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August 2007 Archives

Iowa Same-Sex Marriage Ruling On Hold

On Thursday, a judge in Polk County, Iowa issued a decision striking down an Iowa state law which declares that "only a marriage between a male and a female is valid," effectively opening the door for same-sex couples in the county to wed. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that "about 20 gay couples had finished applying for marriage licenses when Recorder Julie Haggerty announced she could no longer accept applications," because Judge Robert Hanson had formally stayed his ruling, meaning that no more same-sex marriage applications could be submitted until the Iowa Supreme Court rules on the county's appeal of Judge Hanson's Thursday decision. Reuters reports that "two Iowa State University students, Sean Fritz, 24, and Tim McQuillan, 21, beat the judge's stay and got their license, with a waiver bypassing the usual three-day waiting period."

President Announces Steps to Ease Mortgage Problems

Calling the increase in adjustable rate home mortgages "troubling", President Bush today announced a number of federal measures "to help American families keep their homes." Bush stressed the need for lenders to work with homeowners to adjust problematic mortgages, and outlined specific federal goals -- including improvement of the Federal Housing Admnistration's ability to aid homeowners, reforming certain housing provisions of the federal tax code, launching a new foreclosure avoidance initiative, and taking action to increase transparency and fairness in the mortgage industry. The Washington Post reports that "the initiatives Bush announced represent the administration's first broad effort to deal with the rising number of home foreclosures, which are widely forecast to increase in the next year."

Paint and Coloring Sets Recalled Due to Lead Hazard

Toys 'R" Us and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have announced a recall of the "Imaginarium" 213-Piece Wooden Coloring Case, due to excess levels of lead in paint on the packaging and in the paint set inside the case. According to a CPSC Press Release on the Recall, the Imaginarium 213-Piece Wooden Coloring Case "includes crayons, pastels, colored pencils, fiber pens, paintbrush, pencil, water colors, palette, white paint, ruler and pencil sharpener in a light tan wooden carrying case" which measures approximately 14 inches high and 19 inches wide. The CPSC Press Release contains photographs of the Imaginarium Wooden Coloring Cases. No injuries or illnesses have been reported in connection with this product, but consumers should immediately take the products away from children and return the item to the nearest Toys "R" Us store for store credit, according to the CPSC.

Spinach Recalled After Tests Find Salmonella

A spinach growing and shipping company in Salinas, CA is recalling over 68,000 pounds of fresh bagged spinach, after a routine testing sample of the spinach tested positive for salmonella. In a Press Release issued on Tuesday, Metz Fresh states that the affected spinach was packaged under the "Metz Fresh" label, in 10 and 16 oz bags, and 4-2.5 lb. and 4 lb. cartons, and bears the tracking codes 12208114, 12208214 and 12208314. The product was distributed nationwide and in Canada. Metz Fresh declares that it has received no reports of illness or other problems related to the recalled spinach, and advises consumers with concerns about the recall to contact the company 831-386-1018.

In September 2006, recalled bagged spinach contaminated with the e. Coli bacterium was linked to 205 confirmed illnesses and three deaths.

NHTSA Releases Vehicle Rollover Ratings for 2007

Rollover ratings for model year 2007 vehicles have been released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Rollover ratings for sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are improving, according to the Washington Post, which reports that "more than half of the 2007 SUVs had four-star ratings, compared to 48 of the 2006 SUVs that earned four stars out of 103 SUVs rated." The NHTSA advises the public that "a rollover crash can happen in any type of vehicle. SUVs, like pickup trucks and minivans, typically ride higher off the ground than passenger cars and have higher centers of gravity, and thus are more susceptible to rollover if involved in a single-vehicle crash."

Tips on Flood Readiness and Recovery

In the aftermath of recent floods in the Midwest, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Preparedness and Response Center is offering tips on flood readiness, recovery information, instructions on reentering a flooded home, and much more. Despite the recent flooding in the Midwest, Fox News reports that "Congress has shown little enthusiasm for taking the unpopular steps that experts say are necessary to fix the nation's main flood insurance program."

Xbox 360 Controller May Overheat, Smoke

Microsoft has announced that, as part of a free "retrofit," it will replace parts of its Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel controller, after receiving reports of the units overheating and giving off smoke. According to a statement on Microsoft's Xbox website, "a component in the Wheel chassis may in rare cases overheat and release smoke when the AC-DC power supply is used to energize the Wheel." The Associated Press reports that Microsoft has sold about 230,000 of the Wireless Racing Wheel components worldwide. Consumers can fill out a Retrofit Form [PDF file] to begin the retrofit process. In July, Microsoft announced that it would spend $1.15 billion to repair an unrelated defect in its Xbox 360 video game consoles.

FDA Approves New Risperdal Uses

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has approved Risperdal (risperidone) for the treatment of schizophrenia in adolescents aged 13 to 17, and for short-term treatment of certain types of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents aged 10 to 17. This is the first FDA approval of an atypical antipsychotic drug to treat either disorder in these age groups. In April 2005, FDA issued an alert informing patients of the risks associated with Risperdal use, including stroke, nervous system and movement problems, high blood sugar, and diabetes.

Report on Alcohol-Related Traffic Accident Fatalities

In 2006, 17,602 people were killed in the United States in alcohol-related motor vehicle traffic crashes, and an estimated 13,470 people were killed in traffic crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, according to a report released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Also on Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced the launch of a national drunk driving enforcement crackdown, and appealed to the judicial branch to use all the tools it has available to keep drunk driving offenders off the roads.

Foreclosures Up Sharply Nationwide

Nationwide foreclosure filings increased nine percent from June 2007 to July 2007, and saw a sharp increase of 93 percent from July 2006 to July 2007. The Washington Post is reporting that "179,599 foreclosure filings were reported during July, up from 92,845 in the year-ago month...A total of 164,644 foreclosure filings were reported in June." According to MSNBC, "lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering various measures to restore a mortgage market now in disarray."

Delays in Passport Fast-Track Process

The backlog of applications for U.S. passports has caused the U.S. State Department to adjust its passport processing timetable, and the agency is alerting passport applicants that "expedited" service will now take about three weeks. The previous timetable for expedited service (which costs an additional $60) was one week. According to the Washington Post, "last year, the agency processed 12.1 million passports. Through the next four years, officials expect to process almost 100 million passports." The increase is due in large part to new passport requirements that went into effect in January 2007.

Due to the risk of serious side effects, parents should not give cough and cold medications to children under the age of two unless specifically instructed to do so by a healthcare provider, according to a warning issued Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA has recevied reports of serious adverse events associated with use of cough and cold medications in children, and these incidents appear to be the result of parents giving too much of these medicines to their kids. FDA is advising parents to carefully follow the directions for use of any cough or cold medicine product. These instructions can be found in the "Drug Facts" box on the package label.

"Black Box" Warnings for Diabetes Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a number of diabetes drugs -- including Avandia -- will now carry "black box" warnings on the risk of heart failure associated with use of the drugs. The upgraded warning emphasizes that the drugs may cause or worsen heart failure in certain patients. The "black box" warning is FDA's strongest form of warning. FDA's review of Avandia and possible increased risk of heart attacks is ongoing. In late July 2007, an FDA advisory committee recommended that Avandia remain on the market despite evidence that use of the drug increases the risk of heart attacks. At that time, the panel advised the FDA that Avandia labeling should carry warnings of the increased risk of heart attack associated with the drug's use.

Nokia Recalls 46 Million Phone Batteries

Nokia has announced that it is recalling (and will replace for free) 46 million mobile phone batteries that may be at risk of overheating. According to the Washington Post, "the faulty batteries were manufactured by Japan's Matsushita Battery Industrial Co. Ltd. and sold in a wide range of Nokia phones, from its low-end 1100 family of products to its pricier N91 and E60 devices." A Product Advisory on Nokia's website states that "Nokia has identified that in very rare cases the affected batteries could potentially experience over heating initiated by a short circuit while charging, causing the battery to dislodge. Nokia is working closely with relevant local authorities to investigate this situation."

Mattel Inc. and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have announced a recall of more than 9 million toys and play sets in the U.S., because of injury and health risks posed by small magnets and lead paint. Consumers should immediately take any recalled toys away from children and contact Mattel to receive a voucher for a replacement toy. The recall is the second initiated by Mattel in the last two weeks, and both recalls involve toys that were manufactured in China (information on August 2 recall). According to the Washington Post, "with more than 80 percent of toys sold worldwide made in China, toy sellers are nervous that shoppers will shy away from their products."

NHTSA: Check Tires During Hot Weather

Drivers should check their vehicle's tire pressure and tread-wear, especially during hot weather months, according to a Public Service Announcement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "Checking tires is particularly critical during the summer when roads are hot and families are putting a lot of miles on their cars with their vacation plans," says NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason.

States Urged to Take Caution on Bridge Weight Loads

In the wake of last week's bridge collapse in Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is cautioning states to consider the additional weight caused by repair and construction projects when assessing weight stress on bridges. A DOT Press Release states that DOT Secretary Mary E. Peters "has directed the Federal Highway Administration to issue guidance to all state transportation agencies and bridge owners strongly advising they ensure that the weight of construction equipment and stockpiled raw materials in place for current or future construction work not exceed the load limit for the bridge." An 18-person construction crew was working on the Highway 35 bridge near Minneapolis and St. Paul at the time of the August 1st collapse.

Flight Delays Reach 13-Year High

The largest airlines in the U.S. reported lower rates of on-time flights and higher rates of mishandled baggage and canceled flights in June 2007, compared to both May 2007 and the previous June, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The New York Times reports that airline delays have reached a 13 year high. Highlights from the DOT Press Release released on Monday:

  • 20 carriers reported an overall on-time arrival rate of 68.1 percent in June 2007 (down from both June 2006's 72.8 percent and May 2007's 77.9 percent)
  • The carriers also posted a mishandled baggage rate of 7.92 reports per 1,000 passengers in June (higher than both June 2006's 6.30 rate and May 2007's 5.93 mark)
  • In June, DOT received 1,094 consumer complaints about airline service (up 43.4 percent from the 763 complaints received in June 2006, and 17.8 percent more than the total of 929 filed in May 2007)

Hawaiian Airlines had the highest on-time arrival rate for June 2007, and American Eagle Airlines had the lowest on-time arrival rate.

Increase in State Immigration Laws

States proposed more than 1400 pieces of legislation related to immigration between the beginning of 2007 and early July, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). "In the continued absence of a comprehensive federal reform of the United States' challenged immigration system, states have displayed an unprecedented level of activity - and have developed a variety of their own approaches and different solutions", declares a NCSL Press Release. According to the N.Y. Times, "every state debated immigration issues, and 41 states adopted immigration laws. A large number of new laws cracked down on employers who hire illegal immigrants." Other state laws focused on issues such as driver's licenses, public benefits, and medical aid as they relate to illegal immigrants.

August 2007 Spotlight: Foreclosure

Each month FindLaw for the Public highlights a legal topic. In light of recent trends in the nationwide housing market, the spotlight for August 2007 is on Foreclosure. For tips on avoiding foreclosure and common foreclosure scams, state-specific foreclosure information, links to recent news stories on foreclosure, and more, visit FindLaw's August 2007 Spotlight: Foreclosure. You may also want to visit the new Foreclosure section of FindLaw for the Public's Real Estate Center.

Fisher-Price Toys Recalled Due to Lead Hazard

Over 967,000 Nickelodeon and Sesame Street painted toys have been recalled by Fisher-Price, Inc., because paint on the toys' surface could contain excessive amounts of lead. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the recall "involves various figures and toys that were manufactured between April 19, 2007 and July 6, 2007 and were sold alone or as part of sets." (View a complete list of recalled products from CPSC.) Consumers are advised to immediately take any recalled toys away from children and contact Fisher-Price/Mattel Inc. Consumers can return the product and receive a voucher for a replacement toy (up to the value of the returned product).

The top five hazards in the home have been identified in a Press Release from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). According to the CPSC, "each year, 33.1 million people are injured by consumer products in the home. To keep Americans informed of dangers, the CPSC has identified the top five hidden home hazards - associated with products that people may be using everyday, but are unaware of the dangers that they can cause. These home hazards are often unseen or unnoticed by consumers." The top five hazards are: magnets, recalled products, tip-overs, windows & coverings, and pool & spa drains.