Current Events in February 2019

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    Nissan recalls model year 2009 Muranos

    Additional brake pedal travel may be required to stop the vehicle

    Nissan of North America is recalling 86,265 model year 2009 Muranos.

    The valves within the ABS Hydraulic Control Units (HCU) may react with brake fluids containing specific corrosion preventative additives. This reaction may cause the valves to not close properly.

    If the valves do not properly close, additional brake pedal travel may be required to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Nissan has notified owners, and dealers will flush the brake system with DOT 4 fluid. The HCU will then be tested to detect a possible stuck valve condition. If necessary, the HCU will be replaced, free of charge.

    The recall began February 7, 2019.

    Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-867-7669.

    Nissan of North America is recalling 86,265 model year 2009 Muranos.The valves within the ABS Hydraulic Control Units (HCU) may react with brake fluids...

    Model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks recalled

    A loose ground fastener could cause a loss of power steering assist

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 159,740 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks.

    The battery ground fastener on the driver-side front fender may have been improperly secured, possibly resulting in a loss of power steering assist.

    A loss of power steering could vary the steering effort required, possibly causing vehicle oversteer or understeer, increasing the risk of crash.

    What to do

    Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will properly secure the ground fastener, free of charge.

    The recall began on February 11, 2019.

    Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V04.

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 159,740 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks.The battery ground fastener on the driver-side front fender may have been im...

    Southwest says mechanics union to blame for flight cancellations

    The carrier says the ‘unprecedented number of out-of-service aircraft’ is due to problems with the group

    Over the last week, Southwest Airlines has canceled over 600 flights and delayed over 1,000 others -- more than any other U.S. airline and double its own daily average, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

    The unusually high number of out-of-service aircrafts prompted the carrier to issue a ‘state of emergency” earlier this week. In an interview with CNBC, a spokesperson for Southwest acknowledged the “slight increase” in flight cancellations and attributed it to an “uptick in maintenance items.”

    Now, the carrier is pinning the blame on a mechanics union called the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA).

    Problems with mechanics union employees

    Southwest said the mechanics union it’s been negotiating with has a history of labor disruptions. The company said it’s investigating the "current disruption and exploring all possible remedies.''

    "On Feb. 12, just days after our last negotiations session with AMFA, we experienced an unprecedented number of out-of-service aircraft in four specific maintenance locations despite no change in our maintenance programs, no changes in leadership, and no changes in our policies and procedures," Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

    "We are committed to operating a safe fleet, and every report is investigated, which is why we issued a notice to require an 'all hands' response to get out-of-service aircraft back into the fleet serving our customers."

    Southwest also noted that it has two pending lawsuits against the union.

    Mechanics union responds

    In response to the accusations, the mechanics union quickly countered by accusing Southwest of using it as a scapegoat for other issues.

    "Southwest Airlines scapegoating of its expert aircraft maintenance technicians does not bode well for the airline’s safe operations,'' Bret Oestreich, national director of AMFA, said in a statement. "Safety is, and always will be, our number one priority.''

    "For Southwest's leadership to connect the airline's self-declared 'operational emergency' to collective bargaining negotiations is simply an attempt to divert attention away from the airline's safety issues," the organization said in a statement.

    Over the last week, Southwest Airlines has canceled over 600 flights and delayed over 1,000 others -- more than any other U.S. airline and double its own d...

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      FTC gets tough with Facebook over data privacy penalties

      Where’s the tipping point when it comes to giant corporations protecting the consumer?

      It’s doubtful you’ll find Facebook clicking “Like” on any of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) posts anytime soon.

      In a battle royale, the Washington Post reports that the FTC has got the social media giant in a headlock as the two grapple over how many billions Facebook will have to pay for its multitude of privacy lapses.

      The FTC is no chump

      The FTC tends not to go easy in situations like this. Back in 2012, Google had to pay a then-record $22.5 million penalty to settle charges brought by the FTC that Google “misrepresented to users of Apple Inc.’s Safari Internet browser that it would not place tracking ‘cookies’ or serve targeted ads to those users.”

      In that case, Google only had itself to blame since it violated an earlier privacy settlement the company had agreed to with the FTC.

      “Facebook faces a moment of reckoning and the only way it will come is through an FTC order with severe penalties and other sanctions that stop this kind of privacy misconduct going forward,” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) commented to the Post.

      The FTC’s consumer-first approach

      In Facebook’s situation, the FTC came out of the gate swinging. “The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers,” wrote Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, when the bureau initially addressed Facebook’s privacy debacle.

      “Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act. Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements.”

      According to The Washington Post, Facebook’s options are few. The company could cop a deal with the FTC that includes paying a fine and rectifying its privacy protection methods. It’s similar to actions it took in an earlier conflict with the FTC, but it could also take its chances and fight the agency in court. Most would agree that the latter is probably not a good chess move given Facebook’s recent history.

      “The bottom line here is that tech giants like Facebook and Google act as if they are immune to the rules” was the insider take given by Subscription Insider’s Dana E. Neuts.

      “They ignore laws and regulations that govern data privacy and the privacy of their users. Whether that is intentional or sloppy isn’t clear, but the fact that such instances repeat themselves is an indication that protecting user privacy is not a top priority for them.”

      Is asking forgiveness easier than getting permission?

      In Facebook’s case, the billions it has in the bank may take the sting out of any possible regulatory action. “Maybe to them, the reward of revenue for selling or providing access to data is worth the risk,” wrote Neuts.

      “There has to be a tipping point though. Governments, including the United States, and consumers need to step up to hold these companies accountable.”

      It’s doubtful you’ll find Facebook clicking “Like” on any of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) posts anytime soon.In a battle royale, the Washington...

      Doctors overprescribed fentanyl as FDA looked the other way, study charges

      Researchers found that an ‘alarming’ number of patients were prescribed a deadly opioid

      Doctors in the United States have prescribed a deadly, powerful opioid to an “alarming” number of patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

      Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that experts estimate is 100 times more powerful than morphine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to a spike in opioid overdoses deaths last year.

      But for a small subset of cancer patients, fentanyl also offers the potential to finally end inescapable pain, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      In recent years, numerous pharmaceutical companies have marketed fentanyl for cancer patients who aren't getting relief from less potent opioids.

      The pharmaceutical version of fentanyl is administered to cancer patients via medicated lollipops, lozenges, or nasal sprays. To ensure that the fentanyl for cancer patients isn’t being prescribed to the general public, the FDA launched a program several years ago to monitor fentanyl prescriptions. Under the FDA’s program, only cancer patients who had built a tolerance to other opioids could receive a prescription for the fentanyl suckers or sprays.

      But that’s not how it played out. From 2013 to 2017, as many as 55 percent of patients who were prescribed fentanyl did not meet that strict criteria, the new study says.

      “We found alarming use of these products in patients who never should have received them,” G. Caleb Alexander, a senior author of the study and director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a statement to WREG. “The prescribing of this medicine was supposed to be closely monitored and contained but was not.”

      FDA program falls short

      Alexander and his co-authors made those findings based on nearly 5,000 pages of FDA documents. They obtained the documents by filing a Freedom of Information Act Request, a tactic typically used by journalists, not medical researchers.

      As the researchers explained, they filed the public records request to see whether the FDA and drug companies had lived up to their own promise to carefully monitor who received the potent drugs.

      The FDA in its own documents admits that its fentanyl-monitoring program was “not meeting its overall goal or most of the objectives,” according to the study.

      The John Hopkins researchers were not able to track what happened to the individual patients who received unnecessary prescriptions to the fentanyl products, but they say the data overall indicates a threat to public health.

      "For those patients, there's an unacceptably high risk of fatal overdose," Alexander added.

      The FDA responded with a statement to the Washington Post that it shares the researchers’ concerns about fentanyl prescriptions.

      “These products are medically important for a small group of patients who are opioid-tolerant but also pose serious risks,” an agency spokesman said.

      It’s not the first sign that the drug industry, doctors, and regulators may be following the same reckless pattern with fentanyl that they have with other opioids. A pending federal criminal case in Boston charges that Insys Therapeutics bribed doctors in the marketing of its fentanyl spray.

      Doctors in the United States have prescribed a deadly, powerful opioid to an “alarming” number of patients, according to a new study published in the Journ...

      Google Nest Secure users were surprised to learn it has a built-in microphone

      The tech giant said it wasn’t a secret, it just forgot to mention it

      Google Nest is a system of smart home products that can control thermostats, smoke detectors, and security systems. But it turns out the Nest Secure product has a built-in microphone, which was news to the consumers who had purchased it.

      That information came to light earlier this month when the company announced an update for Nest Secure that would allow users to enable its virtual-assistant Google Assistant by using voice commands.

      But Nest users were surprised to learn they could do that since they didn’t know there was a microphone connected to Nest Secure. Various technology publications scanned the product’s technical specs and found no mention of a microphone.

      Omission made in error

      In statements to the media, Google officials said the omission was made in error. The company said there was never any attempt to keep the microphone a secret.

      It also said that the microphone comes from the factory in the off position. It can only be turned on if the user enables it, and if the user was unaware of its existence, the microphone was not listening to private conversations.

      Why even have a microphone? Google says it was originally included on the Nest Guard to enable future updates, like the ability to listen for an intrusion into an otherwise unoccupied home.

      “Security systems often use microphones to provide features that rely on sound sensing,” Google said in a statement. “We included the mic on the device so that we can potentially offer additional features to our users in the future, such as the ability to detect broken glass.”

      Scrutiny over privacy

      Even if it’s an innocent omission, the news that Google failed to mention that one of its security devices has a built-in microphone is sure to ruffle privacy feathers. Google, along with other major tech companies, has come under increasing scrutiny for how it manages consumers’ private data.

      For its part, Google has long maintained that the internet is all about transparency. CEO Eric Schmidt famously remarked in 2009 that people who have things they don’t want people to know probably shouldn’t be doing them in the first place.

      Writing in Fortune in 2017, Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, maintained that “Google still doesn’t care about your privacy.”

      Turow said the bargain whereby consumers agree to give up personal information in exchange for seeing only relevant ads is a one-sided deal, suggesting that consumers have little understanding of what they’re giving up.

      Google Nest is a system of smart home products that can control thermostats, smoke detectors, and security systems. But it turns out the Nest Secure produc...

      App developer roles expected to be the fastest-growing six-figure position

      People who design, build, and update apps make just over $100,000 per year

      As the number of computer and smartphone applications continues to grow, demand for app developers is expected to increase significantly over the next five to seven years, Money Magazine reports.

      These professionals make a median salary of $101,790, and they are going to be more in demand than any other position offering the opportunity to pull in a six-figure salary in the U.S. By 2023, the number of app software developers is expected to reach almost 1.1 million, according to a recent study by CareerBuilder.

      “The U.S. will be adding 255,140 app developers to the job market between 2016 and 2026,” Money Magazine reported, citing statistics from occupational projections website Projections Central. “That’s about 26,000 new openings for app developers every year, in addition to the estimated 60,170 positions opening up each year to replace current app developers.”

      Other in-demand jobs

      While app developers will be more in-demand than any other six-figure-salary job, others are hiring at a slower pace.

      “The runner-up, General and Operations Managers, will have 41,000 fewer jobs added to the workforce than app developers between now and 2026,” Money Magazine noted.

      The following jobs are expected to add 43,000 new positions annually; however they are less lucrative in terms of median annual salary.

      • Fast food workers. Median annual salary of below $25,000.

      • Aides for the elderly. Median annual salary of below $25,000.

      • Registered nurses Median annual salary of $70,000.

      Required training for app developers

      While many app developers have a degree in computer science, a computer degree isn’t required to be a candidate for the role. In fact, about 42 percent of developers were self-taught, according to a 2015 developer survey conducted by Stack Overflow.

      Upon stepping into a role as an app developer, workers will need to keep learning in order to maintain their skill sets.

      “App developers need to be well-versed on the latest coding languages to make sure they’re still a viable candidate for their current or prospective job. An app developer who stopped learning new languages in 2012, for example, wouldn’t know the ins and outs of HTML5 and would be underqualified for a job today, much less in 2026,” the publication noted.

      As the number of computer and smartphone applications continues to grow, demand for app developers is expected to increase significantly over the next five...

      Instant-sale, ‘buy your house for cash’ operations are multiplying

      But be careful, some of these offers may not be from who you think

      You’ve probably seen the signs. They’re usually hand-lettered and nailed to a street sign poles and declare “We’ll Buy Your House For Cash,” followed by a telephone number.

      These “instant sale” operations are nothing new, but they have proliferated since the housing crash, when investors began buying up foreclosures and flipping them for hefty profits, spawning popular cable TV shows in the process.

      Now that there are fewer foreclosures, these instant sale investors have to look harder for properties to buy and have become more aggressive in their recruitment efforts. They often target older homeowners who have substantial equity in their homes but are unable to maintain them any longer and want to move to an assisted-living facility. They also target homeowners facing foreclosure.

      Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says homeowners who get an instant offer -- often without any inspection of the property -- should ask what they are giving up.

      “Even if it sounds great, you should seek a second opinion from a Realtor who can show you comps, what other houses like yours have sold for,” Yun told ConsumerAffairs. “You should also think about what you’re trading for the convenience of a quick sale.”

      Less than market value

      That’s because a quick sale invariably will be at less than the market value of the property. The buyer will have to make renovations and put it back on the market -- and to make a profit, they must pay less than the market value.

      The seller saves a real estate commission and the cost of making repairs but must decide if that is worth getting less for the property. Sometimes a seller might get 65 percent of the market value, but it’s often just the balance left on the mortgage.

      In the intense competition to acquire homes for flips, one operator in the Richmond, Va., market has produced slick, targeted direct mail pieces that bear the picture of a young woman who claims to be a second-grade teacher still living with her parents and hoping to purchase her first home.

      “I am willing to pay a fair price and buy it as-is,” the fictitious young woman writes. “I can close quickly and I’ll even pay your closing costs.”

      The direct mail piece was not distributed in a typical starter home neighborhood but in an area of larger single-family homes that also has a high percentage of foreclosures and older residents.

      Masquerade

      Why the masquerade? Perhaps an older seller might be more likely to respond to a young woman starting out in life instead of a hedge fund or a guy working out of his basement.

      “Something deceptive like that is not only unethical it’s worth a consumer protection agency looking into,” Yun said.

      However, the idea of selling a home quickly, even at less than the market value, is appealing for sellers who find that time is of the essence. Real estate marketplace Zillow provides a way to do it with a high degree of transparency. It recently started buying homes and has expanded its Zillow Offers business to seven markets.

      But Emily Heffter, a spokesperson for Zillow, says the company never contacts owners. Rather, in those seven markets, every home listing not only has a “Zestimate,” a computer-generated estimate of the home’s value, but also a button that says “get an offer.”

      “If you choose that then you’ll fill out a questionnaire about your home, you can also submit a few pictures, and then within 48-hours we’ll send you an offer to buy your home,” Heffter said in an interview with ConsumerAffairs. “We show them what we would pay for their home, and then we also show them what we think the market would give them if they just go with an agent, so they have something to compare it to.”

      If the homeowner accepts the offer, Zillow charges a fee of between 6 percent and 9 percent and the seller pays for repairs, as they do in a normal real estate transaction. Zillow then puts the house back on the market through a real estate broker.

      You’ve probably seen the signs. They’re usually hand-lettered and nailed to a street sign poles and declare “We’ll Buy Your House For Cash,” followed by a...

      Diet drinks linked to increased risk of stroke in postmenopausal women

      A study suggests that older women should limit their intake of artificially sweetened beverages

      Staying healthy is important at any age, but postmenopausal women may want to steer clear of beverages with artificial sweeteners based on the findings of a new study.

      Researchers from the American Heart Association found that drinking diet soda, or any artificially sweetened drink, especially in excess, was associated with an increased risk of stroke for older women.

      “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet,” said researcher Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani. “Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”

      Staying healthy

      To analyze the relationship between diet drinks and risk of stroke and heart disease, the researchers utilized data from the Women’s Health Initiative study, which tracked participants’ health for over a decade.

      The study included data responses from over 81,000 postmenopausal women, who reported how often they consumed drinks with artificial sweeteners. The participants did not reveal what artificial sweetener the drinks contained, which, according to Mossavar-Rahmani, makes the researchers unable to discern “which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless.”

      The researchers found that drinking artificially sweetened drinks in excess -- or even more than one per week -- increased participants’ likelihood of developing heart disease or having a stroke. The risk doubled for women who were overweight.

      Women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened beverages per day were 23 percent more likely to have a stroke, and nearly 30 percent were more likely to develop heart disease. Overall, these women were 16 percent more likely to die from any cause and over 30 percent more likely to have a stroke due to a blood clot.

      The researchers hope that these results encourage more women to limit their diet beverage intake, and to choose water whenever possible.

      “The American Heart Association suggests water as the best choice for a no-calorie beverage,” said researcher Rachel K. Johnson. “However, for some adults, diet drinks with low calorie sweeteners may be helpful as they transition to adopting water as their primary drink. Since long-term clinical trial data are not available on the effects of low-calorie sweetened drinks and cardiovascular health, given their lack of nutritional value, it may be prudent to limit their prolonged use.”

      Potential dangers of artificial sweeteners

      Artificial sweeteners have made headlines recently, as health experts continue to heavily research the area.

      Researchers continue to flip flop on the issue. There has been speculation about artificial sweeteners’ positive effect on weight loss, while other research has explored how they can actually create more fat. Most recently, researchers found that the sweeteners may be lower in calories, but they may also be toxic to the digestive system.

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

      Staying healthy is important at any age, but postmenopausal women may want to steer clear of beverages with artificial sweeteners based on the findings of...

      Gold prices hit a 10-month high Tuesday

      But the precious metal is still hundreds of dollars less than its 2011 high

      The price of gold has consistently moved higher in 2019 and this week reached a 10-month high, with a number of factors possibly contributing to its rise.

      April Comex gold made a 1.4 percent move Tuesday to $1,340.80 an ounce, adding to a more than 4 percent increase so far for the year.

      The precious metal began its rally at about the time the Federal Reserve signaled that it might not raise interest rates two times in 2019 as previously stated. The Fed has made more dovish statements in the wake of data suggesting the economy is slowing.

      Gold is often an alternative currency and usually rises during periods of dollar weakness and when inflation picks up steam. Though inflation remains tame, the fact that the Fed is backing away from hiking rates could allow the economy to heat up.

      The runup in gold could also be a case of money having to go somewhere. Despite the recent rally in equities, many analysts believe the stock market is overbought. At the same time, there has been weakness in the bond market. To many investors, gold is appearing more attractive as a safe haven.

      Uncertainty is a factor

      "The uncertainty of the trade talks and fears that the U.S. equity market may be running out of steam is creating capital flows into a more protective allocation,"  Peter Hug, global trading director at Kitco Metals, told Seeking Alpha.

      Hug also said geopolitical concerns about Brexit -- Britain’s exit from the European Union -- have “the potential to derail the entire continent."

      The last major rally in gold occurred from 2009 to 2011 as an outgrowth of the financial crisis. The price of gold hit a high of $1,917 an ounce on August 22, 2011. During that time, you couldn’t turn on cable television without seeing commercials urging viewers to buy physical gold -- gold bars and coins. Those who did late in the rally are still underwater eight years later.

      Get ready for the gold commercials

      With gold prices spiking so far this year consumers can expect to start seeing those commercials again. However, there are some things to keep in mind.

      There are ways to own gold without purchasing physical gold, which has to be stored and can’t always be quickly sold. There are a number of gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) that can be bought and sold like stocks. The ETFs hold the physical gold and the share price rises and falls with the price of gold.

      If you are considering investing in gold you need to do your homework. You can start with ConsumerAffairs’ How To Buy Gold. And before making any financial investment, it’s always best to speak with a trusted and objective financial advisor.

      The price of gold has consistently moved higher in 2019 and this week reached a 10-month high, with a number of factors possibly contributing to its rise....

      Toyota recalls 1.3 million vehicles with airbag inflator issue

      The inflator may explode causing injury or death

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling nearly 1.3 million vehicles including:

      Model year 2014-2016 Toyota 4Runners, model year 2014-2015 Scion xBs, Lexus IS350Cs, IS250Cs, model year 2014 Toyota Siennas, Lexus IS-Fs, and model year 2014-2017 Lexus GX460s sold, or ever registered in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands – or "Zone A."

      Model year 2011-2013 Toyota Corollas, Corolla Matrixs, Lexus IS250s, IS350s, model year 2011-2016 4Runners, model year 2011-2015 Scion xBs, Lexus IS350Cs, IS250Cs, model year 2011-2014 Toyota Siennas, Lexus IS-Fs, model year 2011-2017 Lexus GX460s, and model year 2011-2012 Lexus ES350s ever registered in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – or "Zone B."

      Model year 2010-2013 Toyota Corollas, Corolla Matrixs, Lexus IS350s, model year 2010-2016 4Runners, model year 2010-2013 Lexus IS250s, model year 2010-2015 Scion xBs, Lexus IS350Cs, IS250Cs, model year 2010-2017 Lexus GX460s, model year 2010-2014 Lexus IS-Fs, and model year 2010-2012 Lexus ES350s ever registered in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming – or "Zone C."

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules, used as original equipment or replacement equipment (such as after a vehicle crash necessitating replacement of the original air bags), 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

      Toyota will notify owners. Depending on the vehicle model, dealers will replace the front passenger airbag inflator, or replace the airbag assembly.

      The recall was expected to begin February 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (800) 331-4331.

      Toyota's codes for this recall are "Zone A" Toyota: G0P, Lexus: GLG; "Zone B" Toyota: G0R, Lexus GLH; "Zone C" Toyota: H0A, and Lexus: HLA.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling nearly 1.3 million vehicles including:Model year 2014-2016 Toyota 4Runners, model year 2014-2015...

      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2019 CLS450s, CLS450 4MATICs, and CLS53 AMGs.

      The headlights may be improperly adjusted

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 104 model year 2019 CLS450s, CLS450 4MATICs, and CLS53 AMGs.

      The horizontal adjustment screw may not be effectively sealed, allowing the headlights to be improperly adjusted.

      If the headlights are not properly adjusted, the driver may have reduced visibility, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the horizontal headlight adjustment screws, sealing them as necessary, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to owners on February 13, 2019, notifying them of the issue. A second owner notification letter will be sent when the repair is available.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 104 model year 2019 CLS450s, CLS450 4MATICs, and CLS53 AMGs.The horizontal adjustment screw may not be effective...

      Nissan recalls model year 2015-2017 Altimas

      The rear door may open when the window is lowered

      Nissan North America is recalling 341,003 model year 2015-2017 Altimas, previously remedied under an earlier recall.

      The door latch-lock cable may not have been routed properly in the rear door when the remedy was applied. As a result, it may interfere with the window regulator causing the rear passenger door to unlatch and inadvertently open without warning when the window is lowered.

      If the rear passenger door opens while the vehicle is moving, the passengers have an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will secure the latch-lock cables in the correct position using the new remedy procedure, free of charge.

      The recall began February 5, 2019.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7669.

      Nissan North America is recalling 341,003 model year 2015-2017 Altimas, previously remedied under an earlier recall.The door latch-lock cable may not h...

      U.S. court gives people unfairly placed on the ‘No-Fly List’ the right to sue

      Questions of bullying and discrimination continue to be raised

      In a 7-3 vote on Thursday, a federal appeals court said that American Muslims who found themselves on the “No-Fly List” because they refused to become a government informant can file lawsuits against FBI agents and seek monetary damages.

      The plaintiffs -- which include all U.S. citizens or permanent residents born abroad --  had sought damages under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 United States federal law that "ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected." The plaintiffs claimed that being on the “No-Fly List” precipitated social alienation, the inability to visit relatives, and even job loss.

      “The dissent argued that the decision places an unacceptable burden on federal employees tasked with protecting national security,” commented aviation blog LiveAndLetsFly. “The dissent feared these professionals will become too intimidated to protect national security for fear of being held personally liable. The dissent also argued that Supreme Court precedent specifically limited the liability of government officials for such misconduct.”

      “...should not government officials be held accountable for essentially bullying innocent parties who do not wish serve as government informants? Perhaps it is time for Congress to change the law.”

      This is the second such No-Fly List court ruling already this year. Reuters recently reported that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-3 that the government should pay millions of dollars to lawyers for a Muslim woman it put on the No-Fly List after mistakenly branding her a terrorist.

      One might think the government would have its airline passenger scrutiny act together by now. As far back as 2005, ConsumerAffairs reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) found itself in a stew when it mistakenly put 30,000 unsuspecting airline passengers on a "terrorist watch" list.

      What is the No-Fly List?

      The No-Fly List is a list created and maintained by the federal government's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). It is made up of people prohibited from boarding commercial aircraft for travel within, into, or out of the United States.

      The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long criticized the list as “bloated, discriminatory, and unfair.”

      “Because of the extreme secrecy surrounding the No-Fly List, people generally only discover that they are on it when they are denied boarding at the airport,” writes the ACLU.

      “The public does not know how many people are on the No-Fly List, and the criteria for inclusion are so broad and vague that they inevitably ensnare innocent people engaged in First Amendment-protected speech, activity, or association. The process the government has established for people on the No-Fly List to challenge their blacklisting is grossly insufficient and violates the Constitution’s due process guarantee.”

      Name-calling consumers has major consequences

      As credit reporting agency TransUnion found out a couple of years ago, misidentifying a consumer as a terrorist can be a costly mistake.

      When TransUnion labeled consumers as criminals in their credit reports, a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 8,000 consumers ensued, eventually resulting in a $60 million jury award to the plaintiffs.

      In a 7-3 vote on Thursday, a federal appeals court said that American Muslims who found themselves on the “No-Fly List” because they refused to become a go...

      College graduates are making less than they expect per year

      A recent study finds that graduates make around $12,000 less than they expect annually

      Upon entering the workforce, college graduates are bringing home less than they expected on an annual basis, according to a recent study by personal finance website LendEDU.

      The website analyzed a College Pulse survey of 7,000 college students from nearly 1,000 colleges and universities and found that students expect to earn $60,000 in their first job out of college. However, most graduates with zero to five years experience will earn about $48,400, according to PayScale estimates.

      “College students should expect to receive a comfortable salary after graduation; ambition is a good thing,” the report authors wrote. “However, it is important to keep the expectations in check to allow for realistic budgeting and financial planning.”

      The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) calculates that the preliminary average starting salary for graduates from the class of 2018 is about $50,004 -- 2 percent less than last year’s average starting salary.

      Strong job market

      NACE notes, however, that employers plan to hire 16.6 percent more members of the Class of 2019 than the previous year's graduating class, which is the largest jump among recent graduates since 2007.

      "If you're graduating from college now, you've timed it perfectly," Brian Kropp, vice president at research firm Gartner told CNBC Make It. "It's hard to think of a better labor market that you could go into."

      Despite the trade war and stock market slump, the job market has remained stable. According to a January report from the Labor Department, employers increased their payrolls by 304,000 positions.

      Still, LendEDU says it’s important for recent graduates to have realistic expectations about how much they will make right out of the gate. Realistic expectations can ensure that students won’t be disappointed by their starting salary, as well as help them potentially avoid turning down a job that could be a perfect fit.

      “With a few years of resume-building and developing an adept ability to negotiate in the business world, that recent graduate can earn the salary they were expecting and then some,” LendEDU said.

      Upon entering the workforce, college graduates are bringing home less than they expected on an annual basis, according to a recent study by personal financ...

      FAA probing Southwest’s system for calculating cargo weight

      An investigation reportedly found ‘systemic and significant’ discrepancies

      Federal regulators are reportedly investigating Southwest Airlines for the way it calculates the weight of checked bags on suspicion that it is under-reporting its load.

      The Wall Street Journal reports the investigation began a year ago and has turned up “systemic and significant” mistakes. It’s a critical issue because pilots make calculations based on the weight the plane is carrying.

      The investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly found the difference between what the pilots believed to be the weight they were carrying and the actual weight was as much as 1,000 pounds.

      According to the aviation website Skybrary, it is important to know the exact weight on board because any excess weight reduces the efficiency of an aircraft and the safety margin available if an emergency condition should arise.

      “Overloading effects stability,” the site’s editors write. “An aircraft that is stable and controllable when loaded normally may have very different flight characteristics when overloaded. Although the distribution of weight has the most direct effect on this, an increase in the aircraft’s gross weight may be expected to have an adverse effect on stability, regardless of the location of the CG (center of gravity).”

      In a statement to the media, Southwest said it is continuing to track and report its operational data to the FAA “so that we can mitigate and eliminate any operational risks.” There have been no Southwest operational incidents attributed to a misloaded aircraft.

      State of emergency

      February hasn’t been especially kind to Southwest. On Friday the airline issued a “state of emergency” after the out-of-service rate for its fleet of Boeing 737s doubled. Around 100 flights had to be canceled because of maintenance issues, complicating weather delays.

      "The uptick in maintenance items we experienced over the last few days have resulted in a slight increase" in cancellations, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told CNBC on Friday.

      Southwest said it believes any weight discrepancies reported to the FAA have been resolved, though it is continuing to closely monitor its baggage control system. The FAA said its investigation will remain open until such time that it is satisfied that the airline has resolved the issue.

      Federal regulators are reportedly investigating Southwest Airlines for the way it calculates the weight of checked bags on suspicion that it is under-repor...

      Amazon vows to reduce its carbon footprint

      The company is aiming to make half of its shipments carbon-neutral by 2030 under a new sustainability initiative

      Amazon announced on Monday that it’s striving to reduce its carbon footprint through a new environmental initiative called “Shipment Zero.” The company is aiming to make 50 percent of all Amazon shipments carbon-free by 2030.

      In a blog post, Dave Clark, the company’s senior vice president of world operations, said that with improvements in electric vehicles, aviation biofuels, reusable packaging, and renewable energy, the company can now “see a path to net zero carbon delivery of shipments to customers.”

      “It won’t be easy to achieve this goal, but it’s worth being focused and stubborn on this vision and we’re committed to seeing it through,” Clark said.

      Going green

      Amazon said it will share its company-wide carbon footprint “along with related goals and programs” later this year. The data will be obtained from an advanced scientific model capable of accurately mapping Amazon’s carbon footprint, which will also help the company identify ways to reduce carbon use in its operations, Clark added.

      The e-commerce giant’s “Shipment Zero” initiative complements other sustainability programs currently being run by Amazon, including Frustration-Free Packaging and Ship in Own Container.

      Amazon also noted that it has a network of solar and wind farms, solar installations on its fulfillment center rooftops, and investments in the circular economy. The company said it employs more than 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers who are dedicated to developing new ways to leverage Amazon’s scale for the “good of the customers and the planet.”

      Amazon announced on Monday that it’s striving to reduce its carbon footprint through a new environmental initiative called “Shipment Zero.” The company is...