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    Whose lives matter to self-driving cars?

    Reports suggesting that self-driving cars can’t ‘see’ people of color, people on bikes, and others leave more questions than answers about the safety of autonomous technology

    When a recent paper suggested that self-driving cars are more likely to hit pedestrians with darker skin, it was met with some skepticism. Critics quickly..

    Some tech support scam victims getting refunds

    The FTC and state of Ohio are sending out average checks of $417

    Some victims of the tech support scam who live in Ohio are getting justice. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the state of Ohio are sending out $92,000 in refunds to consumers who were tricked.

    We’ve reported on this scheme over the years. There are many variations of the tech support scam, but most go like this: an ad that looks like a security alert pops up on a consumer’s computer informing them they have a virus and provides a toll-free number to call to get it removed.

    If the victim bites, he or she will be charged several hundred dollars for “lifetime support” and sold useless software they don’t need. It’s rare that victims ever get relief, but in this case the FTC and Ohio reached a settlement with operators who were doing business under a variety of names, including Repair All PC and WebTech World, among others.

    Masquerading as Microsoft

    As early as 2015, scammers were cold calling consumers and claiming to be employees of Microsoft, telling their intended victims that an analysis had indicated their PC was infected with malware that could be removed for a hefty fee. In one year, Microsoft said it received 175,000 complaints about that scheme.

    The latest FTC complaint said people who called the toll-free number listed on the pop-up ads were urged to provide the telemarketers with remote access to their computers. The telemarketers then went through the motions of running diagnostic tests before delivering the bad news -- the victim’s computer was packed with viruses, had been hacked, or had other problems.

    Checks are in the mail

    The FTC said it is mailing checks, averaging $417 each, to 222 victims of the scam. Those receiving a check should deposit or cash it within 60 days, as indicated on the check.

    The FTC also points out that it never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check, heading off yet another scam in which criminals promise to help victims receive their compensation in exchange for a fee.

    Consumers who believe they are due a refund should watch their mail for a check. If they have questions, they can contact the FTC’s refund administrator -- Rust Consulting, Inc. -- at 1-877-773-8183.

    Some victims of the tech support scam who live in Ohio are getting justice. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the state of Ohio are sending out $92,00...
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    Current E. Coli outbreak remains a mystery

    Consumer groups are arguing for more food safety resources

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified two sources of an E. coli contamination that has sickened 177 people over the last few weeks, but the agency still has a mystery on its hands.

    The same strain of E. coli -- 0103 -- has been linked to K2D, which sells beef under the brand name Colorado Premium Foods and Grant Park Packing. The two food companies are not related in any way and are located in different states. But both have been linked to E. coli 0103, which is responsible for most, but not all, of the illnesses in the current outbreak.

    Then there’s the fact that some people got sick after eating ground beef in restaurants while others got sick from hamburger meat cooked at home. In a Food Safety Alert, the CDC said it is searching for other possible sources of contamination, calling it an “evolving” investigation.

    The CDC has just released preliminary data showing little headway in dealing with foodborne illness in the U.S. It reported the most commonly reported pathogen associated with foodborne illness last year was Campylobacter, a bacteria associated with raw or undercooked poultry. It had an incidence rate of 19.6 cases per 100,000 people in 2018, a 12 percent increase over a baseline period of 2015-2017.

    Targeting Campylobacter

    In its report, the CDC recommended measures to “target Campylobacter contamination in chicken” as a means of reducing foodborne illness. The suggestion was welcomed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which has long complained that food safety resources are being diminished.

    “USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service prompted an outcry from consumer advocates last year when it revealed that changes in the Campylobacter testing methodology have prevented the agency from detecting the vast majority of positive samples,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of Food Policy at CFA.

    Gremillion said one area of concern is a decision by food safety inspectors to stop assessing whether restaurants and food processing establishments meet the current Campylobacter performance standards.

    “Hopefully this latest data will motivate USDA to reconsider interim measures for controlling Campylobacter in poultry plants, and to work expeditiously to develop new performance standards,” he said.

    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced this week he will push Congress to restore funding in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) budget to look for and eradicate bacteria in food. His comments came after inspectors found Listeria and Salmonella bacteria that shut down an ice cream manufacturing plant.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified two sources of an E. coli contamination that has sickened 177 people over the last few...
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      Los Angeles launches its own Green New Deal

      The plan calls for electric vehicles and less driving. But the advocates who popularized the idea nationally aren’t impressed

      Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday announced plans for a local Green New Deal initiative.

      Under the  plan, Los Angeles residents will have to cut their driving by 50 percent over the next three decades and use transportation other than a personal car for at least half of their trips by 2035. The plan also calls for 10,000 chargers for electric vehicles to be installed across the city.

      At the municipal level, the initiative will require renovations on all city-owned buildings to make them “all-electric.” The plan also calls for an end to styrofoam and for the planting of 90,000 trees by 2021. Plastic straws and single-use containers will be phased out by 2028. Overall, Garcetti says, the plan will help Los Angeles become carbon-neutral by 2050.

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez popularized the idea of a Green New Deal following protests by the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots environmental non-profit.

      In a blog post, Sunrise Movement organizers gave a grim assessment of Los Angeles’ local answer to the national proposal.

      “That is not a Green New Deal,” the organization said.

      Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday announced plans for a local Green New Deal initiative.Under the  plan, Los Angeles residents will have to cut...
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      Marriott to launch home-sharing service akin to Airbnb

      Unlike Airbnb, the chain is focusing on luxury home rentals

      Marriott is eyeing a share of the home-sharing market, currently dominated by Airbnb. The hotel chain announced Tuesday that it’s launching a home-sharing product similar to Airbnb following a successful pilot in Europe.

      “The launch of Homes & Villas by Marriott International reflects our ongoing commitment to innovation as consumer travel needs evolve,” Marriott International Global Chief Commercial Officer Stephanie Linnartz said in a statement. “What started out as a pilot a year ago is now a global offering, providing our guests with the space and amenities of a home backed by a trusted travel company, and the very best in loyalty benefits.”

      Marriott’s home-sharing platform will focus exclusively on high-end homes that are managed by property management companies. The chain said it will offer 2,000 premium home rentals in over 100 destinations, with plans to expand to other locations later.

      Premium home rentals

      “By working with a select group of professional management companies that understand and operate in this dynamic landscape, we are able to focus on what we do best – selecting a breadth of homes in inspiring destinations, setting standards for responsive service and designing a seamless booking experience that helps our guests navigate an increasingly complex and uncertain set of home rental choices,” Marriott International VP of Homes & Villas Jennifer Hsieh said in a statement.

      Marriott believes it may have an edge over Airbnb in the area of hotel-like amenities, which are often lacking in Airbnb rentals. The company said it guarantees that certain extras -- including Wi-Fi, crisp white sheets, bath amenities, baby cribs, and smoke alarms -- will be available to guests.

      Prices to rent one of Marriott’s properties range from $200 to $10,000 a night. Customers enrolled in Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program can earn points toward hotel rewards every time they rent a house or apartment through the company’s new service.

      Marriott is eyeing a share of the home-sharing market, currently dominated by Airbnb. The hotel chain announced Tuesday that it’s launching a home-sharing...
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      Lyft and Uber press pause on hiring drivers in New York City

      Extra precautions are being taken as both companies go public

      Ridesharing leaders Lyft and Uber have put a temporary hold on new driver applications in New York City.

      In a report first published by Politico, Uber stopped hiring new drivers in the Big Apple on April 1, then Lyft followed suit on April 19.

      Uber’s move may seem retaliatory to some, given that it was only a couple of months ago when Uber sued the city for placing a cap on the allowable number of ride-sharing drivers.

      “In a little-noticed posting on its website, Uber attributed its new policy ‘in part to new TLC regulations,’” Politico reported. On Lyft’s site, ConsumerAffairs found a simply-worded “Because of TLC regulations, we're currently not accepting new drivers in New York City at this time. You can still apply to drive in the rest of New York State and New Jersey.”

      Too many cars on an uneven playing ground

      New York City imposed its new limits on the allowable number of ridesharing vehicles on its streets last August, claiming that the overabundance of ridesharing drivers -- some 80,000 compared to 13,000 taxi drivers -- was creating an unanticipated high level of traffic congestion.

      The city’s new rules would penalize Lyft and Uber for having an oversupply of cars without passengers on the city’s streets. The higher the utilization rate is for companies like Lyft and Uber, the less those companies have to pay drivers to meet the new wage floor requirement. That new minimum for ridesharing drivers would be $17.22 an hour after expenses.

      Lyft and Uber’s presence on New York’s streets were also a thorn in the side of taxi drivers for the simple fact that taxi drivers have rules they have to follow to keep their license and rideshare drivers don’t.

      Transportation industry expert Bruce Schaller told Politico his take is that Uber and Lyft’s hiring freeze is an offshoot of the new wage minimum and New York City’s single-year ban on new for-hire vehicles which began August, 2018.

      “Both companies are now moving toward limiting how many cars and drivers are on the street,” Schaller said. “That should be good for traffic. And the [city] wage rule should mean it's good for drivers."

      The hand-wringing continues

      Is ridesharing a good thing or a bad thing? How much do consumers need? Over the course of the last few years, ConsumerAffairs has seen it all -- from lawsuits over Lyft and Uber denying access to disabled consumers to a class action lawsuit by Uber drivers alleging that the company denied them employment based on illegal background checks.

      For the moment, both Lyft and Uber are both on their best behavior as they roll out initial public offerings (IPO). Lyft has already been slapped with a lawsuit for over-stating its value, and in preparation for its soon-to-happen IPO. Uber is taking a more cautious approach, telling potential investors that it may never be profitable and citing factors such as driver recruitment, competitive pricing moves, and trying to build up its side hustles like food delivery and scooters.

      Ridesharing leaders Lyft and Uber have put a temporary hold on new driver applications in New York City.In a report first published by Politico, Uber s...
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      T-Mobile and Sprint extend merger deadline until July 29

      Justice Department officials are still looking into the claim that the merger would create a better, faster 5G infrastructure

      In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), T-Mobile and Sprint announced a deadline extension for their $26 billion merger. The telecom companies now have until July 29 to get FCC and Justice Department officials on board with their proposal to merge.

      Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the two companies had been told by Justice Department staff that the merger isn’t likely to be approved as currently structured.

      This week, Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said he’s not sure whether he will greenlight the deal.

      “I have not made up my mind,” Delrahim said in an interview with CNBC. “The investigation continues. We’ve requested some data from the companies that will be forthcoming. We don’t have a set number of meetings or a timeline.”

      Consumer groups argue against the merger

      The merger would combine the nation’s third and fourth largest telecommunications companies. Both Sprint and T-Mobile have insisted that the merger is crucial to their ability to compete with their larger rivals ahead of the nationwide rollout of 5G technology.

      The deal has hung in the balance since it was first announced last April. It has faced stiff opposition from consumer groups who argue that the merger would lead to higher prices for consumers, as well as the loss of up to 30,000 jobs.

      The 4Competition Coalition, one of the groups that has spoken out against the deal, published a statement this week reiterating that its members believe the merger should not be approved.

      “In the year since T-Mobile and Sprint announced plans to merge, they have failed to show that this deal is in the public interest and complies with antitrust law,” the group said. “The companies seem to believe PR and spin will carry the day, but we believe that, based on the facts and the law, this proposed merger should be blocked.”

      In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), T-Mobile and Sprint announced a deadline extension for their $26 billion merger. The telecom...
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      Burger King’s meatless burger to become permanent menu staple

      The addition reflects growing consumer demand for plant-based food

      Burger King is adding a meatless burger to its menus nationwide. The fast food chain launched a pilot program on April 1 to test the Impossible Whopper, a vegan patty made from wheat and potato proteins, at 59 stores in Missouri.

      Less than a month later, Burger King says the pilot project has shown “encouraging results” and that the meatless patty is ready to become a permanent menu item. The patty is made by Beyond Meat, a company that also produces meatless burger substitutes for Carl’s Jr. restaurants.

      The embrace of plant-based foods by fast food restaurants reflects a growing consumer demand for veggie options, even among consumers who aren’t full-time vegans or vegetarians.

      Burger King is adding a meatless burger to its menus nationwide. The fast food chain launched a pilot program on April 1 to test the Impossible Whopper, a...
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      Reports of Deaths prompts recall of all Kids II Rocking Sleepers

      Infant fatalities have occurred after the infants rolled from their back to their stomach

      Kids II of Atlanta, Georgia, is recalling about 694,0000 Kids II Rocking Sleepers.

      Infant fatalities have occurred in the Rocking Sleepers, after the infants rolled from their back to their stomach while unrestrained, or under other circumstances.

      Five infant fatalities have occurred since the the product was introduced in 2012.

      This recall involves ALL models of Kids II Rocking Sleepers:

      Style Number

      Product Name

      10081

      Bright Starts Playtime To Bedtime Rocking Sleeper

      10126

      Rock & Dream Sleeper - Iggy

      10127

      Ingenuity Rock And Dream Sleeper Lucy

      10148

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Cuddle Giraffe

      10178

      Bright Starts Pretty In Pink Playtime To Bedtime Rocking Sleeper

      10289

      Ingenuity Smartrock Poweradapt Sleeper Cambridge

      10292

      Ingenuity Rock N’ Soothe Sleeper Dayton

      10320

      Automatic Rock 'N Soothe Sleeper - Cuddle Lamb

      10380

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Cuddle Lion

      10568

      Ingenuity Soothing Light Rocking Sleeper Vesper

      10729

      Bright Starts Toucan Tango Rocking Sleeper

      10872

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Zoo Zoo Zebra

      10888

      DreamComfort Automatic Rocking Sleeper - Whitley

      10890

      DreamComfort Soothing Light Rocking Sleeper - Addington

      11021

      Bright Starts Rocking Sleeper Jungle Bursts

      11022

      Bright Starts Pretty In Pink Rocking Sleeper Jungle Blooms

      11063

      Rock n' Soothe Sleeper - Moxley

      11164

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Lullaby Lion

      11171

      Ingenuity Rock N’ Soothe Sleeper SUNNY SNUGGLES

      11357

      Ingenuity Rock N’ Soothe Sleeper DAYTON

      11429

      Ingenuity Dream Comfort Automatic Rocking Sleeper Braden

      11714

      DreamComfort Automatic Rocking Sleeper - Anders

      11792

      Automatic Rock 'n Soothe Sleeper - Nolan

      11894

      Bright Starts ROCKING SLEEPER - JUNGLE GARDEN

      11895

      Bright Starts ROCKING SLEEPER - EVENING SAFARI

      11962

      Automatic Rock 'n Soothe Sleeper - Flora the Unicorn

      12115

      Automatic Rock N Soothe Sleeper – Nolan - Display

      60130

      Taggies Snuggle Me Sleeper Nestling Vine

      60131

      Bright Starts Playtime To Bedtime Sleeper

      60163

      Bright Starts Pretty In Pink Playtime To Bedtime Sleeper

      60327

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Deluxe Emerson

      60328

      Disney Baby/Bright Starts Bows & Butterflies Sleeper Minnie Mouse

      60331

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Lullaby Lamb

      60401

      Bright Starts Playtime To Bedtime Sleeper Playful Pinwheels

      60600

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Deluxe Winslow

      60635

      Ingenuity Moonlight Rocking Sleeper Deluxe Seneca

      All cloth component parts of the models identified above

      The Rocking Sleepers, manufactured in China, were sold at major retailers nationwide, including Walmart, Target and Toys “R” Us and online from March 2012, through April 26, 2019, for approximately $40-$80.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the product and contact Kids II for a refund or voucher.

      Consumers may contact Kids II toll-free at (866) 869-7954from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.kids2.com and click on “IMPORTANT RECALL INFORMATION” at the top of the page.

      Kids II of Atlanta, Georgia, is recalling about 694,0000 Kids II Rocking Sleepers.Infant fatalities have occurred in the Rocking Sleepers, after the in...
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      Flying Tiger Copenhagen recalls toy train carts

      The steam dome on the toy train’s engine car can come loose

      Flying Tiger Copenhagen is recalling about 2,200 wooden train carts.

      The steam dome on the toy train’s engine car can come loose, posing a choking hazard.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves all five pieces of the wooden toy train carts. The train carts have a blue base, and colorful wagon on top, as either the front part of the train, with two steam domes, an apple cart, a wood log cart, a milk cart and a caboose cart.

      All train carts were sold with a white label, which was placed around each cart with a nylon string. The model number (3010874) and batch number (211693US) are printed on the label.

      Each piece has been sold individually.

      The toy train carts, manufactured in China, were sold at Flying Tiger Copenhagen stores nationwide from November 2018, through March 2019, for about $2.

      What to do

      Consumers should take the recalled toy train cart away from children immediately and return it to the nearest Flying Tiger Copenhagen store for a full refund. No receipt is needed.

      Consumers may contact Flying Tiger Copenhagen toll-free at (844) 350-0560 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at info.us@flyingtiger.com, or online at www.flyingtiger.com and click on “Product Information” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Flying Tiger Copenhagen is recalling about 2,200 wooden train carts.The steam dome on the toy train’s engine car can come loose, posing a choking hazar...
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      Legacy Pharmaceutical expands Losartan Potassium tablet recall

      The product contains trace amounts of a potential human carcinogen

      Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging is expanding its earlier recall of Losartan Potassium tablets, a prescription medication used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, to include one additional lot.

      The product contains trace amounts of N-Nitroso N-Methyl 4-amino butyric acid (NMBA), a potential human carcinogen.

      Legacy has not received any reports of adverse events to date.

      The following four repackaged lots numbers (3 initial repackaged lot and 1 expanded repackaged lot) , are being recalled:

      LEGACY NDC#Name and StrengthCountLegacy Lot #Expiry
      68645-494-54Losartan Potassium Tablets USP 50 mg3018019010/2020
      68645-494-54Losartan Potassium Tablets USP 50 mg3018019110/2020
      68645-494-54Losartan Potassium Tablets USP 50 mg3018159702/2021
      68645-494-54Losartan Potassium Tablets USP 50 mg3018159802/2021

      The product can be identified by checking the product name and repackaged lot number on the bottle containing these products.

      The recalled product was distributed by pharmacies nationwide.

      What to do

      Legacy is notifying its customers in writing and is arranging/assisting for return of all recalled products to Inmar Pharmaceutical Services.

      Instructions for returning recalled products are provided in the recall letter.

      Consumers with questions may contact Inmar at (877) 538-8443, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm EST.

      Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging is expanding its earlier recall of Losartan Potassium tablets, a prescription medication used to treat high blood pressure...
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      Honda recalls Acura and Honda vehicles with timing belt issue

      The engine may stall, increasing the risk of crash

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 93,946 model year 2018-2019 Acura MDXs & Honda Pilots, and model year 2019 Acura RLXs, RLX Sport Hybrids, TLXs, and Honda Odysseys and Ridgelines.

      The timing belt teeth may separate from the belt, which may result in an engine stall, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicle and replace any affected timing belt free of charge. Vehicles receiving a replacement timing belt will also have the engine inspected and any damaged components will be replaced for free.

      The recall is expected to begin June 1, 2019.

      Owners may contact customer service at (888) 234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is L4M. Acura's number for this recall is Z4L.

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 93,946 model year 2018-2019 Acura MDXs & Honda Pilots, and model year 2019 Acura RLXs, RLX Sport Hybrids, TLXs, and...
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      Plane seat manufacturer unveils ‘saddle-style’ seats for cabins

      The concept would allow airlines to squeeze in more passengers

      At the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2019 in Germany, Italian seat manufacturer Aviointeriors unveiled a new chair design that would put airplane passengers in a near-standing position. The concept would allow airlines to offer another option called "ultra-basic economy,” the company said.

      The latest version of the company’s Skyrider “standing seat” looks similar to a bicycle seat and requires a passenger to straddle the middle section while leaning against a back support.

      “Skyrider is concept foundation of new way to travel in the short-haul routes,” the company said on its website. “Innovation is driving Aviointeriors in developing a new concept of a family of economy seats.”

      ‘Ultra-high density’ of people

      Aviointeriors says its Skyrider standing seats may appeal to airlines eyeing different ways of fitting more passengers into cabins on flights shorter than three hours. With the seats installed, airplane cabins would be able to fit in 20 percent more passengers in the same amount of space.

      The manufacturer explained that the seats would allow for an “ultra-high density” of passengers in the cabin because each seat “ensures an increased upright passenger position, allowing installation of the seat at a reduced pitch.”

      Additionally, the newest version of the Skyrider seat “weighs 50% less than standard economy class seats and the reduced number of components enable minimum maintenance costs,” Aviointeriors said.

      So far, no airline has expressed interest in testing Aviointeriors’ standing seats.

      The unveiling of the latest iteration of the company’s standing seats comes just a few weeks after Delta revealed that it’s testing reduced-recline seats in its A320 aircraft cabins. Delta insists the move is intended to increase legroom and improve the customer experience for everyone, not cram more seats into the economy cabin.

      “It’s all about protecting customers’ personal space and minimizing disruptions to multitasking in-flight.” Savannah Huddleston, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement.

      At the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2019 in Germany, Italian seat manufacturer Aviointeriors unveiled a new chair design that would put airplane passengers in a...
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      Justice Department opens investigation into Ford’s emissions testing practices

      The automaker voluntarily disclosed the matter of potential emissions miscalculations

      Ford is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the testing practices it uses to calculate diesel emissions. In its first-quarter financial report, Ford said the probe “currently focuses on issues relating to road load estimations, including analytical modeling and coastdown testing."

      In an effort to preemptively distance itself from comparisons to Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate” scandal, the automaker noted that the investigation "does not involve the use of defeat devices.” Rather, it involves the potential issue of miscalculations made during the testing process.

      The investigation stems from "overstated" fuel mileage on a "large number" of models, according to the regulatory filing. Back in February, Ford launched its own investigation into its emissions testing practices after employees noticed inconsistencies in results.

      "We voluntarily disclosed this matter to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board [CARB] on February 18, 2019 and February 21, 2019, respectively," Ford said in the report. The Justice Department then "opened a criminal investigation into the matter.”

      “In addition, we have notified a number of other state and federal agencies,” the automaker said. “We are fully cooperating with all government agencies. Because this matter is still in the preliminary stages, we cannot predict the outcome, and we cannot provide assurance that it will not have a material adverse effect on us."

      While Ford has self-reported its potential emissions miscaluations, the SEC has accused Volkswagen of deliberately concealing its emissions scheme. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and Fiat Chrysler have also faced criminal investigations over the use of defeat devices.

      Ford is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the testing practices it uses to calculate diesel emissions. In its f...
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      Boeing didn’t tell a major airline an important 737 MAX 8 safety feature wasn’t working

      Southwest said it learned about it after the Lion Air crash in October

      Southwest Airlines, which owns the largest U.S. fleet of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, was unaware a standard safety feature to warn pilots about malfunctioning sensors had been turned off on those jets.

      Boeing did not tell Southwest the alarm, known as a “disagree” monitor, was turned off until after the fatal Lion Air crash of a 737 MAX 8 in October, according to The Wall Street Journal. Five months later another MAX 8, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed on takeoff killing all on board.

      In both instances, faulty data from the angle of attack (AOA) sensor is believed to have played a role in the accidents by forcing the planes’ nose down during takeoff when the aircraft should have been climbing.

      In cases like that, the disagree monitor should light up in the cockpit, alerting the crew that the plane was responding to incorrect information. The AOA disagree light is a working function on all older models of the Boeing 737.

      In a statement to CNBC, Southwest said that prior to the Lion Air crash last year it had reason to believe the AOA disagree monitor was operable.

      “The manual documentation presented by Boeing at Southwest’s MAX entry into service indicated the AOA Disagree Light functioned on the aircraft, similar to the Lights on our NG series,” the airline said. “After the Lion Air event, Boeing notified us that the AOA Disagree Lights were inoperable without the optional AOA Indicators on the MAX aircraft.”

      After receiving that information, Southwest said it took steps to activate the AOA disagree lights on all of its 737 MAX aircraft. Southwest owns 34 of the MAX 8s while American has 24 and United operates 14.

      Effect on earnings

      Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly cited the grounding of those 34 jets as one reason Southwest’s first-quarter earnings fell below last year’s. In addition, Kelly said the government shutdown and bitterly cold weather in the first two months of the year were a drag on earnings. Kelly said the grounding could further affect operations throughout 2019.

      “We simply don't have a confirmed timeline to share with regard to when the MAX will return to service,” Kelly said in a statement. “There have been dates ranging from May to July depending on who is commenting. We have our schedule adjusted through August 5th, and if the aircraft are available to fly earlier, we will use them as additional spares to further enhance the reliability of our scheduled service.”

      Southwest Airlines, which owns the largest U.S. fleet of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, was unaware a standard safety feature to warn pilots about malfu...
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