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      Mercedes-Benz recalls GLE 350 and 450 4MATICs

      Information regarding adjustment of some head restraints is missing

      Mercedes-Benz USA(MBUSA) is recalling 1,478 model year 2020 GLE 350 4MATICs and GLE 450 4MATICs.

      The owner's manuals do not include information regarding the adjustment of the head restraints of the third row seats.

      Improperly adjusted head restraints increase the risk of injury to the third row seat passengers in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will provide a supplementary owner's manual with the necessary information free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 8, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA(MBUSA) is recalling 1,478 model year 2020 GLE 350 4MATICs and GLE 450 4MATICs.The owner's manuals do not include information regardin...
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      Airline to give passengers a heads-up on where babies and infants are sitting

      The agony of flying is a long way from disappearing, but both airlines and airports are moving in that direction

      There’s nothing to let travelers know where personal space perpetrators, seat kickers, or other etiquette offenders are sitting on a flight, but if you’re a flyer who agonizes about being seated close to a baby, one airline is rolling out the means to give you a heads-up.

      Japan Airlines (JAL) has made the first move in letting passengers know what seats have been selected by other fliers traveling with children between 8 days and 2 years old. When a traveler goes to select their seats online, a child icon will appear on those seats. Whether those travelers want to seek out solace somewhere else on the flight is up to them.

      It’s not a perfect system, though. JAL wants fliers to know that where those child icons show up might not be correct if the aircraft changes after booking. Seats booked as part of a tour, through the use of awards, or seats chosen through any other way than the JAL website aren’t part of the system either. 

      Other airlines offer something similar, but not in the same technology-driven manner as JAL. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways offers free flying nannies on some long-haul flights; Scoot Airlines, Singapore Air's budget brand, has child-free seating zones; and AirAsia X has a "quiet zone" on its flights, albeit for a $15 upcharge.

      Improving the industry

      Some travelers may think that the federal government should regulate seating. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t hold that same view.

      In spite of complaints about potential safety issues caused by the shrinking sizes of seats and legroom, the agency says it’s not in that business and it “has no evidence that there is an immediate safety issue necessitating rule-making at this time.”

      Fliers have no “bill of rights,” per se. However, while flying continues to be low on the list of things consumers look forward to, airlines and airports are both doing what they can to turn that perception around. 

      Airports are going as far as creating mazes, selling tacos, offering ice rinks, and even making 24/7 animal care and veterinary services available to travelers while they wait. And the airlines? There’s a lot of infrastructure that has to be modified, but airlines are trying to catch up to the digital age by offering charging outlets and free Wi-Fi.

      There’s nothing to let travelers know where personal space perpetrators, seat kickers, or other etiquette offenders are sitting on a flight, but if you’re...
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      DoorDash reports data breach that occurred in May

      The company says 4.9 million people may have been affected

      If you signed up for DoorDash before April 5, your personal information may have been compromised. The food delivery service reports a data breach that may affect as many as 4.9 million consumers.

      In a blog post, the company said that in addition to customers, delivery personnel and restaurants may have been affected by the breach.

      Company officials say the breach apparently occurred on May 4 of this year, but it was not discovered until nearly four months later. The company pins the blame on a third-party service provider but DoorDash declined to name the company.

      “Earlier this month, we became aware of unusual activity involving a third-party service provider,” the company said in its blog post. “We immediately launched an investigation and outside security experts were engaged to assess what occurred.”

      The investigation revealed that an “unauthorized third party” accessed some DoorDash user data on May 4, 2019. 

      “We took immediate steps to block further access by the unauthorized third party and to enhance security across our platform. We are reaching out directly to affected users,” the company said.

      What the hackers got

      The company believes the hackers gained access to customer profile information that includes names, email addresses, delivery addresses, order history, phone numbers, as well as hashed, salted passwords — a form of rendering the actual password indecipherable to third parties.

      It does not appear the hackers got away with customers’ credit card data. The company says in some cases the hackers may have gotten the last four digits of credit cards, but not the full number nor the CVV number, which is often required to make an online purchase.

      For about 100,000 delivery personnel, the company says hackers may have gained access to their driver’s license numbers.

      If your information was compromised expect to receive contact from DoorDash in the near future. The company said it is reaching out to those affected with instructions about what they should do.

      While it is not believed passwords were compromised in the breach DoorDash says it may be prudent for those affected by the breach to reset their passwords.

      If you signed up for DoorDash before April 5, your personal information may have been compromised. The food delivery service reports a data breach that may...
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      Gas price stability recovers two weeks after Saudi oil field attack

      The exception is California, where prices at the pump have surged

      Gasoline prices have leveled off after increases triggered by an attack on Saudi Arabian oil fields earlier this month. The exception is California, where prices are sharply higher due to refinery issues.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.65 a gallon, a penny less than a week ago. It’s seven cents higher than a month ago. The average price of premium gas is $3.24, up a penny in the last seven days. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.01 a gallon, two cents higher than last Friday.

      California added to its lead as the most expensive state for gasoline, with the statewide average rising nearly 13 cents a gallon in the last week. Refinery bottlenecks have temporarily reduced available fuel supplies, causing prices to rise.

      GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, Patrick DeHaan, reported at mid-week that the price at the pump in some California markets was closing in on $4 a gallon. The price is moving in the other direction in Michigan, falling 11 cents a gallon in the last seven days.

      Elsewhere, prices were mostly stable because gasoline stockpiles rose. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports domestic fuel supplies rose by 500,000 barrels last week, helped by a big increase in gasoline imports. The extra supply came in handy since consumer demand for gasoline rose slightly.

      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 ($3.84)

      • Hawaii ($3.68)

      • Washington ($3.21)

      • Nevada ($3.18)

      • Oregon ($3.07)

      • Alaska ($2.98)

      • Arizona ($2.91)

      • Utah ($2.81)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.79)

      • Illinois ($2.78)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.32)

      • Louisiana ($2.32)

      • Arkansas ($2.33)

      • Alabama ($2.34)

      • South Carolina ($2.34)

      • Virginia ($2.36)

      • Texas ($2.37)

      • Tennessee ($2.38)

      • Oklahoma ($2.38)

      • Missouri ($2.38)

      Gasoline prices have leveled off after increases triggered by an attack on Saudi Arabian oil fields earlier this month. The exception is California, where...
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      Randsland Farms recalls Super Salad Kits and Kale

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Randsland Farms is recalling Randsland brand Super Salad Kits and Randsland brand Kale.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

      The following products, sold in retail stores in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, are being recalled:

      Brand

      Name

      Common

      Name

      SizeUPC

      Code(s)

      on

      Product

      Rands

      land

      Super

      Salad

      Kit

      454 g

      0

      572

      25

      000

      05 6

      2919

      071
      100

      119

      Rands

      land

      Kale340 g

      0

      572

      25

      000

      06 3

      2919

      071
      100

      119

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (902) 670-3139.

      Randsland Farms is recalling Randsland brand Super Salad Kits and Randsland brand Kale.The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....
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      Nissan recalls 1.2 million model year 2018-2019 vehicles

      The back-up camera may not display an image

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,228,830 model year 2018-2019 Nissan Altimas, Frontiers, Kicks, Leafs, Maximas, Muranos, NVs, NV200s, Pathfinders, Rogues, Rogue Sports, Sentras, Titans, Versa Notes, Versa Sedans, Infiniti Q50s, Q60s, QX30s and QX80s.

      Also being recalled are model year 2019 Nissan GT-Rs& Taxis and Infiniti QX50s, QX60s, Q70s and Q70Ls.

      The back-up camera and display settings can be adjusted such that the rear view image is no longer visible and the system will retain that setting the next time the vehicle is placed in reverse.

      The lack of an image in the back-up camera display increases the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners in phases, and have dealers update the back-up camera settings software free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 21, 2019, and all affected VINs should be activated by November 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at (800) 867-7669 or Infiniti customer service at (800)662-6200.

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,228,830 model year 2018-2019 Nissan Altimas, Frontiers, Kicks, Leafs, Maximas, Muranos, NVs, NV200s, Pathfinders, Rogue...
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      Boeing will pay families of 737 MAX crash victims $144,500 each

      The company is also creating a new committee tasked with oversight of all safety-related aspects

      Boeing announced that it will compensate the families of the 346 victims of two fatal 737 MAX crashes, paying out approximately $144,500 each. That amount comes from a financial assistance fund of $50 million the company set up in July.

      As reported by Reuters, Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg called the endeavor “an important step in our efforts to help affected families.”

      “The recent 737 MAX tragedies weigh heavily on all of us at Boeing, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of all those on board,” the executive said.

      In addition to the $50 million in immediate assistance to the victims’ families, Boeing is also setting up a separate $50 million endowment to be used toward education and economic empowerment for communities and families impacted by the crashes.

      Recommitment to safety

      Boeing’s return to normalcy is far from complete. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says there’s still work the aircraft manufacturer needs to do regarding the software that was apparently at the heart of the crashes.

      Nonetheless, Boeing publicly reaffirmed its “longstanding commitment to aerospace safety and the safety of its products and services” on Wednesday. In a news release, Muilenburg introduced the creation of a permanent Aerospace Safety Committee as part of Boeing’s Board of Directors. The committee will be tasked with guaranteeing design safety, as well as monitoring other production processes.

      Adding to the company’s recommitment to safety, the board also established other measures to minimize the possibility of future mishaps. These include:

      • A change in Boeing’s governance principles that will require safety-related experience as one of the factors it will utilize in choosing future board members. Until this change, the company’s governing principles had no references to safety at all.

      • The creation of a Product and Services Safety organization that will oversee all aspects of product safety, “including investigating cases of undue pressure and anonymous product and service safety concerns raised by employees.”

      • Amplifying the role and extending the reach of the Safety Promotion Center to include all of the company’s employees, offices, and factories in an effort to “reinforce Boeing's … safety culture and remind employees and the flying public of the company's unyielding commitment to safety, quality and integrity.”

      “The safety of the global aviation industry is rooted in its dedication to continuous improvement and learning," said Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, Jr., former chairman of the Committee of Airplane Policies and Processes and newly appointed chairman of the Aerospace Safety Committee. "The independent committee review was extensive, rigorous and focused on delivering specific recommendations to ensure the highest levels of safety in Boeing airplanes and aerospace products and services and for all who fly on Boeing airplanes.” 

      "The committee and the board believe these recommendations, along with actions already taken by the board, will strengthen engineering at the company, bolster the safety policies and procedures for the design, development and production of Boeing products and services, and further improve board and management oversight and accountability for safety not only at Boeing, but throughout the global aerospace industry.”

      Boeing announced that it will compensate the families of the 346 victims of two fatal 737 MAX crashes, paying out approximately $144,500 each. That amount...
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      Apple cautions against using third-party technicians for display repairs

      The company has advised iPhone 11 users to get their phone fixed at company-approved locations

      Two weeks after unveiling three new iPhone models, Apple is advising iPhone 11 users not to go to third-party technicians for display repairs. 

      The company said iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max users need to ensure their device gets fixed using genuine parts. Failure to go to a service provider or technician that hasn’t been vetted by Apple could result in incorrect color calibration, multi-touch issues, ambient light sensor problems, or other issues. 

      “Additionally, repairs that don't properly replace screws or cowlings might leave behind loose parts that could damage the battery, cause overheating, or result in injury,” Apple said in a statement on its website.

      Apple said iPhone 11 users who replace their screens with an aftermarket component will see a message that reads, "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple display." The message will remain on the lock screen for four days. After that, it can be found under the “About” section in “Settings.” The warning will not affect the ability to use the iPhone or its display.

      “If you need to replace your iPhone display, it's important for certified technicians who use genuine Apple display parts to repair it,” the company said. “Only technicians who have completed Apple service training and who use Apple genuine parts and tools should replace iPhone displays.” 

      Two weeks after unveiling three new iPhone models, Apple is advising iPhone 11 users not to go to third-party technicians for display repairs. The comp...
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      Home prices were 3 percent higher in July

      Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Charlotte saw the biggest price jumps

      After dipping earlier in the year, home prices are moving higher again -- and that may be prompting some potential buyers to get off the sidelines.

      The monthly S&P Dow Jones Indices for July show home prices rose 3.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Charlotte showed the biggest gains in the 20-City Composite Index.

      In July, the median home in Phoenix increased in value by 5.8 percent year-over-year, followed by Las Vegas with a 4.7 percent increase. Charlotte was close behind with a 4.6 percent increase in the median home price.

      "Year-over-year home prices continued to gain, but at ever more modest rates," said Philip Murphy, managing director and global head of Index Governance at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Charlotte surpassed Tampa to join the top three cities, and Seattle may be turning around from its recent negative streak of YOY price changes, improving from -1.3 percent in June to -0.06 percent in July.

      Still affordable

      Despite the uptick in home values, affordability may be slightly improved because mortgage interest rates have trended lower recently. Mortgage News Daily reported this week that the most prevalent rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 3.75 percent.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that applications for new home purchases surged 33 percent in August

      Rising prices and still-low mortgage rates may be sending more buyers into the market, according to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The group reports that more than half of the consumers it surveyed said now is a good time to buy a home.

      “Mortgage rates are at historically low levels, so I see no sign of the optimism about home buying fading,” said NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun. “However, the fact that slightly fewer are expressing strong intensity compared to recent prior quarters is implying some would-be buyers have concerns about the direction of the economy.”

      Broken down demographically older consumers -- those born between 1925 and 1945 -- were most likely to believe it’s a good time to buy. Boomers were almost as bullish on the housing market.

      Sales have slowed in recent months, and a major reason, housing economists say, is current homeowners have been reluctant to move and therefore have hesitated to put their homes on the market.

      After dipping earlier in the year, home prices are moving higher again -- and that may be prompting some potential buyers to get off the sidelines.The...
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      TDBBS recalls pig ear pet treats

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      TDBBS is recalling two pig ear pet treat products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported.

      The following products, sold through Amazon.com and shipped to customers between April 22, 2019, and August 13, 2019, are being recalled:  

      TDBBS, LLC USA Thick Pig Ear 8 PackTDBBS, LLC USA Thick Pig Ear 20 Pack
      UPC: X001768PNBUPC: X000RBC5VF
      Best By Date: 4/22/2021 Lot Code: 1129T1Best By Date: 4/22/2021 Lot Code: 1129T1
      Best By Date: 6/06/2021 Lot Code: 1549T1Best By Date: 5/13/2021 Lot Code: 1339T1
      Best By Date: 8/05/2021 Lot Code: 2179T1

      All UPCs, Best By Dates and Lot Codes are located on the package back.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of them.

      Consumers with questions may contact customer service at (877) 483-5853, Monday through Friday 9 – 5pm or by email at customerservice@tdbbsllc.com.

      TDBBS is recalling two pig ear pet treat products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses have been reported.The following products,...
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      Chrysler recalls Mopar replacement passenger airbag modules

      The airbag modules may not perform as designed

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 26 Mopar replacement passenger airbag modules, part number 68335088AA.

      The airbag modules did not complete developmental testing.

      A passenger airbag module that has not completed developmental testing may not perform as designed when deployed in a vehicle crash, increasing the risk of an injury.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the suspect passenger airbag modules with passenger airbag modules that have completed validation testing free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 1, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403.Chrysler's number for this recall is VA4.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 26 Mopar replacement passenger airbag modules, part number 68335088AA.The airbag modules did not complete developmen...
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      GM recalls model year 2015-2018 Chevrolet Trax vehicles

      The lower-control arm could separate from the vehicle, affecting steering

      General Motors is recalling 93,693 model year 2015-2018 Chevrolet Trax vehicles.

      A joint in one or both of the front lower-control arms may have been improperly welded, resulting in the partial separation of the lower-control arm from the vehicle.

      This could cause the attached front wheel to toe outward, affecting the vehicle's handling and steering and increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the left and right front lower-control arms, replacing them as necessary free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020. GM's number for this recall is A192261870.

      General Motors is recalling 93,693 model year 2015-2018 Chevrolet Trax vehicles.A joint in one or both of the front lower-control arms may have been im...
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      Over one million more workers now eligible for overtime pay

      The Labor Department finalized the pro-worker rule change on Tuesday

      On Tuesday, the Department of Labor finalized a rule that will make roughly 1.3 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay. 

      Starting January 1, the minimum salary threshold will be raised to $35,568 per year. Previously, only workers who earned less than $23,000 a year could receive overtime pay under federal law. 

      "This rule brings a commonsense approach that offers consistency and certainty for employers as well as clarity and prosperity for American workers,” acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said in a statement

      However, an earlier rule proposed by the Obama administration would have made 2.8 million other workers eligible to receive overtime pay. 

      Critics say the rules don’t go far enough

      Critics of the Labor Department’s new rule take issue with the fact that fewer workers will be eligible for overtime than they would have under an Obama-era rule, which proposed raising the threshold to more than $47,000. 

      That rule would have made close to 3 million more workers eligible for either more pay or a shorter workweek, but it was challenged by states and business groups and ultimately never implemented 

      "It's a missed opportunity in the sense that millions more could have been helped," Heidi Shierholz, a former Labor Department chief economist under Obama, told NPR. 

      The Labor Department says the modified overtime rule will transfer about $400 million per year from U.S. employers to their workers over the next decade.

      "Today's rule is a thoughtful product informed by public comment, listening sessions, and long-standing calculations," the Labor Department's wage and hour division administrator Cheryl Stanton said in a statement.

      On Tuesday, the Department of Labor finalized a rule that will make roughly 1.3 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay. Starting Janua...
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      FCC finds Sprint wrongly collected millions from 885,000 consumers

      The mistake could affect the FCC’s decision to support the carrier’s merger with T-Mobile

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into Sprint after finding that it improperly collected millions of dollars in federal subsidies. 

      The funds were taken in through the FCC’s Lifeline program, which helps low-income consumers with a $9.25 monthly subsidy on phone and broadband services. Sprint argues that the money in question was collected due to confusion about a rule change that occurred in 2016. 

      FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called it “outrageous” that the funds were taken from roughly 885,000 consumers who weren’t active subscribers of Sprint’s service. The FCC said Sprint disregarded its “non-usage rule,” which requires Lifeline providers to de-enroll subscribers who don’t use their phones. 

      “Lifeline is an important component of our efforts to bring digital opportunity to low-income Americans, and stopping waste, fraud, and abuse in the program has been a top priority of mine since I’ve been at the Commission,” Pai said in a statement

      “It’s outrageous that a company would claim millions of taxpayer dollars for doing nothing. This shows a careless disregard for program rules and American taxpayers,” he said. “I have asked our Enforcement Bureau to investigate this matter to determine the full extent of the problem and to propose an appropriate remedy.” 

      Collected in “error”

      In statements to the media, Sprint claimed the subsidy payments were collected in error after a rule change regarding how usage and eligibility for Lifeline subscribers must be calculated went into effect.

      “While immaterial to Sprint’s financial results, we are committed to reimbursing federal and state governments for any subsidy payments that were collected as a result of the error,” a company spokesperson said. 

      Sprint noted that it immediately reported the error to the FCC and state regulators. 

      “When the error was discovered, we immediately investigated and proactively raised this issue with the FCC and appropriate state regulators. We also engaged an independent third party to review the results of our review and the effectiveness of our operational changes,” the spokesperson added. 

      Possible impact on merger with T-Mobile

      The FCC had previously expressed its support of Sprint’s plan to merge with T-Mobile, but FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said Sprint’s mistake “directly impacts” the agency’s views on the matter. 

      In a statement, Starks said the alleged misconduct “amounts to corporate malfeasance” if found to be true. 

      “There is no credible way that the merger before us can proceed until this Lifeline investigation is resolved and responsible parties are held accountable,” he said. “Without the benefit of the findings of this investigation into what appears to be the worst case of Lifeline violations in FCC history, it is impossible for us to trust in the integrity and completeness of the record, evaluate the character and fitness of the applicants, and exercise our statutorily defined obligation to grant only license transfers that serve the public interest.” 

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into Sprint after finding that it improperly collected...
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      Social support could be the key to beating imposter syndrome

      Researchers suggest it’s common to experience feelings of self-doubt in many professional settings

      Feelings of doubt can creep up on consumers when they least expect it -- and they may not even know the name for what they’re feeling. 

      Despite being qualified for a job or university, employees and students can feel like they don’t really belong in their roles and that their acceptance was somehow an accident. This is imposter syndrome in a nutshell: feeling fraudulent, though success has been documented. 

      Because this feeling is so pervasive in many professional settings, researchers from Brigham Young University discovered a helpful way for consumers to cope with imposter syndrome. They say that cultivating a support group of people outside of the circle where one feels like an imposter could be helpful.

      “Those outside the social group seem to be able to help students see the big picture and recalibrate their reference groups,” said researcher Jeff Bednar. “After reaching outside their social group for support, students are able to understand themselves more holistically rather than being so focused on what they felt lacked in just one area.” 

      Building encouraging support groups

      The researchers conducted a two-part study to better understand imposter syndrome and what tactics were helpful -- and unhelpful -- in trying to overcome those fraudulent feelings. 

      College students in a rigorous academic environment were interviewed for the first part of the study. Researchers gauged the prevalence of imposter syndrome to see if participants identified with these feelings. They then asked those who had those feelings about how they coped on a day-to-day basis.

      One of the biggest takeaways from this portion of the study was that the majority of the students who reported feeling like an imposter academically all shared a common coping mechanism: finding friends outside of their program.  

      In the latter portion of the study, the opposite also revealed itself to be true. Following the interviews, the researchers surveyed over 200 college students to see if a pattern would emerge that was similar to the results from the first part of the study. 

      Ultimately, students who sought out friends outside of their major were able to reduce how fraudulent they felt in school, whereas having friends in the same area of study was found to exacerbate the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. 

      The researchers were pleased with these findings, as they certainly speak to the professional environment more generally and can be beneficial for consumers struggling with feelings of imposter syndrome in the workplace. 

      “It’s important to create cultures where people talk about failure and mistakes,” said Bednar. “When we create those cultures, someone who is feeling strong feelings of imposterism will be more likely to get the help they need within the organization.” 

      Feelings of doubt can creep up on consumers when they least expect it -- and they may not even know the name for what they’re feeling. Despite being qu...
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      Court blocks FCC rule changes on broadcast media ownership

      The agency says the court is attempting to assume the FCC’s authority

      A federal appeals court has vacated a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that would have liberalized media ownership rules.

      In a 2-1 vote, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the agency did not “adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities."

      The court ruled against the FCC because it said it "cited no evidence whatsoever regarding gender diversity," the judges wrote. The FCC had previously stated that there was no available data on female media ownership.

      The court said the FCC’s failure to address the impact on female ownership was egregious enough but added that the agency failed to properly consider the evidence of minority ownership.

      Drastic changes

      Rules covering radio and TV station ownership have changed drastically in the last 40 years. It was not that long ago that the FCC prevented one company from owning more than seven AM, FM, and TV stations, and none in the same market.

      Today one company may own hundreds of stations, including multiple stations in a single market.

      The FCC adopted a rule in 2017 that eliminated some of the cross-ownership rules, declaring that they had little effect on diversity of ownership. 

      The court ruling also overturned a 2018 FCC order that created a special program to help new players in the broadcast industry. The court found that the FCC's definition of "new entrant" made "no overt reference to race, gender, or social disadvantage." 

      The FCC says it plans to appeal the court’s ruling. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai complained that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has consistently assumed FCC authority, attempting to block the agency from modernizing broadcast regulations.

      A federal appeals court has vacated a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that would have liberalized media ownership rules.In a 2-1 vote, the...
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      Consumer confidence drops sharply in September

      Economists say tariffs and trade tensions are finally taking their toll

      Consumers have been major contributors to economic growth this year, but their optimism appears to be waning a bit.

      The Conference Board’s monthly Consumer Confidence Index, a gauge of how consumers feel about the economy, lost significant ground in September after a slight decline the month before. The index is a still-respectable 125, but it was 134.2 in August.

      "Consumers were less positive in their assessment of current conditions and their expectations regarding the short-term outlook also weakened,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. 

      Franco thinks the ongoing trade war with China and the escalation of tariffs at the end of August shook consumers’ confidence. Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, agrees with that assessment, adding that trade tensions have morphed into trade anxiety.

      “The Index dropped significantly this month, which does not bode well for consumer spending, especially combined with the weakening numbers in the  Consumer Sentiment Index, which also pointed to worries over the trade situation,” Frick said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “The trade war ratcheted up significantly in both rhetoric and tariffs.”

      More reliance on consumers

      Frick says the fact that the manufacturing sector is contracting and the job market is softening means consumers are being relied upon even more to keep the economy moving.

      “We'll see how this affects consumer spending in the months to come, though we may have had a taste of lower spending already--retail sales were flat in August after deducting for a surge in car sales,” Frick said.

      Specifically, the Conference Board monthly survey found consumers' appraisal of current economic conditions is less favorable than it was a month before. There was a slight decrease in the number of consumers who said business conditions are “good” and a slight increase in those who said conditions were “bad.”

      Questions about the job market

      Consumers also seem to be more wary of employment conditions, with the percentage of those saying jobs are plentiful falling from 50.3 percent to 44.8 percent.

      Franco says the erosion of confidence was not unexpected, especially in light of trade tensions. She says consumers’ confidence in the economy may have plateaued for the year.

      “While confidence could continue hovering around current levels for months to come, at some point this continued uncertainty will begin to diminish consumers' confidence in the expansion,"  Franco said.

      Consumers have been major contributors to economic growth this year, but their optimism appears to be waning a bit.The Conference Board’s monthly Consu...
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      Model year 2019 Ram 2500, 3500 and 3500 Cab Chassis trucks recalled

      The brakes may drag and overheat, increasing the risk of a crash

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 5,495 model year 2019 Ram 2500, 3500 and 3500 Cab Chassis trucks.

      The brake calipers may have been manufactured with an incorrect assembly fluid, which can cause the caliper's rubber seals to swell.

      The swollen seals can cause the brakes to drag and potentially overheat, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front brake calipers and brake hoses and bleed the brakes free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V98.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 5,495 model year 2019 Ram 2500, 3500 and 3500 Cab Chassis trucks.The brake calipers may have been manufactured with...
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      Microsoft releases patch for flaw in Internet Explorer

      A zero-day vulnerability has already been actively exploited

      Microsoft has deployed an “emergency” security update for Windows 10 users following the discovery of a vulnerability in Internet Explorer. In a security advisory, the tech giant classified the flaw as a remote code vulnerability, meaning malicious code could be injected into a browser remotely by a hacker.

      “The vulnerability could corrupt memory in such a way that an attacker could execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user,” the company said. “An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could take control of an affected system.”

      The flaw was discovered and reported to Microsoft by security engineer Clement Lecigne, a member of Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG). The vulnerability had already been exploited by attackers prior to its discovery.

      “In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit the vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website, for example, by sending an email,” Microsoft warned.

      Users urged to update immediately

      Microsoft said the out-of-band security update it has issued, “addresses the vulnerability by modifying how the scripting engine handles objects in memory.” 

      The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also issued a security advisory encouraging users to apply the necessary updates to prevent an affected system from being taken over by a remote attacker. 

      Windows users are advised to install the updates right away. Microsoft’s security advisory includes links to the manual update packages

      Microsoft has deployed an “emergency” security update for Windows 10 users following the discovery of a vulnerability in Internet Explorer. In a security a...
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      Vaping death toll rises to nine

      Health officials in Kansas have reported a second vaping-related death in their state

      A Kansas man over 50 years old with preexisting health conditions died Monday from causes believed to be linked to vaping, bringing the total number of vaping-related deaths in the U.S. to nine.

      The patient who died had begun using e-cigarettes just before his symptoms set in and hospitalization became necessary. Kansas health officials said they don’t know which type of e-cigarette product, device, and substances he used. 

      In a press release announcing the latest fatality, officials from the state noted that the number of illnesses associated with vaping has now surpassed 500. Federal and state health officials are still investigating the cause of an outbreak of lung illnesses. 

      “E-cigarettes are unregulated, which means that we don’t know what’s in them,” said Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman. “And, of great concern to me, is that in the midst of all these illnesses being reported, the amount of young people using them is significant.”

      Cause of lung illnesses still under investigation

      At this time, researchers suspect a chemical derived from vitamin E may be the underlying cause of some of the lung illnesses. 

      “We know that in vaping solutions, there’s oils like Vitamin E acetate which is the one that’s thought to be probably contributing, there’s heavy metals, there’s poisons,” Dr. Norman said. “And we know that it looks like an oil infused into the lungs that is causing this, but the compound has not been 100% identified.”

      The FDA recently launched a criminal investigation into vaping that will focus on uncovering the cause of the illnesses by looking at the chemical makeup of the products and how people use them. Researchers will conduct a forensic analysis of more than 150 vaping product samples to look for the presence of nicotine, THC, and other cannabinoids, opioids, cutting agents, additives, pesticides, poisons, toxins and any other substances.

      “We are in desperate need of facts," Mitch Zeller, the agency’s tobacco director, said in a statement. “The focus of their work is to identify what is making people sick, as well as a focus on the supply chain.”

      Avoiding use of e-cigarettes recommended

      While the investigation into the illnesses is ongoing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised people to consider not using e-cigarette products. Those who use the products should monitor themselves for symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and cough and seek medical attention for any health concerns. 

      “We do not yet know the specific cause of these lung injuries,” the CDC said in an advisory. “The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) or substance that is linked to all cases.” 

      The House Oversight and Reform Committee’s panel on consumer products is set to meet Tuesday for a hearing on the surge in illnesses tied to vaping.

      A Kansas man over 50 years old with preexisting health conditions died Monday from causes believed to be linked to vaping, bringing the total number of vap...
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      Onion and garlic linked with lower risk of breast cancer in women

      Researchers say the foods could help reduce breast cancer risk by nearly 70 percent

      Researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that women who regularly consume onions and garlic could be reducing their risk of developing breast cancer.

      In a population-based study in Puerto Rico, the team looked at consumption of the two foods and found that eating them on a daily basis led to a significant reduction in breast cancer risk.

      “We found that among Puerto Rican women, the combined intake of onion and garlic, as well as sofrito, was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer,” said researcher Gauri Desai. 

      How the ingredients help

      The women involved in the study were between the ages of 30 and 79, and 346 women without breast cancer were compared with 314 women who had been diagnosed with the disease. 

      All of the participants completed food frequency questionnaires so the researchers could determine how often they were consuming onions, garlic, or sofrito -- a popular condiment in Puerto Rico with an onion and garlic base. 

      The study revealed that consuming onions and garlic regularly was effective in reducing the women’s likelihood of developing breast cancer. When compared with those who never ate garlic or onions, those who incorporated the ingredients into their daily lives were nearly 70 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. 

      According to Desai, the ingredients contain “flavonols and organosulfur compounds,” both of which have properties that are known to reduce cancer risk. The compounds have also been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes.. 

      Diet plays a role

      Earlier this summer, researchers found that eating less red meat could also be effective for women to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. 

      While red meat in any capacity has been found to be bad for consumers’ overall health, opting for poultry instead of red meat can be beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer. 

      “Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen,” said researcher Dale P. Sandler, PhD. “Our study adds further evidence that red meat consumption may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer, whereas poultry was associated with decreased risk.” 

      Researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that women who regularly consume onions and garlic could be reducing their risk of developing breast...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators

      The vehicle could suffer a sudden loss of drive power

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 3,427 model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators.

      The rear driveshafts may have been incorrectly assembled without grease in the monoblock joint.

      A joint without grease may overheat and seize, possibly causing the driveshaft to fracture, resulting in a sudden loss of drive power.

      If the driveshaft completely separates from the vehicle it may become a road hazard. Either of these situations can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

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

      The recall is expected to begin October 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800)853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V95.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 3,427 model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators.The rear driveshafts may have been incorrectly assembled without grease in the...
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      Four senators ask for FDA ban of cartridge-based e-cigarettes

      Lawmakers say the products should be pulled until they are proven safe

      The anti-vaping drumbeat is getting louder in Washington, as four members of the U.S. Senate have asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately ban the most popular kind of e-cigarette products from the market.

      The senators -- Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) -- cite the mysterious lung ailments that have been linked to e-cigarette use. In a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless, the lawmakers call for the immediate removal of all pod- and cartridge-based e-cigarettes from the market, unless or until they can prove that they benefit the public health.

      The proposal is a sharp escalation of the steps currently under consideration. The FDA last week launched a criminal investigation into the 530 cases of lung illnesses, including eight deaths. The Trump administration is also reportedly considering a ban on flavored e-cigarette products.

      Lawmakers fault the FDA

      In their letter, the senators denounce what they say has been a lack of action from the FDA when it comes to e-cigarette products. 

      “The proliferation of cartridge-based e-cigarettes—and their ever-increasing popularity with children—is primarily due to the FDA’s years-long refusal to regulate any e-cigarette devices or impose common-sense design standards preventing against adulteration, despite having the authority to do so,” they said. “Make no mistake: none of the e-cigarettes, including cartridge-based e-cigarettes, currently on the market have gone through the FDA approval process.  They have not demonstrated that they are safe and effective for helping adults quit smoking cigarettes.”

      The lawmakers point to reports of the increasing use of e-cigarettes by people under the age of 18. They contend that five million children are now vaping, including one in four high school students.

      In a recent one-year period, 2017 to 2018, the lawmakers say America saw a 78 percent increase in the number of high school students using e-cigarettes and a 48 percent increase in the number of middle school children using the products. 

      The senators draw a distinction between cartridge-based systems and the open tank e-cigarettes that are typically sold in vape shops. They say cartridge-based products are often sold in convenience stores and other outlets where under-age consumers have freer access.

      The anti-vaping drumbeat is getting louder in Washington, as four members of the U.S. Senate have asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediate...
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      Walmart to discontinue sales of e-cigarettes at U.S. stores

      The company says it will stop stocking the products after current supplies run out

      Walmart has announced that it will stop selling e-cigarettes and all related devices and accessories at its U.S. locations. 

      The retailer said Friday that its decision to pull the products was made in response to “growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty” around e-cigarettes. Walmart said it will no longer stock the products once its current inventory is gone. 

      Health officials said last week that more than 530 cases of a mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have now been reported. Since August, at least eight people who reported using e-cigarettes have died. 

      “Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the company said in a memo to local managers, according to CNBC. “We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory.”

      Health risks in question

      Last week, the Trump administration announced that it’s moving toward a federal ban on all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products in response to mounting health concerns related to the products. The same week, New York announced that it would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping products in an effort to address the same concerns.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclosed late last week that it has opened a criminal investigation into vaping and the illnesses it appears to have caused. The agency’s tobacco director, Mitch Zeller, said the probe is focused on uncovering the cause of the illnesses by examining the chemical makeup of the products and how people use them. 

      “We are in desperate need of facts," Zeller said. “The focus of their work is to identify what is making people sick, as well as a focus on the supply chain.”

      Walmart’s decision to stop selling e-cigarettes came several months after it ceased sales of fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes and raised the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21.

      Leaders in the vaping industry continue to assert that the products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, called Walmart’s decision to reduce adult smokers’ access to regulated vaping products “irresponsible.” 

      "This will drive former adult smokers to purchase more cigarettes,” Abboud said in a statement.

      Walmart has announced that it will stop selling e-cigarettes and all related devices and accessories at its U.S. locations. The retailer said Friday th...
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      Boeing’s 737 MAX still on hold while FAA waits for software updates

      If everything goes to plan, the aircraft might be back in the air by the holidays

      What’s going on with Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX?

      After two fatal crashes of the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history -- the 737 MAX 8 aircraft -- in October 2018 and March 2019, aviation regulators around the world grounded the 737 MAX until further notice. That put airlines using the aircraft -- Southwest, American, and others -- into a whirlwind of fits and starts.

      Those fits and starts -- including thorough scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- are still happening, but reports have surfaced that there’s some light starting to appear at the end of this saga’s tunnel.

      In a report from Reuters, FAA chief Steve Dickson met with Boeing officials on Thursday and was on hand to witness a simulated test of the latest version of the plane’s revised software. Dickson’s timeline for a re-launch of the plane holds out the possibility that it could be back in the air in about a month. However, the regulator was adamant he would not “sign off on the plane until I am personally satisfied.”

      “We’ve had conversations about the importance of making sure that we are looking at complete documentation and not piecemeal documentation,” Dickson said. “It’s really better to be very methodical and very detailed rather than try to rush a partially completed product and then say, ‘We’ll get back to you with the rest of it.’”

      The new timeline

      The key component on the FAA’s checklist is Boeing’s “final system description” - a “500-ish page document that has the architecture of the flight control system and the changes that they have made,” Dickson said. Dickson went on to explain that the software changes must be in a “pre-production” code as opposed to a “beta version.”

      After that, the FAA will move on to testing pilot workload management situations. Once that’s given the necessary thumbs-up, the agency feels it will be better able to define a realistic timeline for the actual certification test flight. 

      That pilot workload step is a crucial one. For the benefit of everyone involved -- the consumer, Boeing, and regulators -- the FAA is also asking for input from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as well as Canadian and Brazilian regulators to make sure everything’s as it should be. 

      “We’ve got U.S. and international pilots that have to be scheduled to come out and actually go through the scenarios” and nail down training requirements, Dickson said.

      If Boeing gets its wish, the flying public will see the MAX back in the skies sometime in the fourth quarter. That would be perfect timing for the airlines that would like to have it available for the holiday travel surge. Nonetheless, Boeing has been smart enough not to put the cart before the horse, reiterating on Thursday that it’s “committed to working collaboratively” with the FAA and other federal regulators.

      What’s going on with Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX?After two fatal crashes of the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history -- the 737 MAX 8 aircraft...
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      Fighting climate change could be good for business

      Researchers say ignoring the problem could come with disastrous side effects

      While many consumers have started doing more in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia found that businesses should consider increasing their sustainability efforts. 

      The study revealed that ignoring the issue of climate change will not only create more problems for consumers, but it will also cost companies more money in the long-run than it would have if they had taken more active steps.

      “Acting on climate change has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting,” said researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. 

      Positive return on fighting climate change

      The researchers are concerned about the world at large, but they believe that climate change can be particularly harsh on poorer populations and regions. They want to enlist the help of world leaders to help make a change. 

      The team addressed several facets of climate change that could have a devastating effect on people, places, and animals, including rising sea levels, massive animal extinctions, and rising global temperatures. 

      “This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere,” said researcher Michael Taylor. “That said, people from small island States and low-lying countries are in the immediate cross-hairs of climate change.” 

      Much of the researchers’ findings look at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which focused on reducing the rising global temperature. 

      Though experts previously thought that limiting global warming to just two degrees Celsius would be sufficient, Hoegh-Guldberg and his team say that keeping that figure closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius would actually be the best scenario. However, they say it’s up to lawmakers to put the initiatives in motion that will help slow global warming. 

      “If such a policy is not implemented, we will continue on the upward trajectory of burning fossil fuels and continuing deforestation, which will expand the already large-scale degradation of ecosystems,” said researcher Rachel Warren. “To be honest, the overall picture is very grim unless we act.” 

      The researchers hope that world leaders and policymakers take these warnings seriously and do everything in their power to preserve the environment. 

      “Current emission reduction commitments are inadequate risk throwing many nations into chaos and harm, with a particular vulnerability of poor peoples,” said Hoegh-Guldberg. “To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement.” 

      “Tackling climate change is a tall order,” he continued. “However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being -- and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” 

      While many consumers have started doing more in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the Universi...
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      Gas prices level off after sharp increase following Saudi oil field attack

      The average price is up about a dime a gallon in the last week

      Less than a week after a drone attack on a huge Saudi Arabian oil field, prices at the pump have jumped and leveled off. At this point at least, it appears the damage to consumers could have been a lot worse.

      The explosions and fires shut down half of Saudi oil production, reducing world oil output by 5 percent. The loss of oil production was felt quickly in world oil markets, with oil prices surging. But after the Saudis predicted full production would resume by the end of the month, oil prices fell again.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.67 a gallon, about a dime more than last Friday -- the day before the attacks. But the price is only five cents more than it was a month ago and well below last year’s price. The average price of premium is $3.24 a gallon, up eight cents in the last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.00 a gallon, seven cents higher than a week ago.

      What’s next?

      Where do prices go from here? Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says prices could rise a few more cents a gallon. However, he notes that the situation remains in flux.

      “The Saudis said they expect to get production back online sooner than what expectations were, and that helped,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “But but there's some worry now whether they can meet that. So that could be a changing impact on gasoline prices should there be a deviation.”

      .And there’s something else, closer to home, that could keep gas prices rising. DeHaan says anticipated flooding in Houston could threaten to curtail refinery output, reducing supplies of gasoline. But he doesn’t think consumers will feel a huge price shock at this point.

      “I don't think we'll see more than a dime rise, if that, from today unless these situations change from this moment,” DeHaan said.

      There is one bright spot in the gasoline picture; demand from consumers is falling. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports demand for fuel dropped by 900,000 barrels a day last week, taking pressure off supplies.

      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 ($3.71)

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • Washington ($3.21)

      • Nevada ($3.16)

      • Oregon ($3.07)

      • Alaska ($2.98)

      • Arizona ($2.88)

      • Illinois ($2.85)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.81)

      • Michigan ($2.78)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.31)

      • Louisiana ($2.31)

      • Alabama ($2.22)

      • South Carolina ($2.33)

      • Arkansas ($2.35)

      • Tennessee ($2.39)

      • Texas ($2.38)

      • Virginia ($2.38)

      • Oklahoma ($2.38)

      • Missouri ($2.39)

      Less than a week after a drone attack on a huge Saudi Arabian oil field, prices at the pump have jumped and leveled off. At this point at least, it appears...
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      BMW recalls MINI Hardtop 2-Door Cooper, Cooper S and JCW vehicles

      The rear side trim panels may not have a crash pad

      BMW of North America is recalling 683 model year 2020 MINI Hardtop 2-Door Cooper, Cooper S and JCW vehicles.

      The rear side trim panels may have been assembled without a crash pad.

      As a result, rear seat passengers would have an increased risk of injury in a side impact crash.

      What to do

      MINI will notify owners, and dealers will install crash pads free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2019.

      Owners may contact MINI customer service at (866) 825-1525.

      BMW of North America is recalling 683 model year 2020 MINI Hardtop 2-Door Cooper, Cooper S and JCW vehicles.The rear side trim panels may have been ass...
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      Perdue Foods recalls Simply Smart Organics frozen chicken

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

      Perdue Foods of Perry, Ga., is recalling approximately 495 pounds of frozen ready-to-eat chicken.

      The product, which is labeled as gluten free, contains wheat, an allergen not declared on the label.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following item, produced on August 30, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 22-oz. resealable plastic bags containing “Simply Smart Organics CHICKEN BREAST TENDERS GLUTEN FREE” with “Best By: 08 29 20,” UPC Bar Code: 0-72745-80489-2, and time stamps of 00:30 to 01:00 (inclusive).

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-33944” on the package label, was shipped to distributors and retail locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Perdue consumer care at (866) 866-3703.

      Perdue Foods of Perry, Ga., is recalling approximately 495 pounds of frozen ready-to-eat chicken.The product, which is labeled as gluten free, contains...
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      Pennsylvania AG joins effort to block T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

      The deal is now opposed by 18 state attorneys general

      Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced he will add his name to the list of states lobbying to block T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, bringing the total number of state attorney generals who have expressed their opposition to the merger to 18. 

      In a statement published Wednesday, Shapiro pledged his commitment to protecting Pennsylvanians’ access to “affordable, reliable wireless service.” 

      “The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would severely undermine competition in the telecommunications sector, which would hurt Pennsylvanian consumers by driving up prices, limiting coverage, and diminishing quality,” he said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleague Attorneys General in opposing this merger and advocating on behalf of Pennsylvania consumers.”

      Growing list of opponents

      Shapiro joins the following other states in seeking to block the “anticompetitive megamerger”: New York, California, Texas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. 

      In July, the Department of Justice approved the merger on the condition that the carriers sell some of their assets to Dish Network. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also said it supports the deal. 

      However, pushback from so many state attorneys general threatens to derail the merger of the nation’s 3rd and 4th largest mobile wireless networks. State officials argue in the suit that the merger will harm competition and raise prices for consumers. Following news that the deal had received DOJ approval, New York AG Letitia James reiterated her concerns on Twitter. 

      “I remain deeply concerned about the T-Mobile/Sprint megamerger & the irreparable harm it will cause to millions across the country,” she wrote. “Despite approval from the DOJ, the deal is bad for consumers, innovation, and workers.” 

      Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced he will add his name to the list of states lobbying to block T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, bringi...
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      Tesla Model 3 earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award

      The safety group put alternative power vehicles through the paces

      The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Tesla Model 3 as one of its TOP SAFETY PICK+ choices for 2019, the brand’s first such recognition.

      The Model 3 is the least expensive of Tesla’s three models. Its price starts at $35,000, while the Model X starts at around $81,000 and the Model S starts at around $75,000.

      IIHS made a point of reviewing and testing vehicles with alternative power sources, including the Audi e-tron, the only other plug-in to earn a TOP SAFETY PICK+ designation. The electric Chevrolet Bolt missed the cut because the glare from its headlights subtracted too many points.

      "Vehicles with alternative powertrains have come into their own," IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby says. "There's no need to trade away safety for a lower carbon footprint when choosing a vehicle."

      Vehicles are put through a series of tests that judge their safety. To earn a TOP SAFETY PICK  designation, a car or truck must get at least a good rating in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the passenger-side small overlap test.

      It must also feature an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and good- or acceptable-rated headlights.

      Top safety designation

      The TOP SAFETY PICK+ award is the top available classification. To earn it, vehicles must get  good ratings in the passenger-side small overlap test and the headlight evaluation.

      IIHS says the Model 3 got good ratings across the board for crashworthiness. The standard front crash prevention system was rated superior, avoiding collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests. The headlights earned a good rating.

      IIHS says the vehicle’s structure was impressive in the organization’s driver-side small overlap front test, which proves a challenge for many vehicles that are subjected to it.

      The Chevy Bolt did well in IIHS’ crashworthiness tests. It picked up mostly good ratings, but it emerged from the passenger-side small overlap test with only an acceptable rating. The acceptable rating would not have prevented the Bolt from getting the top safety designation, but its headlights were judged to put off too much glare in the face of oncoming traffic.

      The Hyundai Nexo has the distinction of being the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to earn an award from IIHS over the summer. Like the Model 3 and the e-tron, the Nexo, a midsize luxury SUV, qualified for TOP SAFETY PICK+ based on standard equipment.

      The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Tesla Model 3 as one of its TOP SAFETY PICK+ choices for 2019, the brand’s first such recog...
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      BMW recalls vehicles with steering issue

      The steering rack pinion teeth may break

      BMW of North America is recalling 12 model year 2020 X5 sDrive40i, X5 xDrive40i, X5 M50i, X7 xDrive40i and X7 M50i vehicles.

      The steering rack pinion teeth may break under load, resulting in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering rack free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2019. Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 12 model year 2020 X5 sDrive40i, X5 xDrive40i, X5 M50i, X7 xDrive40i and X7 M50i vehicles.The steering rack pinion te...
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      GM recalls model year 2018 Chevrolet Malibus

      The fuel injectors may be disabled

      General Motors is recalling 177,276 model year 2018 Chevrolet Malibus equipped with 1.5L turbo engines.

      An error in the Engine Control Module (ECM) software may result in the fuel injectors being disabled.

      Disabled fuel injectors would prevent the engine from starting and may cause a stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the ECM software free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact GM customer service at (800) 630-2438. GM's number for this recall is N192221960.

      General Motors is recalling 177,276 model year 2018 Chevrolet Malibus equipped with 1.5L turbo engines.An error in the Engine Control Module (ECM) soft...
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      Amazon launches cash payment option for online purchases

      Customers can pay for purchases in cash by visiting a participating Western Union location

      Amazon has announced that it’s giving customers the ability to pay for online purchases with cash. 

      Amazon PayCode will let online shoppers pay for purchases on Amazon’s digital marketplace at one of 15,000 Western Union locations. 

      “Customers have told us they love the convenience of paying in cash,” Ben Volk, Director, Payments at Amazon, said in a statement. “Together with Western Union, we’re able to offer customers more shopping choices, enabling them to pay for their online purchases in a way that is convenient for them.”

      At checkout, customers who want to use the cash payment option can simply select “pay with Amazon PayCode.” Customers will then receive a QR code, which they can take to a participating Western Union location within the next 24 hours to pay for their purchase.

      “We ship your order directly to your delivery address,” Amazon explained on its website

      Adding cash payment options

      The e-commerce giant has also announced that its Amazon Cash option, a separate service that enables customers to load cash into an Amazon account, is now offered at over 100,000 cash-loading locations across the U.S.

      Earlier this year, Amazon was criticized for not allowing customers to pay with cash at its autonomous grab-and-go convenience stores. Lawmakers pointed out that not offering a cash payment at Amazon Go stores alienated a subset of potential customers, including those in low-income brackets. 

      "For many City residents (for example, those who are denied access to credit, or who are unable to obtain bank accounts), the ability to purchase goods and services depends on the ability to pay for those goods and services in cash," San Francisco District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown explained in an April memo. "This is especially true of the very poor."

      Amazon later announced that a cash payment option would soon be added to the stores, starting at a location in New York.  

      Amazon has announced that it’s giving customers the ability to pay for online purchases with cash. Amazon PayCode will let online shoppers pay for purc...
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      Investigation finds sensitive medical records were left improperly protected

      Millions of Americans’ medical images and health care data could be easily accessed online

      The medical records of millions of consumers who visited private medical clinics in the U.S. are sitting in servers unprotected by passwords, according to a new investigation by ProPublica

      The vulnerable data includes names, birthdates, physicians and procedures, and even Social Security numbers in some instances. All told, medical records belonging to five million patients in the U.S. were being housed on 187 servers that were found to be lacking sufficient security protections. 

      ProPublica, which conducted its investigation along with German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, said “anyone with basic computer expertise” could access the information online. 

      "It's not even hacking. It's walking into an open door," cybersecurity researcher Jackie Singh told ProPublica.

      No evidence of exploits

      The publication, which describes itself as a “nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power,” said it found no evidence that insecure patient data had been taken and published elsewhere -- but if it were to be accessed by cybercriminals, the consequences could be “devastating.” 

      “Medical records are one of the most important areas for privacy because they’re so sensitive. Medical knowledge can be used against you in malicious ways: to shame people, to blackmail people,” Cooper Quintin, a security researcher and senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group, said to ProPublica.

      That said, many of the companies investigated ramped up their security measures after being alerted to the findings.

      Need for better security 

      The researchers found that many of the servers were running outdated software, leaving them vulnerable to exploits. 

      “Experts say it's hard to pinpoint who's to blame for the failure to protect the privacy of medical images,” ProPublica wrote. “Under US law, health care providers and their business associates are legally accountable for securing the privacy of patient data. Several experts said such exposure of patient data could violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the 1996 law that requires health care providers to keep Americans' health data confidential and secure.” 

      Rehan Bashir, managing security consultant at Synopsis, told SCMagazine that many medical offices don’t use secure virtual private networks (VPNs) for remote access. In instances where office staff members use easy-to-guess passwords, the security of patient data is put at risk. 

      Bashir added that large healthcare facilities often have the money to pay for “dedicated IT staff to manage their systems and to implement security controls.” However, “smaller providers generally don’t and thus are more vulnerable to healthcare data breaches.” 

      Just last month, hundreds of dentist offices across the U.S. were hit by a malware attack that exposed patient records. The affected offices had been using free, third-party software that “unfortunately was vulnerable, and that created the cascading effect that basically encrypted the data for over 400 clinics," Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems, told KMOX.

      The medical records of millions of consumers who visited private medical clinics in the U.S. are sitting in servers unprotected by passwords, according to...
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      Home sales dip in August by 1.6 percent

      An industry report shows home inventories are declining again

      A new report from REMAX Realtors underscores the imbalances in the housing market that are making it harder for first-time buyers to find a home.

      The REMAX National Housing Report shows sales of existing homes dipped 1.6 percent year-over-year in August and were down 4.2 percent from July. But the report’s authors note that the decline wasn’t because consumers weren’t interested in buying a house. Instead, they found fewer homes to buy.

      In fact, the report shows the demand for homes was greater than the number of listings, causing what REMAX calls the largest inventory decline in 13 months. 

      Influx of buyers reduced inventory

      The REMAX analysis covers 53 major metro areas in the U.S. In those markets, it found that the inventory of available homes shrank 5.5 percent from a year ago, the largest decline since July 2018. Inventory levels were down 1.5 percent, snapping a streak of monthly inventory increases. The new trend could be troubling for the housing market.

      "The modest inventory growth that started last fall has been swallowed up by demand as buyers have returned to the market, likely spurred on by attractive interest rates," said RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos. "Home sales dipping at the same time inventory falls suggests there may have been some reluctance on the part of sellers to list their homes.”

      There is also the issue of fewer new homes being built, particularly those in the entry-level price range, though there is finally some good news on that front. Housing starts rose 7.7 percent in August; building permits rose even more quickly, at 12.3 percent.

      “These are the best numbers in more than a decade and show a great jobs situation combined with good raises, high consumer optimism and low mortgage rates for the foreseeable future have spurred the home building industry,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. 

      Fewer homes under $300,000

      But Frick concedes that the available stock of new homes priced under $300,000 continues to be low. That’s significant because the $300,000 price point is what half of new home buyers can afford.

      Contos says that sellers continue to hold an advantage over buyers in this market because demand is outpacing supply.

      While there were fewer sales in August, homes that did sell went for more money. The median price was up 5.7 percent year-over-year, which REMAX says is evidence of strong demand from buyers. Homes stayed on the market an average of 44 days last month, the second-fastest pace of August home sales in the report’s history.

      The median home price, based on recorded sales, rose to $263,000. It was the eighth straight month of year-over-year price increases, though the price was lower compared to July.

      A new report from REMAX Realtors underscores the imbalances in the housing market that are making it harder for first-time buyers to find a home.The RE...
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      Ford recalls model year 2017 Explorers

      The vehicles may have seat frames with sharp edges

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 329,000 model year 2017 Explorers sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

      The vehicles are equipped with power seats and may have seat frames with sharp edges, presenting the risk of injury.

      Ford has received 31 reports of hand injuries.

      What to do

      Owners will be notified, and dealers will install flocked tape to the exposed edge and tab on the inboard side of the power seat frames free of charge

      Consumers should use caution and avoid contact with the seat frame edge until the repair is completed.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is19S29.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 329,000 model year 2017 Explorers sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.The vehicles are equipped with power seats...
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      GM recalls Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse vehicles

      The right-hand frame rail in the engine compartment may be cracked

      General Motors is recalling 3,420 model year 2020 Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse vehicles.

      The right-hand frame rail in the engine compartment may be cracked, which may reduce crash performance and increase the risk of an injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, replace the vehicle free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 630-2438 or Buick customer service at (800) 521-7300. GM's number for this recall is N192268310.

      General Motors is recalling 3,420 model year 2020 Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse vehicles.The right-hand frame rail in the engine compartment may...
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      Aviation panel will reportedly criticize 737 MAX certification process

      Reports suggest that the panel believes Boeing had too much influence

      An international panel of aviation authorities and experts is reportedly planning to criticize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the process it used to certify the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

      The panel was formed after the aircraft was grounded in March following two fatal crashes within five months. In both accidents, investigations cited issues with the plane’s sophisticated flight control system.

      The 737 MAX flew for the first time on January 29, 2016 and the FAA certified it in March 2017. The international task force formed to review the certification process is completing its work, and The Wall Street Journal reports that it plans to harshly criticize the FAA for giving Boeing too much input into the process.

      In particular, The Journal reports the panel found fault with how the agency allowed the aircraft’s manufacturer to judge the safety of the plane’s flight control system.

      Flight control system

      After the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8, attention turned to the flight control system and how it takes over control of the aircraft when it perceives it is rising at too steep of an angle.

      Investigators believe that it can be difficult for pilots to exert manual control if the sophisticated computer system receives faulty data from sensors located on the outside of the plane. In both the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the loss of a Ryan Air 737 MAX 8 five months earlier, the planes went into dives and lost altitude as they were in the process of taking off.

      The Journal says the final report will also fault the FAA for a lack of transparency and not sharing enough information with other nations’ aviation authorities.

      Changes suggested

      In August, there were reports indicating that the international aviation panel would recommend changes in the way the FAA goes about certifying the safety of commercial aircraft. The Journal now reports the aviation experts will go beyond suggesting changes by assigning blame.

      The FAA has a new administrator, Steve Dickson, who has been on the job for about a month. Dickson said this week that there is no firm timetable for returning the 737 MAX to the air. Dickson, a former pilot, also said he plans to personally test Boeing’s updated 737 MAX flight control software in a flight simulator.

      An international panel of aviation authorities and experts is reportedly planning to criticize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the process it...
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      Seventh death associated with e-cigarettes confirmed

      The CDC has activated its emergency operations center to better investigate an outbreak of lung illnesses

      Health officials in California have confirmed a seventh death connected to a vaping-related lung illness. 

      The first death linked to vaping was confirmed in August in California and others were gradually reported in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Oregon. Close to 400 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses have now been reported in 36 states. 

      The man in California was reportedly sick for several weeks before dying of "severe pulmonary injury associated with vaping," said Karen Haught, the Tulare County public health officer, in a statement.

      "Long-term effects of vaping on health are unknown. Anyone considering vaping should be aware of the serious potential risk associated with vaping,” Haught said. 

      In the wake of the most recent death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its emergency operations center to help it respond to the health threat more effectively.

      “CDC has made it a priority to find out what is causing this outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping-related injuries and deaths,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. in a statement. “Activation of CDC’s Emergency Operations Center allows us to enhance operations and provide additional support to CDC staff working to protect our Nation from this serious health threat.”

      Health effects in question

      Lawmakers are currently lobbying to have flavored e-cigarettes banned, at least while investigations into the health effects of the products are ongoing. Last week, the Trump administration announced that it’s moving toward a federal ban on flavored vaping products amid persistent concerns over the “epidemic” of youth e-cigarette use.

      Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency order to ban flavored e-cigarette products in New York. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also said this week that he wants flavored e-cigarettes to be banned in his state. Additionally, Blumenthal is pushing for a bill that would invest $500 million over the next 10 years to address e-cigarette use among teens.

      "They should know these products are not harmless, they are not hip and cool, they can be severely damaging because of these compounds found in them," Blumenthal said on Monday.

      The CDC recently recommended that young adults, pregnant women, and non-smokers avoid using e-cigarettes and vaping products while the agency investigates the outbreak of illnesses. 

      "It is time to stop vaping," Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said. "If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop. The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify."

      Health officials in California have confirmed a seventh death connected to a vaping-related lung illness. The first death linked to vaping was confirme...
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      Choosing your first credit card should be done with care

      Experts suggest the best cards for students and those new to credit

      Picking a credit card is done too often in an off-hand manner without a whole lot of thought. Maybe a merchant offers you a discount at checkout if you apply for their credit card.

      But if you are seeking your first credit card, it pays to think first about your needs. If you rarely travel, then choosing an airline rewards card with an annual fee is definitely not a good fit.

      If you have little credit history, there will be many cards that simply decline your application. In that case, how do you find a lender who will not only take you on as a customer but who also offers a product that fits your needs? For answers, we turned to some credit card experts.

      CreditCards.com likes the Discover It Student Cash Back card. As the name implies, it is for students who, in many cases, have never had a credit card in their name. It offers 5 percent cash back on rotating categories that change quarterly. All other categories earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase.

      Unusual rewards for a student card

      The card has no annual fee and wins points for its cashback rewards, which CreditCards.com says is unusual for a student card.

      WalletHub has several suggestions for consumers new to credit, including the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card. The card makes the list because it pays 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases.

      The only downside, however, is the $39 annual fee. For some, that might not make sense. But the experts at WalletHub point out that the cash rewards will pay for the annual fee if you think you’ll spend $2,600 a year on the card. The interest rate is also on the high side for consumers with spotty credit, so it’s advisable to pay the balance in full each month if you get the card.

      "While there has been a lot written about credit cards that offer the best perks and bonuses, there's not as much information available for people who just want a good starter card," said Eleri Miller, Marketing Coordinator for RAVE Reviews. 

      RAVE has published a list of what it sees are good starter credit cards that include the two mentioned above. It also suggests Citi Rewards Student Card pays double points at supermarkets and gas stations on the first $6,000 spent per year. It provides one point on all other purchases after that.

      There is no annual fee, and it offers a 0 percent introductory interest rate for the first seven months after opening an account. But beware -- if the balance isn’t paid off at the end of seven months, the interest rate will go from 16.49 percent to 26.49 percent, depending on your creditworthiness.

      For consumers with ample credit experience, check out ConsumerAffairs’ best credit card section, where you can find recommendations for cards that best suit specific needs.

      Picking a credit card is done too often in an off-hand manner without a whole lot of thought. Maybe a merchant offers you a discount at checkout if you app...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators

      The vehicle could suffer a sudden loss of drive power

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 3,427 model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators.

      The rear driveshafts may have been incorrectly assembled without grease in the monoblock joint.

      A joint without grease may overheat and seize, possibly causing the driveshaft to fracture, resulting in a sudden loss of drive power.

      If the driveshaft completely separates from the vehicle it may become a road hazard. Either of these situations can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

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

      The recall is expected to begin October 18, 2019.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at (800) 853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is V95.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 3,427 model year 2020 Jeep Gladiators.The rear driveshafts may have been incorrectly assembled without grease in the...
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      General Motors recalls Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vehicles

      The seatbelt-unfastened warning light will not illuminate as designed

      General Motors is recalling 91,399 model year 2019 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vehicles.

      The seatbelt-unfastened warning light will not illuminate or approximately five seconds after the ignition is moved to the "on" or "start" position.

      Without the warning reminder, the driver may forget to fasten the seatbelt, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the instrument panel cluster free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 630-2438 or GMC customer service at (800) 462-8782. GM's number for this recall is N192264500.

      General Motors is recalling 91,399 model year 2019 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vehicles.The seatbelt-unfastened warning light will not illuminate...
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      WAYB Pico child restraints recalled

      The headrest's aluminum tubular frame can break

      WAYB is recalling 4,558 WAYB Pico child restraints manufactured between March 1, 2019, and May 12, 2019.

      The headrest's aluminum tubular frame can break allowing the headrest to detach, increasing the risk of injury during a crash.

      What to do

      The manufacturer is still developing a plan to replace the headrests on the recalled seats.

      The recall is expected to begin September 30, 2019.

      Owners may contact WAYB customer service at (888) 924-9292.

      WAYB is recalling 4,558 WAYB Pico child restraints manufactured between March 1, 2019, and May 12, 2019.The headrest's aluminum tubular frame can break...
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      MoviePass shuts down indefinitely

      The company says it’s unsure what the future holds for it

      MoviePass announced on Friday that it would be shutting down its service on Saturday, September 14. At this time, it’s unclear whether the movie subscription service plans to resume service at any point in the future. 

      In a press release, MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics said the company’s "efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date." 

      "The Company is unable to predict if or when the MoviePass service will continue.” Helios and Matheson Analytics wrote. “The Company is continuing its efforts to seek financing to fund its operations."

      In July, MoviePass informed its subscribers that it would be temporarily interrupting service while it worked on improving its app. Prior to that, the company had been forced to change its business model numerous times in an effort to overcome financial struggles. 

      Refunds promised 

      The service was able to amass nearly 3 million subscribers by offering a $9.95 per month subscription plan, but profitability challenges ensued and subscriber numbers dwindled. As of April, MoviePass’ subscriber count was down to 225,000. 

      On its website, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe assured subscribers that they will be given a refund for any period of service they had already paid for.  

      “Subscribers will not need to request a refund or contact MoviePass customer service to receive a refund,” Lowe wrote. “Subscribers will not be charged during the service interruption. At this point, we are unable to predict if or when the MoviePass service will continue.” 

      "We still deeply believe in the need for the MoviePass service in the marketplace, to maintain affordable access to theaters and provide movie lovers with choices of where to go to the movies," he continued. "Although we do not currently know what the future holds for the MoviePass service, we hope to find a path that will enable us to continue the service in the future."

      MoviePass announced on Friday that it would be shutting down its service on Saturday, September 14. At this time, it’s unclear whether the movie subscripti...
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      Amazon reportedly changed its search algorithm to promote profitable products

      The allegations are surfacing in the midst of an antitrust investigation

      Amazon, which is currently facing antitrust investigations, is now being accused of changing its algorithms to promote products that would deliver high profit margins. 

      The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported Monday that Amazon tweaked its product-search algorithm late last year to elevate its own products over those from other sellers, despite internal objections to the idea.

      In a statement to the Journal, the e-commerce giant said it has not "changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability."

      “Amazon designs its shopping and discovery experience to feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners,” Amazon spokeswoman Angie Newman said.

      At this point, it’s not clear if the company’s changes resulted in higher profits.

      Antitrust scrutiny

      Amazon’s market dominance has landed it at the center of antitrust investigations in the U.S. and Europe. 

      Towards the end of July, U.S. regulators announced that they would begin a broad antitrust probe of big tech companies. The Justice Department said the investigation would focus on how large tech companies achieved their market power and if they engaged in practices that “have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.” 

      Last week, bipartisan leaders of the House Judiciary Committee requested documents from the company related to how its own products factor into its algorithm. 

      “Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), leader of the antitrust investigation, in a statement.

      Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the full Judiciary Committee, added that “this information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets.” 

      Amazon, which is currently facing antitrust investigations, is now being accused of changing its algorithms to promote products that would deliver high pro...
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      Attack on Saudi oil fields likely to raise U.S. gas prices

      But the effect may not be that severe, expert says

      A drone attack on a major Saudi Arabian oil facility over the weekend has put a major dent -- at least temporarily -- in world oil supplies.

      Early reports indicate that the explosion and fires shut down half of Saudi oil production, reducing world oil output by 5 percent.  While there is no clear evidence pointing to who was behind the attacks, the loss of oil production should be felt quickly in world oil markets.

      Crude oil closed Friday at just below $55 a barrel, but some experts believe prices will soar in the wake of the Saudi attacks. It was up 9 percent in early Monday trading. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says some price movement is likely, but its extent may have to wait until the facts are clearer.

      “It may be limited due to the fact that Saudi Arabia has said that most of the affected production could be restored within a matter of days,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “If that turns out to be accurate, the impact to gas prices may be measured in a few cents per gallon.”

      As much as 25 cents a gallon

      On the other hand, if the damage is more severe than first reported, or if it takes longer to restore production, the average gas price could jump as much as 25 cents a gallon.

      “The impact will likely not be felt at the pump until mid-week at earliest but could certainly grow quickly if the news from Saudi Arabia on restoration is bad,” DeHaan said.

      The drone attack hit Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq plant — one of the world’s largest oil processors — and also caused damage to a nearby oil field. Early reports said the damaged installations account for almost 10 million barrels of oil production. Removing that oil from the market will make the remaining oil on the global market more expensive.

      ‘A big deal’

      MarketWatch quotes crude-oil strategist Phil Flynn at Price Futures Group as saying the loss of the Saudi oil is a “big deal,” but as DeHaan points out, it all depends on how long before that oil starts flowing again.

      Chris Midgley, global head of analytics, S&P Global Platts, raises another point. He tells CNBC that oil prices may stay elevated to account for the potential risk of attacks on supplies.  

      Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Sunday that the damage had affected about 5.7 million barrels a day of oil and gas production. That would mean the attack has reduced Saudi oil output -- for the time being at least -- by around 50 percent.

      The U.S. imports very little Saudi oil. However, American consumers will likely be affected because the loss of Saudi production will raise the price of oil produced everywhere, including in the U.S.

      President Trump said he is authorizing the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to minimize supply disruptions in the U.S.

      A drone attack on a major Saudi Arabian oil facility over the weekend has put a major dent -- at least temporarily -- in world oil supplies.Early repor...
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      EPA repealing Obama-era expansion of Clean Water Act

      The previous administration enlarged the definition of waterways and wetlands

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is repealing a 2015 Obama administration-era rule that expanded the government’s definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. 

      EPA, along with the U.S. Army, is recodifying the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule change, ending what it called a regulatory patchwork.

      EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the move corrects “the previous administration’s overreach” in implementing federal regulations.

      “This is a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide,” Wheeler said.

      Quick reaction

      Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move. The American Fisheries Society was among the first to warn of the impact when the rule was proposed, saying the action would significantly narrow the scope of protections for U.S. waters. 

      “The proposal would replace the science-based 2015 rule which includes protections for headwaters, intermittent and ephemeral streams, and wetlands,” the group said at the tiime. “The new proposal (Replacement Rule) would substantially weaken the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s most effective natural resource laws.”

      Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), says the Trump administration’s action will likely be challenged in court.

      “The Clean Water Rule represented solid science and smart public policy,” Devine said in a statement. “Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders.”

      Complexity of the waterway system

      When it implemented the rule in 2015, the Obama administration said it was acknowledging the complexity of the nation’s waterway system and its importance to environmental health. But farmers, ranchers, and developers complained that the expanded definition of what constitutes a waterway was significantly limiting what they could do on their land.

      In announcing the final rule, Wheeler said the Obama-era rule had produced numerous complaints and lawsuits from as many as 31 states. The Trump administration announced a review of WOTUS soon after taking office.

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is repealing a 2015 Obama administration-era rule that expanded the government’s definition of “waters of the Uni...
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      Gasoline prices remain remarkably stable over the last week

      The late summer price decline appears to have stopped, at least for now

      In spite of forecasts predicting falling gasoline prices into the end of summer, consumers in much of the nation saw little price movement over the last week. Prices were slightly higher in some states and slightly lower in others.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.57 a gallon, about the same as it was a week ago. Prices are still seven cents lower than a month ago. The average price of premium gas is $3.16 a gallon, also unchanged from seven days ago. The average price of diesel fuel remains unchanged from last Friday, at $2.92 a gallon.

      While fuel prices remain a lot lower than at this time a year ago, consumers appear to be driving more. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports gasoline demand increased by 336,000 barrels a day in the previous week. The increase in demand has cut total gasoline supplies by around 700,000 barrels.

      But downward price pressure may resume. In a tweet this week, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said refineries should start delivering winter-grade gasoline in a week or so, replacing more expensive summer blends.

      “EPA requires summer gasoline through Sept. 15, so winter gasoline could theoretically show up as soon as Sept. 16, but it'll usually take a couple of weeks to hit,” he wrote.

      Over the last week most states saw little to no change in fuel prices, but Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois were exceptions. Prices at the pump in those states showed bigger-than-average increases.

      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:

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • California ($3.62)

      • Washington ($3.19)

      • Nevada ($3.10)

      • Oregon ($3.04)

      • Alaska ($2.98)

      • Arizona ($2.82)

      • Utah ($2.77)

      • Idaho ($2.77)

      • Illinois ($2.74)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.19)

      • Louisiana ($2.20)

      • Alabama ($2.22)

      • South Carolina ($2.23)

      • Arkansas ($2.24)

      • Tennessee ($2.27)

      • Missouri ($2.30)

      • Texas ($2.27)

      • Virginia ($2.28)

      • Oklahoma ($2.29)

      In spite of forecasts predicting falling gasoline prices into the end of summer, consumers in much of the nation saw little price movement over the last we...
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      Chrysler recalls 1.1 million Ram pickup trucks

      The tailgate may open unexpectedly

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,103,479 model year 2015-2017 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks with an 8 foot bed and a power locking tailgate.

      Also being recalled are all model year 2013-2014 and model year 2018 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks built before April 1, 2018 with a 6 or 8 foot bed and a power locking tailgate.

      Model year 2015-2017 Ram 1500 pickup trucks with truck beds other than 8 foot, are currently covered under an earlier recall.

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

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

      What to do

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

      The recall began May 23, 2019.

      Chrysler is expected to notify owners of the expanded population on October 18, 2019.

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

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,103,479 model year 2015-2017 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks with an 8 foot bed and a power locking tailgate....
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      Ford recalls various vehicles with seat back issue

      The seat back may not adequately restrain an occupant in a crash

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 482,520 model year 2018-2020 F-150s and model year 2019-2020 F-250s, F-350s, F-450s, & F-550s, and model year 2018-2019 Ford Explorers and model year 2019-2020 Expeditions with driver and/or passenger's manual front seat back recliner mechanisms.

      Also included are model year 2020 Ford Explorers & Lincoln Aviators with rear outboard seats and manual seat back recliner mechanisms.

      The recliner mechanisms may be missing the third pawl required for seat back strength, resulting in a loose seat back.

      A seat back with an improperly assembled recliner mechanism may have reduced strength and may not adequately restrain an occupant in a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and Ford and Lincoln dealers will inspect the seat structure and replace them, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 7, 2019.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 19C07.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 482,520 model year 2018-2020 F-150s and model year 2019-2020 F-250s, F-350s, F-450s, & F-550s, and model year 2018-2019 For...
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      STIHL recalls PolyCut mowing heads

      The mowing head can come apart, posing a risk of injury

      STIHL Incorporated of Virginia Beach, Va., is recalling about 73,000 STIHL PolyCut mowing heads.

      The bolts connecting the plastic blades and holding the mowing head together can come loose and the mowing head can come apart, posing a risk of injury to the user or bystanders.

      The firm has received 28 reports of loose bolts or mowing heads coming apart, including two reports of injuries.

      This recall involves mowing head cutting attachments compatible with some models of STIHL-brand trimmers, brushcutters, and clearing saws.

      The mowing heads can be identified by the name “STIHL” and model number “27-3” or “47-3” located on the original packaging and molded on the top side of the mowing head.

      The mowing heads have three orange plastic blades, each attached with a bolt and a nut, a black top housing, and a white bottom housing.

      The mowing heads, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at authorized full line STIHL servicing dealers nationwide from July 2018, through July 2019, for about $30 for the 27-3 model and about $40 for the 47-3 model.

      What to do

      Consumers should stop using the recalled mowing heads immediately and take them to an authorized STIHL dealer for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact STIHL at (800) 610-6677 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by e-mail stihlrecall@stihl.us or online at www.stihlusa.com and click on “Product Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      STIHL Incorporated of Virginia Beach, Va., is recalling about 73,000 STIHL PolyCut mowing heads.The bolts connecting the plastic blades and holding the...
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      House of Spices (India) recalls MDH Sambar Masala

      The product is contaminated with Salmonella

      House of Spices (India) is recalling several lots of MDH Sambar Masala.

      The product has tested positive for Salmonella.

      The recalled product, which comes in a 3.5-oz. (100g) box with red and white MDH logo, has the following lot codes and expiration dates:

      LOT CODE   EXPIRATION DATE
      48   DEC 2021

      It was sold in retail stores in northern California.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (718) 507-4600 from 8:00am to 9:00am (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at customerservice@HouseOfSpicesIndia.com or online at www.hosindia.com.

      House of Spices (India) is recalling several lots of MDH Sambar Masala.The product has tested positive for Salmonella.The recalled product, which c...
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      Kawasaki USA recalls ROVs

      Incorrect joint assembly can cause steering control loss,

      Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. U.S.A., of Lincoln, Neb., is recalling about 2,600 Teryx and Teryx4 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      Incorrect joint assembly can cause steering control loss, posing crash and injury hazards.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves model year 2019 and 2020 Teryx and Teryx4 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), models KRF800FKF/L, KRF800GKF/A/AL/L, KRF800HKF/L, KRT800FKF/L, KRT800GKF/A/AL/L, KRT800HKF/L, KRF800FLF/L, KRF800GLF/L, KRF800HLF/L, KRT800FLF/L, KRT800GLF/A/AL/L and KRT800HLF/L.

      The recalled vehicles were sold in various colors including: black, camo, gray, green, orange and white; and in three different styles: Non-EPS, EPS and EPS LE.

      The vehicles have either two or four seats, automotive style controls and a rear box.

      Kawasaki is printed on the vehicle’s hood and rear box. Teryx or Teryx4 is printed on the right and left front fender.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Kawasaki dealers nationwide from March 2019, through August 2019, from between $13,000 and $17,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact an authorized Kawasaki dealer to schedule a free repair. Kawasaki is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Kawasaki toll-free at (866) 802-9381 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.kawasaki.com and click on Recalls at the bottom of the homepage for more information.

      Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. U.S.A., of Lincoln, Neb., is recalling about 2,600 Teryx and Teryx4 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).Incorr...
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      Business titans ask Congress to enact stricter consumer privacy laws

      Chief executives from over 50 companies have asked for extensive policies to be put in place

      There are plenty of ideas being thrown around about consumer privacy laws these days, and eventually something is going to stick.

      The latest heave took place in Washington on Tuesday after 51 corporate chiefs from the likes of Dell, Amazon, American Express, Ford, GM, and AT&T -- all members of the non-profit Business Roundtable -- joined in on a letter to Congressional leaders.

      The letter couldn’t come at a better time now that Congress and a coalition of state attorneys general are putting Big Tech under a microscope. Regulators may currently be looking to hand out million- and billion-dollar fines to Google and Facebook.

      “We write to urge you to pass, as soon as possible, a comprehensive consumer data privacy law that strengthens protections for consumers and establishes a national privacy framework to enable continued innovation and growth in the digital economy,” the executives wrote in their letter to Congress.

      “There is now widespread agreement among companies across all sectors of the economy, policymakers and consumer groups about the need for a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law that provides strong, consistent protections for American consumers. A federal consumer privacy law should also ensure that American companies continue to lead a globally competitive market.”

      The sweet spot is consumer trust

      The CEOs are fully aware that consumer confidence and trust is at stake, saying that these cornerstones are “essential to our businesses.” 

      “[We] want consumers to have confidence that companies treat their personal information responsibly,” they added.

      The win-win tone is a fresh change from the tug of war that Congressional leaders and Big Tech have used recently. Plus, the pragmatic approach of making sure consumers are the ones who win at the end of the day has been a long time coming.

      Specifically, the Roundtable letter asks for these points:

      • Consumers should have purposeful rights over their personal information and that any company that has access to that private information should be held “consistently accountable under a comprehensive federal consumer data privacy law.”

      • Consumers should have the comfort knowing that no matter what state they’re in, they should be able to easily understand the internet rules of that state.

      • The implementation of a comprehensive consumer data privacy law that a) strengthens consumer trust; and, b) establishes a balanced policy environment where new services and technologies can thrive.

      “The United States has been a global leader in technology and data-driven innovation and now has the opportunity to lead on consumer data privacy for the benefit of all consumers, companies and commerce. We stand ready to work with you,” was the leader’s closing sentiment.

      There are plenty of ideas being thrown around about consumer privacy laws these days, and eventually something is going to stick.The latest heave took...
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      Spirit Airlines lawsuit over baggage fees returns to appeals court

      Plaintiffs say they weren’t notified of the fees when booking online

      A lawsuit against budget carrier Spirit Airlines, accusing it of failing to notify customers about certain fees, has been revived by a federal appeals court, Reuters reports.

      The case was brought by nearly two dozen passengers who claim the airline never notified them about carry-on bag fees when they booked their flight online on third-party websites such as Cheapoair, Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity.

      The class action suit -- which was dismissed last November -- claims the low-cost carrier failed to disclose that consumers would be charged higher prices for baggage services than competing airlines charge, “thereby making any apparent savings illusory.”

      The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs could proceed with the suit because there was no evidence that Spirit notified them about the fees in question. The court also said there were “ambiguous” fees rolled into prices.

      Hidden fees

      The passengers allege that Spirit knew its online travel agents “hid the ‘gotcha’ bag fees they would have to pay at the airport,” Reuters said. “They said these fees often exceeded the cost of their tickets, and totaled millions of dollars a year.” 

      Spirit attempted to counter the points raised in the suit by saying federal law precluded the lawsuit and that it’s “contract of carriage” provided that a passenger could take one carry-on bag into the cabin, for a fee.

      The case has now been returned to U.S. District Judge William Kuntz in Brooklyn.

      “This is a great victory for air travelers nationwide,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer John Hermina told Reuters, adding that his clients intend to pursue their case in the court.

      A lawsuit against budget carrier Spirit Airlines, accusing it of failing to notify customers about certain fees, has been revived by a federal appeals cour...
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      Apple rolls out three new iPhones with improved cameras

      The company will also provide a video streaming service for $4.99 a month

      Apple has announced its 2019 product upgrade with three new iPhone models, an always-on watch display, and a popularly priced streaming service.

      The new devices are the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. Upgrades include a brighter display and a new triple-camera system with a “pro-level camera experience” and an expanded lens range. Apple says the changes will deliver huge improvements to low-light photography and allow production of high-quality action videos.

      In addition to those changes, the company says the new iPhones will be more powerful than the previous generations and have improved battery life.

      The iPhone 11 will sell for $699, $50 less than the model it is replacing. The 11 Pro will go for $999 and the 11 Pro Max will cost $1,099. All three models are scheduled to ship on September 20.

      Price cut on the iPhone 8

      At the same time, Apple has lowered the price of some of its older devices. Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are getting a $100 price cut, selling between $449 and $549. It’s also discontinuing the Xs and XS Max models.

      Improvements to the Apple Watch are also getting some attention. The Apple Watch Series 5 introduces an Always-On Retina display that never goes into sleep mode. Other upgrades include a built-in compass to current elevation feature and international emergency calling that connects users with emergency services in more than 150 countries.

      “We’ve seen Apple Watch have a meaningful impact on our customers’ lives and we’re excited to deliver even more capabilities with Apple Watch Series 5 and watchOS 6,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “The seamless integration of new hardware and software delivers an enhanced experience that makes it even easier to stay active and connected to the people and information users care about.”

      Apple TV +

      Apple also served notice that it’s stepping up its game in the streaming wars, positioning Apple TV + to take on the likes of Netflix and Hulu. The service will launch November 1, offering original programming for $4.99 a month. As an added bonus, consumers who purchase an Apple device will get a one-year subscription to the service at no charge.

      Offerings include “The Morning Show,” “Dickinson,” “See,” “For All Mankind” and “The Elephant Queen.” The service will be available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch, Mac, and other platforms, including online at tv.apple.com.

      Apple has announced its 2019 product upgrade with three new iPhone models, an always-on watch display, and a popularly priced streaming service.The new...
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      McDonald’s to automate its drive-thru lanes under new tech partnership

      The move is the latest in the company’s attempt to modernize

      As part of an effort to modernize its restaurants, McDonald’s will be adding artificial intelligence features to its drive-thru lanes. 

      The restaurant chain announced on Tuesday that it’s acquiring tech startup Apprente, which has for the past two years been working on building a “voice-based conversational system that delivers a human-level customer service experience.” 

      Applied to McDonald’s drive-thrus, Apprente’s technology -- which understands different accents and multiple languages -- could help speed up service. The fast-food chain says ramping up its digital capabilities is “fundamental” to its tech-focused growth plan, which was put in place as a way to meet “rising expectations from our customers” and to streamline the ordering process.

      “Apprente’s gifted team, and the technology they have developed, will form McD Tech Labs, a new group integrated in our Global Technology team that will take our culture of innovation one step further,” McDonald’s president and CEO Steve Easterbrook in a statement. 

      A more tech-focused experience 

      Last year, McDonald’s unveiled its plan to incorporate more technology into its locations. The company said it planned to invest $6 billion into a modernization effort that would involve the addition of self-serve kiosks, digital menu boards, and modernized dining rooms with new furniture.

      In March, McDonald’s announced that it would be purchasing a technology company called Dynamic Yield. The fast food giant said Dynamic Yield would be helping it personalize its drive-thru experience through the addition of technology. The firm’s machine learning technology gives McDonald’s menu displays the ability to change based on different factors, such as current weather or customers’ previous menu selections. 

      “With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalized experiences for our customers,” Easterbrook said of the acquisition back in March.

      The technology was added to more than 8,000 of the chain’s drive-thrus after the deal was struck. McDonald’s is aiming to have the technology in place at almost all of its U.S. and Australian drive-thrus by the end of 2019.

      As part of an effort to modernize its restaurants, McDonald’s will be adding artificial intelligence features to its drive-thru lanes. The restaurant c...
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      Showing kindness to employees leads to several benefits

      The positive effects extend beyond improved work performance

      Researchers from Penn State recently conducted a study that explored the positive effects felt by employees when their employers go out of their way to show them kindness. 

      The study revealed that the effects of kindness are felt far beyond just the workplace, as the researchers found that employees experienced a boost in health, in addition to better job performance. 

      “An ultimate solution to improve worker performance and health could be big pay raises or reduced workloads, but when those solutions aren’t feasible, we found that even small offerings can make a big difference,” said researcher Bu Zhong. 

      The little things count

      Zhong and his team conducted their experiment on nearly 90 bus drivers in Shenzhen, China. The team showed kindness to participants by adding a piece of fresh fruit to their lunch boxes each day. 

      Though a seemingly small gesture, the researchers explained that bus drivers are frequently changing schedules, sitting for long periods of time, and missing meals, all factors that can increase stress and affect their overall health.

      The researchers kept the experiment going for three weeks, having the bus drivers fill out questionnaires about their depressive symptoms and self-confidence one week before the study began, again one week into the study, and one last time the week following the conclusion of the experiment. 

      Ultimately, the small act of kindness -- having a fresh piece of fruit at lunchtime -- boosted the bus drivers’ moods and self-confidence tremendously.

      “Bus drivers reported significantly decreased depression levels one week after the experiments ended compared to one week before it began...We found that self-efficacy was significantly higher in the middle of the experiment week than in the week after the experiment ended,” said Zhong. 

      The findings from this study suggest that acts of kindness can go a long way, but the team says employers shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything extravagant to make employees feel appreciated for their work. Sometimes, less is more.

      “This research suggests that employees can be sensitive to any improvement in the workplace,” Zhong said. “Before an ultimate solution is possible, some small steps can make a difference -- one apple at a time.” 

      Researchers from Penn State recently conducted a study that explored the positive effects felt by employees when their employers go out of their way to sho...
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      John Deere recalls Frontier grooming mowers

      The safety shield may not spin independently, posing an entanglement injury hazard

      Deere & Company is recalling about 750 Frontier FM3012, GM1060, GM1072, GM1084, GM1190, GM3060, and GM3072 grooming mowers.

      Incorrect assembly of the mower’s drivelines can prevent the safety shield from spinning independently, posing an entanglement injury hazard.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves John Deere’s Frontier-branded grooming mowers for use with compact utility tractors.

      “Frontier” and model FM3012, GM1060, GM1072, GM1084, GM1190, GM3060 or GM3072 are printed on the mower.

      A complete list of serial numbers included in this recall along with the location of the serial number is available at www.JohnDeere.com/FrontierMowerRecall.

      The mowers, manufactured in the U.S, were sold at John Deere dealers nationwide from April 2018, through May 2019, for between $3,100 and $16,700.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled mowers and contact an authorized John Deere dealer for a free repair. John Deere is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Deere & Company at (800) 537-8233 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (ET), or online at www.deere.com and click on Recalls under the Parts & Service drop-down menu at the top of the page for more information.

      Deere & Company is recalling about 750 Frontier FM3012, GM1060, GM1072, GM1084, GM1190, GM3060, and GM3072 grooming mowers.Incorrect assembly of the mo...
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      Apple makes App Store modifications as it prepares for antitrust litigation

      The company is being tight-lipped about the changes, but a senior executive says the situation is being ‘improved’

      It’s not a proven axiom in Big Tech, but Apple, for one, is hoping that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      That ounce is a tweak Apple’s made to its App Store’s algorithm so, by design, fewer of its own, self-produced apps would crowd the top search results.

      And the pound? There’s no guarantee Apple’s move will carry that much weight, but the company is about to enter a slate of antitrust investigations, so any move to separate “anti” from “trust” couldn’t hurt.

      Getting to the top of the charts

      The App Store changes were brought to light by the New York Times when its reporters presented new research about App Store search result rankings to Apple.

      That research -- which was fueled by search term tracking done by SensorTower -- showed that Apple’s own apps ranked first in 735 of roughly 60,000 search terms tracked. “Most of the tracked searches were obscure, but Apple’s apps ranked first for many of the popular queries,” the Times wrote

      “For instance, for most of June and July, Apple apps were the top result for these search terms: books, music, news, magazines, podcasts, video, TV, movies, sports, card, gift, money, credit, debit, fitness, people, friends, time, notes, docs, files, cloud, storage, message, home, store, mail, maps, traffic, stocks and weather.”

      When the Times handed over its research, Apple owned up to the changes. Well -- sort of owned up.

      Apple executives Eddy Cue and Philip Schiller -- both at the top of the App Store food chain -- refuted any possible allegation that Apple’s algorithm gave precedence to its own apps. Rather, their position was that Apple-owned apps typically rank higher than others simply because their apps are a) more popular; and, b) typically a closer match to broad search terms. For example, if someone searched for a “photo” app, Apple’s “iPhoto” app might rise to the top organically.

      “There’s nothing about the way we run search in the App Store that’s designed or intended to drive Apple’s downloads of our own apps,” Schiller told the Times. “We’ll present results based on what we think the user wants.”

      Why the tweak?

      As the Times turned up the heat, Schiller held steadfast to his position, but Cue admitted the situation was “improved.”

      Was Cue’s admission related to the accusation that Apple built in some sway for itself in the App Store? We may never know, but what we do know is that Apple’s antitrust defense team has a lot on their plate with consumer-oriented cases regarding the App Store monopoly, iPhone prices, and antitrust claims from its peers. Any angle they can work to soften the blow could work in the company’s favor.

      It’s not a proven axiom in Big Tech, but Apple, for one, is hoping that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.That ounce is a tweak Apple’s m...
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      Model year 2012-13 Ford Fiesta vehicles recalled

      The vehicle could lose low-beam headlamps and daytime running lamps

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 13,564 model year 2012-13 Ford Fiesta vehicles in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

      Battery junction-box relay or fuse corrosion can lead to a loss of low-beam headlamps and daytime running lamps while the vehicle is being driven.

      What to do

      Owners will be notified and dealers will clean the battery junction box, install foam sealing to the cover and replace any corroded fuses, terminals or relays at no charge to the customer.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332.

      Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S28.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 13,564 model year 2012-13 Ford Fiesta vehicles in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Sco...
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      British Airways cancels nearly all flights today and tomorrow

      The airline is facing a limited strike by its pilots

      British Airways (BA), which is facing a strike by its pilots, has taken the unusual step of canceling nearly all of its flights today and Tuesday.

      In an update to its customers, the airline said the union had not provided any details about which pilots would strike and therefore it had no way of knowing which flights would be grounded. Without that knowledge, it said it had to assume all would be grounded.

      “Our customer teams – supported by additional colleagues - have been working tirelessly to help as many of you as possible and to provide options, including a full refund or re-booking to a different date of travel or alternative airline,” the airline said. “We are offering all affected customers full refunds or the option to re-book to another date of travel or alternative airline.”

      BA-owned airlines BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR and Comair are not affected by the pilots’ walkout. The airline is advising that its customers "not go to the airport."

      The union has been in prolonged negotiations with the airline and has planned a 48-hour walkout to leverage its position. The union is seeking an increase in pay and benefits for its members.

      Limited strike

      The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has given notice that its members will walk out on Sept, 9, 10, and 27 -- a limited and not ongoing strike. 

      “Over several days of talks BALPA put forward a number of packages that we believe would have resolved this dispute without a strike, and which we could have recommended to our members for acceptance prior to strike action,” the union said in a statement.

      The union says the airline did not accept any of its proposals, and it believes that ongoing talks would not achieve progress. The organization also points out that this is the first time that its pilots have voted to go on strike in the 100 years of British Airways’ operation.

      British Airways (BA), which is facing a strike by its pilots, has taken the unusual step of canceling nearly all of its flights today and Tuesday.In an...
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      FDA accuses Juul of illegally advertising its products as safe

      Health officials say Juul ‘ignored the law’ by failing to obtain regulatory approval for its marketing practices

      On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) charged vaping industry leader Juul with illegally marketing its nicotine pods as “safe.” In a letter to the company’s CEO Kevin Burns, the FDA demanded that Juul change its marketing practices or risk being hit with a hefty fine or having its products seized. 

      The letter was sent two days after the FDA reviewed testimony from a congressional hearing on Juul, which took place in July. The FDA said it found that Juul illegally sold or distributed its products as “modified risk tobacco products without an FDA order in effect that permits such sale or distribution.”

      The agency stressed that regulatory approval is required before a company can market a specific product as being safer than traditional cigarettes. 

      Federal regulators said Juul shirked that law by touting its products as carrying "a lower risk of tobacco-related disease” and being “less harmful than one or more other commercially marketed tobacco products.” Juul has never submitted its vaping devices for FDA review. 

      “The law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful," acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement. "JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation's youth."

      Health concerns raised

      The FDA has given Juul 15 days to respond to the letter with a plan for maintaining compliance with the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 

      Alternatively, Juul may provide “reasoning and provide any and all scientific evidence and data, if any, that support that your statements and representations do not explicitly or implicitly convey that JUUL products pose less risk, are less harmful, present reduced exposure, or are safer than other tobacco products.”

      A spokesperson for Juul said the company intends to “fully cooperate” with regulators.

      Juul’s legal troubles come amid growing concern over the health risks of vaping products. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Protection and Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it’s investigating hundreds of lung illness cases and five deaths that could be linked to chemical exposure while vaping.

      While the investigation is ongoing, health officials have recommended that young adults, pregnant women, and non-smokers avoid using e-cigarettes and vaping products. Those who use e-cigarette products are urged not to buy them off the street, modify them, or add any substances to the products that are not intended by the manufacturer. 

      On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) charged vaping industry leader Juul with illegally marketing its nicotine pods as “safe.” In a letter to...
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      UPS plans to hire 100,000 workers for the holidays

      Wages can go as high as $30 an hour and include extra perks for college students.

      This year, the job Santa may be wearing brown for many U.S. temporary work seekers.

      On Monday, the United Parcel Service (UPS) unveiled its intention to hire close to 100,000 seasonal workers to support its projections of nearly 40 million daily holiday deliveries for retailers that hope for a busy holiday season. We say “hope” because U.S. President Trump has to make good on his word that he’s holding off on tariffs against China until December 15, “just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers.”

      Seasonal hiring rates continue to inch up across the board, including UPS’s extra 100,000 holiday workers, a 5.1 percent bump from 2017.

      Available jobs

      The seasonal positions run the gamut from part-time to full-time and from package-handlers to drivers. There’s also the added potential that one of the temporary gigs might turn into something more permanent. In the past, an average 35 percent of UPS seasonal workers have been asked to stay on after the holidays.

      UPS feels that 35 percent mark has great value for today’s workforce. “That’s important to many,” the company said in a news release. 

      “Nearly 70 percent want their seasonal job to turn into a full-time position, according to a recent survey of Americans who hold, have held or would consider taking a seasonal job. And nearly all (90 percent) agreed that seasonal and temporary jobs are a good way to move into a permanent, full-time career.”

      What wearing brown will get you

      The hourly wages for these seasonal jobs are reported to be between $14 and $30 compared to the average U.S.’ hourly wage of $28.11. 

      Many of the positions come with a bonus for students, who can earn up to $1,300 extra toward college expenses when they qualify for UPS’ Earn and Learn program. 

      While it’s not an absolute, when one compares the potential employment health of delivery services, UPS seems to be in a more secure third-party position than FedEx, which cut ties with Amazon just last month.

      This year, the job Santa may be wearing brown for many U.S. temporary work seekers.On Monday, the United Parcel Service (UPS) unveiled its intention to...
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      Looking for a job? Your prospects are still pretty good

      Employers are still hiring, and the Fed chairman doesn’t see a recession looming

      It’s still a pretty good time to be looking for a job, according to the latest employment data from government and private sources.

      The Labor Department reports nonfarm payrolls increased by 130,000 in August, fewer than the month before. However, ADP reported that private payrolls increased by 195,000 during the month, suggesting that employers are still trying to find workers, especially in the private sector.

      Jobs appear to be most plentiful in the health care industry, which added 24,000 jobs in August and has added 392,000 new positions in the last 12 months.

      Not expecting a recession

      Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell says the pace of hiring bodes well for the economy in the months ahead and may put an end -- at least for a while -- to worries about a recession.

      “We’re not expecting or forecasting a recession,” Powell said at a news conference in Switzerland on Friday. “Incoming data for the United States suggest the most likely outlook for the United States economy is still moderate growth, a strong labor market, and inflation continuing to move back up.”

      But Holden Lewis, the home expert at NerdWallet, says the pace of hiring may not be strong enough to boost home sales.

      “Mortgage rates are at three-year lows, but rock-bottom rates aren't enough to support home sales,” Lewis said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “People need to feel secure about their jobs, too — and with the pace of hiring slowing down, there's a risk that job insecurity will sneak in.”

      Three areas where hiring is strong

      Economists at The Conference Board agree that the pace of hiring is beginning to slow down. They note that the strongest growth in jobs is coming in just three areas -- health care, professional and business services, and government.

      The organization also notes that labor force participation -- the number of people in the workforce -- continued to improve in August, with the rate rising by 0.2 percentage points to 63.2. The unemployment rate remains near a record low of 3.7 percent.

      If the labor market continues to tighten in 2020, that could mean employers will have to offer workers higher wages to hire and retain them. While that could squeeze corporate profits, it could be very good news for consumers.

      The consensus among economists seems to suggest the most recent jobs data will not alter a likely Federal Reserve interest rate cut later this month, which again will benefit consumers by lowering the interest paid on credit card balances.

      It’s still a pretty good time to be looking for a job, according to the latest employment data from government and private sources.The Labor Department...
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      Beaufort Bonnet Company recalls handmade knit dolls

      A sewing needle was discovered in the stuffing of one of the dolls

      The Beaufort Bonnet Company of Lexington, Ky., is recalling about 4,500 handmade knit dolls.

      A sewing needle was discovered in the stuffing of one of the dolls, posing a puncture injury hazard.

      The firm has received one report of a sewing needle found in the stuffing of a doll. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall includes stuffed knit doll toys styled and named according to animal themes.

      Knit dolls sold under the following style names have been recalled:

      Style Name

      Drayton Hall Hare

      Ellie Mae the Cat

      Frat E. Fox

      Giftmore the Mouse

      Gull to Bed

      Iwant A. Hippopotamus

      Imma Bunny

      King Charles Wooford

      Lady Lullaby

      Lily Pad Prince

      Lionel the Lion

      McDuffie the Duck

      Morris Mallard

      P. Nutt

      Pudge the Pig

      Shellebrate

      Sill E. Goose

      Ted E. Bearington

      Waldorf Wabbit

      Waverly Wabbit

      Woodmont Wabbit

      Wooly

      The dolls, manufactured in Peru, were sold at specialty stores nationwide and online at www.thebeaufortbonnetcompany.com from September 2016, through August 2019, for about $40 to $65.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the knit dolls and contact The Beaufort Bonnet Company to receive a full refund in the form of a gift card.

      Consumers may contact The Beaufort Bonnet Company toll-free at (833) 964-1456 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday; by email at info@beaufortbonnetco.com; or online at www.thebeaufortbonnetcompany.com and click on “Voluntary Product Safety Recall” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      The Beaufort Bonnet Company of Lexington, Ky., is recalling about 4,500 handmade knit dolls.A sewing needle was discovered in the stuffing of one of th...
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2019 Atlas vehicles

      The vehicle may stall due to uneven fuel distribution

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling six model year 2019 Atlas vehicles.

      The suction jet in the fuel tank may have been welded in the incorrect position allowing fuel to leak. Additionally, the vehicle may stall due to uneven fuel distribution.

      A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire. An engine stall can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

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

      The recall is expected to begin October 11, 2019.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 20BU.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling six model year 2019 Atlas vehicles.The suction jet in the fuel tank may have been welded in the incorrect posi...
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      American Beef Packers recalls raw beef

      The products are deemed unfit for human consumption

      American Beef Packers of Chino, Calif., is recalling approximately 24,428 pounds of raw beef

      The products are deemed unfit for human consumption.

      FSIS inspection personnel retained the carcass and collected a sample for further analysis. Prior to test results being received, the carcass was erroneously released and further processed into raw intact and non-intact beef products, which were distributed in commerce.

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

      The following items, produced and packaged on August 21, 2019, are being recalled:

      • Bulk pack combo bins containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS 85 BONELESS BEEF CHUCKS” with LOT NO.110 and BIN No. 85 and BIN No. 86.
      • Bulk pack combo bins containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS 90 BONELESS BEEF” with LOT NO. 110 and BIN No. 81, BIN No. 82 and BIN No. 83.
      • Bulk pack combo bins containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS 85 BONELESS BEEF” with LOT NO. 25-110 and BIN No. 84 and LOT NO 110 and BIN No. 88.
      • Cases containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS RIBEYE 8/10 #1” with codes BT190821-1178, BT190821-1185, BT190821-1188, BT190821-1190, and BT190821-1194.
      • 66.2-lb. case containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS RIBEYE 10 UP #1” with code BT190821-1186.
      • Bulk pack combo bin containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS 90 BONELESS BEEF SIRLOINS” with LOT NO. 24-110 and BIN No. 80.
      • Cases containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS TERDERLOIN 4 UP” with codes BT190821-1160, BT190821-1161, BT190821-1162, BT190821-1163, BT190821-1167, BT190821-1168, BT190821-1169, and BT190821-1170.
      • Cases containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS RIBEYE 10 UP” with codes BT190821-1187 and BT190821-1192.
      • Cases containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS TENDERLOIN 3/4” with codes BT190821-1155, BT190821-1157, BT190821-1171, BT190821-1200, BT190821-1201, BT190821-1202, BT190821-1203, BT190821-1204, and BT190821-1205.
      • 50-lb. cases containing “AMERICAN BEEF PACKERS DESC: BEEF FOR FURTHER PROCESSING 75/25” with lot code 08347412719.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 34741” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to federal establishments in California and Oregon.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Kari Godbey Houchens at (909) 628-4888 ext. 123.

      American Beef Packers of Chino, Calif., is recalling approximately 24,428 pounds of raw beefThe products are deemed unfit for human consumption.FSI...
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      Ford recalls model year 2019 Ford Fiestas

      The brake calipers could develop a leak

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,624 model year 2019 Ford Fiestas, only 50 of which have been delivered to customers.

      The brake calipers could develop a leak after being exposed to incorrectly labeled assembly fluid in production.

      A leaking brake caliper could eventually result in reduced braking function or drag, which could lead to the overheating of the brake pads, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will flush the brake fluid and replace the front brake calipers and brake lines free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332.

      Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S27.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 2,624 model year 2019 Ford Fiestas, only 50 of which have been delivered to customers.The brake calipers could develop...
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      New York City sues T-Mobile over ‘abusive sales tactics’

      City officials say the company carried out illegal sales tactics at Metro by T-Mobile stores

      New York City is suing T-Mobile, accusing the wireless carrier of violating consumer protection laws a total of 2,200 times in various parts of the city, Reuters reports.

      In its complaint, New York City's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) claims that T-Mobile engaged in “pervasive” illegal sales tactics at 56 of its Metro by T-Mobile stores. 

      The city says it has evidence that the carrier sold used or reconditioned phones as new and tacked on taxes that were excessive or appeared to be “made up.” The complaint also accuses T-Mobile of getting customers to e-sign leasing contracts without informing them of the charges or requesting their consent. 

      In one case, a customer thought she had purchased a phone advertised at $599 but later learned that she had unwittingly signed up for a 12-month lease costing $2,191.30. 

      “With this scheme in place, Defendants have deceived NYC consumers about things as basic as the actual price of the phone to things as complicated as the terms of financing,” the complaint states.

      In a statement, T-Mobile said it’s looking into the allegations as they appear to be “at odds with the integrity of our team.” 

      Separately, New York is fighting to prevent T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion merger with Sprint. The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, is leading a group of states in suing to block the deal, which she argues is “bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation.”

      New York City is suing T-Mobile, accusing the wireless carrier of violating consumer protection laws a total of 2,200 times in various parts of the city, R...
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      Drinking coffee could help prevent gallstones

      Researchers have discovered a new benefit of drinking the morning beverage

      Many consumers start their mornings with a cup of coffee. Though recent studies have presented both positive and negative outcomes for the revered beverage, a new study shows that coffee could actually help consumers prevent the onset of gallstones. 

      The researchers conducted an observational study of over 104,000 individuals to better understand how the popular morning drink was affecting their likelihood of symptomatic gallstone disease (GSD). 

      While heavy caffeine drinkers -- those who had at least six cups per day -- saw the greatest reduction in their likelihood of developing GSD at over 20 percent, the researchers learned that the benefits extend beyond just caffeine extremists. Those who upped their coffee intake by one extra cup per day were found to be at a reduced risk of developing gallstones. 

      The researchers also learned that genes can play a role in these instances, as those who were genetically predisposed to consume more caffeine were also less likely to develop gallstones. 

      How much coffee is too much coffee?

      While the study findings might lead some consumers to drink more coffee each day, a recent study showed that many consumers are unaware of how caffeine can affect their health. The researchers suggested that consumers who feel jittery or anxious after drinking coffee should pull back on their consumption as a precaution.

      In contrast to the gallstone study, the researchers found that consumers who drank more than six cups of coffee per day were at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

      “In order to maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure, people must limit their coffees to fewer than six cups a day -- based on our data six was the tipping point where caffeine started to negatively affect cardiovascular risk,” said researcher Elina Hyppönen said. “Knowing the limits of what’s good for you and what’s not is imperative. As with many things, it’s all about moderation; overindulge and your health will pay for it.”

      Many consumers start their mornings with a cup of coffee. Though recent studies have presented both positive and negative outcomes for the revered beverage...
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      Suspicion points to vitamin E chemical as a contributor to vaping illnesses

      The FDA is seeking more data from states

      Federal health officials are making a case that a recent outbreak of lung illnesses may be linked to a chemical derived from vitamin E that is present in many different types of marijuana liquid vaping products.

      The Washington Post reports information about the possible link was revealed this week in a conference call by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and health officials from various states.

      Previously, the lung illnesses were linked to the vaping of a wide-ranging assortment of marijuana products. The chemical showed up in most of the cannabis samples from patients who got sick over the summer.

      Vitamin E is harmless enough and millions of consumers take it daily in the form of a supplement. It’s also found naturally in certain food oils.

      When ingested as a food, it’s not known to cause any problems -- but inhaling it may be another matter. Scientists say vitamin E’s molecular structure could cause problems if it is inhaled as a vapor.

      The issue first came to light at least a year ago when health researchers claimed that vaping can damage important cells in the immune system and cause inflammation of the lungs. The researchers, writing in the journal Thorax, said that they "caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe.”

      Official vaping death

      Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the first time officially attributed a death to vaping. Previously, some 200 cases of severe lung illnesses had been flagged as being potentially linked with vaping

      In August, the agency said one adult patient in Illinois died over the summer after symptoms from an existing pulmonary illness were exacerbated or caused by e-cigarette use. 

      Bureaucratic irregularities may make it harder for health officials to pin down the exact cause of these mystery lung ailments. At present, states don’t have to report suspected cases of vaping-related illnesses. Even if they did it might be difficult to pin down the ingredient in the many types of vaping liquids that is causing the problem.

      Meanwhile, as of last week, state health department had reported 215 possible cases of vaping-related illnesses in 25 states.

      Federal health officials are making a case that a recent outbreak of lung illnesses may be linked to chemical derived from vitamin E that is present in man...
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      Gas price decline slows as some states experience an increase

      But the effects are expected to be temporary

      While gasoline prices in most states continue to fall, increases in California, Florida, and South Carolina were the outliers.

      AAA attributed the price hikes in Florida and South Carolina to the effects of Hurricane Dorian, a notion disputed by GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan, who said those states were simply caught in a price cycle.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.57 a gallon, a penny less than last Friday. That’s 14 cents less than a month ago. The average price of premium gas is $3.16, a penny less than last week. The price of diesel fuel is $2.92, also a penny lower over the last seven days.

      In most other parts of the country, prices at the pump have continued a slow decline, based in large part on relatively low crude oil prices. Oil prices have remained low over the last month amid concerns about a slowing global economy.

      “As an east coast storm, Hurricane Dorian is not threatening major oil and gas infrastructure so its impact is localized to its path along the East Coast,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “For the rest of the country, demand, which remains high, is chipping away at supply, but not at a high enough rate to increase gas prices.”

      At the same time, refineries have begun to switch over to the production of winter-grade gasoline, which costs less than summer blends. AAA reports that the price of gas dropped by a dime a gallon in the nation’s capital this week, is down nine cents in Michigan, and is seven cents a gallon lower in Delaware.

      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:

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • California ($3.63)

      • Washington ($3.20)

      • Nevada ($3.11)

      • Oregon ($3.04)

      • Alaska ($2.99)

      • Arizona ($2.82)

      • Utah ($2.80)

      • Idaho ($2.79)

      • New York ($2.75)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Louisiana ($2.18)

      • Mississippi ($2.18)

      • Alabama ($2.21)

      • South Carolina ($2.24)

      • Arkansas ($2.25)

      • Oklahoma ($2.27)

      • Tennessee ($2.27)

      • Missouri ($2.28)

      • Texas ($2.29)

      • Virginia ($2.29)

      While gasoline prices in most states continue to fall, increases in California, Florida, and South Carolina were the outliers.AAA attributed the price...
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      RH recalls children’s chairs and stools

      Paint on the chairs and stools contains excessive levels of lead

      RH, US of Corte Madera, Calif., is recalling about 3,400 children’s chairs and stools sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      Paint on the chairs and stools contains levels of lead that exceed the federal lead paint ban, and can cause adverse health effects if ingested by young children.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves Vintage Steel Play Chairs and Stools sold in distressed red under the following model names: “Play Chair”, “Tall Play Chair”, “Play Stool”, “Tall Play Stool” and “Step Stool.”

      The chairs have a curved, tubular back frame and a single vertical slat with an embossed seat.

      The stools have a curved frame and an embossed seat with a hand grip. “

      Made in India” and one of the following SKU numbers are printed on a green label located under the chair seat or stool step: 103480DRED (play chair); 103481DRED (tall play chair); 103521DRED (tall play stool); 103522DRED (play stool); and 111081DRED (step stool).

      The chairs and stools were sold at RH Baby & Child, RH Teen stores, RH warehouses and RH outlets nationwide and online at www.rhbabyandchild.com and www.rhteen.com from October 2012, through May 2019, for between $40 and $130.

      What to do

      Consumers should stop using the recalled chairs and stools, place them away from children and contact RH for a full refund for the purchase price.

      Consumers may contact RH at (800) 816-0969 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. )PT) Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Saturday and Sunday, by email at recall@rh.com, or online at www.restorationhardware.com and click on “Safety Recalls” at the bottom of the page.

      RH, US of Corte Madera, Calif., is recalling about 3,400 children’s chairs and stools sold in the U.S., and Canada.Paint on the chairs and stools conta...
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      Heatherfield Foods recalls pork sausage

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

      Heatherfield Foods of Ontario, Calif., is recalling approximately 4,380 pounds of pork sausage.

      The product has a gluten free claim on the label, but contains gluten in the form of wheat.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following raw Longanisa sausage item, were produced between March 8, 2019, and July 31, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 1-lb. thermoform tray packages containing “HAWAIIAN SAUSAGE COMPANY Sweet Filipino Longanisa ˙NO PRESERVATIVES ˙GLUTEN FREE ˙NO MSG” with lot codes 09067, 09081, 09088, 09113, 09130, 09148, 09156, 09163, 09170, 09179, 09193 and 09212 on the label.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 4846” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail locations in Hawaii.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact John Brown at (909) 460-4150.

      Heatherfield Foods of Ontario, Calif., is recalling approximately 4,380 pounds of pork sausage.The product has a gluten free claim on the label, but co...
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      Ford recalls Ford Fusions &Edges, and Lincoln MKZ & MKX vehicles

      The vehicles may lose power-steering assist

      Ford is recalling more than 98,000 model year 2013-16 Ford Fusion & Lincoln MKZ, model year 2015-16 Ford Edge and model year 2016 Lincoln MKX vehicles in U.S. states and Canadian provinces with high-corrosion environments.

      Vehicles that did not receive proper application of wax coating and are operated in high-corrosion environments associated with exposure to road salt may suffer corrosion of the steering gear motor attachment bolts.

      This could result in the steering gear motor becoming loose or detaching from the gear housing, although the steering gear motor will not separate from the vehicle.

      Detachment of the steering-gear motor from the gear housing would result in a loss of power-steering assist, which would require higher steering effort -- especially at lower speeds -- posing an increased risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Owners will be notified and dealers will replace steering gear motor-attachment bolts and apply wax sealer. If one or more of the steering gear motor-attachment bolts are broken or missing, dealers will install a new steering gear in the vehicle at no charge.

      Consumers with questions may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332.

      Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S26.

      Ford is recalling more than 98,000 model year 2013-16 Ford Fusion & Lincoln MKZ, model year 2015-16 Ford Edge and model year 2016 Lincoln MKX vehicles in U...
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      Security researchers find unprotected Facebook server online with hundreds of millions of user phone numbers

      The company says there’s no evidence that user accounts were compromised

      A Facebook server containing hundreds of millions of phone numbers linked to accounts on the platform was recently found online and unprotected by a password, TechCrunch reported Wednesday. 

      The phone numbers uncovered in the incident were associated with a feature that Facebook shuttered last year on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. While it was still active, the feature enabled Facebook users to search for someone based on their phone number. 

      Security researcher Sanyam Jain disclosed that he found more than 419 million user records stored on the exposed server; 133 million of those records were based in the U.S, and some also had the user’s name, gender, and location by country. 

      Information taken offline

      In statements to the media, Facebook disputed the number of impacted users reported by TechCrunch. The company said it estimates the number of affected users is roughly half of the 419 million figure, and many entries in the server were duplicates.

      Facebook added that it hasn’t found any evidence that user accounts were compromised. 

      "This dataset is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people's ability to find others using their phone numbers," a company spokesperson said. "The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised.

      A Facebook server containing hundreds of millions of phone numbers linked to accounts on the platform was recently found online and unprotected by a passwo...
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      United passengers booked aboard a 737 MAX jet may switch with no penalty

      The airline is preparing for the possibility that people will be wary of the currently grounded jet

      The Boeing 737 MAX, grounded since March, may be back in the air by the end of the year. When it is, United Airlines says you don’t have to fly it if you don’t want to.

      Andrew Nocella, chief commercial officer at United, told an investor conference this week that passengers booked aboard flights scheduled to fly the grounded aircraft can change flights without paying a fee.

      The 737 MAX was grounded in March after the second fatal crash in five months, believed to be for the same or similar reasons. At the time it was believed the grounding would be for a short time while a software change was made. However, it has extended month after month, forcing the airlines to cancel flights scheduled to use the jet.

      "We need to get through the recertification process, return the aircraft to service and see how things go," Nocera said at the conference. "If somebody is uncomfortable getting on the aircraft, we want to make sure we can put them on a different aircraft."

      United has little exposure

      Of all the domestic airlines, United has the least exposure to the 737 MAX. It was operating only 14 of the jets at the time of the grounding. American and Southwest fly more. Still, the airline is addressing an issue that may prove to be a problem for the aircraft and the airlines that fly it.

      Once the world’s aviation authorities declare that the 737 MAX is safe to fly, will passengers still prefer to fly on another aircraft type? And if so, what will it take to calm fears?

      The 737 MAX is a variation of the venerable Boeing 737, used by airlines around the world for short hops. Southwest Airline flies the Boeing 737 exclusively and added the 737 MAX 8 to its fleet to accommodate more passengers.

      The aircraft type flew for the first time in early 2016 and achieved certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a year later. In October 2018 a Ryan Air 737 MAX 8 crashed on takeoff in Indonesia. In March of this year, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 also crashed on takeoff under similar circumstances.

      Similarities

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

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

      The big question at this point is just exactly when the 737 MAX aircraft will return to service. Boeing officials have said they are hopeful the plan can return to the skies as early as next month.

      The Boeing 737 MAX, grounded since March, may be back in the air by the end of the year. When it is, United Airlines says you don’t have to fly it if you d...
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      Private payrolls increased by 195,000 last month

      An ADP report runs counter to growing recession fears

      Despite the recent media focus on recession concerns, U.S. businesses don’t appear to have slowed their hiring. At least, not yet.

      The ADP Research Institute’s monthly private-sector employment report shows businesses added 195,000 jobs in August. The report is different from the Labor Department’s monthly employment report -- which comes out Friday -- because it is derived from ADP's actual payroll data.

      According to the report, medium-sized businesses created the most jobs last month -- 77,000 -- followed by small businesses, which contributed 66,000. Large companies created only 2,000 jobs.

      Once again, it was the service sector that drove job creation. Companies providing services added 184,000 jobs last month, with the bulk coming in health care, trade/transportation, and professional services. Manufacturing continued to retreat, however, producing only 8,000 new jobs. 

      Rebound in jobs

      "In August we saw a rebound in private-sector employment," said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. "This is the first time in the last 12 months that we have seen balanced  job growth across small, medium and large-sized companies." 

      Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, says the takeaway is good news for the overall economy. Despite worries that things may be slowing down, companies are holding firm to their payrolls.

      “Hiring has moderated, but layoffs remain low,” Zandi said. “As long as this continues a recession will remain at bay."

      But despite the hiring bump, Wall Street is concerned that a recession is in the cards. Analysts note that the “yield curve” has inverted twice in the last four weeks, meaning yields paid on long-term bonds are less than those paid on short term notes. 

      Historically, an inverted yield curve signals a recession within the next two years.

      Despite the recent media focus on recession concerns, U.S. businesses don’t appear to have slowed their hiring. At least, not yet.The ADP Research Inst...
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      Pearhead recalls Ubbi Connecting Bath Toys

      The toys can break and create a sharp point, posing laceration and choking hazards

      Pearhead of New York is recalling about 6,200 Ubbi Connecting Bath Toys.

      The toys can break and create a sharp point, posing laceration and choking hazards to young children.

      The firm has received two reports of broken bath toys. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Ubbi Connecting Bath Toys.

      The toys are plastic with a big circle in the middle with an engraved smiley face attached to six smaller circles, and can be connected to one another.

      They were sold in a set of six pieces in red, orange, yellow, navy, blue, and green colors.

      They were also sold in an Ubbi Bath Toy Gift Set, which includes four sets of bath toys, including the Ubbi Connecting Bath Toy.

      The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at buy buy BABY, Nordstrom, Bump Box and other specialty stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com and ubbiworld.com from January 2019, through August 2019, for about $8 for Ubbi Connecting Bath Toys and $40 for the Ubbi Bath Toy Gift Set.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and return them to Pearhead for a full refund and a free replacement Ubbi Squeeze Bath Toy. Pearhead is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Pearhead collect at (718) 422-0592 from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email service@ubbiworld.com or online at www.ubbiworld.com and click on “Product Recall” at the bottom of the page for more details.

      Pearhead of New York is recalling about 6,200 Ubbi Connecting Bath Toys.The toys can break and create a sharp point, posing laceration and choking haza...
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      BMW recalls model year 2020 M340i and M340i xDrive vehicles

      The rear center headrest may fold in the event of a rear impact crash

      BMW of North America is recalling one model year 2020 M340i and one M340i xDrive vehicle.

      Due to improper welding, the rear center headrest may fold in the event of a rear impact crash.

      If the headrest folds down in a crash, there could be an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear center headrest free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 7, 2019.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling one model year 2020 M340i and one M340i xDrive vehicle.Due to improper welding, the rear center headrest may fold in...
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      Hurricane Dorian creates big impact on air travel

      Airlines are offering waivers, but some restrictions may apply

      As people get ready to protect themselves against Hurricane Dorian on the ground, people taking to the air over the next few days should do the same.

      During natural disasters such as Dorian, it’s a common occurrence for airports to close and flight paths to be re-routed, and there’s always a domino effect that comes from those actions.

      Some airports have resumed service in locations where Dorian has passed -- such as American Airlines service out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Nassau, Bahamas. Whether service is active or suspended is locale-dependent, as is the case in the Bahamas where Nassau was unscathed by Dorian while some of the islands’ other 50-some airport locations weren’t so lucky.

      If you’re booked on a flight along Dorian’s path

      Storms the size and strength of Dorian may require travelers to change travel plans, but at no extra cost. In ConsumerAffairs research, we found that airlines are showing great flexibility in capping fares and waiving baggage fees. United and American are going as far as waiving change fees for future travel if a customer chooses not to fly to or from another airport.

      However, those waivers do have some minor restrictions --mostly related to dates -- so if you have a flight booked anywhere along Dorian’s path, it’s important to review what all the available options are.

      Airline-specific information can be found at the following links:

      The FAA’s new hurricane season efforts

      Realizing that the stakes are high as a result of natural disasters, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched a campaign earlier this year to function more effectively during hurricane season.

      “The main issue with hurricanes is the unknown,” said the FAA’s Ginny Boyle in a video detailing the FAA’s efforts. “We never know how long it will linger. Just the torrential downpours -- that they kind of stall. And then how fast our response can be to come back in. In order to kind of assess the damage and see what we can do to help the people that are on the ground.”

      To that end, the FAA makes available both a detailed list of temporary flight restrictions and information about flight delay information from its Air Traffic Control System Command Center.

      The FAA cautions travelers that because one of its traffic management programs is creating delays for some arriving flights, departing flight schedules may also be affected. The agency suggests travelers check with their airlines directly to see if a flight they’re scheduled on is affected.

      As people get ready to protect themselves against Hurricane Dorian on the ground, people taking to the air over the next few days should do the same.Du...
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      Trump administration moves to undo rules requiring more energy-efficient lightbulbs

      Opponents of the planned change say it could lead to higher annual energy costs for consumers

      The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized its rollback of requirements for more energy-efficient lightbulbs. Wednesday’s filing by the Department of Energy (DOE) would prevent a set of efficiency requirements from taking effect in January 2020. 

      The requirements would have applied to about half of the 6 billion light bulbs used in the nation and “would have avoided millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere,” according to CNBC

      Opponents of the rule change say undoing the Bush-era requirements -- which were approved by a bipartisan Congress in 2007 and aimed to phase out inefficient bulbs -- could speed up global warming by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. 

      However, the DOE claims the change won’t have significant repercussions since it will only impact a small percentage of the lighting market. 

      “A more strict standard would only affect a small slice of the market,” a DOE official told reporters. “This is not a rule that radically affects the lighting market overall.”

      The bulbs that would be affected by the change include decorative globes in bathrooms, candle-shaped lights, three-way lightbulbs, and reflector bulbs. If the rule change goes into effect in January as planned, the efficiency requirements for those four categories of bulbs would be eliminated. 

      Consumers could pay more

      Consumer groups have estimated that less efficient bulbs will also lead to higher annual energy costs for U.S. consumers. 

      “The Energy Department flat out got it wrong today,” said Jason Hartke, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a group representing industrial, technological, and clean energy companies. 

      “Instead of moving us forward, this rule will keep more energy-wasting bulbs on store shelves and saddle the average American household with about $100 in unnecessary energy costs every year. At a time when we need to take aggressive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this is an unforced error,” Hartke said.

      The changes are likely to face opposition in the coming months.  

      “We will explore all options, including litigation, to stop this completely misguided and unlawful action,” Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

      “Today’s action sets the United States up to become the world’s dumping ground for the inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs being phased out around the world. Given the worsening climate crisis, this is no time to significantly increase pollution and consumer energy bills just so a few lighting companies can make more money selling inefficient bulbs.”

      The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized its rollback of requirements for more energy-efficient lightbulbs. Wednesday’s filing by the Department of...
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      Google, YouTube hit with $170 million penalty for violating children’s privacy law

      The video platform says it’s taking steps to address privacy concerns

      Federal regulators have slapped Google’s YouTube platform with a $170 million penalty for pulling in millions of advertising dollars through the improper collection of children’s personal information. 

      The settlement announced Wednesday requires that Google and YouTube pay $136 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). 

      “YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” wrote FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law.”

      New York Attorney General Letitia James said that the companies “put children at risk and abused their power” through illegally monitoring and tracking kids’ behaviors in order to serve them targeted ads. James noted that the settlement is “one of the largest settlements for a privacy matter in U.S. history.”

      Settlement also requires reform

      Under the settlement, Google and YouTube are also required to “develop, implement, and maintain a system that permits channel owners to identify their child-directed content on the YouTube platform” in order to ensure compliance with COPPA.

      Additionally, YouTube must “obtain verifiable parental consent” before collecting personal information from children.

      YouTube said in a blog post that it’s working on developing ways to address the privacy concerns that have cropped up in conjunction with “a boom in family content and the rise of shared devices.” 

      In the coming months, YouTube said it will be restricting data collection on videos likely to be watched by children and treating data from anyone watching children’s content on the platform as “coming from a child, regardless of the age of the user.” 

      YouTube said it will also cease its practice of serving targeted ads on videos aimed at young audiences and turn off comments and notifications for those videos. The company has recommended that parents use its YouTube Kids app when letting children under 13 watch videos without adult supervision. 

      Federal regulators have slapped Google’s YouTube platform with a $170 million penalty for pulling in millions of advertising dollars through the improper c...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls CLS 450 Coupes and CLS 450 Coupe 4MATICs

      The engine coolant pump may malfunction

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 3,257 model year 2019 CLS 450 Coupes and CLS 450 Coupe 4MATICs with 6-cylinder gasoline engines.

      The electrical line that supplies power to the engine coolant pump may contact the engine fan and chafe, possibly causing a malfunction of the coolant pump or a deactivation of the 48V on-board electrical system.

      A malfunctioning engine coolant pump can increase coolant temperatures, possibly leading to an engine stall. Deactivation of the 48V on-board electrical system can cause the vehicle to not restart after using the ECO start/stop function or "Glide" mode. Either of these conditions can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the coolant pump electrical line for damage, repairing it and rerouting it as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 15, 2019.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 3,257 model year 2019 CLS 450 Coupes and CLS 450 Coupe 4MATICs with 6-cylinder gasoline engines.The electrical l...
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      Mountain Mel’s recalls various herbal tea blends

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Mountain Mel’s Essential Goods of Welches, Ore., is recalling The Milk Lady’s Tea, Peaceful Baby Herbal Tea and Diges-Teas Herbal Tea.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following products are being recalled:

      • The Milk Lady’s Herbal Tea Blend, UPC 7 99632 05658 4, is packaged in a tall thin tin container with 2 oz., of tea per tin, with a purple label. The LOT# of the recalled batch is # ML6271950. The LOT# can be located on the bottom of the tin package. The Best By Date of the Milk Lady’s Tea is listed as 7/2021.
      • Peaceful Baby Herbal Tea Blend, UPC 7 99632 05656 0, is packaged in a tall thin tin container with 2 oz., of tea per tin, with a blue label. The LOT# of the recalled batch is #PB781950. The LOT# can be located on the bottom of the tin package. The Best By Date of the Peaceful Baby Tea is listed as 7/2021.
      • Diges-Teas Herbal Tea Blend, UPC 7 99632 05665 2, is packaged in a tall thin tin container with 2 oz., of tea per tin, with a brown label. The LOT# of the recalled batch is #DT7619100. The LOT# can be located on the bottom of the tin package. The Best By Date of the Diges-Teas Herbal Tea is listed as 7/2021.

      The recalled products were sold through New Seasons Market, and nationwide through Azure Standard, Mountainmels.com and Amazon.com June 27, 2019, and July 20, 2019.

      What to do

      Consumers who purchased the recalled products should take a photo of the product and lot label, and email it to info@mountainmels.com for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may email Mountain Mel’s at info@mountainmels.com.

      Mountain Mel’s Essential Goods of Welches, Ore., is recalling The Milk Lady’s Tea, Peaceful Baby Herbal Tea and Diges-Teas Herbal Tea.The products may...
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      Model year 2018-2019 BMWs and MINI Coopers recalled

      The steering gear tie rod may break

      BMW of North America is recalling 32 model year 2018-2019 BMW X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, 2019 X2 xDrive28i, MINI Cooper S Convertible, Countryman, and John Cooper Works Countryman vehicles.

      The steering gear tie rod may have been assembled incorrectly, which may result in excessive wear of the tie rod end, eventually causing it to break.

      A broken steering tie rod would lead to a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the vehicles and replace the tie rods and ball joints as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 7, 2019.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417 or MINI customer service at (866) 825-1525.

      BMW of North America is recalling 32 model year 2018-2019 BMW X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, 2019 X2 xDrive28i, MINI Cooper S Convertible, Countryman, and Joh...
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      Walmart moving away from gun and ammunition sales

      The retailer has decided to end sales of certain guns and ammunition following ‘two horrific events in one week’

      Walmart said on Tuesday that it will be limiting sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of a series of deadly shootings.  

      In a company memo, Walmart announced that it will cease sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition and handgun ammunition after it’s current inventory is gone. The retailer will also end handgun sales in Alaska, which will mark Walmart’s "complete exit from handguns."

      Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the chain’s decision to reduce sales of guns and ammunition was spurred by a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, as well as an incident just a few days earlier at another location in Southaven, Mississippi.

      "In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again," he said. "The status quo is unacceptable."

      Still catering to hunters and sportsman

      While Walmart will be halting the sale of certain types of ammunition, the retailer said it will continue to “treat law-abiding customers with respect” with a “very non-confrontational approach.” 

      "Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts,” McMillon said.

      Going forward, the retail giant is asking shoppers not to openly carry firearms at any of its stores, including those located in states that allow open carry. 

      Walmart is also urging Congress to develop “common sense” gun safety measures in light of recent incidents, which have included mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and Midland and Odessa, Texas. 

      "We encourage our nation's leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger," McMillon said. "Congress and the administration should act. Given our decades of experience selling firearms, we are also offering to serve as a resource in the national debate on responsible gun sales."

      Walmart said on Tuesday that it will be limiting sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of a series of deadly shootings.  In a company memo, Walmart...
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      Google amps up bug bounty program to stop hackers and malicious apps

      Getting white-hat hackers to find security holes can benefit the company and consumers alike

      The notion of Big Tech paying developers to find holes in their systems and software is starting to gain some pivotal traction. 

      Word out of Google’s headquarters is that the company is amping up its bug bounty program -- Google Play Security Reward Program (GPSRP). The company hopes to improve the security level of apps available on its Google Play store, possibly in response to the recent news that one app spread malware to more than 100 million phones.

      “We’re constantly looking for ways to further improve the security and privacy of our products, and the ecosystems they support,” noted Google in a blog post. 

      “At Google, we understand the strength of open platforms and ecosystems, and that the best ideas don’t always come from within. It is for this reason that we offer a broad range of vulnerability reward programs, encouraging the community to help us improve security for everyone.”

      It takes a village

      If Google can get independent, white hat security researchers to help it find vulnerabilities before their black hat adversaries do, it’s a win-win-win for Google, the researcher, and the consumer.

      Regarding that consumer front, Google’s GPSRP’s refresh has bounties for finding vulnerabilities relating to phishing, email, device (e.g. Android phone), and classified user data -- all pain points for the everyday tech user.

      The pay-off

      Google’s bounty enhancement could be quite a field day for white hat researchers. “The tempting inclusion of all apps with 100 million (or more) downloads will make Google’s Play Store bug bounty program even more attractive for the researcher community,” commented technology blogger, Abeerah Hashim.

      To Hashim’s point, ConsumerAffairs found one researcher who’s scored more than $75,000 in the last 90 days alone for finding Google-related flaws.

      Big Tech’s reward system for finding system and application flaws is becoming almost lottery-like. Tesla gave a pair of hackers a Tesla 3 after they found a vulnerability in the vehicle’s infotainment system. Apple, Facebook, and Hewlett-Packard are also in on the hack-and-win idea, awarding as much as $1.5 million.

      The notion of Big Tech paying developers to find holes in their systems and software is starting to gain some pivotal traction. Word out of Google’s he...
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      Sears is still shuttering stores with 100 more targeted for closing

      The company may be new, but the challenges are the same

      A change in ownership has not stopped the bleeding at Sears. The retailer, acquired by a firm controlled by former CEO Eddie Lampert in February, says it is closing 100 more Sears and Kmart stores.

      That’s in addition to the nearly two dozen Sears and Kmart stores already targeted for closing next month. And of course, it follows the shuttering of hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores over the last five years as the venerable retailer struggled against a rising sea of red ink.

      At the time, ESL Investments, headed by Lampert, purchased Sears’ remaining assets the company announced that it would retain only about 400 Sears and Kmart stores. It isn’t clear from the announcement whether the 100 set for closing are part of that 400 or had already been designated for elimination at the time of the purchase.

      Sears Holdings, the former owner of the brand, filed for bankruptcy protection 11 months ago. It pointed to steep declines in business lost to online shopping channels and rising debt. The following months were marked by a bitter struggle to control the company’s future, with Lampert’s hedge fund emerging as the high bidder.

      Opposition to selling to Lampert

      Even so, board members and vendors strongly opposed the sale to Lampert, suggesting his leadership as CEO had put the company in its predicament. In making his argument for ownership, Lampert said he could at least preserve some of the stores while saving approximately 68,000 jobs.

      Even after the sale was completed, there were lawsuits. The Sears Holdings’ team that was given the responsibility of disposing of Sears’ assets sued Lampert in April, alleging that Lampert destroyed billions of dollars of Sears’ value and drove the company into bankruptcy.

      Lampert defended his actions as CEO, saying he was forced to sell assets in a vain attempt to pull Sears out of what he called its “death spiral.” But Sears Holdings, which filed the suit, charges Lampert in effect “gave away the store” in deals that failed to realize the full value of the assets he was selling.

      The following month, the new Sears sued the old Sears, claiming that what’s left of the old company -- the Sears estate -- has failed to turn over "hundreds of millions of dollars of assets" called for by the sales agreement.

      A change in ownership has not stopped the bleeding at Sears. The retailer, acquired by a firm controlled by former CEO Eddie Lampert in February, says it i...
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      Whirlpool recalls glass cooktops with touch control

      The cooktop surface elements can turn on by themselves,

      Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Harbor, Mich., is recalling about 29,000 Whirlpool, KitchenAid and JennAir brand glass cooktops with touch controls sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico

      The cooktop surface elements can turn on by themselves, posing burn and fire hazards.

      The firm has received 133 reports of incidents involving the cooktop surface elements turning on by themselves.

      This resulted in 14 reports, including 13 in the U.S., and one in Canada, of heat damage to nearby items and four reports of items catching fire, including one report of property damage.

      Two minor burn injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves cooktops with a glass cooking surface, touch controls, radiant and downdraft radiant models sold under the Whirlpool, KitchenAid and JennAir brands with the following model numbers:

      Model Numbers

      Radiant Model Numbers Begin With:

      KCES950HSS

      KCES950HBL

      KCES956HSS

      KCES956HBL

      WCE97US0HS

      WCE97US0HB

      WCE97US6HS

      WCE97US6HB

      JEC4430HS

      JEC4430HB

      JEC4536HS

      JEC4536HB

      JEC4424HB

      Downdraft Radiant Model Numbers Begin With:

      JED4430GB

      JED4536GB

      JED4430GS

      JED4536GS

      They were manufactured from December 2016 through July 2019. The brand name is printed on the cooktop and the model number and serial numbers are printed on the underside of the cooktop.

      The model numbers beginning with K are KitchenAid models, the model numbers beginning with W are Whirlpool models, and the model numbers beginning with J are JennAir models.

      The cooktops, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Best Buy and other home improvement, home appliance and other stores and online from March 2017, through August 2019, for between $1,150 and $2,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately contact Whirlpool to arrange for a free installation of a replacement cooktop. When not in use, turn the unit off at the circuit breaker. Do not leave flammable materials or empty cookware on or near the cooktop.

      Consumers may contact Whirlpool toll-free at (888) 900-7897 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at repair.whirlpoolcorp.com.

      Consumers may also visit either www.whirlpool.com, www.kitchenaid.com, or www.jennair.com, and click on “Recall Information” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Harbor, Mich., is recalling about 29,000 Whirlpool, KitchenAid and JennAir brand glass cooktops with touch controls sold in...
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      Brutus & Barnaby recalls Pig Ears Natural Treats for Dogs

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Brutus & Barnaby of Clearwater, Fla., is recalling all size variations of Pig Ears for Dogs.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      The recalled product, which comes in 8 count, 12 count, 25 count and 100 count packages labeled “Pig Ears 100% Natural Treats for Dogs” containing the company's trademarked logo, was sold nationwide by Amazon.com, Chewy.com, Brutusandbarnaby.com and the brick and mortar Natures Food Patch in Clearwater, Fla.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should destroy it and contact the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (800) 489-0970 Monday – Friday, 9am – 5 PM (EST).

      Brutus & Barnaby of Clearwater, Fla., is recalling all size variations of Pig Ears for Dogs.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.The rec...
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