Current Events in April 2019

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    Market of Choice recalls Pork and Poultry pâté

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

    Market of Choice of Eugene, Ore., is recalling approximately 1,094 pounds of pork and poultry pâté.

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

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

    The following items, produced on various dates prior to March 26, 2019 with a 30-day shelf life, are being recalled:

    • 5-oz. packages containing slices of “Market of Choice Country Pâté” and sell by dates prior to and including 04/25/19.
    • 5-oz. packages containing slices of “Market of Choice Chicken Pâté with Rosemary & Lemon” with sell by dates prior to and including 04/25/19.
    • Whole terrine bulk packages containing “Market of Choice NORTHWEST GAME PATE” with sell by dates prior to and including 04/25/19.
    • Terrine bulk packages containing “COUNTRY PORK & PISTACHIO PATE MARKET OF CHOICE” with sell by dates prior to and including 04/25/19.
    • Terrine bulk packages containing “LEMON CHICKEN & ROSEMARY PATE MARKET OF CHOICE” with sell by dates prior to and including 04/25/19.

    The recalled products were shipped to Market of Choice retail locations in Oregon.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Patrick Lowen at (541) 513-0486.

    Market of Choice of Eugene, Ore., is recalling approximately 1,094 pounds of pork and poultry pâté.The products contain milk and soy, allergens not dec...

    Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Jeep Wranglers and Ram 1500s

    The steering wheel may detach from the steering column

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 52 model year 2019 Jeep Wranglers and Ram 1500s.

    The vehicles have improperly machined steering column stub shafts that may break, possibly causing the steering wheel to detach from the steering column.

    If the steering wheel detaches from the steering column, the driver may lose control of the vehicle, increasing the risk of crash.

    What to do

    Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the steering column, replacing it, as necessary, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin May 3, 2019.

    Owners may contact FCA US customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V29.

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 52 model year 2019 Jeep Wranglers and Ram 1500s.The vehicles have improperly machined steering column stub shafts th...

    Federal regulators finally decide to investigate Kia and Hyundai fires

    NHTSA is examining 2.9 million Kia and Hyundai cars that may have a defect causing sudden fires

    Federal regulators are opening a probe into whether 2.9 million Kia and Hyundai cars have a disproportionately high risk of randomly catching fire, and it only took ten months, 3,000 reports, and an alleged 100 injuries and one death to make it happen.

    The models under investigation are the 2011-2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, the 2010-2015 Kia Soul, and the 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata and Sante Fe.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it counted a total of 1,181 reports about non-crash fires in Hyundai cars and 1,784 in Kias. Drivers reported 100 injuries as a result of the fires, and one woman in Ohio says she watched her son burn to death in a Kia Soul in 2017.

    It was last June when the Center for Auto Safety sent a petition to NHTSA asking for it to look into the issue, after the consumer group counted 120 reports in the NHTSA reports database describing a fire breaking out during an otherwise uneventful drive.

    NHTSA announced on April 1 that it would grant the group’s petition, and it will start by assessing “the scope, frequency, and potential safety-related consequences of alleged defects relating to non-collision vehicle fires” in the cars.

    Hyundai and Kia recently issued a recall due over fire risks on 534,000 of the potentially affected cars, but the carmakers said there were no injuries or deaths linked to the defect. Their proposed fix is a software update.

    The two automakers had downplayed the fire reports before finally issuing that recall.

    Federal regulators are opening a probe into whether 2.9 million Kia and Hyundai cars have a disproportionately high risk of randomly catching fire, and it...

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      737 MAX 8 crash probes still focused on key sensor

      Ill-fated Lion Air jet was serviced at Florida facility before the crash

      The investigation into one of two recent crashes of Boeing 737 MAX jetliners has shifted to a Florida aircraft maintenance facility.

      Citing documents from the investigation of last October’s Lion Air crash, Bloomberg News reports the ill-fated jet was serviced at XTRA Aerospace Inc., in Miramar, Florida. The documents reportedly show that while there, technicians worked on the plane’s angle-of-attack sensor.

      That’s significant because the sensor is suspected of sending faulty signals to a flight control system designed to force the nose of the plane down to prevent a stall. If the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, engages while a plane is taking off, it can be catastrophic.

      Two fatal crashes in five months

      All 189 people aboard the Lion Air jet died when the plane crashed into the Java Sea. Five months later, there were no survivors when an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max jet crashed shortly after takeoff. The investigations into both crashes are still underway. Bloomberg reports there is no evidence the Florida repair facility worked on the Ethiopian jet.

      Meanwhile, Ethiopian investigators have reportedly concluded the pilots of the Ethiopian jet followed Boeing’s emergency steps to disable the MACS, but to no avail. The Wall Street Journal reports details of the flight crew’s action were revealed by the plane’s data recorder. The recorder shows the pilots re-engaged the MACS before the jet crashed, killing 157 people.

      Whistleblowers

      In Washington, lawmakers are examining how commercial aircraft are inspected. A whistleblower has reportedly told the Senate Commerce Committee that inspectors assigned to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft did not receive proper training.

      In a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Sen.Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) the committee’s chairman, said “multiple” whistleblowers have alleged that some FAA inspectors have lacked valid certification.

      Boeing 737 MAX aircraft remain grounded while the company works on a software fix. Bloomberg reports producing the update is taking longer than expected.

      The grounding and testing is affecting three U.S.-based airlines -- Southwest, American, and United. Southwest owns 34 MAX 8 aircraft and American has 24 MAX 8s. United owns 14 of the larger 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

      The investigation into one of two recent crashes of Boeing 737 MAX jetliners has shifted to a Florida aircraft maintenance facility.Citing documents fr...

      Get ready for new legislation to raise the level of protection for kids online

      If the bill gets all the way through Congress, parents will see stronger enforcement on what children will see on digital devices

      Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), a longtime champion for protecting children online, wants to keep pro-children agenda moving in the right direction.

      To get there, he will soon announce the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act to tackle the disconnect between current laws and the ever-growing reality that the values and protections of the 1990 Children's Television Act will also umbrella all media platforms, both online and broadcast.

      The timing couldn’t come at a better time. Research conducted by Common Sense -- the organization hosting the debut of Markey’s proposal -- shows that almost every child (98 percent) under the age of 8 has access to a mobile device. The numbers are staggering when you pull back the curtain on teens’ media use, with an average of nine hours being spent on media daily.

      Laws haven’t kept pace with the rise of digital media

      Those who advocate for taking a firmer hand when it comes to children and their technology use point out that implementing better rules now can have a far-reaching positive impact.

      "Comprehensive legislation on children's media is a step toward addressing the much larger and more pressing reality we all face today: the growing influence of tech on our kids and its unintended consequences," said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense.

      "We need comprehensive and enforceable rules that reflect the current media landscape to safeguard children's programming and ensure the well-being of kids and generations to come."

      Any parent knows the attachment kids have to their devices. “They believe it’s one of their human rights to have one of their devices attached to them 24 hours a day,” lamented one mom in an NBC account of Markey’s proposal.

      Despite the hand-wringing of parents, the government has lagged behind in supporting parental concerns.

      "While kids' technology use and media consumption have exploded in recent years, our laws have failed to keep pace," said Senator Markey. "I'm proud to introduced the KIDS Act to combat manipulative design features, unhealthy marketing practices, and the amplification of harmful content that makes the internet a gauntlet of hazards for children today. The internet can be a child's 21st-century playground, and we need to make sure they are safe online. Children and parents deserve new online rules of the road to ensure that children are able to thrive in our increasingly digital world."

      The Kids Internet Design and Safety Act proposes rules covering all media platforms and, if enacted, will:

      • Stop manipulative and damaging design features that keep kids glued to the screen;

      • Limit marketing and commercialization; create rules to limit the method and the content of advertisements that appear in front of kids;

      • Prevent the amplification of harmful content; enshrine rules to address the use of algorithms that push extreme content in front of kids;

      • Require platforms to provide parents with clear guidance on kid-healthy content.

      • Create incentives for positive content creation; and

      • Require transparency and strong enforcement; designate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law.

      Markey makes things happen when it comes to kids

      When it comes to kids and media, Markey tends to make good on his promises. His previous initiatives -- the Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act of 1998 (COPPA) and the Do Not Track Kids Act -- addressed evolving technology and moved to prohibit internet companies from sending targeted advertising to children and minors. It also stopped those same companies from collecting personal and location information of children online.

      Markey was also a co-author on the Children and Media Research Advancement Act, a bill that proposed research on how child development is affected when there is early exposure to technology.

      Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), a longtime champion for protecting children online, wants to keep pro-children agenda moving in the right direction.To get there...

      Sears to open three small-format stores

      The first stores will open Memorial Day weekend

      Sears, which narrowly avoided bankruptcy after chairman Eddie Lampert’s $5.2 billion bid to save the chain was approved, is set to open three “Sears Home & Life” stores in May.

      The small, 10-15,000-feet stores will be located in Anchorage, Alaska; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Overland Park, Kansas and will sell both large and small kitchen appliances, mattresses, and tools.

      Under the court-approved deal to save Sears, the company was able to retain the Kenmore appliances and Diehard battery brands. It also continues to sell Craftsman tools through licensing partners. The new small-format stores will stock an expanded lineup of the company’s DieHard tools, in new categories such as lawn and garden equipment.

      The planned small-format locations will also have kiosks where consumers can order items available online and in the stores and have them delivered either to the store or their home.

      Back in February, Lampert hinted that future Sears stores would be smaller. He also said he thought Sears could eventually be a public company again.

      “Our goal is to continue to shrink the size of our stores,” Lampert told the Wall Street Journal. “If I had my druthers, I’d rather be bigger than smaller. We still have enough of a critical mass.”

      Sears filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2018. Almost two months ago, a bankruptcy judge in New York accepted Lampert’s bid of $5.2 billion to save the struggling retailer’s 425 remaining stores.

      Sears, which narrowly avoided bankruptcy after chairman Eddie Lampert’s $5.2 billion bid to save the chain was approved, is set to open three “Sears Home &...

      Signet Jewelers to close 150 stores this year

      Shifting tastes make selling jewelry a tough business

      Diamonds may be forever, but stores that sell them apparently are not. Signet Jewelers, which operates 3,300 Kay Jewelers, Zales, and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry locations, is closing 150 stores.

      The company announced the closings when it issued its quarterly earnings report Wednesday. The chain closed 262 stores in 2018, mostly in the U.S. and Canada.

      CEO Virginia Drosos said the company has made progress in its effort to boost sales, achieving impressive growth in e-commerce in 2018.

      “However, we did not finish the year as strongly as expected due to a highly competitive promotional environment, continued consumer weakness in the UK, and lower than expected customer demand for legacy merchandise collections that impacted our holiday fourth quarter results," Drosos said.

      Strong headwinds

      Jewelry stores, in general, are facing strong headwinds on two fronts. First, its stores have traditionally been located in shopping malls, which have entered a period of rapid decline as consumers’ shopping patterns have shifted.

      According to The Wall Street Journal, vacancies in America’s shopping malls were at a seven-year high of 9.1 percent in the third quarter of last year. Sears’ financial woes likely increased it in the last quarter. With fewer stores, there are often fewer shoppers.

      Second, millennials’ tastes and budgets are different from previous generations when it comes to jewelry. Most engagement rings still feature diamonds but are now facing growing competition from handcrafted rings sold by artisans on Pinterest and Etsy, selling at a fraction of the price of a diamond ring.

      The Wall Street Journal recently reported that high-end jewelers have begun to redesign their retail stores and offer less-traditional products that are easier on the wallet.

      Brilliant marketing

      Through brilliant marketing early in the 20th century, DeBeers coined the slogan “a diamond is forever” and established the tradition of pairing a marriage proposal with a diamond ring, even specifying what percentage of his annual income a suitor should spend on it.

      But coming of age in the wake of the financial crisis, many millennials actually had no annual income -- or very little -- and have improvised when it comes to engagements.

      As it continues to adjust to the new environment, Signet said it would limit the number of stores it opens in the years ahead. When it does launch new stores, they won’t be located in shopping malls, the company said.

      Diamonds may be forever, but stores that sell them apparently are not. Signet Jewelers, which operates 3,300 Kay Jewelers, Zales, and Jared The Galleria Of...

      Risk of diabetes and heart disease increases when consumers work in shifts

      Researchers suggest the effect on the body can be long-term

      Many of the biggest industries nationwide require employees to work in shifts, and research has shown how these hours can affect consumers’ health in countless ways.

      Now, researchers have found that shift work can increase employees’ risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

      How it affects the body

      To see how working different shifts can have detrimental effects on employees’ health, the researchers studied two groups of healthcare workers: those who hadn’t worked the night shift in a year and those who were currently rotating between working days and nights.

      The participants were evenly divided between men and women, all were between the ages of 20 and 40, and the group was comprised of doctors or nurses. Additionally, all participants had blood sugar in normal levels at the onset of the study.

      Because the focus was on diabetes and heart disease, the researchers carefully charted participants’ triglyceride, blood sugar, and fasting insulin levels. At the start of the experiment, the participants recorded everything they had eaten in the previous 24 hours. They were then required to fast overnight for 12 hours. While they fasted, the researchers took blood samples every two hours through the eighth hour of fasting.

      Following the fasting session, participants were given a meal containing over 65 grams of fat, the majority of which was saturated fat. The participants had their blood sampled again after eating the meal.

      In comparing the two groups of regular shift workers versus non-regular shift workers, the researchers found significant differences in the way their differing schedules affected their blood samples.

      The study revealed that working shifts affects both insulin sensitivity -- which can lead to diabetes -- and the body’s ability to break down triglycerides -- which can lead to heart disease. Ultimately, working different shifts impedes the body’s ability to naturally process sugar and fat, which can lead to disease down the road.

      “This study gives us a better understanding of why shift work is associated, in the long-term, with heart and metabolic diseases, helping us work towards reducing the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in the future,” said researcher Sri Venkata Madhu.

      Warning signs

      While studies have shown how eggs can be effective in warding off both heart disease and diabetes, recent studies have shown countless ways for consumers to stay healthy.

      Where heart disease is concerned, researchers have found inflammation to be the link between heart disease and depression, while knowledge could be lifesaving.

      As for diabetes, consumers should be leary of back pain, while positive personality traits and building moderate muscle strength can help fight off the disease.

      Many of the biggest industries nationwide require employees to work in shifts, and research has shown how these hours can affect consumers’ health in count...

      New study reveals why men are more likely to get liver cancer

      Researchers suggest the finding could lead to new treatment options for patients

      With more and more people being diagnosed with liver cancer, a new study has explored why men are at a greater risk than women.

      According to researchers, it all comes down to adiponectin -- a hormone that works to regulate the metabolism. The study revealed that the hormone is more common in women’s bodies, and the higher levels protect the liver from developing cancerous cells.

      “Circulating adiponectin levels have been reported to be higher in women than in men,” said Dr. Guadalupe Sabio. “However, adiponectin’s role in [hepatocellular carcinoma] is controversial and needed further investigation.”

      Where the difference lies

      Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer, and is much more common in men than in women. The same is true of mice, which the researchers utilized to conduct their experiment.

      The researchers examined both male and female mice, carefully analyzing their adiponectin levels and determining why men are more prone to liver cancer than their female counterparts. The study revealed that higher levels of adiponectin were key in protecting the female mice -- and female humans, for that matter -- from liver cancer, but there was more at play.

      Dr. Sabio and his team found that testosterone compromises adiponectin levels; the former hormone doesn’t allow for the latter to reach optimal levels that protect against liver cancer.

      In addition to regulating metabolism, adiponectin protects the liver by stimulating two proteins -- p38 and AMPK. These proteins not only decrease the likelihood of tumor growth, but they also stop cells from growing too rapidly.

      The researchers used this information to create an interesting treatment option for the mice: cutting off testosterone levels to allow adiponectin levels to rise. The move was effective in shrinking the male mice’s tumors. The findings could help provide future treatment options for liver cancer patients.

      “Our results unravel a real crosstalk between sex hormones, adipose tissue, and the liver, clarifying the mechanism underlying gender disparity in liver cancer development,” said Dr. Sabio.

      With more and more people being diagnosed with liver cancer, a new study has explored why men are at a greater risk than women.According to researchers...

      FTC settles with company accused of paying for reviews

      But how is that different from social media influencers?

      Celebrities can make good side hustle income by becoming social media “influencers,” posting  nice things about a product or company. But when companies pay consumers to post positive reviews they cross a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) red line.

      The agency has reached a settlement with UrthBox, a product subscription service, resolving the FTC’s complaint about the company’s reviews. The company presented the endorsements as independent reviews. The FTC says the customers got free products and other incentives in exchange for their glowing comments.

      The complaint also alleged the company failed to disclose important terms of its “free trial” automatic renewal program. UrthBox will pay $100,000 to resolve the complaint.

      “People should be able to trust that good customer reviews aren’t the result of companies secretly paying the reviewers,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “As this case shows, we hold companies accountable for this kind of deceptive marketing.”

      Are social media influencers next?

      The FTC may have been drawn to the case by the allegation that UrthBox labeled the reviews as independent, but it’s clear the issue is not that far removed from paid social media influencers. And in fact, the FTC appears to be looking closely at how celebrities and other influencers operate.

      In 2016, the FTC sent warning letters to nearly 100 social media influencers, telling them they must disclose in their posts if they are being paid. But currently, there are few regulations specifically guiding how influencers present themselves to their followers.

      In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed complaints against celebrities who were being paid to promote digital currencies. The agency could do that because there are strict rules covering what you can say about tradable assets.

      For major celebrities, a few enthusiastic words on Instagram can be quite lucrative. Kendall Jenner, a fashion model and one of the Kardashians, earned a reported $26.5 million for 53 posts on Instagram.

      Legal perspective

      Lisa Dubrow, a lawyer specializing in advertising, consumer protection, and privacy law, says an influencer might not have the same fraudulent intent as a firm concealing the fact that it pays for reviews.

      “However, the result is the same,” she told ConsumerAffairs. “Companies are well aware of the persuasive influence consumer and influencer reviews induce.”

      In fact, data collected by Nielson show exactly why companies are willing to pay so much to social media influencers. The research shows consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know above all forms of advertising.

      Dubrow says the FTC has made it “quite clear” that when influencers are paid anything of value by a company and fail to disclose it, those reviews rise to the level of false and misleading advertising.

      Celebrities can make good side hustle income by becoming social media “influencers,” posting  nice things about a product or company. But when companies pa...

      NadaMoo! recalls strawberry cheesecake

      The product contains almonds, an allergen not declared on the label

      NadaMoo! is recalling approximately 26,000 pints of Strawberry Cheesecake Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.

      The product contains almonds, an allergen not declared on the label.

      No allergic reactions are reported to date.

      The recalled product has a “Best By” date of 08/09/2020 printed at the bottom of the pint, a UPC code of “854758001020” listed below the barcode on the back of the pint. It was shipped to select distributors and retailers beginning February 19, 2019.

      Stores receiving the product include:

      StoreCityState
      HEB GroceryHOUSTONTX
      SAN ANTONIOTX
      Stater Bros MarketsCOLTONCA
      HIGHLANDCA
      LOMA LINDACA
      REDLANDSCA
      SAN BERNARDINOCA
      Beach NaturalsLOS FRESNOSTX
      Better HealthSTERLING HEIGHTSMI
      Brigher DaySAVANNAHGA
      Fresh ThymeAPPLE VALLEYMN
      ASHWAUBENONWI
      BLOOMINGTONIL
      BLOOMINGTONIN
      BLOOMINGTONMN
      BRIDGEVILLEPA
      BROOKFIELDWI
      CANTONMI
      CINCINNATIOH
      CRANBERRY TOWNSHIPPA
      CRYSTAL LAKEIL
      DOWNERS GROVEIL
      EVANSVILLEIN
      FAIRVIEW HEIGHTSIL
      FARMINGTONMI
      FISHERSIN
      GAHANNAOH
      GENEVAIL
      GRAND ISLANDNE
      GRAND RAPIDSMI
      GREENFIELDWI
      INDIANAPOLISIN
      JOLIETIL
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      KIRKWOODMO
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      YPSILANTIMI
      Garden Patch MarketMISHAWAKAIN
      Health HuttGRAND HAVENMI
      Kanakee Natural FoodsBRADLEYIL
      Kins MarketAUSTINTX
      Lacasa Del PuebloCHICAGOIL
      Melbourne Beach SupermarketMELBOURNEFL
      Msn Apple A DayFINDLAYOH
      Natural NutritionSANTA ROSA BAYAMONPR
      Naturally Yours Grocery & DeliPEORIAIL
      Publix SupermarketFT. MYERSFL
      MURRELLS INLET HOSC
      ACWORTHGA
      AIKENSC
      ALABASTERAL
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      BRADENTONFL
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      BRENTWOODTN
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      BRUNSWICKGA
      BUFORDGA
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      CAPE CORALFL
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      COCOAFL
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      COCONUT CREEKFL
      COLONIAL HEIGHTSVA
      COLUMBIASC
      COLUMBUSGA
      CONCORDNC
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      COOKEVILLETN
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      FREDERICKSBURGVA
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      FT MYERSFL
      FT WALTON BEACHFL
      FT. LAUDERDALEFL
      FT. MYERSFL
      FT.MYERS BEACHFL
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      GALLATINTN
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      GASTONIANC
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      GOODLETTSVILLETN
      GOOSE CREEKSC
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      GREENBOROGA
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      GREENEVILLETN
      GREENVILLENC
      GREENVILLESC
      GREENWOODSC
      GREERSC
      GROVELANDFL
      GULF BREEZEFL
      GULF SHORESAL
      GUNTERSVILLEAL
      HAINES CITYFL
      HALLANDALEFL
      HAMPSTEADNC
      HARDEEVILLESC
      HARRISBURGNC
      HARVESTAL
      HELENAAL
      HENDERSONVILLENC
      HENDERSONVILLETN
      HENRICOVA
      HERNANDOFL
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      HICKORYNC
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      INDIAN HILLSSC
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      INVERNESSFL
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      JUPITERFL
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      LAKE CITYFL
      LAKE MARYFL
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      LAKE PLACIDFL
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      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to retailer where purchased for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact NadaMoo! at (512) 571-3870 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, or by email at march2019recall@nadamoo.com.

      NadaMoo! is recalling approximately 26,000 pints of Strawberry Cheesecake Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.The product contains almonds, an allergen not declar...

      New fraud prevention report sounds alarm for taxpayers

      To guard against identity theft, consumers need to consider a lot of moving parts and information

      Tax filing day is less than two weeks away, and another red flag has been raised about the importance of consumers keeping their personal data away from prying eyes.

      In Shred-it’s just released 2019 Tax Season and Fraud Prevention Report, it caught our attention at ConsumerAffairs that more than one third (38 percent) of taxpayers say they’re sweating that they could become a victim of identity theft during tax season, yet nearly half of all taxpayers (45 percent) confess that they stash their tax documents in an unsecure location like a storage box, desk drawer, or unlocked file cabinet at home or work.

      Here are some key takeaways from Shred-it’s survey of 1,800 taxpayers:  

      • More than a quarter (26 percent) of taxpayers say they know someone who has been a victim of tax fraud or tax identity theft.

      • More than a third (35 percent) of U.S. taxpayers think using tax preparation software and filing their return directly online puts them at a greater risk of tax fraud or tax identity theft than if they used a certified tax preparer (10 percent), a family member or friend (26 percent).

      • Nearly half (46 percent) of the taxpayers that file with a tax preparer are unsure how their tax preparers store/dispose of their tax documents.

      • 47 percent of taxpayers say they don’t know how long they’re supposed to keep tax documents before disposing of them. By the way, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says that 3 years is the minimum but the length is dependent on a variety of factors.

      • More than half of the Gen Zers (56 percent) are the least confident in their abilities to detect fraudulent tax emails compared to Millennials (69 percent) and Baby Boomers (60 percent).

      • Millennials (43 percent) are the most worried about becoming victims of tax fraud or tax identity theft compared to Baby Boomers (34 percent) and Gen Z (33 percent).

      • Men (9 percent) are more likely than women (5 percent) to say they have been a victim of tax fraud or tax identity theft, but both sexes are almost equally as worried that they could become a victim of tax fraud or tax identity theft.

      Steps consumers can take to protect themselves

      “Tax season can be a stressful time for consumers -- between all of the paperwork you need to receive and compile to then scheduling an appointment with a tax preparer or making time to do your taxes yourself, there’s a lot of moving parts and information to consider,” Shred-it’s SVP, Ann Nickolas told ConsumerAffairs.

      Nickolas said it’s important that taxpayers keep their information security top of mind -- especially since there tends to be a resurgence of scams and fraud attempts each year. With tax day approaching, Nickolas shared three tips and best practices to help consumers keep their information safe this tax season:

      1. Question disposal and storage methods. If you’re not doing your taxes yourself, and instead have tapped the assistance of a friend, family member or a certified tax preparer, one of the most important questions you should ask is how this person or organization is storing your highly sensitive information and also, how are they disposing of the tax paperwork. Do they use the services of a professional information destruction and disposal company that securely shreds your tax paperwork? Are they storing your files in a locked cabinet? Who has access to this paperwork? Your tax paperwork (think student loan information, mortgage and business documents, your SSN and more) are extremely sensitive documents. You want to ensure that when you hand over this information that the person is protecting it securely.

      2. Upgrade your own disposal and storage methods. Since it’s recommended to keep your tax returns for a number of years it’s time to rethink how you’re storing and, then, disposing of your own information. Taxpayers should upgrade their information security habits at home by investing in a locked file cabinet, and professionally shredding all paperwork before disposing of it.

      3. Maintain a clean desk policy at home. Whether you have a dedicated office space in your home or if your tax paperwork tends to sit on the counter, table or on the entryway shelf, consumers should avoid letting any information, let alone tax paperwork, pile up. This is especially important if you have visitors entering your home. Keeping your information out of sight, and in a locked cabinet will help to safeguard you from potential risk.

      Haven’t filed your tax return yet?

      If the new tax laws puzzle you or if you just need some extra time to file, the IRS is hosting a free webinar regarding tax returns on Thursday, April 4.

      The webinar, called “Filing is the Thing to Do, Even if You Have a Balance Due,” is slated for 2 p.m. Eastern time. The hour-long webinar will include a Q&A session and, of particular note for taxpayers who need more time to prepare their taxes, the IRS will provide information on how to apply for an extension of time to file during this session.

      Tax filing day is less than two weeks away, and another red flag has been raised about the importance of consumers keeping their personal data away from pr...

      FDA investigating reports of seizures after e-cigarette use

      The agency will try to determine if there is a link

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating dozens of reports that consumers using e-cigarettes have suffered seizures.

      The agency said a search of its files revealed 35 reports of seizures, occurring between 2011 and 2019. In most instances, the victims were teens and young adults. In a joint statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernathy said it’s another reason to be concerned about the growing vaping trend among young people.

      “We know that nicotine isn't a harmless substance, especially in the developing brains of our youth,” the two officials said. “We know that initiation to, and addiction to nicotine by never-smokers – predominantly youth and young adults – raises public health concerns. These risks are among the many reasons why we so strongly believe that no child should be using any tobacco product.”

      No established pattern

      The FDA says the investigation has just begun and that so far, there doesn’t appear to be a pattern to the cases. In fact, Gottlieb and Abernathy say there isn’t proof of a direct connection, but the possibility of one requires the agency to investigate.

      In some of the cases, the victims were vaping for the first time. In others, the victims were regular users. A few had a history of seizures and a few others had a history of drug use.

      “While we believe that currently addicted adult smokers who completely switch off of combustible tobacco and onto e-cigarettes have the potential to improve their health, e-cigarettes still pose health risks,” Gottliieb and Abernathy said. “These include the possible release of some chemicals at higher levels than conventional cigarettes.”

      They said there is also data to indicate there may be other potential health concerns with the product, especially since some e-cigarettes deliver a higher concentration of nicotine.

      Other dangers

      E-cigarettes use a small battery to heat nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor, which is inhaled much like a conventional cigarette. Some smokers have been able to give up cigarettes by vaping, but the FDA has expressed concern that many non-smoking teens have begun using e-cigarettes.

      In addition to concerns about possible health risks, there are documented cases in which the products have caused serious injury when they exploded. A report last fall from researchers at George Mason University suggested the number of these cases has been underreported.

      Analyzing data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission the researchers reported that approximately 2,035 people ended up in the emergency room due to e-cigarette burns or explosions between 2015 and 2017.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating dozens of reports that consumers using e-cigarettes have suffered seizures.The agency said a se...

      Google releases annual Android security report

      The number of ‘potentially harmful applications’ downloaded from Google Play has risen since 2017

      In its fifth annual Android security and privacy report, Google said there has been an increase in “potentially harmful applications” (PHAs) since 2017. However, the company said that the “overall health of the Android ecosystem” has improved.

      Google said the percentage of PHAs downloaded from Google Play increased from 0.02 percent in 2017 to 0.04 percent in 2018, which it attributed to the fact that it now includes click fraud in the PHA category.

      “This increase is due to the change in methodology of upgrading the severity level of click fraud applications from policy violations to PHAs,” Google said in the report. The 2018 figure would fall to 0.017-percent if click fraud had been omitted.

      "If we remove the numbers for click fraud from these stats, the data shows that PHAs on Google Play declined by 31 percent year-over-year," the report said.

      Combating malicious apps

      Google has said that it’s continuing to make improvements in its ability to keep malicious apps from infiltrating its Play Store. The tech giant’s past efforts to keep out bad apps have included debuting Google Play Protect in 2017, an AI-driven feature which is able to scan over 50 billion apps daily.

      But despite its efforts, problematic apps have still been able to enter Google’s Play Store. Just last month, a security research team discovered that more than 200 apps on the Play Store were spreading adware codenamed "SimBad." Google pulled the infected apps, but the apps had already been downloaded 150 million times.

      In February, Google said it had fixed vulnerabilities in more than 75,000 apps in 2018, up 70 percent from 2016. The company added that it was able to remove 99 percent of harmful apps before they had been installed.

      In its year-in-review Android security report, Google was optimistic about its 2018 figures.

      “In 2018, the ratio of PHA installs to total installs decreased by roughly 38% from the previous year, so the overall health of the Android ecosystem improved,” the company stated.

      “In 2018, 0.92% of sideloaded apps were PHAs, compared to 1.48% in 2017. In context, this positive downward trend doesn’t include pre-installed apps. Nevertheless, with the exception of the top PHA category (backdoors) and the new category (click fraud), all PHA categories saw strong declines outside Google Play,” the report said.

      In its fifth annual Android security and privacy report, Google said there has been an increase in “potentially harmful applications” (PHAs) since 2017. Ho...