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    Windows 10 takes on new malware threat

    Personal computers are less likely to be hit than business computers, but taking steps to protect yourself is still recommended

    Microsoft Windows 10 has been a hot topic around ConsumerAffairs, lately. The operating system has faced rebukes from tech pundits when it was first releas..

    Sears seeks to give its retirees a fraction of their life insurance benefits

    Former workers with death benefits between $5,000 and $14,500 could receive just $135 under the plan

    Sears retirees who had life insurance coverage through the company may now receive just $135 each from the now-bankrupt retailer, Bloomberg reports. 

    About 29,000 former Sears employees had a life insurance plan through the company, which sold its stores and most of its assets to chairman Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, back in January. 

    In March, Sears canceled its workers’ life insurance plan and gave them the option to pay for their own life insurance. The terminated plan would have provided death benefits of between $5,000 and $14,500 for workers, but the company now says it doesn’t have enough money to pay the full amount. 

    Sears has laid out a new plan that would drastically reduce the amount of money its retirees will receive. Former Sears employees who were slated to receive thousands in benefits could now receive just $115 to $135, according to a court filing.

    “The new plan is totally unacceptable to the retirees,” Ronald Olbrysh, chairman of the National Association of Retired Sears Employees, told Bloomberg. “It’s totally unfair, what Sears is attempting to do.”

    A hearing on the proposal is set for August 12.

    Sears retirees who had life insurance coverage through the company may now receive just $135 each from the now-bankrupt retailer, Bloomberg reports. Ab...
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      FAA hopes civil aviation authorities simultaneously approve Boeing 737 MAX fix when it’s ready

      The agency says the grounding order will be lifted ‘only when it is safe to do so’

      Boeing 737 MAX jets have yet to be reintroduced to airlines’ daily flight schedules, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is hoping civil aviation regulators across the globe approve Boeing’s fixes for the aircraft at about the same time. 

      In a letter to Congress seen by Reuters, the FAA’s acting administrator said the agency “hopes to achieve near simultaneous approval from the major civil aviation authorities around the world” 

      The planes were grounded worldwide in mid-March in the wake of two fatal crashes that occurred just five months apart. The crashes were determined to be caused by a software error. 

      Planes still grounded

      Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said recently that he was optimistic that the MAX would be cleared to return to the skies as early as October following a certification flight in “the September time frame.” Some have estimated that the planes may not resume service until next year.

      Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told Congress that the agency “will lift the 737 MAX grounding order only when it is safe to do so.”

      The agency’s words to Congress come a few weeks after FAA officials found another potential problem in the 737 MAX’s computer system. During simulator sessions, the flaw raised alarm for its potential to cause the aircraft to dive in instances where it should be climbing. 

      “I’m sure this will cause us to have to take the MAX out of the schedule beyond Oct. 1,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees in early July, according to Reuters. Kelly added that the company would also see “what other modifications we might need to make our plans for this year because it’s obviously extending well beyond what I had hoped.”

      Boeing 737 MAX jets have yet to be reintroduced to airlines’ daily flight schedules, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is hoping civil aviation...
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      Britax recalls modified thru-bolt axles for use with BOB Jogging Strollers

      The modified thru-bolt on the front wheel can fracture

      Britax Child Safety of Fort Mill, S.C., is recalling about 200 modified thru-bolt axles for use with BOB Jogging Strollers distributed through the BOB Information Campaign from January 10 – April 26, 2019.

      The modified thru-bolt on the front wheel can fracture, allowing the wheel to detach from the stroller, posing fall and injury hazards to children in the stroller and adults operating the stroller.

      The firm has received 8 reports of the modified thru-bolt fracturing. There are no reports of injuries.

      This recall involves the modified thru-bolt axle provided by Britax free of charge as one of the available incentives to eligible consumers in connection with the BOB Information Campaign announced on January 10, 2019.

      The model number of the modified thru-bolt axle is S11393700 and it was manufactured for use with BOB Jogging Strollers made between 1/1/2009 to 9/30/2015.

      The modified thru-bolt axles, manufactured in China, were distributed by Britax free of charge to consumers in connection with the BOB Information Campaign announced on January 10, 2019.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the modified thru-bolt axle installed on the front wheel of their BOB jogging stroller.

      Britax is contacting consumers directly who received the modified thru-bolt axles and providing them with a free replacement thru-bolt axle.

      Consumers may also contact Britax for a free replacement thru-bolt axle.

      Consumers who have participated in the BOB Information Campaign, and have already been contacted by Britax, will automatically receive a replacement thru-bolt.

      Consumers may contact Britax toll-free at (888) 427-4829 from 9 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday, or between 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. (ET) on Friday or by email at US-customerservice@britax.com.

      Britax Child Safety of Fort Mill, S.C., is recalling about 200 modified thru-bolt axles for use with BOB Jogging Strollers distributed through the BOB Info...
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      Kent Quality Foods recalls beef polish sausage

      The product may contain pieces of pieces of flexible pink rubber

      Kent Quality Foods of Grand Rapids, Mich., is recalling approximately 48,681 pounds of ready-to-eat polish sausage with beef .

      The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically pieces of flexible pink rubber.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following ready-to-eat item,  packaged on June 17, 2019, and June 20, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 36-oz. packages containing three 12 oz. individually wrapped pieces of “TETON WATERS RANCH COOKED UNCURED POLISH SAUSAGE MADE WITH BEEF” with a Use/Freeze By SEP 16 2019 or Use/Freeze By SEP 19 2019.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 5694” on the package, was shipped to retail locations in California and Utah.

      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 may contact Jim Zubkus at (616) 459-4595.

      Kent Quality Foods of Grand Rapids, Mich., is recalling approximately 48,681 pounds of ready-to-eat polish sausage with beef .The product may be contam...
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      Bosses who bully employees can negatively impact workplace safety

      Findings from a recent study suggest that a lot can hinge on bosses’ attitudes

      A new study conducted by researchers from Portland State University found that bosses who have a tendency towards bullying can not only impact employees’ performance on the job, but can also negatively impact safety in the workplace. 

      “Organizations need to understand how important it is to curb leaders’ bad behavior and to create positive team dynamics, so that there will be fewer negative safety consequences for employees or customers,” said researcher Liu-Qin Yang. “It’s really critical to manage such leader behavior, support victimized employees, and prevent such issues.” 

      Boosting the employee experience

      While bosses’ leadership style can affect employees’ work performance in any field, this study focused on positions where safety is of the utmost importance, such as manufacturing techs and airline pilots. 

      Those involved in the study were asked to report on their experiences with bosses in less than ideal circumstances, such as situations where aggressive leadership styles had affected various aspects of the job. 

      The results revealed that aggressive and combative bosses made employees more likely to make decisions that were better for them individually, rather than for the group as a whole. When it comes to jobs where safety is of the utmost importance, the researchers say this dynamic could create hazardous conditions.

      “When people are less sure about their strengths and weaknesses and their status within a group, they become more sensitive,” said Yang. “They’re more likely to respond negatively to their bosses’ bullying behaviors.” 

      The study did recommend several ways for supervisors to implement safety policies, mainly in ways that prioritize employee bonding, a culture that places an emphasis on people, proper leadership, and workplace evaluations so that no one feels left out. 

      Healthy relationships in the workplace are key

      Ensuring that employees are happy at work is crucial to overall productivity in the workplace, and bosses who choose to form healthy relationships with their employees are more likely to get the most productive hours out of them. 

      This idea was made clear in a recent study that found bosses who are profit-driven can yield employees who aren’t performing at their very best.

      “Supervisors undoubtedly face heavy scrutiny for the performance levels of their employees, and as such they may tend to emphasize the need for employees to pursue bottom-line outcomes at the exclusion of other competing priorities, such as ethical practices, personal development, or building social connections in the workplace,” the researchers wrote. “However, in doing so they may have to suffer the consequence of reduced employee respect, loyalty, and even liking.” 

      A new study conducted by researchers from Portland State University found that bosses who have a tendency towards bullying can not only impact employees’ p...
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      CM&R recalls beef sticks

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

      CM&R of St. Paul, Minn., is recalling approximately 25 pounds of ready-to-eat beef sticks.

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

      The recall products are labeled as “Smoked & Uncured Maple Beef Snack Sticks” products but contain “Smoked & Uncured Mild Beef Sticks with Cheddar Cheese.”

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions .

      The following item, produced on June 19, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 6-oz. plastic vacuum packed packages of “MARKET SAUSAGES SMOKED & UNCURED MAPLE BEEF SNACK STICKS” with lot code 1712019 and Sell-By: 9/15/19.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 45394” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Minnesota.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should no consume them, but discard or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact Charles Cory at (651) 738-3636.

      CM&R; of St. Paul, Minn., is recalling approximately 25 pounds of ready-to-eat beef sticks.The products contain milk, an allergen not declared on the l...
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      Model year 2017-2019 Toyota Camrys, Corollas, Rav4s, Siennas and Yaris iAs recalled

      The load carrying capacity modification label may be incorrect

      Southeast Toyota Distributors (SET) is recalling 1,325 model year 2017-2019 Toyota Camrys, Corollas, Rav4s, Siennas and Yaris iAs equipped with factory-installed floor mats.

      The load carrying capacity modification label may be incorrect, which may lead to unintentionally overloading the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      SET will notify owners and provide a corrected label for placement over the inaccurate label free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 27, 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (888) 270-9371. SET's number for this recall is SET19A.

      Southeast Toyota Distributors (SET) is recalling 1,325 model year 2017-2019 Toyota Camrys, Corollas, Rav4s, Siennas and Yaris iAs equipped with factory-ins...
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      Apple plans to offer 5G support on all three upcoming iPhones

      A recent acquisition has paved the way for 5G support on all 2020 iPhones

      In a note to investors over the weekend, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple will offer 5G support on all three models of its 2020 iPhones. The move is intended to help the tech giant compete with Android, which is adding 5G support to its lower-cost Android smartphones.

      Earlier this summer, Kuo said he believed two of the three upcoming iPhones would support 5G. The analyst now says Apple will add 5G support to all the new devices. 

      Kuo said Apple's recent acquisition of Intel's smartphone modem chip business bolstered its resources for developing iPhones with 5G capabilities. However, the company doesn’t plan to drop Qualcomm technology in favor of using its own in-house 5G chip until 2021, according to Reuters.

      “Apple has more resource for developing the 5G iPhone after the acquisition of Intel baseband business, ” Kuo said in a note seen by MacRumors. “We expect that the prices of 5G Android smartphones will decline to $249–349 USD in 2H20.” 

      “Consumers will think that 5G is the necessary function” by the time they are launched, he added. “Therefore, iPhone models which will be sold at higher prices have to support 5G for winning more subsidies from mobile operators and consumers' purchase intention.” 

      All three versions of the 2020 iPhone will likely support both the mmWave and sub-6GHz versions of 5G. Meanwhile, Android phones will only support sub-6GHz. 

      In a note to investors over the weekend, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple will offer 5G support on all three models of its 2020 iPhones. The move is i...
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      Dish hopes to have 5G wireless going by end of 2020

      The nation’s newest wireless provider isn’t wasting time

      Now that Dish Network has been set up as a fourth wireless provider in the wake of Sprint and T-Mobile’s merger approval, the satellite TV company isn’t waiting for the ink to dry.

      Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has made clear he plans to push ahead immediately in building out a 5G wireless network, an enormously expensive undertaking. In an interview with Axios just hours after the Justice Department greenlighted the merger, Ergen said he hopes to be providing 5G service in at least one market by the end of 2020.

      Dish stepped into the role of wireless provider as a condition for regulators to allow Sprint and T-Mobile to merge because of worries the combination would reduce competition and hurt consumers. Both merger partners provided assets to Dish, including spectrum, to help it get up and running.

      Part of the problem facing the satellite TV provider is that it currently has no existing wireless network. It will have to build a 5G network from scratch while its competitors will build on top of their existing 4G LTE networks.

      Getting a boost from Boost

      Dish is acquiring Sprint’s Boost Mobile as part of the deal and Ergen said one of the first steps the company will take is to make the prepaid service more competitive, even expanding beyond the prepaid market.

      The deal approved by the government requires T-Mobile and Sprint to open up dozens of retail locations to Dish, as well as more than 20,000 cell sites. Dish will also get “a seven-year wholesale agreement allowing it to sell T-Mobile wireless service under the Dish brands.”

      While that most likely will help, Dish still faces significant challenges in leaping into the wireless business. However, it has strong incentives to do so. Satellites are aging technology and 5G could prove to be a much faster and more efficient way to distribute video programming.

      Keeping pace with DIRECTV

      Dish competitor DIRECTV is owned by AT&T which is currently building its own 5G network. For Dish to remain competitive it may have to bite the 5G bullet.

      Roger Entner, a telecom analyst and founder of Recon Analytics LLC, told Bloomberg News that Dish will likely have to spend at least $20 billion dollars in the short term to build a network that could make use of the massive amounts of spectrum it owns.

      And that may be just the beginning. More spending will be needed to establish a retail network and market the new service, competing with the huge ad budgets of Verizon, AT&T, and the newly combined Sprint and T-Mobile.

      Now that Dish Network has been set up as a fourth wireless provider in the wake of Sprint and T-Mobile’s merger approval, the satellite TV company isn’t wa...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2017-2019 gasoline light duty Titans

      The vehicle may experience and electrical short

      Nissan North America is recalling 91,319 model year 2017-2019 gasoline, light duty Titans.

      The alternator harness may have been damaged during the engine installation process, possibly resulting in an electrical short.

      An electrical short may cause an engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash. In addition, it increases the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the alternator harness for the proper routing and any damage. The harness will be clipped into the correct position or replaced as necessary free of charge.

      The recall was expected to begin July 23, 2019.

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

      Nissan North America is recalling 91,319 model year 2017-2019 gasoline, light duty Titans.The alternator harness may have been damaged during the engin...
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      Stokke recalls Infant Steps Bouncers

      The Stokke Steps Bouncer can detach from the Stokke Steps Chair

      Stokke of Stamford, Conn., is recalling about 4,500 Stokke Steps Bouncers.

      The Stokke Steps Bouncer can detach from the Stokke Steps Chair, posing a fall hazard to the child in the Bouncer.

      The company has received one report of a consumer having difficulty attaching the Steps Bouncer to the Steps Chair. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall includes Stokke Steps Bouncers.

      The bouncers are a part of Stokke Steps all-in-one modular seating system and can be used in combination with the Stokke Steps Chair from birth up to the age of about six months.

      The Stokke Steps Bouncers have a plastic arm and fabric seat and measure about 31 inches by 25 inches by 21 inches. Stokke is printed on the care label and the law tag on the bottom of the recalled bouncers.

      Only Stokke Steps Bouncers with one of the following item numbers and with a serial number found at https://reclamations.stokke.com/stepsbouncer are included in this recall:  

       Item Number

      Description

      483201

      Steps Bouncer US Blue

      483202

      Steps Bouncer US Greige (beige/gray)

      483203

      Steps Bouncer US Pink

      483204

      Steps Bouncer US Gray Clouds

      483205

      Steps Bouncer US White Mountains

      Check for recalled serial numbers at https://reclamations.stokke.com/stepsbouncer

      The item and serial numbers are printed on the tracking label found underneath the bouncer seat plastic frame.

      The Bouncers, manufactured in the Netherlands, were sold at juvenile product stores nationwide, online at www.stokke.com and www.Amazon.com from February 2014, through December 2018, for about $200.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the Stokke Steps Bouncer in combination with the Stokke Steps Chair and contact Stokke for a free repair kit. Visit https://reclamations.stokke.com/stepsbouncer to check if the bouncer is included in the recall.

      Once confirmed, consumers should register on the site to receive repair instructions.

      Consumers may continue to use the Stokke Steps Bouncers and the Stokke Steps Chairs separately.

      Consumers may contact Stokke toll-free at( 877) 978-6553 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET), by email at info-usa@stokke.com, or online at www.stokke.com and click on “SAFETY RECALL NOTICE” for more information.

      Stokke of Stamford, Conn., is recalling about 4,500 Stokke Steps Bouncers.The Stokke Steps Bouncer can detach from the Stokke Steps Chair, posing a fal...
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      Facebook’s Messenger Kids app flaw allowed children to chat with unauthorized users

      The social media giant frames the issue as a ‘technical error’ and says it has turned off the affected chats

      As if Facebook hasn’t had enough bad news, how about some “stranger danger” to add to the pile?

      According to The Verge, Facebook has been tiptoeing around and quietly reaching out to users of its Messenger Kids app to let them know about a security flaw that allowed children to chat with unapproved users.

      Facebook’s message to the impacted users reads as follows:

      “Hi [PARENT], 

      We found a technical error that allowed [CHILD]’s friend [FRIEND] to create a group chat with [CHILD] and one or more of [FRIEND]’s parent-approved friends. We want you to know that we’ve turned off this group chat and are making sure that group chats like this won’t be allowed in the future. If you have questions about Messenger Kids and online safety, please visit our Help Center and Messenger Kids parental controls. We’d also appreciate your feedback.”

      Facebook owned up to sending the message, telling The Verge that the alert had been sent to “thousands of users” and couching the issue as a “technical error.”

      “We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats,” a Facebook representative told The Verge. “We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”

      Facebook’s admission appears to be private and only given out when a comment is requested. ConsumerAffairs could not find anything related to the matter on Facebook’s own Messenger Kids page.

      The bug’s backstory

      The bug appears to have been a result of how the Messenger Kids’ unique permissions were applied in group chats. 

      In a normal one-on-one chat, children can only start a conversation with other users who have been approved by the child’s parents. “Those permissions became more complex when applied to a group chat because of the multiple users involved,” The Verge reported.

      “Whoever launched the group could invite any user who was authorized to chat with them, even if that user wasn’t authorized to chat with the other children in the group. As a result, thousands of children were left in chats with unauthorized users, a violation of the core promise of Messenger Kids.”

      Best laid plans?

      Facebook’s original intent for the app was to create a safer experience for a younger crowd. At least that’s what Facebook would have its users believe and what a Facebook spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs. 

      But health experts waved the red flag on that. "Messenger Kids is not responding to a need - it is creating one," the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood wrote in an open letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. 

      "It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts," the letter reads. Another passage criticized Facebook for "targeting younger children with a new product."

      As if Facebook hasn’t had enough bad news, how about some “stranger danger” to add to the pile?According to The Verge, Facebook has been tiptoeing arou...
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      Apple expected to phase out butterfly keyboards

      The company is reportedly planning to use a more durable scissor mechanism in upcoming laptop models

      Apple’s notoriously problematic butterfly keyboard will be phased out this year, MacRumors reports. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the tech giant will introduce a scissor-switch keyboard design starting with its 16-inch MacBook Pro. 

      The company unveiled its butterfly keyboard in 2015, advertising it as being “refined for greater comfort and responsiveness” compared to its standard “scissor” design. However, users began noticing that the keyboards tended to malfunction after being exposed to dirt or dust.

      Apple acknowledged the issue and tried to fix the problem by introducing several changes, including adding a silicone barrier to keep dust from getting behind keys and using “new materials” in the keyboards’ switch mechanism to improve reliability. 

      The tech giant launched a repair program for users who were still experiencing problems, but now it appears that the company is looking to scrap the troublesome keyboard design altogether. 

      The new scissor keyboard won’t be as prone to failure from heat, dust, and other small particulates, Kuo said in a previous note to investors seen by MacRumors. Enhanced durability will come by way of glass fibers to reinforce the keys. While it will be thicker than the butterfly keyboard, Kuo believes most users won’t be able to feel the difference.

      It is expected to be found on the new MacBook Pro, which will most likely launch in September. Other laptops will get the updated keyboard in 2020. 

      Apple’s notoriously problematic butterfly keyboard will be phased out this year, MacRumors reports. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the tech giant will int...
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      Gas prices drop three cents in the last week

      But volatile oil prices add some uncertainty to future prices at the pump

      Gasoline prices dipped during the last week as Gulf Coast refineries got back to more normal operations after Tropical Storm Barry.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular dropped three cents a gallon to $2.75 a gallon. That’s a dime less than one year ago. The average price of premium is $3.32 a gallon, down three cents from a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.99 a gallon, a penny less than last week.

      Prices appeared to be very stable during the week, with most states posting modest declines at the pump. However, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, reported on Twitter that prices appeared to be rising in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

      Oil prices have been volatile over the past several weeks and now appear headed higher again on news that U.S. oil supplies fell sharply over the previous week. The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a drop of 10.961 million barrels of U.S. stockpiles for the week ending July 18, much higher than industry analysts expected. 

      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 ($3.69)

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • Washington ($3.30)

      • Nevada ($3.26)

      • Alaska ($3.17)

      • Oregon ($3.16)

      • Illinois ($3.02)

      • Idaho ($2.91)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.90)

      • Connecticut ($2.88)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.37)

      • Alabama ($2.40)

      • Louisiana ($2.38)

      • Arkansas ($2.41)

      • South Carolina ($2.43)

      • Oklahoma ($2.45)

      • Tennessee ($2.49)

      • Virginia ($2.50)

      • Texas ($2.50)

      • Kansas ($2.51)

      Gasoline prices dipped during the last week as Gulf Coast refineries got back to more normal operations after Tropical Storm Barry.The AAA Fuel Gauge S...
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      Model year 2016-2019 Acura ILXs recalled

      The driveshaft may separate from the half shaft

      Acura is recalling 49,898 model year 2016-2019 Acura ILXs.

      Excessive grease may prevent the set-ring on the half shaft from fully engaging, allowing the driveshaft to separate from the half shaft.

      A separated driveshaft can cause the vehicle to experience a loss of drive or let the vehicle move even while in “Park,” increasing the risk of a crash or injury.

      What to do

      Acura will notify owners, and dealers will inspect, and, as necessary, replace the driveshaft and half shaft free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 29, 2019.

      Owners may contact Acura customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Acura's number for this recall is G54.

      Acura is recalling 49,898 model year 2016-2019 Acura ILXs.Excessive grease may prevent the set-ring on the half shaft from fully engaging, allowing the...
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      Trek Recalls Kickster bikes

      The steer tube clamp on the bike can break, posing a fall hazard

      Trek Bicycle Corporation of Waterloo, Wis., is recalling about 13,000 Trek Kickster bikes sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      The bike's steer tube clamp can break, posing a fall hazard to children.

      The firm has received 11 reports of broken steer tube clamps, including one injury with minor scrapes and bruising.

      This recall involves all model year 2013 through 2019 Trek Kicksters made for toddlers who are learning how to ride a two wheeler.

      The Kicksters, which do not have pedals so children can focus on balancing, come in black, blue, red and pink with “TREK” written on the crossbar.

      The bikes, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at independent bicycle stores nationwide and online at www.trekbikes.com and other online retailers from August 2012, through April 2019, for about $170.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled bikes away from children and take them to a Trek retailer for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Trek at (800) 373-4594 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, or online at www.trekbikes.com and click on “Safety & recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Trek Bicycle Corporation of Waterloo, Wis., is recalling about 13,000 Trek Kickster bikes sold in the U.S., and Canada.The bike's steer tube clamp can...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls GLE350 4Matics and GLE450 4Matics

      Water may leak into the passenger cabin

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 753 model year 2020 GLE350 4Matics and GLE450 4Matics.

      A welding error during production may have resulted in a small hole in the floor, possibly allowing water to leak into the passenger cabin.

      Water in the passenger compartment may affect the vehicle's electrical systems, increasing the risk of a crash or injury.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will seal the affected area free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 13, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 753 model year 2020 GLE350 4Matics and GLE450 4Matics.A welding error during production may have resulted in a s...
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      FTC informs Facebook it is the subject of an antitrust probe

      The Justice Department may also be looking at the social media giant

      Facebook’s scrutiny by federal regulators hasn’t ended with a record $5 billion fine officially announced Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

      Later that same day, Facebook reported its second quarter earnings and in that report disclosed that the FTC informed the company in June that it was beginning an antitrust investigation into the company’s market dominance.

      This, of course, is in addition to the announcement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday that it is launching a broad-based antitrust probe of several large technology companies. Facebook is expected to be among them.

      This latest revelation doesn’t concern Facebook’s much-discussed privacy issues, which were resolved with the $5 billion fine. Government investigators will presumably be looking into Facebook business practices and whether it unfairly used its clout and reach to stifle competition.

      In agreeing to a settlement of charges related to unauthorized access to user data by a political marketing firm, Facebook also accepted new levels of oversight.

      Investor enthusiasm

      The announcement of the antitrust probe did little to dampen investor enthusiasm for an otherwise spectacular second quarter earnings report. The company beat expectations both in terms of revenue and profit and the stock moved higher in after-hours trading.

      Facebook’s business model could be one factor that is drawing regulatory scrutiny. Facebook charges consumers no money or fee to use its services and because of that has drawn massive numbers of users.

      To monetize those users, it sells advertising that targets users based on how they use the site. Advertising rates are very low and advertisers are able to specifically target the consumers they want to reach and get detailed demographic reports on who viewed their ads. Google uses a similar business model.

      Since consumers aren’t paying for the service the government will have to prove that consumers are being harmed by the way Facebook is using their data. Since the user base is growing, it doesn’t appear -- at this point, at least -- that consumers really mind that much.

      Facebook’s scrutiny by federal regulators hasn’t ended with a record $5 billion fine officially announced Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)....
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      ADP report shows a jump in wage growth

      Workers saw earnings grow by $1.09 an hour in the last year

      Consumer optimism continues to be strong, and one reason for that might be because workers’ paychecks are finally starting to get bigger. A new report by ADP Research Institute shows that average pay has increased by $1.09 an hour over the last 12 months, to $28.54 an hour. That’s a 4 percent pay raise.

      The biggest gains in pay came in manufacturing and construction. Employees in the services sector and professional and business services also saw strong wage growth.

      Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute, says the labor market has gotten tighter, so when employers find someone they want to hire they have to pay more. They also have to provide incentives to current employees to encourage them not to leave.

      "As labor shortages are apparent in most of the sectors, the businesses are holding on to their skilled workers by increasing their wages” Yildirmaz said.

      Women are getting the bigger raises

      Despite complaints about pay inequity between men and women, Yildirmaz says the latest statistics show the pay gap is now moving in the other direction.

      “Female job holders are capturing larger wage gains than their male counterparts,” she said. “Since January 2019, female job holders received average wage gains of 5 percent, while men averaged wage gains of 4.6 percent."

      People employed in the information industry appear to have the most leverage when it comes to getting a pay raise. The ADP report shows information workers who switch jobs now have an average salary of $41.08 an hour, a nearly 10 percent increase in the last 12 months.

      Job switchers in professional and business services and construction haven’t done badly either. They’ve seen their wages rise 8.3 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. Those working in trade jobs experienced significantly stronger growth in wages than the workers who switched to jobs in the industry.

      Big raises in the Midwest

      Geography also influenced pay increases. Those living in the Midwest did better than those in other regions, but only when it comes to pay increases. Midwestern workers earned less, on average, than those in other regions of the country.

      The West, which hosts a large number of technology companies, was the most rewarding to people who switched jobs. Those who took positions at other companies enjoyed an average pay bump of 7.3 percent. Employees in the South and Northeast had the lowest wage growth at 3.6 percent. 

      Consumer optimism continues to be strong, and one reason for that might be because workers’ paychecks are finally starting to get bigger. A new report by A...
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      Amazon announces home buying program with buyer benefits

      The e-commerce giant has teamed up with Realogy for a service that gives buyers home services and devices at closing

      Amazon has launched a new real estate venture in partnership with Realogy, which owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. 

      Home buyers who use the new service, dubbed TurnKey, will be connected with a real-estate agent from one of the two firms. In exchange for using the service, buyers will get up to $5,000 in Amazon services and devices when they close on their new home. 

      The devices Amazon will throw in include the Echo voice assistant, Ring video doorbell, and smart light bulbs. Installation will be taken care of by Amazon-vetted professionals. Examples of home services that Amazon is offering buyers include deep cleaning, repairs, or furniture assembly. 

      Amazon says the value of home services and devices it will offer depends on the value of the newly purchased home. The full $5,000 would be given to buyers who purchased a home that cost $700,000 or more. 

      Experienced realtors

      Realogy says it has set a high bar for agents to qualify to participate in the TurnKey program; just 11 percent of its eligible agents have met its criteria for working with clients referred by Amazon. 

      "Realogy and our brands are always looking for ways to give consumers an awesome homebuying experience with a terrific real estate agent, and today's launch of TurnKey is a big part of that continued strategy," Ryan M. Schneider, Realogy's chief executive officer and president, said in a statement. 

      "Realogy's great affiliated agents serve their clients during one of the most important moments in their lives, and Amazon's services and products can transform that moment to make it rewarding in a way no one ever has before.”

      The service is available in 15 major markets, including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles.

      Amazon has launched a new real estate venture in partnership with Realogy, which owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. Home buyers who use the new servi...
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      Elevation Foods recalls various prepared foods

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Elevation Foods is recalling containers of Archer Farms-brand egg salad; Freskëtbrand egg salad, tuna salad, and Thai lobster salad; and Archer Farms-brand deviled egg sandwiches.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following products are being recalled:

      • Archer Farms-brand Egg Salad packaged in a 12-ounce clear, square plastic container, Lot Number W1906042A, Use By 12AUG2019 (printed on the side of each container) UPC 085239018682, distributed nationwide
      • Freskët-brand Egg Salad packaged in a 32-ounce clear, square plastic container, Lot Number W1906042, Use By 12AUG2019A (printed on the side of each container
      • Freskët-brand Tuna Salad packaged in a 5-pound white, round plastic container, Lot Number W1906054, Use By 02AUG2019A (printed on the side of each container
      • Freskët-brand Thai Lobster Salad packaged in a 5-pound white, round plastic container, Lot Number W1906041, Use By 02AUG2019A (printed on the side of each container)
      • Archer Farms Deviled Egg Sandwich Half Sandwich with Bacon, UPC 220505000002, distributed nationwide
      • Archer Farms Deviled Egg Sandwich on Multigrain, UPC 498780203566, distributed nationwide

      The recalled products, manufactured on June 18, 2019, were shipped directly shipped to retailer warehouses throughout the U.S.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call (866) 761-9566 at any time.

      Elevation Foods is recalling containers of Archer Farms-brand egg salad; Freskëtbrand egg salad, tuna salad, and Thai lobster salad; and Archer Farms-brand...
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      Boeing tells investors it may slow or stop production of 737 MAX jets

      The planes have been grounded since March due to a software error that caused two fatal accidents

      Back in March, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) grounded all of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft due to an error that had caused two fatal crashes. Now, executives are saying that they may need to slow or completely stop production of the planes altogether. 

      In a conference call with investors on Wednesday, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said that Boeing may make the move if the shutdown of its planes continues much longer. The company is currently trying to fix a software issue affecting the planes, and it may not meet with aviation officials until September. That could result in the 737 MAX planes not returning to service until October, according to CNN. Other estimates posit that the planes may not return until next year.

      “Should our estimate of the anticipated return to service change, we might need to consider possible further rate reductions or other options, including a temporary shutdown of the Max production,” Muilenburg said. 

      Boeing takes a financial a reputational hit

      The grounding of its most popular line of jets hit Boeing hard during the second quarter. In addition to revealing its potential plans for the 737 MAX, the company revealed that it had its worst financial decline ever during the second quarter -- accounting for $3.38 billion in losses on $15.7 billion in revenue, according to the Washington Post.

      On top of its financial losses, Muilenburg has previously stated that Boeing will need to also work hard to win back airline companies and travelers alike. 

      “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,” he said. “We are taking all actions necessary to make sure that accidents like those two...never happen again.”

      Back in March, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) grounded all of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft due to an error that had caused two fatal crashes. Now...
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      Dish agrees to pay $5 billion for Sprint and T-Mobile assets

      The agreement will likely result in DOJ approval of the Sprint-T-Mobile merger

      The role of satellite company Dish in the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint has been a key sticking point for the Justice Department, which has said it wouldn’t approve the deal unless Dish replaced Sprint as the fourth major wireless carrier.  

      Now, Dish has agreed to pay $5 billion for Sprint and T-Mobile’s wireless assets, Bloomberg reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. With that condition agreed upon, the Justice Department could approve the $26.5 billion merger as early as Thursday. 

      A new major carrier

      Under the deal, Dish will pay $1.5 billion for Sprint's Boost prepaid mobile business and around $3.5 billion for spectrum assets, according to Bloomberg. The company won’t be able to sell the assets for three years, and it will be required to offer cell phone service and will get “a seven-year wholesale agreement allowing it to sell T-Mobile wireless service under the Dish brands.”

      With Dish poised to take Sprint’s place as a fourth major wireless carrier, the Justice Department’s condition of preserving competition in the mobile industry will be met. The Wall Street Journal reports that the DOJ is more than likely to approve the deal now that Dish has agreed to step in as a competitor in the industry. The FCC has already said it supports the deal. 

      The merger is still opposed by at least ten state attorneys general who argue that it will harm competition and raise prices for consumers.

      The role of satellite company Dish in the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint has been a key sticking point for the Justice Department, which has said i...
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      Model year 2016-2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS vehicles recalled

      The driveshaft may separate while the vehicle is in motion

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 659 model year 2016-2017 AMG GTS vehicles.

      The bonding between the carbon-fiber driveshaft and the engine/transmission flange may be insufficient, causing the driveshaft to separate while in motion.

      Separation of the driveshaft could result in a loss of drive, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the carbon-fiber draft shaft, including the flange free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 13, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 659 model year 2016-2017 AMG GTS vehicles.The bonding between the carbon-fiber driveshaft and the engine/transmi...
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      Koch Foods recalls chicken breast strips

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

      Koch Foods of Fairfield, Ohio, is recalling approximately 743 pounds of fully-cooked boneless chicken bites.

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

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following frozen, fully-cooked breaded boneless chicken bites labeled as fully-cooked chicken strips and produced on May 31, 2019, are being recalled:.

      • 40-oz. plastic bags containing fully cooked breaded boneless chicken bites that were labeled “SCHWAN’S FULLY COOKED Crispy Chicken Breast Strips” with lot code YN91518412L1; these bags may be separate or in cardboard box cases labeled “BONELESS CHICKEN BITES” with a time stamp of 20:55 to 21:50.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. P-20795” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to a distributor in Minnesota.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact James Bohlander at (513) 642-2653.

      Koch Foods of Fairfield, Ohio, is recalling approximately 743 pounds of fully-cooked boneless chicken bites.The products contain soy, milk and eggs, al...
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      Toyota recalls model year 2018-2019 Prius Cs

      The battery may not receive power from the converter

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 464 model year 2018-2019 Prius Cs.

      The DC-DC converter may fail resulting in the battery no longer receiving power from the converter, which may cause a loss of drive.

      A loss of drive increases the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the DC-DC converter with a new one, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 12, 2019.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at (888) 270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is K0K.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 464 model year 2018-2019 Prius Cs.The DC-DC converter may fail resulting in the battery no longer...
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      FDA launches new TV ad campaign against teen vaping

      ‘The Real Cost’ is an expansion of a campaign that began last year

      What’s the “real cost” of vaping? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hopes to make it abundantly clear with a new television ad campaign aimed at the underage use of e-cigarettes.

      It’s a dramatic expansion of the agency’s ”The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign launched in 2018 amid alarming statistics which showed large increases in teens’ use of e-cigarettes. Federal data showed e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 77 percent that year.

      The initial campaign used hard-hitting advertising on digital and social media sites, as well as posters with e-cigarette prevention messages displayed in high schools across the nation. The new TV ads are intended to drive home public health messages about the risks of e-cigarette use.

      Supposed to help smokers quit

      E-cigarettes were initially introduced as a substitute for tobacco cigarettes. They produce a vapor from liquid that can be inhaled much like a cigarette. Because the liquid contains nicotine, the product is supposed to give a smoker the pleasures of smoking without using tobacco.

      Many public health experts charge e-cigarette marketers of expanding their target beyond smokers who are trying to quit to teens who have never smoked. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who resigned in April, was a particularly harsh critic of e-cigarette marketers.

      “We don’t yet fully understand why these products are so popular among youth,” Gottlieb said in April 2018. “But it’s imperative that we figure it out, and fast.”

      ‘Troubling epidemic’

      The FDA said the ad campaign has taken on heightened importance in light of what it says is an “emerging science” which suggests that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. The concern is that teens who get hooked on nicotine by using e-cigarettes will eventually graduate to tobacco in order to get a stronger dose.

      “The troubling epidemic of youth vaping threatens to erase the years of progress we’ve made combating tobacco use among kids, and it’s imperative that our work to tackle this immensely concerning trend continues to include efforts to educate our nation’s youth about the dangers of these products,”  said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless.

      The new ads feature street magician Julius Dein, a YouTube star with 113 videos and nearly 800,000 subscribers. In the ads, the social media personality takes a young person’s e-cigarette  and transforms it into a cigarette in front of their eyes. The illusion is supposed to drive home the idea that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. 

      The FDA says the new ads will run on TeenNick, CW, ESPN, and MTV, as well as on music streaming sites, social media networks, and other teen-focused media channels.

      What’s the “real cost” of vaping? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hopes to make it abundantly clear with a new television ad campaign aimed at the u...
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      This could be the week that Facebook puts its troubles behind it

      Then again, the company could face more than a record FTC fine

      It could be a big week for Facebook. The social media giant reports second quarter earnings Wednesday, and every indication suggests its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be formally announced before the weekend.

      Facebook has already told investors it expects to pay between $3 billion and $5 billion to settle privacy-related charges stemming from the Cambridge Analytica incident. The revelation last year that a political marketing group made unauthorized use of Facebook user data was the beginning of the company’s troubles.

      A number of sources have recently reported that Facebook and the FTC will agree to a $5 billion settlement to put the matter to rest. Facebook critics have pushed for a harsher penalty, even though $5 billion is far and away the largest penalty the FTC has ever assessed.

      Sigh of relief

      A settlement would no doubt produce a huge sigh of relief in Silicon Valley, but the firm may still face some regulatory headaches. For one, there is growing consensus among Democrats in Congress that the government needs to take steps to rein in Facebook’s size and power.

      Second, the company’s privacy issues continue to pop up. On Monday, the company disclosed that a flaw in Kids Messenger allowed children to chat with persons not approved by their parents. Facebook said it turned off the “small number” of affected chats when it learned of the glitch.

      The recent announcement that the company plans to launch its own cryptocurrency sometime next year has also produced angst on both sides of the aisle in Washington. Policymakers say they are concerned that the digital currency, Libra, could be used to make money laundering easier.

      Prepared for the penalty

      In April, when Facebook reported first quarter earnings,  it told investors it was setting aside $3 billion to $5 billion for a potential settlement with the FTC.

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

      The company now hopes that the matter will be formally and officially resolved this week.

      It could be a big week for Facebook. The social media giant reports second quarter earnings Wednesday, and every indication suggests its settlement with th...
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      Amazon Key now compatible with select Honda vehicles

      Prime members can have their delivery deposited in their vehicle wherever it’s parked

      Amazon has expanded its in-car delivery option, dubbed Amazon Key. The e-commerce giant is now offering Honda owners the option of having a package delivered to the trunk of their vehicle. 

      Those who want to use the service will need to be a Prime member located in one of the 50 cities and surrounding areas eligible for Key by Amazon delivery. Customers will also need to have a compatible Honda vehicle. Honda models eligible to participate in the service include Accord, Accord Hybrid, Insight, Passport, Pilot, and Odyssey trims. 

      Prime members who meet those criteria can download the Amazon Key app, select the year, make, and model of their vehicle, and then enter their HondaLink credentials. 

      In-car delivery

      When making a purchase on Amazon, select the “in-car” option and enter a delivery address.  Customers can park within two blocks of the specified delivery address and Amazon will still be able to find the car using GPS data.

      Amazon will send a notification when the delivery is close to give customers time to remotely unlock their vehicle using the HondaLink app. After the package has been dropped off, customers can lock the vehicle using the same app. 

      Amazon’s HondaLink Remote subscription package costs $110 per year after a three-month trial. 

      Amazon launched its Key service in 2017 as a way of increasing customer convenience and preventing package theft. At launch, the company offered the option of in-home delivery for customers who have installed a compatible smart lock on their front door. 

      Amazon later made its Key option available to customers who own Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, and Volvo vehicles.

      Amazon has expanded its in-car delivery option, dubbed Amazon Key. The e-commerce giant is now offering Honda owners the option of having a package deliver...
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      New York City bill would ban sales of mobile location data

      Companies wouldn’t be allowed to share users’ location info without their explicit permission

      A bill introduced Tuesday would make it illegal for cell phone and app companies to sell the location data of users in New York City, the New York Times reports

      Companies that break the law would be subject to a steep fine. Additionally, users within city limits would be legally allowed to sue companies that share their data without permission. 

      The Times notes that the bill is likely to face resistance from telecommunications companies because selling location data generates billions of dollars annually. But proponents of the bill say its passage would represent a small step toward mitigating the privacy concerns that stem from the practice of location data sharing.

      Reining in data sharing

      Currently, no law prohibits U.S. companies from selling location data. Earlier this year, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks called for federal action to put an end to the practice. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Starks expressed frustration over the fact that the FCC has yet to use its authority to crack down on the practice of data sharing. 

      If passed, the bill proposed Tuesday would make New York City the first to establish its own set of location data rules. 

      Calling the behavior of selling location data a “dangerous breach of privacy,” Democratic City Council member Justin Brannan said New York City can “lead the way” in banning the practice.

      “Big telecom companies are making millions $$ by selling our location data without our knowledge -- forget about even asking our permission,” he said on Twitter. “It's time to put an end to Big Brother Big Business. And if the federal gov won't do it, NYC will.” 

      A bill introduced Tuesday would make it illegal for cell phone and app companies to sell the location data of users in New York City, the New York Times re...
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      Rents rose in June for the ninth month in a row

      A report suggests it’s getting harder to find an affordable apartment

      The cost of renting a home continued to rise in June even as home values appeared to level off. Rents have gone up nine months in a row.

      The June Zillow Real Estate Market Report shows the median rent rose 3 percent over the last 12 months to $1,483. Rents rose in 49 of the nation’s top 50 housing markets, with only Milwaukee recording a decline.

      Rents’ rate of increase hasn’t been this strong since 2016 when housing experts voiced concern that rents were becoming unaffordable for a growing number of consumers. That sparked a building boom in apartment construction, which was expected to saturate the market. That hasn’t happened.

      "As much as record numbers of new apartments led many to believe that rental markets might have become over-saturated with new supply, the reality is that demographics and general economic health continue to keep the pressure on," said Zillow Director of Economic Research Skylar Olsen. "Yes, we saw rents fall in 2018, but that was driven by the concentration of supply in urban areas and large buildings at higher end price points competing against each other.”

      Affordable apartments needed

      What the market needs, Olsen says, are affordable rental units across many housing markets. She says the demand for that kind of rental housing is intense.

      “Show me a three-bedroom apartment in a small building located near good schools and I'll show you an older millennial with kids ready to move in," Olsen said.

      But contractors may not be building affordable apartments for the same reason they aren’t building as many affordable single-family homes. Costs of land, labor, and materials have gone up, squeezing margins on lower-priced homes.

      Inventory declining again

      There seems to be plenty of homes, both for sale and for rent, that many consumers can’t afford, but there are far fewer homes in an affordable price range. In June, inventory of all rental property fell 0.8 percent -- the fourth straight decline.

      Home values, which can influence rental costs, were slightly higher in June after a slight dip during the spring home-buying season. Zillow pegs the value of the typical home at $227,700, up slightly from May. On a year-over-year basis, home values grew 5.2 percent in June, down from 7.6 percent in June 2018.

      Home values increased the most in Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, and Charlotte, while typically expensive West Coast markets showed little change.

      The cost of renting a home continued to rise in June even as home values appeared to level off. Rents have gone up nine months in a row.The June Zillow...
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      BMW recalls various vehicles with electrical issue

      The vehicles may experience an intermittent loss of electrical power

      BMW of North America is recalling 16,641 model year 2009 328i & 328xi vehicles, model year 2009-2011 335d vehicles, model year 2008-2012 M3 Coupes & M3 Convertibles, and model year 2008-2011 M3 Sedans.

      This is an expansion of an earlier recall.

      The connection of the positive battery cable at the fuse box terminal may degrade, resulting in an intermittent loss of electrical power.

      This can cause the vehicle to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace and secure the positive battery cable connector free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 12, 2019.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 16,641 model year 2009 328i & 328xi vehicles, model year 2009-2011 335d vehicles, model year 2008-2012 M3 Coupes & M3 Con...
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      Northfork Bison Distributions recalls Bison Burgers and Bison Ground

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli: O121 and O103

      Northfork Bison Distributions of St. Leonard, Quebec, Canada, is recalling its Bison Burgers and Bison Ground.

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli: O121 and O103.

      A number of illnesses have been reported and are currently under investigation.

      The recalled products, with the production dates of February 22, 2019 – April 30, 2019, were distributed to institutions and retail outlets across the eastern and central U. S..

      What to do

      Consumers who have purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (888) 422-0623.

      Northfork Bison Distributions of St. Leonard, Quebec, Canada, is recalling its Bison Burgers and Bison Ground.The products may be contaminated with E....
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      Buying minimum car insurance coverage can be costly later on

      An analysis shows that consumers with basic insurance pay higher rates when they upgrade

      Car insurance customers who purchase the bare minimum coverage required by their state pay a higher rate when they upgrade insurance policies.

      That’s the conclusion of a Consumer Federation of America (CFA) analysis that compared  premium quotes from six companies in several cities for consumers who bought the least coverage and those who purchased more extensive coverage.

      “Auto insurance is not just mandatory in most states, it is an important asset protection tool,” said J. Robert Hunter, CFA Director of Insurance and a former Texas Insurance Commissioner. “As folks’ financial situations improve and they opt to buy more coverage, they should expect equal access to the products and services available to others. Pricing auto insurance based on drivers’ prior purchases is both actuarially unwarranted and an entirely unfair tax for being poor.”

      A la carte

      Getting the best rate on car insurance, it seems, is based on a lot more than just a driving record. In all but a handful of states, carriers often use a consumers’ zip code or credit score to assign risk. Fabio Faschi,  Property and Casualty Team Lead at Policygenius, says that’s why consumers need to understand how car insurance works and what it is they’re buying.

      “Auto insurance, compared to some other types of insurance, is very ala carte in terms of choosing the types of coverages you might or might not want, and how much of that coverage you want,” Faschi told ConsumerAffairs.

      And that, unfortunately, leaves a lot of room for confusion. Auto insurance has two functions: it protects a consumer’s property and it also protects them from being held responsible for the damage they cause to other people’s property.

      Liability coverage

      The minimum coverage states require drivers to have is liability insurance. It pays the other driver if you cause an accident. 

      “This is what most consumers should be most concerned about because liability coverage is what’s going to protect you if you cause damage to others,” Faschi said.

      Collision insurance pays you if you damage your car in a single-vehicle accident. If you’re financing your vehicle, the lender will likely require some collision coverage, as well as what’s known as comprehensive insurance.

      “Comprehensive is essentially going to protect your car from other types of damage, such as weather-related damage,” Faschi said.

      All three types of coverage add to the cost of the monthly premium. If you have all three, your cost will be higher than if you only have liability coverage.

      Deductibles

      Deductibles are another feature that can add to or reduce the cost of insurance. In the event of a claim, the deductible is the amount you have agreed to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts to pay. 

      Deductibles generally range from a low of $100 to a high of $1,000 or $1,500. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium because the insurance company is shifting more of the risk to you.

      “Insurance is generally all about risk tolerance and the trade off between what you would be guaranteed to pay (through higher premiums) or between what you might potentially have to pay (out of pocket) in the event of an incident,” Faschi said.

      But the best way to make sure you are getting the best car insurance rate is to shop your policy around to other companies. And Faschi says, it’s a good idea to do that often -- even once a year.

      “The market does shift, though it’s not going to shift drastically from year to year. It’s really just a matter of covering your bases and making sure there weren’t any shifts that create a better deal.”

      Car insurance customers who purchase the bare minimum coverage required by their state pay a higher rate when they upgrade insurance policies.That’s th...
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      The Sprint/T-Mobile merger deadline is a week away

      A published report suggests the government is close to saying yes

      The proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile has a week to go before it runs up against a July 29 deadline. Despite a lot of opposition, the deal could be close to approval.

      Fox Business reports the Justice Department has informed all parties that barring any last minute issues the U.S. government will likely give its approval before the deadline. But the situation apparently remains fluid.

      The network reports negotiators made significant progress last week in resolving some of the issues that thus far have prevented approval. While the two smaller wireless companies have made what some say is a compelling case for their merger, the fact remains there are powerful  groups opposing it.

      Democratic lawmakers, joined by labor unions and consumer groups, have urged the Justice Department to block the deal. They point out that the merger would reduce the number of major wireless companies from four to three.

      They also maintain that Sprint and T-Mobile tend to be the carriers of choice for low-income consumers because of their lower rates. They worry that if the two smaller companies become one bigger one, those rates will go up.

      A new fourth carrier

      To ease those concerns the parties have worked toward helping Dish Network create a fourth wireless provider, utilizing assets from both Sprint and T-Mobile. Earlier this month the Justice Department pressed the merger partners to make additional concessions to help Dish’s wireless service get up and running.

      Specifically, German telecom company Deutsche Telekom, which would control the two merged wireless providers, was reportedly asked to give up more spectrum for Dish’s new service. More recent negotiations have reportedly been aimed at making sure Dish’s wireless service would be a strong competitor in the U.S. market.

      Attorneys general

      Democratic state attorneys general are other opponents who must be won over. While they don’t play a regulatory role in approving the merger they have the legal resources to go to court to try to block it. 

      At this point, simply delaying the merger might be the same as blocking it. In April, Sprint and T-Mobile announced a July 29 deadline for completing their merger. If that deadline is missed, both parties might simply walk away.

      Meeting that deadline now hinges of gaining Justice Department approval. The Federal Communications Commission has already signed off on the deal.

      The proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile has a week to go before it runs up against a July 29th deadline. Despite a lot of opposition, the deal coul...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees

      The airbag may be unable to properly detect certain a crash

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 41,169 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees.

      The impact and acceleration sensors may fail and reduce the airbag system's ability to properly detect certain crash events.

      The inability to properly detect a crash may result in improper air bag deployment, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected sensors free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 2, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V63.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 41,169 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees.The impact and acceleration sensors may fail and reduce the airbag system's ab...
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      Pita Pal Foods recalls hummus and dips

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Pita Pal Foods of Houston, Texas, is recalling various hummus products made between May 30, 2019, and June 25, 2019.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The products have been distributed nationwide and to United Arab Emirates. Consumers who have purchased products listed below with these use by dates are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 888- 671-8858.

      A full list of affected products can be viewed on the FDA's website here. The recalled products were distributed nationwide and to United Arab Emirates.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (888) 671-8858.

      Pita Pal Foods of Houston, Texas, is recalling various hummus products made between May 30, 2019, and June 25, 2019.The products may be contaminated wi...
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      Audi recalls model year 2019 Q5s and SQ5s

      The instrument panel carrier may break in a crash due to incorrect welding

      Audi is recalling 28 model year 2019 Q5s and SQ5s.

      In the event of a crash deploying the passenger's front airbag, the instrument panel carrier may break due to incorrect welding.

      If the carrier breaks, damage to the airbag may not provide adequate protection, increasing the risk of an injury.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the instrument panel and the passenger front airbag free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 90N1.

      Audi is recalling 28 model year 2019 Q5s and SQ5s.In the event of a crash deploying the passenger's front airbag, the instrument panel carrier may brea...
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      Airlines could soon offer faster satellite-based Wi-Fi service at no charge

      Free Wi-Fi would undoubtedly lead to wider usage and greater customer satisfaction

      Airlines currently partner with services like Gogo to offer Wi-Fi connectivity to passengers who are willing to pay a fee. However, airlines could soon start offering Wi-Fi for free. 

      Carriers who make in-flight Wi-Fi possible say the service will likely become free on most flights in about two years, according to a Wall Street Journal report

      If in-flight internet connectivity were to become free, the Journal notes that the current percentage of passengers who choose to purchase access would rise significantly, from 6-7 percent to about 40-60 percent. 

      High demand for Wi-Fi on planes

      Airlines are increasingly looking to use satellite systems, which offer a larger coverage area and more consistent connectivity, to provide internet access to passengers. 

      Just last month, American Airlines finished equipping its fleet of more than 700 narrowbody aircraft with faster and more consistent satellite-based internet access  The faster service will either be provided by Gogo 2Ku or ViaSat Ka depending on where passengers are traveling. 

      “Satellite-based Wi-Fi allows customers to stream video without buffering or interruptions; upload and download les with ease; and stay connected from gate to gate,” the airline said in a statement. “Upgraded bandwidth capacity ensures customers won’t compromise on connection quality or speed, even if every customer chooses to access inflight internet at the same time.” 

      Many passengers surveyed have said having a reliable internet connection while flying is more important to them than food or even comfort. For this reason, airlines making it a priority to deploy faster satellite-based Wi-Fi.

      “We did a good job of training people that the Internet was slow and expensive on a plane,” says John Wade, president of commercial aviation at Gogo, told the Washington Post. “We now need them to realize that they’re in a different world today.”

      Airlines currently partner with services like Gogo to offer Wi-Fi connectivity to passengers who are willing to pay a fee. However, airlines could soon sta...
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      Justice Department may block T-Mobile/Sprint merger if settlement isn’t reached soon

      Regulatory obstacles are still holding up the deal

      The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been clear that it’s skeptical of the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Now, the DOJ is reportedly considering filing a lawsuit to block the $26.5 billion deal if the two telecom providers do not reach a settlement by next week, CNBC reports. 

      Citing “people familiar with the negotiations,” CNBC says the DOJ intends to sue to block merger if T-Mobile, Sprint, Dish, and T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom can’t reach an agreement on issues that have been holding up the deal. 

      In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the companies had been told by Justice Department officials that the merger was not likely to be approved as structured. The Department has expressed concern that the merger -- which would reduce the number of carriers to three -- could negatively affect competition in the industry and lead to higher costs for consumers. 

      Dish Network’s role in question

      To assuage the DOJ’s concerns, T-Mobile and Sprint recently agreed to sell the prepaid brand Boost and make Dish a fourth wireless provider to ensure competition in the industry. The DOJ said earlier this month that it was close to approving the deal if the Dish conditions were met.

      However, Deutsche Telekom is reportedly concerned that if it allows Dish to use T-Mobile’s new network while Dish builds out its own infrastructure, a cable or technology company could swoop in and buy Dish and use the T-Mobile network. Deutsche Telekom wants Dish to be cut off from the T-Mobile network if it’s purchased by a cable company, but the DOJ has said it’s not willing to allow that. 

      The companies had previously announced a July 29 deadline for completing their merger, but they must first gain Justice Department approval. The Federal Communications Commission has already said it supports the deal. 

      Now, reports say that if the companies can’t reach a settlement by the end of next week, the Justice Department may sue to block the merger. The ultimatum comes a month after a group of U.S. state attorneys general sued to block the merger on the grounds that it would cost consumers more than $4.5 billion a year. 

      The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been clear that it’s skeptical of the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Now, the DOJ is reportedly considering fi...
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      Southwest Airlines cancels its 737 MAX flights through November 2

      Boeing is taking a financial hit, but reaffirms its commitment to a ‘safe return’ for the MAX

      The 737 MAX suffered another setback Thursday, as Southwest Airlines announced it’s delaying the return of Boeing’s beleaguered aircraft to its schedule to November 2 at the earliest.

      “Southwest Airlines continues to monitor information from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the impending 737 MAX software enhancements and training requirements,” the company said in an announcement. “We remain confident that, once certified by the FAA, the enhancements will support the safe operation of the MAX.”

      Southwest -- which has 31 737 MAX planes currently in its fleet and a total order of 280 -- had already revised its flight schedule twice. Like its 737 MAX peers, United and American, Southwest is at Boeing’s mercy while it continues its quest to make sure every single flaw is found and corrected.  

      “By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our Customers' travel plans,” Southwest wrote.

      “The limited number of Customers who have already booked their travel and will be affected by our amended schedule are being notified of their re-accommodated travel according to our flexible accommodation procedures. The revision will proactively remove roughly 180 daily flights from our schedule out of our total peak-day schedule of more than 4,000 daily flights.”

      “We offer our apologies to our Customers impacted by this change, and we thank them for their continued patience.”

      Boeing weighs in 

      Boeing is in a tough spot with consumer confidence, customer trust, governmental go-ahead, and investor faith all weighing in the balance.

      As to the ledger side of the equation, Boeing announced that it “will recognize an impact to earnings” in anticipation of its second-quarter 2019 results set for release on July 24. The company admits that the impact is related to “concessions and considerations” it’s taken regarding the 737 MAX grounding. Boeing reports that the charge will result in a $5.6 billion reduction of revenue and pre-tax earnings in the quarter.

      As for the other components, Boeing says it’s continuing to work with civil aviation authorities to make sure the 737 MAX’s return to service is safe. 

      "We remain focused on safely returning the 737 MAX to service," said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg. "This is a defining moment for Boeing. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the flight crews and passengers who fly on our airplanes. The MAX grounding presents significant headwinds and the financial impact recognized this quarter reflects the current challenges and helps to address future financial risks."

      The 737 MAX suffered another setback Thursday, as Southwest Airlines announced it’s delaying the return of Boeing’s beleaguered aircraft to its schedule to...
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      Gas prices rise may have peaked for the summer

      The national average price is only a penny higher than last week

      The price of gasoline rose again this week but still lags behind the price consumers were paying at the pump at this time a year ago.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the average price of regular gasoline is $2.78 a gallon, just a penny a gallon higher than last Friday. It rose four cents a gallon during the previous week. 

      The average price of premium gas is $3.35 a gallon, three cents higher than seven days ago. The average price of diesel fuel is holding steady at $3 a gallon, remaining at that price over the last three weeks.

      The biggest one-week price rise was in Missouri, where the average price surged by 11 cents a gallon in the last week. The average price was up seven cents in Texas; six cents in Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia; and five cents a gallon in Arkansas.

      “Gas prices continue to increase for the majority of motorists east of the Mississippi,  while those filling up in the West Coast and Rockies regions are seeing a bit of a reprieve at the pump,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA’s spokesperson. “While the national average is up, only seven states have gas price averages of $3 a gallon or more. And notably, compared to the same time last year, the average is still eight cents cheaper.”

      Oil prices have been somewhat volatile in recent weeks, adding to regional price spikes though prices appear to be headed lower again. Last week’s tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico reduced the flow of fuel from Gulf Coast refineries suggesting the recent rise in fuel prices could be temporary once these refineries are back at full strength.

      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 ($3.73)

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • Washington ($3.32)

      • Nevada ($3.27)

      • Alaska ($3.22)

      • Oregon ($3.19)

      • Illinois ($3.11)

      • Idaho ($2.93)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.93)

      • Connecticut ($2.90)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.40)

      • Alabama ($2.43)

      • Louisiana ($2.43)

      • Arkansas ($2.44)

      • South Carolina ($2.48)

      • Oklahoma ($2.51)

      • Virginia ($2.53)

      • Tennessee ($2.53)

      • Texas ($2.54)

      • Kansas ($2.55)

      The price of gasoline rose again this week but still lags behind the price consumers were paying at the pump at this time a year ago.The AAA Fuel Gauge...
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      Growers Express expands fresh vegetable recall

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Growers Express is expanding the list of select fresh vegetables recalled earlier this month.

      A single retail sample was found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There are no reported illnesses to date.

      The following items have been added to the original list:

      Retailer/

      Distributor

      Item Name

      lbsLot No.States Affected

      Best

      By

      Big YBrussels Sprouts2 lb

      190

      628-405

      839

      MAPack Date
      6.28.19

      Native

      Maine

      Cauliflower Florets3 lb

      190

      627-405

      616

      ME

      Best

      By
      7.11.19

      Ruby

      Robinson (PFG)

      Green Beans5 lb

      190

      625-405

      265

      ME

      Pack

      Date
      6.25.19

      Cauliflower Florets3 lb

      190

      628-405

      842

      ME

      Pack

      Date
      6.28.19

      The recalled products originated at a Growers Express production facility in Biddeford, Maine, and were shipped to Massachusetts and Maine.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them and discard them

      Consumers may contact the company toll-free number listed on each package with any questions or requests for refund. Up-to-date information may be found at www.GrowersExpress.com/voluntaryrecall.

      Growers Express is expanding the list of select fresh vegetables recalled earlier this month.A single retail sample was found to be contaminated with L...
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      Amazon’s recent Prime Day beats Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined

      Smart tech is starting to show its value in the tech food chain

      To borrow a baseball metaphor, Amazon’s Prime Day was an out-of-the-park home run, with sales surpassing the previous combined total of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

      As you might expect, Amazon is overjoyed.

      “We want to thank Prime members all around the world,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Members purchased millions of Alexa-enabled devices, received tens of millions of dollars in savings by shopping from Whole Foods Market and bought more than $2 billion of products from independent small and medium-sized businesses. Huge thank you to Amazonians everywhere who made this day possible for customers.”

      Cha-ching

      All told, Prime members bought 175 million items. Topping that list in the U.S. were products such as the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Instant Pot DUO60, and 23andMe ancestry kit.

      Prime Day could have easily been named Tech Day given what was sold. All told, Amazon saw more than 100,000 laptops and 200,000 TVs go out the door, but the surprise winner were smart devices, which continue to improve their place in the tech food chain.

      Customers purchased twice as many Fire TV Edition Smart TVs and twice as many Ring and Blink devices as last year. Also showing some sales muscle were the MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener Chamberlain MYQ-G0301 and the Amazon Smart Plug.

      Kid tech was also a big hit. Amazon reported that customers purchased hundreds of thousands of Amazon kids’ devices such as Echo Dot Kids Edition, Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet, and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet.

      Outside of tech, Prime members loaded up on more than 100,000 lunchboxes, 350,000 luxury beauty products, 400,000 pet products, 650,000 household cleaning supplies, and 150,000 Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips Kits.

      To borrow a baseball metaphor, Amazon’s Prime Day was an out-of-the-park home run, with sales surpassing the previous combined total of Black Friday and Cy...
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      United Airlines makes arrangements to replace grounded 737 MAX jets

      The airline plans to purchase 19 used Boeing 737-700s

      United Airlines, of all the U.S. carriers, has the least exposure to the grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. But that doesn’t mean the plane’s problems haven’t become the airline’s problems.

      United only owns 14 of the planes, but it has been forced to cancel flights using the aircraft through November 2 because of uncertainty over the plane’s status. It’s been grounded worldwide since March after two of the planes crashed within five months -- most likely for the same reason.

      United appears to be hedging its bets, announcing that it plans to purchase 19 used Boeing 737-700 aircraft, expected to take the place of the newer grounded aircraft. The used jets are similar to the MAX 9 aircraft but are slightly smaller. 

      Used mostly for short hops and regional flights, the 737 aircraft are expected to fill the void that has been left by the absence of the MAX jets. The 737-700 can seat 126 passengers, slightly less than the 179 that can be fitted aboard the MAX 9.

      Insurance policy

      In a way, the purchase of the used aircraft amounts to an insurance policy. The MAX 9 may be cleared to fly again by December when United is scheduled to take delivery. Then again, it might not.

      The grounding was expected to be for a relatively short time, centered on a software fix in the plane’s flight control system. But other problems arose, keeping the plane on the ground.

      The addition to the fleet will enable United to increase its capacity, which it has pledged to do to the tune of as much as 4 percent per year. Without those seats, growth could be a difficult task.

      Even with the grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft United had a strong second quarter. This week the airline reported revenue rose to $11.4 billion, a 6 percent gain on the second quarter of last year.

      Return could be pushed to 2020

      The purchase of the used 737 aircraft may turn out to be a prudent move. The return-to-service date of Boeing 737 MAX jets could be pushed into 2020 amid safety concerns from regulators and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials. 

      Last month, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg expressed optimism that the 737 MAX would be back in service by the end of the year. He said Boeing was conducting simulated flights with air-safety regulators and would soon operate test flights with the FAA. However, airlines have been more cautious with their predictions on when the aircraft will be deemed safe to return to daily flight schedules. 

      United Airlines, of all the U.S. carriers, has the least exposure to the grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. But that doesn’t mean the plane’s problems haven...
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      Housing market has a tough month

      An industry report shows home closings, normally strong in June, plunged from May

      Home closings plunged in June, signaling weakness in the housing market, but maybe not a weakness in the traditional sense. The price paid for the average home keeps going higher.

      According to the latest RE/MAX National Housing Report, the number of sales closing last month fell 4.7 percent from May and 7.8 percent year-over-year. That’s notable for a couple of reasons.

      First, it’s a sizable decline, both from one month to another and over a 12-month period. Second, June is typically the strongest month of the year for home sale closings as families try to get moved and settled before a new school year starts.

      In fact, June has recorded the most sales each of the last five years. It’s only the second June in report history to have fewer sales than May.

      Can’t be blamed on inventory

      So what happened? This drop can’t be blamed on a lack of available homes for sale. The inventory of homes rose 1.3 percent over June 2018. Inventory rose for the ninth straight month, and the report's 54 metro areas had the most units for sale since August 2016.

      Instead of a shortage of homes, the cost of purchasing one may have kept buyers on the sidelines during the spring home-buying season. The RE/MAX report shows June’s median sale price was $276,000 -- the highest ever in the 10-year history of the report.

      "Record prices appear to have kept June sales figures from topping a strong May," said RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos. "Nevertheless, there are indications, including the return of very favorable mortgage rates, that the pace could pick up in July.”

      But mortgage rates rose last week

      So far, however, there’s little evidence of that happening. Mortgage rates rose last week and total mortgage applications fell 1.1 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

      "Mortgage rates increased across the board, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rising to its highest level in a month to 4.12 percent, which is still below this year's average of 4.45 percent," said Joel Kan, MBA's Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. "Coming out of the July 4th holiday, applications were lower overall, with purchase activity slipping almost 4 percent.”

      Despite the rise in rates and drop in mortgage applications, Contos sees some encouraging longer-term trends for the housing market. Demand for homes has held steady and now inventory levels are increasing. But he admits that supply remains a concern and that home builders need to produce more homes.

      Home closings plunged in June, signaling weakness in the housing market, but maybe not a weakness in the traditional sense. The price paid for the average...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2014 Jeep Cherokees

      The transmission software may shift the transmission to neutral

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 81,165 model year 2014 Jeep Cherokees equipped with 3.2L engines.

      In the event that a clutch becomes stuck in the transmission, the transmission software may shift the transmission to neutral.

      An unexpected shift to neutral would result in a loss of drive, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the transmission software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 2, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V69.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 81,165 model year 2014 Jeep Cherokees equipped with 3.2L engines.In the event that a clutch becomes stuck in the tra...
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      Fieldsource Food Systems recalls beef and poultry cubes

      The products contain wheat, an allergen not declared on the label

      Fieldsource Food Systems of Brea, Calif., is recalling approximately 12,953 pounds of diced beef and chicken cubes.

      The products contain wheat, an allergen not declared on the label.

      There arena confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following uncooked, marinated, diced items, produced from June 9 through July 10, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 20-lb. boxes containing four unmarked 5 lb. plastic bags with “FIELDSOURCE Food Systems, Inc. NORTHGATE MARKET MARINATED BEEF CUBES” and lot codes 061019 through 071019 represented on the label.
      • 20-lb. boxes containing four unmarked 5 lb. plastic bags with “FIELDSOURCE Food Systems, Inc. NORTHGATE MARKET MARINATED CHICKEN CUBES” and lot codes 061019 through 071019 represented on the label.

      The recalled beef cubes, bearing establishment number “EST. 45141,” and the chicken cubes, bearing establishment number “P-45141” inside the USDA marks of inspection, were shipped to grocery stores in California and used behind the deli counter. They were not sold uncooked to consumers.

      What to do

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Joe Bonefide at (714) 529-3663.

      Fieldsource Food Systems of Brea, Calif., is recalling approximately 12,953 pounds of diced beef and chicken cubes.The products contain wheat, an aller...
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      Spotify launches new Disney music streaming Hub

      The partnership creates a designated space for music from Disney movies and shows

      Spotify has teamed up with Disney to create a new streaming hub specifically for music from Disney films and TV shows. 

      Starting Wednesday, Spotify users who search “Disney” will be taken to a dedicated hub for music featured in Disney, Pixar, and Marvel movies. Spotify has also created theme-oriented playlists of Disney music for its new Disney Hub. Examples of playlists include “Disney Princess,” “Marvel Music,” and “The Best of Star Wars.” 

      The music streaming giant says its users have streamed nearly 2.5 billion minutes of Disney music so far this year. In launching the new Disney Hub, Spotify is likely hoping to persuade more users to purchase a family membership for $14.99 ($5 more than a Spotify Premium membership).

      “Stream playlists full of everything from The Little Mermaid to modern favorites like Frozen, to Star Wars instrumentals, and even Marvel movie soundtracks,” Spotify said in a press release. “Plus, Disney compilations made for every part of your day—road trip, shower, or sleep time—will help ensure your life is nothing short of magical.” 

      Spotify’s new Disney Hub is available in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

      Spotify has teamed up with Disney to create a new streaming hub specifically for music from Disney films and TV shows. Starting Wednesday, Spotify user...
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      Amazon agrees to change its terms of service for third-party merchants

      The changes are slated to go into effect within 30 days

      In response to an action from Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO), Amazon has agreed to change its terms of service for third-party sellers on its European sites, as well as other marketplaces around the world, including in North America and Asia.

      Under the deal, Amazon will modify its Business Services Agreement to comply with European standards pertaining to liability towards sellers. The company will also change its account termination and blocking policy to make things more fair for sellers. The changes will strip Amazon of its ability to terminate sellers’ accounts unexpectedly or without justification.

      “We are making several changes to the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement to clarify selling partner rights and responsibilities,” Amazon said in a statement. “The changes will become effective August 16th.” 

      The e-commerce giant said 58 percent of its gross sales are from third-party sellers, and it will “continue working hard, investing heavily, and inventing new tools and services to help our selling partners around the world reach new customers and grow their business.” 

      ‘Far-reaching improvements’

      In exchange for making the changes, Germany’s antitrust authority has agreed to drop its investigation into Amazon’s third-party merchant terms, which it opened back in November. 

      “The amendments address the numerous complaints about Amazon that the [FCO] received from sellers,” said FCO president, Andreas Mundt, in a statement. “They concern the unilateral exclusion of liability to Amazon’s benefit, the termination and blocking of sellers’ accounts, the court of jurisdiction in case of a dispute, the handling of product information and many other issues.

      “With our proceedings we have obtained far-reaching improvements for sellers active on Amazon marketplaces worldwide,” Mundt added. “The proceedings are now terminated.”

      Amazon’s deal with the FCO was announced the same day the European Union’s competition division said it planned to launch a formal antitrust probe into Amazon within days. EU regulators say they are seeking to ensure Amazon’s use of data from third-party sellers doesn’t violate its competition rules. 

      In response to an action from Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO), Amazon has agreed to change its terms of service for third-party sellers on its Europe...
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      Acura recalls model year 2016-2019 Acura ILXs

      The vehicle could move while in Park, increasing the risk of a crash or injury

      Acura is recalling 49,898 model year 2016-2019 Acura ILXs.

      Excessive grease may prevent the set-ring on the half shaft from fully engaging, allowing the driveshaft to separate from the half shaft.

      A separated driveshaft can cause the vehicle to have a loss of drive or allow the vehicle to move while in Park, increasing the risk of a crash or injury.

      What to do

      Acura will notify owners, and dealers will inspect, and, as necessary, replace the driveshaft and half shaft free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 29, 2019.

      Owners may contact Acura customer service at (888) 234-2138. Acura's number for this recall is G54.

      Acura is recalling 49,898 model year 2016-2019 Acura ILXs.Excessive grease may prevent the set-ring on the half shaft from fully engaging, allowing the...
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      Lidl recalls wooden grasping toys

      The wooden wheels can detach and release small parts, posing a choking hazard

      Lidl US Trading of Arlington, Va., is recalling about 300 Playtive Junior Wooden Grasping Toys.

      The wooden wheels can detach and release small parts, posing a choking hazard

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall includes the Playtive Junior Wooden Grasping Toy, which is made of wood in the shape of an elephant with four blue wheels on the bottom.

      There is a space in the center of the toy. The model number, HG04414, is located on the underside of the toy.

      The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at Lidl stores in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York from March 2019, through May 2019, for about $4.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled toys and return the product to any Lidl store for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Lidl toll-free at (844) 747-5435 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) everyday, or online at www.lidl.com and click on “Product Recalls” near the bottom of the page for more information.

      Lidl US Trading of Arlington, Va., is recalling about 300 Playtive Junior Wooden Grasping Toys.The wooden wheels can detach and release small parts, po...
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      Ada Valley Gourmet Foods, recalls beef meat loaf

      The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials

      Ada Valley Gourmet Foods of Ada, Mich., is recalling approximately 3,490 pounds of raw ground beef meatloaf.

      The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically broken metal bits.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following frozen, premixed raw ground beef item, produced on May 20, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 5-lb. frozen vacuum packages packed 2 each in cartons containing “Ada Valley MEATLOAF UNCOOKED” with lot code 17034 and a packaging date of 05-20-19 represented on the label.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 10031” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to hospitals in Arizona, California and Nevada.

      What to do

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Walter Rozeboom at (616) 676-0767.

      Ada Valley Gourmet Foods of Ada, Mich., is recalling approximately 3,490 pounds of raw ground beef meatloaf.The product may be contaminated with extran...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Jeep Renegades

      The airbags may incorrectly deploy during a front-end crash

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 745 model year 2019 Jeep Renegades equipped with the Upland trim package.

      The Occupant Restraint Controller (ORC) may have been incorrectly calibrated, which may incorrectly deploy the airbags during a front-end crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the ORC.

      The recall is expected to begin July 31, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V73.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 745 model year 2019 Jeep Renegades equipped with the Upland trim package.The Occupant Restraint Controller (ORC) may...
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      Amazon workers strike during Prime Day to demand better working conditions

      The company says its workers are treated just fine

      As Amazon’s amply hyped Prime Day sale kicked off, employees at one of its fulfillment centers in Minnesota stopped working for a total of six hours during the morning and evening shifts. 

      Those participating in the strike were seeking better working conditions -- namely, less-stringent productivity quotas and the conversion of more temporary workers to full-time Amazon employees. Employees at the Shakopee warehouse alleged that the productivity quotas they are forced to meet make the jobs unsafe and unreliable. 

      More than 2,000 Amazon employees in Germany also walked out yesterday seeking to turn the focus toward issues they want fixed, including the lack of livable wages and the need for bargaining power for employees. German workers shouted the motto, "No more discount on our incomes,” during the walk-out, Reuters reported. 

      ‘Conjuring misinformation’

      Amazon has refuted all claims that its employees deal with harsh or dangerous working conditions. The company said it is "working smarter, not harder, based on decades of process improvement and innovation" at fulfillment centers, delivery stations, and air hubs.

      "Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees.” 

      Amazon added that it could only conclude that people who planned to participate in any of the rallies focusing on the need for better working conditions “are simply not informed.” 

      "We encourage anyone to book a tour of our fulfillment centers and compare our overall pay, benefits, and workplace environment to other retailers and major employers in the community and across the country,” the company said. 

      Senator and Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who has proposed breaking up big tech corporations, tweeted that she supported the Minnesota strike and the reasons for it. 

      “I fully support Amazon workers' Prime Day strike,” she said. “Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable.” 

      As Amazon’s amply hyped Prime Day sale kicked off, employees at one of its fulfillment centers in Minnesota stopped working for a total of six hours during...
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      Amazon antitrust investigation poised to escalate within days

      The EU’s competition division is preparing to ramp up its probe into Amazon’s business practices

      Margrethe Vestager, head of the European Union’s competition division, is gearing up to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon, according to Bloomberg

      Vestager, who announced last year that her team had begun looking into how Amazon uses the data from sales of its third-party sellers, is reportedly set to launch a “full-blown” antitrust probe in the coming days. 

      In September, when the investigation was still in its preliminary stages, Vestager explained that she wanted to make sure that Amazon wasn’t undercutting sellers. She added that EU regulators are primarily focused on protecting consumers by making sure competition and innovation aren’t being stifled. 

      “They host a lot of little guys, and at the same time, they’re a big guy in the same market,” Vestager said in an interview with CNBC. “So how do they treat the data that they get from the little guy? Does that give them an advantage that cannot be matched?”

      Ensuring competition

      During her term, Vestager has hit major tech corporations with steep fines for business practices that were ultimately deemed to be unfair. 

      In 2016, Vestager’s office forced Apple to pay $16 billion in back taxes to Ireland. Google has been fined more than $9 billion for alleged violations since 2017. Qualcomm is also reportedly facing a fine of more than $1 billion for allegedly trying to stop other chipmakers from doing business with Apple. 

      “If powerful platforms are found to use data they amass to get an edge over their competitors, both consumers and the market bear the cost,” Johannes Kleis of BEUC, the European consumer organization in Brussels, told Bloomberg.

      Margrethe Vestager, head of the European Union’s competition division, is gearing up to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon, according to B...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks

      The spare tire placard label may contain incorrect information

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 27 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks.

      The spare tire provided may differ in size and required inflation pressure from the information on the tire placard label.

      If referencing the tire placard label, the driver may incorrectly inflate the spare tire, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will replace the incorrect size spare tire with the correct size spare tire free of charge.

      The recall began June 27, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V67.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 27 model year 2019 Ram 1500 trucks.The spare tire provided may differ in size and required inflation pressure from t...
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      Juul CEO apologizes to parents of children addicted to vaping products

      ‘It’s not intended for them,’ CEO Kevins Burns says in an upcoming documentary

      During an interview with CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said he would apologize to parents whose children are addicted to Juul e-cigarettes. 

      “First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product,” Burns said in a documentary called “Vaporized: America’s E-cigarette Addiction,” which is set to premiere Monday at 10 p.m. ET.

      “It’s not intended for them,” he added. “I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what the challenges they’re going through.”

      Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers called the apology “a deceptive, self-serving gesture by Juul given their complete refusal to take responsibility for creating the youth e-cigarette epidemic.”

      “It is a blatant attempt to deflect attention from the company’s wrongdoing while it opposes meaningful government regulation to prevent it from continuing to addict kids,” Myers said in a statement on Monday, according to CNBC.

      Juul’s role in the teen vaping ‘epidemic’

      From 2017 to 2018, the number of youth e-cigarette users grew by 1.5 million, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

      In April, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called out Juul -- a dominating force in the e-cigarette industry -- for fueling what they have called a teen vaping epidemic. Vaping products manufactured by Juul have been shown to be especially popular among teen users since they come in fruity flavors like fruit, creme, and mango. 

      “I hope they recognize the problem that’s been created has been created largely by their product,” Gottlieb told Vox.

      Juul has maintained that its intent was never to pull in youth users. To address the issue, the company has taken several actions to curb teen use of its products, including shuttering its social media accounts and eliminating its flavored products.

      Controversial marketing campaign

      Federal regulators have set out to reduce youth use of e-cigarettes in recent years, but critics say the damage caused by Juul may already have been done. Gottlieb noted that Juul’s early marketing campaigns appeared to speak directly to young people. 

      “If you go back and look at their marketing campaigns from 2015 and 16, it’s hard not to look at that marketing and conclude that it's not going to be appealing to a youth, to a teenager,” Gottlieb said earlier this year. “It certainly in my view had some impact on creating the problem we have now.”

      In the upcoming documentary, Burns refutes the claim that Juul’s initial marketing marketing campaign had any significant impact on sales. 

      “When we launched Juul, we had a campaign that was arguably too kind of lifestyle-oriented, too flashy,” Burns said. “It lasted less than six months. It was in the early days of the product introduction. We think it had no impact on sales.”

      Health impact in question

      E-cigarette manufacturers have stressed that their products are intended to help adult smokers quit. However, teens have gravitated toward them at a rate that has sparked concern among health officials, who aren’t yet sure of the adverse health effects the products could cause down the line.

      “Frankly, we don’t know [the impact of chronic vaping] today,” Burns said. “We have not done the long-term, longitudinal, clinical testing that we need to do.”

      Additionally, regulators have expressed concern that the rise in e-cigarette could undo progress in reducing rates of tobacco use among minors.

      "The skyrocketing growth of young people's e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use. It's putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement published in February.

      Juul has said it supports the initiative to raise the minimum smoking age to 21 to prevent minors from buying its products.

      During an interview with CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said he would apologize to parents whose children are addicted to Juul e-cigarettes....
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      Boeing 737 MAX may not return to service until early next year

      Safety concerns are still being addressed

      The return-to-service date of Boeing 737 MAX jets could be pushed into 2020 amid safety concerns from regulators and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials. 

      On Friday, United Airlines canceled flights through November 2. Just a few days later, American Airlines followed suit and canceled flights through the same date. American Airlines cited the need for a fix to be developed for an issue discovered last month. 

      "American Airlines remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year," the airline said in a statement on Sunday.

      Could extend into next year

      But some airline industry officials believe January 2020 is more likely to be the month the jets are cleared to return to the skies, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

      Last month, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg expressed optimism that the 737 MAX would be back in service by the end of the year. He said Boeing was conducting simulated flights with air-safety regulators and would soon operate test flights with the FAA. However, airlines have been more cautious with their predictions on when the aircraft will be deemed safe to return to daily flight schedules. 

      “By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our customers' travel plans,” Southwest Airlines said in a recent statement.

      All Boeing 737 MAX jets have been grounded since mid-March following two fatal crashes which killed a total of 356 people. In recent months, Boeing has said it’s aware that it will have to work to regain customers’ trust even after it retrains pilots and upgrades its software. 

      The return-to-service date of Boeing 737 MAX jets could be pushed into 2020 amid safety concerns from regulators and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)...
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      Ford recalls model year 2019 Ranger SuperCabs

      The right-front seat belt may not restrain occupants adequately

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 7,600 model year 2019 Ranger SuperCabs.

      The right-front seat belt may improperly assembled improperly and may not adequately restrain occupants in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      The automaker says it is not aware of any reports of accidents or injuries.

      What to do

      Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the right-front seat belt assembly.

      Owners may contact Ford Customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S23.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 7,600 model year 2019 Ranger SuperCabs.The right-front seat belt may improperly assembled improperly and may not adequa...
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      Amazon announces Prime Day device deals

      The company says it will mark down prices on its gadgets, in-house brands, and more than a million other items

      In a sneak preview released Friday, Amazon revealed what will be on sale during its 48-hour Prime Day sales extravaganza. The e-commerce giant said it will be slashing prices on many of its own devices and in-house brands during the event, which is set to kick off Monday. 

      An Amazon Echo will cost $49.99, which is half off its normal price of $99.99. Consumers who don’t want to wait until Monday to purchase an Echo will find that the device is already selling for $69.99 ahead of Prime Day.

      A Fire TV Stick 4K will cost $25 starting Monday, and the Fire TV Cube will drop to $69.99 -- $50 less than its current price of $119.99. Amazon is also cutting the price of its Fire tablets. The Fire HD 10 will cost $99.99, which is $50 less than its current price of $149.99. 

      Prime members will also be able to save on Amazon’s Fire and Kindle tablets. Fire tablets will start at $30, the new Kindle Paperwhite will be listed for up to $50 off, and the latest Kindle will go for $50 -- $30 less than its normal price of $80.

      Big savings on electronics

      In addition to reducing prices on its own gadgets, Amazon is rolling out deals on electronics from other companies. In a press release, Amazon said consumers can save on the following electronics during Prime Day: 

      • Save up to 50% on Select Sony LED Smart TVs.

      • Save big on Samsung QLED 65-inch TV. 

      • Save up to 50% on select PC gaming laptops, desktops, monitors, components, and accessories. 

      • Save $120 on Portal from Facebook with Alexa Built-in, just $79. 

      • Save on select productivity monitors, accessories and networking products. 

      • Save on select Chromebooks. 

      • Save up to 50% on select PC streaming equipment. 

      • Save $50 on the all-new ecobee Smart Thermostat with Alexa built-in, just $199. 

      • Save 30% on connected home devices. 

      • Save big on select SanDisk and WD storage and memory products. 

      • Save 30% on select Phone Cases and Accessories. 

      • Save up to 40% on headphones from top brands.

      Amazon announced last week that Prime members who spend $10 at Whole Foods will get a $10 Amazon credit that can be used during Prime Day. Beginning Saturday, those with an Alexa-equipped device can ask “What are my deals” to find top deals and get early discounts on “select” deals.  

      Amazon says prices on more than a million items will be reduced during its fifth annual Prime Day event.

      In a sneak preview released Friday, Amazon revealed what will be on sale during its 48-hour Prime Day sales extravaganza. The e-commerce giant said it will...
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      Apple allows parental control app back on App Store

      OurPact has been restored to the App Store after it was removed ‘out of the blue’ earlier this year

      Apple has allowed OurPact, one of the parental control apps pulled from its App Store earlier this year, back on its app marketplace. 

      The New York Times reported in February that Apple pulled or limited the reach of 11 of the 17 most popular screen time monitoring and parental control apps from its App Store without warning developers. 

      The apps that were kicked off relied on Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology to track and manage users’ screen time. They were also similar to Apple’s “ScreenTime” tool, which gives parents control over an iPhone’s usage. 

      OurPact allowed back 

      Affected developers accused the company of engaging in anticompetitive practices by clearing out rival screen time management apps, but Apple defended its move by saying privacy concerns were at the heart of the matter.  

      “Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn’t a matter of competition. It’s a matter of security,” Apple said in a statement.

      “These apps were using an enterprise technology that provided them access to kids’ highly sensitive personal data,” an Apple spokeswoman told the Times. “We do not think it is O.K. for any apps to help data companies track or optimize advertising of kids.”

      In response to Apple’s decision, OurPact published a statement in which it noted that MDM only allows it to collect “very limited but standard anonymized” data for crash reports. 

      "They yanked us out of the blue with no warning," OurPact CEO Amir Moussavian told the Times in February. "They are systematically killing the industry."

      Several months later, OurPact has been reinstated to Apple’s App Store and given approval to use MDM. The former is thanks to Apple’s recent introduction of less stringent App Store restrictions related to the use of MDM and Virtual Private Network tools. 

      "We take this as a positive sign that Apple is working in cooperation with us,” an OurPact spokesperson said. “They realize device management solutions belong not only in the business world and in the classroom but in a family environment."

      It remains to be seen whether other parental control apps that were pulled will be allowed to return to the App Store in the wake of Apple’s revision to its review guidelines. 

      Apple has allowed OurPact, one of the parental control apps pulled from its App Store earlier this year, back on its app marketplace. The New York Time...
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      Gasoline prices level off in the last week

      But a storm brewing in the Gulf could lead to a spike

      The recent rise in gasoline prices, sparked in part by an explosion and fire that shut down a Pennsylvania oil refinery last month, appears to have paused, at least for now.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.77 a gallon, up two cents from a week ago. It’s still 11 cents a gallon cheaper than one year ago.

      The average price of premium gas is $3.32 a gallon, also the same as last week. The price of diesel fuel is also holding steady at last week’s price of $3 a gallon.

      The respite from rising fuel prices may not last. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that demand is increasing while supplies are shrinking. Last week, total domestic stocks fell by 1.4 million barrels to 229.2 million barrels, below the supply level at this time last year.

      “If stocks continue to decrease as demand remains robust, pump prices will likely remain higher,” AAA said in its latest market update. 

      Another factor that could affect the short term price of gasoline is a sharp rise in crude oil prices. Oil futures hit a seven-week high of over $60 a barrel Thursday as a tropical storm threatened rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, tensions between Iran and Britain put upward pressure on Brent crude prices.

      While gasoline prices have remained mostly stable over the last seven days, the average price in California, the most expensive state, has declined two cents a gallon. The average price in Mississippi, the cheapest state, is a penny higher than last Friday.

      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 ($3.75)

      • Hawaii ($3.65)

      • Washington ($3.34)

      • Nevada ($3.29)

      • Alaska ($3.22)

      • Oregon ($3.20)

      • Illinois ($3.05)

      • Idaho ($2.95)

      • Utah ($2.91)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.90)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.36)

      • Alabama ($2.39)

      • Louisiana ($2.39)

      • Arkansas ($2.39)

      • South Carolina ($2.42)

      • Oklahoma ($2.45)

      • Missouri ($2.46)

      • Tennessee ($2.47)

      • Texas ($2.47)

      • Virginia ($2.47)

      The recent rise in gasoline prices, sparked in part by an explosion and fire that shut down a Pennsylvania oil refinery last month, appears to have paused,...
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      Custom Molded Products recalls valve caps sold with hot tubs/swim spas

      The valve cover can pop off and strike a bystander, posing an impact hazard

      Custom Molded Products of Newnan, Ga., is recalling about 16,000 diverter valve caps sold with Master Spas (an Authorized Partner) hot tubs and swim spas.

      The valve cap can become loose, pop off and strike a bystander, posing an impact hazard.

      The firm has received 112 reports of the valve caps popping off including four reports of consumers being struck by the cap. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves 2-inch diverter valve caps sold with certain Master Spas (an Authorized Partner) “Twilight Series,” “H2X Swim Spa,” and “MP Signature Deep Swim Spa” hot tubs/swim spas.

      The model names are printed on the control panel covers.

      The clear valve caps are included as a component part and are located under the diverter handle on the upper deck of the hot tub/spa above the water line.

      The valve caps, manufactured in China, were sold at Master Spas (an Authorized Partner) hot tub/spa distributors from December 2017, through May 2019, for between about $5000 and $45,000 and about $2 for the valve caps.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the hot tubs and swim spas with the recalled valve cap and contact Custom Molded Products to arrange for a free replacement cap from their hot tub/swim spa manufacturer.

      Consumers may contact Custom Molded Products at (800) 733-9060 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) daily or online at www.c-m-p.com and click on “Valve Cap Recall” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Master Spas (an Authorized Partner) customers may enter their spa serial number on the Master Spas (an Authorized Partner) website at http://wsr.masterspasportal.com/divreplacement.asp to determine if their spa is covered by the recall and order replacement parts.

      Custom Molded Products of Newnan, Ga., is recalling about 16,000 diverter valve caps sold with Master Spas hot tubs and swim spas.The valve cap can bec...
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      Disney recalls “ Forky” plush toy

      The toy's “googly” plastic eyes can detach, posing a choking hazard

      Disney Merchandise Sourcing & Distribution of Burbank, Calif., is recalling about 86,000 “Forky” 11-inch plush toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The toy's “googly” plastic eyes can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves an 11-inch “Forky” plush toy from Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 4.

      The toy has poseable arms, a base, rainbow screen art on top of foot and plastic rolling “googly” eyes made up of three parts; a white plastic base, a clear plastic dome and a small black plastic disc within the dome, which represents the character’s pupil.

      The following tracking code information is included on the sewn in label attached to the base of the toy:

      Tracking Numbers

      FAC-024868-18338

      FAC-024868-19032

      FAC-024868-19060

      FAC-024868-19091

      The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at Disney Stores nationwide, Disney Theme Parks, online at shopdisney.com and through the Disney store on Amazon Marketplace from April 2019, through June 2019, for about $20.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled toy away from children and return it to any Disney Store retail location Walt Disney World, or Disneyland Resort theme park retail store location for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Disney toll-free at (866) 537-7649 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, Saturday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. or by email at email personal.shoppers@shopDisney.com

      Disney Merchandise Sourcing & Distribution of Burbank, Calif., is recalling about 86,000 “Forky” 11-inch plush toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.The toy...
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      Volkswagen recalls Passat and Atlas vehicles

      The headlight aim can be adjusted out of specification

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 662,185 model year 2012-2020 Passat and model year 2018-2019 Atlas vehicles.

      The blocking cap disabling the adjustment of the headlight's horizontal aim may not have been installed.

      Without the blocking cap, the headlight aim can be adjusted out of specification, reducing visibility and increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, block the headlight horizontal adjustment free of charge.

      The recall was expected to begin on July 10, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 94L9.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 662,185 model year 2012-2020 Passat and model year 2018-2019 Atlas vehicles.The blocking cap disabling the adj...
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      Whole Foods grocery prices haven’t notably decreased since Amazon acquisition, study finds

      ​Prime members don’t pay much less for groceries than they did before

      In the two years since Amazon acquired Whole Foods, the average cost of groceries for Prime members who shop at chain has dropped a mere ten dollars, according to a study released Wednesday by Gordon Haskett Research Advisors. 

      After purchasing Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Amazon set out to help the notoriously pricey grocery chain shake off its “whole paycheck” image. However, a new analysis finds that price cuts for Prime members have been limited in scope and haven’t led to a significant drop in the total cost of customers’ groceries.

      Most of Amazon’s price cuts have been found in the produce and dairy categories. Meanwhile, “other items have largely stayed the same or, in the case of bread and snacks, even increased,” Bloomberg noted. 

      ‘More bark than bite’

      The Gordon Haskett study found that 106 commonly purchased items at Whole Foods cost $404.08 prior to the Amazon acquisition. Now, the total cost for the same assortment of items is $394.10 for Prime members. 

      A study conducted last year by Gordon Haskett also concluded that Amazon hasn’t unveiled widespread or significant decreases in prices at Whole Foods.

      “While deeper promotional pricing on key items, incremental savings… and increased convenience for Prime Members in the first year under Amazon ownership have caught our eye as consumers, the reality is that Whole Foods pricing on a broad basket has remained largely unchanged,” the firm said of its 2018 analysis.

      The latest study found that Whole Foods shoppers who aren’t Prime members now pay an average of $8 less than they would have before Amazon purchased the retailer. Gordon Haskett analyst Charles Grom concludes that his team’s annual checks suggest that, in terms of price actions, “Amazon’s bark may be greater than its bite.” 

      In the two years since Amazon acquired Whole Foods, the average cost of groceries for Prime members who shop at chain has dropped a mere ten dollars, accor...
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      Instagram rolls out new anti-bullying features

      The platform is warning users ahead of time if their post runs the risk of being flagged

      Instagram has had its fill of hateful and mean comments. The social media platform rolled out two new anti-bullying tools on Tuesday, underscoring its fight with the mantra: “We are committed to leading the industry in the fight against online bullying, and we are rethinking the whole experience of Instagram to meet that commitment.”

      Bullying is a much larger issue than some might think. At ConsumerAffairs, we’ve seen reports that 1 out of 3 parents worry about their children being cyber-bullied, as well as research from the Mayo Clinic that found children who are bullied are at an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several other conditions when they become adults. Even Congress senses the rising tide of the issue and is trying to do its share via the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA Act).

      It’s apparent that Instagram has also done its homework on the effects of bullying, claiming its new tools “are grounded in a deep understanding of how people bully each other and how they respond to bullying on Instagram.” 

      Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, made a point of protecting the sanctity of its teen base in particular. “This is especially crucial for teens since they are less likely to report online bullying even when they are the ones who experience it the most,” he said.

      What Instagram users can expect

      Up to bat first is an artificial intelligence-powered feature that notifies Instagram users when their comment runs the risk of being considered offensive before it’s posted. 

      “This intervention gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification,” Mosseri said. “From early tests of this feature, we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect.”

      The second feature is called “Restrict,” and it works just like it sounds -- a user “Restricts” someone when they feel there are “unwanted interactions” from another user. After taking this step, comments from that person will only be visible to that person. 

      “We wanted to create a feature that allows people to control their Instagram experience, without notifying someone who may be targeting them,” Mosseri explained.

      “You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments. Restricted people won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram or when you’ve read their direct messages.”

      Instagram has had its fill of hateful and mean comments. The social media platform rolled out two new anti-bullying tools on Tuesday, underscoring its figh...
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      Delta flight makes emergency landing after engine breaks up

      No injuries were reported on the Atlanta to Baltimore flight

      It was a scary moment for passengers aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Baltimore this week.

      Delta’s flight 1425, utilizing a 32-year old MD-88 jet, made an emergency landing in North Carolina after passengers heard a loud boom and then saw smoke pouring into the cabin. A passenger seated by a window overlooking the wing shot this frightening video and posted it to Twitter.

      The video appears to show a portion of the engine called a spinner that had become detached and was rattling around inside the engine, which also appeared to be on fire. Other passengers reported bits of metal flying off the engine, as though it were coming apart.

      The plane landed safely in Raleigh, N.C. and passengers deplaned with no reports of injuries. One passenger told WMAR-TV that the plane slowed down after the incident and the temperature in the cabin began to rise.

      "We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience this diversion may have caused,” Delta said in a statement. 

      The airline said it gave the 148 passengers a $30 food voucher while they waited to be booked on another flight. Meanwhile, the engine has been replaced and the MD-88 is reportedly back in service.

      Eerily similar

      The incident is eerily similar to an April 2018 incident in which an engine on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet exploded mid-flight, with metal from the fragmenting engine breaking a window and killing a passenger.

      The incident prompted Southwest to step up an inspection of CFM56 engines, the type that failed.

      The MD-88 is part of the MD-80 series produced by McDonnell Douglas as an upgrade of the DC-9; it is used mostly for short-haul flights. The company was acquired by Boeing in 1997.

      It was a scary moment for passengers aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Baltimore this week.Delta’s flight 1425, utilizing a 32-year old M...
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      SRAM recalls RockShox front suspension forks

      The fork’s lower leg assembly can break,causing the rider to lose control

      SRAM is recalling about 920 RockShox Lyrik and RockShox Yari front suspension forks.

      The fork’s lower leg assembly can break and cause the rider to lose control, posing crash and injury hazards.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves RockShox Lyrik and RockShox Yari front suspension forks with serial numbers 02T95514009 through 08T96214665.

      A bicycle fork is the part that holds the front wheel. The recalled forks are black or black and red and are for 29” bicycle wheels.

      RockShox is printed on the side of the fork and casting code 18 and O or 19 and A is embossed inside the webbing of the arch.

      The serial number can be found on the rear of the fork crown.

      The forks were sold as aftermarket equipment and as original equipment on the following mountain bicycle brands and models:

      BRAND

      MODEL

      Kona

      Process153 29

      Process 153 DL 29

      Process 153 CR 29

      Process 153 CR DL 29

      Process 165 29

      Santa Cruz

      Megatower 29

      Trek

      Powerfly LT 7 US

      Powerfly LT 9.7 US

      Scott

      Ransom 930

      Bicycles with the recalled forks, which were manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at bicycle stores nationwide from January 2019, through March 2019. Bicycle forks sold as aftermarket accessories were sold at bicycle stores from February 2019, through April 2019, for between $700 and $1,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using their recalled forks and contact SRAM or a local dealer to receive a free replacement suspension fork. Consumers can check their serial number at www.sram.com or contact SRAM for assistance.

      Consumers may contact SRAM at (800) 346-2928 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday, or online at www.sram.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      SRAM is recalling about 920 RockShox Lyrik and RockShox Yari front suspension forks.The fork’s lower leg assembly can break and cause the rider to lose...
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      Ford recalls Focus and Focus STs

      Service performed in an earlier recall was incomplete

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 58,000 model year 2012 and 2017 Focus vehicles with 2.0-liter GDI engines, and model year 2013-14 Focus STs with 2.0-liter GTDI engines.

      The powertrain control module software used to service these vehicles in accordance an earlier recall was incomplete.

      The recalled vehicles did not receive the intended calibration software that will detect a malfunctioning canister purge valve.

      When the canister purge valve is stuck open in these vehicles, an excessive vacuum can develop in the fuel vapor management system, potentially deforming the fuel tank. If this occurs, an occupant customer may observe a malfunction indicator light, inaccurate or erratic fuel gauge indication, drivability concerns or loss of motive power.

      The automaker says it is not aware of any reports of accident or injury related to this condition.

      Vehicles that have not yet had service performed in the earlier recall are not affected by this action, and will receive updated software when the service is performed by the earlier recall program

      What to do

      Owners are advised to maintain at least a half tank of fuel until their vehicle is serviced for this issue

      Dealers will reprogram the powertrain control module with the appropriate software calibration and replace the canister purge valve, as necessary.

      If the canister purge valve is replaced, dealers will inspect and replace the carbon canister, fuel tank and fuel delivery module, as necessary.

      Owners may contact Ford Customer service at (866) 436-7332. The Ford reference number for this recall is 19S22.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 58,000 model year 2012 and 2017 Focus vehicles with 2.0-liter GDI engines, and model year 2013-14 Focus STs with 2.0-...
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      Marriott facing fine over 2018 data breach

      A watchdog group in the UK says Marriott should have addressed the security concern sooner

      Marriott International, which disclosed in November 2018 that its Starwood hotel reservation system had suffered a massive data breach, could be forced to pay a fine of $123.7 million for its role in the incident. 

      In a statement, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) alleged that the hotel chain violated Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by not taking action for several years as the breach unfolded. 

      It’s estimated that about 339 million guests had their information exposed in the incident. The ICO says Marriott should have taken additional measures to bolster security and that it should have done so sooner. 

      Years to address the vulnerability

      The ICO noted that the Starwood vulnerability is believed to have originated in 2014, but Marriott didn’t disclose the breach until 2018 -- a full two years after it acquired Starwood. 

      “The GDPR makes it clear that organisations must be accountable for the personal data they hold,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. “This can include carrying out proper due diligence when making a corporate acquisition, and putting in place proper accountability measures to assess not only what personal data has been acquired, but also how it is protected.”

      The regulator added that organizations have a “legal duty” to ensure the security of customers’ personal data. 

      “If that doesn’t happen, we will not hesitate to take strong action when necessary to protect the rights of the public,” Denham said. 

      Marriott responds

      The ICO noted in its announcement that Marriott has cooperated with the investigation and improved its security since the incident. 

      In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the hotel chain said it is “disappointed with this notice of intent from the ICO” and plans to contest the proposed fine. 

      Earlier this week, the ICO issued another intent to fine over an incident related to the GDPR. The organization said a separate investigation it conducted recently showed British Airways had “poor security arrangements” in place prior to the 2018 data breach it suffered. British Airways could be hit with a $229 million penalty for its allegedly insufficient security measures.

      Marriott International, which disclosed in November 2018 that its Starwood hotel reservation system had suffered a massive data breach, could be forced to...
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      More than 1,000 Android apps collect user data without permission, report says

      Many apps are able to collect personal data without user consent by using ‘both covert and side channels,’ researchers found

      Over 1,000 Android apps collect personal data from those who download them without ever having received permission to do so, according to a report presented at the Federal Trade Commission’s PrivacyCon 2019. 

      Researchers from the International Computer Science Institute found that the apps were able to gather data without obtaining user consent by using a workaround hidden in their code. The apps were then able to keep tabs on the device’s unique identifier, which enabled them to harvest personal data from sources like Wi-Fi connections.

      "Fundamentally, consumers have very few tools and cues that they can use to reasonably control their privacy and make decisions about it," Serge Egelman, director of usable security and privacy research at ICSI, said at the conference. "If app developers can just circumvent the system, then asking consumers for permission is relatively meaningless."

      The Shutterfly app was found to have collected location data without user permission, and the app for Hong Kong Disneyland accessed phone identifications that other apps had stored unprotected on a device’s SD card.

      "The number of potential users impacted by these findings is in the hundreds of millions," the researchers said. "These deceptive practices allow developers to access users' private data without consent, undermining user privacy and giving rise to both legal and ethical concerns."

      The researchers are set to share more details about the study at a Usenix Security conference in August. The team added that fixes for the security vulnerabilities are expected in the soon-to-be-released Android Q.

      Over 1,000 Android apps collect personal data from those who download them without ever having received permission to do so, according to a report presente...
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      British Airways may face hefty GDPR penalty over data breach

      The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office blames weak security for the breach

      British Airways could be hit with a $229 million penalty related to a data breach that occurred last year as a result of insufficient security precautions. 

      In a statement, the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the results of its investigation showed “poor security arrangements” were to blame for the incident, which enabled hackers to obtain credit card information, names, addresses, travel booking details, and logins for about half a million of the airline’s customers. 

      “People’s personal data is just that—personal. When an organisation fails to protect it from loss, damage or theft it is more than an inconvenience,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. “That’s why the law is clear—when you are entrusted with personal data you must look after it.”

      “Those that don’t will face scrutiny from my office to check they have taken appropriate steps to protect fundamental privacy rights,” Denham added. 

      British Airways responds

      Since the breach, which began in June 2018 and was disclosed by the airline in September, the company has improved its web security. In response to the ICO’s announcement, chairman and chief executive of British Airways, Alex Cruz, said the company was “surprised and disappointed” by the group’s decision.

      “British Airways responded quickly to a criminal act to steal customers’ data. We have found no evidence of fraud/fraudulent activity on accounts linked to the theft. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this event caused,” Cruz said.

      The company now has 28 days to appeal the ICO’s initial finding, as well as the size of the fine, before the ICO makes its final call.

      BBC News notes that the proposed penalty would be the largest to result from Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which went into effect last year and state that companies must report data breaches to authorities within 72 hours. 

      “Until now, the biggest penalty was £500,000 [$644,000], imposed on Facebook for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal,” according to BBC News. “That was the maximum allowed under the old data protection rules that applied before GDPR.” 

      British Airways could be hit with a $229 million penalty related to a data breach that occurred last year as a result of insufficient security precautions....
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      Amazon moves ahead with plans to become a global ISP

      The online retailer is seeking permission to launch thousands of internet satellites

      While most wireless carriers are focused on deploying 5G technology, Amazon has taken a different path. It’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch 3,236 internet satellites.

      In a filing with the agency, Amazon said its collection of earth-orbiting satellites would connect tens of millions of people around the world. One area it wouldn’t cover, the company admitted, would be parts of Alaska.

      It would be yet another enterprise for the company that began its life as an online book store in the 1990s. The filing didn’t say when it expected to begin launching the satellites or when the network would be operational.

      It’s been known for quite some time that Amazon was planning this move into broadband internet service that analysts say could become a substantial revenue source while opening up new markets for Amazon’s retail services.

      “Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” an Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire back in April. “This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.”

      Similar to U.S. satellite providers

      The service would be similar to that offered by U.S. providers ViaSat and Hughes Network, that currently provide service to mostly rural areas in the U.S. that lack service through fiber optic cable. Some analysts suggest the system Amazon envisions would take advantage of a lower earth orbit and provide service with less latency.

      Meanwhile, the FCC continues to focus its attention on the evolution of 5G wireless technology. In a speech in Argentina last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai compared the development of the next generation of wireless technology to the Apollo moon landing 50 years ago.

      “In my view, 5G could be one of the great moonshots of this generation,” Pai said at an international telecom conference. “Think about a world in which speed, capacity, and lag times are effectively no longer constraints on wireless innovation. This could enable new services and applications that could revolutionize healthcare, transportation, agriculture, education, and many other facets of our economy and society.”

      The FCC will vote next week on opening up spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for 5G, Pai said. He notes the spectrum was originally set aside for educational television but has been “dramatically underused.”

      While most wireless carriers are focused on deploying 5G technology, Amazon has taken a different path. It’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (...
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      Pet Supplies Plus recalls bulk pig ear treats

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Pet Supplies Plus is recalling bulk pig ear treats following the announcement that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating contaminated pig ear treats connected to Salmonella.

      While 45 individuals in 13 states have been diagnosed with Salmonella-related illness, none are confirmed to be a result of purchasing pig ears from Pet Supplies Plus.

      The recalled products, which are stocked in open bins, were distributed to Pet Supplies Plus stores in Alabama, Arkansas, California. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should discontinue using and discard them.

      Consumers with questions may call (734) 793- 6564 Monday though Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EST) excluding holidays.

      Pet Supplies Plus is recalling bulk pig ear treats following the announcement that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Contr...
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      Audi recalls model year 2019 A8s with rear relaxation seats

      The front passenger seat track rivet may fail

      Audi is recalling 66 model year 2019 A8s equipped with rear relaxation seats.

      The front passenger seat track rivet may fail and cause the spindle bracket to separate, increasing the risk of injury during a crash.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger seat tracks free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 2, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Audi's number for this recall is 72J3.

      Audi is recalling 66 model year 2019 A8s equipped with rear relaxation seats.The front passenger seat track rivet may fail and cause the spindle bracke...
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      New York settles with dating app for LGBTQ community

      The state’s attorney general said hackers were able to access private data

      New York Attorney General Letitia James has reached a settlement with makers of an online dating app serving the LGBTQ community after it experienced a security breach.

      James says Online Buddies, which operates the dating app Jack’D, failed to protect private photos -- including nude images -- of approximately 1,900 users. She said the company will pay a $240,000 fine.

      The complaint said Online Buddies told its users that it had implemented security measures to protect user data. In particular, users were reportedly told that certain images would be marked as “private” and would not be accessible by others.

      James says the app’s interface both explicitly and implicitly represents that the private pictures feature can be used to exchange nude photos securely and privately. When using the app, she says members see two screens when uploading photos of themselves: one for photos designated as “public” and another for photos designated for “private” viewership.

      ‘Risk of exposure’

      Despite the company’s best intentions, James says the network was vulnerable to hackers. A researcher recently reported that it was possible for anyone to see or download pictures marked “private.” The attorney general says people in the company were aware of the flaws in the system for more than a year but failed to take action to fix the problems.

      “This app put users’ sensitive information and private photos at risk of exposure and the company didn’t do anything about it for a full year just so that they could continue to make a profit,” James said. “This was an invasion of privacy for thousands of New Yorkers.”

      Jack’D has users around the world. James says her office has determined that about 7,000 of them live in New York.

      This isn’t the first time that a dating app has suffered a security breach. In 2015, Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people who want to have affairs, suffered an embarrassing breach when a hacker published the names of the people cheating on their spouse -- or hoping to.

      The Toronto-based company, which at the time had the marketing slogan “life is short, have an affair,” agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and 13 states a year later. The agreement also required the company to establish a comprehensive data security program.

      The lesson for consumers is pretty clear. It’s never a good idea to give a dating app or social media site any information, including provocative photographs, that you aren’t willing to share with the world.

      New York Attorney General Letitia James has reached a settlement with makers of an online dating app serving the LGBTQ community after it experienced a sec...
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      T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint is looking more likely

      But the government is asking for additional concessions

      The Justice Department (DOJ), which had been highly skeptical of the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger, may be getting closer to approving the deal. But if the merger is to get the green light, DOJ says more concessions may be in order.

      Specifically, German telecom company Deutsche Telekom, which would control the two merged wireless providers, would have to make concessions, according to a report by CNBC. The Justice Department has reportedly softened its stance on the merger when it was suggested that Dish Network could emerge as a fourth wireless company.

      The German company and the Department of Justice are reportedly close to an agreement to give up air space to Dish for a wireless service. If all the details are worked out, sources say a deal could be announced as early as next week.

      Dish Network’s role is key

      Justice Department sources say the government’s reservations about the T-Mobile merger with Sprint could be addressed by Dish Network emerging as a fourth wireless provider. According to CNBC, the government is taking steps to ensure Dish can emerge as an effective player in the wireless industry.

      The government is pressing Deutsche Telekom to be generous with Dish, giving it unlimited access to its network. So far, sources say the two merger partners have resisted those efforts.

      Sources have told CNBC that Dish would have limited access to a combined T-Mobile/Sprint network, allowing it access for no more than seven years. After a grace period, Dish would be required to operate on its own network.

      Complicating factor

      The evolution of 5G service could be a complicating factor. Dish, a cable TV provider, doesn’t have a 5G network but said it plans to build one soon.

      But at this point, a deal appears to be more likely than it did a month ago. CNBC reports Dish and T-Mobile have come to a rough agreement on terms, including a revenue-sharing agreement.

      Dish may also purchase additional spectrum and prepaid wireless carrier Boost Mobile from the combined Sprint/T-Mobile.

      In April, Sprint and T-Mobile announced a July 29 deadline for completing their merger. To meet that date, they have to gain Justice Department approval. The Federal Communications Commission has already signed off on the deal.

      The Justice Department (DOJ), which had been highly skeptical of the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger, may be getting closer to approving the deal. But if t...
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      Independence Day holiday travelers will find higher gas prices

      But prices at the pump are still lower than last Fourth of July

      Consumers taking an Independence Day holiday road trip will find gas prices that are higher than a week ago, but they’re lower than last Fourth of July.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.74 a gallon, six cents higher than last week. Motorists were paying an average of $2.86 a gallon exactly a year ago.

      The average price of premium is $3.31 a gallon, up six cents in the last seven days. Diesel fuel, on the other hand, has barely risen; it’s just a penny higher in the last week, at $3 a gallon. AAA reports that about 25 states have seen gas prices go up by at least 5 cents a gallon over the last week.

      “For the more than 41 million motorists hitting the road this week to celebrate the Independence Day holiday, they will find gas prices cheaper than Memorial Day weekend, but more expensive than they’ve been paying the last few weeks,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA’s spokesperson. “It’s typical to see increases at the pump ahead of the holiday, but we may see prices continue to jump throughout the month due to refinery interruptions on the East Coast, increasing demand and fluctuations in crude oil price.”

      In fact, the loss of a key refinery in Pennsylvania last month because of an explosion and fire is being felt across wide areas of the eastern U.S., which normally has some of the lowest gas prices in the nation. 

      Mississippi still has the lowest average gas price in the nation but the price at the pump there has risen seven cents a gallon in the last seven days.

      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 ($3.77)

      • Hawaii ($3.64)

      • Washington ($3.35)

      • Nevada ($3.30)

      • Alaska ($3.26)

      • Oregon ($3.22)

      • Illinois ($3.04)

      • Idaho ($2.99)

      • Utah ($2.96)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.91)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.34)

      • Alabama ($2.36)

      • Louisiana ($2.37)

      • Arkansas ($2.37)

      • South Carolina ($2.39)

      • Oklahoma ($2.43)

      • Tennessee ($2.45)

      • Missouri ($2.45)

      • Texas ($2.46)

      • Virginia ($2.46)

      Consumers taking an Independence Day holiday road trip will find gas prices that are higher than a week ago, but they’re lower than last Fourth of July....
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2018-2019 Audi Q5s and SQ5s

      The wheel arch cover trim may loosen and detach

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 126,175 model year 2018-2019 Audi Q5s and SQ5s.

      The wheel arch cover trim may loosen and detach and become a road hazard, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will secure the wheel arch trim with an additional screw and nut free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 2, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 66K6

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 126,175 model year 2018-2019 Audi Q5s and SQ5s.The wheel arch cover trim may loosen and detach and become a ro...
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      AT&T wireless users prevented from calling emergency services due to outage

      The problem was reported across multiple states

      For several hours on Tuesday morning, AT&T wireless customers in a handful of states were unable to call 911 from their cell phones, according to a report from The Verge. The issue was reported by officials in Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Florida, and several other states.

      In a statement, AT&T confirmed the service outage and said the issue had been resolved as of approximately 8:00 AM.

      "Earlier this morning some wireless customers may have been unable to connect to 911," the company said. "This has been resolved and we apologize to anyone who was affected."

      While the outage was still active, several local law enforcement officials and fire departments used social media as a way of informing AT&T customers of alternate ways of contacting emergency services. 

      “Our 911 Comm Center received notice that AT&T is experiencing outages with their mobility wireless 911 that may affect calling in,” tweeted a sheriff’s office in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. “Please have our non emergency number handy if you need us.  920-236-7300” 

      A fire department in Arlington, Texas recommended calling from a landline, since the outage didn’t impact AT&T’s landline services. 

      “AT&T is experiencing nationwide 911 service outage which is effecting the ability to call 911 on a cellphone,” the Arlington Fire Department tweeted. “Until the issue is resolved, AT&T customers can access Arlington 911 by either calling 817-274-4444 or utilizing a landline.” 

      For several hours on Tuesday morning, AT&T; wireless customers in a handful of states were unable to call 911 from their cell phones, according to a report...
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      Southwest expects Boeing 737 MAX to remain grounded beyond October 1

      Regulators have discovered a new safety issue

      Due to the surfacing of a new safety concern, Boeing 737 MAX jets will likely be forced to remain grounded beyond the expected return-to-service date of October 1.

      Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials recently found another potential problem in the 737 MAX’s computer system. During simulator sessions, the flaw raised alarm for its potential to cause the aircraft to dive in instances where it should be climbing. 

      “I’m sure this will cause us to have to take the MAX out of the schedule beyond Oct. 1,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees on Monday, according to Reuters. Kelly added that the company would also see “what other modifications we might need to make our plans for this year because it’s obviously extending well beyond what I had hoped.”

      Avoiding canceled flights

      Upon being informed of the new safety issue, Southwest and United Airlines immediately announced extended cancellations for flights using the MAX. Southwest said this week that cancellations will now extend from September 2 through October 1.

      “By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our customers' travel plans,” the airline said. “The limited number of customers who have already booked their travel and will be affected by our amended schedule are being notified of their re-accommodated travel according to our flexible accommodation procedures.” 

      United and American Airlines have also canceled affected flights until early September. 

      Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded worldwide since mid-March following two fatal crashes within five months.

      Due to the surfacing of a new safety concern, Boeing 737 MAX jets will likely be forced to remain grounded beyond the expected return-to-service date of Oc...
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      Audi vehicles with airbag issue recalled

      The passenger airbag may be deactivated

      Audi is recalling138,896 model year 2015-2016 Audi S3 Sedans, model year 2015-2019 A3 Sedans & A3 Cabriolets, model year 2016-2018 A3 e-trons, and model year 2017-2019 RS3s.

      An improper electrical contact may cause the Passenger Occupant Detection System (PODS) to falsely detect a malfunction and deactivate the passenger airbag.

      A deactivated passenger airbag increases the risk of injury during a crash.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the connector and reroute the cable free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Audi's number for this recall is 69Z4.

      Audi is recalling138,896 model year 2015-2016 Audi S3 Sedans, model year 2015-2019 A3 Sedans & A3 Cabriolets, model year 2016-2018 A3 e-trons, and model ye...
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      Growers Express recalls multiple fresh vegetable products

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Growers Express is recalling select fresh vegetable products including packaged varieties of butternut squash, cauliflower, zucchini and a butternut squashed based veggie bowl.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There are no reported illnesses.

      The following products are being recalled:

      Retailer/ DistributorLabel Description /BrandItem NamePackage & WeightItem SKUUPC NumberLot No.States AffectedBest By

      Big Y Foods

      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Sweet Potato Crumbles1 lb.MXC 100101605806 000515190612-403102

      MA

      6/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Crumbles "Fried Rice" Blend1 lb.MXC 101101605806 000744190612-4031016/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshButternut Diced12 oz.BNC 101101605806 138010190614-4035456/26/2019

      Bozzutos

      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Sweet Potato Crumbles1 lb.MXC 100101605806 000515190612-403102

      CT

      6/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Crumbles "Fried Rice" Blend1 lb.MXC 101101605806 000744190612-4031016/28/2019

      C&S

      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Crumbles "Fried Rice" Blend1 lb.MXC 101101605806 000744190612-403101

      MA

      6/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshButternut Diced12 oz.BNC 101101605806 138010190614-4035456/26/2019
      Green Giant FreshButternut Cubed2 lb.BNC 102101605806 138218190614-4035766/26/2019

      Food Lion

      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Crumbles "Fried Rice" Blend1 lb.MXC 101101605806 000744190612-403101

      SC, NC, PA, VA

      6/28/2019

      Four Seasons

      Green Giant FreshRamen Bowl7.4 oz.MXC 183104605806 027864190614-403534

      PA

      6/28/2019

      Native Maine

      Growers ExpressButternut Peeled10 lb.BNC 103103Food service190614-403578

      PA

      Pack Date Only

      Procacci

      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Sweet Potato Crumbles1 lb.MXC 100101605806 000515190612-403102

      PA

      6/28/2019

      Ruby Robinson (PFG)

      Growers ExpressButternut Peeled10 lb.BNC 103102Food service190614-403577

      ME

      Pack Date Only

      Shaws

      Signature FarmsCauliflower Crumbles1 lb.CAC 10110921130 98438190612-403100

      MA

      6/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshCauliflower Sweet Potato Crumbles1 lb.MXC 100101605806 000515190612-4031026/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshRamen Bowl7.4 oz.MXC 183104605806 027864190614-4035346/28/2019
      Green Giant FreshButternut Diced12 oz.BNC 101101605806 138010190614-4035456/26/2019

      Stop & Shop

      Green Giant FreshZucchini Noodles10.5 oz.MSC 104102605806 000881190614-403567

      NY, MD

      6/26/2019
      Green Giant Fresh10.5 oz.190617-4039546/29/2019

      Trader Joe's

      Trader Joe'sButternut Squash Spirals10.5 oz.BCN 105106623391190614-403565

      AL, CT,  D.C., DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI,
      MN, MO, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN (only Knoxville, Nashville), VA, VT, WI

      6/28/2019
      Trader Joe'sZucchini Spirals10.5 oz.MSC 104106634908190617-403814

      AL, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, OH, SC, TN
      (only Knoxville, Nashville), VA (only Glen Allen, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg), WI

      6/27/2019

      Most of the recalled products are labeled with a “Best If Used By” Date of June 26 – June 29, 2019.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume but discard them.

      Consumers with questions may call the company at (831) 757-9951 or (207) 282-7723.

      Growers Express is recalling select fresh vegetable products including packaged varieties of butternut squash, cauliflower, zucchini and a butternut squash...
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      Fisher-Price recalls inclined sleeper accessories

      Infant fatalities have been reported while using other inclined sleep products

      Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is recalling about 71,000 inclined sleeper accessories included with all models of Fisher-Price Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards.

      Infant fatalities have been reported while using other inclined sleep products, after the infants rolled from their back to their stomach or side while unrestrained, or under other circumstances.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves the inclined sleeper accessory sold with all Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards with model numbers CBV60, CHP86, CHR06, CJK24, and DJD11.

      The model number is located on the fabric label inside of the play yard and on the fabric label on the back of the inclined sleeper pad.

      The product is a portable play yard with inclined sleeper and changing station clutch accessories and a carry bag.

      The inclined sleeper accessory is the only portion of the product that is being recalled.

      The inclined sleeper accessories, manufactured in China, were sold at juvenile product stores and mass merchandisers nationwide from October 2014, through June 2019, for between $90 and $110.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the inclined sleeper accessory and contact Fisher-Price for a refund or voucher. Consumers can continue to use the play yard portion of the product without the inclined sleeper accessory, and can also continue to use the changing station clutch accessory and carry bag.

      Consumers may contact Fisher-Price online at www.service.mattel.com and click on “Recalls & Safety Alerts” at the top of the page, or at (800) 432-5437 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday for more information.

      Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is recalling about 71,000 inclined sleeper accessories included with all models of Fisher-Price Ultra-Lite Day & Night P...
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      Apple announces free repair program for MacBook Air owners

      The company says a ‘small number’ of devices may have a logic board flaw

      Apple is offering free repairs for 2018 MacBook Airs after finding that a “very small number” of current generation, 13-inch MacBook Airs are having logic board problems, 9to5Mac reports. Logic board issues could prevent the computer from turning on.

      The company has emailed owners of MacBook Air computers with serial numbers known to be impacted by the issue to let them know that a free repair is available at any Apple Store or authorized service center. Customers who want to know if their device is among those impacted by the flaw can also take their computer to those locations. 

      The free repair offer will last for four years. 

      9to5Mac notes that Apple hasn’t provided many details about the logic board issue, other than saying that it has to do with “power.” The publication notes that some users found that they weren’t able to boot up their 2018 MacBook Air at all when the device first launched.

      The logic board issue is the latest of several MacBook flaws to be announced in recent months. Just a few days ago, Apple recalled some older MacBook Pro models over a battery issue that caused overheating. Prior to that, the company introduced a repair program for owners of MacBooks with defective butterfly keyboards.  

      Apple is offering free repairs for 2018 MacBook Airs after finding that a “very small number” of current generation, 13-inch MacBook Airs are having logic...
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      Amazon announces early Prime Day discounts

      The retailer has also announced a special deal for Prime members who shop at Whole Foods

      ​Amazon has launched a number of early Prime Days promotions ahead of its 48-hour summer sales event, which is set to take place July 15 and July 16

      On Monday, the company announced that it had rolled out early deals across a variety of categories. In the devices category, Amazon dropped the price of its Fire TV Recast by $100 (bringing it down to $129.99) and various Echo speakers are on sale from $25. 

      Amazon has also slashed the price of services like Amazon Music, Prime Video, Kindle Unlimited, Audible, and more. 

      Deals in the fashion category include: 

      • Up to 30 percent off select Tommy Hilfiger clothing and shoes;

      • Up to 70 percent off Seafolly Australia Swimwear;

      • Up to 50 percent off athletic shoes from Reebok, Puma and others;

      • Up to 30 percent savings on kids and baby styles from Gerber, The Children’s Place, and Amazon Brands;

      • Up to 50 percent off women’s activewear from Amazon Essentials, Core 10 and Starter;

      • Up to 40 percent off men’s shirts from Goodthreads, Buttoned Down and Amazon Essentials; 

      • Up to 30 percent off women’s styles from Daily Ritual.

      Prime members can also get up to 20 percent off furniture and décor from Rivet, Stone & Beam and Ravenna Home, up to 20 percent off AmazonBasics, and up to 30 percent off “everyday essentials” from brands including Solimo, Presto!, and Happy Belly.

      From July 3 through Prime Day, customers who spend $10 at Whole Foods will get a $10 credit to use on Prime Day purchases. 

      Amazon announced last week that its annual Prime Day sales event will last two full days this year. The retailer’s longest-ever annual sales event will kick off at midnight Pacific Time on July 15. Prices on more than a million items will be reduced during Amazon’s fifth annual Prime Day event.

      ​Amazon has launched a number of early Prime Days promotions ahead of its 48-hour summer sales event, which is set to take place July 15 and July 16. O...
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      The security of Apple’s new single sign-on feature faces new questions

      Online experts praise Apple’s new feature, but questions remain about its reliability

      Among the laundry list of nuances and updates Apple unveiled at its WWDC 2019 earlier this month, one was Sign In with Apple, a privacy-oriented feature allowing users to use their Apple ID to log into third-party apps and websites.

      The idea of a “single sign-on” isn’t anything new. As a matter of fact, more than a million sites integrate the OpenID protocol, counting Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft, and PayPal among its customer base -- but not Apple.

      The benefits for single sign-ons are many -- like reducing password fatigue to saving time not having to re-enter passwords for the same ID -- but, according to one industry organization, it could pose potential security issues when used with other single sign-on mechanisms. 

      Here’s the rub

      Apple probably didn’t expect any problems when it decided to veer away from the Open ID blueprint and create its own version, but one has reared its ugly head.

      The OpenID Foundation (OIDF), a non-profit organization whose primary goal is standardizing the technology and keeping all its implementers on the same page, says that Apple’s version of the technology could possibly put its users’ security and privacy at risk.

      In a letter to Apple, OIDF praised Apple's authentication feature for having "largely adopted" OpenID Connect. But after that pat on the back, the tone of the letter changed. 

      “The current set of differences between OpenID Connect and Sign In with Apple reduces the places where users can use Sign In with Apple and exposes them to greater security and privacy risks,” cautioned ODIF’s Nat Sakimura.

      OIDF didn’t leave Apple twisting in the wind, however. Its team put together a checklist of recommended code modifications Apple could employ to close any gaps between Sign In with Apple and OpenID Connect. 

      Should you use Sign In with Apple?

      For the moment, the next step is open-ended and sitting on Apple’s desk. As you might expect, Apple has rigorously defended Sign In with Apple, and there’s no guarantee that the company will respond to OIDF’s clarion call.

      Nonetheless, if a consumer decides to use Sign In with Apple, they’re promised, for one thing, that Apple won't use the tool to track internet activity, a plus that the company says it has over Google and Facebook’s single log-in widgets.

      Another consumer plum is that if a user decides not to share their personal information, any site or app that requests the consumer’s email will instead be given a unique, Apple-generated email address that those messages will be forwarded to, in essence masking their true identity.

      "The concept of being able to sign in without using a real email address is a step in the right direction for consumers,” was the take of Ray Walsh, data privacy expert at ProPrivacy.com, and part of an expert panel Engadget asked for its consumer take on the situation. 

      “Being able to sign in without sharing a real email address removes one crucial bit of data from those services' hands. However, web services still get to collect other crucial data from users when they visit their sites -- which can still be used to track them. When you visit a website, that service automatically receives your IP address; this is an extremely valuable tracking tool. Thus, Sign in with Apple is only removing one small piece of trackable data from the equation."

      Dana Simberkoff -- chief risk, privacy, and information security officer at AvePoint -- explained that the feature could be good for both Apple and consumers.: "If it's done right, not only [is it] a win for Apple but also a win for consumers that may be able to take advantage of a more privacy-centric sign-in option,” she said.

      Florian Schaub, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, agrees that the consumer comes out a winner with Apple’s single sign-on process. "The ability to easily generate random email addresses and Apple handling the management of those credentials will make it much easier for consumers to protect their personal information when interacting with mobile apps and online services,” he said.

      “It's interesting to see Apple take on the well-established single sign-on offerings by Google, Facebook and others but with a focus on making it easier for people to protect their privacy. It will of course require you to trust Apple to stay true to its promise and not track or analyze with which services you have accounts and how often you log in to those."

      Among the laundry list of nuances and updates Apple unveiled at its WWDC 2019 earlier this month, one was Sign In with Apple, a privacy-oriented feature al...
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      Home values fall in May for second straight month

      But the break in rising home prices may not last

      There’s good news for would-be homebuyers who have struggled to find the right house in their price range. Home values have fallen for two straight months, according to real estate marketplace Zillow.

      Home values have declined slightly for two straight months. Should that trend continue, it could make homes more affordable for more consumers, especially since mortgage rates have declined at the same time.

      By early 2019, home affordability had become an issue preventing some consumers from becoming homeowners. Before April, home values had gone up for 85 consecutive months, adding more than $78,000 to the price of a median home.

      While home values were less in April than in March, and less in May than April, the median home still costs more than it did a year ago. But Zillow reports year-over-year appreciation is growing at a slower rate. 

      A year ago, home values were growing at an annual rate of 7.5 percent. In May, they grew by 5.4 percent.

      Positive for the market

      Zillow Director of Economic Research Skylar Olsen says the slowdown in home values after such a long period of rising prices is actually good for the overall housing market.

      "While the slowdown has been arguably abrupt, the soft declines over the past two months should not cause too much alarm,” Olsen said. 

      “The aggressive pace of home values over the past several years was known to be unsustainable. Buyers simply couldn't afford it, so prices are correcting.”  

      Rents are rising

      Because homes became increasingly unaffordable, more consumers decided to remain renters. But the Zillow report shows renting a home is getting increasingly expensive.

      The median monthly rent has now increased for seven months in a row, rising 2.7 percent in May to $1,479. Rents are growing faster now than a year ago in 28 of the top 35 markets, led by Las Vegas at 8.9 percent.

      Because of that, more renters may now consider becoming homeowners, encouraged by a decline in mortgage rates. But Olsen says the dip in home values may not last.

      “The significant drop in mortgage rates, as well as renewed rent growth, may help return U.S. housing values to positive appreciation earlier than otherwise," she said.

      Another factor that could raise home values again is supply and demand. Inventory levels fell in May for the third straight month after the number of available homes rose slightly in the first two months of the year. A pick-up in home-buying activity could easily reduce inventory levels even more and push the median home price above its current $226, 800.

      There’s good news for would-be homebuyers who have struggled to find the right house in their price range. Home values have fallen for two straight months,...
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