheimer’s.

      In both tests, the researchers found one strand of tau -- NT1 -- that was effective in predicting and identifying cases of Alzheimer’s.

      The next step for the researchers is to open the test up to larger groups of participants to further test its effectiveness on a wider sample. However, these early results proved to Dr. Walsh and his team that they could be on the right track.

      “We’ve made our data and the tools needed to perform our test widely available because we want other research groups to put this to the test,” he said. “It’s important for others to validate our findings so that we can be certain this test will work across different populations.”

      Fighting Alzheimer’s

      While this blood test could potentially change the way doctors go about diagnosing Alzheimer’s, fellow researchers have made strides this year in an effort to better diagnose and treat the disease.

      In late September, researchers from the Clinical Memory Research Unit at Lund University in Sweden developed a new brain imaging technique that would help doctors make the most accurate Alzheimer’s diagnoses.

      The researchers used a PET scan to evaluate the level of tau in the brain by administering a marker for the protein before the test. The researchers found this new test to be more successful than traditional Alzheimer’s screening methods.

      “If the patient has tau in certain parts of the brain, the marker will detect it,” said researcher Oskar Hansson. “The result -- whether Alzheimer tau is present or not -- is very clearly visible on the PET images.”

      On the treatment front, researchers found success with a clinical trial for a drug being developed to treat Alzheimer’s.

      Amyloid is another protein often found in the brain with Alzheimer’s, and researchers from Biogen and Eisai worked to develop BAN2401 -- an anti-amyloid drug. Though unsuccessful in initial tests, this new and improved version of the drug was found to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in the study’s clinical trial.

      Testing for Alzheimer’s disease can be a long, costly, and tiresome process for patients, but researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have been worki...
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      Sears Chairman submits $4.6 billion bid to buy Sears

      Eddie Lampert offered to buy 500 of the retailer’s remaining stores

      Two months after Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company’s chairman Eddie Lampert has offered to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock.

      Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, submitted a proposal to pay that amount and purchase 500 stores to help keep the retailer from dying completely. He had previously planned to buy selected stores in the interest of keeping the retailer afloat.

      The bid presented on Thursday could include a combination of cash, equity new loans, and debt swaps, according to the documents. If the offer is approved, it would save about 50,000 Sears and Kmart store jobs.

      “ESL Investments continues to believe in Sears Holdings’ immense potential to evolve and operate profitably as a going concern with a new capitalization and organizational structure,” ESL said in a statement.

      A “last-ditch effort” to save Sears

      Sears filed for bankruptcy on October 15 after struggling under massive debt. Prior to that, the company had closed or announced plans to close hundreds of stores.

      On December 15, a “stalking horse bidder” will be named in bankruptcy court.

      Lampert’s offer is “a last-ditch effort,” Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, told Bloomberg. “They want to be able to hold onto any equity that they can actually hold onto, and it’s really about ego and saving face.”

      "Sears is an iconic fixture in American retail and we continue to believe in the company’s immense potential to evolve and operate profitably as a going concern with a new capitalization and organizational structure," Lampert said.

      "Our proposed business plan envisages significant strategic initiatives and investments in a rightsized network of large format and small retail stores, digital assets and interdependent operating businesses."

      Two months after Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company’s chairman Eddie Lampert has offered to buy the rest of Sears for u...
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      Wells Fargo offers $25k to man whose home was wrongly foreclosed

      He says that won’t begin to cover the financial losses, and he can no longer even rent a home due to his credit

      Last month, Wells Fargo admitted in an SEC filing that it wrongly denied mortgage modifications to 870 eligible borrowers, resulting in 545 people losing their homes in foreclosure proceedings.

      The company said at the time that it would set aside some money to compensate the victims, though how much exactly wasn't made clear.

      Now, it appears that Wells Fargo is pinning the amount at about $25,000, according to one of the victims who is now going public with his story.

      That doesn’t begin to cover actual losses, an attorney for former homeowner Jose Aguilar told CBS News.

      Denied loan modification

      Aguilar lived in a house with his wife and children in upstate New York, not far from the manufacturing plant where he worked. Problems for the family’s living situation began when they found mold in the house and couldn't afford to pay for both the repairs and their monthly mortgage.

      The family applied for a mortgage modification, and Aguilar says Wells Fargo suggested he might qualify.

      Aguilar then waited for an official answer from Wells Fargo amid delays. It took over a year before the bank responded with instructions to apply for the modification once more.

      When he did, the bank denied the application. Since he had already fallen behind on payments over the past year, the foreclosure proceedings began.  

      The family lost their home in October 2015, and Aguilar's wife left him as a result, he told ABC.  

      Then Wells Fargo sent Aguilar a letter earlier this year, explaining that the loan modification should have been approved. The bank also gave him a $25,000 check for his troubles.

      "Wells Fargo has not been transparent at all about how this happened," Aguilar’s lawyer added.

      Aguilar now lives in a friend’s basement with his son because the foreclosure ruined his credit, making it impossible to secure a rental.

      Last month, Wells Fargo admitted in an SEC filing that it wrongly denied mortgage modifications to 870 eligible borrowers, resulting in 545 people losing t...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2018 Jeep Wrangler four-doors

      The right rear passenger door may not latch properly

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 52 model year 2018 Jeep Wrangler four-doors.

      The right rear passenger door latch may not be in the correct location, possibly preventing the door from latching properly.

      If the right rear passenger door opens unexpectedly, it can increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will repair the right rear door latch reinforcement, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 28, 2018.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is UB6.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 52 model year 2018 Jeep Wrangler four-doors.The right rear passenger door latch may not be in the correct location,...
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      FCC Chairman says there was Russian interference in net neutrality comments

      In response to a lawsuit, the agency is defending its decision not to release data logs

      Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said it’s a “fact” that there was Russian interference in the public comments filed ahead of the net neutrality decision last year. Pai said a “half-million comments” were submitted from Russian email addresses.

      Pai’s claims, made via a memorandum this week, were issued in response to a lawsuit brought by the New York Times. A few weeks ago, the Times requested access to the IP addresses and server logs of those who submitted comments during the agency’s net neutrality docket.

      In obtaining the records, the newspaper said it hoped to “shed light to the extent to which Russian nationals and agents of the Russian government have interfered with the agency notice-and-comment process about a topic of extensive public interest.”

      Withholding server logs

      During the time the FCC was seeking public comments ahead of the controversial vote to roll back net neutrality rules, the agency reportedly received more than 23 million comments. In October, a study found that 99.7 percent of unique comments filed on the FCC’s website ahead of the vote were in favor of keeping net neutrality protections.

      Pai said this week that the FCC chose not to release the records because the information must be kept private in order to help prevent cyber attacks. Releasing the data logs would also violate the privacy interests of Americans who commented on the net neutrality repeal, he said.

      The same memorandum also included a statement of a different tone from Jessica Rosenworcel, the Commission’s only Democrat, who said, “something here is rotten— and it’s time for the FCC to come clean.”

      Earlier this year, Rosenworcel said in an op-ed for the Washington Post that the agency “logged about half a million comments sent from Russian email addresses. It received nearly 8 million comments from email domains associated with FakeMailGenerator.com with almost identical wording.”

      The Commission’s decision not to release the data logs comes a few months after the agency admitted that it lied about a so-called cyberattack on its comment system ahead of its ultimate repeal of net neutrality rules in December of 2017.

      Prior to the admission, the agency had told the media on numerous occasions that the comment system had been targeted by hackers, preventing consumers from voicing their opinion on the vote.

      “We look forward to challenging in court the FCC’s refusal to provide this information, which the public is entitled to have,” a spokesperson for the New York Times told Gizmodo.

      Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said it’s a “fact” that there was Russian interference in the public comments filed ahead of the...
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      New York City sets new minimum wage for app-based drivers

      Drivers working for companies like Uber and Lyft will be paid $17.22 per hour

      On Tuesday, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) passed new minimum wage requirements for drivers working for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. Going forward, drivers will be paid $17.22 per hour.

      The new minimum wage is the equivalent of the city’s $15 per hour minimum wage requirement for other employees. The extra few dollars account for the fact that drivers have to pay payroll taxes and don’t receive paid time off.

      The new pay rules, which will be implemented in 30 days, are expected to raise the average app-based driver's pay by $9,600 per year, according to the TLC’s analysis.

      "Today we brought desperately needed relief to 80,000 working families. All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers' rights in America," Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, said in a statement. "We are thankful to the Mayor, Commissioner Joshi and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, City Council Member Brad Lander and all of the city officials who listened to and stood up for drivers."

      Criticism of proposal

      Lyft and Uber contend that the move to increase the base pay rate will make it harder and more expensive to get around.

      "The TLC's implementation of the City Council's legislation to increase driver earnings will lead to higher than necessary fare increases for riders while missing an opportunity to deal with congestion in Manhattan's central business district,” Jason Post, Uber’s director of public affairs, said in a statement.

      Lyft issued its own statement voicing its discontent with the proposal, arguing that the rules will incentive short rides over long rides.

      "Unfortunately, the TLC's proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentives drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan. These rules would be a step backward for New Yorkers, and we urge the TLC to reconsider them," Lyft said in a statement.

      The Independent Drivers Guild has been campaigning for a new base pay rate for several years. The organization estimates that drivers are currently earning just $11.90 per hour after expenses.

      On Tuesday, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) passed new minimum wage requirements for drivers working for ridesharing companies such as...
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      Experts predict good news for job seekers in 2019

      A tight labor market may mean better working conditions for employees

      The job market in 2018 has been one of the best on record. Unemployment is ending the year at near record lows.

      But what does 2019 have in store? ADP, which monitors payrolls on a monthly basis, is projecting even better times for people looking for a job.

      First, let's review what happened this year. The jobless rate fell to a nearly 50-year low as the economy added more than two million jobs. After years of no pay raises, the average hourly wage rose $1 an hour. People who changed jobs this year saw an even larger pay bump.

      "With 2018 employment levels at an all-time high and broad-based wage growth taking root, the U.S. job market is more dynamic than ever," said Don Weinstein, chief product and technology officer at ADP. "In 2019, employers and workers will increase their focus on issues ranging from the personalization of pay to an increasing mosaic of workers that span full time to gig, data privacy issues, and more."

      2019 job market trends

      ADP has identified a number of trends in the 2019 job market, including something it calls the personalization of pay.

      Among the expected changes in the workplace, ADP believes digital accounts will become more common, allowing employees greater access to their paychecks. In fact, the time schedule for pay may evolve into schedules that meet the needs of individual employees.

      ADP's research shows that 86 percent of employees are interested in using non-traditional financial tools to manage their compensation. These tools include ways to manage and budget take-home pay while automatically tracking spending and suggesting budgets.

      More work for freelancers

      ADP also predicts that organizations will increase their reliance on freelancers and part-time employees to fill the skills gap. You're also more likely to see wide ranges of age in the workforce as employers take advantage of boomers retiring from full-time work but who want to stay engaged in their profession.

      Employers are also likely to become more dependent upon data. Human Resources departments will increasingly tap into artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to serve up insights in real time. ADP projections suggest that workers will also have more access to data through financial wellness and professional development tools that support their goals both inside and outside the workplace.

      The job market in 2018 has been one of the best on record. Unemployment is ending the year at near record lows.But what does 2019 have in store? ADP, w...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2017-2018 Alfa Romeo Giulias

      Brake fluid may leak onto the exhaust

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 6,136 model year 2017-2018 Alfa Romeo Giulias equipped with GME 280HP engines and All Wheel Drive.

      The brake fluid line may contact a coolant hose clamp, possibly causing brake fluid to leak onto the exhaust and increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will install a bracket on the brake fluid line to prevent contact with the coolant hose clamp. If damage is found on the brake line, it will be replaced, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 15, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is UB9.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 6,136 model year 2017-2018 Alfa Romeo Giulias equipped with GME 280HP engines and All Wheel Drive.The brake fluid li...
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      Honda recalls Civic Hatchbacks and Civic Type Rs

      Information about using the child restraint anchorage system may be incorrect

      American Honda Motor Inc., is recalling 7,016 model year 2017-2018 Honda Civic Hatchbacks and Civic Type Rs, whose owners guide may have incorrect information.

      The owners guide may have incorrect information for properly using the child restraint anchorage system, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the owners information kit, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 8, 2019.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is O3A.

      American Honda Motor Inc., is recalling 7,016 model year 2017-2018 Honda Civic Hatchbacks and Civic Type Rs, whose owners guide may have incorrect informat...
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      JBS Tolleson expands raw beef recall

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      JBS Tolleson of Tolleson, Ariz., is expanding its earlier recall of non-intact raw beef products by more than 5 million pounds -- to a total of roughly approximately 12,093,271 pounds.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      A federal epidemiological investigation has identified 246 confirmed case-patients from 25 states with illness onset dates ranging from August 5, 2018, to October 16, 2018.

      An additional 16 case-patients have provided receipts or shopper card numbers for the product traceback investigations.

      The list of raw, non-intact beef items, including ground beef, packaged on various dates from July 26, 2018, to Sept. 7, 2018, may be found here:  https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/e055456e-449a-4995-8414-13fd080e5009/JBS+Tolleson+EST+267+Expanded+Recall.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 267” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to a retail locations and institutions nationwide.

      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 regarding the recall may contact the JBS USA consumer hotline at (800) 727-2333.

      JBS Tolleson of Tolleson, Ariz., is expanding its earlier recall of non-intact raw beef products by more than 5 million pounds -- to a total of roughly app...
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      ANF Pet recalls dry dog food

      The product may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D

      ANF is recalling select products of ANF Pet Lamb and Rice Dog Food.

      The product may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D which, when consumed at very high levels, can lead to serious health issues in dogs including renal dysfunction.

      Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss.

      The following products, sold in retail stores within Puerto Rico, are being recalled:

      • 3 Kg ANF Lamb and Rice Dry Dog Food Bag UPC: 9097231622 BB NOV 23 2019
      • 7.5 Kg ANF Lamb and Rice Dry Dog Food Bag UPC: 9097203300 BB NOV 20 2019

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop feeding it and dispose of it or return it to the retailer for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact ANF customer service at (936) 560-5930 from 8AM – 5PM (CT) Monday through Friday, or by email at mwhite@anf.com.

      ANF is recalling select products of ANF Pet Lamb and Rice Dog Food.The product may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D which, when consumed at very hi...
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      Volkswagen recalls Atlas, Tiguan and Jetta vehicles

      The audible key warning may malfunction

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 73,545 model year 2018-2019 Volkswagen Atlas and Tiguan and model year 2019 Volkswagen Jetta vehicles that do not have keyless entry.

      The instrument cluster may not provide an audible warning to let the driver know that the key is still in the ignition when the door is open.

      If the driver is not notified by an audible sound that the key is left in the ignition, it can increase the risk of vehicle theft or crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the instrument cluster, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin January 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's numbers for this recall are 90L3 and 90L4.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 73,545 model year 2018-2019 Volkswagen Atlas and Tiguan and model year 2019 Volkswagen Jetta vehicles that do not...
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      Yokohama recalls RY023 tires

      The tread may separate from the casing

      Yokohama Tire Corporation is recalling 529 Yokohama RY023 tires, size 295/75R22.5 (14G), with DOT date code 2318.

      The rubber compound may be incorrect, possibly resulting in the tread separating from the casing.

      If the tread separates, the driver may experience a loss of control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Yokohama has notified owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the tires, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall began November 28, 2018.

      Owners may contact Yokohama customer service at 1-800-722-9888.

      Yokohama Tire Corporation is recalling 529 Yokohama RY023 tires, size 295/75R22.5 (14G), with DOT date code 2318.The rubber compound may be incorrect,...
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      Sprout Creek Farm recalls Kinkead cheese

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Sprout Creek Farm of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is recalling four wheels of Kinkead cheese made on May 10, 2018.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product, which is packaged with an orange label, was sold at the following locations:

      Adams Fairacre Farms160 OldPost Rd, Wappingers Falls, NY 12590
      Rocking Horse Ranch600 US-44, Highland, NY 12528
      Mountain Brauhaus3123 US-44, Gardiner, NY 12525
      Online Order2003 Avondale, Wichita Falls, TX 76308
      The Amsterdam6380 Mill Street Rhinebeck, NY 12572

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should dispose of it immediately.

      Consumers with questions may contact Sister Margo Morris at (845) 485-8438 from 9:00am – 5:00pm, Monday – Friday (EST).

      Sprout Creek Farm of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is recalling four wheels of Kinkead cheese made on May 10, 2018.The product may be contaminated with Listeria...
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      Many U.S. workers may be disappointed by lack of raises

      Reports show that many U.S. workers are making the same amount in 2018 that they did in 2017

      This year’s Christmas stocking isn’t getting much stuffing for a high number of American workers -- at least if last year’s trend continues to hold true.

      The Washington Post reported on Friday that, for many U.S. workers, their 2018 take-home pay is exactly the same as it was in 2017. President Trump’s crowing about the lowest unemployment figures in nearly 40 years may have led to job security and new employment, but that improvement also put the brakes on raises.

      "Roughly 14 percent of workers — or 1 in 7 — have seen their earnings stall over the past year, counting only those who have stayed in the same job," reported the Post. "That’s only a slight improvement over the 16 percent rate reached in the hangover years after the Great Recession."

      The report noted that this situation comes with a bonus win-lose.

      If you count for inflation and the cost-of-living uptick employees often get to offset that increase, workers whose salaries have been frozen are actually losing money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS) inflation calculator, that’s approximately a $1,600 jab to someone who earns $40,000 a year.

      Why this is happening

      One would think that if economic growth and productivity are on the rise, workers would see a little more in their paychecks.

      Right?

      Well, yes and no.

      The Post says the reason is because there’s no one forcing the employer’s hand. Cited is the decline of private sector unions that would typically champion workers’ wages. There’s also not as many competitors that workers can scout out for a job change and higher salary -- since larger companies are currently ruling the day.

      "Another possibility is that business leaders may still be scarred by memories of the Great Recession. In those years, ‘sticky wages’ kept them from cutting salaries -- lest they hurt morale. But the result was higher labor costs at a time of collapsing profits and tight budgets," The Post reports.

      Is all hope lost?

      There are still companies and governments that are trying to keep their workers’ trip to the bank a happy one.

      In the most recent election, both Arkansas and Missouri saw a "by the people, for the people" minimum wage victory at the polls.

      In Missouri, voters approved a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage within the state from $7.85 per hour to $12 by 2023. Under the measure, the minimum wage will rise gradually over that five year period.

      In neighboring Arkansas, the current $8.50 an hour minimum wage will rise to $11 an hour by 2021. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates that will affect at least 300,000 workers.

      Companies like Target and Amazon also seem willing to share their windfall with employees. The latter recently raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour and Target has gone on record saying that its minimum hourly wage will also be $15 an hour by 2020.

      While companies are making more, unemployment is declining, and the cost of living continues to rise, workers are left holding the bagThis year’s Chris...
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      Google Hangouts users to be shifted to ‘Chat’ and ‘Meet’

      A Google employee associated with the app has clarified that Hangouts won’t be abandoned entirely

      A recent report from 9to5Google suggested that Google may be gearing up to shut down its Hangout service in 2020. 
      Citing a source "familiar with the product’s internal roadmap," the site said that Hangouts for consumers will be “shutting down sometime in 2020" and added that it's "not surprising at all since Google essentially ceased development on the app more than a year ago.” 
      However, Scott Johnson, Director of Product Management at Google, took to Twitter to clear up some of these claims. He clarified that Hangouts won’t be dropped completely, but rather will eventually be “upgraded” to become two different apps: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. 
      Johnson said users will be migrated to Meet and Chats when they are ready for release. No timeline was given as to when this might happen.
      “All users will have access to Chat and Meet, just like Gmail, Docs, Drive, etc,” Johnson said. “Right now Chat and Meet are only available to G Suite users, but this will change in 2019. Hangouts classic supports team messaging and what we call ad-hoc video calls.” 
      In a statement, Google stressed that it’s “fully committed” to Hangouts ‘Classic' until users are successfully migrated.
      “In March 2017, we announced plans to evolve classic Hangouts to focus on two experiences that help bring teams together: Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. Both Chat and Meet are available today for G Suite customers and will be made available for consumer users, too.” 
      “We have not announced an official timeline for transitioning users from classic Hangouts to Chat and Meet. We are fully committed to supporting classic Hangouts users until everyone is successfully migrated to Chat and Meet,” the company said.
      A recent report from 9to5Google suggested that Google may be gearing up to shut down its Hangout service in 2020.  Citing a source "familiar with t...
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      Nexstar agrees to purchase Tribune Media

      The deal would make Nexstar America’s largest broadcaster

      Nexstar Media Group has agreed to purchase Tribune Media for $6.4 billion, a deal making it the largest broadcast operation in the U.S.

      The acquisition comes just four months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected Sinclair Broadcasting’s bid to acquire Tribune. The agency rejected the merger on technical grounds, citing objections to the deal’s structure.

      The Sinclair deal also drew opposition from a number of consumer groups that said it concentrated too much media power within one company. It remains to be seen if the Nexstar-Tribune deal draws the same objections.

      Tribune Media owns 42 TV stations reaching approximately 50 million households. They would join Nexstar’s 174 stations, giving it an exceptionally large broadcast footprint. According to Nexstar, the combined companies would reach 39 percent of U.S. households.

      Fifty percent audience boost

      Nexstar CEO Perry Sook says the merger would increase his company’s audience reach by 50 percent.

      “Furthermore, the addition of the Tribune Media broadcast assets further expands our geographic diversity, as pro forma for the completion of the transaction, we will serve 18 of the nation’s top 25 markets and 37 of the top 50 markets,” Sook said.

      If the deal is approved it would give Nexstar the largest number of TV stations in the U.S., surpassing Sinclair’s 194. Tribune Media has been seeking a buyer since 2012, when it emerged from bankruptcy. It sold off its newspaper assets in 2014.

      Based in Chicago, Tribune not only owns TV stations but also cable network WGN America, which reaches 77 million households. It also owns several web-based media operations.

      Potential opposition

      The deal could face the same kind of grassroots opposition that lined up against the Sinclair bid. The ACLU, American Cable Association, and Communications Workers of America opposed Sinclair’s attempt to buy Tribune, insisting that Sinclair’s conservative edge was not the reason. Rather, the group said it was too many stations for one company to own.

      Under current regulations there is no numerical limit on the number of stations one company may own, although the FCC will consider potential overlap in individual markets when two broadcasters merge.

      Under the Communications Act of 1934, broadcasters could not own more than seven stations and they could not own more than one station in a single market. That stipulation fell by the wayside as broadcasting began to be deregulated in 1982.

      Nexstar Media Group has agreed to purchase Tribune Media for $6.4 billion, a deal making it the largest broadcast operation in the U.S.The acquisition...
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      Amazon reportedly testing its cashierless technology in bigger stores

      Sources say a Whole Foods application of the technology is most likely

      Amazon is testing its cashierless shopping technology in larger stores, according to the Wall Street Journal.

      The e-commerce giant -- which has been taking steps to expand its presence in the brick-and-mortar sector -- is currently operating a larger checkout-free space in Seattle that is “formatted like a big store,” insiders told the Journal.

      If early tests prove successful, Amazon will “most likely” launch its cashierless technology at Whole Foods, which it acquired in June 2017. The company said previously that it didn’t plan to implement the technology at its grocery chain’s stores, but it didn’t rule out the move entirely.

      Whole Foods application most likely

      The Journal’s sources said the technology still has trouble in “bigger spaces with higher ceilings and more products,” so no time frame was given for a larger-scale launch of the cashierless tech.

      Amazon’s existing automated stores allow shoppers to move through aisles and pick up items such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries. Sensors and cameras placed throughout each store track what consumers pick up from shelves and charge their credit cards accordingly, allowing them to simply walk out of the store after they’re done shopping instead of waiting in a line or paying a cashier.

      In September, Bloomberg reported that Amazon planned to have about 10 of its Go stores open by the end of this year and about 50 locations in major metro areas by 2019. Amazon reportedly plans to have have as many as 3,000 of its cashierless stores open by 2021.

      To implement its tech in larger grocery stores, the company will have to navigate challenges such as tracking frozen foods hidden behind glass. Whole Foods typically sells around 34,000 items in each store, which is far more than Amazon sells at its existing convenience store-like Go stores.

      Amazon is testing its cashierless shopping technology in larger stores, according to the Wall Street Journal.The e-commerce giant -- which has been tak...
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      New and pending home sales drop again in October

      But sales declines are largely confined to large urban markets

      Any way you slice it, the housing market has cooled substantially from its active pace earlier in the year.

      The latest report from the Commerce Department shows new home sales plunged 8.9 percent in October while the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports pending home sales – a more forward-looking indicator –  also dropped sharply, falling 2.8 percent.

      Pending home sales are the sales contracts that have been signed but not yet closed.

      Buyers have essentially gone on strike as they face both higher home prices and rising mortgage rates. In some markets that has made monthly mortgage payments unaffordable. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says pending home sales have fallen for 10 straight months, not a favorable indicator for the housing sector.

      “The recent rise in mortgage rates have reduced the pool of eligible homebuyers,” Yun said.

      Rates still low

      Yun says mortgage rates are still very low on a historical basis, especially when compared to the early 2000s when they hovered around 8 percent. But home prices in the most expensive markets are now much higher than they were then, making many homes no longer affordable except for the very rich.

      It's a similar problem for new homes. Builders have focused on producing large, expensive homes because there is a higher profit margin. But rising mortgage rates are making many of these homes unaffordable in the nation's most expensive housing markets.

      The Commerce Department reports sales of new homes in October fell to their lowest level since July 2017. The lack of demand has had an effect on price – a positive effect for buyers. The median price of a new home sold in October was $309,700, down 3.1 percent from a year ago.

      Declining sales of existing homes have not had a similar effect on price. NAR recently reported that the median price of an existing home in October rose 3.8 percent year-over-year, primarily because of price appreciation for lower-priced starter homes.

      ‘Tale of Two Cities market’

      “The housing market is a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ as the divergence widens between high-cost large urban areas and smaller, more affordable markets,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. “Buyers in larger metros are seeing more homes on the market and listing price declines while those in smaller markets continue to see price increases.”

      Nationally, the percentage of listings that saw price deductions in November increased from 19 percent to 22 percent. But Hale says those price cuts are largely confined to large urban areas.

      Any way you slice it, the housing market has cooled substantially from its active pace earlier in the year.The latest report from the Commerce Departme...
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      Achdut recalls multiple brands of tahini

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Achdut LTD of Ariel, Israel, is recalling all packages and sizes of its tahini products produced from April 7 to May 21, 2018.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      The firm is collaborating with health officials in connection with a positive finding of Salmonella in a U.S. import sample of Achdut Tahini linked to a Salmonella outbreak that is currently being investigated.

      The following products, sold internationally in retail stores and through mail orders, are being recalled:

      • Tahini, Whole Tahini, Organic Tahini and Seasoned Tahini. Container sizes: 15oz, 16oz, 17.6oz, 635 oz (428g, 454g, 500g, 18Kg), with lot numbers 18-097 to 18-141 or with expiration dates April 7th to May 21st 2020.

      The brand names of the products are: Achdut, Baron's, S&F, Pepperwood, Soom and Achva.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 972-3-9068020, Sunday – Thursday 8:00am – 5:00pm (GMT+2).

      Achdut LTD of Ariel, Israel, is recalling all packages and sizes of its tahini products produced from April 7 to May 21, 2018.The products may be conta...
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      Suzuki recalls model year 2012-2013 Suzuki SX4s

      The power steering pump may seize causing a loss of steering assist

      Suzuki Motor America is recalling 18,673 model year 2012-2013 Suzuki SX4s.

      The power steering pump may seize causing a loss of steering assist, requiring extra steering effort at lower speeds, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Suzuki customer service at 1-800-934-0934.

      Suzuki Motor America is recalling 18,673 model year 2012-2013 Suzuki SX4s.The power steering pump may seize causing a loss of steering assist, requirin...
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