1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2019
  4. April

Current Events in April 2019

Browse Current Events by year

2019

Browse Current Events by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    Arctic Cat recalls snowmobiles

    Exhaust can flame from the muffler outlet

    Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls, Minn., is recalling about 14,500 Arctic Cat snowmobiles sold in the U.S. And Canada.

    When the snowmobile is being operated, the exhaust can flame from the muffler outlet, posing a fire hazard.

    The firm has received 70 reports of melting plastic around the exhaust outlet area and four reports of the plastic catching fire. No injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves all model year 2018 and 2019 Arctic Cat snowmobile models M8000, XF8000, ZR8000, and Norseman X8000. The vehicles were produced in a variety of color combinations and track lengths.

    The vehicles all have 8000 on each side of the front hood/side panel area and ARCTIC CAT on the rear snow-flap.

    The vehicle identification number (VIN) is stamped on the right side of the snowmobile tunnel near the right foot rest.

    The snowmobiles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Arctic Cat dealers nationwide from January 2017, through February 2019, for between about $13,800 and $18,000

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled snowmobiles and contact Arctic Cat to schedule a free repair. Arctic Cat is contacting all known purchasers directly.

    Consumers may contact Arctic Cat at (800) 279-6851 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at https://arcticcat.txtsv.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

    Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls, Minn., is recalling about 14,500 Arctic Cat snowmobiles sold in the U.S. And Canada.When the snowmobile is being opera...
    Read lessRead more

    Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2019 CLA250s and CLA250 4MATICs

    The right-side doors may not be able to be opened from the outside

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling five model year 2019 CLA250s and CLA250 4MATICs.

    The right side door locks may not have been properly manufactured. As a result, the right-side doors may not be able to be opened from outside of the vehicle.

    In the event of a crash, the inability to open the right side doors from the outside could increase the risk of injury.

    What to do

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the door locks free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin May 3, 2019.

    Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372. MBUSA's number for this recall is 2019030020.

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling five model year 2019 CLA250s and CLA250 4MATICs.The right side door locks may not have been properly manufacture...
    Read lessRead more

    Facebook bracing for massive potential privacy fine

    The company says $3 billion to $5 billion is ‘reasonable estimate’

    When it reported earnings Wednesday Facebook had some good news and some bad news for investors.

    The bad news was it expects to be fined around $3 billion, maybe as much as $5 billion, for its handling of various privacy issues. The good news? Despite being at the center of privacy controversy for the last 12 months, business is pretty good.

    In the first quarter, Facebook earned a profit of $2.43 billion, paying 85 cents a share. That in spite of likely paying what would be a record fine to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    Facebook took what is known as a charge of $3 billion against its earnings, meaning that the expected fine will be subtracted from its profit. It set the $3 billion number as what it “reasonably estimated” it will have to pay as punishment for violating a consent decree on user privacy.

    “We estimate that the range of loss in this matter is $3 billion to $5 billion,” Facebook said in its news release. “The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome.”

    ‘Privacy-focused platform’

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used some of his time on the company’s conference call emphasizing his company’s commitment to privacy, laying the groundwork for a five-year effort to make Facebook what he called “a privacy-focused platform.”

    "People want to use both private and public platforms," Zuckerberg said on the conference call. "Delivering this is both in the interests of our community and our business."

    Facebook’s privacy issues began to come to light about a year ago. The company revealed that a political marketing firm had gained unauthorized access to user data and used it to target political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Previous settlement

    The anticipated fine is in regard to allegations that Facebook might have violated a previous consent decree regarding its privacy policies. The FTC opened an investigation into that possibility 13 months ago.

    At the time, FTC Acting Director Tom Pahl said the agency had reason to believe Facebook had not lived up to its promises to protect privacy.

    Last October, the British government fined Facebook nearly $642,000 for what it called “a serious breach of Britain’s data privacy law.” Topping the list of Facebook’s infractions were charges that the company “unfairly processed personal data” and “failed to take appropriate technical and organizational measures against unauthorized or unlawful processing of personal data.”

    When it reported earnings Wednesday Facebook had some good news and some bad news for investors.The bad news was it expects to be fined around $3 billi...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

      Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

      New study finds hackers target consumers who use apps to watch pirated content

      Hackers are lying in wait to send malware that steals usernames and passwords

      The hackosphere has a new twist -- hackers going after consumers who watch pirated content.

      A new study by the Digital Citizens Alliance investigation lays out a bizarre narrative where hackers go after consumers who are cheating the system via piracy apps to get video content like Netflix for free. But -- and here’s where it gets interesting -- the hackers then deposit malware into the consumers’ piracy apps in hopes of snaring usernames, passwords, and the like.

      The new study focuses on downloads from rogue apps, piggybacking an earlier study ConsumerAffairs reported on regarding downloads from websites.

      Here’s what was discovered:

      • As soon as an Alliance researcher downloaded Mobdro -- and app that touts it can “find free video streams online and brings them to your Android smartphone or tablet to enjoy” -- malware within the app forwarded the researcher's Wi-Fi network name and password to a server that appeared to be in Indonesia.

      • Once inside the server, malware then went after vulnerabilities that might give it access to files and other devices the consumer might have. In Alliance’s test, the malware skated off with 1.5 terabytes of data from the researcher's device.

      Who’s to blame?

      This is where it gets tricky. Of course, pirating content is illegal, but Alliance puts the onus on the users themselves who are assisting the hackers by giving them direct access to their home network.

      "What the investigation shows is that as piracy shifts from websites and downloads to devices and apps, hackers are adapting and finding new ways to exploit consumers," said Tom Galvin, Executive Director of Digital Citizens. "Consumers think these devices are like an Apple TV or Roku device, but they have a distinct difference: they have little to no incentive to protect their users. In other words, they are perfect for hackers."

      Galvin says the threat is doubly alarming because the consumer is, in effect, “escorting” the hacker past vital network security.

      “And it all starts so simply. A user purchases a device loaded with apps that offer free access, for example, to the latest movies in theaters or live broadcasts of Major League Baseball games. These devices – sometimes known as “Kodi boxes” or “jailbroken Fire TV Sticks” – look and behave like a Roku box, Apple TV or other legitimate devices. But instead of accessing legitimate services like Netflix or Hulu, they link to pirate apps,” Galvin said.

      These devices are becoming popular. According to a Digital Citizens research survey of 2,073 Americans, 13 percent reported that they have a device that offers pirated content in their home. The majority of Americans (59 percent) said that “most consumers are probably unaware of the security risks that can occur when plugging one of these devices into a home network.”

      Hackers are smart. Consumers need to be smarter

      You can imagine that having access to 13 percent of Netflix’ nearly 150 million users is quite a field day for hackers. Lying in wait, hackers bank on the presumption that the freebooting consumer is so caught up in the joy of being able to buy something for $75-100 that gives them access to content for free, the consumers doesn’t pay attention to the possibility that one of these apps can wreak havoc.

      “Consumers should use devices made by companies they know and shop at app stores that they can trust,” Galvin told ConsumerAffairs. “If it’s jailbroken, it means you get more choices, but you're also more likely to get malicious apps that can infect your devices."

      "Our research strongly suggests that engaging in dangerous online activity, such as using piracy devices and apps, increases your risks. Americans who said they used these devices were six more times likely to report a problem with malware.”

      The Digital Citizens investigation was conducted in conjunction with Dark Wolfe Consulting, a cybersecurity company that specializes in network security, penetration testing, and targeted malware collection.

      The hackosphere has a new twist -- hackers going after consumers who watch pirated content.A new study by the Digital Citizens Alliance investigation l...
      Read lessRead more

      Verizon adds 20 cities to its list of 5G coverage areas

      The carrier has also opened preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

      Verizon has named 20 additional cities that will receive its faster, millimeter wave 5G service. The carrier has already activated the service in Chicago and Minneapolis, and now it’s adding the following cities to its list of coverage areas:

      Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Washington DC.

      Verizon has said it plans to launch 5G in more than 30 cities by the end of the year. Additional 5G cities will be announced later this year.

      The carrier says its 5G Ultra Wideband network will offer download speeds that are “significantly faster than 4G LTE.” Additionally, thanks to increased bandwidth capacity, more users will be able to use more data in the same location.

      Preordering open for Galaxy S10 5G

      The company also announced Thursday that it has opened preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, with pricing starting at $1,300 for the 256GB S10 5G. A 512GB option will be available for $1,400. Those who preorder can trade in an eligible smartphone and get up to $450 off.

      Verizon says the Galaxy S10 5G “hands off the signal to Verizon’s 4G LTE network” when customers move outside of its 5G Ultra Wideband coverage area.

      “The Galaxy S10 5G on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will give our customers access to incredible speeds and the latest and greatest streaming, augmented-reality, gaming, and consumer and business applications that bring us into a future powered by 5G,” said Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and president of Verizon’s consumer group in a press release.

      “With the rollout of 5G in more than 30 markets by the end of 2019 and the upcoming launch of Samsung’s first 5G Galaxy smartphone, we are pulling further ahead of the competition in 5G.”

      Verizon has named 20 additional cities that will receive its faster, millimeter wave 5G service. The carrier has already activated the service in Chicago a...
      Read lessRead more

      Disney’s new streaming service may impact Netflix’s subscriber base

      Over 14 percent of Netflix users polled said they might leave Netflix and get Disney+

      Just under 14.5 percent of Netflix subscribers say they might leave the streaming platform and get Disney+, according to a survey recently conducted by Streaming Observer. That figure would represent a loss of almost 9 million customers for Netflix, which would translate to about $117 million in lost revenue per month.

      About 37 percent of Netflix subscribers (or about 22 million users) said they would try Disney’s $7-per-month streaming service, and one in five Netflix subscribers said they are planning to subscribe to both streaming services.

      Parents of young kids were more than twice as likely as non-parents to say they would prefer Disney+ over Netflix.

      Family-friendly content may compel parents

      Of the 602 Netflix users who participated in the survey, 23 percent of users who were parents with children aged 15 and younger said they might cancel Netflix for Disney+. Just 10 percent of respondents without children said they may cancel.

      “While Netflix has been steadily adding more kids content to its library, it’s hard to imagine it can match what Disney offers on this front, which could be a source of concern for the streaming giant,” the survey said.

      During a first-quarter earnings discussion, Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings said that he doesn’t “anticipate that [Disney+ and other new streaming services] will materially affect [Netflix’] growth.”

      However, Disney recently said it intends to grow its subscriber base quickly over the next few years by luring consumers with a more affordable monthly fee compared to rival streaming services. Disney said the service’s $7 a month (or $70 a year) price tag is intended to make the service “accessible to as many consumers as possible.”

      The company forecasts that it will have amassed between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by the end of 2024. The service is set to launch on November 12.

      Just under 14.5 percent of Netflix subscribers say they might leave the streaming platform and get Disney+, according to a survey recently conducted by Str...
      Read lessRead more

      Manufacturer of pricey HIV prevention drug faces federal investigation over royalties

      Generic versions of Truvada cost $6. Gilead charges $1,600

      The Department of Justice is reportedly interviewing scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after activists say they uncovered evidence that the government researchers hold a patent on the HIV prevention medication known as Truvada. Despite the patent, activists say that drug-maker Gilead has marketed Truvada exclusively without paying royalties to the CDC.

      Truvada is the only drug approved for HIV prevention in the United States using a method called pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, or PrEP. The drug has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by as much as 90% in at-risk populations.

      But PrEP comes at a high cost in the United States -- a month’s supply can cost $1,600. Generic versions of PrEP only cost $6, activists say, but generic versions of PrEP aren’t currently sold here.

      A group called the PrEP4All coalition uncovered evidence that the United States government actually owns the patent on PrEP. As such, the CDC has had “unique leverage to dramatically increase access to Truvada PrEP in the United States," James Krellenstein of the PrEP4All coalition told news media.

      “Inexplicably, the CDC has refused to use these patents to increase access to PrEP,” he said.

      The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a Department of Justice lawyer recently interviewed CDC scientists who pioneered PrEP research, suggesting that a formal government investigation is underway. Seven senators on Wednesday also published an open letter to drug maker Gilead, noting that the manufuacater has made $3 billion off Truvada but has paid no royalties to the United States government.

      “Gilead’s Truvada relies on the usage of…[processes that were] invented – and patented – by scientists working for the CDC,” the senators wrote.

      The Department of Justice is reportedly interviewing scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after activists say they uncovered...
      Read lessRead more

      Ford makes major investment in electric vehicle startup

      The automaker may team up with Rivian on electric trucks and SUVs

      Ford says it is investing $500 million in a company that builds electric trucks and tasked it with building a new Ford electric vehicle.

      The Detroit automaker is teaming up with Rivian, which recently announced the development of an electric pickup and SUV.

      Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader, says Rivian has been in the spotlight recently with various concept vehicles appearing at major auto shows and, more notably, a capital infusion of $700 million led by Amazon in February.

      “Ford’s investment in Rivian is a smart one,” Krebs said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “Ford has committed to producing numerous electrified vehicles in the future, including pickup trucks, and Rivian has an intriguing concept to get the job done.”

      Win-win deal?

      The partnership between Ford and Rivian may pay off for both companies. For Rivian, which is still in its startup phase, it leverages Ford’s leadership, expertise, and massive volume in pickup trucks, as well as its vast distribution network.

      “The Amazon investment in the Rivian mix may well give Ford an in with the delivery services, possibly with electric cargo vans,” Krebs said. “And, of course, sport utility vehicles are another big opportunity the two could collaborate on. The first step to proliferate electric vehicles, and ultimately autonomous vehicles, is through commercial fleets.”

      Ford said it plans to use the link-up to build a new vehicle that will use Rivian’s existing platform, offering it along with its other planned electric vehicles.

      Ford has said that it is working on an electric Mustang-type crossover targeted for release next year. It also plans to roll out a zero-emissions F-150 pickup.

      Ford says it is investing $500 million in a company that builds electric trucks and tasked it with building a new Ford electric vehicle.The Detroit aut...
      Read lessRead more

      Acne treatments are moving away from long-term antibiotics

      Researchers are hoping this trend will alleviate antibiotic overuse concerns

      Doctors have long been prescribing antibiotics to patients with acne, but according to a new study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University, this trend is shifting.

      The study revealed that doctors are looking to move away from antibiotics to treat acne, and instead transition into a more comprehensive course of treatment that utilizes other remedies.

      “People are more conscious about the global health concern posed by the overuse of antibiotics and that acne is an inflammatory, not infectious, condition,” said researcher Hilary Baldwin. “Overuse of antibiotics also can promote the growth of resistant bacteria, which can make treating acne more challenging.”

      Finding the most effective course of treatment

      Though commonly associated with the teenage years, acne affects consumers of all ages, and oftentimes it is spurred by varying hormone levels.

      The researchers explain that many doctors reach for their prescription pads when treating acne, prescribing both oral and topical antibiotics to patients. However, those treatments come with some dangerous side effects. Studies have shown that being on an antibiotic long-term can affect blood sugar levels and increase the risk for skin bacteria and upper respiratory infections.

      This trend has spurred physicians to move away from those traditional courses of treatment and instead give patients a combination of different options to get rid of acne. The researchers note that light and laser therapies have proven to be effective, as has the combination of topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide.

      Several retinoids have helped patients fight acne, particularly the more severe cases, as the researchers highlighted the use of isotretinoin in preventing future breakouts.

      “This oral medication is unique among acne therapies in that it has the potential to not just treat acne, but to eradicate it,” said researcher Justin Marson. “It is 80 percent effective if a complete course is taken.”

      While changing diet can sometimes help alleviate acne problems, the researchers point out that more work is needed in this area to see if there is a clear link between what consumers put in their bodies and the likelihood of developing acne.

      “...There is some evidence that casein and whey in dairy may promote clogged pores and that low levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in foods such as fish contribute to inflammation that can lead to acne,” Baldwin said.

      The researchers see the benefits of using antibiotics in conjunction with other treatment options to help treat acne for the short-term, but they want physicians and patients to know that there are other options that can be just as effective.

      “Numerous studies have shown that these combinations are fast, effective, and help reduce the development of resistant strains of bacteria that causes acne, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] recommend that antibiotics be used for a maximum of six months,” said Baldwin.

      Doctors have long been prescribing antibiotics to patients with acne, but according to a new study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University, this t...
      Read lessRead more

      Woman falls to her death at Grand Canyon National Park

      The Grand Canyon has seen five deaths this year, but the park says the numbers aren’t unusual

      A 69-year-old woman fell to her death at Grand Canyon National Park on Tuesday, marking the fifth falling death at the Grand Canyon this year.

      A Grand Canyon spokesperson said that deaths aren’t evidence of any trend. An average of 12 people die at the Grand Canyon every year, though that number also includes heat-related deaths and other factors besides falling.

      “It may happen again or we might go seven months with zero. The numbers are so small, it’s hard to sort of see a trend,” a spokesperson told Time. “At this point, we’re not seeing any obvious change that’s necessary.”

      In March, a man from Hong Kong died at the Grand Canyon after stumbling and falling 1,000 feet as he tried to take a photo. Later that month, an 18-year-old from Israel died in Yosemite National Park, also from falling after posing for a photo.

      While deaths at national parks and other spots in the wild are inevitable, researchers have said that selfies and social media can pose additional risks. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine last year found that 259 people have died while taking selfies between 2011 and 2017.

      A 69-year-old woman fell to her death at Grand Canyon National Park on Tuesday, marking the fifth falling death at the Grand Canyon this year.A Grand C...
      Read lessRead more

      Target recalls wooden toy vehicles

      The wheels on the vehicles can detach, posing a choking hazard

      Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 495,000

      Bullseye’s Playground wooden toy vehicles.

      The wheels on the vehicles can detach, posing a choking hazard to children.

      There have been four reports of the wheels detaching including a report of a missing wheel when opened. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall includes the Bullseye’s Playground toy vehicles sold individually in stores and as an 8-pack assortment online.

      The vehicles include a caboose, Santa in sleigh, ice cream truck/food truck, train, police car, fire truck, taxi, and digger.

      The item number, DPCI (model number), and UPC can all be found on a white sticker placed on the bottom of each vehicle.

      Item numbers included in the recall include:

      Name

      Item#

      DPCI (Model Number)

      UPC

      Caboose

      89304

      234-18-0100

      765940893043

      Santa in Sleigh

      89297

      234-18-0100

      765940892978

      Ice Cream Truck/Food Truck

      89298

      234-18-0100

      765940892985

      Train

      89301

      234-18-0100

      765940893012

      Police Car

      89303

      234-18-0100

      765940893036

      Firetruck

      89302

      234-18-0100

      765940893029

      Taxi

      89300

      234-18-0100

      765940893005

      Digger

      89299

      234-18-0100

      765940892992

      Toy Vehicles 8-Pack Assortment

      NA

      234-20-0189

      765940893159

      The toy vehicles, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Target stores nationwide and online at Target.com from October 2018, through November 2018, for about $1 for individual vehicles and for about $8 for the 8-pack.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and return the toys to any Target Store for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Target at (800) 440-0680 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT) daily, online at www.target.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page, then on “Toys” for more information or the “Product Recalls” tab on Target’s Facebook page for more information.

      Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 495,000Bullseye’s Playground wooden toy vehicles.The wheels on the vehicles can detach, pos...
      Read lessRead more

      Toyota recalls Yaris vehicles

      The front seat side airbags and curtain shield airbags could be deactivated

      Toyota is recalling about 43,000 model year 2015-2017 Yaris Liftbacks & Hatchbacks in the U.S.

      The vehicles have side airbag sensors installed in each of the front doors and wire harnesses that connect these sensors to the airbag control unit. The harnesses could corrode over time, which could cause the airbag warning light to come on.

      In addition, the front seat side airbags and curtain shield airbags could be deactivated or not deploy properly, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the wire harnesses in one or both doors, as necessary at no cost to customers.

      The recall is expected to begin in mid-June.

      Owners may contact Toyota (800) 331-4331.

      Toyota is recalling about 43,000 model year 2015-2017 Yaris Liftbacks & Hatchbacks in the U.S.The vehicles have side airbag sensors installed in each o...
      Read lessRead more

      Samsung delays release of Galaxy fold following reports of screen issues

      A report suggests the company rushed the device to market to be seen as a ‘true innovator’

      Samsung has announced that it’s delaying the launch of its first foldable phone after reviewers reported screen issues, such as cracked or broken screens after just one day of use.

      The phone was originally slated to be released on April 26. Now, Samsung is pushing the launch of its landmark flexible phone to a date that it will announce “in the coming weeks.” The company says it is now investigating how test versions of the $1,980 device developed defects.

      "While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience," the company said in a statement. "To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold."

      Rushed to market

      Bloomberg reports that Samsung likely rushed the Galaxy Fold to market in an attempt to be seen as an innovator rather than a “fast adopter,” which it was often accused of being in 2011 when Apple’s iPhones first launched.

      Samsung’s foldable phone was born of the company’s effort to "build an indisputably original product, and set itself apart,” Bloomberg reported.

      If Samsung had been able to launch the phone in April as originally planned, that would have put it “comfortably ahead of rivals,” Bloomberg noted. Huawei announced in February that it’s planning to launch its Mate X foldable smartphone in the “middle of 2019.”

      In a statement on Monday, Samsung attempted to shed some light on findings from its initial investigation of the defective test units.

      “Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance,” Samsung said, adding that it “will take measures to strengthen the display protection.”

      The Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung’s Galaxy fold won’t be released until sometime in May at the earliest.

      Samsung has announced that it’s delaying the launch of its first foldable phone after reviewers reported screen issues, such as cracked or broken screens a...
      Read lessRead more

      At least 156 people sick in E. coli outbreak from ground beef

      The CDC has yet to isolate the source of the contamination

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that an outbreak of E. coli, tied to tainted ground beef is spreading. At least 156 consumers have gotten sick since March 1.

      No one is believed to have died from infection, but the CDC says it knows of at least 20 people who have been hospitalized after eating the tainted meat. Of added concern is the fact that health authorities have yet to identify the source of the contamination. People have gotten sick after eating the beef both at home and at restaurants.

      “Traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of raw ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurant locations where ill people reported eating,” the CDC said in its latest bulletin. “At this time, no common supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef has been identified.”

      Kentucky has the most cases

      So far, the outbreak is confined mostly to the eastern part of the country, with most cases occurring in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. Here is the breakdown of cases as recorded by the CDC:

      • Kentucky (65)

      • Tennessee (41)

      • Georgia (33)

      • Ohio (8)

      • Florida (3)

      • Virginia (2)

      • Illinois (1)

      • Indiana (1)

      • Minnesota (1)

      • Mississippi (1)

      The CDC said it is not recommending that consumers avoid eating ground beef at this time. However, it advises both consumers and restaurants that they should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness.

      When preparing ground beef, safety experts advise cooking it to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees fahrenheit.

      Symptoms of illness from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) usually appear within three to four days after ingesting the germ. Symptoms may include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting, usually lasting 5-7 days.

      Some people with a STEC infection may suffer more serious symptoms, including a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that an outbreak of E. coli, tied to tainted ground beef is spreading. At least 156 consumers ha...
      Read lessRead more

      U.S. files criminal charges in connection with opioid distribution

      The criminal charges are the first in connection with opioid distribution

      The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has announced criminal charges against two former drug company officials in connection with the distribution of opioid painkillers.

      The Justice Department says it’s the first time any drug company executive has faced criminal charges of fueling the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic. Laurence F. Doud III, former CEO of Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC), and William Pietruszewski, the company’s former chief compliance officer, have been accused of unlawfully distributing oxycodone and fentanyl and conspiring to defraud the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  

      The U.S. attorney’s office also sued RDC, claiming it knowingly failed to comply with its legal obligation to report thousands of suspicious orders of controlled substances to the DEA. RDC is one of the 10 largest pharmaceutical distributors in the U.S., according to the Justice Department.

      “We made mistakes,' RDC spokesman Jeff Eller said in a statement to the media. “We accept responsibility for those mistakes.”

      Few reports to DEA

      According to the complaints, RDC reported only four suspicious opioid orders to the DEA over a more than four year period. The U.S. attorney said 2,000 opioid orders actually fell into the category of being suspicious.

      During that same time, the Justice Department says RDC quadrupled its sales of controlled substances.

      U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced a consent decree with the company, which agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct, pay a $20 million penalty, reform and improve its Controlled Substances Act compliance program, and submit to supervision by an independent monitor.  

      If RDC complies with the agreement, the government has agreed to put off prosecution for a period of five years. After that, the government said it would ask the court to dismiss the charges. The decree must receive final approval by the court.

      “This prosecution is the first of its kind,” Berman said. “Executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking, trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country.”

      Civil actions

      There have been dozens of civil lawsuits filed against opioid drug manufacturers and distributors. Most were filed by state and local governments, seeking to recoup a portion of the costs of dealing with the addiction crisis.

      In 2017, attorneys for the Cherokee nation filed suit against McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. The complaint alleges the companies did nothing to prevent the flow of illegally prescribed opioids to members of the Cherokee Nation, including children.

      A couple of months later Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued five opioid manufacturers, accusing the drug companies of engaging in fraudulent marketing of the drugs by minimizing the risks and inflating the benefits of prescription opioids.

      Last year, six states sued Purdue Pharma, a manufacturer of the opioid painkiller OxyContin. They accused the company of contributing to a growing opioid addiction crisis.

      The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has announced criminal charges against two former drug company officials in connection wit...
      Read lessRead more

      United Airlines CEO takes a fresh pro-traveler stand

      Is this poppycock or a promise that will be made good? Only time will tell, but United wants consumers to know they hear you loud and clear.

      How about this for an opening, declarative statement: It’s not fun to fly anymore.

      “Duh!” you say?

      Believe it or not, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz agrees and says he’d like to do something about it.

      “It's become so stressful,” Munoz told ABC News. “From when you leave, wherever you live, to get into traffic, to find a parking spot, to get through security.”

      “Frankly, by the time you sit on one of our aircraft ... you're just pissed at the world. Improving the flying experience won't ultimately depend on what coffee or cookie I give you.”

      Amen.

      Munoz may be that breath of fresh air travelers are looking for. He’s not an “airline guy” per se, and he probably has more of a consumer-first attitude than his airline peers given his time in consumer services at AT&T, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo.

      He seems to be fully aware that he and United may be pushing their hopes up a hill and against the wind of their competitors who are always at the ready to slash prices, sell a couple of inches of more legroom, and charge a fortune for a dwarfish turkey sandwich.

      “The competition is less about price discounts and more about the experience and the service,” Munoz said. “I think at the end of the day, it’s better for the customer.”

      How little is too little?

      ABC’s David Kerley asked Munoz some pointed questions that many air travelers would like to know the answer to.

      When grilled about seat size -- “Have we reached the smallest (seat) we’re going to get?” -- Munoz didn’t flinch.

      “I think we’re nearing a point certainly that we can’t do that anymore,” Munoz confessed.

      Kerley then asked, “Why doesn’t your Wi-Fi always work?” Munoz couched his answer by saying that the technology involved is “complicated.” However, he went on to take responsibility for iffy on-board internet. “We will fix that. That’s how important Wi-Fi is to us.”

      Are you a frustrated flyer?

      “Somebody asked me what advice I would give to other travelers. I said empathy,” Munoz said. “I think discourse between human beings is lacking. I’ve always lived by the concept that sharing is caring. So, share with us.”

      But, Munoz asks the traveler to think about how much actual control an airline has in situations like storms -- things that are out of the airlines’ hands.

      “Why would I, on purpose, delay (your flight)? There’s always something that can’t go right. I tell our team that someone trusted us and said you would get me from here to here and that’s what they bought, that’s their product. Anything short of that has to be our issue.”

      How about this for an opening, declarative statement: It’s not fun to fly anymore.“Duh!” you say?Believe it or not, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz...
      Read lessRead more