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    Model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators recalled

    The vehicles may leak fuel

    Ford Motor Company is recalling about 3,900 model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators.

    The convolute protective sleeve on the liquid fuel line is not long enough, which may allow for potential hard contact with the convolute-protected vapor fuel line.

    Over time, with vibration and engine roll, hard contact between the two fuel lines could cause the convolute on the vapor fuel line to rub through the plastic liquid fuel line. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire.

    Ford has not received any reports of accident, injury or fire.

    What to do

    Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect vehicles for a full-length yellow-colored protective convolute on the liquid fuel line. If the convolute does not cover the full length of the liquid fuel line, dealers will remove the existing convolute, replace it with one that has the correct length and secure it with a tie strap.

    Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is19S49.

    Ford Motor Company is recalling about 3,900 model year 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators.The convolute protective sleeve on the liquid fuel line...
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    Traveling to Mexico City -- a destination full of wonderful sights, culture, and people

    Hesitant travelers may raise their eyebrows, but those who give it a chance will experience a trip they won’t soon forget

    Often during the holidays, the question of vacations in the new year comes up. If you’re starting to think about where to go in 2020, I’d like to tell you about a trip I took recently that turned into one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever been on.

    We’ll start here: if I told you that my next trip out of the States was going to be to Mexico City, what would you say?

    If you’re anything like my friends, you might tilt your head, look at me quizzically, and ask something along the lines of, “What the heck are you thinkin’?”. 

    With the narrative the country of Mexico has been given over the last few years, that reaction is understandable. But I had heard some great things about Mexico City, so I did my homework, donned my “all who wander are not lost” t-shirt, and flew south -- sort of a Christmas gift from me to me. Thanks to the climate, culture, food, and value, Mexico City is now one of my three favorite places to visit. Here’s why...

    Big and beautiful with nice people

    Mexico City is a huge place. With 20+ million people, it’s only slightly smaller than New York City, yet much larger than Los Angeles, and just as cosmopolitan as both.

    There are skyscrapers in Mexico City, the most beautiful (and open-air) Apple store I’ve ever laid eyes on, a downtown that’s every bit as vibrant as Manhattan, shopping that’s as department store-like or boutique-like as you want, and the whole place is outlined by some incredible little villages where I found the same kind of ambiance, shops, and cobblestoned streets I fell in love with in Aix de Provence, France and Rye, England. 

    Big parks, too — with lots of green space to roam around in, lakes with boats you can rent, open-air bookstores to browse, and food vendors ready to tempt your taste buds. By the way, the street corn is a must.

    The people couldn’t have been nicer, either. I’ve been in places where I felt like an “ugly American,” but not here. 

    They also seemed happy, too. Maybe it’s because life is good in Mexico City -- residents enjoy both a low cost-of-living and a decent earnings potential. One quick, happy note came from my Sunday excursions, where I saw major city streets closed off so individuals and families could bike through town without worrying about staying out of the way of cars and trucks.

    Muy delicioso

    The food in Mexico City is muy bueno, original, and plentiful. However, don’t expect two-for-one margarita specials or burritos as big as your head -- the Americanized version of Mexican food is nowhere to be found.

    What is to be found are a) incredible tacos, either from street vendors, at El Tizoncito (the birthplace of tacos al pastor,) or at least a dozen other places that battle with each other for the best taco crown; and b) some great seafood. Believe it or not, Mexico City is home to the second-largest seafood market in the world (behind Tokyo), so the ocean-fresh options are not only diverse but in abundance.

    Prozac weather

    The weather is very San Diego-like. It seemed like 75 and clear was the forecast du jour every day I was there. At night, there was a cool-ish, light jacket type of weather. 

    One of my friends refers to those conditions as “Prozac weather.” He’s spot-on. From January through December, the Mexico City weather seldom gets above 81 degrees during the day or below 41 degrees at night -- perfect for folks looking for a temperate break from the winter chill.

    More bang for your buck

    The value, in and of itself, is incredible. You can buy some of those delicious tacos I mentioned for as little as 50 cents U.S., get a subway ride from one end of town to the other for less than 25 cents U.S., or only be charged $10 to take an Uber for a 50-minute drive. And my Airbnb? $25 U.S. a day. 

    Not having to worry about watching my wallet allowed me to amp up my adventures even further. Along with Krakow, Poland, Mexico City offered the best bang for the travel buck that I’ve found.

    Culture fit for a king

    Oh, boy, the culture. It’s amazing. As advertised, there are more museums here than anyplace else on the planet, and they could beat out museums in Paris or Madrid and easily go toe-to-toe with London. I did my best to visit two or three museums a day, and I didn’t make it through all the city has to offer.

    Now, mind you, the museums don’t have some grand Monet or Rembrandt to bank on as a lure, so many have to curate special exhibits of their own to be competitive, and they do a darn fine job of it. They’re all remarkable in both size and scope, each serving a unique niche so as not to step on the feet of their peers. 

    The Museo Nacional de Antropología and Frida Kahlo's “blue house" were personal favorites. The niche curations of places like the Memory and Tolerance Museum and the Franz Mayer Museum are distinctive, and I recommend them highly.

    On a performance level, the Ballet Folklórico de México is one of the most thrilling things I’ve seen on any stage anywhere, plus the combination of a mezcal tasting and lucha libre match is something you won’t experience anywhere else.

    For travelers who like to bring a piece of the city home with them, I found that Mexico City’s artisans offer items and styles that will catch the eye of the folks back home. Granted, there are peddlers trying to make a quick buck off of cheap imitations that may appear authentic to the untrained eye, but you can find the real deal if you look in the right places.

    One of my luckiest discoveries was the Artesanias Plaza San Juan, a fair-trade organizer that serves the interest of artisans from across Mexico and sells bona fide ceramics, apparel, and other items.

    For those who have a curious side, there are some sidebar trips that are also worth trying -- including learning how to paint a street art mural; cooking classes; taking a day trip to Teotihuacan, the Aztec-built City of the Gods which dates back to the 13th century; or the charming town of San Miguel de Allende, a World Heritage Site about 170 miles from Mexico City.

    Getting there

    With the myriad of travel sites trying to elbow each other out for the best prices, travelers can find comparatively low airfares to Mexico City, especially during the winter months. Google Flights shows roundtrip fares for snowbirds as low as $309 from Philadelphia, $417 from Milwaukee, $400 from Omaha, and $359 from Boston. 

    Or, you may want to do what I did and cash in rewards points that I earned with my American Airlines credit card. Using rewards travel to fly to Mexico from the U.S., at least on American, requires fewer points than flying to Hawaii and nearly half the points that it does going to Europe or Asia.

    Getting through customs in Mexico City was smoother than many places I’ve been. That said, a word of caution: unlike other countries that keep the customs card you fill out upon arrival, in Mexico you’re required to show that same card when you’re returning home. If you don’t, you have to visit the customs office and pay as much as a $60 fee per person. Luckily, I had mine, but that little oops can not only cost a traveler money, but it could eat up valuable time at the airport trying to sort things out.

    Google is a godsend

    As a consumer tech writer, I’m not wed to any particular brand or platform. I’ve got parts of Apple, Microsoft, and Google all running through my daily life. All the same, I have to hand it to Google for making this trip simple and connected.

    With Google Fi as my carrier, calling from Mexico was as seamless as calling from Chicago or Dallas, with no fussy country codes, country-specific SD cards to put in my phone, or a slew of charges that popped up on my phone bill when I got home.

    Google apps also made my travel life easier. Unlike many other countries, people in Mexico aren’t educated in a bilingual system, so Google Translate was a constant companion. It added some time to get the answers I was looking for, but it was better than trying my luck with broken Spanish or gestures that probably made sense to no one but myself.

    But it’s dirty and has all those migrants, doesn’t it?

    Fortunately, as I quickly found out, Mexico City may be in Mexico, but it’s a far cry from the distressed areas of Mexico like Juarez or Tijuana. The streets are void of chicken buses, and there’s no one trying to sell you junk as they do on the beaches in Cozumel.

    “But, aren’t there all those migrants from Central America?” you ask. People in Central America who want to migrate to the United States want to get to a U.S. border town in the shortest, straightest line possible. While Mexico City gets a share of the folks passing through headed northwest toward Nogales, Ariz. or El Paso, Texas, many are on a beeline up the coast to McAllen, Texas, a route nearly 250 miles from Mexico City.

    About the cleanliness of the city, I can tell you that the streets appeared to be cleaned every morning and every night. Shop owners sweep the sidewalks, and the city has crews out cleaning the statues once a week. Even the street vendors hawking their fake Nikes are required to disassemble their booth every night, put it away in a warehouse, then get it out the next day and reassemble it. Not every place you’ll visit is that buttoned up.

    Is it safe?

    I’m a seasoned traveler, and my tolerance might be higher than the average tourist, but I felt safe -- safer than I’ve felt in parts of Buffalo, NY, Belize, Budapest, or even my hometown of Louisville, Ky. In fact, the crime rate in Mexico City is lower than Detroit, Baltimore, and Albuquerque and is about on par with St. Louis, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Houston, and Chicago. 

    The police in Mexico City keep a “presence.” Not an overbearing or military presence like I witnessed in Tibet, but more of a “we’re here just in case you need us” sort of footprint that makes tourists feel safe and provides a friendly deterrent to anyone bent on doing something criminal.

    One question I get asked a lot is about cartel-related violence. Again, that issue is typically in the border towns north of Mexico City. A prime example would be Reynosa, a popular rest stop for Central American migrants hoping to be granted entry to the U.S. However, like the other border towns, Reynosa is a far cry from Mexico City -- about 700 miles as the crow flies.

    The verdict

    No one -- not even my fearless girlfriend who’s been with me on most of my adventures -- wanted to go with me to Mexico City. Now, thanks to photos and posts, I could probably book a tour for a dozen people who would like to experience the same wow that I did.

    Mexico City is not for everyone, but if you’ve been to most of the major destinations and are comfortable being in a culture where there’s a whirling dervish of possibilities, then give it some consideration the next time you’re thinking about taking an adventure.

    I’m glad I went -- and I’m already planning to go again.

    Often during the holidays, the question of vacations in the new year comes up. If you’re starting to think about where to go in 2020, I’d like to tell you...
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    FAA proposes new rule requiring drones to have a remote ID

    The move would allow the government to track and identify all drones flying within U.S. airspace

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a new rule earlier this week that would require all drones -- or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) -- to be registered under a remote ID system. 

    If passed, the rule would allow authorities to track and identify all drones operating within U.S. airspace. The FAA says the purpose of the rule is to ensure the safety of the public by identifying potential threats. 

    “As technology progresses and the utility of UAS increases, the FAA anticipates a need for further rulemaking to continue to foster the safe, secure, and efficient use of the airspace of the United States,” the agency said in its proposal. 

    Emphasizing safety

    Drones have become an increasingly popular product for consumers, and businesses have begun to consider them for delivery purposes. The FAA notes that there are currently over 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots registered within its system. 

    In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said that implementing remote ID technologies would allow local and federal law enforcement to “identify drones flying in their jurisdiction” by enhancing safety and security.

    “Remote identification of UAS would provide airspace awareness to the FAA, national security agencies, and law enforcement entities,” the FAA stated. “This information could be used to distinguish compliant airspace users from those potentially posing a safety or security risk.”

    The agency says that drone operators would have three years to become compliant with the new standard if it is approved. 

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a new rule earlier this week that would require all drones -- or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) -- to be...
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      Amazon wins big over holiday season

      The online retailer sold billions of products and had millions of Prime sign-ups

      If you were to take stock following the holiday shopping season, it would be hard to find an area in which Amazon didn’t see growth. 

      Despite a shorter holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the online retailer reports that it sold billions of items through its network and signed up millions of consumers for its Prime membership. The company cited special deals on some of the busiest shopping days throughout November and December as being a big driver for its success.

      “Throughout the season, Amazon offered customers incredible deals every day and deeper discounts and more Deals of the Day than ever before during shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” the company said. 

      Amazon devices and Prime memberships

      While independent and third-party companies that use Amazon’s network produced over a billion sales over the holiday period, the online retailer says that some of its own products and services were big hits with consumers this year. 

      The company says it sold “tens of millions” of Amazon devices, including the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, and Echo Show 5. It also experienced an 80 percent year-over-year increase in the number of people who used its grocery delivery service through Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh.

      Perhaps the biggest highlight may have been the number of consumers who signed up for Amazon’s Prime membership. The company reports that over five million consumers signed up for the program over the holidays, though it remains to be seen if those memberships will hold as we move into 2020. 

      “This holiday season has been better than ever thanks to our customers and employees all around the world,” added Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “On behalf of all Amazonians, we wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a fantastic 2020.”

      If you were to take stock following the holiday shopping season, it would be hard to find an area in which Amazon didn’t see growth. Despite a shorter...
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      Scammers heat up over cold weather by threatening to turn off consumers’ utilities

      Consumers confused over their utility bill should call the local utility company for confirmation before they pay anyone else

      With the holidays over and all those related scams out of vogue, scammers are looking for the next consumer pain point. It appears they’ve found a wintertime doozy -- posing as a utility company threatening to shut off a consumer’s or a business’ utilities.

      Reports from Grand Rapids, MI, and Hudson, NY, say that the utility wrinkle is in full swing and has hit more than 75 consumers and small business owners already. The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) ScamTracker shows that a utility bill scam has also been reported in Columbus, OH that was tied to American Electric Power (AEP).

      How the scam plays out

      When it’s cold outside, the last thing a consumer wants is to be stuck in a dark or cold house. Scammers fully understand that and are preying on both consumers and businesses with a threat that their electricity is scheduled to be shut off immediately because of non-payment.

      “Unfortunately, these scammers are very convincing and can quickly coerce customers into paying money,” said Christopher Bush, Consumers Energy’s director of corporate security.

      Figuring that most everyone is going to answer a call from their local utility, the scammers in Hudson, N.Y.’s situation are going all out by spoofing the name of the local utility “Central Hudson” on caller ID. 

      Consumers still wind up as the “gotcha” in this situation regardless of whether they pick up the phone or not. If the consumer answers, the scammers go with the deception live; if the consumer lets the call go to voicemail, the scammers simply leave a message threatening the exact same utility shut-off.

      Be prepared

      The BBB, as well as people who’ve been targeted in this scheme, say the scam’s finer points are easy for others to detect. These include:

      • Automated voicemails saying the power will be shut off in 30 minutes. “Scammers will press for immediate payment and may try to intimidate you into giving them your personal and banking information,” the BBB warns.

      • A call saying that a crew is on the way to shut off the utilities. It’s the scammer’s way of adding some immediacy, as WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids reported in an instance with a local auto repair shop. The BBB says consumers should never let anyone into their homes unless that person has a) set up an appointment; or b) called the utility company and reported a problem. You can also double-down on that by asking the so-called “utility employee” for some proper identification before you let them into your place. 

      • A request for Social Security numbers, bank routing numbers, etceteras. “Central Hudson urges customers to be cautious when providing their personal information to third parties, and never to use banking information other than their own,” the utility company suggested.

      If you’re not sure about your account

      If, by chance, you think there’s a problem with your account, call the utility company before you do anything else. Most utility companies keep call logs detailing if they called you or not as well as if your payment is on time or delinquent.

      With the holidays over and all those related scams out of vogue, scammers are looking for the next consumer pain point. It appears they’ve found a winterti...
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      Record gift sales could result in record returns

      Here are the return policies for Amazon, Walmart, and Target

      With record holiday spending, there is likely to be record returns over the next few days as gifts that were the wrong size, wrong color, or just weird are exchanged. Different retailers have different return policies and procedures.

      Amazon

      At Amazon, purchased items may be returned within 30 days of delivery. It can take up to 25 days for the item to reach the company once it is returned. After that, it can take another two days for the refund to be processed and another three to five business days for the refund to make it to the customer’s account.

      If you’re returning an item to Amazon, you’ll pay the shipping charge upfront, but Amazon will refund up to $20 in shipping costs. Customers receive the full postage cost if they are returning a damaged or incorrect item.

      Amazon’s policies may differ from some third-party sellers who use Amazon. You can sort out the details here.

      Walmart

      At Walmart, customers may return purchases within 90 days of the transaction. The item should be in its original condition, it should not have been used, and it should be in its original manufacturer packaging with price tags and manuals intact. 

      Consumers should know there are different rules in case you don’t have the receipt. Also, items marked as “non-returnable” are final sale and, as the label indicates, cannot be returned.

      Other exceptions to the general return policy include specific items that have only a 14-day window for returns, such as post-paid cell phones. For items with a 14- or 30-day return window, Walmart starts the clock on December 26, 2019. Items under the 90-day return window will have no change.

      Check out Walmart’s full return policies here.

      Target

      Target will provide a refund or exchange on most unopened items that are returned within 90 days. Some items sold by Target have a modified return policy noted on the receipt, packing slip, Target policy board, Target.com, or in the item department. 

      It’s important to note that items that are opened, damaged, or do not have a receipt may be denied a refund or exchange.

      There may be different policies for items sold by a Target Plus Partner. Items in new condition and returned within 90 days will receive a refund. All items sold by partners must be returned to Target, either in-store or by mail. 

      Some items sold by a Target Plus Partner have a modified return policy noted on the receipt or on Target.com. Items that are opened or damaged may be denied a refund.

      You can check out Target’s full return policies here.

      With record holiday spending, there is likely to be record returns over the next few days as gifts that were the wrong size, wrong color, or just weird are...
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      Conservation efforts could be detrimental to farmers, experts find

      Some sustainability efforts can lead to big financial losses

      Consumers have started taking more eco-friendly measures, including switching up their eating and shopping habits, in an effort to be kinder to the earth. However, a new study discovered how certain conservation efforts could come with some unexpected repercussions. 

      Researchers from Michigan State University found that reforestation efforts, which work to transform farmland into forests as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, often come with rather large price tags that the poorest farmers are left to pay. 

      “The ignorance of this hidden cost might leave local communities under-compensated under the program and exacerbate poverty,” said researcher Hongbo Yang. “Such problems may ultimately compromise the sustainability of conservation. As losses due to human-wildlife conflicts increase, farmers may increasingly resent conservation efforts.” 

      Where do the costs come from?

      To understand how farmers can become vulnerable to unexpected costs and other constraints on their general day-to-day tasks, the researchers evaluated the effects of a popular reforestation effort in China known as the Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP).  

      In transforming part of their land from cropland to forests, the researchers learned that the farmers' livelihoods were seriously compromised, as they now had smaller plots of land to reap profits from. 

      While this alone was troubling, the research also revealed that the transformation process, though beneficial to the environment, proved to be the perfect atmosphere for bugs and other pests. So, the farmers not only had less farmland to work with, but what they did have was compromised by an assortment of critters. 

      The researchers worked to estimate how these efforts affected farmers’ bottom lines, and they determined that farmers lost nearly 30 percent of their earnings, while nearly 65 percent of their goods were destroyed by pestering wildlife. 

      “Those sweeping conservation efforts in returning cropland to vegetated land might have done so with an until-now hidden consequence: it increased the wildlife damage to remaining cropland and thus caused unintended cost that whittled away at the program’s compensation for farmers,” said Yang. 

      Finding better conservation policies

      Moving forward, the researchers are concerned with how these conservation efforts could affect farmers, particularly those already struggling monetarily. They hope that new efforts can be initiated that are beneficial to all parties. 

      “Conservation policies only can endure, and be declared successful, when both nature and humans thrive,” and researcher Jianguo Liu. “Many of these trade-offs and inequities are difficult to spot unless you take a very broad, deep look at the situation, yet these balances are crucial to success.” 

      Consumers have started taking more eco-friendly measures, including switching up their eating and shopping habits, in an effort to be kinder to the earth....
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      Kroger warns consumers about a free grocery holiday scam

      In spite of what you see on social media, Kroger is not giving away free groceries

      You can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Kroger is the latest to offer that advice.

      Maybe you’ve seen postings on Facebook and elsewhere saying Kroger is giving away free food during the holidays. Not true, the grocery retailer says.

      On Christmas Eve, Kroger took to Twitter to warn consumers that social media reports that stated it is giving away free food is bogus information. It simply isn’t true.

      "This is a fake Kroger Facebook page," the company wrote on its real Facebook page. "We are aware of this fraudulent page and are working to address this matter. We recommend not engaging with the posting, and we appreciate your patronage."

      The problem has been compounded because the fake post has been shared so many times. Kroger said the post has been shared more than 2,600 times, suggesting many people are in need of free groceries.

      Fake message

      The motive behind the fake posting isn’t immediately clear, though such an appeal could be used as part of a phishing scam. Then again, it could be just a cruel prank.

      It’s not surprising that the scam has been successful this holiday season. The message comes from an account called Kroger.com and features the kinds of images you might expect to see on a corporate Facebook page.

      The message says: "To celebrate Christmas this year we are giving a special gift of an entire year of free groceries to four lucky families that share/comment by 5:00 pm Saturday! Best of luck and Happy Holidays!"

      Kroger said it first became aware of the scam when people started asking about the alleged promotion on various social media platforms. If you get a message like this, Kroger says you should delete it.

      The company says the solicitation is yet another example of an offer being “too good to be true.” In almost every case like this, the company says, the offer is probably a scam.

      You can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Kroger is the latest to offer that advice.Maybe you’ve seen postings on Facebook and elsewhere s...
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      Starbucks to host ‘Pop-up Parties’ at surprise locations from now until 2020

      Consumers can grab a free espresso drink if a location near them is chosen

      With the holiday season winding down, many consumers will be looking to kick off the start of a new decade with a New Year’s party. But Starbucks is starting the festivities early with 200 of its own “Pop-up Parties” every day between now and December 31. 

      In its limited time promotion, Starbucks says that consumers can get a free, tall, handcrafted espresso beverage if they visit one of 200 randomly selected store locations in the U.S. between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. local time.

      The locations of the parties for the next day aren’t revealed until 10 p.m. (EST), but consumers can track the locations that have already been selected and view a countdown for the next reveal at the company’s site here.

      For more information and consumer reviews about Starbucks, visit ConsumerAffairs' page here.

      With the holiday season winding down, many consumers will be looking to kick off the start of a new decade with a New Year’s party. But Starbucks is starti...
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      Gas prices remain fairly stable despite record holiday travel

      But a few states are seeing prices start to rise

      With a record number of holiday motorists on the nation’s highways in recent days, demand for gasoline remains high and prices have remained mostly stable.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.55 a gallon, the same as a week ago. Prices remain at an average of 26 cents a gallon more than at this time last year. The average price of premium gas is $3.14 a gallon, the same as last Friday. The price of diesel is also the same as drivers paid a week ago -- $2.99 a gallon.

      AAA estimates that more than 100 million Americans will be on the road during the period from Christmas through the New Years’ holiday, but stable oil prices and few refinery issues have helped keep up with demand. Only about a dozen states are seeing more expensive gas prices, with increases of less than a dime a gallon.

      “AAA forecasts that 104 million Americans will travel by car – the most on record – for a year-end holiday,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “The substantial number of motorists has caused some state averages to increase heading into the holiday week, but these jumps aren’t big and won’t last long or linger past the holiday season.”

      But in a Tweet Thursday, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, reported that prices are beginning to rise in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

      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 ($3.57)

      • Washington ($3.18) 

      • Nevada ($3.05)

      • Oregon ($3.04) 

      • Alaska ($3.01)

      • Arizona ($2.84)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.75)

      • Utah ($2.73)

      • Idaho ($2.70) 

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Missouri ($2.19)

      • Mississippi ($2.21)

      • Texas ($2.22)

      • Oklahoma ($2.23)

      • Louisiana ($2.24)

      • Arkansas ($2.25)

      • Alabama ($2.27)

      • Kansas ($2.25)

      • South Carolina ($2.28)

      • Tennessee ($2.30)

      With a record number of holiday motorists on the nation’s highways in recent days, demand for gasoline remains high and prices have remained mostly stable....
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      Ford recalls model year 2017-19 F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty trucks

      The tailgate could open unintentionally

      Ford is recalling 261,000 model year 2017-19 Ford F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty trucks.

      In vehicles with an electric tailgate latch-release switch mounted in the tailgate handle, water entering the electrical wiring system may cause a short circuit, resulting in unintended switch activation and release of the tailgate latches.

      This could cause the tailgate to open unintentionally, whether the vehicle is in motion or stationary resulting in the loss of unrestrained cargo, and increasing the risk of a crash.

      Ford is not aware of any reports of accident or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will modify the tailgate frame wiring harnesses by adding jumper pigtails to isolate the tailgate release control circuits and install a new tailgate handle release switch.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 19S48.

      Ford is recalling 261,000 model year 2017-19 Ford F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty trucks.In vehicles with an electric tailgate latch-release switch m...
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      Montpak International recalls veal and lamb

      The products were not presented for import re-inspection

      Montpak International
      of Canada is recalling approximately 2,804 pounds of veal bone, cutlet items and lamb carcasses.

      The products that were not presented for import re-inspection into the U.S.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following products, imported on December 4, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 40-lb. bulk boxes containing “VEAL Bones” with a SKU 97507U and PRODUCT OF CANADA (“CANADA 96” in the Canadian mark of inspection) represented on the label.
      • 50-lb. bulk boxes containing “VEAL Marrow bones” with a SKU 97660U and PRODUCT OF CANADA (“CANADA 96” in the Canadian mark of inspection) represented on the label.
      • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing “MECHANICALLY TENDERIZED VEAL LEG CUTLET 2 OZ CHUNKS” and EST 1809 and PACKED ON DEC-10-19 represented on the label.
      • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing “MECHANICALLY TENDERIZED VEAL LEG CUTLET 2 OZ EYE RND” and EST 1809 and PACKED ON DEC-10-19 represented on the label.
      • Whole carcasses of lamb wrapped in cheese cloth.
      • The recalled products, bearing establishment number “CANADA 96” in the Canadian mark of inspection or “EST 1809” on the box, were shipped to distributors in New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

      What to do

      Distributors should not release these products to retailers, but discard or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact Robert Mailhot at (514) 245-1553.

      Montpak Internationalof Canada is recalling approximately 2,804 pounds of veal bone, cutlet items and lamb carcasses.The products that were not prese...
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      Toysmith recalls Light-Up Magic Wands

      The battery cover can detach and expose the button-cell batteries

      Toysmith of Sumner Wash., is recalling about 58,000 Light-Up Magic Wands sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      The battery cover can detach and expose the button-cell batteries, posing choking and ingestion hazards to young children.

      The firm has received one report of a child swallowing one of the batteries removed from the toy. Medical attention was required to remove the battery.

      This recall includes a fuchsia colored Light-Up Magic Wand topped with a star that flashes and makes noise. The recalled wands have a manufacturing date code printed in white on the bottom portion of the wand.

      Only magic wands with date codes between March 2018 (3/18/373) and June 2019 (6/19/373) are included in the recall. The UPC code 085761220034 and can be found on the hangtag.

      The wands, manufactured in China, were sold at Carter’s stores and various toy, grocery, hobby and gift retailers nationwide from June 2018, through October 2019, for about $5.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled magic wands, place them out of the reach of children and return them to store where purchased for a refund.

      Consumers may contact Toysmith at (800) 356-0474 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at info@toysmith.com or online atwww.toysmith.com and click on “Safety Info” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Toysmith of Sumner Wash., is recalling about 58,000 Light-Up Magic Wands sold in the U.S., and Canada.The battery cover can detach and expose the butto...
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      SEC looking into the accuracy of BMW’s sales figures

      The agency wants to make sure investors are not being misled

      BMW sales have surged recently, but the luxury carmaker now confirms that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking closely at those sales numbers. The company said it will cooperate fully with the probe but declined to elaborate further.

      The Wall Street Journal reports the investigation centers on whether BMW has inflated its sales figures by requiring its dealers to purchase some vehicles but retain them for use as loaner cars when a customer’s vehicle is being serviced.

      If that situation were to occur, the car would still be at the dealer’s facility but BMW would get to mark it as sold. It might have a limited number of miles on it when the dealer gets around to selling it, but it must be sold as a used car, with the dealer taking the depreciation hit.

      SEC probing auto industry

      In early December BMW reported November sales that totaled 31,213, which was a more than 10 percent increase over November 2018. Sales were up 4.5 percent on a year-to-date basis. The German carmaker reported exceptionally strong sales of the seventh generation BMW 3 Series sedan, as well as the BMW X3, and X5 Sports Activity Vehicles. 

      “We enter the final month of 2019 in the midst of our annual ‘Road Home’ sales event with optimism for a strong year-end and a prosperous year ahead,” Bernhard Kuhnt, president and CEO, BMW of North America, said at the time. 

      Whether any of those sales were in any way inflated is of interest to the SEC because it could influence whether investors buy the company’s stock. As new car sales have slowed a bit in the last couple of years, the SEC has been looking more closely at sales figures.

      Earlier this year Fiat Chrysler (FCA) agreed to a $40 million settlement with the SEC to resolve charges that the company paid dealers to inflate sales figures. 

      Inflated sales numbers can not only mislead investors but they can influence consumers to believe a particular brand is in demand, making them willing to pay more for it.

      BMW sales have surged recently, but the luxury carmaker now confirms that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking closely at those sales nu...
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      UPS predicts record-setting number of package returns following the holidays

      The company says January 2 will be the biggest day for returns

      The United Parcel Service (UPS) says that consumers will return more packages this year than they did last year in the wake of the holiday season. If that prediction comes true, it would be the seventh straight year of record-breaking returns.

      The company says the largest spike in returns will happen on January 2, which it has dubbed as “National Returns Day.” It predicts that 1.9 million packages will be returned within its network that day, which would mark a 26 percent increase from last year.

      “This process is a change from years past, when consumers would rush to physical retailers the day after Christmas and stand in long lines to make returns,” UPS said in a press release. “Now, consumers make purchases with returns in mind.”

      “For retailers, a seamless returns process is essential to keeping and growing business,” added UPS chief marketing officer Keven Warren.

      Strong holiday sales

      UPS’ package return prediction has been lent some weight due to the large number of online sales that occurred over the 2019 holiday shopping season. A report by Mastercard showed that e-commerce holiday sales rose by nearly 15 percent over 2018, and overall retail spending increased by over 3 percent after excluding auto purchases. 

      The strong sales numbers are even more impressive because the holiday shopping season was shorter this year. Because Thanksgiving fell on November 28, retailers had six fewer holiday shopping days to work with. However, that shortened time period may have helped push some consumers’ shopping online.

      “E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, a Mastercard senior adviser. “Due to later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.” 

      The United Parcel Service (UPS) says that consumers will return more packages this year than they did last year in the wake of the holiday season. If that...
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      U.S. holiday shopping season finishes strong due to more online sales

      Online shopping accounted for a large chunk of all purchases this year

      Despite a later start than usual due to Thanksgiving falling on November 28, the holiday shopping season finished a strong note. 

      A report published on Christmas day by Mastercard showed that U.S. online sales finished at record-high levels, growing by 18.8 percent over last year. Overall, online sales made up just under 15 percent of all sales over the holiday shopping season from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and overall retail sales finished 3.4 percent higher (excluding auto sales) than they did last year.

      “E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Mastercard senior adviser Steve Sadove in a statement. “Due to later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.”

      Dealing with holiday debt

      According to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report, consumers spent more money online for specialty apparel, jewelry, and electronics this year. Respectively, the categories grew by 17.0 percent, 8.8 percent, and 10.7 percent over the 2018 holiday shopping season.

      While there were plenty of gifts under the tree this year for consumers across the U.S., many people may be realizing that all those purchases they made with a credit card will have to be paid off as we move into 2020. One strategy consumers can employ to pay off that debt is using a balance transfer credit card to keep interest payments to a minimum. 

      For more information about these cards, check out ConsumerAffairs guides to these financial products here.

      Despite a later start than usual due to Thanksgiving falling on November 28, the holiday shopping season finished a strong note. A report published on...
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