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    Creative Food Processing recalls raw chicken

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

    Creative Food Processing (Calperf) of Santa Clara, Calif., is recalling approximately 1,941 pounds of raw chicken.

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

    There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

    The following item, produced from April 16, 2019, to November 6, 2019, is being recalled:

    • 1-lb. sealed trays containing “GREEN MEADOWS PREMIUM MEAT CUTS Savory Chicken Boti Kebab” with use or freeze by dates from May 1, 2019 to Nov. 20, 2019 represented on the label.

    The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-6052” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail grocery stores in California.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions may contact Ananya Dasgupta at calperf.info@gmail.com.

    Creative Food Processing (Calperf) of Santa Clara, Calif., is recalling approximately 1,941 pounds of raw chicken.The product contains wheat, an allerg...
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    IRS reminds consumers that the window on FSA options is closing fast

    Insurers offer different options, so ask for clarifications on benefits and file as soon as possible

    Since we’re in the middle of open season on healthcare, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants to remind consumers that, as an “eligible employee,” they can use tax-free dollars for medical expenses and should give that option some consideration when deciding on healthcare plans.

    Dating back to a promise the Trump administration made in 2016, employees of companies that offer healthcare “flexible spending arrangements” (FSAs), are eligible to use tax-free dollars to pay medical expenses not covered by other health plans. People who are considered “self-employed” aren’t eligible for this particular benefit.

    “An employee who chooses to participate can contribute up to $2,750 through payroll deductions during the 2020 plan year,” the IRS said in a news release. The agency notes that “amounts contributed are not subject to federal income tax, Social Security tax or Medicare tax.”

    Plan particulars

    Below are some points that consumers will want to keep in mind if they plan on taking advantage of an FSA. 

    • If an employee’s plan allows it, their employer can also contribute to an employee's FSA.

    • Throughout the plan year, employees have the option to use FSA funds for qualified medical expenses that are not covered by their health plan. Healthcare.gov defines a “plan year” as “a 12-month period of benefits coverage under a group health plan. This 12-month period may not be the same as the calendar year. To find out when your plan year begins, you can check your plan documents or ask your employer. (Note: For individual health insurance policies, this 12-month period is called a ‘policy year.’)”

    • What is and what is not a “qualified medical expense” can change from insurer to insurer. Typically, those expenses are basics like copays and deductibles. After that, things start to vary with options like dental, vision, and hearing aids.

    • The FSA has a “use-or-lose” provision that forces participants to either use eligible expenses by the end of the plan year or forfeit any unspent benefits. The IRS notes that there’s a small silver lining inside that provision, though. If an employer is so inclined, they can offer participating employees two options: 1) additional time -- usually no more than 2 ½ months; or, 2) the ability to carry over up to $500 of FSA-related funds to the following plan year.

    To help consumers who need additional help getting through this maze, the IRS offers a guide on its website.

    FSAs call for patience

    While the upside of an FSA can be rosy, the downside calls for patience and understanding. In particular, ConsumerAffairs reviewers have raised issues with the time it takes for a claim to be processed.  

    “I have a flexible spending account for childcare with Cigna and it is terrible,” wrote Joey, a reviewer from South Carolina. “They take more than 30 days to process a reimbursement request! ... And then once it is processed, it takes another 4-5 business days for the direct deposit to go through. I am pulling out of this during our next open enrollment. I will just claim the deduction on my tax return at the end of the year. Who would have thought the IRS is more efficient than a private company.”

    And, if another reviewer’s experience is typical, FSA users should file claims as early as possible.

    “When you roll over from one plan year to the next, you have 90 days to submit a reimbursement request for dates of service that apply to the prior year's FSA,” said reviewer Meg from Wisconsin. 

    “I have been trying to submit a claim to this prior FSA for over a month now, which has been repeatedly misplaced. When it finally got through after talking to the third Customer Service Rep, the Claims Adjustment department determined that they received the request "one day too late," even though I had been trying to submit it for at least three weeks prior.”

    Having an FSA is a nice perk, but whether a person has access to it or not is dependent solely on the employer. “Employers are not required to offer FSAs,” the IRS reminds consumers. Officials emphasize that interested employees “should check with their employer to see if they offer an FSA.”

    Since we’re in the middle of open season on healthcare, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants to remind consumers that, as an “eligible employee,” they...
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      Apple defends its policies in response to Congressional antitrust probe

      The company refutes the claim that it engages in anti-competitive behaviors

      Apple has responded to questions raised as part of an antitrust probe launched in September. Lawmakers previously sent a letter to Apple officials asking, among other things, for the company to shed light on how much revenue it has generated from product repair services since 2009.

      Kyle Andeer, the company's vice president for Corporate Law, produced Apple’s responses to the Antitrust Committee. Andeer said the annual costs of providing repair services has “exceeded the revenue generated by repairs.” 

      The tech giant has previously been accused of making it difficult for users to get Apple devices fixed by making them go to its own stores or authorized repair centers and then charging high rates to fix faulty devices. 

      Repair service questions

      Asked if the move was a way for Apple to “elbow out competition and extend its monopoly into the market for repairs,” the company said no. Andeer said Apple’s goal is to “achieve a safe and reliable repair for our customers, whether that repair is done by Apple or a service provider designated by Apple.” 

      To that end, the company doesn’t allow independent repair stores to access its spare parts and repair manuals. He said it’s “not feasible to split products into its component parts without significant risk of damage to those components.”

      “Apple has spent time and money to make Apple devices incredibly user friendly—but they are still complex, very technical machines,” Andeer said. “And there are a number of factors that go into achieving the goal of ensuring repairs on these complex devices are safe and reliable.” 

      Andeer noted that Apple has set out to make user repairs easier to obtain in recent months by partnering with Best Buy to offer user repair services at many of the retailer’s stores. The company has also established a new system to verify independent third-parties. 

      Default browser questions

      In response to a question regarding why Apple doesn’t allow iPhone users to assign a third-party browser as their default choice and whether that move is anti-competitive, Andeer pointed to security and privacy reasons. He said Safari is “an essential part of iPhone’s functionality.” 

      “Safari is one of the apps that Apple believes defines the core user experience on iOS, with industry-leading security and privacy features,” Andeer said. “Safari is an ‘operating system app,’ like the Phone, Camera and iMessage, which are designed to work together.” 

      In the company response, Andeer noted that there are many apps that compete with Apple’s services, such as web browsing, maps, music, and video. Overall, Apple argued that all of its policies are in the best interest of users and that it doesn’t engage in anti-competitive behaviors. 

      Apple has responded to questions raised as part of an antitrust probe launched in September. Lawmakers previously sent a letter to Apple officials asking,...
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      Charity agrees to pay $4 million to resolve allegations of kickbacks

      A government investigation says the organization violated the False Claims Act

      On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that an Orlando, Florida-based patient assistance foundation called The Assistance Fund (TAF) agreed to pay $4 million to settle claims that it allowed three drug companies to pay kickbacks to Medicare patients using their drugs.

      Government officials allege that TAF conspired with the makers of three multiple sclerosis drugs: Teva, which sells Copaxone; Biogen, which sells Tysabri and Avonex; and Novartis, which sells Gilenya. 

      The fund was ultimately found to have “functioned as a conduit for money from those manufacturers to patients taking their MS drugs,” U.S. officials said. 

      “Pharmaceutical companies and foundations cannot undermine the Medicare program through the use of kickbacks disguised as routine charitable donations,” United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a statement. “TAF operated as a vehicle for specific pharmaceutical companies to pay kickbacks at the ultimate expense of the American taxpayers who support the Medicare program. We will continue to pursue this kind of enforcement until the practice disappears.”

      Supporting Big Pharma instead of consumers

      The charity told Reuters it’s committed to operating in compliance with U.S. guidelines on how charities are allowed to provide help to Medicare patients. However, those heading up the investigation into the charity argue that TAF “cared more about helping its big pharma donors make money than about helping individual patients in need of life changing assistance.” 

      “The FBI is proud to be a part of the investigation that brought TAF’s corrupt practices to light, and we will continue to seek justice against any person or entity involved in such schemes,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.

      TAF -- which joins two other foundations (the Chronic Disease Fund and Patient Access Network Foundation) in settling allegations of kickbacks -- agreed to resolve the claims without admitting wrongdoing. 

      On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that an Orlando, Florida-based patient assistance foundation called The Assistance Fund (TAF) agreed to pay...
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      Amazon reportedly plans to open a chain of cashless supermarkets early next year

      The move would be a major expansion of the Go Store concept

      Amazon reportedly plans to expand its cashless Go Store concept to supermarkets next year and could even license the technology to other chains, changing grocery shopping the same way it has altered the retail landscape.

      Bloomberg quotes sources with knowledge of the project as saying the first cashless supermarkets could open in the first quarter of next year.

      After years of planning, Amazon opened the first Amazon Go convenience store in early 2018 in Seattle. The company’s Just Walk Out Technology allows shoppers to scan their phones when they enter the store, grab what they want, and walk out without having to stop at a cash register to pay.

      Artificial intelligence charges the customer’s credit card every time an item is picked up. If you change your mind and put it back on the shelf, the software removes it from your account.

      There have been rumblings that Amazon is moving to enlarge the scale of its cashless stores. A report in September suggested the company could open as many as 3,000 cashless stores by the end of 2021.

      Ambitions beyond convenience stores

      But Amazon apparently has ambitions beyond the small convenience store concept. Bloomberg reports that the company is testing the technology in a 10,000 square foot supermarket in Seattle.

      Amazon owns the Whole Foods Market supermarket chain, but it isn’t clear if or when the Go technology might be deployed there. Amazon said last week that it intends to launch an entirely new supermarket brand with the first stores opening in upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods in 2020.

      Consumers generally have a favorable reaction to the Go technology, praising it for its ease of use and allowing consumers to skip the checkout lines. But not everyone is a fan.

      Earlier this year, city officials in San Francisco discussed banning cashless stores, claiming they discriminate against low-income consumers. To use a cashless store, a consumer would need both a credit or debit card and a mobile device. Low-income consumers, the officials argued, usually have neither.

      Shortly afterward, Amazon announced its Go Store in New York would be the first to accept cash. According to an Amazon official, a consumer who wants to pay with cash will be able to get the help of a store employee who will scan their purchases for them.

      Amazon reportedly plans to expand its cashless Go Store concept to supermarkets next year and could even license the technology to other chains, changing g...
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      Security experts warn about the growing threat of synthetic identity fraud

      Scammers are creating fake identities from bits and pieces of consumers’ data

      It isn’t enough that identity theft poses a threat to just about anyone with a pulse; now there’s something called “synthetic identity fraud (SIF).” Security experts say it could be an even more dangerous threat.

      Because of the numerous data breaches that have occurred over the last five years, there are bits and pieces of personal data on millions of consumers floating around the dark web. In many cases, these bits and pieces are not enough to steal someone’s identity.

      In a just-published white paper, GIACT Systems, which provides customer identification and authentication, reports fraudsters are combining various bits of real identification data with fake data to create a very real identity of someone who doesn’t exist.

      What makes these schemes so dangerous is they can be very hard to detect. They combine valid information with fictitious, yet established, email and social media accounts. That makes the fictitious identities hard to spot.

      All those past data breaches that were not considered that threatening because only email addresses and names were exposed might prove very valuable to scammers trying to create synthetic identities.

      GIACT Systems counts more than 446 million consumer records that were exposed in data breaches in 2018 alone. That’s a 126 percent increase over the year before.

      Growing number of SIF attacks

      These data breaches could be fueling an upsurge in SIF attacks. The Federal Reserve reports that the credit card industry lost $6 billion in SIF attacks in 2016. GIACT researchers say that’s likely just the beginning.

      "The problem with synthetic identity fraud is that it's not just a 'grab-and-go' job – cybercriminals will build synthetic identities and foster them patiently over time to build credit,” said David Barnhardt, chief experience officer at GIACT. “Once a certain credit threshold is reached, they strike – leaving businesses in the lurch."

      Businesses will most likely react by adopting new authentication procedures that may make commercial transactions more difficult and complex for consumers. Barnhardt predicts businesses will adopt ongoing identity management that will include the use of traditional and non-traditional data to validate identity. 

      Consumers will be impacted in another way. As losses to businesses mount due to SIF attacks, companies will at some point have to raise prices.

      "Businesses need to take identity seriously, throughout the customer lifecycle and as change events occur, if synthetic identities are to be stopped," said Kyle Marchini, senior analyst, Fraud Management at Javelin Strategy & Research. "Today, synthetic identities are hiding in plain sight. They're a recipe for disaster."

      It isn’t enough that identity theft poses a threat to just about anyone with a pulse; now there’s something called “synthetic identity fraud (SIF).” Securi...
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      Eating more beans can promote good heart health

      Consumers who incorporate more legumes into their diets can reduce their risk of heart disease

      Diet plays a huge role in consumers’ overall health, and the results of a new study may suggest which foods consumers should focus on to promote better heart function: beans.

      Researchers found that eating more legumes helped consumers maintain good heart health, lower their blood pressure, and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and any associated heart health issues. 

      “Americans eat less than one serving of legumes per day, on average,” said researcher Dr. Hana Kahleova. “Simply adding more beans to our plates could be a powerful tool in fighting heart disease and bringing down blood pressure.” 

      Benefits of beans

      While one recent study found that beans were an effective way for consumers to lose more weight, the researchers of this study were focused on other health benefits they can provide to consumers. 

      The team analyzed previous studies that tracked consumers’ dietary habits to see if consistent bean consumption affected overall health. Dr. Kahleova noted that consumers aren’t eating enough legumes, but her team’s research proved how beneficial they can be to heart health. 

      The study revealed that participants gave themselves the best chances at boosting their heart health when they ate more beans, as the food group was found to maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Participants who ate beans on a regular basis were 10 percent less likely to have any such heart conditions when compared with those who ate the fewest amount of beans. 

      The researchers credit the disease-fighting nature of legumes to their nutritional make-up. The foods are packed with fiber and proteins and don’t have detrimental lipids like cholesterol and fat. Moving forward, the researchers hope that consumers consider adding more legumes to their day-to-day diets, as doing so can come with several health benefits that could potentially be life-saving. 

      “Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading -- and most expensive -- cause of death, costing the United States nearly 1 billion dollars a day,” said Dr. Kahleova. “This study shows that an inexpensive, accessible, and common pantry staple could help change that: beans.” 

      Diet plays a huge role in consumers’ overall health, and the results of a new study may suggest which foods consumers should focus on to promote better hea...
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      GM sues Fiat Chrysler under federal racketeering laws

      The unusual complaint charges FCA with trying to force GM into a merger

      It seems the car companies negotiating new labor deals have gotten along better with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union than with each other.

      General Motors has filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler (FCA) charging its rival with corrupting GM’s contract negotiations. In an extraordinary move, GM filed the complaint under federal racketeering laws, alleging FCA paid millions of dollars in bribes “to obtain benefits, concessions, and advantages in the negotiation, implementation, and administration of labor agreements over time." 

      The objective of that alleged action, the suit claims, was to give FCA an advantage by paying lower labor expenses, with the added aim of weakening GM financially. While large corporations are usually reluctant to comment on pending litigation, FCA fired back immediately.

      "We are astonished by this filing, both its content and its timing," FCA said in a statement. "We can only assume this was intended to disrupt our proposed merger with PSA as well as our negotiations with the UAW. We intend to vigorously defend against this meritless lawsuit and pursue all legal remedies in response to it.”

      FCA still negotiating with the UAW

      GM filed its suit as FCA approached the final stages of its negotiations with the UAW on its new contract. FCA and Ford have had relatively smooth negotiations compared to GM, which was idled by a 40-day strike.

      The GM suit claims that FCA conspired with UAW leaders to facilitate FCA’s hostile takeover of GM, alleging that the goal has been in place since 2005. The suit claims FCA executives sought to bribe UAW leaders to support the company’s efforts to force a merger with GM.

      Currently, FCA is working toward a merger with Groupe PSA, a French automaker that produces Peugeot and other international brands. The merger, announced last month, would create the world’s fourth-largest automaker.

      Both brands would increase their international reach since FCA is strong in North and South America and Groupe PSA has a foothold in Europe. When it comes to specific brands, the new auto company will offer FCA’s line-up of Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram trucks, along with Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Fiat.

      It seems the car companies negotiating new labor deals have gotten along better with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union than with each other.General M...
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      Ford recalls model year 2018-19 Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks

      The daytime running lamps do not function properly

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 100,000 model year 2018-19 Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks with LED headlamps.

      When the daytime running lamps are illuminated and the master lighting switch is moved to the low-beam position, they do not revert to parking lamp intensity as required by federal law.

      Ford has not received any reports of accident or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will update the body control module.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-733. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19C10.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 100,000 model year 2018-19 Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks with LED headlamps.When the daytime running lamps are illumi...
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      New York files lawsuit against Juul

      The state accuses the e-cigarette maker of willfully marketing to teenage users

      New York is following the lead of other states, counties, and school districts in suing Juul for allegedly marketing to teenagers through the use of a “deceptive and illegal” campaign. 

      The state’s Attorney General, Letitia James, announced the lawsuit on Tuesday and said she has no doubt that the company’s actions caused minors to become addicted to its products. In the complaint, James accuses Juul of marketing directly to teens by advertising its fruit flavored products on social media and downplaying the fact that the products contain nicotine. 

      "Juul is putting countless New Yorkers at risk and compromising the health of millions of young people," James said at a press conference. "There is no doubt that Juul ... has caused this addiction."

      Rise in teen vaping

      Lawmakers have previously said they believe e-cigarette manufacturers like Juul must be held accountable for their role in creating and fueling the youth vaping epidemic. 

      Meanwhile, Juul has said it’s just as concerned as regulators that its products are falling into the hands of underage users instead of its target demographic, “the world's 1 billion adult smokers.” James claims in the lawsuit that Juul “took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook” when it allowed young consumers to purchase its products.

      “JUUL’s advertising and social media posts misled consumers about the content of its products by failing to warn that they contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical that is particularly dangerous for adolescents,” the complaint alleges.

      Similar lawsuits

      Earlier this week, California filed a similar lawsuit against Juul. The state’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, accused the e-cigarette maker of targeting minors through its marketing tactics and product design. 

      The suit also accuses the company of using a “flawed” age-verification process for online sales and failing to properly warn consumers of the fact that they would be exposed to chemicals associated with cancer and birth defects.

      “We’ve worked too hard, committed our hard-earned money for too long combatting harmful tobacco use to stand idly by as we now lose Californians to vaping and nicotine addiction,” Becerra said in a statement.

      In May, North Carolina also filed a lawsuit against Juul, accusing the company of employing “deceptive and unfair” marketing practices to drive sales to minors.

      In an effort to appease regulators and minimize its appeal to youth users, Juul recently stopped sales of fruit and mint-flavored vape products and suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S. 

      Juul says it’s committed to “earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.” 

      New York is following the lead of other states, counties, and school districts in suing Juul for allegedly marketing to teenagers through the use of a “dec...
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      DoorDash faces lawsuit claiming it pocketed workers’ tips

      Washington, D.C.’s attorney general filed the complaint after an eight-month probe

      District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has filed a lawsuit against food delivery service DoorDash, accusing the company of urging consumers to generously tip drivers but keeping the money instead of passing it along to the workers.

      The lawsuit is seeking to recover millions of dollars from DoorDash that the attorney general says should have gone to the company’s drivers. It also seeks to impose civil penalties.

      “DoorDash misled consumers, who reasonably believed that their tips would go to workers, not the company’s bottom line,” Racine said. "We are filing suit to put a stop to this deceptive practice and secure monetary relief for those harmed by DoorDash’s actions.” 

      ‘A previous pay model’

      In a statement, DoorDash took strong exception to the charges and said it was disappointed by the suit, especially since it refers to a discontinued business model.

      “Transparency is of paramount importance, which is why we publicly disclosed how our previous pay model worked in communications specifically created for Dashers, consumers and the general public starting in 2017,” a spokesman said. “We’ve also worked with an independent third party to verify that we have always paid 100 percent of tips to Dashers.”

      The company said it believes the charges leveled in the lawsuit are “without merit” and that it plans to respond to them through the legal process.

      Racine says his office opened an investigation in March to examine DoorDash’s practice over a two-year period, ending in September. He says the investigation confirmed that the company used tips consumers paid to delivery personnel to offset the company’s payment to workers. 

      Allegedly used tips as part of regular pay

      The attorney-general says DoorDash encouraged consumers to tip and even included a default recommended tip amount for all orders. However, Racine said the delivery personnel rarely got additional money beyond their standard pay, no matter the size of the tip.

      The complaint charges DoorDash of using tips from consumers to cover its payment to workers instead of passing tips along as a gratuity—meaning that the more consumers tipped, the less the company had to pay workers itself.

      District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has filed a lawsuit against food delivery service DoorDash, accusing the company of urging consumers to g...
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      Congress to consider ad campaign to recruit more transportation workers

      Three lawmakers have introduced a bill to fund the effort

      Consumers are traveling more than ever, but some lawmakers in Congress are worried there soon won’t be enough transportation workers to get people where they’re going.

      Three members of the House have introduced the Promoting Service in Transportation Act, which would authorize the government to spend up to $30 million on an ad campaign urging people to go into the transportation industry.

      The bipartisan legislation is backed by Representatives Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who say there is a need for more airline pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers, and railroad workers.

      One industry group says the need for aviation workers is growing especially fast, with 800,000 pilots, 769,000 technicians, and 20,000 air traffic controllers needed over the next decade. Selena Shilad, executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, says the need is becoming critical.

      “For this reason, it is incredibly important that we foster enthusiasm in flying and ensure that the many talented, skilled workers across our country are aware of the vast opportunities that exist within the aviation industry,” Shilad said.  “We applaud the introduction of this legislation, which will help to address these challenges and increase awareness of career opportunities in the transportation sector, including aviation pilots, safety inspectors and technicians, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, truck drivers, engineers, transit workers, railroad workers, and other transportation professionals.”

      Greater need leads to higher wages

      The need for truck drivers is currently driving the pay for that job higher. At the beginning of the year, Walmart announced an increase in the amount it is paying its drivers, as booming sales put even more cargo on the road. By March, there was growing concern that the trucker shortage would result in higher prices for consumers.

      Transportation officials say the trucking industry will need 60,000 to 100,000 more drivers each year over the next decade to keep freight moving. 

      The legislation would not only urge people to consider careers in transportation. Lawmakers say the act would specifically target minorities and women to increase diversity in the workforce. An estimated 90 percent of professional airline pilots and truck drivers are white males.

      While employment in major industry sectors has increased in 2019, transportation job growth has lagged -- not because jobs aren’t available but because fewer people are applying them. As competition has increased for transportation workers, their salaries have risen.

      The median salary of an airline pilot is $130,000 a year. The median pay for a truck driver for a private fleet is $73,000, while the Labor Department puts the median pay for all truck drivers at around $40,000.

      Consumers are traveling more than ever, but some lawmakers in Congress are worried there soon won’t be enough transportation workers to get people where th...
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      Target’s bottom line zooms thanks to its investment in free delivery options

      In-store and curbside is a competitive move that others like Amazon can’t compete with, experts say

      Thanksgiving it still a week away, but Target was just passed the gravy boat. The company’s consumer strategy of “buy today online, get today” has proven itself a winning strategy. 

      This is the sign that both analysts and investors were looking for. Many were seemingly unconvinced that getting customers to a store to pick up their packages would actually work.

      But work it did. The company points out that its “total revenue of $18.7 billion increased 4.7 percent from $17.8 billion last year. Third quarter comparable digital channel sales grew 31 percent, on top of 49 percent last year. Same-day fulfillment services (Order Pick Up, Drive Up and Shipt) accounted for 80 percent of Target's digital comparable sales growth.”

      Counting the ways

      “When it’s delivered by our stores ... those look a lot more like store economics,” CEO Brian Cornell said in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. Cornell made Target’s number-crunching chop-licking worthy, saying that close to 90 percent of the cost goes away when a consumer orders online and uses one of the three available delivery services.

      There’s also the upside of not having to maintain a giant warehouse like Amazon and other online retailers do.

      “Arguably, this is the one area where Amazon can’t compete at the same size and scale, remarked CNBC’s Lauren Thomas. “It doesn’t have a network of stores, like Target and Walmart, where shoppers can pick up orders.”

      Is store pickup the consumer’s way of saving money?

      Target hasn’t given up on its $9.99 same day delivery to a consumer’s home, but ordering online and picking up the order via in-store or curbside seems to be the sweet spot. 

      A comparison of consumer preferences conducted by eFulfillment showed as much, with 67 percent of survey respondents saying they’d pick free shipping over fast delivery any day. The survey also found that consumers are more than willing to hold their horses and wait a few days for their shipment if it was delivered free-of-charge.

      Thanksgiving it still a week away, but Target was just passed the gravy boat. The company’s consumer strategy of “buy today online, get today” has proven i...
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      Google shares more details about ‘Project Nightingale’ program

      The tech giant is attempting to address lawmakers’ concerns about the health care venture

      Not long after it was announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened an investigation into Google’s “Project Nightingale” health care data collection program, the tech giant has shared additional details about the controversial project. 

      Federal regulators are currently looking into whether Google’s program violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (known as HIPAA). 

      For the program, Google has partnered with Ascension -- a large, nonprofit faith-based hospital network. The company said previously that it’s legally collecting data from Ascension under a business associate agreement (BAA), which allows it to share some patient information in compliance with current health privacy laws.

      In a blog post on Wednesday, Google attempted to assuage lingering privacy concerns by underscoring the fact that identifiable patient data will only be viewed by select staff that "undergo HIPAA and medical ethics training, and are individually and explicitly approved by Ascension for a limited time." 

      Google added that it will also use technical controls that are "designed to prevent the data from leaving this environment." Patient data access is also “monitored and auditable,” the company noted. 

      Privacy concerns 

      Earlier this week, several Congressional Democrats sent a letter to Google officials calling the company’s data-sharing deal “disturbing.”

      The lawmakers noted that Ascension’s decision to not to inform patients before moving ahead with the collaboration has sparked justifiable concern. They requested a briefing to learn more about the agreement by December 6. 

      In its blog post, Google reiterated that personalized patient data “cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing our services” under its BAA with Ascension. 

      “This means it's never used for advertising,” the company said, adding that it’s also published a white paper showing how customer data is encrypted and isolated in the cloud. 

      Not long after it was announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened an investigation into Google’s “Project Nightingale” health ca...
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      Retirement spending habits differ based on your personality

      Researchers say introverts and extroverts spend differently

      Saving for retirement can be stressful for many consumers, as a wide array of factors come into play as consumers leave the workforce. 

      Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the American Psychological Association has found that saving and spending habits in retirement could come down to personality types. 

      “Little is known about what personally motivates retirees to withdraw money from their investment portfolios as most studies on portfolio withdrawal rates address technical issues, such as minimizing risk of financial shortfall or making spending adjustments based on perceived life expectancy,” said researcher Sarah Asebedo, PhD. “The purpose of this study was to investigate how personality traits are related to portfolio withdrawal decisions of retirees.” 

      What impacts spending habits?

      To understand how personality type played a role in consumers’ retirement spending habits, the researchers had over 3,600 people respond to National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Study. 

      The researchers were primarily concerned with five personality traits that mental health professionals typically look for to determine personality types: neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. After collecting the survey data, the researchers were also able to look at the participants’ tax information in order to accurately assess how they were handling their spending habits. 

      The study revealed that personality type was closely linked to how retired consumers handled their money. Those who loved adventure and showed signs of creativity, as well as those who were often worried, nervous, or negative, were all more likely to spend faster than those who were more organized, cautious, and more positive overall. 

      The researchers also discovered that a person’s sense of control over their own finances played a big role in how retirees spent or saved; those who felt more in control were better at saving than those who were more stressed about money. 

      Saving and spending

      Though many consumers stress about saving enough for retirement, the researchers encourage consumers not to worry just because their personality type might signal they’re more likely to make more withdrawals. 

      These findings simply signify a trend emerging among retirees, and consumers should be mindful of their personal financial situations when thinking about their spending and saving habits. 

      “A higher portfolio withdrawal rate is concerning if it places the individual on a path to run out of money too early,” said Asebedo. “However, if the higher portfolio rate does not run the risk of running out of money, then it may very well be facilitating a life well-lived. Similarly, a lower withdrawal rate is a good thing if it facilitates controlled spending from the portfolio at a level that protects it from early depletion. If the individual is under-spending and forgoing experiences they would enjoy because of a saving habit they are unable to break, then the low withdrawal rate is a missed opportunity to maximize the life they have saved for.”

      Saving for retirement can be stressful for many consumers, as a wide array of factors come into play as consumers leave the workforce. Now, a new study...
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      Uber to start recording audio of rides

      The company says the feature would help ensure safe interactions between riders and drivers

      Uber plans to start creating audio recordings of rides in the U.S. as part of its mission to increase passenger safety, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. 

      In recent years, numerous incidents have happened in Uber vehicles. The ride-hailing firm has been hit with several lawsuits filed by passengers who say they were sexually assaulted during rides. 

      The new feature is intended to make passengers and drivers feel mutually at ease during rides. Users would have to opt into having their trips recorded, and all recordings would be encrypted for privacy purposes.  

      Tests in the U.S. starting ‘soon’

      Riders “would likely be given a blanket warning that trips are subject to recording — and that the feature will be active in their market,” the Post noted. Additionally, riders and drivers will not be able to listen to the recording after it’s created.

      At the end of a trip, people will have the opportunity to report the occurrence of any incident they were uncomfortable with. An encrypted audio file of the journey will then be sent to an Uber customer support agent, who will then “take the appropriate action” after listening to the file. 

      The company plans to pilot the feature in Brazilian and Mexican cities next month and test it in the U.S. “soon,” according to an email obtained by the Post. 

      The ride-hailing giant said it isn’t sure when the feature will be widely deployed in the U.S. since “laws in the United States around consent to being recorded can vary from state to state." Uber added that it hopes to be able to “make this available nationally.” 

      Increasing passenger safety

      Following reports of sexual assaults and other safety incidents, Uber says it has been striving to put safety at the center of everything it does. Last year, the company announced that it was “getting serious” about passenger safety and introduced several new app features to support its mission of achieving that objective. 

      Earlier this year, the company announced that it would be giving riders the ability to text 911 from within the Uber app. The text to 911 would be pre-populated with information such as the car’s license plate, the vehicle’s exact location, and its destination so riders could quickly and easily call for help in an emergency. 

      Uber also announced that its app will soon include an optional security feature that sends passengers a four-digit code which should match the driver’s. The feature will help riders confirm that they are getting into the vehicle that was sent for them. 

      “Every day, our technology puts millions of people together in cars in cities around the world,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement at the time. “Helping keep people safe is a huge responsibility, and one we do not take lightly.”

      Uber plans to start creating audio recordings of rides in the U.S. as part of its mission to increase passenger safety, The Washington Post reported Wednes...
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      NTSB urges Boeing to redesign engines on 7,000 aircraft

      The recommendations follow the investigation of a 2018 fatal accident

      Boeing is dealing with a safety issue that has nothing to do with the grounded 737 MAX aircraft.

      The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the aircraft manufacturer redesign the engines on 7,000 planes to prevent a repeat of a 2018 fatal accident.

      In April 2018, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 on a flight from New York to Dallas had to make an emergency landing after one of the engines exploded and metal shrapnel broke one of the windows over the wing of the aircraft.

      The passenger sitting next to the window, 43-year old Jennifer Riordan, was nearly sucked from the depressurized cabin and died from her injuries. As a result of its investigation of the accident, the NTSB has issued seven safety recommendations.

      Conclusions

      The NTSB concluded that a fractured fan blade from a CFM International CFM-56-7B engine, powering a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700, led to the engine inlet and fan cowl separating and subsequently damaging the fuselage, resulting in a rapid cabin depressurization.

      “This accident demonstrates that a fan blade can fail and release differently than that observed during engine certification testing and accounted for in airframe structural analyses,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “It is important to go beyond routine examination of fan blades; the structural integrity of the engine nacelle components for various airframe and engine combinations needs to be ensured.”

      Of the seven NTSB recommendations, five were issued to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), one was issued to the European Aviation Safety Agency, and one was issued to Southwest Airlines.

      Structural integrity of the fan cowl

      The recommendations stress the need to ensure the structural integrity of the fan cowl on the Boeing 737 next-generation aircraft. They also call for an assessment of whether other airframe and engine combinations have critical fan blade impact locations.

      Of material concern to Boeing, the agency also recommended that Boeing redesign part of the outer covering of the aircraft’s engines to prevent it from striking the fuselage if a fan blade breaks free in the future.

      The NTSB said all of next-generation Boeing 737 aircraft should be retrofitted with a suitable fix.

      The issue has no bearing on the 737 MAX, which remains grounded following two crashes in five months. The 737 NG jets are much more numerous in airline fleets than the 737 MAX. They have also faced other issues, including the formation of cracks on some of the older aircraft.

      Boeing is dealing with a safety issue that has nothing to do with the grounded 737 MAX aircraft.The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has rec...
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