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    Over two billion medical records, bank statements, and more are at risk of being exposed, study finds

    Consumers should keep fresh backups to prevent personal data from being lost forever

    A new report on cybersecurity says that more than 2.3 billion files are exposed and publicly available by misconfigured and non-secured technologies such as remote servers (including printers), network storage devices, and Amazon S3 buckets (cloud service components similar to file folders).

    To simplify it at the consumer level, that data includes customer data such as passport scans and bank statements, as well as business information like intellectual property -- basically any file that may be stored or shared on the internet.

    Digital Shadows Photon Research Team is the one shining the light on that staggering number -- a statistic made even more mind-boggling because that 2.3 billion total is a 50 percent jump (750 million files) from last year’s analysis.

    Maybe the most staggering consumer concern that the Photon Team uncovered was some 4.7 million personal, medical-related files are being left out in the open -- including patient records, X-ray scans, and physician’s notes. Health record data breaches are nothing new, but they are concerning nonetheless -- especially when the consumer counts on agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent cybersecurity attacks on medical devices.

    Mining for gold

    All indications point to consumers’ favorite digital hooligans -- cybercriminals -- as the force lurking in the background and conducting this grab-and-run mission.

    “It would appear threat actors are also attempting to monetize this exposure,” theorizes Harrison Van Riper, a Strategy and Research Analyst with Digital Shadows. “Within our data set, Photon detected … 17 million files had been held hostage by various ransomware variants.”

    Data protection tips

    The takeaway from this analysis is pretty simple: the consumer should always keep current backups and be prepared if and when a ransomware attack happens.

    “Consumers should be aware that network-attached storage (NAS) drives or other types of file-sharing technologies may not come pre-configured with strong security controls, like a unique and complex password or port blocking to prevent remote access,” Riper said when ConsumerAffairs asked him what measures consumers can take to tighten down the clamps on their data.

    “If these unsecured or misconfigured devices are then connected to the internet, potentially for looking at photos or files by the individual when they are away from home or at the office, this exposure point can be easily identified. Taking a look at the security controls and configuration settings should be the first step when deciding to use a storage service or buy a storage device.”

    A new report on cybersecurity says that more than 2.3 billion files are exposed and publicly available by misconfigured and non-secured technologies such a...
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      Google Play Store gets redesign with new Material Theme

      The update is the latest change for the online app marketplace

      Users of the Google Play Store are being urged to update to the latest version of the app after it received a facelift, according to 9to5Google.

      Fresh to version 15.1.24 is the Material Theme Play Store, which adds in a cleaner look in the marketplace’s app bar while changing some of the tabs that users have become accustomed to. Instead of multi-colored accent colors and nested tabs, a white search field at the bottom of the screen will allow users to search for anything they might want to find.

      Due to a switch in focus when it comes to music, the “Music” tab has now been removed. Instead, users can “Browse music” in the navigation drawer and open up the appropriate apps to play their favorite tunes.

      Changing the Play Store

      The Material Theme redesign comes less than a month after Google announced that it would be changing how apps on the Play Store are rated. Under the new system, developers who more frequently update and refine their apps will be given prominence over those who haven’t updated their apps. New apps will also be featured more prominently.

      At its I/O Developer conference, Google executives said that developers and consumers would also be seeing a few other new updates. Included in that list are new features designed to help developers optimize their apps for use in the car and improved sensors to help devices have more functionality.

      Consumers should take note of new features that are aimed at “optimizing battery and memory consumption.” After all, what’s the point of enjoying all these new features if they kill your phone too quickly.

      Users of the Google Play Store are being urged to update to the latest version of the app after it received a facelift, according to 9to5Google.Fresh t...
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      Gas prices inched lower in the last week

      California's average price dropped below $4 a gallon

      Heading into the summer driving season, motorists are finding some relief at the gas pump. The price of fuel has slowly fallen through May and could be headed even lower.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.82 a gallon, down two cents in the last seven days. It’s 13 cents less than at this time a year ago. The average price of premium is $3.39, also two cents lower than last Friday. The price of diesel fuel is a penny less than last week, at $3.09 a gallon.

      A few states saw the price of gas go up slightly in the last seven days, but most saw prices decline. AAA reports 42 states and Washington, D.C. have gas price averages that are less expensive year-over-year.

      Florida has seen gas prices go down the most, with prices sitting 31 cents a gallon cheaper today than a year ago. In the last week, California motorists saw a hopeful milestone with the average price of regular falling below $4 a gallon for the first time in over a month.

      “Gas prices have declined, on average, by at least a nickel, for the majority of the country since the beginning of May and that’s a trend motorists can expect to continue into early June,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson.

      Casselano credits stable crude oil prices for relief at the pump, noting that prices have gone down even though gasoline supplies remain tight and there’s no let-up in demand.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • California ($3.98)

      • Hawaii ($3.65)

      • Washington ($3.53)

      • Alaska ($3.49)

      • Nevada ($3.47)

      • Oregon ($3.41)

      • Idaho ($3.19)

      • Utah ($3.17)

      • Arizona ($3.12)

      • Illinois ($2.98)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Louisiana ($2.42)

      • Mississippi ($2.42)

      • Alabama ($2.43)

      • South Carolina ($2.45)

      • Arkansas ($2.48)

      • Tennessee ($2.51)

      • Texas ($2.51)

      • Missouri ($2.54)

      • Virginia ($2.55)

      • Oklahoma ($2.57)

      Heading into the summer driving season, motorists are finding some relief at the gas pump. The price of fuel has slowly fallen through May and could be hea...
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      Wegmans Food Markets recalls Wegmans Neptune Salad

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

      Wegmans Food Markets is recalling Wegmans Neptune Salad (UPC begins with 20108831), sold in random-weight packages.

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

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product, packaged in clear plastic containers with a label that states Wegmans Neptune Salad, and Use or Freeze By dates of 5/16 through 5/24, on the upper left side of the label, was sold in the seafood department May 16 -- 21, 2019, at the following six stores:

      • Bridgewater, N.J.
      • Cherry Hill, N.J.
      • Lyell Avenue and Calkins Road in Rochester, N.Y.
      • John Glenn Blvd. in Syracuse, N.Y.
      • Military Rd. in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product and have an allergy or sensitivity to milk should not consume it, but return it to the store for a full refund.

      Wegmans placed automated phone calls to customers who purchased the recalled product using their Shoppers Club card.

      Consumers with questions may contact Wegmans at (855) 934-3663, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (EST).

      Wegmans Food Markets is recalling Wegmans Neptune Salad (UPC begins with 20108831), sold in random-weight packages.The product contains milk, an allerg...
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      TSA now permits certain CBD products on planes

      Products and medications containing hemp-derived CBD can be brought on board or packed in checked baggage

      The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has updated its guidelines on flying with products containing hemp-derived CBD (or cannabidiol).  

      The agency now allows fliers to place products and FDA-approved medications containing CBD in carry-on baggage and checked luggage. However, passengers still aren’t permitted to fly with marijuana.

      “Possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law,” the TSA warned. “TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and certain cannabis infused products.”

      Farm Bill regulations

      Prior to updating its rules, the TSA “made no distinction between marijuana and hemp-derived preparations,” according to Marijuana Moment, a marijuana policy and advocacy blog.

      The agency’s new policy follows the introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp -- a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants.

      “Products/medications that contain hemp-derived CBD or are approved by the FDA are legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law under the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018,” the TSA said.

      The TSA said it updated the language in its guidelines when it became aware of confusion regarding the status of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved epilepsy drug which contains CBD.

      "To avoid confusion as to whether families can travel with this drug, TSA immediately updated TSA.gov once we became aware of the issue," a TSA spokesperson told CNN.

      The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has updated its guidelines on flying with products containing hemp-derived CBD (or cannabidiol).  The...
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      The line between low-cost airlines and traditional carriers is getting blurry

      A study shows airline satisfaction continues to rise for traditional airlines and fall for low-cost carriers

      The best bang for the consumer’s buck has encountered a little fog. A new study by J.D. Power shows that traditional airlines’ (Delta, United, American, Alaska) investment in updated fleets, better airfare value, and an improved focus on customer satisfaction has paid off handsomely. Those carriers enjoyed an 11-point uptick in Power’s new 2019 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

      Finishing first among traditional carriers is Alaska Airlines with a score of 801. Delta Air Lines came in second with a score of 788, and American Airlines ranks third with a point total of 764.

      “Airlines continue to deliver on the operational side of air travel,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power. “New technology investments have dramatically improved the reservation and check-in process. Fleets are newer and travelers generally feel that they are getting great value for their money. These improvements have been most profound in the traditional carrier segment, where customer satisfaction has climbed considerably.”

      Customer satisfaction with the low-cost carriers (e.g., Southwest, Allegiant, Frontier) took a 6-point dip, but the study still found higher overall satisfaction with these companies over traditional carriers.

      “While low-cost carriers have historically had the highest levels of customer satisfaction in our study, due to a strong sense of value for money among customers, that line is starting to blur as traditional carriers improve their services and operations,” Taylor added.

      JetBlue Airways’ and Southwest’s score of 817 put them in a tie for first place in the low-cost segment.

      So, what is it -- better service or cheapest price?

      Now that the world is in summer vacation mode, consumers have a big choice to make: pay a little more and disembark with a smile or pay a little less and walk off the plane possibly feeling a little dispirited.

      In ConsumerAffairs’ ongoing reporting on the airline industry, our coverage mirrors some of what Power’s study found.

      For example, in the Power survey, Alaska Airlines came in first for the 12th year in a row, adding another trophy to its list of first-place consumer ratings; on the other end, Frontier brought up the rear in customer satisfaction, which echoes another study that found the airline had nearly the same number of complaints as airlines that flew 10 times as many people.

      If you’re in the midst of planning a trip, you might want to grab your pencil. Here are some of the key findings of Power’s study:

      • Tech investments in reservation and check-in systems pay off. The reservation and check-in experiences are the most satisfying portions of the airline experience, driven by investments in digital check-in technologies, self-service kiosks, and a concerted effort among airlines to improve the efficiency of the pre-flight process.

      • In-flight service remains a stumbling block. In-flight services, such as seatback entertainment, food service, and Wi-Fi continue to be the lowest-ranked part of the air traveler experience. Specific in-flight amenities that have the greatest positive effect on customer satisfaction are fresh food, seatback games, and seatback live television.

      Overall, there is one area where both traditional and low-cost carriers still need a little improvement: in-flight services. “It continues to be the lowest-ranked factor in the study, as many airlines still struggle with in-flight entertainment, connectivity, in-seat power and food service,” according to Taylor.

      The best bang for the consumer’s buck has encountered a little fog. A new study by J.D. Power shows that traditional airlines’ (Delta, United, American, Al...
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      Justice Department wants T-Mobile, Sprint to create fourth carrier

      DOJ officials have reportedly presented a new condition for approving the merger

      Before the Department of Justice considers approving the $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, the agency reportedly wants the two companies to “lay the groundwork” for a fourth carrier, according to Bloomberg.

      The Justice Department has been hesitant to approve the deal, as it doesn’t believe the merger will be in the best interest of consumers. Back in April, the DOJ expressed concern that the merger would negatively affect competition in the industry. It also challenged the companies’ assertion that the merger would lower costs.

      Now, a source familiar with the matter has informed Bloomberg that DOJ officials are demanding that the two telecom companies create a fourth carrier in order to get the deal approved. The request would mitigate the DOJ’s concern that T-Mobile would have less incentive to drop costs as a way of attracting customers after joining forces with Sprint.

      “T-Mobile has a reputation for aggressively seeking to cut prices and improve service to woo customers away from market leaders Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, and staff may want to preserve that dynamic,” Reuters reported last month, citing sources familiar with the matter.

      Pending approval

      While the new condition might assuage one of the DOJ’s chief concerns, it would go against the carriers’ argument that combining would help them compete with Verizon and AT&T and lower costs for consumers.

      Last week, reports surfaced that Justice Department officials recommended that the merger be blocked. The news was fresh on the heels of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying he would approve the deal on the basis that it would help speed up the deployment of nationwide 5G and help close the digital divide in America.

      Bloomberg notes that if T-Mobile and Sprint are unable to convince the Justice Department to approve the deal, the government would sue in court to “block the tie-up.”

      “State attorneys general, who can enforce antitrust laws, are also concerned the merger threatens competition and could join a U.S. challenge or sue on their own if the Justice Department approved it,” the publication pointed out.

      Before the Department of Justice considers approving the $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, the agency reportedly wants the two companies to “lay...
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      Apple hauled into court over disclosing iTunes users’ personal data

      A lawsuit claims the company didn’t honor its privacy promise

      Three Apple iTunes users have filed a lawsuit against the company for purportedly disclosing -- and selling -- their listening habits, purchases, and personal data to advertisers without getting their consent.

      The rub is simple: in the plaintiff’s mind, Apple didn’t practice what it preached in an Apple billboard reading “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

      Apple’s ad seems innocent enough given that it ran only in Las Vegas and was riffing on Vegas’ tourism line, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” However, Apple made a blunder when it also pointed to Apple.com/privacy in the ad. On that site, the company clearly says that every Apple product “is designed from the ground up to protect [user] information. And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom.”  

      That mantra is widely used. Only a few weeks ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook kept that consumer promise alive when he said Apple doesn’t want consumers’ data.

      The disgruntled iTunes users are from Rhode Island and Michigan, states that have laws in place that protect records of entertainment purchases. In their lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, the plaintiffs claim that iTunes’ disclosure of consumers’ personal data is not only illegal, but also alarming because it allows the company to target “vulnerable members of society.”

      “For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application,” the lawsuit points out. “Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.”

      Spy Tunes

      Whether Apple can prove its intentions weren’t as marauding as Facebook’s has been, there is evidence that the company has made similar missteps before.

      “A person’s taste in media can be highly personal, yet all of Apple’s more than 10 billion song and 200 million TV and movie downloads are potentially traceable by the George Smileys of the world the world’s spies, stalkers, yellow journalists, and opposition researchers,” wrote Andrew McAfee, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) back in 2011. (Author’s note: Smiley is a spy in John le Carré novels.)

      “Of course, this is nowhere near as big a deal as privacy holes in online health or financial information would be, so we should keep this issue in perspective. But it is an issue, I think.”

      Whether Apple is speaking out of both sides of its mouth is something for judge and jury to decide, but it’s possible the company might use existing language in the company’s advertising and privacy policy as a shield.

      “To ensure ads are relevant, Apple’s advertising platform creates groups of people, called segments, who share similar characteristics and uses these groups for delivering targeted ads. Information about you is used to determine which segments you are assigned to, and thus, which ads you receive. To protect your privacy, your information is used to place you into segments of at least 5,000 people,” Apple states in that policy.

      Calling out the tech industry

      It’s interesting to note that while Apple may be the one in the lawsuit’s crosshairs, the plaintiffs pull other companies into the mix, spreading the blame across the larger tech landscape.  

      “Apple is not alone in jeopardizing its subscribers’ privacy and well-being in exchange for increased revenue: disclosing subscriber information to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperatives, direct marketers, and other third parties is a widespread practice in the publishing industry.”

      Three Apple iTunes users have filed a lawsuit against the company for purportedly disclosing -- and selling -- their listening habits, purchases, and perso...
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      Boeing CEO discusses the company’s next steps

      ‘We have work to do to earn and re-earn’ the public’s trust, he said

      ​At an investor conference on Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company is aware that it will need to regain the public’s trust in the wake of two deadly crashes of 737 Max jets.

      The crashes, which occurred just five months apart, prompted authorities to ground all the jets worldwide in March as a safety precaution. Since then, investigators have pointed to the possibility of faulty sensor data being a key factor in the crashes, which killed a total of 346 people.

      “We know ... that the public’s confidence has been hurt by these accidents and that we have work to do to earn and re-earn the trust of the flying public and we will do that,” Muilenburg said, according to CNBC. “We are taking all actions necessary to make sure that accidents like those two ... never happened again.”

      A 'defining moment' for Boeing

      Describing the incidents as a “defining moment” for the company, Muilenburg said Boeing is exploring “a number of different ways we can address this issue.”

      "In some cases cash may be part of the solution,” he said, referring to the possibility of compensating airlines for the ongoing grounding and the delay in new deliveries of its 737 planes.

      Boeing recently submitted a software fix for the jets, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently reviewing. The change would, in part, give pilots greater control over the system believed to have contributed to the crashes.

      In the meantime, the planes still haven’t been deemed safe to fly.

      “We’re committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right," Muilenburg said in a statement earlier this month. "We’re making clear and steady progress and are confident that the 737 Max with updated MCAS software will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly."

      ​At an investor conference on Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company is aware that it will need to regain the public’s trust in the wake...
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      Apple announces updated iPod touch

      The new iPod touch features ‘enhancements to power, capability and communication’

      Apple on Tuesday introduced an updated version of its iPod touch. The latest iteration of the device contains an A10 Fusion chip which makes the device “twice as fast as before” and gives it the ability to handle Group FaceTime calls and augmented reality apps, according to the company.

      The release of the upgraded product comes a full four years after Apple debuted the first version of its iPod touch. In addition to getting faster A10 Fusion Chips, Apple has announced that it’s rolling out a new Touch model that boasts 256 GB of storage for consumers who want more storage capacity.

      The device remains the same in terms of appearance, with a physical home button and a four-inch screen. However, the internally-refreshed device is still cheaper than most newer iPhones.

      The iPod touch is available now for $199 with a 32GB capacity, $299 for 128GB, and $399 for the 256GB model.

      “We’re making the most affordable iOS device even better with performance that is twice as fast as before, Group FaceTime and augmented reality starting at just $199,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Product Marketing, said in a statement. “The ultra-thin and lightweight design of iPod touch has always made it ideal for enjoying games, music and so much more wherever you go.”

      Apple on Tuesday introduced an updated version of its iPod touch. The latest iteration of the device contains an A10 Fusion chip which makes the device “tw...
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      Volvo recalls model year 2019 S60s

      The vehicle may experience a sudden changing in handling

      Volvo Car USA is recalling 8,266 model year 2019 S60s.

      The rear suspension toe link flange lock nuts may not have been properly tightened, possibly resulting in a sudden change in vehicle handling.

      A sudden change in vehicle handling can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volvo will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the rear toe link flange bolts and lock nuts, replacing them if necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 21, 2019.

      Owner's my contact Volvo Customer Service at 1-800-458-1552. Volvo's number for this recall is R19938.


      Volvo Car USA is recalling 8,266 model year 2019 S60s.The rear suspension toe link flange lock nuts may not have been properly tightened, possibly resu...
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      Brodt Zenatti Holding recalls SoCo brand tahini

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Brodt Zenatti Holding of Jupiter, Fla., is recalling SoCo brand tahini that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      Four illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following product is being recalled:

      • SoCo Tahini in a 13.5 oz. (380g) container with an expiration date two years from the production. The expiration date is located on the lid of the containers.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Brodt Zenatti Holding at (305) 570-9050, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

      Brodt Zenatti Holding of Jupiter, Fla., is recalling SoCo brand tahini that may be contaminated with Salmonella.Four illnesses have been reported to da...
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      Various Acuras and Hondas with airbag issue recalled

      The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 19,086 pf the following vehicles:

      • Model year 2009-2014 Acura TSXs,
      • Model year 2011-2013 TSX Sport Wagons,
      • Model year 2010-2012 ZDXs,
      • Model year 2008-2012 Honda Accords,
      • Model year 2010-2011 Accord Crosstours,
      • Model year 2006-2011 Civics, Civic Hybrids & Civic NGVs,
      • Model year 2012-2014 Crosstours,
      • Model year 2007-2011 CR-Vs,
      • Model year 2009-2013 Fits,
      • Model year 2010-2013 Insights, and
      • Model year 2009-2015 Pilots.

      The front passenger airbag inflator may have been installed incorrectly during replacement.

      An incorrectly installed inflator may not properly deploy the passenger front airbag in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the inflator installation and, if necessary, replace the passenger frontal air bag module assembly free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 28, 2019.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's numbers for this recall are M4O, P4R, T4Q, and W4P.

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 19,086 pf the following vehicles: Model year 2009-2014 Acura TSXs, Model year 2011-2013 TSX Sport Wagons,...
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      Democratic hopeful targets treasury secretary’s ties to Sears

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren singles out Steve Mnuchin for criticism in the retailer’s woes

      Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is putting some heat on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, citing his time on the board of directors of Sears Holdings, as the retailer sold off assets in a bid to stay afloat.

      Mnuchin served on the Sears board until 2016, when he resigned to assume a post in the incoming Trump administration. Prior to that, Mnuchin had a close friendship with Sears Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert and had been Lampert’s college roommate.

      Warren accuses Lampert of mismanaging the company and selling off assets when it did not serve the interests of stakeholders. In a letter, Warren, along with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y), accused the corporate leadership of responding to alleged mismanagement by closing more than 3,500 stores and selling some of the company’s most valuable assets.

      2018 bankruptcy

      After Sears declared bankruptcy in late 2018, Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, was the successful bidder in gaining control of the retailer’s remaining assets. Lampert stressed that he planned to keep 400 Sears and Kmart stores open but Warren was not impressed.

      “While ESL Investments had operational control of the Sears Holding Corporation, the company engaged in questionable financial engineering and other managerial decisions that enriched executives while decimating Sears' long-term growth and sustainability- ultimately resulting in Sears' bankruptcy and tens of thousands of lost jobs,” she wrote.

      Warren claims Lampert loaded Sears with large amounts of debt, contributing to its inability to adapt to a changing retail environment. She notes that in Fiscal Year 2005, the company had a net debt-to-equity ratio of -0.04, and by Fiscal Year 2013, the ratio had ballooned to 1.48-1.

      Last month Sears Holdings sued Lampert and former board members, accusing them of “stripping Sears of billions of dollars as it collapsed into bankruptcy." The lawsuit accused the members of the board of "assisting" Lampert in "transferring billions of dollars of the Company's assets to its shareholders" at the expense of the company as a whole.

      Cites lawsuit

      "In their recent lawsuit, Sears creditors accuse you and five other members of the Sears board of 'assisting' Lampert in 'transferring billions of dollars of the company's assets to its shareholders' at the expense of the company as a whole," the lawmakers said in their letter. "In your current role as treasury secretary, you have had the opportunity to intervene on behalf of Sears and in favor of Lampert's interests."

      Warren said she is deeply concerned about what she called the “financial engineering” and “potentially illegal activity” that took place at Sears Holding Corporation during Mnuchin’s tenure on the corporate board.

      Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is putting some heat on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, citing his time on the board of...
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      Memorial Day weekend gas prices are headed lower

      An increase in supply is keeping price hikes at bay

      Consumers hitting the road for the Memorial Day weekend may find slightly lower gasoline prices than a week ago.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.84, down nearly two cents from last Friday. That’s more than 11 cents less than at this time a year ago.

      The average price of premium is $3.41, down about two cents from last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.10, less than a penny more than a week ago.

      Gasoline prices nationwide have moderated in the last few weeks because consumer demand has softened. At 228.7 million barrels, total gasoline inventories in the U.S. are 5.2 million barrels less than they were in mid-May 2018. A big drop in U.S. gasoline exports led to the increase, which AAA says may not last.

      China trade a factor

      Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says he thinks consumers could see more declines at the gas pump in the weeks ahead.

      “Typically, June features mostly downward movement thanks to refineries boosting supply, having completed their maintenance,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “Obviously, we're watching the US-China trade deal. If there's a deal gas prices may rise, but for now things are mostly quiet and we are expecting more downward movement than upward.”

      One reason gasoline stocks have risen is the U.S. has imported a lot more gasoline than usual, doubling imports to 1.35 million barrels a day. Even so, AAA says increased gasoline stocks amid robust summer demand may help to keep prices at the pump from rising.

      This week price movement state-to-state was minor. Some starts registered a small price increase while others saw a very small price decline.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • California ($4.02)

      • Hawaii ($3.64)

      • Washington ($3.54)

      • Nevada ($3.48)

      • Alaska ($3.47)

      • Oregon ($3.43)

      • Idaho ($3.20)

      • Utah ($3.19)

      • Arizona ($3.14)

      • Pennsylvania ($3.00)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Alabama ($2.45)

      • Louisiana ($2.45)

      • Mississippi ($2.45)

      • South Carolina ($2.48)

      • Arkansas ($2.50)

      • Tennessee ($2.54)

      • Missouri ($2.54)

      • Texas ($2.56)

      • Oklahoma ($2.57)

      • Virginia ($2.58)

      Consumers hitting the road for the Memorial Day weekend may find slightly lower gasoline prices than a week ago.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the nat...
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      Revelate Designs recalls bicycle seat bags

      The straps that fasten the bag to the bike seat can detach

      Revelate Designs of Anchorage, Alaska, is recalling about 1,250 bicycle seat bags.

      The straps that fasten the bag to the bike seat can detach and get tangled in the rear wheel of the bike, posing crash and injury hazards to the rider.

      The firm has received one report of the bag becoming unfastened and entangled in the rear wheel.

      This recall involves Revelate Designs 2019 Terrapin System 14L model bicycle seat bags.

      The seat bags have a pair of straps with hooks on the top rear of the bag and 4 red loops which the hooks connect to.

      The bags have Revelate Design logos on the left and right sides and were sold in black, blue, purple and camouflage.

      The nylon bags measure about 18 inches by 7 inches

      The bags, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at REI stores and bicycle shops nationwide and online at www.revelatedesigns.com from December 2018, through April 2019, for about $160

      What to do

      Customers should immediately stop using the seat bags and contact Revelate Designs for repair instructions.

      Consumers may contact Revelate Designs toll-free at (833) 732-8224 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at info@revelatedesigns.com or online at https://www.revelatedesigns.com and click on “Recall Notice” near the bottom of the page for more information.

      Revelate Designs of Anchorage, Alaska, is recalling about 1,250 bicycle seat bags.The straps that fasten the bag to the bike seat can detach and get ta...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2019 Siennas

      Certain airbags may malfunction

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 274 model year 2019 Siennas.

      The passenger front door may have incorrect welds inside, possibly affecting the airbag sensor readings for the passenger side front seat and curtain shield airbags.

      The incorrect sensor readings could cause the airbags to unintentionally deploy or not deploy when intended, increasing the risk of a crash and/or injury.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger side front door sub assembly with a new one free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 10, 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is K1G /K0G.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 274 model year 2019 Siennas.The passenger front door may have incorrect welds inside, possibly af...
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      Honda recalls model year 2019 CR-Vs

      The driver's airbag may deploy without warning

      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 118,598 model year 2019 CR-Vs.

      The metal core of the steering wheel may have burrs which can damage the harnesses routed within, potentially disabling the driver's air bag or causing it to deploy without warning.

      In the event of a crash, a disabled air bag would increase the risk of injury. An uncommanded deployment of the driver's air bag also increases the risk of injury and a crash.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will install a protective cover on the steering wheel core and replace clockspring and the harnesses within free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 8, 2019.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is R4S.


      American Honda Motor Co., is recalling 118,598 model year 2019 CR-Vs.The metal core of the steering wheel may have burrs which can damage the harnesses...
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      FAA head says no firm date for returning the 737 MAX to the air

      International aviation officials are holding a meeting today on the next steps

      The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says there is no hard-and-fast date for the Boeing 737 MAX jetliners to return to the air.

      The aircraft type, used by airlines around the world, has been grounded since March 13 following two similar crashes by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines, occurring five months apart.

      “It takes as long as it takes,” Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told the Seattle Times. “The 737 MAX will fly again when we have gone through all of the necessary analysis to determine that it is safe to do so.”

      Elwell, in Dallas to meet with international aviation officials to discuss the grounded jet, held out the possibility the airplane could remain grounded for as much as a year if that’s how long it takes to address safety issues.

      “I’m not tied to a timeline,” he told the newspaper.

      International meeting

      The meeting today will allow aviation officials to discuss what is needed before the 737 MAX can fly again. U.S. officials say they would like a concerted effort so that the plane gets clearance from all nations simultaneously.

      An FAA spokesman told the newspaper that the agency has a general understanding of how Boeing plans to address the issue, but it isn’t clear on how long it will take to implement and re-certify the aircraft.

      While investigations into the two crashes remain ongoing, their similarities have strongly  suggested a common cause. An angle-of-attack sensor, located on the plane’s fuselage, sends a signal to the flight control system if it determines the plane is climbing at too steep an angle, which could lead to a stall.

      In both instances, investigators believe the sensor may have transmitted faulty information to the flight control system during takeoff, triggering an automated response that pointed the nose of the plane down when it should have been climbing.

      Complicating summer travel

      The grounding of the 737 MAX jets most likely will affect U.S. travelers through the busy summer vacation season. Three U.S. carriers -- Southwest, American, and United -- use the aircraft type and have had to replace their planes or cancel flights.

      Both American and Southwest initially canceled flights using the 737 MAX aircraft through June 5, but last month they pushed the deadline back to August. In light of the FAA’s current position, even that fall-back date is beginning to look doubtful.

      The FAA says Boeing’s steps to address the safety issues are taking significantly longer than initial estimates. Elwell said the manufacturer had first committed to deliver the software fix before the end of March. It withdrew that commitment after a company review found other issues that needed to be fixed.

      The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says there is no hard-and-fast date for the Boeing 737 MAX jetliners to return to the air.The air...
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      Spotify to resets some user passwords citing security concerns

      The music streaming giant said it detected ‘suspicious activity’

      Some Spotify users received an email saying that their password had been reset due to “suspicious activity” within the platform, according to TechCrunch. The company didn’t elaborate further on the security issues it uncovered.

      “As part of our ongoing maintenance efforts to combat fraudulent activity on our service, we recently shared a communication with select users to reset their passwords as a precaution,” Spotify spokesperson Peter Collins told TechCrunch.

      “As a best practice, we strongly recommend users not to use the same credentials across different services to protect themselves,” Collins said, implying that the activity was a stuffing attack.

      However, some users claimed to have been using strong, unique passwords across different websites, with one being unique to Spotify. If that’s true, then Spotify could have suffered a breach.

      TechCrunch noted that two users who commented on this thread said their passwords were unique to their Spotify account, “casting doubt on the veracity of a credential stuffing attack."

      Some Spotify users received an email saying that their password had been reset due to “suspicious activity” within the platform, according to TechCrunch. T...
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      Apple vows to inform consumers if an update will slow down their iPhone

      The company has pledged to be ‘clearer and more upfront’ with users

      Last year, Apple faced criticism and numerous lawsuits after it came to light that it failed to inform owners of older iPhones that a software update might slow down their devices.

      Now, Apple has promised UK watchdog Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it will “be clearer and more upfront” with users about whether a software update could affect the performance of their iPhone.

      The group noted that Apple has "already started to be more upfront with iPhone users” in the wake of the iPhone slowdown controversy, but yesterday’s pledge "locks the firm into formal commitments always to notify people when issuing a planned software update if it is expected to materially change the impact of performance management on their phones,” the CMA said Wednesday.

      Greater transparency

      Additionally, Apple has vowed to give iPhone owners easier access to information about battery health and unexpected shutdowns, as well as guidance on how they can optimize the health of their phone’s lithium-ion battery.

      “This could help people improve the performance of their own handset after a planned software update by, for example, changing settings, adopting the low power mode or replacing the battery - rather than resorting to having their phone repaired or replaced,” CMA explained. “The firm has agreed to do this both for current and future iPhones.”

      Apple has maintained that the performance management feature introduced with iOS updates 10.2.1 and 11.2 was meant to “improve customers’ user experience” by prolonging the life of their aging phone battery.

      In early 2018, Apple apologized for the way it handled the update and then took several steps to mitigate consumer frustration. Those steps included dropping the price of out-of-warranty battery replacements and adding a new Battery Health menu in iOS 11.3 to “further assist our customers and help extend the life of their iPhones.”

      The CMA said on its website that Apple has now agreed to “improve the information it provides to people about the battery health of their phones and the impact performance management software may have on their phones” in order to comply with consumer law.

      Last year, Apple faced criticism and numerous lawsuits after it came to light that it failed to inform owners of older iPhones that a software update might...
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      Video streaming providers start to fight back in the binge-and-cancel game

      Will the service with the most exclusive shows win? That’s where it appears to be headed

      With cable and satellite video providers playing carrot-and-stick with their “introductory price” scheme and then walloping the consumer with a more costly “regular” rate after the introductory period is over, consumers are doing the same thing back to the providers by playing the “binge-and-cancel” game.

      On Thursday, Axios laid out a new study showing that more than 30 percent of all consumers are likely to cancel a subscription streaming service after the show or series they are watching has ended. A more timely data point came out of that Axios/Harris poll, which revealed that 16 percent of HBO subscribers say they planned to cancel their subscriptions once “Game of Thrones” completed its run.

      Not all consumers play this game, but evidence is growing that most people plan to hang onto subscription services for less than 6 months after their original sign-up. The bulk of those gamers are from Gen Y millennials at 44 percent. Those numbers drop off slightly with older millennials (41 percent), baby boomers (34 percent), and Gen Xers (30 percent).

      An interesting side note in Axios’ research is that the subscription service game is less likely to occur when consumers primarily rely on cable as their primary source. The reasons are logical: consumers don’t want to go through the hassle of rewiring their system and returning the cable box. Signing up or cancelling streaming services can be done online without having to talk to anyone who begs you to stay or offers an “if you’ll stay” deal.

      Where this game is headed

      Streaming services are onto the binge-and-cancel game and are doing their best to plug the dike. Many are tossing in additional services -- like Spotify recently offering free Hulu with a subscription. Others -- like Amazon Prime -- are creating cultural events like the pop-up delicatessen it rolled out in an effort to buoy its comedy series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

      This game is going to take a while to play out, so buckle up. Companies are already wheeling and dealing like crazy. Only last week, ConsumerAffairs wrote about the NBCUniversal-Disney-Comcast swap meet.

      This week came news that  WarnerMedia is launching its own streaming video subscription service later this year. That one alone could be a disrupter, simply from the fact that it has the rights to fan favorites like Friends, Seinfeld, and The Big Bang Theory.

      With cable and satellite video providers playing carrot-and-stick with their “introductory price” scheme and then walloping the consumer with a more costly...
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      Justice Department recommends blocking T-Mobile/Sprint merger

      DOJ officials are reportedly skeptical about T-Mobile’s claims about improved service and lowered costs

      The Justice Department’s antitrust division has recommended filing a lawsuit to block the $26.5 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, Reuters reported Wednesday. The publication notes that Justice Department officials do not appear to believe that the merger will be in the best interest of consumers.

      “T-Mobile has a reputation for aggressively seeking to cut prices and improve service to woo customers away from market leaders Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, and staff may want to preserve that dynamic,” Reuters said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

      In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the companies had apparently been told by Justice Department staff that the merger is not likely to be approved as currently structured. The Department reportedly expressed concern that the deal would negatively affect competition in the industry. It also challenged the companies’ arguments that the merger would drive down costs.

      News of the DOJ’s skepticism about the proposed merger comes just a few days after the head of the FCC said he supports it on the basis that combining the two telecom companies will speed up the deployment of 5G and help close “the digital divide in rural America.”

      Arguments against the merger

      The Justice Department is expected to make a final decision on the merger in about a month, sources told Reuters.

      While Sprint and T-Mobile contend that joining forces will create jobs, lower prices for consumers, and lead to better 5G service, lawmakers and labor groups have argued otherwise.

      “T-Mobile and Sprint have led the way in offering wireless products and service options that are more appealing to lower-income consumers, including no contract plans, prepaid and no credit check plans, and unlimited, text, voice, and data plans,” eight Democratic senators said in a statement last year.

      In August, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) opposed the merger, arguing that over 28,000 jobs would be lost if the companies are cleared to merge.

      The Justice Department’s antitrust division has recommended filing a lawsuit to block the $26.5 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, Reuters reporte...
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      Hyundai recall model year 2019 Velosters

      The driver's door may open in a crash

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 12,438 model year 2019 Velosters.

      In certain side impact crashes, the driver's door latch housing and locking cable can become damaged, allowing the driver's side door to open, resulting in occupant ejection or increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's side door latch assembly and lower channel free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 14, 2019.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 183.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 12,438 model year 2019 Velosters.In certain side impact crashes, the driver's door latch housing and locking cable c...
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      Arctic Cat recalls Textron ROVs

      The upper front suspension arms can fail, posing a crash hazard

      Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls, Minn., is recalling about 1,700 Havoc recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      The upper front suspension arms can fail, posing a crash hazard.

      The firm has received six reports of front suspension arm failures. No crashes or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves all model year 2018 and 2019 Textron Havoc recreational off-highway vehicles manufactured by Arctic Cat.

      The two-seat vehicles come in four color combinations: charcoal metallic/bronze, green/black, red/black or white/black.

      The vehicles have Textron Off Road printed on each side of the hood and Havoc on each side of the rear cargo box.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Textron Off Road and Arctic Cat dealers nationwide from January 2018, through April 2019, for between $13,800 and $17,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles 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://arcticcatoffroad.txtsv.com/ and click on “Product Safety Recall Information” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls, Minn., is recalling about 1,700 Havoc recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).The upper front suspension arms can fai...
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      Coolhaus recalls Dairy Free Horchata Frozen Dessert Sandwiches

      The products may contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label

      Coolhaus is recalling its Dairy Free Horchata Frozen Dessert Sandwiches that may contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label.

      One consumer complaint has been reported to date.

      The Coolhaus Dairy Free Horchata Sandwich was distributed in grocery stores nationally.

      The recalled product, UPC #0085191600365, is sold in a 5.8-oz., single serve package with a “Best By” date of 06182020, 08012020, 08252020, 10082020 or 10262020.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (310) 853-8995 ext. 702 or visit online at cool.haus.

      Coolhaus is recalling its Dairy Free Horchata Frozen Dessert Sandwiches that may contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label.One consumer compl...
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      Volvo recalls model year 2016 XC90s

      The engine coolant bleeder hose may crack, resulting in a coolant leak

      Volvo Cars of N.A., is recalling 34,006 model year 2016 XC90s.

      Exposure to heat and humidity may cause the engine coolant bleeder hose to crack, resulting in a coolant leak.

      If the coolant leak goes unnoticed, coolant may accumulate in the catalytic converter heat shield insulation and catch fire when the vehicle is stationary, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Volvo will notify owners, and dealers will replace the engine side coolant bleeder hose free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 14, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volvo customer service at 1-800-458-1552. Volvo's number for this recall is R29936.


      Volvo Cars of N.A., is recalling 34,006 model year 2016 XC90s.Exposure to heat and humidity may cause the engine coolant bleeder hose to crack, resulti...
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      Existing home sales fall again in April

      The spring homebuying season is off to a slow start

      The spring homebuying season remains tepid as sales of existing homes fell again in April, following March’s decline.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports April sales were 0.4 percent lower than March. March existing home sales were down 4.9 percent from February, as buyers showed a preference for new homes.

      Home sellers expecting the spring homebuying season to pick up have been disappointed so far. But Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says economic factors are still working in both buyers’ and sellers’ favor.

      "First, we are seeing historically low mortgage rates combined with a pent-up demand to buy, so buyers will look to take advantage of these conditions," Yun said. "Also, job creation is improving, causing wage growth to align with home price growth, which helps affordability and will help spur more home sales."

      Freddie Mac reports the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.14 percent in April from 4.27 percent in March. The average commitment rate for all of 2018 was 4.54 percent.

      Home prices still going up

      The slowdown in home sales that began in mid-2018 has also coincided with monthly home price increases that are beginning to put some entry-level homes out of reach for many first-time buyers. In April, the median price of all types of existing homes was $267,300, up 3.6 percent from April 2018. The median home price has now increased for 86 straight months.

      Housing experts say housing inventory has been a big driver of prices ever since the pool of available homes began to decline sharply following a pick-up in sales five years ago. Lately, that trend has reversed, with inventory at the end of April increasing to 1.83 million from 1.67 million in March.

      Unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 3.8 months in March and up from 4.0 months in April 2018. Housing economists suggest a six month supply is ideal to maintain a balanced housing market.

      More choices

      "We see that the inventory totals have steadily improved, and will provide more choices for those looking to buy a home," Yun said.

      Even so, sellers appear to be in a strong position despite the slowdown in home sales. Not only are prices still rising in most markets, but homes are selling more quickly. In April, properties stayed on the market for an average of 24 days before getting a contract, 12 fewer days than the month before.

      But Yun cautions homeowners who plan to sell not to overplay their hand. He says being realistic about current market conditions and pricing the property accordingly will help homes sell at a faster pace.

      The spring homebuying season remains tepid as sales of existing homes fell again in April, following March’s decline.The National Association of Realto...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2015-2017 Yaris vehicles

      Front seat side airbags and curtain shield airbags may not deploy as intended

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 43,221 model year 2015-2017 Yaris vehicles.

      The wire harnesses for the side airbag sensors located within the front doors may crack and corrode, possibly causing the non-deployment or improper deployment of the front seat side airbags and the curtain shield airbags.

      Failure of airbags to deploy in the event of a crash can increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the wire harness assembly in the front doors as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 10, 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is K1F/K0F.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 43,221 model year 2015-2017 Yaris vehicles.The wire harnesses for the side airbag sensors located...
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      BMW recalls vehicles with seat belt issue

      The driver's seat belt may not lock

      BMW of North America is recalling 15,455 model year 2016-2017 X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, MINI Hardtop 4 Door Cooper, Mini Hardtop 4 Door Cooper S, MINI Cooper Clubman, & Cooper S Clubman, model year 2017 Rolls-Royce Ghost, and model year 2016 528i vehicles.

      The vehicle-sensitive locking mechanism of the seat belt Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR) for the driver's seat may not lock as designed.

      In the event of a crash where heavy braking is applied, the ELR may activate when the occupant is more forward in the seat, possibly increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's seat belt assembly, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 2, 2019.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 15,455 model year 2016-2017 X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, MINI Hardtop 4 Door Cooper, Mini Hardtop 4 Door Cooper S, MINI Co...
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      Airline watchers predict a record number of travelers will take to the sky this summer

      While airlines are trying to keep prices low, rising airport taxes could increase costs for consumers

      Summer is looking more and more like a motherlode for the airline industry. Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization, sees a record-setting 257.4 million air travelers on the horizon between June 1 and August 31, 2019 -- up more than three percent from 2018’s summer season record.

      To make sure they can meet the demand, A4A reports that airlines are adding 111,000 seats per day. As to whether fares will follow that demand, A4A predicts prices will stay low, contrary to some industry watchers who think airfares will go up.

      “With airlines offering low fares and reinvesting billions of dollars in their product, there’s never been a better time to fly. This summer, U.S. airlines expect travelers to take to the skies in record numbers,” said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.

      “Air travel is the nation’s safest form of transportation, and it is now more affordable than ever before. U.S. carriers are making airline flights more and more accessible, so it’s no surprise that more and more Americans are flying.”

      Regarding affordability, Heimlich points to the fact that inflation-adjusted airfares continue to decline, with the average domestic fare dropping to $350, including those pesky government-imposed fees and taxes. That $350 price tag is the lowest average inflation-adjusted fare since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began tabulating fares in 1995.

      Airports looking for a larger piece of the travel pie

      While airlines are playing nice with the consumer’s wallet, airports are not. Some airports are angling for a tax increase on anyone who boards a plane, even going as far as asking Congress for help in upping the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), the airport tax that passengers pay every time they buy a ticket.

      It’s not like airports are hurting. A4A reports that airport revenues have skyrocketed to $30 billion a year, with nearly $7 billion of that coming directly out of the traveler’s pocket.

      The proposed airport tax is a thorny subject. Airlines say the $7.5 billion that airports are already sitting on is more than enough. If the PFC is doubled, a family of four will have to cough up an additional $144 for a roundtrip, one-stop domestic flight.

      “Airports are flush with cash,” said A4A Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Policy Sharon Pinkerton. “They are reporting record revenues and airport construction is booming. Passengers don’t want a tax hike and airports don’t need one.”

      On the other hand, airports could say that they invest some of that gravy back into consumer-centered upgrades. As an example, Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) just announced that it’s investing $3.0 to $3.5 billion on improvements, including a new 24-gate terminal for American Airlines.

      Travelers could see longer lines at security checkpoints

      To accommodate President Trump’s added focus on immigration, Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPOs) are being moved from U.S. airports to the southern border. If that keeps up, the domino effect could create long lines and wait times for fliers. It could also potentially dampen the spirit of both leisure and business travelers, which, in turn, could take a bite out of the airline industry’s revenue stream.

      If A4A could get its wish, both the Trump Administration and Congress would work cooperatively on finding a way to address security concerns on the southern border without negatively impacting air transportation -- especially during a travel season as big as summer is.

      A4A reminds travelers that starting October 1, 2020, everyone who goes through a screening checkpoint has to show a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another form of acceptable identification, such as a valid U.S. passport. At present, there are six states -- Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Jersey, and Maine -- that haven’t met that requirement.

      For more information, UpgradedPoints has developed a guide on everything a flier needs to know regarding REAL IDs.

      Summer is looking more and more like a motherlode for the airline industry. Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization, sees a record-setti...
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      American Airlines sues its mechanics' union over alleged slowdown

      The company says illegal action has resulted in delayed and canceled flights

      American Airlines has gone to court asking a judge for a preliminary injunction against the union representing its flight mechanics.

      In its complaint, the airline alleged union members are engaged in an illegal work slowdown that has resulted in delays and canceled flights. In a letter to the airline’s mechanics, David Seymour, American’s senior vice president of integrated operations, said 650 flights have been canceled, inconveniencing 125,000 customers. He claimed mechanics were responsible for 1,500 maintenance delays.

      “The data shows the odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity are less than one in one billion,” Seymour said in the letter.

      American’s 15,000 mechanics are represented by two unions, the International Association of Machinists and the Transport Workers union. The two unions represented separate airline workers before American and US Air merged. An association formed from the two unions now represents American mechanics under separate contracts.

      The unions didn’t immediately respond to media requests for comment.

      Similar claim by Southwest

      In February, Southwest Airlines declared a state of emergency and blamed a surge in flight cancellations on the airline’s mechanics. At the time Southwest had two lawsuits pending against the mechanics’ union and was involved in contract negotiations.

      Southwest noted that shortly after contract talks with the union broke off, the airline experienced “an unprecedented number” of out-of-service aircraft in four specific maintenance locations despite no change in its maintenance programs or procedures.

      In his letter to the American mechanics, Seymour charged the unions are engaging in illegal activities to gain leverage in the contract talks.

      Consumers traveling on American, meanwhile, might consider taking advantage of the airline’s BeNotified service, an app that notifies flyers of important flight updates.

      In the past, the airline placed telephone calls to travelers to notify them of their flight status but recently told customers that starting May 23, it will communicate only by email or text.

      American Airlines has gone to court asking a judge for a preliminary injunction against the union representing its flight mechanics.In its complaint, t...
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      Chrysler recalls Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks

      The tailgate may unlatch and open while the vehicle is being driven

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 410,351 model year 2015-2017 Ram 1500, 2500 & 3500 pickup trucks equipped with an 8 foot truck bed and a power locking tailgate.

      In addition, all model year 2018 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks built before April 1, 2018, equipped with a power locking tailgate are being recalled.

      The tailgate actuator limiter tab may fracture and cause the tailgate to unlatch and open while the vehicle is being driven.

      If the tailgate opens while the vehicle is being driven, cargo may fall out the vehicle and create a road hazard, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will repair the tailgate latch, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 28, 2019.

      Owners may contact FCA US customer service at (800) 853-1403. FCA US's number for this recall is V44.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 410,351 model year 2015-2017 Ram 1500, 2500 & 3500 pickup trucks equipped with an 8 foot truck bed and a power locking t...
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      Vienna Beef recalls beef frankfurters

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

      Vienna Beef of Chicago, Ill., is recalling approximately 2,030 pounds of beef frank links.

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically metal.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products

      The following items, produced on May 2, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 10-lb. cases containing “SKINLESS BEEF FRANKFURTERS 6” 8’s 10#” with case code 013180 and package code 9122 represented on the label.
      • 10-lb. cases containing “SKINLESS BEEF FRANKFURTERS 6” 11’s 10#” with case code 013312 and package code 9122 or 9123 represented on the label.
      • 10-lb. cases containing “SKINLESS BEEF FRANKFURTERS 7” 9’s 10#” with case code 013490 and package code 9122 or 9123 represented on the label.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 1” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Were were shipped to food service locations in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

      What to do

      Food service institutions that purchased the recalled should not consume them, but discard or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Tom McGlade at (773) 435-2204.

      Vienna Beef of Chicago, Ill., is recalling approximately 2,030 pounds of beef frank links.The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials --...
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      BMW recalls model year 2016-2019 X1 sDrive28i and X1 xDrive28i vehicles

      The B-pillar may not absorb an adequate amount of crash impact

      BMW of North America is recalling 106,182 model year 2016-2019 X1 sDrive28i and X1 xDrive28i vehicles.

      In the event of a crash where the occupants head contacts the B-pillar, the pillar may not absorb an adequate amount of the impact. I

      Insufficient impact absorption can increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is expected to begin July 2, 2019.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 106,182 model year 2016-2019 X1 sDrive28i and X1 xDrive28i vehicles.In the event of a crash where the occupants head...
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      FCC chairman recommends approval of T-Mobile/Sprint merger​

      Ajit Pai says the merger will help close the digital divide and speed up deployment of 5G

      ​Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai announced Monday that his agency intends to formally recommend the approval of the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint on the basis that it will expedite the deployment of 5G in the U.S.

      “Two of the FCC’s top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. The commitments made today by T-Mobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives,” Pai said in a statement.

      Pai said the combined telecom company would help the agency fulfill its mission of shrinking the digital divide and bringing faster mobile broadband to consumers in rural areas.

      If their union is approved, T-Mobile and Sprint have promised to deploy a 5G network that would cover 97 percent of the nation’s population within three years of the merger’s finalization, and 99 percent within six years. Additionally, 85 percent of rural Americans would be covered within three years and 90 percent covered within six years.

      Pai said the two companies would suffer “serious consequences” if they fail to uphold their FCC commitments.

      “These consequences, which could include total payments to the U.S. Treasury of billions of dollars, create a powerful incentive for the companies to meet their commitments on time,” he said.

      The $26.5 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is still awaiting approval by the FCC and the Justice Department. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the two providers had been told by Justice Department officials that the merger wasn’t likely to be approved as currently structured.  

      Facing opposition

      Sprint and T-Mobile have argued that joining forces will lead to better 5G service, the creation of U.S. jobs, and the ability the better compete with larger rivals. However, lawmakers and labor groups have contended that the merger could lead to price increases and job losses.

      “T-Mobile and Sprint have led the way in offering wireless products and service options that are more appealing to lower-income consumers, including no contract plans, prepaid and no credit check plans, and unlimited, text, voice, and data plans,” eight Democratic senators said in a statement last year.

      Back in August, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) formally opposed the merger. The group argued that over 28,000 jobs would be lost if the companies are combined.

      ​Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai announced Monday that his agency intends to formally recommend the approval of the merger of T-M...
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      Boeing announces software fix for 737 MAX jets

      It may still be a few more months before the jets are approved to return to service

      Boeing, which recently admitted that faulty data from simulator software was a factor in the two deadly 737 MAX crashes that occurred just five months apart, has announced that it’s made corrections to the software.

      "Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions," Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement on Saturday.

      All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded since March. Boeing said in April that it was pushing its timeline for the submission of the software patch to “ensure we take the time to get it right.”

      Awaiting regulator approval

      Now, Boeing says it has made changes to the software to ensure that the simulator experience adequately prepares pilots for a range of flight conditions. Moreover, the changes “will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel," which helps airline operators manually control the plane's angle in rare instances.

      “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” Johndroe said.

      In addition to having developed a software update for its 737 MAX jets, Boeing said it’s also submitting a plan on pilot training to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

      Updated 737 MAX jets must still receive approval from regulators before they can return to service. Acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell said that will happen "only when the FAA's analysis of the factual and technical data indicates it is safe to do so."

      “We’re committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right," Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement. "We’re making clear and steady progress and are confident that the 737 Max with updated MCAS software will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly."

      Boeing, which recently admitted that faulty data from simulator software was a factor in the two deadly 737 MAX crashes that occurred just five months apar...
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      Workplace bullying negatively impacts consumers’ mental and physical health

      Researchers say employers shouldn’t take bullying lightly

      Consumers spend a great deal of their time at work, and having a hostile work environment can be detrimental to both mental and physical health.

      According to a new study, employees who experience the brunt of workplace bullying not only feel the effects in their physical health, but it can also negatively impact their self-esteem and own behavior in the workplace.

      “Overall, our results show the need to consider not only exposure to and types of bullying, but also their associated consequences,” said researcher Dr. Roberta Fida. “In particular, the findings highlight that victimization is associated not only with health problems, but also with a greater likelihood of not behaving in line with the expected social and organizational norms.”

      Understanding bullying

      To see how bullying affected employees’ work performance and their overall well-being, the researchers had over 1,000 participants report on their experience with workplace bullying.

      The participants shared if they dealt with workplace bullying versus personal bullying. They also reported on any negative behaviors that arose as a result of the bullying, how their health was affected, and how they were able to cope with the bullying, if at all.

      Based on the responses, the researchers were able to divide the participants into five different groups:

      • Frequently exposed to workplace bullying (4.4 percent)

      • Occasional workplace and personal bullying (9.6 percent)

      • Limited exposure to workplace bullying and no personal bullying (22.3 percent)

      • No exposure to bullying, but with health-related symptoms (23.9 percent)

      • No exposure to bullying, with no health-related symptoms (39.9 percent)

      Participants in the first group were targeted for both work-related matters and personal issues, and they were found to act out at work and also feel the physical ramifications of bullying. The second group experienced less personal bullying, and they also exhibited better behavior with their coworkers and better physical health.

      While each subsequent group showed less physical symptoms because of bullying -- with the exception of the fourth group -- many of the participants struggled with coping skills and dealing with negative emotions.

      “The greater the intensity of the bullying and the more exposure to the different types of bullying, the higher the likelihood of engaging in counterproductive workplace behaviour,” said Dr. Frida. “Furthermore, the results show that health-related symptoms are not always associated with experiences of bullying. Indeed, while those experiencing limited work-related bullying did not report health problems, those who were not bullied but misbehaved did.”

      Overall, the researchers proved that workplace bullying affects employees in a myriad of ways, and is not something that should be taken lightly by employers. Moving forward, they hope more workplaces take these findings into consideration to provide the best work environments for their workers.

      Staying positive at work

      In an effort to create more supportive, encouraging workplaces, researchers have explored how different initiatives can affect employees’ morale and satisfaction at work.

      For example, a recent study found that expressing gratitude at work can leave employees’ with positive health benefits, while workplaces with health and wellness programs are not only beneficial for physical health, but give consumers an outlet to take their minds off the mental stressors of work.

      “Most American adults work, and many spend half or more of their waking hours at work,” said Laura Linnan. “Where we work, how long we work, the conditions of our work, who we work with -- all of these factors impact our health.”

      Consumers spend a great deal of their time at work, and having a hostile work environment can be detrimental to both mental and physical health.Accordi...
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      Model year 2017-2019 Chrysler Pacificas recalled

      The vehicle may suffer an intermittent loss of power steering assist and/or a stall

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 198,731 model year 2017-2019 Pacificas equipped with engine stop/start systems.

      A loose battery ground connection may result in an intermittent loss of power steering assist and/or a stall.

      A loss of power steering assist or a stall can increase the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the battery ground surfaces, clean the contact surfaces as needed, and properly reassemble the ground connection free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 28, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. FCA US' number for this recall is V53.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 198,731 model year 2017-2019 Pacificas equipped with engine stop/start systems.A loose battery ground connection may...
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      Karawan brand Tahini recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Brodt Zenatti Holding of Jupiter, Fla., is recalling retail and bulk Karawan brand Tahini imported from Palestine between December 2018, and January 2019.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      Four illnesses have been reported to date.

      Karawan brand Tahini was directly distributed to New York and Texas. We currently know that distributors have thereafter shipped the product to Massachusetts and Virginia.

      The following product is being recalled:

      • Karawan Tahini in 15.87-oz., (450g) jar and 599.6-oz., (17kg) bucket with am expiration date two years from the production listed on the container's lid.

      The recalled product was directly distributed to New York and Texas and then shipped to Massachusetts and Virginia.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should destroy it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (305) 570-9050 Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

      Brodt Zenatti Holding of Jupiter, Fla., is recalling retail and bulk Karawan brand Tahini imported from Palestine between December 2018, and January 2019....
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      Is your cell phone provider selling your location to the highest bidder?

      Democrats claim there is a ‘black market’ in phone-location data

      Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai was grilled this week about the alleged sale of phone-location data to entities with no clear rights to possess it.

      Appearing before a House committee, the FCC chairman got a scolding and a warning that “lying to Congress is a federal crime.” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) warned Pai that what he told the panel was at odds with what she had heard elsewhere.

      Eshoo aimed pointed questions at Pai asking for details about what she had heard was an FCC probe into the apparently illegal sale of phone-location data to third-party individuals and organizations.

      The Congressional inquiry appeared to expose an intensely partisan divide within the FCC, where Republicans hold three seats and the Democrats control two. Democrats on the FCC board contend there is a “black market” in data that is being used to erode consumers’ privacy protections.

      Democratic lawmakers accused Pai of withholding information from their party members. During the hearing, Pai was noncommittal about whether he would share basic information about the investigation with the FCC’s two Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks.

      Not aware of requests for information

      Pai said he had never withheld information from Democratic FCC commissioners. He said he was not aware of requests for information made by the Democratic commissioners.

      Pai said that in February, just after Starks had joined the FCC, he had offered the new commissioner control of the investigation into how location data was being used. He said the Democrat had turned down the offer.

      Consumers’ location data is extremely valuable knowledge. Advertisers pay handsomely for it because they have found if they can target an advertisement to a consumer who is close to the client’s location, that person is much more likely to become a customer.

      But critics say location information, in the wrong hands, could be dangerous. The technology site Motherboard reports it gave a bounty hunter $300 to track someone’s cell phone and he was able to pinpoint their location within a quarter-mile.

      If a law enforcement agency wants to track the location of a criminal suspect, it must get legal authorization. Last year the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to get access to cell phone location information.

      Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai was grilled this week about the alleged sale of phone-location data to entities with no clear rig...
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      Tech jobs top the list of highest-paying entry level jobs for 2019

      The list suggests college graduates may want to consider a career in this field

      Job site Glassdoor recently compiled a list of the highest-paying entry level jobs and internships for 2019, and a majority of the positions on the list are either in technology or a technology-related field.

      With an average starting salary of $95,000, data scientist topped the list, followed by software engineer at $90,000. In the internship category, Amazon and Facebook pay the most at $7,725 and $8,000 per month, respectively.

      The list “can serve as a menu of aspirational jobs to potentially work toward, especially as the majority of these entry-level jobs are in the STEM field and require strong technical skills,” said Amanda Stansell, the senior research analyst for Glassdoor.

      Highest-paying entry level jobs

      Glassdoor said it’s a particularly good time for college students and recent graduates to kick off their careers because of the strong job market.

      “With historically low unemployment rates and growing job counts, job seekers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to where they want to work and employers are willing to pay top dollar for roles and skills that are in high demand but short supply,” the study said.

      These are the top 25 highest-paying jobs, according to Glassdoor:

      1. Data scientist: $95,000

      2. Software engineer: &90,000

      3. Product manager: $89,000

      4. Investment banking analyst: $85,000

      5. Product Designer: $85,000

      6. UX designer: $73,000

      7. Implementation consultant:$72,000

      8. Java developer: $72,000

      9. Systems engineer: $70,000

      10. Software developer: $68,000

      11. Process engineer: $68,258

      12. Front end developer: $67,500

      13. Product engineer: $66,750

      14. Actuarial analyst: $66,250

      15. Electrical engineer: $66,000

      16. Mechanical engineer: $65,000

      17. Design engineer: $65,000

      18. Applications developer: $65,000

      19. Test engineer: $65,000

      20. Programmer analyst: $65,000

      21. Quality engineer: $64,750

      22. Physical therapist: $63,918

      23. Field engineer: $63,750

      24. Project engineer: $63,000

      25. Business analyst: $63,000

      The highest-paying internships can be viewed here.

      Job site Glassdoor recently compiled a list of the highest-paying entry level jobs and internships for 2019, and a majority of the positions on the list ar...
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      It’s not yet Memorial Day, but gas prices are already falling

      Motorists haven’t filled up as much over the last couple of weeks

      The spring rise in gasoline prices usually peaks on Memorial Day weekend, but prices appear to be falling a week early this year.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.86 per gallon, down nearly two cents in the last seven days. It’s four cents cheaper than at this time a year ago.

      The average price of premium gas is $2.43, down a penny from last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.09, also a penny lower than last week.

      The principal reason for the early drop in prices at the pump is a significant decline in consumer demand. Motorists simply aren’t filling up as often as they did in the late winter and early spring. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest market report showed demand for gasoline dropped to 9.1 million barrels a day last week, a consumption level most likely to be seen during the fall or winter.

      Gasoline demand was down 800,000 barrels a day from the previous week and 400,000 barrels a day lower than this time last year. In fact, a reading this low hasn’t been seen for early May since 2015. Analysts attribute part of the decline to nasty weather in the Rockies and Midwest that may have kept some motorists at home.

      While prices continued their slow decline, there were some notable exceptions. The average price rose four cents a gallon in Utah and Idaho. Three states -- Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina -- are tied for the lowest average price in the nation.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • California ($4.05)

      • Hawaii ($3.64)

      • Washington ($3.54)

      • Oregon ($3.43)

      • Nevada ($3.49)

      • Alaska ($3.46)

      • Utah ($3.20)

      • Idaho ($3.20)

      • Arizona ($3.15)

      • Pennsylvania ($3.01)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Alabama ($2.47)

      • Louisiana ($2.47)

      • South Carolina ($2.47)

      • Mississippi ($2.48)

      • Arkansas ($2.52)

      • Tennessee ($2.55)

      • Missouri ($2.56)

      • Oklahoma ($2.56)

      • Texas ($2.57)

      • Virginia ($2.59)

      The spring rise in gasoline prices usually peaks on Memorial Day weekend, but prices appear to be falling a week early this year.The AAA Fuel Gauge Sur...
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      Audi recalls model year 2018-2019 Audi Q5s and SQ5s

      The brake master cylinder casting may be too short, causing a loss of brakes

      Volkswagen Group of America (Audi) is recalling 12,645 model year 2018-2019 Audi Q5s and SQ5s.

      The brake master cylinder casting may be too short, causing a sudden loss of brakes, increasing the risk of crash.

      The electronic parking brake and its emergency brake function are not affected and will still function.

      What to do

      Audi has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the brake master cylinder, replacing it as necessary free of charge.

      The recall began May 3, 2019.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Audi's number for this recall is 47O9.

      Volkswagen Group of America (Audi) is recalling 12,645 model year 2018-2019 Audi Q5s and SQ5s.The brake master cylinder casting may be too short, causi...
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      MIBO Fresh Foods recalls salads with ham and turkey

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

      MIBO Fresh Foods of Fort Worth, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,460 pounds of salad with ham and turkey.

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

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

      The following ready-to-eat items, produced on May 10 and May 13, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 9.65 oz. clear plastic packages containing “H.E.B. MEAL SIMPLE CHEF SALAD with Homestyle Ranch Dressing” and “Best By” dates of 05-18-19 and 05-20-19 represented on the label.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. P-27399” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail stores in Texas. ­

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Debbie Patterson at (817) 882-9600.

      MIBO Fresh Foods of Fort Worth, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,460 pounds of salad with ham and turkey.The product contains anchovies, an allergen...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2019 Lexus ES vehicles

      The knee airbag may not deploy properly.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 564 model year 2019 Lexus ES vehicles.

      The vehicles are equipped with a driver knee airbag assembly mounted to the lower instrument panel (IP) that may have been improperly installed, possibly affecting the deployment of the knee airbag in the event of a crash.

      There is an increased risk of injury if the knee airbag does not deploy properly in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the driver knee airbag assembly, if necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in May 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-255-3987. Toyota's numbers for this recall are KLD and KLE.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 564 model year 2019 Lexus ES vehicles.The vehicles are equipped with a driver knee airbag assembl...
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      New ‘Zombieload’ attack allows hackers to steal personal data directly from consumers

      The vulnerability affects all Intel chips produced since 2011

      Security researchers from Graz University of Technology have discovered a new set of vulnerabilities affecting all Intel chips made since 2011. The “Zombieload” bug, as it’s dubbed, and three related vulnerabilities allow hackers to steal sensitive data directly from a user’s processor.

      The latest flaws were discovered by the same researchers who uncovered the Spectre and Meltdown bugs last year. The researchers said Zombieload bears many similarities to those bugs.

      “While programs normally only see their own data, a malicious program can exploit the fill buffers to get hold of secrets currently processed by other running programs,” the researchers said. “These secrets can be user-level secrets, such as browser history, website content, user keys, and passwords, or system-level secrets, such as disk encryption keys.”

      Up to each user to decide what to do

      Almost all computers with Intel chips dating back to 2011 are affected by the recently discovered vulnerabilities.

      Though there currently aren’t any reports of hackers exploiting the flaw, Apple said users should disable hyper-threading processing technology in order to mitigate the risk of an attacker taking advantage of the Zombieload vulnerabilities.

      "Although there are no known exploits affecting customers at the time of this writing, customers with computers at heightened risk or who run untrusted software on their Mac can optionally enable full mitigation to prevent harmful apps from exploiting these vulnerabilities," Apple said on its support page. "Full mitigation requires using the Terminal app to enable an additional CPU instruction and disable hyper-threading processing technology."

      However, fixing the flaw can slow down a system by as much as 40 percent, according to internal testing by Apple.

      The average person “won't need to take such extreme measures to protect their computers, but certain at-risk users, like government employees and business executives, might want to take the precaution,” according to technology website Tom’s Guide.

      Intel said in a statement that it’s “not recommending that Intel HT be disabled, and it’s important to understand that doing so does not alone provide protection against [Microarchitectural Data Sampling].”

      “We’ve provided more information on our website and continue to encourage everyone to keep their systems up to date, as it’s one of the best ways to stay protected,” Intel said.

      Security researchers from Graz University of Technology have discovered a new set of vulnerabilities affecting all Intel chips made since 2011. The “Zombie...
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      FDA ordered to speed up its review of e-cigarettes

      A U.S. District judge said the FDA shirked its legal duty by delaying its review of vaping products by several years

      A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must speed up its review of the health impact of electronic cigarettes.

      The ruling represents a victory for public health groups, who last year sued the agency after its delay in regulating e-cigarette products gave way to a rise in vaping among teens.

      The groups that filed the lawsuit included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the heart and lung associations.  

      Lack of regulation in the industry

      In the complaint, the groups expressed deep concern that the FDA’s lack of written rules and product standards in the e-cigarette industry could threaten to get a new generation of Americans addicted to nicotine.

      "It is now the FDA's responsibility to take immediate action to protect our kids and require manufacturers to apply to the FDA if they want to keep their products on the market," the groups said in a statement.

      The lawsuit centers around the fact that the FDA postponed its review of the impact of e-cigarettes by several years -- a move that Maryland U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm, who issued the ruling, called “so extreme as to amount to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities.”

      For its part, the agency has argued that both its staff and manufacturers need more time to prepare for regulation. Grimm has ordered the FDA to submit plans for speeding up the review process within two weeks.

      A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must speed up its review of the health impact of electronic cigarettes. The...
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      Model year 2013-16 Ford Fusions recalled

      The transmission could be in a gear state different from the gearshift position

      Ford is recalling about 270,00 model year 2013-16 Fusions with 2.5-liter engines in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

      The bushing that attaches the shifter cable may degrade and detach from the transmission. A shifter cable that detaches from the transmission may allow the transmission to be in a gear state different from the gearshift position selected by the driver.

      This condition could allow the driver to move the shift lever to park and remove the ignition key while the transmission may not be in park, with no warning message or audible chime.

      If the parking brake is not applied, a shifter cable that detaches from the transmission could result in unintended vehicle movement, increasing the risk of injury or crash.

      Ford is aware of three reports claiming property damage and one report alleging an injury that may be related to this condition.

      What to do

      Ford is working on a remedy for this issue and will notify owners when it is available.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866)436-7332. The Ford reference number for this recall is 19S16.

      Ford is recalling about 270,00 model year 2013-16 Fusions with 2.5-liter engines in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.The bushing that attaches the shifter c...
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      Federal officials say Uber drivers are contractors, not employees

      The NLRB maintains that drivers aren’t eligible for federal protections connected to unionizing

      A second federal agency has ruled that Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, Bloomberg Law reported. The decision comes amid an ongoing dispute between drivers and Uber regarding the former’s employment classification.

      Just last week, Uber drivers protested to demand higher compensation, benefits, and transparent policies. The strike took place just a few days before the company’s IPO.

      Uber swiftly reached a settlement with “a large majority” of 60,000 drivers who filed, or said they planned to file, arbitration demands. However, the ride-hailing giant maintained that its drivers are independent contractors because they can decide when they want to work and are allowed to work for competitors.

      Now, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has also ruled that Uber drivers are independent contractors. The Board says it will maintain a position that Uber drivers aren’t eligible for federal protections around unionizing since they don’t meet the criteria of being full-time employees.

      Control over work hours

      “Drivers’ virtually complete control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber, provided them with significant entrepreneurial opportunity,” the NLRB said in a memorandum written last month and released Tuesday.

      “On any given day, at any free moment, UberX drivers could decide how best to serve their economic objectives: by fulfilling ride requests through the App, working for a competing rideshare service, or pursuing a different venture altogether. The surge pricing and other financial incentives Uber utilized to meet rider demand not only reflect Uber’s ‘hands off’ approach, they also constituted a further entrepreneurial opportunity for drivers.”

      The same determination was made earlier this year by the Department of Labor (DOL), which said gig-economy workers are independent contractors, and as such, aren’t eligible for minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections.

      Uber acknowledges disappointing IPO

      The release of the NLRB’s memo comes just a few days after Uber made a disappointing debut on the stock market. In a note to staff, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged the stock’s lackluster performance and attempted to buoy sinking optimism among employees.

      "Like all periods of transition, there are ups and downs. Obviously our stock did not trade as well as we had hoped post-IPO. Today is another tough day in the market, and I expect the same as it relates to our stock," Khosrowshahi wrote. “But it is essential that we keep our eye on the long-term value of Uber for our customers, partners, drivers and investors.”

      Uber said Tuesday that it’s continuing to work on improving its relationship with drivers.

      "We are focused on improving the quality and security of independent work, while preserving the flexibility drivers and couriers tell us they value," an Uber spokesperson told Bloomberg Law.

      A second federal agency has ruled that Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, Bloomberg Law reported. The decision comes amid an ongoing...
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      Choosing the wrong hospital could be lethal, report finds

      Hospitals ranking lowest in a grading system have the highest death rate

      Being admitted to a hospital ranking lower for preventing accidents, injuries, errors, and infections could greatly increase your chances of not getting out alive.

      That’s a principal takeaway from the Leapfrog Group’s annual Hospital Safety Grades. It found that patients in hospitals receiving a “D” or “F” grade were 92 percent more likely to die from an avoidable cause.

      The report also found that patients in hospitals receiving a “C” grade were 88 percent more likely to have a patient die an avoidable death. The risk drops to 36 percent for institutions receiving a “B” grade.

      While hospitals awarded an “A” grade are not perfectly safe, the researchers found they are getting safer with each passing year. Their report concludes that if every hospital protected against avoidable death at the same rate as “A” hospitals, it would save 50,000 lives annually.

      160,000 avoidable deaths

      The report found an estimated 160,000 lives were lost in the U.S. in 2017 from avoidable medical errors that are accounted for in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a big improvement from 2016, when researchers estimated there were 205,000 avoidable deaths.

      "The good news is that tens of thousands of lives have been saved because of progress on patient safety,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group. “The bad news is that there's still a lot of needless death and harm in American hospitals."  

      She points to the report’s underlying conclusion, that U.S. hospitals don't all have the same track record when it comes to keeping patients alive.

      “So it really matters which hospital people choose, which is the purpose of our Hospital Safety Grade," Binder said.

      Very few received a failing grade

      The latest study graded more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals, with nearly a third earning an “A” grade. Fortunately, only 1 percent got a failing grade, while 6 percent were rated “D,” or poor. The states with the highest percentage of A-rated hospitals are Oregon with 58 percent, Virginia with 53 percent, Maine with 50 percent, and Massachusetts and Utah with 48 percent.

      There were no A-rated hospitals in Wyoming, Arkansas, Washington, DC, Delaware, or North Dakota.

      The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are an independent, nonprofit grading system administered on behalf of employers and other purchasers of healthcare services. They rate institutions on their ability to avoid errors, accidents, injuries and infections and receive guidance from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

      Being admitted to a hospital ranking lower for preventing accidents, injuries, errors, and infections could greatly increase your chances of not getting ou...
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      Ford recalls model year 2019 Ranger trucks

      The transmission shift cable bracket may become loose

      Ford is recalling about 2,700 model year 2019 Ranger trucks.

      The two fasteners that secure the transmission shift cable bracket to the transmission housing may not have been torqued to specification.

      Over time, an improperly torqued fastener could allow the transmission shift cable bracket to become loose and the transmission to be in a gear state different from the gearshift position selected by the driver.

      This condition could allow the driver to remove the ignition key (if equipped) with no instrument panel warning message or chime indicating that the transmission is not in park. This could allow unintended vehicle movement or roll away if the parking brake is not applied, increasing the risk of a crash or injury.

      No accidents or injuries related to this condition have been reported.

      What to do

      Owners should apply the parking brake whenever the vehicle is parked.

      Dealers will properly torque the two fasteners and verify the proper operation of the transmission selector assembly according to established workshop manual procedure.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866)436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S15.

      Ford is recalling about 2,700 model year 2019 Ranger trucks.The two fasteners that secure the transmission shift cable bracket to the transmission hous...
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      Strategic Sports recalls Motovan Zox Sierra helmets

      The helmet shell may allow an object to penetrate through to the user's head

      Strategic Sports is recalling 1,956 Motovan Zox Sierra helmets, part number ST-560, in sizes XS, S, M, and L.

      The helmet shell may allow an object to penetrate through to the users head. As such, in an event of the crash, the helmet may not protect the occupant, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Strategic Sports has notified the distributors and known owners, and will provide refunds for all consumers returning their helmet.

      The recall began May 1, 2019.

      Owners may contact Moto customer service at (888) 449-7773 or by email at helmet.recall.info@gmail.com .

      Strategic Sports is recalling 1,956 Motovan Zox Sierra helmets, part number ST-560, in sizes XS, S, M, and L.The helmet shell may allow an object to pe...
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      Taylor Farms Texas recalls Caesar Salad With chicken

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

      Taylor Farms Texas of Dallas, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,079 pounds of Caesar Salad with chicken.

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

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following ready-to-eat item, produced on May 8, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 9.75 oz. clear plastic packages containing “H.E.B. SHAKE, RATTLE & BOWL CAESAR SALAD with CHICKEN” and a “BEST BY” date of MAY 18 2019 represented on the label.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. P-34733” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail stores in Texas.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, discard or return it to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Kelsey Adams at (214) 565-4847.

      Taylor Farms Texas of Dallas, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,079 pounds of Caesar Salad with chicken.The product contains anchovies, an allergen n...
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      Twitter inadvertently shared some users’ location data

      The bug only affected iOS users with multiple accounts

      Twitter has disclosed that it may have inadvertently shared location data on some users who had not specifically authorized it.

      The social media company said that in some cases location data from a user’s account could have been shared, even if the user had not authorized the sharing. The bug only affected iOS users and only those iOS users who had more than one Twitter account.

      Affected users have been notified of the bug and the possibility that location data was shared with a third party.

      “Due to a bug in Twitter for iOS, we inadvertently collected and shared location data (at the zip code or city level),” the company said in a tweet. “We have fixed the bug, but we wanted to make sure we shared more of the context around this with you. More here.”

      According to Twitter, the bug only affected iOS users who had more than one account and had activated the “shared location” feature on at least one of the accounts. Twitter says the platform might have collected location data for the other accounts, even though permission had not been given.

      Use for marketing purposes

      That location data might have then been shared with a Twitter partner, who paid for it so it could be used for marketing purposes. Twitter says the location data was not that precise and could have been limited to a five-kilometer square mile area.

      “That means the data could not be used to determine an address or to map your precise movements,” the company said in a statement.

      When receiving the location data, the third party partner did not have the information that could have allowed it to identify whose data it was receiving. Twitter assured impacted users that the third party company did not retain the location data it received.

      Data was not retained

      “We have confirmed with our partner that the location data has not been retained and that it only existed in their systems for a short time, and was then deleted as part of their normal process,” the company said. “We have fixed this problem and are working hard to make sure it does not happen again.”

      Twitter said it has been in contact with users whose accounts were affected to reassure them that the bug has been fixed. The company said affected users should check their privacy settings to make sure they are only sharing the data they want to.

      Twitter did not say when the unauthorized data-sharing took place and how long it continued.

      Twitter has disclosed that it may have inadvertently shared location data on some users who had not specifically authorized it.The social media company...
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      WhatsApp hack installed spyware on users’ phones

      Users of the messaging service should make sure the latest version of the app is installed

      A group of hackers exploited a flaw in the WhatsApp messaging app to install surveillance tools on an unknown number of users’ phones, The Financial Times reported Monday.

      The publication identified the hackers as an Israeli cyberintelligence company known as NSO Group. WhatsApp said the group has "all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware."

      “We have briefed a number of human rights organizations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society,” WhatsApp told the Financial Times, adding that it disclosed the issue to the Justice Department last week.

      The hackers were able to install spyware on users’ phones simply by calling them. A user’s device could be injected with the spyware even if they missed the call, and often, the call would disappear from the phone’s call log.

      Once installed, the surveillanceware is capable of turning on a phone’s camera and microphone, scanning emails and messages, and collecting the user’s location data.

      Vulnerability fixed in latest update

      Facebook said in a security advisory that the WhatsApp hack stemmed from a “buffer overflow” attack.

      “A buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP stack allowed remote code execution via specially crafted series of SRTCP packets sent to a target phone number,” according to the advisory.

      “The issue affects WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134, WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44, WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348, and WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15.,” the advisory continued.

      The Facebook-owned messaging service released a patch for the security vulnerability on Monday and is urging users to upgrade to the latest version of the app.

      “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” WhatsApp said in a statement. “We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users.”

      A group of hackers exploited a flaw in the WhatsApp messaging app to install surveillance tools on an unknown number of users’ phones, The Financial Times...
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      FAA officials failed to review critical safety assessments of Boeing 737 systems

      An internal probe has shed more light on what went wrong leading up to the two deadly Boeing crashes

      Senior officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly did not review crucial safety assessments of Boeing’s 737 MAX flight-control systems prior to the fatal crashes that occurred in October and March, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

      The internal review that yielded this finding also suggested that, during the MAX certification process, Boeing didn’t label the aircraft’s new stall-prevention feature as a system that could cause disastrous events if it malfunctioned. In failing to flag the feature, officials eliminated the need for more careful evaluation of the system.

      Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg recently told the media that faulty data from a single sensor system was the likely culprit behind the two fatal crashes involving the company’s 737 MAX 8 jets. The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, pointed the nose of the two jets sharply downward based on faulty data from the sensor.

      Sources told the Journal that the FAA’s investigation didn’t find evidence that Boeing officials deliberately provided incorrect data to the FAA, but it’s not known what safety information Boeing provided to the agency before the MAX was approved.

      Boeing 737s remain grounded

      All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded since March -- the same month the company announced it would upgrade the jet’s software and provide training to pilots on the new upgrades.

      Boeing says it intends to submit a fix to the FAA soon, but in early April, the company pushed the timeline for the submission of the software patch to “ensure we take the time to get it right.”

      "The FAA expects to receive Boeing's final package of its software enhancement over the coming weeks for FAA approval," the agency said in a statement. "Time is needed for additional work by Boeing as the result of an ongoing review of the 737 MAX Flight Control System to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues."

      Senior officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly did not review crucial safety assessments of Boeing’s 737 MAX flight-control syste...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls A220s and A220 4MATICs

      The pedal plate may bend, impairing brake pedal use

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,051 model year 2019 A220s and A220 4MATICs.

      Due to improper welding, the pedal plate may bend, impairing the operation of the brake pedal.

      Impaired operation of the brake pedal may increase the risk of crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the welding of the brake pedal, replacing it as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 19, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,051 model year 2019 A220s and A220 4MATICs.Due to improper welding, the pedal plate may bend, impairing the op...
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      American Fastbacks recalls model year 2018 Jeep Wranglers

      The roof top tent cover may crack and detach

      American Fastbacks (EHGUSA-AF) is recalling 94 model year 2018 Jeep Wranglers sold with a roof top tent installed.

      The top cover of the roof top tent may crack or break, possibly resulting in the cover detaching from the vehicle while it is moving.

      This can create a road hazard, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is expected to begin in May 2019.

      Owners may contact American Fastbacks customer service at 1-844-533-7997 extension 301.

      American Fastbacks (EHGUSA-AF) is recalling 94 model year 2018 Jeep Wranglers sold with a roof top tent installed.The top cover of the roof top tent ma...
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      Hospitals charge privately insured more than double what Medicare would pay

      Researchers say driving down high prices should be a focus going forward

      Major discrepancies are present between the prices paid to hospitals for privately insured patients and what the federal Medicare program pays, according to a RAND analysis of hospital prices in 25 states.

      Overall, hospitals treating patients with private health insurance were paid 2.4 times the Medicare rates in 2017. RAND researchers found that the difference was most significant for outpatient care. In those cases, private prices were nearly triple what Medicare would have paid.

      "The widely varying prices among hospitals suggests that employers have opportunities to redesign their health plans to better align hospital prices with the value of care provided," said lead author Chapin White in a statement. "Employers can exert pressure on their health plans and hospitals to shift from current pricing system to one that is based on a multiple of Medicare or another similar benchmark."

      Suggested interventions

      The researchers say changes are needed to drive down hospital prices in the private sector, whether they be in the form of federal intervention or a shift in industry behavior.

      The study authors recommend that private insurers switch from discounted charge contracts for hospital services and to contracts “based on a percent of Medicare or another similar fixed-price arrangement.”

      "Employers can also encourage expanded price transparency by participating in existing state-based all payer claims databases and promoting the development of such tools," White said. "Transparency by itself is likely to be insufficient to control costs so employers may need state or federal policy changes to rebalance negotiating leverage between hospitals and their health plans."

      Legislative interventions might include placing limits on payments for out-of-network hospital care or allowing employers to buy into Medicare or another public option that pays providers based on Medicare rates.

      Hospitals raise concerns

      After the study was published, the American Hospital Association said it had a “number of concerns” about the results of the analysis.

      In addition to pointing out the limitations of the small sample size, the group argued that paying hospitals at Medicare rates would have a huge impact on the industry and could cause many hospitals to close.

      “Medicare payment rates, which reimburse below the cost of care, should not be held as a standard benchmark for hospital prices,” the AHA said in a statement. “In 2017, hospitals received payment of only 87 cents for every dollar spent caring for Medicare patients.”  

      “Simply shifting to prices based on artificially low Medicare payment rates would strip vital resources from already strapped communities, seriously impeding access to care. Hospitals would not have the resources needed to keep our doors open, innovate to adapt to a rapidly changing field and maintain the services communities need and expect,” the AHA said.

      Major discrepancies are present between the prices paid to hospitals for privately insured patients and what the federal Medicare program pays, according t...
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      Delta testing free in-flight Wi-Fi on select planes for two weeks

      The company aims to eventually offer free Wi-Fi across all cabins

      Delta Airlines on Monday kicked off a two-week trial of free Wi-Fi to all passengers on 55 of its flights. The airline says its goal is to eventually offer complimentary Wi-Fi on all domestic flights.

      At the end of its initial trial on select flights, Delta hopes to have gleaned insight into how well its system can support Wi-Fi and the way passengers use it. The carrier is aware that offering Wi-Fi free of charge will lead to a significant increase in the number of customers who use it.

      “Customers are accustomed to having access to free Wi-Fi during nearly every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying, too,” said Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Onboard Product in a statement.

      “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right – this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch,” Dimbiloglu said.

      Travelers will be notified of availability

      Delta says customer feedback will be crucial as it strives to roll out free Wi-Fi on a larger scale.

      “As with any test in uncharted territory, Delta will rely heavily on customer and employee feedback to navigate how to best make free in-flight Wi-Fi a reality,” Dimbiloglu said, adding that several more test phases will likely be necessary before free Wi-Fi touches down in all cabins.

      Passengers will be notified via email and a Fly Delta app push notification if their flight is among those involved in the two-week trial. Delta says passengers will be able to  “browse, email, shop, message, engage with social media and more” while using its free Wi-Fi, but they won’t be able to stream video.

      Delta Airlines on Monday kicked off a two-week trial of free Wi-Fi to all passengers on 55 of its flights. The airline says its goal is to eventually offer...
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      DOM International Limited recalls Atlantic salmon strips

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      DOM International Limited is recalling Dom Reserve brand Atlantic Salmon Strips (Hot Smoked) Cracked Black Pepper.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

      Dom Reserve, sold in retail stores in Ontario, Canada, is being recalled:

      • Common Name: Atlantic Salmon Strips (Hot Smoked) Cracked Black Pepper
      • Size: 150 g
      • Code(s) on Product: 002451
      • UPC: 7 72945 11150 8

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard or returned it to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (416) 265-3993 extension 223, 247 or 249 or by email at dom.info@dominternational.com.

      DOM International Limited is recalling Dom Reserve brand Atlantic Salmon Strips (Hot Smoked) Cracked Black Pepper.The product may be contaminated with...
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      Amazon agrees to halt sales of toxic children’s school supplies

      An investigation found that the site had sold dozens of products with high levels of heavy metals

      Amazon has promised to discontinue sales of children’s school supplies and jewelry that contain high levels of toxic metals -- specifically, cadmium and lead.

      The move follows an investigation by the Washington Attorney General's Office, which revealed that Amazon had listings for dozens of products marketed for children that exceeded the legal limits of these heavy metals.

      The investigation also determined that Amazon sold more than 15,000 items that contained high levels of toxic metals. After being alerted to the issue by the Attorney General’s office, Amazon contacted users that had purchased the items earlier this year and encouraged them to toss the products. Those consumers also received refunds amounting to a collective $200,000.

      Cracking down on items with toxins

      The e-commerce giant also paid the Washington Attorney General $700,000, which will be used to “fund future environmental protection efforts, including future investigations into toxic children’s products.”

      "As a parent, when I buy products for my kids, I expect them to be safe," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement announcing the agreement. "All retailers must ensure that their products do not pose a threat to Washington children. If they don't, they will hear from my office."

      From now on, Amazon said it will no longer allow third-party sellers to list school supplies and jewelry geared towards children without providing lab reports or documents from an accredited lab showing that the products meet safety standards. Additionally, the company must remove listings for products found to have high levels of toxic metals within two days of being advised to do so by either the Washington Attorney General or the Department of Ecology.

      The issue of toxins in school supplies isn’t new. In 2018, a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), a consumer advocacy group, found traces of lead, asbestos, and other harmful chemicals in several popular school supplies, including Playskool crayons and one brand of dry-erase markers.  

      Amazon has promised to discontinue sales of children’s school supplies and jewelry that contain high levels of toxic metals -- specifically, cadmium and le...
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      Walmart to bump minimum tobacco-buying age to 21

      The new policy will go into effect in July

      Beginning July 1, consumers looking to purchase tobacco or e-cigarette products at Walmart or Sam’s Club will have to be at least 21 years old.

      The retailer announced this week that it’s raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products as part of a larger effort being made by regulators to reduce teen nicotine addiction. In addition to raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products, Walmart will stop selling e-cigarettes in sweet flavors, which have been found to appeal to teen users.

      Walmart said the new policy is intended to improve its less-than-perfect track record regarding sales of tobacco products to minors. In a letter recently sent to Walmart, the FDA said it conducted 13,000 compliance checks since 2010 and Walmart passed only 93 percent of them.

      "While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our company-wide goal of 100% compliance," the company wrote. "Even a single sale to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard."

      Increasing the minimum buying age

      The FDA, which has described the dramatic rise in e-cigarette use among teens as an “epidemic,” threatened earlier this year to fine Walmart, Kroger, and several convenience store chains for illegally selling tobacco products to minors.

      In response to the warning, Walgreens announced in April that it will increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 starting September 1.

      Lawmakers in several states have also sought to address the issue by raising the minimum tobacco-buying age to 21 under a new policy dubbed “Tobacco 21.” The initiative aims, in part, to prevent the tobacco industry from “recruiting young adults as replacement smokers” in an effort to sustain their business.

      Beginning July 1, consumers looking to purchase tobacco or e-cigarette products at Walmart or Sam’s Club will have to be at least 21 years old. The ret...
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      Inflation continued its slow pace in April

      There’s little in the government’s report that would lead the Fed to hike rates

      Even with sharply rising gasoline prices in much of the nation, inflation was fairly tame last month. The Labor Department reports that the Consumer Price Index rose 0.3 percent in April following a 0.4 percent increase in March.

      Gasoline accounted for much of the increase, rising 5.7 percent. The overall energy index was up 2.9 percent.

      Partially offsetting more expensive gasoline, food prices actually went down in April, recording their first decline in nearly two years.

      The cost of housing, medical care, education,  and new vehicles all went up in April. But the cost of used cars and trucks, apparel, and household furnishings and operations were among those that declined during the month.   

      ‘Happy story for families’

      “The inflation story continues to be a happy one for American families, coming in tame for another month,” Robert Frick, corporate economist for Navy Federal Credit Union, said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “With wages rising above 3 percent and the Consumer Price Index hovering around 2 percent,  real wages are rising from an average of 1.2 percent for low-skilled workers to 1.6 percent for high-skill workers.”

      Frick says workers aren't seeing wage increases as high as in previous late-stage expansions because of slack in the labor force, but he said wages could rise if the labor market tightens again.

      The slow rise in consumer prices, along with more modest increases in wage growth, will likely influence the Federal Reserve to hold the line of further rate hikes this year.

      Even with sharply rising gasoline prices in much of the nation, inflation was fairly tame last month. The Labor Department reports that the Consumer Price...
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      Gas prices may have peaked for the season

      The average price declined in more than half the states this week

      Gasoline prices actually dipped during the last week, but it’s too soon to tell whether they’ll fall further.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.87 a gallon, down two cents from a week ago. The price is only two cents more than at this time a year ago. The average price of premium is $3.44 a gallon, the same as last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.10 a gallon, also the same as it was seven days ago.

      Prices normally don’t peak until Memorial Day weekend, so it appears this week’s leveling off, felt almost nationwide, is simply an early start. Refinery maintenance has mostly been completed and the switchover to summer fuel blends has begun.

      On the other hand, AAA notes that crude oil inventories declined last week, which could boost oil prices in the short term.

      “If total crude stocks continue to tighten, American motorists will likely see pump prices continue to increase this spring – alongside the global price of crude as tightening supply amid robust global crude demand will increase the price per barrel of oil,” AAA said in its latest market update.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • California ($4.09)

      • Hawaii ($3.65)

      • Washington ($3.53)

      • Oregon ($3.43)

      • Nevada ($3.49)

      • Alaska ($3.43)

      • Arizona ($3.16)

      • Utah ($3.16)

      • Idaho ($3.16)

      • Pennsylvania ($3.04)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Alabama ($2.50)

      • Mississippi ($2.51)

      • Louisiana ($2.51)

      • South Carolina ($2.52)

      • Arkansas ($2.55)

      • Missouri ($2.59)

      • Oklahoma ($2.59)

      • Tennessee ($2.59)

      • Texas ($2.59)

      • Virginia ($2.62)

      Gasoline prices actually dipped during the last week, but it’s too soon to tell whether they’ll fall further.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the nation...
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      Mecox Sunrise cheese recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Mecox Bay Dairy is recalling its Mecox Sunrise washed-rind Tomme style cheese.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product, which comes in a clear plastic package marked with “Mecox Sunrise” cheese label, was sold at seven retail locations and one restaurant on Eastern Long Island, N.Y., and served at one restaurant in Chicago, Ill.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (631) 537-0335 between 8:00am and 6:00pm (EST).

      Mecox Bay Dairy is recalling its Mecox Sunrise washed-rind Tomme style cheese.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnes...
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      Model year 2018 BWM i3 BEVs and i3 REx hybrid electrics recalled

      High-voltage electrical power may shut down

      BMW of North America is recalling 159 model year 2018 i3 BEVs and i3 REx hybrid electrics.

      A circuit board problem within the Electric Motor Electronics (EME) module may shutdown the supply of high voltage electrical power.

      A shut down of high-voltage electrical power would result in a loss of propulsion, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the EME module free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 7, 2019.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 159 model year 2018 i3 BEVs and i3 REx hybrid electrics.A circuit board problem within the Electric Motor Electronics...
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      McDonald’s adding international menu items at U.S. restaurants

      The limited-time promotion capitalizes on interest in international food

      When you walk into your local McDonald’s this summer, you might be able to sample the flavors of Europe and Asia.

      McDonald’s, after all, is a global company with stores in dozens of countries. And those international outlets usually serve at least one menu item unique to that country.

      Starting June 5, participating U.S. McDonald’s will offer some of these international favorites, along with Big Macs and Egg McMuffins.

      “We know our U.S. customers are curious about McDonald’s international menu items,” said Linda VanGosen, McDonald’s vice president of Menu Innovation. “Because we are always innovating our menu, we are thrilled to leverage our global scale and offer popular flavors from around the world next month.”  

      Analysts say the initiative is a fairly easy way for the fast-food chain to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in international foods. Even though McDonald’s has been working to streamline its menu, most of the international additions won’t require expanding the inventory of ingredients.

      Dutch treat

      Among the new menu items is the Stroopwafel McFlurry, which is served in McDonald’s restaurants in the Netherlands. It’s made with vanilla soft serve, a caramel swirl, and is topped off with chopped Dutch Daelmans Stroopwafel caramel waffle cookie pieces.

      U.S. consumers will also be able to sample the Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger, a staple of the company’s restaurants in Spain. It’s basically a Quarter Pounder with applewood smoked bacon, a proprietary sauce, Gouda cheese, and slivered onions served on a toasted sesame seed bun.

      Many U.S. McDonald’s will also serve the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, which comes from Canada. It’s similar to the chicken sandwich currently on U.S. menus but adds tomato & herb sauce, mozzarella cheese, onions, lettuce, and sliced Roma tomatoes served on a toasted artisan roll.

      Test run in Chicago

      The limited time international promotion had a test run last year when some stores imported McDonald’s Cheesy Bacon Fries from Australia.

      “After such a positive customer reaction to Australia’s Cheesy Bacon Fries in the U.S., they’re taking a victory lap,” McDonald’s said in a press release.

      The side is made with regular McDonald’s fries and is topped with cheddar cheese sauce and sprinkled with chopped up bacon.

      McDonald’s has tried the international menu items at some stores in the Chicago market, but the company says this is the first time it’s rolled out these menu items nationwide.

      When you walk into your local McDonald’s this summer, you might be able to sample the flavors of Europe and Asia.McDonald’s, after all, is a global com...
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      BRP recalls snowmobiles

      The vehicle’s fuel delivery system can leak

      BRP U.S., of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 10,000 model year 2017 Ski Doo MXZ, Summit and Renegade snowmobiles.

      The vehicle’s fuel delivery system can leak, posing a fire hazard.

      The firm has received 13 reports of fuel leaks and two reports of fire. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves model year 2017 Ski-Doo MXZ, Summit and Renegade snowmobiles equipped with an 850 E-TEC engine sold in a variety of colors.

      Ski-Doo and the model name are printed on the side panels of the vehicles. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is on the decal located on the right hand side of tunnel.

      The following models are included in the recall:

      Models

      Colors

      MXZ TNT 850 E-TEC

      White/Black; Black

      MXZ X 850 E-TEC

      Black; Yellow

      RENEGADE ADRENALINE 850 E-TEC

      White/Black; Black

      RENEGADE X 850 E-TEC

      Black; Orange

      SUMMIT SP 850 E-TEC

      Yellow/Black

      SUMMIT X 850 E-TEC

      Black; Orange/White

      The snowmobiles, manufactured in Canada, were sold at Ski-Doo dealers nationwide from June 2016, through April 2019, for between $12,000 and $13,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a BRP Snowmobile dealer for a free repair. BRP is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact BRP toll-free at (888) 272-9222 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Sunday or online at https://www.ski-doo.com and click on “Community” at the top of the page and then “Safety” for more information.

      BRP U.S., of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 10,000 model year 2017 Ski Doo MXZ, Summit and Renegade snowmobiles.The vehicle’s fuel delivery syste...
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      Trans Texas Tire recalls Contender 5.70-8 tires

      The tire sidewalls are incorrectly labeled

      Trans Texas Tire (TTT) is recalling 560 Contender 5.70-8 tires sold exclusively through Discount Tire stores.

      The tire sidewalls are incorrectly labeled, in that each side of the tire may state different PLY and PSI markings.

      Incorrect PLY and PSI markings may result in underinflating or overloading the tires, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      TTT will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires with tires that have the correct sidewall markings free of charge.

      The recall will begin in May 2019.

      Owners may contact Trans Texas Tire customer service at 1-903-572-0267.

      Trans Texas Tire (TTT) is recalling 560 Contender 5.70-8 tires sold exclusively through Discount Tire stores.The tire sidewalls are incorrectly labeled...
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      Santa Fe Importers recalls ready-to-eat chicken meatballs

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

      Santa Fe Importers of Long Beach, Calif., is recalling approximately 1,589 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken meatballs.

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

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of the recalled product.

      The following frozen item, produced and packaged on April 24, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 226 cases containing “lemonade CHICKEN THAI STYLE MEATBALL” with packaging date “04/24/2019” and case code “114-102130” on the labels.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. P-4118” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to a distribution center in California and packed for Lemonade restaurants as indicated on the label.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Jorge Endara at (562) 437-7775 or by email at Jorge@SanteFeImporters.com.

      Santa Fe Importers of Long Beach, Calif., is recalling approximately 1,589 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken meatballs.The product contains soy, an allerg...
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      Health care professionals express concern over patients using medicinal cannabis

      Many believe the practice could lead to misuse among patients

      Though just 20 percent of states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, many legislators nationwide have given the green light for health care professionals to use the drug for medicinal purposes.

      Now, health care experts are bringing up some cause for concern when it comes to prescribing cannabis to patients.

      “Consistently across medicine, pharmacy, and nursing, health professionals all said their knowledge of medical cannabis was poor,” said researcher Kyle Gardiner. “Many highlighted a need for further education and easy-to-access information. Where they felt evidence-based resources were not accessible, their knowledge was generated from online learning, news and media, and patient experiences.”

      What the experts are saying

      The researchers analyzed nearly 30 previous studies that have assessed health care professionals’ beliefs and attitudes regarding medical cannabis use.

      The studies included responses from pharmacists, allied health professionals, nurses, and medical practitioners, the majority of whom agreed that medical cannabis should be used; however, the respondents said they needed better information to properly guide their patients.

      “It is important to know [medical professionals’] attitudes and concerns about the delivery and use of medical cannabis, what knowledge they have, and where they are getting their information,” Gardiner said. “However, these are a few pieces of a much larger picture.”

      Gardiner notes that patients are only granted access to medical cannabis if they are properly prescribed it by a health care professional, further proving how vital their role is in these cases.

      While many of the health care experts involved in this study expressed their own ignorance about the issue -- including the proper dosage to give to patients, where the drug is legal, and where they can get it -- they also shared that they were concerned for their patients’ overall well-being.

      The health care experts had patients’ mental health at the forefront of their minds, as previous studies have revealed a relationship between medical cannabis use and overall mental health, while drug misuse, driving under the influence, and interactions with other drugs were other big concerns around prescribing medical cannabis.

      Moving forward, Gardiner and his team want to ensure that patients are getting the highest quality of care that they possibly can, and this starts with understanding where health care professionals come from in their decision-making.

      “The picture we need to build is a more robust understanding of health professional behaviour,” said Gardiner. “This is an important step in recognising and better informing strategies that change the way health care is delivered so that patients are not disadvantaged. This study is one part of putting together that picture relating to medical cannabis.”

      Understanding marijuana use

      Medical marijuana has been touted to help any number of conditions, but a recent study found that adults with cancer are more likely to use the drug to manage their pain than those without cancer.

      The study spanned from 2005 through 2014, and though marijuana use among adults rose across the board, cancer patients were more likely to manage the pain with marijuana than their counterparts.

      “Medical marijuana legalization has been previously associated with a reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse, suggesting that if patients are in fact substituting marijuana for opioids, this may introduce an opportunity for reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Jona Hattangandi-Gluth. “Of course, it will also be important to identify risks and adverse effects of marijuana, which has not previously been studied on large randomized clinical trials, given its scheduling as a class 1 controlled substance.”

      Though just 20 percent of states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, many legislators nationwide have given the green light for health care...
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      Vivimed Life Sciences recalls of Losartan Potassium tablets

      The product contains trace amounts of a potential human carcinogen

      Vivimed Life Sciences is recalling 19 lots of Losartan Potassium 25-mg, 50-mg, and 100-mg tablets used for the treatment of hypertension, hypertensive patients with left ventricular hypertrophy, and nephropathy in Type 2 diabetic patients.

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

      There are no reports of adverse events to date related to this recall.

      The following 19 lot numbers of Losartan Potassium tablets are being recalled:

      Product NameLot NumberPackExpiry DateDistributed by 
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 25 mgCLO17006A90’sNov 2019HERITAGE  
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 50 mgCLO17007A1000'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 50 mgCLO17008A1000'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 50 mgCLO17009A1000'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 50 mgCLO17009B90'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 50 mgCLO17010A90'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO17012A90'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO17013A90'sNov 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO17014A1000'sDec 2019HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO17015A1000'sJan 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO17016A1000'sJan 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO17017A1000'sJan 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO18001A1000'sJan 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO18002A90'sJan 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO18002B1000'sJan 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO18020A90'sApr 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO18021A90'sApr 2020HERITAGE   
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 100 mgCLO18022A90'sApr 2020HERITAGE  
      Losartan Potassium Tablets USP, 50 mgCLO18023A90'sApr 2020HERITAGE  

      The recalled products were distributed nationwide to wholesalers, distributors, retail pharmacies, and mail order pharmacies.

      What to do

      Patients should contact their doctor for further guidance and potential change of treatment before they stop taking the product.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may call (877) 861-3811, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm (EST).

      Vivimed Life Sciences is recalling 19 lots of Losartan Potassium 25-mg, 50-mg, and 100-mg tablets used for the treatment of hypertension, hypertensive pati...
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      GM recalls Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras

      A short-circuit may damage the engine components

      General Motors is recalling 324,226 model year 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4500s, 5500s & 6500s, model year 2017-2019 Silverado 2500s & 3500s, and GMC Sierra 2500s and 3500s with Duramax 6.6 liter diesel engines and an optional engine-block heater.

      The engine block heater cord or the terminals that connect the heater cord to the block heater may short circuit and fail.

      A short-circuit may damage the engine components and increase the risk of fire.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at 1-586-596-1733. GM's number for this recall is N182206310.

      General Motors is recalling 324,226 model year 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4500s, 5500s & 6500s, model year 2017-2019 Silverado 2500s & 3500s, and GMC Sierra...
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      Amazon Go store in New York will be first to accept cash

      The move comes after critics said the stores’ format discriminates against some consumers

      A new Amazon Go store opening in downtown New York City will become the first location to accept cash.

      The new functionality comes as no surprise after statements that the company made last month about the state of its cashierless stores. While having a store that allows consumers to quickly shop for their items and depart without having to slog through a checkout line may be appealing to many consumers, critics were quick to point out that the system does not work for consumers without a credit or debit card.

      As a result, Amazon said that they would address the issue moving forward. While no timeline was given for when a solution would arrive, it seems it didn’t take long for company officials to figure out a workaround. In a statement to Gizmodo, one Amazon official explained how the cash option would be implemented.

      “Customers who want to pay with cash can let our entry associate know, and the associate will scan them into the store. The customer will be able to shop the store and then will go to our checkout cart to pay with cash and get a receipt before leaving with their purchased items,” the spokesperson said.

      Addressing the critics

      The decision to accept cash at its new Amazon Go stores may save the company some headaches in the long run. After announcing plans to launch thousands of the stores late last year, U.S. officials became wary at the prospect of a cashless business.

      San Francisco regulators even floated the idea of banning Amazon Go stores from the city because of lack of accessibility for all consumers. Previously, states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Philadelphia had banned cashless retailers over similar concerns.

      A new Amazon Go store opening in downtown New York City will become the first location to accept cash.The new functionality comes as no surprise after...
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      The best states for new grads to launch a career

      Low cost of living and high salaries make a difference

      College students receiving their degrees next month will head out into the job market, but where should they go? It turns out that some states are better than others when it comes to launching a career.

      A study by GoBankingRates.com ranks the states that are most helpful to young people beginning a job, with many areas offering good employment opportunities and a reasonable cost of living. The study authors admit some of the results were surprising.

      The best states are located along the East Coast and in the upper Midwest. The top five states to launch a career are:

      • Maryland

      • Massachusetts

      • Minnesota

      • North Dakota

      • Connecticut

      One reason these states top the list is there are already a large number of college graduates living there. In nine out of the top 10 states, the share of the population aged 25 or older with a Bachelor's degree is 20 percent or higher.

      Maryland offers proximity to the nation’s capital with plenty of high-paying jobs. Amazon’s second headquarters in nearby Arlington, Va., will provide many more.

      Massachusetts and Connecticut are attractive for similar reasons. Boston is home to a number of technology companies and is a center of academic excellence. Connecticut is close to high-paying jobs in New York City but without the cost of Manhattan real estate. A number of major corporations are also based in the state.

      Bottom of the list

      While there are good states for starting a career, there are also bad ones. When you look at the bottom five on the list, you find they all have one thing in common: The cost of living is high relative to salaries, and there are smaller numbers of college graduates.

      • Idaho

      • Florida

      • Mississippi

      • Hawaii

      • Nevada

      California is in the top 10 of the worst states to launch a career. It’s true that the state has a large population of college graduates, but the cost of living all but rules it out. It has the highest gasoline prices in the nation and some of the most expensive real estate of all the states in the ranking.

      One thing the Class of 2019 has going for it is a sterling job market, no matter where they decide to settle. The economy added 263,000 jobs in April, sending the nation’s unemployment rate to a 49-year low of 3.6 percent. At the same time, average hourly pay increased 3.2 percent in the last 12 months, building on the same increase recorded in March.

      College students receiving their degrees next month will head out into the job market, but where should they go? It turns out that some states are better t...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees

      The front passenger seat mounting bolts may be loose

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 253 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees.

      The front passenger seat mounting bolts may be loose. In the event of a crash, the seat may move, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will tighten the mounting bolts, free of charge.

      The recall began April 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact FCA US customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V31.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 253 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees.The front passenger seat mounting bolts may be loose. In the event of a crash, th...
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      EPA awards $9.3 million to replace older diesel school buses

      Over 140 school bus fleets in 43 states and territories were selected as winners

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $9.3 million in grants to school districts in 43 states and territories to help replace older diesel school buses. The money will be put towards buying new buses that create fewer emissions to help reduce pollution.

      The districts managing the school bus fleets will receive rebates through the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding. Applicants who applied for the grant money will receive between $15,000 and $20,000 if they are replacing buses that have model year engines that are from 2006 or earlier.

      EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that initiative will help protect the health of young children who use the buses to get to school. A total of 473 older diesel models will be replaced under the program.

      “Children’s health is a top priority for EPA, and these grants will help provide cleaner air and a healthier ride to and from school for America’s children,” he said. “This DERA funding reflects broader children’s health agenda and commitment to ensure all children can live, learn, and play in healthy and clean environments.”

      Reducing emissions

      The EPA points out that it has been working to reduce pollutants from diesel vehicles by implementing stricter environmental standards on new vehicles. However, the agency says that many older vehicles with higher emissions rates are still operating on U.S. roads.

      A recent study from George Washington University found that current levels of traffic-related pollution have contributed to millions of cases of childhood asthma across the globe. Dense urban areas are hot spots for these asthma cases, and the researchers caution that cleaner vehicles will be needed to reverse this worrying trend.

      “Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down [pollution] levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Susan C. Anenberg.

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $9.3 million in grants to school districts in 43 states and territories to help replace older di...
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      For college grads, this year’s job market is nearly perfect

      What a difference a decade makes

      In 2009, college graduates entered a shrinking job market with an unemployment rate of 10 percent. A decade later, the Class of 2019 is finding a market nearly desperate to hire workers and paying more to do so.

      According to the Labor Department, the U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs in April, sending the nation’s unemployment rate to a 49-year low of 3.6 percent. At the same time, average hourly pay increased 3.2 percent in the last 12 months, building on the same increase recorded in March.

      The biggest job gains last month occurred in professional and business services, construction, health care, and social assistance. Professional and business services added 76,000 jobs during the month, with the lion’s share occurring in administrative and support services and in computer systems design. In the last 12 months, this sector of the job market has added over a half million jobs.

      Employees are earning more

      “Average hourly earnings of all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by six cents in April to $27.77, following a five-cent gain in March,” Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics William Beach said in a statement. “Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings

      have risen by 3.2 percent; the over-the-year percent change has been 3.0 percent or above for nine consecutive months.”

      The latest employment numbers contribute to a shifting narrative about the U.S. economy. Since early in the year, the assumption has been that the economy would slow this year, causing the Federal Reserve to back away from its policy of raising interest rates.

      Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week the Fed had determined economic weakness was “transitory” and that inflation, fed by economic growth, could well pick up speed later in the year.

      Good news for job seekers

      In its analysis of the latest employment report, The Conference Board, an economic think tank,  said there is no sign of an economic slowdown and that the labor market should remain hospitable for job seekers. In fact, the organization said all the recent economic releases have suggested the economy will produce an inflation rate above the Fed’s target of 2 percent.

      “In such an economic environment, and considering the stagnation in working-age population growth, it is not surprising that the labor market continues to tighten,” The Conference Board said in a statement. “The unemployment rate reached 3.6 percent in April, the lowest rate since December 1969. Labor markets will continue tightening in coming months and wages are likely to accelerate further.”

      The Conference Board economists say the recovery in the U.S. economy and the ongoing job market squeeze most likely means the Federal Reserve won’t cut interest rates anytime soon.

      In 2009, college graduates entered a shrinking job market with an unemployment rate of 10 percent. A decade later, the Class of 2019 is finding a market ne...
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      Model year 2019 Dodge Chargers recalled

      The driver and passenger sun visors may lack the required airbag warning information

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,097 model year 2019 Dodge Charger vehicles.

      The driver and passenger sun visors may lack the required air bag warning information.

      Failure to provide the air bag warning information could increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will replace the driver and passenger sun visors, free of charge.

      The recall began April 17, 2019. Owners may contact customer service at (800) 853-1403.

      Chrysler's number for this recall is V35.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,097 model year 2019 Dodge Charger vehicles.The driver and passenger sun visors may lack the required air bag warni...
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      Gas prices level off in the last week

      The average price is just eight cents a gallon more than a year ago

      The price of gasoline appears to have stabilized in the last week, with only minimal increases in most states and a slight decline in others.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.89 a gallon, just a penny more than seven days ago. The average price is only a few cents more than at this time last year. The average price of premium is $3.45 a gallon, two cents more than last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.10 a gallon, just a penny higher than seven days ago.

      The unexpected stability in prices at the pump comes just a week after the U.S. withdrew waivers for countries to import Iranian oil, a move that reduced the world supply of oil and sent crude prices higher.

      “Compared to the beginning of this year, motorists have definitely felt an increasing squeeze on their wallets at the pump,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “These increases mean Americans are having to work more to afford to fill up their gas tanks.”

      But a huge spike in crude oil inventories in the previous week probably had a moderating effect on pump prices this week. The Energy Information Administration reports oil supplies rose to 470.6 million barrels, nearly 35 million barrels more than at this time last year.

      AAA says growing domestic crude stocks could play a role in helping to keep gas prices low this summer, since crude comprises roughly 50 percent of the cost consumers pay for fuel.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • California ($4.09)

      • Hawaii ($3.64)

      • Washington ($3.52)

      • Oregon ($3.41)

      • Nevada ($3.46)

      • Alaska ($3.41)

      • Arizona ($3.14)

      • Pennsylvania ($3.05)

      • Utah ($3.06)

      • Idaho ($3.07)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Alabama ($2.51)

      • Mississippi ($2.53)

      • Louisiana ($2.54)

      • South Carolina ($2.55)

      • Arkansas ($2.56)

      • Missouri ($2.58)

      • Oklahoma ($2.61)

      • Tennessee ($2.61)

      • Texas ($2.62)

      • Virginia ($2.64)

      The price of gasoline appears to have stabilized in the last week, with only minimal increases in most states and a slight decline in others.The AAA Fu...
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2019 Tiguan LWBs

      The tire information label contains inaccurate information

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling eight model year 2019 Tiguan LWBs.

      The tire information label contains inaccurate tire dimension and inflation pressure specifications.

      The incorrect specifications can result in improper tire inflation or to installing a tire of the wrong size on the vehicle. Either of these situations can increase the risk of a vehicle crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will install a corrected tire information label free of charge.

      The recall began April 16, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 01D2.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling eight model year 2019 Tiguan LWBs.The tire information label contains inaccurate tire dimension and inflation...
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      Feeding Change recalls Young Thai Coconut Meat

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      FeedingChange Canada is recalling Feeding Change brand Young Thai Coconut Meat.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses are reported.

      Feeding Change, sold in retail stores in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Yukon, is being recalled:

      Common NameSizeCode(s) on ProductUPC
      Young Thai Coconut Meat454 gBest By : JUN 01 2020
      CM 152181A
      Best By : JUN 13 2020
      CM 164181A
      Best By : JUN 14 2020
      CM 165181A
      Best By : JUN 18 2020
      CM 169181A
      0 91037 12927 7

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard or return it to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may call 800-442-2342.

      FeedingChange Canada is recalling Feeding Change brand Young Thai Coconut Meat.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses are rep...
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      Facebook, FTC deal is meant to protect user privacy

      Under the potential deal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg could be held personally responsible for future problems

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Facebook are currently negotiating a legal settlement that could make CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally liable for any future privacy issues, according to Politico and the New York Times.

      Under the deal, which hasn’t yet been finalized, Zuckerberg would be named "designated compliance officer" for issues related to user privacy.

      Other privacy-focused positions could also be added, including an FTC-approved privacy official who would monitor whether the company is complying with the FTC settlement and acting in the best interest of users, according to the Times. The settlement may also involve the addition of an “independent” oversight committee that might include Facebook board members.

      Commitment to privacy

      News of the potential deal comes less than a week after Facebook disclosed that it’s bracing for a fine of up to $5 billion for its handling of various privacy issues over the past few years. At Facebook’s F8 event this week, Zuckerberg emphasized the company’s commitment to privacy, unveiling the mantra: “The future is private.”

      “The future is private,” Zuckerberg said at the event. “Over time, I believe that a private social platform will be even more important to our lives than our digital town squares. So today, we’re going to start talking about what this could look like as a product, what it means to have your social experience be more intimate, and how we need to change the way we run this company in order to build this.”

      Facebook has vowed several times to be better when it comes to keeping user information secure, but those promises often seem to be followed by another privacy scandal. Zuckerberg acknowledged the fact that Facebook doesn’t have “the strongest reputation on privacy right now,” but he affirmed that Facebook is committed to turning things around.

      “Now look, I get that a lot of people aren’t sure we’re serious about this,” Zuckerberg said. “We don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly. But I’m committed to doing this well and starting a new chapter for our product.”

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Facebook are currently negotiating a legal settlement that could make CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally liable for any...
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      Apple to pay Qualcomm up to $4.7 billion as part of settlement

      A resolution was reached in part because Apple needs chips that will connect new iPhones to 5G

      In its second-quarter earnings report, Qualcomm revealed that it will get between $4.5 billion and $4.7 billion from the deal it reached with Apple to resolve its years-long patent royalty dispute.

      The two companies agreed on terms of a settlement early during an April trial, putting an end to a dispute that had been brewing since 2017.

      The legal battle started when Apple argued that Qualcomm was abusing its position as a dominant supplier to charge “exorbitant” fees for patent licensing. Apple then began using Intel chips, which prompted Qualcomm to push to get iPhone imports banned in several countries for patent infringement.

      Apple needed 5G chips

      Apple had little choice but to settle with Qualcomm because it needed 5G modem chips for its 5G iPhones, according to Bloomberg. Apple originally planned to use Intel chips but determined they wouldn’t be ready in time for the 2020 release of the devices.

      “If they didn’t settle with Qualcomm soon they’d miss next year’s product,” Mike Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, told the publication. “Building their own baseband will take years and Intel is behind. Maybe that was the final thing that got this done.”

      In addition to requiring a one-time payment from Apple, the settlement calls for the two companies to enter into a six-year licensing agreement, as well as a "multiyear" wireless chipset supply agreement. The $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion Apple will pay Qualcomm will include "cash payment from Apple and the release of related liabilities,” Qualcomm said, according to Axios.

      “We are also pleased to have reached multi-year agreements with Apple and look forward to continuing to support them as a customer,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said in a statement.

      In its second-quarter earnings report, Qualcomm revealed that it will get between $4.5 billion and $4.7 billion from the deal it reached with Apple to reso...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2019 Altimas

      The brake lights may remain illuminated when the brakes are not being pressed

      Nissan North America is recalling 5,744 model year 2019 Altimas. The brake switch bracket may be in the incorrect location, which may cause the brake switch to remain on.

      If the brake switch remains in the ON position, the brake lights will remain illuminated when the brakes are not being pressed, which may confuse other drivers.

      Additionally, the transmission shift lever may be moved out of the Park position without the brake pedal being pressed, allowing the vehicle to roll unexpectedly. Either condition increases the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and install a new brake pedal as needed free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in May 2019.

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

      Nissan North America is recalling 5,744 model year 2019 Altimas. The brake switch bracket may be in the incorrect location, which may cause the brake switc...
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      Colorado Premium Foods recalls raw ground beef

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O103,

      Colorado Premium Foods of Carrolton, Ga., is recalling approximately 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli O103.

      The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is investigating an E. coli O103 outbreak to determine if the recalled products are involved.

      At this time, there is no definitive link between these products and the E. coli O103 outbreak.

      The following items, produced on March 26, March 29, April 2, April 5, April 10, and April 12, 2019, are being recalled:

      • Two 24-lb. vacuum-packed packages in cardboard boxes containing raw “GROUND BEEF PUCK” with “Use Thru” dates of 4/14/19, 4/17/19, 4/20/19, 4/23/19, 4/28/19, and 4/30/19.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 51308” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the boxes, were shipped to distributors in Port Orange, Fla., and Norcross, Ga., for further distribution to restaurants.

      What to do

      The recalled products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Ashley Barnes at (970) 313-4400.

      Colorado Premium Foods of Carrolton, Ga., is recalling approximately 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli O103.The A...
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      The annual airline baggage review is out and things look great...for the airlines!

      There are ways for consumers to get at least one bag on a flight for free, maybe more if you have certain co-branded credit cards

      If you’re a traveler, take note of this figure: $28.1 billion.

      Now you know why airlines charge baggage fees.

      The annual baggage fee review from IdeaWorksCompany -- an airline ancillary revenue consulting firm -- and online technology and travel platform CarTrawler is out, and it’s an eye-opener.

      That $28.1 billion number reflects the worldwide billing-for-baggage component. The baggage revenue stream got a nice 19.07 percent bump in 2018 according to the survey, accounting for 3.2 percent of the total global airline revenue.

      “Stringent baggage fee policies are hallmarks of top revenue-performing low-cost carriers,” writes Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany. “The surprising development within the last two years is the implementation of bag fees by some of the world’s leading global network airlines.”

      Short of Southwest Airlines and its “(two) bags fly free” promise, domestic U.S. travelers don’t get the same type of bag fee waiver that most of the Asian and Middle Eastern-based airlines give. All European-based carriers, except for Turkish Airlines, typically charge for baggage as well.

      “The abundant reliance upon bag fees in Europe and North America occurs largely due to the presence of a very significant low-cost carrier industry,” Sorensen said. “Elsewhere in the world, traditional airlines include baggage benefits for all fares and have not yet adopted basic economy fare strategies.”

      "One thing to look out for going forward is dynamically priced bag fees, meaning that the price will vary according to demand. Spirit is a leader in this innovation," adds Robert Silk, Airlines Editor for Travel Weekly. "Still, flyers shouldn’t forget the big picture, which is a combination of your all-in cost for flying and the service you’re buying. A higher bag fee can be offset by a lower ticket prices or a better seat and connection.”

      Any way around paying baggage fees?

      One of the best ways for consumers to get around the bag fee issue is to apply for a co-branded credit card. Having one of those cards will usually get a fee waiver for the first bag checked, but only in the U.S. and Canada.

      As an example, UpgradedPoints reports that consumers holding the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard can get one free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on your itinerary, but it’s only valid on domestic flights.

      “The sure-fire way to avoid this fee is to travel with a carry-on bag only,” advises Momondo’s Samantha Fanelli.

      “However, if you simply cannot do without your checked luggage, try to pay for the bag online, as it is typically much cheaper to purchase your bag on the airline’s website rather than pay up front at the check-in counter. Be aware that maximum carry-on size varies from airline to airline, so to avoid having to check and pay for your bag in case your suitcase is too large, always make sure to check the luggage rules of your specific airline.”

      One important note: Bag fees like anything else related to airline travel can change without a moment’s notice. It’s always smart to check the airline’s current policy regarding luggage and, if there’s something you don’t understand, give them a call and ask for clarification.

      If you’re a traveler, take note of this figure: $28.1 billion.Now you know why airlines charge baggage fees.The annual baggage fee review from Idea...
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      FDA approves the marketing of new tobacco product

      The agency says it’s less harmful than cigarettes and may help some smokers quit

      E-cigarettes remain controversial within the Food and Drug Administration, which has expressed alarm at what it calls an epidemic of teen use of the nicotine-delivery device.

      But the agency has flashed a green light for a new tobacco product that some critics argue is very similar to electronic cigarettes. The FDA has authorized the marketing of a new Phillip Morris product called a “tobacco heating system.” It consists of an electronic device that heats tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol.

      At the same time, the FDA said it is placing strict marketing restrictions on the products in an effort to prevent youth access and exposure.

      The FDA said it is approving the product because, in the long run, it may be beneficial to public health by encouraging more cigarette smokers to quit. Following a review, it was determined that the new product produces lower levels of some toxins than regular cigarettes.

      Marlboro brand

      The FDA has cleared the way for marketing of the product, known as an IQOS device, sold under the brand names Marlboro Heatsticks, Marlboro Smooth Menthol Heatsticks, and Marlboro Fresh Menthol Heatsticks.

      The agency makes clear that while it is approving the sale of this type of product in the U.S., it in no way is declaring it safe or ”FDA approved.”

      “Ensuring new tobacco products undergo a robust premarket evaluation by the FDA is a critical part of our mission to protect the public, particularly youth, and to reduce tobacco-related disease and death,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

      May help smokers quit

      Zeller said the agency paid particular attention to how the product may affect the use of nicotine and tobacco, a concern that has increased in recent years as young people who have never smoked have taken up “vaping,” inhaling nicotine vapor. In the end, the agency decided that with stringent controls to keep the new product away from teens it had potential to move smokers away from cigarettes.

      “Importantly, the FDA is putting in place postmarket requirements aimed at, among other things, monitoring market dynamics such as potential youth uptake,” Zeller said. “We’ll be keeping a close watch on the marketplace, including how the company is marketing these products, and will take action as necessary to ensure the continued sale of these products in the U.S. remains appropriate and make certain that the company complies with the agency’s marketing restrictions to prevent youth access and exposure.”

      Underscoring its concern, the FDA said all tobacco products are potentially harmful and addictive and those who do not use tobacco products shouldn’t start.

      E-cigarettes remain controversial within the Food and Drug Administration, which has expressed alarm at what it calls an epidemic of teen use of the nicoti...
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      Some minority homeowners still feeling effect of foreclosure crisis

      Home values have recovered at a slower pace

      For some, the foreclosure crisis of a decade ago is only a distant, unpleasant memory. But an analysis from Zillow suggests it remains a troubling reality for some minority homeowners.

      Home prices now exceed their housing bubble highs in most parts of the country, but home values have been much slower to recover in neighborhoods that suffered massive foreclosures.

      In predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods, home values plunged as much as 50 percent before the market began to recover. Foreclosed homes in black an