Current Events in February 2019

Browse Current Events by year

2019

Browse Current Events by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thanks for subscribing.

    You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    Elizabeth Warren unveils federal child care proposal

    The Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act would aim to reduce the ‘painfully high’ cost of child care

    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed a federal child care plan which would provide grants to states, cities, nonprofits, schools, and other local partners to “create a network of child care options that would be available to every family.”

    In a blog post on Medium, Warren noted that the average cost of child care in the U.S. can range from 9 to 36 percent of a family’s income, depending on where they live. Under Warren’s proposed plan, a sliding scale would be used to determine how much families would pay for child care for young children.

    Families would not be required to pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care expenses. For poorer and lower-middle-class households, child care services would be free.

    "In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, high-quality child care should be a right for all of our children and not just a privilege that only the wealthiest families can afford," said Senator Warren. "We need a government that invests in our children because they are our future and that is what the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act will do."

    Improving the quality of services

    In addition to easing the financial burden of child care for families, Warren’s proposed plan would aim to improve the quality of child care services.

    The plan would provide federal funding for "a locally-run network of Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes so that every family, regardless of their income or employment, has high-quality, affordable child care options for their children from birth to school entry."

    Child care providers would be “held to high national standards,” and an estimated 12 million children would access this high-quality option -- up from about 6.8 million children under 5 who receive formal child care today.

    Warren noted that limited child care options -- in terms of both cost and quality -- are preventing parents of kids who aren’t yet old enough to attend public school from jumping back into the workforce. 

    She argued that the “lack of access to high-quality, affordable care prevents parents from fully participating in the workforce, holding them back from career and educational opportunities and placing a drag on our entire economy.”

    Warren’s plan, which was assessed by Moody’s economist Mark Zandi, would cost about $70 billion a year, or $700 billion over 10 years. It would be funded by "approximately a quarter of the revenue raised from Senator Warren's proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax.”

    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed a federal child care plan which would provide grants to states, cities, nonprofits, schools, and other loca...

    Google to end forced arbitration agreements for employees

    The new policy will go into effect on March 21

    Google has announced that it will soon no longer require its employees to sign forced arbitration agreements, which essentially waive workers’ rights to a day in court if they suffer injuries, harassment, or other negative consequences from working at a company.

    Company officials said that the new policy would go into effect on March 21, and it would apply to all of its workers around the globe. However, the new policy would not apply to claims that have already been settled by arbitration, according to an Axios report. Workers will also still have the option of going to arbitration if they wish to do so.

    The new standards would not only apply to full-time workers, but to temporary and contract workers that work directly for the company – though firms that hire these workers may still choose to use arbitration clauses.

    Making changes following pressure

    Google’s decision likely isn’t one that was made by chance. Last year, approximately 20,000 of its workers around the world staged a walkout in protest of forced arbitration. Within a week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai released a blog post saying that the company takes its workers’ rights seriously.

    “At Google we try hard to build a workplace that supports our employees and empowers them to do their best work. As CEO, I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m committed to making changes we need to improve,” Pichai said.

    While the executive promised at the time to “double down” on the company’s commitment towards improving workplace conditions, the action plan he detailed in the post focused primarily on improvements to how the company would deal with sexual harassment claims. The new proposal has been hailed as being more comprehensive.

    Google has announced that it will soon no longer require its employees to sign forced arbitration agreements, which essentially waive workers’ rights to a...

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

      By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Thanks for subscribing.

      You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

      AT&T, Verizon to stop supporting 3G in early 2022

      Consumers who rely on 3G connectivity will have to upgrade their device

      AT&T will be dropping support for 3G networks at the beginning of 2022, and Verizon plans to end 3G service at the end of this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

      The planned phase-out of 3G comes as major carriers are gearing up to launch 5G infrastructure throughout the U.S.

      Once 3G is gone, consumers who use older devices will be forced to upgrade to a newer model. AT&T said 11 percent of their customers still rely on 3G for connectivity. However, 3G is currently taking away bandwidth from 4G technology and 5G technology, which is causing cellular data users to experience slower speeds.

      Preparing for 5G

      On Thursday, President Trump tweeted that he wants U.S. companies to begin embracing 5G and start exploring the possibility of 6G so that the U.S. doesn’t fall behind.

      “I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible,” Trump said. “It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind.”

      Verizon president Ronan Dunne told investors that the company is aiming to launch 5G connectivity in 30 cities across the country, according to the Journal.

      AT&T is deploying 5G service in 12 cities across the U.S. this year. The company will also carry the first 5G-capable phone in the market -- the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

      AT&T; will be dropping support for 3G networks at the beginning of 2022, and Verizon plans to end 3G service at the end of this year, according to the Wall...

      Existing home sales drop again in January

      But the median home price rises for the 83rd consecutive month

      It was a little harder to sell a home last month. Sales of existing homes dipped 1.2 percent from December and were down 8.5 percent from January 2018, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

      But even though there were fewer homebuyers last month, those who did buy a house paid more for it.

      “Existing home sales in January were weak compared to historical norms; however, they are likely to have reached a cyclical low,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months.”

      Home prices may be moderating, but they aren’t going down. The median price of a home sold in January rose 2.8 percent to $247,500. It was the 83rd consecutive month of year-over-year price increases.

      Not good for anyone

      This situation in January wasn’t that great for either buyers or sellers. If you were selling a home, it took a little longer. If you were buying one, you likely paid a little more for it.

      Houses were on the market for an average of 49 days in January, up from 46 days in December and 42 days in January 2018. That said, 38 percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month

      Yun says mortgage rates started to fall in December but not enough to motivate buyers. But in the months ahead, he predicts lower rates will begin to make a difference.

      The housing market has been out of balance for at least two years with not enough homes on the market to meet demand. That’s the main reason home prices keep rising. But the January numbers suggest a positive trend.

      Positive trend

      The market is still suffering from an inventory shortage, but the number of homes for sale increased in January for the sixth straight month. However, much of the increase in inventory was for more expensive properties.

      “In particular, the lower end of the market is experiencing a greater shortage, and more home construction is needed,” Yun said.

      Home construction is still at about half the levels of 2006, just before the housing crash. Yun says finding ways to lower construction costs would help increase the pace of building, especially of entry-level housing.

      He says reforming local zoning ordinances and expediting the housing permitting process “would immediately increase homeownership opportunities and boost local economies.”

      It was a little harder to sell a home last month. Sales of existing homes dipped 1.2 percent from December and were down 8.5 percent from January 2018, acc...

      Gas prices jump nine cents a gallon in the last week

      States with the cheapest gas saw the biggest increase

      Consumers who had grown accustomed to low and stable gasoline prices over the last four months got a jolt in the last week.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the average price of regular gas surged nine cents a gallon in the last seven days, to $2.38 a gallon. It’s 13 cents higher than a month ago but still lower when compared to last year.

      The average price of premium gas is up eight cents to $2.94 a gallon, and the price of diesel fuel is up only four cents a gallon, to $2.95.

      It was in states where gasoline is normally the cheapest that prices rose the most. In just seven days, the statewide average rose 14 cents a gallon in South Carolina and Texas, 13 cents a gallon in Kansas, and 11 cents a gallon in Alabama and Mississippi.

      States where gasoline is usually the most expensive bucked the trend and remained mostly stable. The average price in Hawaii actually went down a penny, making California the most expensive state for fuel in the last week.

      “Motorists are seeing more expensive gas prices as a result of ongoing refinery problems coupled with crude oil prices hitting their highest level so far this year as global crude inventories tighten,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “Inventories are likely to continue to tighten and keep gas prices higher through the end of the month.”

      But it remains to be seen whether the pace of last week’s price hikes can be maintained. The latest report from the Energy Information Administration shows demand for fuel dropped for a second week. But because consumers are buying less gasoline, refineries have stepped up their exports.

      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:

      • California ($3.27)

      • Hawaii ($3.26)

      • Washington ($2.86)

      • Nevada ($2.84)

      • Alaska ($2.81)

      • Oregon ($2.74)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.59)

      • New York ($2.51)

      • Connecticut ($2.47)

      • Michigan ($2.46)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Alabama ($2.09)

      • Mississippi ($2.09)

      • Louisiana ($2.10)

      • Arkansas ($2.10)

      • Missouri ($2.11)

      • Texas ($2.12)

      • Colorado ($2.12)

      • Oklahoma ($2.15)

      • Kansas ($2.15)

      • South Carolina ($2.15)

      Consumers who had grown accustomed to low and stable gasoline prices over the last four months got a jolt in the last week.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey sh...

      Model year 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks recalled

      The vehicle may stall when driven under high load

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 3,424 model year 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks equipped with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT).

      The pump impeller blades within the torque converter may detach, especially when driven under high load, potentially causing a vehicle stall.

      A vehicle stall, especially when driving a high rate of speed, can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota has notified owners, and dealers will replace the CVT and torque converter, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed on January 28, 2019, to notify owners about the issue. A second letter will be sent when the remedy is available.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is J17/J07.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 3,424 model year 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks equipped with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CV...

      SRAM recalls bicycle gear hubs

      The brakes in the gear hubs can fail

      SRAM of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 7,700 SRAM i-Motion 3 internal gear hubs (coaster brake version) for bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The brakes in the gear hubs can fail, posing crash and injury hazards to the rider.

      The firm has received five reports of brake failure, resulting in one minor injury.

      This recall involves SRAM i-Motion 3 three-speed internal gear hubs with a coaster brake installed on bicycles with no redundant braking system.

      The recalled hubs were sold on the following Electra model bicycles: Electra Cruiser Custom 3i, Electra Coaster 3i, Electra Hawaii 3i, Electra Hawaii 3i 24 and Electra Straight 8. They were also sold as aftermarket parts for other bicycles.

      The recalled hubs have “SRAM i-Motion 3” printed on the hub shell and a brake arm extending from the axle of the hub.

      The hubs, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at specialty bicycle retailers nationwide from April 2010, through December 2018, for between $400 and $800 for Electra bicycles equipped with the recalled hubs, and for about $90 for the recalled aftermarket gear hubs

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using bicycles with the recalled gear hubs and contact SRAM for instructions on how to receive a partial refund.

      Consumers may contact SRAM at (800) 346-2928 from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday, or online at www.sram.com or www.zipp.com and click on “Recall Information” at the top of the pages for more information.

      SRAM of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 7,700 SRAM i-Motion 3 internal gear hubs (coaster brake version) for bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The...

      Nike suffers high-profile fail on national TV

      Viewers were stunned when a basketball star’s shoe virtually exploded

      When your product is the center of attention at a high-profile televised event, it’s usually a good thing. In the case of the Nike brand, it wasn’t.

      With no NBA basketball games scheduled Wednesday night, the sports world was focused on the college basketball match-up between arch rivals Duke and North Carolina. It helped that both teams are ranked in the top 10 and Duke star forward Zion Williamson is the top player in college basketball and projected to be the top pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

      Televised on ESPN, ticket prices for the game rivaled those paid to see the Super Bowl. The spectators at Cameron Indoor Stadium included former President Barack Obama. ESPN announcers speculated on whether the crowd was there because of the rivalry or to see Williamson. If it was the latter, the crowd would be disappointed.

      Just 30 seconds into the game

      In the first 30 seconds of the game, Williamson had the ball and drove to his right at the top of the circle and planted his left foot, clad in a Nike PG 2.5 PE. As Williamson planted his foot, the shoe virtually exploded, ripping the seam between the upper shoe and the sole.

      As the shoe gave way it caused Williamson’s legs to become over-extended and he twisted his right knee as he fell to the floor. The brief video clip below shows what happened.

      Game-changer

      Williamson left the game with what was later described as a mild knee sprain and did not return. Without its star player, top-ranked Duke lost at home to number eight North Carolina.

      Meanwhile, the Nike shoe became the immediate focus of attention and speculation about why it would rip apart. Twitter erupted in a gasp of horror as thousands who witnessed it on live TV added their two cents. One tweeter summed up the problem for Nike quite succinctly.

      “That the shoe blew out on National TV. That the shoe blew out for Duke-UNC. That the shoe blew out on Zion Williamson. Awful look for Nike,” he wrote.

      “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery," Nike said in a statement to the Bleacher Report. "The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

      The fallout was felt on Wall Street early Thursday morning as Nike stock was down 1.5 percent in pre-market trading. For Nike, there is a lot at stake. Providing athletic equipment, including sneakers, to college programs is big business. Duke and many other major universities have contracts with Nike. The competition for those contracts is fierce.

      If the shoe turns out to be defective, or if Williamson decides he wants to wear a different shoe, the impact could have a lasting effect.

      When your product is the center of attention at a high-profile televised event, it’s usually a good thing. In the case of the Nike brand, it wasn’t.Wit...

      Tesla’s ‘full self-driving system’ is coming this year

      By the end of 2020, Elon Musk says people will be able to fall asleep in their car and wake up at their destination

      During a recent episode of ARK Invest’s FYI podcast, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla’s self-driving system will be available by the end of 2019. However, the feature won’t enable a driver to allow the vehicle to operate entirely once engaged; it will require some driver oversight -- at least in the beginning.

      “I think we will be feature complete, full self-driving, this year – meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without intervention, this year. I would say I am of certain of that. That is not a question mark,” he said.

      However, just as the electric automaker’s Autopilot feature requires some level of driver assistance, so too will Tesla’s “full self-driving system.”

      Musk noted in the interview that “people sometimes will extrapolate that to mean now it works with 100 percent certainty, requires no observation, perfectly. This is not the case.” The CEO said it’ll be another two years before Tesla’s self-driving system can operate without driver assistance.

      But by the end of 2020, Musk said Tesla owners may even be able to fall asleep in their autonomous vehicle.

      “My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year. That is when I think it would be safe enough for that.”

      Data collection giving Tesla an edge

      Tesla isn’t the only automaker participating in the race to bring fully autonomous cars to market.  In December, Waymo officially launched its self-driving taxi service in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. General Motors is also racing to launch a self-driving car service under a collaboration with Honda.

      During the podcast, Musk said he believes Tesla has an advantage in the race to deliver self-driving cars due to the amount of data Tesla collects from its vehicles.

      “The reason Tesla is making rapid progress is because we have vastly more data, and this is increasing exponentially,” he said.

      Tesla’s long-promised self-driving feature must still obtain regulatory approval before hitting the market, Elektrek noted. But Musk believes the data it collects will come in handy when regulators request proof that the system is safer than human drivers.

      “I think they will understand data, so if we show you know, billions of miles with a given safety level, then they will appreciate that. It’s not like saying, ‘Hey, we have this really fast computer and everything’s gonna work.’ It’s like, ‘Well, you know, that’s just a statement,’” the Tesla executive said.

      “But if you got hard data, billions of miles, and you could show the accident rates and intervention rates, and that it’s essentially unsafe if you don’t have Autopilot on, which I think is really unequivocal at this point. No matter how you slice the data, it is unequivocal at this point that it’s safer to have Autopilot on.”

      During a recent episode of ARK Invest’s FYI podcast, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla’s self-driving system will be available by the end of 2019. Howeve...

      The FCC says rural broadband service has improved

      But one GOP Congressman says rural America is still underserved

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a draft report, says the U.S. has made great strides in closing the “digital divide” and expanding broadband internet services in rural areas of America.

      Rural counties have consistently lagged behind metro areas in the deployment of fast internet because consumers are spread out and it’s expensive to serve them. Increasing service to rural areas has been an FCC priority for nearly a decade but expansion of service has come at a slow pace.

      “We’ve been tackling this problem by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition, and providing efficient, effective support for rural broadband expansion through our Connect America Fund,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement

      The draft report says the number of Americans who lack access to a fixed broadband connection dropped by 25 percent in one year, from 26 million to 19.4 million between 2016 and 2017.

      Minimum speed

      To be considered broadband service, an internet connection must achieve a minimum speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. The report says a lot of the progress has come in rural America, where 5.6 rural consumers got faster internet over the course of 12 months.

      Earlier this month, the co-chair of the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus released a letter he wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that urged her to include broadband spending in a potential infrastructure package.

      Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), whose district spans a wide area of rural Eastern Virginia, says President Trump’s proposal for an infrastructure bill should include funding for technology infrastructure too.

      “With that in mind, I am urging you to prioritize policies in the 116th Congress that will help promote broadband investments and bridge the digital divide between urban and rural America,” Wittman wrote in the letter.

      Virginia an underserved state

      According to Wittman, nearly 50 percent of consumers living in rural Virginia lack access to high speed internet and 29 percent don’t have any internet service at all. He says obstacles include government red tape and regulations, cost of service, and varying geographic factors.

      FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the Commission, took issue with the draft report that reports significant progress.

      “Millions of households -- in rural and urban communities -- have no access to high-speed service,” she wrote in a tweet. “That’s a fact.”

      The five commissioners -- three Republicans and two Democrats -- will meet later to vote on whether to adopt the draft as official FCC policy.

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a draft report, says the U.S. has made great strides in closing the “digital divide” and expanding broadban...

      Google Maps unveils feature to guide users to drug drop-off sites

      Consumers can see nearby medication disposal locations

      In response to a spike in searches for “medication disposal near me,” Google has announced that it will begin showing users where they can drop off unused prescription medications on Google Maps.

      The tech giant said the new feature was created under a collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, CVS, Walgreens, and state governments.

      “Addiction to opioids can start after just five days of use, and the majority of prescription drug abuse (53%) starts with drugs obtained from family and friends,” Dane Glasglow, Google Maps’ vice president of product, wrote in a blog post.

      “That’s why Google wants to help people get rid of leftover pills that are sitting in people’s medicine cabinets, and to make drug disposal locations easier for people to find with a simple search.”

      The company said it has CVS and Walgreens location data for all 50 states, as well as data on hospitals and government buildings that have drug drop-off kiosks. Google says it will continue to add more locations to Google Maps as more are created.

      Drug collection locations

      To navigate to one of 3,500 drop-off sites on Google Maps, users can type “drug drop off near me” or “medication disposal near me.”

      Last year, Google partnered with the DEA to create a web-based tool to help consumers find a drug drop-off location near them.

      “Using Google Maps API, our team worked with the DEA to create a locator tool for the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day,” Google said in a statement. “The locator tool can help anyone find a place near them to safely dispose of leftover prescription medications.”

      Google announced that it was able to collect 1.85 million pounds of unused prescription drugs in 2018.

      In response to a spike in searches for “medication disposal near me,” Google has announced that it will begin showing users where they can drop off unused...

      Johnson & Johnson subpoenaed by federal agencies over baby powder litigation​

      The pharmaceutical company has been asked to provide documents related to the safety of its baby product line

      Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its annual report on Wednesday that it received subpoenas from two federal agencies related to litigation involving its baby powder line.

      The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice have requested that the pharmaceutical giant produce documents that shed light on the safety of its baby powder products.

      The inquiries came in response to a Reuters report from December about product liability lawsuits against the company.

      Internal documents obtained by Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson had been aware since the 1970s that its talc and powder products occasionally tested positive for traces of asbestos -- a known carcinogen and lung irritant with no safe level of exposure. However, the company didn’t tell regulators or the public.

      J&J said the subpoenas “are related to news reports that included inaccurate statements and also withheld crucial information.”

      The company has denied the allegations presented in the Reuters report and argued that “decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”

      Johnson & Johnson has been sued numerous times by consumers who claim they got cancer after using the company’s products. The company said it intends to "cooperate fully” with the latest federal inquiries about the safety of its talcum powder products and that it will "continue to defend J&J in the talc-related litigation.”

      Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its annual report on Wednesday that it received subpoenas from two federal agencies related to litigation involving its baby...

      Google raises the bar on internet security with new Chrome add-ons

      Software can only do so much. It’s still on the user to make sure they’ve got security basics covered

      While Facebook can’t seem to get out of its own way to make sure its users’ data is protected, Google is taking extra precautions to make sure it doesn’t fall into the same bottomless pit of consumer distrust.

      Google’s new security defense comes as a response to a recent survey which asked 3,000 Americans for their two cents worth on web security elements such as passwords, two-factor authentication, phishing, and password managers.

      Interestingly, 69 percent of the respondents gave themselves an A or B in protecting their online accounts, yet 66 percent admitted to reusing passwords, and 40 percent couldn’t accurately define phishing.

      To Google, that was a clear disconnect and sufficient reason to create two Chrome browser updates that it insists will not only keep internet surfers’ data secure but work beyond its own apps and sites.

      Staying ahead of threats is key

      ConsumerAffairs readers are all too familiar with monster-sized breaches like Quora’s data break-in that impacted 100 million users and home design website Houzz’s recent smash-and-grab that possibly allowed access to 40 million user IDs, postal codes, and more.

      If those numbers aren’t eye-popping enough, take a look at the recently discovered "Collection #1" data breach, reported to have exposed 772,904,991 unique emails and 21,222,975 unique passwords -- possibly the largest breach ever.

      To try and curb those types of breaches going forward, Google created Password Checkup, a Chrome extension that helps protect user’s accounts from such infractions.

      “We help keep your Google Account safe by proactively detecting and responding to security threats,” Google’s Kurt Thomas, Security and Anti-Abuse Research Scientist, and Adam Dawes, Senior Product Manager, Developer Tools for Identity, said in the product announcement.

      “For example, we already automatically reset the password on your Google Account if it may have been exposed in a third-party data breach -- a security measure that reduces the risk of your account getting hacked by a factor of ten.”

      “If we detect that a username and password on a site you use is one of over 4 billion credentials that we know have been compromised, the extension will trigger an automatic warning and suggest that you change your password.”

      In the isolated situation where an attacker actually makes its way into a user’s Google account, the company’s built in tools like verification and warnings of potentially harmful apps will help users get back to safety ASAP.

      That’s where the second new Chrome add-on -- Cross Account Protection -- helps. “When apps and sites have implemented it, we’re able to send information about security events -- like an account hijacking, for instance -- to (the user) so they can protect (them), too,” Thomas and Dawes wrote.

      What data will Google share when a security “event” happens?

      Google says it designed the security events to be extremely limited to protect your privacy. The company says that:

      • It will only share the fact that the security event happened;

      • It will only share basic information about the event, like whether the user’s account was hijacked, or if Google forced the user to log back in because of suspicious activity; and

      • It will only share information with apps where the user logged in with Google.

      To widen its protective stance, Google is working with other major technology companies -- like Adobe, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and the OpenID Foundation -- to make this easy for all apps to implement.

      It may seem obvious, but…

      In comments to ConsumerAffairs, Emily Schechter, Product Manager, Chrome Security at Google reminds us all that we can’t be too safe.

      "Even though it may seem obvious, some of the best security advice is still: use unique passwords; update your software and apps; and use two-factor authentication. While these things may seem basic, they can really do a lot to improve your online security,” Schecter said.

      Geting started with Google’s new Chrome security add-ons is a relatively simple process. Users can get started by simply clicking here to add Password Checkup as one of Chrome’s extensions.

      While Facebook can’t seem to get out of its own way to make sure its users’ data is protected, Google is taking extra precautions to make sure it doesn’t f...

      Survey shows millennials are willing to move to buy an affordable home

      Young people now owe more in mortgages than older generations

      The image of millennials as uninterested in homeownership or stuck renting is misplaced, according to a new survey conducted by real estate marketplace realtor.com.

      The survey shows that millennials have taken on more in mortgage loans than both baby boomers or Generation X in recent months. While they typically purchase homes in more affordable markets, they are making smaller down payments and taking on larger mortgages as a result.

      "Millennials are getting older, with better jobs and deeper pockets, allowing them to expand their collective purchase power, and hence, their footprint in the market," said Javier Vivas, director of economic research at realtor.com. "The stereotype that millennials primarily choose to buy homes and live in large metro areas isn't the reality.”

      Cost of housing is the main factor

      In fact, millennials are more likely to choose a place to live based on its affordability than the two previous generations. As a result, they have been responsible for growth in some secondary markets like Nashville and Omaha. Vivas says this group continues to seek out less traditional secondary markets where homes and jobs are now available and plentiful.

      As home prices rise in those cities, millennials are seeking out other overlooked markets. The survey shows in recent months they have made Buffalo the most popular affordable market for their generation.

      The reason so many millennials have to relocate to become homeowners is the need for a so-called “starter home,” a house that is usually smaller and less expensive. That’s exactly the kind of house that is in short supply since builders have not built that many new ones since the housing crash of 2009.

      Leading the migration

      As a result, young consumers have led a migration of sorts, moving from large urban centers to smaller communities, often in other regions of the country. And when they move they buy houses.

      Beginning in early 2017, millennials became the largest segment of the population taking out mortgages, overtaking Generation X which had been the leader. At the end of last year, millennials were taking out 45 percent of all new mortgages, compared to 36 percent for Generation X and 17 percent for baby boomers.

      In addition to Buffalo, millennials are moving in great numbers to Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio. The median price of a millennial-purchased home is $238,000, $26,000 less than what the typical baby boomer pays and $51,000 less than what the average Gen-Xer pays.

      The image of millennials as uninterested in homeownership or stuck renting is misplaced, according to a new survey conducted by real estate marketplace rea...

      Blueberries’ color may be the reason why they lower blood pressure

      Researchers say a natural chemical in the fruit improves health

      Fruits and vegetables provide our bodies with essential vitamins and nutrients that can affect both our physical and mental health, and now, researchers have confirmed that one fruit could be beneficial in lowering blood pressure.

      A new study found that consumers can effectively lower their blood pressure and improve their blood vessel function by eating 200g of blueberries every day for one month.

      “If the changes we saw in blood vessel function after eating blueberries every day could be sustained for a person’s whole life, it could reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 20 percent,” said lead researcher Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos.

      It’s all in the blue

      The researchers performed two experiments to determine the effects that blueberries had on cardiovascular health.

      In the first one, 40 volunteers were given a drink that either contained 200g of blueberries or a control beverage that was equal in nutrients every day for one month. The researchers evaluated participants’ urine, blood, blood pressure, and blood vessel function.

      The follow-up experiment explored how anthocyanin -- the photochemical responsible for the blue color in blueberries -- affected participants’ vitals. In this step of the study, participants were given a drink with purified anthocyanins or a control drink that either matched blueberries’ levels of vitamins and minerals or fiber.

      By the end of the month, the participants’ who were consuming the blueberry drinks saw a decrease in blood pressure numerically similar to people who have spent a month on blood pressure medication.

      Moreover, researchers noticed an improvement in blood vessel function in participants who had the blueberry drink as quickly as two hours after consumption, and the effects lasted through the end of the study. The researchers didn’t record a large change in either blood pressure or blood vessel function for those who consumed the control beverages.

      Overall, the researchers give the credit to the anthocyanin.

      “Although it is best to eat the whole blueberry to get the full benefit, our study finds that the majority of the effects can be explained by anthocyanins,” Dr. Rodriguez-Mateos said.

      Managing blood pressure

      Over 100 million Americans struggle with high blood pressure. Recently, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released new blood pressure guidelines that could be the key to preventing cardiovascular disease in the future.

      The new guidelines lower the standards what was previously considered high blood pressure in an effort to have physicians intervene with their patients at earlier stages. While this would mark many more people as having high blood pressure, the experts also believe it will prevent over three million cardiovascular issues moving forward.

      Additionally, legislators have been working to mandate smoke-free policies inside public buildings, which has also been beneficial in lowering blood pressure.

      “When we looked at differences in blood pressure over time within individuals, comparing years when they lived in an area with smoke-free law to years when they didn’t, systolic blood pressure was lower on average when they lived in an area with smoke-free laws,” explained Dr. Stephanie Mayne, lead author of the study.

      Fruits and vegetables provide our bodies with essential vitamins and nutrients that can affect both our physical and mental health, and now, researchers ha...

      New exercise trend incorporates high intensity interval training into daily activities

      Experts see benefits for a wide range of consumers

      High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to help consumers lose weight faster, and now researchers are exploring how everyday activities -- like carrying groceries -- can contribute to improved physical fitness.

      Known as “high intensity incidental physical activity” (HIIPA), people that struggle with incorporating exercise into their lifestyles can take a cue from HIIT and start adding in short bursts of exercise with things that they are already doing on a daily basis.

      “Regular incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing even for a few seconds has great promise for health,” said researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis. “There is a lot of research telling us that any type of HIIT, irrespective of duration and number of repetitions is one of the most effective ways to rapidly improve fitness and cardiovascular health and HIIPA works on the same idea.”

      Don’t stop moving

      The researchers’ ideas are based on the notion that varying body types, health conditions, and ages all contribute to how people’s bodies process exercise, which is where “incidental physical activity” comes into play.

      According to the group, any activity that consumers don’t intend to be exercise -- such as walking around the mall or climbing stairs at home -- is considered incidental physical activity if it can get your heart pumping.

      Because of the flexibility with activities and the low time commitment, the researchers consider this a great alternative for those who struggle with the physical act of exercise or who don’t have the time in the day to exercise for extended periods.

      The team recommends dedicating roughly five to ten minutes a day for several days a week to these activities to get the most optimal benefits. The researchers suggest something as simple as parking further away from a destination to increase the distance you have to walk upon arrival can count towards HIIPA.

      “The beauty of HIIPA and the idea of using activities we are already doing as part of every day life is that it is much more realistic and achievable for most people,” Stamatakis said. “The time commitment for HIIPA is close to zero minutes per day, and people could save even more time if their HIIPA involves brief walking sprints, or taking the stairs instead of waiting for the lift.”

      Making the most of your time

      Recently, a great deal of exercise research has focused on how consumers can make the most of little time spent in the gym. Experts have found that your metabolism can feel the effects of one workout for up to two days later, while climbing the stairs in short bursts can improve health.

      “We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that stair snacking approach was also effective,” said researcher Jonathan Little. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.”

      High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to help consumers lose weight faster, and now researchers are exploring how everyday activities -- l...

      BMW recalls older vehicles with airbag inflator issue

      The airbag inflators in the sports steering wheels may explode

      BMW of North America is recalling 170,148 model year 2000-2003 525i Sedans, 530i Sedans, 540i Sedans, 525i Sports Wagons & 540i Sports Wagons, and model year 2000-2004 X5 SAV 3.0i, X5 SAV 4.4i, and X5 SAV 4.6is vehicles.

      The recall applies to vehicles where the original steering wheel has been replaced with the optional sports steering wheel.

      The sports steering wheel has a front airbag inflator that may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicle for an optional sports steering wheel with an affected inflator. Dealers will replace the airbag module as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 4, 2019.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 170,148 model year 2000-2003 525i Sedans, 530i Sedans, 540i Sedans, 525i Sports Wagons & 540i Sports Wagons, and model ye...