Current Events in August 2019

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    Millions of Windows 10 users hit with yet another major system warning

    Vendors are rushing to get patches in place, but there’s uncertainty about when the problem will be fixed completely

    Windows 10 users are facing another critical warning -- one which could potentially impact millions of users.

    As part of a presentation at hacker clambake DEF CON, researchers from technology security firm Eclypsium revealed the issue, saying it applies "to all modern versions of Microsoft Windows.” 

    The issue is rather complex, but the basic idea is that system drivers -- computer programs that operate a device attached to a computer (such as a printer) -- can be attacked by hackers and allow them access to a device’s Windows 10 system software.

    What’s impacted

    The total number of impacted hardware drivers the Eclypsium researchers found added up to 20, and that includes a gamut of drivers responsible for everything from booting up the computer to operating a USB mouse. According to a Forbes investigation of the matter, the drivers are all Microsoft-sanctioned drivers and from trusted vendors such as Intel and Toshiba.

    "Bad drivers can be immensely dangerous,” the researchers claimed in their presentation. “Drivers that provide access to system BIOS or system components for the purposes of updating firmware, running diagnostics, or customizing options on the component can allow attackers to turn the very tools used to manage a system into powerful threats that can escalate privileges and persist invisibly on the host."

    Help is already on the way

    Before you pull the rest of your hair out over the recent parade of Windows 10 gaffes, this one is already being fixed from the vendor level. Mickey Shkatov, Principal Researcher at Eclypsium, told ZDNet that “vendors, like Intel and Huawei, have already issued updates.”

    Shkatov blames the issues he discovered on a “common software design anti-pattern” from the developer end, mostly out of a desire to “perform arbitrary actions on behalf of userspace.” 

    "It's easier to develop software by structuring drivers and applications this way, but it opens the system up for exploitation,” he said.

    In ConsumerAffairs’ check of Microsoft’s support site, we found no update regarding the issue or possible fixes. However, Eclypsium’s presentation included these comments and suggestions from Microsoft, which consumers can employ to further guard themselves:

    • Microsoft has a strong commitment to security and a demonstrated track record of investigating and proactively updating impacted devices as soon as possible. For the best protection, we recommend using Windows 10 and the Microsoft Edge browser.

    • In order to exploit vulnerable drivers, an attacker would need to have already compromised the computer. To help mitigate this class of issues, Microsoft recommends that customers use Windows Defender Application Control to block known vulnerable software and drivers.

    • Customers can further protect themselves by turning on memory integrity for capable devices in Windows Security. 

    Windows 10 users are facing another critical warning -- one which could potentially impact millions of users.As part of a presentation at hacker clamba...

    Survey of student loan borrowers shows payments average 20 percent of take-home pay

    And that doesn’t count their credit card bills

    A new survey finds young borrowers are paying more than 20 percent of their take-home pay to service their student loan debt, which exceeds $1.5 trillion dollars for all U.S. consumers. 

    Researchers for TD Bank say those monthly payments are putting a severe strain on borrowers’ long-term financial health. With payments costing almost as much as a mortgage, these consumers have less money left each month to meet expenses, much less invest for the future.

    In a sample of young adults, the average total student debt is $26,495. Their average debt payment is $579 a month. That means one out of every five dollars of a consumer’s paycheck is spent on repaying student loan debt if their average monthly take-home pay is $2,689.

    Obvious impact

    The immediate impact on the economy is fairly obvious. With a $579 monthly payment, it’s that much harder to purchase a home. Even other major purchases, such as cars and furniture, are hard to manage.

    It also makes it hard to save for the future. Six-in-ten people in the survey said they saved 10 percent or less of their income each month, and 20 percent said they aren’t able to save anything.

    "The results of our survey show that student loans can have a ripple effect on borrowers' financial futures," said Mike Kinane, head of US Bankcard at TD Bank. "Consumers owe money before they even earn their first paycheck, which is troubling."

    What about credit cards?

    The survey did not measure credit card debt, but it is also a complicating factor in many cases. Millions of young consumers with student loan debt have also run up large credit card bills.

    A recent report from CompareCards.com suggests that millennials are struggling to pay their credit card bills more than their student loans. 

    The study showed only 13 percent of millennials with a credit card pay the balance in full each month, meaning the other 87 percent are running up credit card debt. The average credit card debt in the U.S. is $5,700, according to the Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve.

    "Most conversations around millennials and debt center around the nation's trillion-dollar student loan crisis, but the truth is, credit card debt is far more prevalent,” said Matt Schulz, an industry analyst at CompareCards. “With many millennials juggling student loan or car payments on top of credit card bills, it's no wonder some think they'll never be debt-free."

    The TD Bank survey found 61 percent of student loan borrowers expect to pay off their balances in four years, which may be wildly optimistic. Another 24 percent expect it to take at least 10 years.

    A new survey finds young borrowers are paying more than 20 percent of their take-home pay to service their student loan debt, which exceeds $1.5 trillion d...

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      Limiting carbs can help diabetics regulate blood sugar, study finds

      Researchers suggest placing a stronger emphasis on proteins and fats

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Copenhagen is urging type 2 diabetics to rethink their diets in order to better regulate their blood sugar levels.

      The researchers’ findings revealed that a diet heavier in proteins and fats, with fewer carbohydrates, could be the key to more steady blood sugar. 

      “The purpose of our study was to investigate the effects of the diet without ‘interference’ from a weight loss,” said researcher Dr. Thure Krarup. “For that reason, the patients were asked to maintain their weight. Our study confirms the assumption that a diet with reduced carbohydrate content can improve patients’ ability to regulate their blood sugar levels -- without the patients concurrently losing weight.” 

      Benefits of limiting carbs

      To see just how effective limiting carbs was for diabetics’ blood sugar levels, the researchers conducted a 12-week long study comprised of 28 individuals, all of whom were type 2 diabetics. 

      For half of the study, participants had a diet low in carbs and high in proteins and fats; for the other half, they followed diets typical of those with diabetes, which is generally higher in carbohydrate content. 

      As Dr. Krarup explained, the goal of the study wasn’t to have the participants lose weight, but rather to see how the intervention of a new diet could affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. 

      After 12 weeks, the researchers learned that the diet that was lower in carbs was successful in not only achieving their intended goal of regulating blood sugar, but it also aided in reducing participants’ liver fat content -- which is usually associated with insulin resistance. 

      “Our findings are important because they remove weight loss from the equation,” said Dr. Krarup. “Previous studies have provided contradictory conclusions, and weight loss has complicated interpretations in a number of these studies.” 

      Considering that regulating blood sugar is the primary goal for diabetics, the researchers hope that physicians will begin altering their diet recommendations for patients with diabetes, as doing so could greatly improve their health outcomes. 

      “The study shows that by reducing the share of carbohydrates in the diet and increasing the share of protein and fat, you can both treat high blood sugar and reduce liver fat content,” Dr. Krarup said.

      A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Copenhagen is urging type 2 diabetics to rethink their diets in order to better regulate their...

      Dole Fresh Vegetables recalls baby spinach

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling a limited number of cases of baby spinach.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported.

      The following products, with lot code and use-by date on the upper right corner of the bag or on the top label of the clamshell, and the UPC code on the bottom left corner of the back of the bag or on the bottom label of the clamshell, are being recalled:.

      • 6-oz., Dole Baby Spinach bag, Lot code W20308A (UPC code 0-71430-00964-2), use-by date 08-05-2019
      • 10-oz., Dole Baby Spinach clamshell, Lot code W203010 (UPC code 0-71430-00016-8), use-by date 08-05-2019

      The recalled products were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call the company at (800) 356-3111, 24 hours a day.

      Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling a limited number of cases of baby spinach.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses have been...

      Honda recalls model year 2019 CR-Vs

      The vehicle may leak fuel

      American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 134 model year 2019 CR-Vs.

      The joint weld between the fuel tank and the vapor return line may have been insufficiently welded, causing the weld to fail.

      The failed weld may allow fuel to leak, increasing the risk of a fire in the presence of an ignition source.

      What to do

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 16, 2019.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at (888) 234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is A5I.

      American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 134 model year 2019 CR-Vs.The joint weld between the fuel tank and the vapor return line may have been insufficie...

      How much caffeine will cause a migraine?

      Drinking more than two caffeinated beverages per day could cause severe headaches

      Getting through the day without caffeine can be difficult for many consumers, but researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are now warning against consuming too much caffeine, as doing so can cause migraines. 

      According to the study, consumers should be safe from migraines if they drink only one or two caffeinated drinks per day; they say drinking three or more could cause powerful headaches. 

      “While some potential triggers -- such as lack of sleep -- may only increase migraine risk, the role of caffeine is particularly complex, because it may trigger an attack but also helps control symptoms,” explained researcher Elizabeth Mostofsky. 

      Determining safe levels of caffeine

      To see how caffeine had an effect on developing migraines, the researchers analyzed nearly 100 adult participants, all of whom were prone to migraines. 

      Over the course of six weeks, participants detailed their migraine frequency and severity, as well as a complete list of any caffeinated beverages they drank -- tea, soda, coffee, energy drinks, etc. To ensure that the findings focused on caffeine’s role in migraines, the researchers also had the participants document all known triggers of migraines, whether that was certain medications or sleeping habits. 

      After analyzing the results, the researchers determined that it would take three or more caffeinated drinks for regular caffeine drinkers to experience severe migraine pain; however, just one to two servings of caffeine could incite severe pain for those who don’t drink caffeine regularly. 

      The researchers emphasized that migraine sufferers shouldn’t swear off caffeine, but they should be aware that high amounts of it can increase their risk of severe headache pain. 

      “Despite the high prevalence of migraine and often debilitating symptoms, effective migraine prevention remains elusive for many patients,” said Dr. Suzanne M. Bertisch. “Interestingly, despite some patients with episodic migraines thinking they need to avoid caffeine, we found that drinking one to two servings/day was not associated with higher risk of headache. More work is needed to confirm these findings, but it is an important first step.” 

      Knowing when to cut back on coffee

      A recent study sought to answer a question many consumers have about their caffeine intake: how much coffee is too much coffee? 

      The researchers found that everyone processes caffeine differently, but it’s important for consumers to trust their bodies. Feeling jittery, nauseous, or irritable are all clues that you’ve overdone it with coffee for the day. The research team recommended not consuming over six cups per day, as that was the threshold where many of the study’s participants were more susceptible to cardiovascular disease. 

      “Knowing the limits of what’s good for you and what’s not is imperative,” said researcher Elina Hyppönen. “As with many things, it’s all about moderation; overindulge and your health will pay for it.”

      Getting through the day without caffeine can be difficult for many consumers, but researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are now warning aga...

      CDC offers tips for a healthy back-to-school season

      School is right around the corner for many young consumers

      Though August is just heating up, back-to-school season is right around the corner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants parents to be aware of nine ways they can kick the school year off on a healthy, safe foot. 

      “As a parent and a grandparent, I know that back-to-school time is a busy time,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Yet, I encourage parents to be mindful of some health essentials to add to your to-do lists.” 

      Staying healthy this school year

      The CDC’s tips cover a wide variety of topics. The full list, as well as even more resources, are available here

      Adopting healthy habits

      One way to stay healthy this school year is for kids to remain physically active and follow healthy diets. 

      While school nutrition programs were found to be effective ways for children to learn about healthy eating habits, these resources aren’t available in every school. Because parents, particularly mothers’, eating habits play a large role in children’s own eating habits, it’s important that parents take the time to pack their children healthy lunches that will keep them full and energized throughout the school day. The CDC offers insights on how parents and schools can work together to emphasize healthy diets. 

      With many children not meeting recommended physical activity goals, the CDC also encourages parents to walk their children home from school if possible, and swap time in front of screens for time playing outside. 

      Stay up-to-date on vaccines

      With this year’s measles outbreak, health experts are pushing for more extensive vaccine coverage, and the CDC recommends the same for the start of the school year. 

      The agency has resources for parents to read up on regarding scheduling and staying up to date on vaccines. Doing so can not only ensure that children perform their best at school, but also protect them against potentially dangerous and contagious infections and diseases. 

      Keep your hands clean

      Germs spread the fastest through the things we touch with our hands, so it’s imperative that parents emphasize the importance of hand-washing. 

      The CDC has tips on when and how everyone should be washing their hands, including after using the bathroom and after coughing or sneezing. Simply using soap and water can go a long way in preventing the spread of germs. 

      Beat the heat

      Parents, teachers, and coaches should take necessary precautions to protect kids from the heat, especially in the earlier school months when the weather is still warm.  

      The CDC offers a full list of ways to prevent heat-related illnesses, which emphasize taking simple steps like wearing light-weight clothing while outdoors, drinking plenty of water, and reapplying sunscreen throughout the day. 

      Have meaningful conversations at home and at school

      The CDC encourages parents to talk with their kids about serious topics, such as mental health, prescription drug use, and physical violence. 

      Connecting with adolescents on these topics is critical for their development and well-being, and the agency offers various options for parents to broach delicate topics with their kids. 

      “Youth who feel engaged and supported at school and at home are less likely to experience negative health outcomes later in life related to mental health, violence, sexual risk, and substance use,” the agency writes. 

      Choose water

      With several cities across the country implementing taxes on sugary drinks with kids in mind, both lawmakers and health experts at the CDC are recommending that parents limit children’s intake of drinks loaded with sugar in preference of water. 

      Be mindful of injuries

      It’s not uncommon for children to experience injuries when playing outside or participating in sports. The CDC wants parents to be mindful of such injuries, particularly concussions, so they can react accordingly by making sure children wear helmets and other protective equipment.

      Concussion symptoms can last longer in children than in adults, and recent studies have found that nearly 20 percent of kids aren’t wearing helmets while riding bikes or scooters.

      Avoid e-cigarettes

      Though once touted as being the healthier alternative to cigarettes, recent studies have shown how harmful e-cigarettes can be. There are several negative health effects that come from smoking electronic cigarettes. 

      Though government agencies are working to make it harder for kids to gain access to e-cigarettes, the devices are incredibly popular among young people. The CDC advises parents to talk with their children about the risks associated with the devices. 

      Be prepared for emergencies

      Before the craziness of the school year is underway, the CDC recommends that parents talk with their children about an emergency care plan

      In having open and honest conversations about what the family would do in case of an emergency, children can feel more prepared and less worried should an emergency situation present itself.

      Though August is just heating up, back-to-school season is right around the corner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants parents to b...

      Uber is reportedly trying its hand at grocery delivery

      The idea is still in test mode, but it has the makings of a shot across Amazon’s bow

      Uber continues to extend its influence to all walks of life -- rideshare, e-bikes, even air transportation. On Friday, the company confirmed that it’s beta-testing an idea to take its UberEats take-out delivery service a step further by also doing some grocery shopping for consumers.

      While Uber hasn’t divulged how many grocery store aisles its drivers will go down to meet a customer request, by all indications it’s pretty much standard convenience store type stuff -- milk bread, and the like.

      Bring it, Amazon

      Seemingly unafraid to jump in the ring with Amazon -- who already threw in the towel with Amazon Restaurants but is still in the grocery delivery business with its Whole Foods service -- Jason Droege, Vice President and Head of Uber Everything, said the timing couldn’t be better.

      “There is a bit of an eCommerce ‘moment’ that is happening at a local level. That’s a lot of what we are investing behind here,” Droege told the Financial Times.

      “I can shop almost everywhere outside of a city through my phone or my computer, but it’s actually pretty hard to shop the merchants in my city. (Uber) Eats, in one way, is a restaurant delivery service. In another way, we are solving customers’ dining needs. If you abstractly think about it that way, grocery stores and restaurants are serving a lot of the same needs.” 

      Droege doesn’t leave much room to read between those lines, but one thing’s for sure -- Uber Eats is on fire. According to Forbes, it’s the company’s “secret goldmine.” The service is on track to deliver nearly $10 billion worth of food in 2019, up $4 billion from 2018. 

      Uber continues to extend its influence to all walks of life -- rideshare, e-bikes, even air transportation. On Friday, the company confirmed that it’s beta...

      Facebook facial recognition lawsuit moves forward in court

      The $35 billion class action suit claims Facebook harvested consumer biometric data without consent

      A class action lawsuit targeting Facebook’s collection of biometric data has cleared its latest hurdle in court. 

      On Thursday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit shut down the tech giant’s attempt to quash a potential $35 billion lawsuit, which claims that it mapped and collected users’ facial recognition data without their permission. The suit dates back to 2015, when lead plaintiff Nimesh Patel accused Facebook of obtaining and storing facial data for its Photo Tag Suggest feature without proper consent. 

      The company argued that collecting this data did not impart any “concrete harm” to users, but the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel concluded otherwise.

      “We conclude that the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta. 

      Up to $35 billion in potential damages

      The class action, which seeks to represent 7 million affected Facebook users in Illinois, has taken a step forward with this latest ruling, but members of the class still face an uphill battle. 

      Because the class is specific to users in Illinois, Facebook says that it cannot be held responsible for illegally collecting and storing their biometric data because it was done via servers outside the state. The plaintiffs argue that the illegal actions happened the moment that users within the state uploaded photos. 

      A federal jury may ultimately decide which party has the right of it, but if it rules with the plaintiffs, it could be devastating for Facebook. The company could be forced to pay up to $5,000 for each violation of Illinois law; with 7 million members in the class, that could lead to up to $35 billion in potential damages. 

      A class action lawsuit targeting Facebook’s collection of biometric data has cleared its latest hurdle in court. On Thursday, the United States Court o...

      Tesla owner sues the carmaker over a software update that reduces vehicle range

      The plaintiff says Tesla is reducing how far cars can drive on a full charge to avoid a recall

      Tesla has had its share of headaches in recent months and here’s another one: a Tesla owner has filed a lawsuit claiming the company used a software update to limit the range of his vehicle to avoid a costly recall.

      The plaintiff, who is seeking class action status, owns an older Model S and claims the software update reduced the range of his vehicle and many others by 40 miles. The plaintiff points to the TeslaMotorsClub.com forum to suggest other owners are having the same problem.

      We checked and found a poster going by the handle Dutchmeeuw reporting in early June that his Model S lost approximately 20 kilometers of charging after the update.

      “At the 12th of May I was able to charge to 399km at 100 percent charge,” the owner wrote. “Two days ago the max charge has dropped to 379km all of a sudden. Temperatures at both charge times were around 18 degrees Celsius. Called Tesla and they’re telling me the car logs show battery degradation and saying this is normal.”

      Tesla did not immediately respond to media requests for comment. Companies rarely comment on pending legal issues.

      Preventive measure

      Tesla initiated the software update after investigating reports that a Model S sold in Hong Kong caught fire. To be on the safe side, the company said it was revising the charge and thermal management setting. The goal, Tesla said, was to protect batteries and extend their longevity.

      Tesla has said that it is working to improve how the update is executed, acknowledging that a small group of owners might have experienced a reduction in range. The plaintiff, obviously, has a different view.

      “Under the guise of ‘safety’ and increasing the ‘longevity’ of the batteries of the class vehicles, Tesla fraudulently manipulated its software with the intent to avoid its duties and legal obligations to customers to fix, repair, or replace the batteries of the Class Vehicles, all of which Tesla knew were defective, yet failed to inform its customers of the defects,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

      Meanwhile, an Arizona newspaper reports that less range was actually beneficial. It reports that a woman stole a Tesla Model S and was eluding police when the battery ran down. Police reportedly broke a window to remove her from the vehicle and placed her under arrest.

      Tesla has had its share of headaches in recent months and here’s another one: a Tesla owner has filed a lawsuit claiming the company used a software update...

      Select Apple customers are now signing up for the Apple Card

      Initially, many experts aren’t that impressed

      The Apple Card, Apple’s branded credit card announced earlier this year, began to roll out this week. 

      Some iPhone owners were able to apply for the card this week, and it will be open to everyone else by the end of the month. This week, consumers and financial services experts got their first look at the card’s details.

      “The only people who should consider applying for the Apple Card are those who pay their bills in full every month and spend a lot via Apple Pay,” said WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. “Everyone else is better off with one of the best rewards credit cards or one of the best 0% APR credit cards.”

      That’s because the Apple Card is still a credit card. When the company announced the product in the spring, it said its rates would be lower than most credit cards. They are, but not that much lower -- topping out at around 24 percent APR. The average credit card rate is around 15 percent.

      Papadimitrious points out that the Apple Card doesn’t offer 0 percent introductory rates, and its lowest interest rate -- the one offered to customers with the best credit -- is 12.99 percent.

      CNBC reports that many consumers with subprime credit scores are currently qualifying for the Apple Card. The network reports that Goldman Sachs, Apple’s partner, is bowing to pressure from Apple to approve as many of its customers as possible -- even those with less-than-stellar credit.

      ‘Didn’t reinvent the wheel’

      "As with all Apple products, the team behind the Apple Card has created an attractive-looking product, but they didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to credit cards,” said Sara Rathner, credit card expert at NerdWallet. “Consumers owe it to themselves to shop around when choosing a new credit card and select one that rewards them the most where they spend most often.”

      As an alternative, Rathner suggests taking a look at the Citi Double Cash rewards card, which pays 2 percent back on all purchases. Its interest rate range is not much higher than the Apple Card’s -- 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent.

      Of course, as CNBC’s reporting shows, some people can qualify for the Apple Card who can’t get a card designed for people with good to excellent credit.

      Apple’s rewards

      Apple saves its most generous rewards for the purchase of Apple products. It will pay 3 percent cash back on any Apple transaction, including iCloud storage. It pays 2 percent on any Apple Pay transaction and 1 percent on purchases made with the physical card or virtual card number.

      “Unless the bulk of your budget goes toward buying new Apple products, there are a variety of cards on the market that may be a better fit," said Rathner.

      Apple says its new card has some advantages that other cards don’t have. It doesn’t charge late fees and there is no annual fee. It also waives foreign transaction fees.

      The Apple Card, Apple’s branded credit card announced earlier this year, began to roll out this week. Some iPhone owners were able to apply for the car...

      FDA orders four companies to stop selling e-cigarette products

      The agency said 44 e-cigarette and hookah products did not have authorization to be sold in the U.S.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to four companies to demand that they stop selling certain flavored e-cigarette and hookah products.

      The agency says that a combined 44 products distributed by the four companies -- Mighty Vapors LLC, Liquid Labs USA LLC, V8P Juice International LLC, and Hookah Imports Inc. -- were not authorized to be legally sold in the U.S. The move comes shortly after a rule took effect that placed tobacco products under the jurisdiction of the FDA. 

      “Today’s actions make clear that we will continue to keep a close watch on whether companies are breaking the law and will take swift steps when violations are found. Our work in this area has already resulted in a number of companies removing products from the market,” said Dr. Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s acting commissioner. 

      The companies will have 15 days to respond to the FDA’s warning. If they fail to do so, the agency says it may have to take further action.

      Addressing the youth vaping epidemic

      The FDA’s decision follows several months in which regulators have sought to address the teen vaping crisis. Reports indicate that millions of teens currently use e-cigarettes, and regulators believe those high numbers may translate to future tobacco use. 

      “The marketing of illegal tobacco products is particularly concerning given the epidemic of youth vaping that we’re facing, which we know has resulted in part from irresponsible practices from manufacturers importers and retailers who have targeted kids in their marketing of these products,” said Sharpless. 

      “It is critical that we remain vigilant in our efforts to stem the increase in use and nicotine addiction in children driven by e-cigarettes, which threatens to erase the years of progress we’ve made combatting tobacco use among kids.”

      In addition to its legal efforts, the FDA has launched its Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to counter the teen vaping threat. It has also launched a new TV ad campaign designed to educate young people on the dangers of vaping.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to four companies to demand that they stop selling certain flavored e-cigarette and ho...

      Nearly half of social media users are tired of seeing political posts

      With over a year to go before the presidential election, many users say they’re ‘worn out’

      Are you already tired of seeing political posts and tirades on your social media feed? If so, you’re certainly not alone. 

      A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that 46 percent of social media users are “worn out” by online political posts and discussions. That marks an increase of 9 percent since the researchers asked that question before the 2016 presidential election. 

      While the next election is still well over a year away, many social media users are already exhausted with the political content they’re seeing online. A much smaller percentage (15 percent) say they’re actually enjoying the political coverage they see on social media. Approximately 40 percent of respondents said they had no strong feelings one way or the other.

      Among the two major parties, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say they were worn out by online political posts (51 percent vs. 43 percent).

      One of the primary reasons that social media users feel fatigued may have to do with the general negativity that they ascribe to political posts. Over two-thirds of survey respondents say they feel frustrated with talking to people online that they don’t agree with politically. 

      Are you already tired of seeing political posts and tirades on your social media feed? If so, you’re certainly not alone. A recent survey conducted by...

      Gasoline prices are down another five cents a gallon

      Oil continues to get cheaper, and that makes filling up less painful

      A steep drop in world oil prices is putting downward pressure on gasoline prices, giving motorists cheaper fuel prices as the summer driving season winds down.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular has dropped to $2.67 a gallon, five cents lower than last Friday. That’s 19 cents less than a year ago.

      The average price of premium is $3.26  a gallon, three cents less than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel, which has remained stable throughout the summer, is $2.97, a penny lower than last week.

      In the short term, growing supplies of gasoline appear to be applying the most influence on gasoline prices. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that gasoline stocks grew by an astonishing 4.4 million barrels last week, as demand increased only slightly.

      Going forward, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says falling oil prices are linked to the continuing U.S.-China trade battle. If trade tensions slow world economies, that will be felt at the gas pump.

      “With such a slowdown, oil demand will also likely cave to the pressure, and that's why oil has plummeted,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “I think we're in store for the national average gas price to drop to its lowest of the summer in just a few days time, with more substantial relief in the weeks ahead and into the fall as gasoline demand drops further and we switch back to cheaper winter gasoline.”

      DeHaan said it’s possible that the national average could be 50 cents per gallon lower than the summer peak of $2.81 by Thanksgiving if the trade standoff goes on. Most states saw slight declines in gasoline prices over the last seven days. The drop in Illinois was among the largest, at 10 cents a gallon.

      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 ($3.65)

      • Hawaii ($3.65)

      • Washington ($3.27)

      • Nevada ($3.21)

      • Oregon ($3.12)

      • Alaska ($3.12)

      • Utah ($2.92)

      • Idaho ($2.88)

      • Illinois ($2.86)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.86)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Louisiana ($2.31)

      • Mississippi ($2.32)

      • Alabama ($2.34)

      • Arkansas ($2.35)

      • South Carolina ($2.35)

      • Oklahoma ($2.40)

      • Tennessee ($2.41)

      • Texas ($2.42)

      • Missouri ($2.43)

      • Virginia ($2.44)

      A steep drop in world oil prices is putting downward pressure on gasoline prices, giving motorists cheaper fuel prices as the summer driving season winds d...

      GM wins major ignition switch defect lawsuit

      Vehicle owners sought damages for alleged loss of value

      General Motors (GM) has won a victory in federal court, where a judge narrowed claims concerning faulty ignition switches on some models. Consumers in three states brought the action, claiming the issue caused their vehicles to lose value.

      The problem goes back at least five years and resulted in the recall of 1.6 million vehicles. The faulty ignition switches were prone to shutting off, leaving the vehicles with no power steering, brakes, or airbags. It is believed the defect was linked to at least 124 deaths.

      General Motors settled the issue with 49 states and the District of Columbia, resolving charges that it concealed the safety issue. Under the 2017 settlement, the states shared $120 million, with each state determining how to use the money.

      This week, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled that GM owners in California, Texas, and Missouri had no grounds to seek damages for their vehicles’ loss of value. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the market value of their cars and trucks. Therefore, he said the jury had no basis on which to award damages.

      Some research to support that claim

      A 2014 study by the automotive search engine ISeeCars.com analyzed sales of GM used cars and looked specifically at the models included in the recall for the faulty ignition switch. It says it found these cars suddenly became bargains, with prices falling by more than twice average of all similar models.

      The company looked at the six GM cars affected by the ignition switch recall and found that the average adjusted price of all the recalled vehicles dropped by 14 percent from March through June 2014, compared to March through June 2013. By comparison, the average for all similar cars was 6.7 percent over the same time period.

      While that argument failed to sway the judge, the court further said the owners might have a case if they sought claims based on the cost of repairing the vehicles. But if GM paid for the repairs, there would be no cost to the owners.

      A spokesman for GM told Reuters that the company was pleased with the outcome since it resolved the last of the large claims.

      GM has settled a number of cases related to the ignition defect, but it has gone to court to fight others. In 2017, it won a case brought by a GM owner who said the ignition problem was responsible for him rear-ending another car.

      General Motors (GM) has won a victory in federal court, where a judge narrowed claims concerning faulty ignition switches on some models. Consumers in thre...