Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

November 2011 Archives

Chevy Volt Fires Spark Investigation as GM Gets Defensive

Electric cars are hot commodities, but there may be a problem with the new Chevrolet Volt. Fires linked to the plug-in car's battery have been reported, and a federal investigation is now underway.

A Chevy Volt battery pack caught fire one week after federal inspectors deliberately damaged it in a test, The New York Times reports.

The fire follows a similar incident in June when another Chevy Volt battery burst into flames, three weeks after another crash test by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association.

A third NHTSA crash test found the Volt's battery got markedly hotter one day after it was damaged. Yet another test found the battery, post-crash, emitted smoke and sparks.

NHTSA opened a formal investigation into the Chevy Volt fires on Friday. Other plug-in makes and models are not affected.

Despite the fire incidents, General Motors is defending the Chevy Volt as safe. There doesn't seem to be an "immediate fire risk" -- instead, it's "post-crash activity," a GM executive told the Times.

Still, GM is offering a free "loaner car" to more than 5,300 Chevy Volt owners nationwide if they are worried about the potential for Chevy Volt fires. It's not clear how long GM's loaner program will last.

The Chevy Volt runs on Lithium-ion battery cells. Coolant is pumped between the cells to prevent overheating, the Associated Press reports.

GM officially recommends "de-powering" Volt batteries after a crash, to reduce the chance of fire while the Volt is in storage.

GM says it is considering -- but has not issued -- a recall due to the reported Chevy Volt fires. But GM says it will not ship any Volts overseas until dealers are properly notified to "de-power" batteries after a crash.

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Child Safety Seats Recalled, 4 Manufacturers Affected

Four manufacturers have announced child safety seat recalls that could potentially affect nearly 850,000 car seats nationwide.

Certain car seats made by Britax, Evenflo, Regal Lager, and Dorel Juvenile Group are included in the child safety seat recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported the recalls on its website Monday. The companies say they have been notifying registered owners.

The recalls are as follows:

Dorel Juvenile Group is recalling 55 models of car seats because the harness locking button can get stuck. This could cause a key safety strap to slip out of place and leave a child unsecured, Dorel says.

The recall affects convertible child restraints labeled Alpha Omega, Alpha Omega Elite, Enspira, Priori, Prospect, and Vantage; as well as infant child restraints labeled Mico and Onboard.

The recalled seats were manufactured between May 2008 and April 2009. Owners can get a free fix-it kit by calling 1-866-623-3139.

Dorel is also recalling seven additional models of Maxi-Cosi infant child restraining systems, manufactured between February and June 2008.

The Maxi-Cosi car seat's shell could detach from its base, and leave a child unsecured in a crash, Dorel says. Owners can get a free remedy kit by calling 1-877-657-9546.

Britaxis recalling four models of Chaperone-brand infant car seats, sold as Moonstone, Red Mill, Savannah, and Cowmooflage. Harness straps across an infant's shoulders could break, Britax says.

The recalled seats were manufactured between April 2009 and May 2010. Owners can call Britax at 1-888-427-4829 for a free replacement part.

Evenflo is recalling Maestro-brand car seats with a model number beginning in 310. The seats fail to conform to federal standards, and could crack in an accident, Evenflo says.

The seats were built between November 2009 and April 2010. Owners can call 1-800-233-5921 for a free reinforcement plate that fixes the problem.

Regal Lageris recalling its Cybex Solution X-Fix car seats, manufactured in February 2010. The car seats are affixed with the wrong warning label, which can be replaced for free by calling 1-800-593-5522.

For more information on these child safety seat recalls, you can also contact the NHTSA safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or visit the agency's website, http://www.safercar.gov.

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Beware of Holiday Layaway Plans

With the economy in a slump, holiday shoppers will be turning to layaway plansin record numbers this year. They're being offered at big retailers, like Walmart, Best Buy and Toys R Us.

Though layaway sounds like a great idea in theory, it might not be the best option. Let us explain:

Layaway is an installment purchase plan. The buyer pays a percentage of the purchase price as a down payment, and then makes weekly deposits. When the item is paid off, the buyer can take it from the store.

There is no interest because there is no money borrowed. However, most stores charge a non-refundable fee. Walmart's layaway plan has a flat fee of $5, while Best Buy charges 5% of the purchase price. TJ Maxx charges both a $5 non-refundable fee and a $5 cancellation fee.

Though these fees seem small, they can actually be quite large. A $10 down payment and $5 layaway fee on a $100 item is the equivalent of 44% APR on a credit card, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. If you plan to have the money in a few weeks, credit might be a better choice.

There is also no federal layaway law governing these sorts of transactions. Some states and localities require a written agreement, but that's about as far as layaway laws go. So before you sign up for a layaway plan, ask the following questions:

  • Are there any initiation or cancellation fees?
  • Are those fees per-item or per-person?
  • What is the down payment?
  • Are fees and down payments refundable?
  • What happens if you miss a payment?
  • What if you decide you don't want the item?
  • Can you take advantage of future sale prices?
  • By when must the item be paid in full?

Don't let a layaway plan ruin your holiday season. Be prepared and be informed.

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Only You Can Prevent Christmas Tree Fires

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Not to sound like Smokey the Bear, but take a look at this Christmas tree fire video:

If you've got a real tree (and the National Christmas Tree Association hopes you do), you're going to need to take a few precautions to avoid a fire. Fire is bad. Fire destroying your home is worse. Fire destroying your home and your Christmas presents? A tragedy.

So, how do you prevent a Christmas tree fire?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests that you maintain a wet tree, as they're less likely to ignite. But how do you keep a semi-dead tree wet? Water it, of course!

Choose the freshest tree and then place it in a tree stand that holds a sizable amount of water. Fill it up daily and remember to fill it even after the holidays. After all, the longer the tree sits, the dryer it gets.

Even if you remember to water your tree, you should also do the following:

  • Check lighting strands for defects and kinks
  • Use LED lights--they're less flammable
  • Use lights labeled for indoor use
  • Avoid an excessive number of extension cords
  • Turn off lights when you're asleep or not home
  • Keep the tree away from electrical outlets and other heat sources
  • Look for flame-resistant decorations
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit

Still afraid of starting a Christmas tree fire? Your best bet would be an artificial tree. Just be sure to grab one that's fire resistant. Even plastic can catch on fire.

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Gift Returns Made Easy with 5 Simple Tips

You are going to get some great deals over Thanksgiving weekend, but there's no guarantee your gifts will go over well with everyone. Here are five tips to make sure your presents will be presentable for returns and exchanges.

1. Keep your receipts.

As most everyone knows, the majority of retailers require a receipt for a refund, as proof of your purchase. It's also a good idea to keep the original box and other packaging -- even the shopping bag -- in case a store clerk gets suspicious or extra picky, AARP money specialist Ron Burley says.

You should also include a gift receipt when giving your gifts, so your recipient can return or exchange your gift more easily, suggests Burley.

2. Read the return policy.

Each store has a different policy when it comes to returns and exchanges. But note that one-third to one-half of retailers usually relax their return policies around the holidays -- for example, extending deadlines and waiving receipt requirements, according to the National Retail Federation.

3. Be aware of restocking fees.

Certain products may not entitle you to a full refund upon return. Electronics and special orders, for example, may be charged a restocking fee -- typically 10% to 15%. State laws usually limit how much retailers can charge for restocking fees.

4. Track mail-order gifts that never arrived.

Federal law comes into play when you order goods by mail, by phone, or online. Sellers must ship your goods within 30 days, unless the offer specifies a later delivery date. If your shipment is delayed, the retailer must tell you -- and give you a chance to cancel and get your money back.

5. Think before you redeem e-gifts.

E-gifting is a growing trend, but what if you get an e-present that you don't want to keep? Think twice before you install, download, or type in your redemption code -- any of those actions may make your gift non-returnable. Check online retailers' customer service pages for details on how to make an e-gift return or exchange.

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Approval of Breast Cancer Drug Avastin Revoked by FDA

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Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration revoked approval of breast cancer drug Avastin. The drug is designed to slow tumor growth and prolong the lives of those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

But in June, an FDA advisory panel decided that the drug's benefits don't justify its risks. It is known to cause high blood pressure, hemorrhaging and heart failure. However, studies show it only delays tumor growth by 1 to 3 months.

Even a month is a gain for many cancer patients, but the FDA believes that science justifies its decision. Still, doctors have seen the breast cancer drug work wonders on some patients, reports the New York Times.

Those doctors will still be able to prescribe Avastin, as it is still approved for use with other cancers. However, a number of insurers will no longer provide coverage, as only a select few cover off-label uses. The drug costs about $88,000 a year, according to the Times.

Medicare has said that it still plans to cover Avastin prescribed to breast cancer patients.

Genentech, the drug's manufacturer, has responded to the news by announcing plans to begin new trials. It will "evaluate a potential biomarker that may help identify which people might derive a more substantial benefit from Avastin."

Until that study reaches completion, it's important that breast cancer patients using Avastin continually reassess their risk. They should talk to their doctors about whether they substantially benefit from the breast cancer drug and if they are more susceptible to its side effects.

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William Shatner's Turkey Fryer Fire a Cautionary Tale

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A pizza recall has been announced after it was discovered that about 11,000 cases of Kashi frozen pizzas may contain small pieces of plastic, which could result in injuries for consumers.

The Kashi frozen pizza recall was issued June 6, though there have reportedly been no consumer complaints or injuries related to the plastic contamination.

The recalled Kashi frozen pizzas were sold in grocery stores nationwide.

The pizza recall affects the following Kashi frozen pizzas:

  • Kashi Mediterranean Thin Crust Pizza sold in a 12.7 ounce box with UPC Code 1862732905 3 and Best If Used Before date of either May10 12NU, May18 12NU, or May19 12NU;
  • Kashi Roasted Vegetable Thin Crust Pizza sold in a 12.2 ounce box with UPC Code 1862737342 1 and Best If Used Before date of either May09 12NU or May14 12NU;
  • and Kashi Mushroom Trio and Spinach Thin Crust Pizza sold in a 11.9 ounce box with UPC Code 1862737344 5 and Best If Used Before date of May17 12NU.

It is the second major food recall this year due to plastic contamination. In March, more than 10,000 pounds of Lean Cuisine spaghetti and meatballs frozen dinners were recalled for similar problems after Nestle, the manufacturer, began receiving reports from consumers of small plastic pieces in the meals, reports Aboutlawsuits.com. There were at least three major food recalls last year due to similar plastic contamination.

Consumers affected by the pizza recall or with the affected frozen pizzas can contact the Kashi Consumer Response Center on their website.

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How to Prevent Black Friday Injuries

The biggest shopping day of the year is almost upon us. Millions of Americans will be lacing up their sneakers right after their Thanksgiving meal so they can go toe-to-toe with fellow shoppers over the best deals. But be aware - Black Friday injuries can be serious.

Shopping injuries are serious. In fact, Walmart drew headlines in 2008 when one of the retailers' employees was trampled to death by eager shoppers.

And this isn't even accounting for the fact that during Black Friday sales, you might be encountering fellow consumers who may be physically aggressive when nabbing deals.

There are a few things savvy shoppers can do to eliminate or reduce injuries:

  • Avoid Black Friday altogether. There are other days to get deals that don't involve flocking to a packed store. Consider options like Cyber Monday, when online retailers also rush to offer deals.
  • Be informed. Many Black Friday deals typically only offer a few items at the heavily reduced price. Gauge whether or not it's worth it and scope out the store before you go.
  • Consider leaving your kids at home. Shopping amidst a huge crowd can be difficult enough without having to look out for your child. Leaving them at home can help ease fears about them getting lost or hurt during the retail frenzy.

If you do get injured, know that there are some potential legal remedies you can pursue. Store owners are supposed to keep premises reasonably safe for consumers and free from known hazards. If an unkempt store littered with empty boxes and products has made you to trip or fall, you might be able to recover some monetary damages.

You might also be able to recover if the store simply didn't take enough precautions to ensure customer safety or didn't have enough security to ensure fights didn't break out.

The holiday shopping season may lead to some great deals - just don't let it make you endure a Black Friday-related injury.

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Smucker's Peanut Butter Recall Issued on Salmonella Fears

The J.M. Smucker Co. issued a voluntary peanut butter recall Thursday, saying jars sold in 24 states and the District of Columbia may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recall only affects 16-ounce jars of Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter Chunky, stamped "Best If Used By" August 3, 2012 and August 4, 2012. The jars are also marked with a barcode number of 5150001701, and a production code of 1307004 or 1308004, Smucker says.

Jars affected by the Smucker's peanut butter recall were sold between Nov. 8 and Nov. 17 in Washington, D.C., and the following states: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

A production-line sample of Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter Chunky revealed possible Salmonella contamination, the company says. To date, no one has gotten sick.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause potentially fatal infections in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Salmonella infection may lead to fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

The Smucker recall follows a deadly outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to peanut butter produced at a Georgia factory in 2008 and 2009. Nine people died, and more than 700 were sickened.

An investigation found the Peanut Corporation of America knew their peanut butter may be contaminated, but shipped the products anyway. Victims sued, and the PCA settled for $12 million.

Anyone who purchased a jar affected by Smucker's peanut butter recall can call 1-888-550-9555 for a replacement coupon.

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Passenger Bill of Rights Doesn't Allow You to Sue Airlines

Holiday travel can be a headache -- especially if you're traveling by air. But if an airline loses your luggage or leaves you trapped on the tarmac for hours, how does the Passenger Bill of Rights come into play?

The answer may fly in the face of air travelers' expectations. While the Passenger Bill of Rights punishes airlines for behaving badly, it doesn't give passengers a ticket to sue.

In fact, it doesn't give passengers any new powers at all.

The so-called Passenger Bill of Rights is actually a regulation for airlines, enacted and enforced by the Department of Transportation. Some in Congress want to make it a federal law, but their efforts have been met with some turbulence.

The DOT rules first took off in 2009, after passengers complained of being cooped up in plane cabins for hours without food, water, or working lavatories.

Under the Passenger Bill of Rights, the DOT can investigate violations and slap airlines with fines.

The rule on tarmac delays has gotten the most attention. For domestic flights, airlines must allow passengers to deplane if there's more than a three-hour tarmac delay. For international flights, it's four hours.

Airlines must also provide food, water, medical, and lavatory access during a tarmac delay, or face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.

Lesser-known parts of the Passenger Bill of Rights include:

  • A refund of checked-luggage fees if an airline loses your checked bags. (This doesn't apply for delayed luggage.)
  • Compensation for passengers who are bumped from their flights -- up to $650 for short delays, and up to $1,300 for long ones.
  • A 24-hour grace period for air travelers to make changes to their itineraries with no penalty.

Many airlines have also adopted their own Passenger Bill of Rights, offering refunds in the event of delays.

But passengers are still pretty much powerless under the DOT's Passenger Bill of Rights -- all they can do is complain if something goes wrong, and wait for the feds to investigate.

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That Honey You're Eating Isn't Even Honey

Are you eating fake honey? Probably, if tests conducted for Food Safety News are correct.

Those tests found that approximately 75% of all honey sold in the United States includes no pollen whatsoever. According to the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization and the European Commission, honey without pollen isn't real honey.

Pollen is the only way to determine the honey's origin, which is necessary to ensure safety. In the past, countries like India and China have dumped contaminated honey into the European and North American markets, reports Food Safety News. The lack of pollen made it impossible to determine where it came from.

If governments can pinpoint the geographical source of contaminated honey, they can more easily keep it from entering the country.

Not only is real honey arguably safer than fake honey, it is believed to have medicinal properties. It includes antioxidants and has anti-allergenic properties, according to the website. It also just tastes better.

So how do you find real honey?

Tests concluded that most honey sold at farmers' markets and co-ops and natural stores like Trader Joes contains pollen. If you don't have these resources, honey labeled as "organic" will improve your odds. A number of small companies also sell the real stuff online.

For the big honey consumers out there, consider contacting the FDA. Despite industry pleas, the agency hasn't done much to enforce its honey pollen standards. Some states have stepped up, but national fake honey monitoring and enforcement might be a good idea.

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Kotex is recalling about 1,400 boxes of its tampons. The recall comes after the company detected Enterobacter sakazakii bacteria on a plastic tube.

The bacteria could cause vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease or other infections. So far, the company says that no illnesses or adverse reactions have been reported.

The affected boxes are 18-count and 36-count boxes of Kotex Natural Balance Security Unscented Tampons Regular Absorbency. Recalled boxes have SKU numbers of 15063 and 15068.

The recall was announced on November 9. Kimberly-Clark, Kotex's parent company, has recovered all of the 18-count boxes associated with the recall. Overall, they have managed to recover 97% of the recalled boxes.

The boxes were shipped to retailers between October 29 and November 2. No other Kotex products are affected. Walmart stores in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas received shipments. Some Fry's stores in Arizona and Smith's stores in Utah and Arizona may also have the recalled products. The stores have been notified to take the tampons off the shelves.

Consumers who have the products should stop using them immediately, according to the company's news release.

Kotex is also advising individuals who may have used the affected tampons to go see a doctor if they experience unusual vaginal discharge, rash, fever, headache, vomiting or abdominal pains.

To find out more about the Kotex recall, contact Kimberly-Clark's customer service line at 1-800-335-6839. Customers who may have purchased affected products should be sure to check their lot number against the recall list.

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American Eagle Fined $900K for Passengers' Tarmac Delay

Regional air carrier American Eagle has been fined $900,000 in one of the first moves enforcing new regulations aimed a curbing long tarmac delays.

The airline must pay $650,000 in 30 days. The remainder of the fine can be credited for refunds, vouchers, and frequent flyer mile awards for passengers who were on the 15 flights that sparked the fines.

Last April, the Department of Transportation created a new rule meant to ease the frustration of harried passengers everywhere: a cap on tarmac delays. Airlines could only have delays of 3 hours on domestic flights before incurring fines. International flights can only have 4 hours of delays.

For passengers stranded on airplanes, these delays can be more than just an annoyance. Some passengers have complained about being held as "virtual prisoners" on planes stalling on the tarmac even when an airport terminal is within viewing distance, according to the Washington Post.

In one incident, hundreds of JetBlue passengers were stranded on a New York tarmac for more than 10 hours.

This new rule can be good for passengers now that the holiday season is approaching. But it also comes with some drawbacks. There has been a marked decrease in the numbers flights that experience lengthy tarmac delays. But at the same time, it seems that many airlines are fearful of incurring fines and are more likely to cancel flights entirely, rather than risk a financial penalty.

For Americans that are about to embark on holiday travels, the new regulations may mean an improved experience. Now that American Eagle has been fined, airlines are probably well-aware that the Department of Transportation won't hesitate to enforce the new tarmac delay rules. But remember, check with airlines before you depart for the airport to ensure your flight isn't canceled. And keep abreast of changing weather conditions, which may impact your flight.

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Quit-smoking drug Chantix's side effects may be more dangerous than originally thought.

A new study has been released that finds individuals using Chantix are eight times more likely to be linked with depressive thoughts or suicidal behavior. This is in comparison with other smoking-cessation drugs such as nicotine patches.

This isn't the first time studies - or warnings - have been issued about Chantix's possible mental side effects.

In 2009, the FDA put a black-box warning on the drug. It's one of the strongest warnings the FDA gives. The warning said that the drug has the "risk of serious mental health events including changes in behavior, depressed mood, hostility, and suicidal thoughts."

These findings contradict a recent FDA study that showed there were no increased risksgm of hospitalization for psychiatric problems for Chantix users. However, it's unsurprising considering the FDA itself acknowledged the studies were flawed, reports Reuters.

Pfizer, the maker of Chantix, is running its own large-scale study which will be completed in 2017. For now, the drug manufacturer says that there is no clinical data to support the study's findings. They cited to the FDA's conclusions.

Consumers that are interested in quitting smoking might want to take note of this recent study.

Chantix is already known to cause issues for patients who have existing mental health disorders, or have a history of mental health problems. Individuals that fall into this category might be advised to try other smoking-cessation products before turning to Chantix. And it might be a good idea to consult a doctor to discuss Chantix's side effects before using the drug.

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It's a new kind of "chickenpox party" for the digital age. Instead of forcing your kids to play with infected friends, why not just make 'em suck on sick kids' lollipops?

One mom in Nashville thought it was a sweet idea, so she sold the pops on Facebook -- after her kids drenched them with an unhealthy dose of chickenpox-infected drool.

Wendy Werkit also sold her kids' saliva and infected q-tips -- just $50 with overnight shipping.

The goal was the same as a "chickenpox party" -- to expose children to the disease and make them immune, without giving them the vaccine.

But experts say sucking tainted lollipops won't work. They also warn that chickenpox parties may be potentially dangerous.

It's not clear how many sick shipments Werkit made before her online lollipop shop got a taste of notoriety.

A local TV station found the Facebook page -- entitled "Find a Pox Party Near You" -- and put Werkit on the news. That drew attention from federal prosecutors.

But it only took U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin a few licks to get to the center of this controversy. He went on TV to warn everyone that sending infectious diseases through the mail is illegal.

It's the same law that prohibits sending anthrax in the mail, and can get you up to 20 years in prison.

Werkit has now taken down the Facebook post that offered the infectious treats -- a welcome move for critics who may have felt her new twist on a chickenpox party really, really sucked.

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Fed. Judge Blocks Graphic Cigarette Pack Warnings

Cigarette warning labels may not be going graphic anytime soon.

A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against a regulation that requires cigarette packaging to contain graphic images. Those images include diseased lungs and a picture of a child that warns, "Tobacco smoke can harm your children."

They are also adorned with the number 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

The graphic images and new textual warnings are supposed to cover about half of each cigarette pack by September 2012. But the temporary injunction, and any appeals, will likely set that date back.

At issue is whether the cigarette warning labels constitute compelled speech under the First Amendment. The judge agreed with the tobacco companies, citing the size and emotional nature of the images. He found the labels to be an excessive means of promoting the government's anti-smoking message.

But critics warn that the judge misinterpreted the science behind the labels. Scientific evidence suggests that graphic cigarette warning labels are effective at discouraging "nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit," according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

If true, this could factor into the appellate court's decision should the Food and Drug Administration decide to appeal. The Constitution demands that the labels be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. If the graphic labels are scientifically the best way to convey health warnings, they may withstand this requirement.

Even if the new cigarette warning labels don't ultimately make the cut, you can still expect the current labels to change. The tobacco companies did not object to the new textual phrases so long as they appear by themselves.

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Toyota Recalls 550,000 Vehicles Over Steering Issues

A new Toyota recall is set to steer more than half a million car owners to their local dealers for maintenance.

The company announced Wednesday a voluntary recall for certain Toyota and Lexus vehicles with six-cylinder engines.

The problem lies in the crankshaft pulley, which may become misaligned and trigger a warning light. If the problem isn't fixed, drivers may find it a lot harder to steer.

More than 70 reports of the problem have arisen since 2007, but there have been no accidents or injuries to date, Toyota says.

Toyota's recall affects 283,200 Toyota-brand vehicles in the United States, and 137,000 Lexus vehicles.

That's on top of another 100,000 vehicles worldwide.

Models affected by the Toyota recall are the:

  • 2004 Avalon;
  • 2004 and 2005 Camry, Highlander, Sienna, and Solara; and
  • 2006 Highlander HV.

Recalled Lexus models are the:

  • 2004 and 2005 ES330 and RX 330; and
  • 2006 RX400h.

Owners of these models should keep an eye on their mailboxes beginning in January. Toyota says it will send letters when replacement parts are ready, offering inspections and service free of charge.

If the problem pops up before then, owners should contact a Toyota or Lexus dealer for inspection, Toyota says.

The Toyota recall is more bad news for the company, which has faced production problems since Japan's earthquake and tsunami disaster last spring.

Toyota's profit declined more than 18 percent between July and September, the company announced Tuesday.

With this latest announcement, about 14 million vehicles worldwide have now been subject to Toyota recalls.

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Top 3 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

If you've ever had your identity stolen, don't feel alone. About 9 million Americans suffer through fraudulent charges and other effects of identity theft each year. But there are ways you can prevent identity theft. What can consumers do to stop identity theft and safeguard their personal information?

Prevent Identity Theft Tip #1: Secure your personal belongings and records.

Identity thieves can't steal much if they don't have your personal information. This is why it's vital for consumers to make sure that sensitive documents stay behind locked drawers or a safe. And, when it comes time to dispose of documents that may have some personal data on it, the safest bet is to destroy them. A shredder comes in handy for this.

It might also be prudent for consumers to drop off mail containing sensitive information at the post office. Snoops can easily take mail from mailboxes.

Prevent Identity Theft Tip #2: Monitor your credit.

TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian are required by law to provide a free credit report to consumers each year. You should try to monitoring your credit by requesting copies of your credit report. See if there is any suspicious activity on your account. If there is information on it that seems inaccurate, contact the credit agencies to have them removed.

Prevent Identity Theft Tip #3: Be cautious when giving out your personal information.

Avoid email phishing scams. Be wary when websites or emails request you give out your personal information over the internet. Similarly, be careful about giving personal information to unverified people over the phone. Emails and phone calls from scammers may look or sound legitimate.

Use these simple tips to help prevent identity theft. While these methods might not completely stop identity thieves from striking, they can reduce your potential risk.

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Increased IVF Ovarian Cancer Risk Identified

A new study suggests that women who undergo fertility treatments are at a higher risk of developing certain kinds of ovarian cancer.

The IVF cancer risk was discovered by Dutch researchers who presented the results in the journal Human Reproduction recently. The 15-year study monitored 25,000 sub-fertile women who attended IVF clinics in the 80s and 90s. Some of the women received egg-stimulating drugs, while others did not.

The comparison between two groups of sub-fertile women is important because sub-fertile women already have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, according to Reuters. Scientists were thus able to control for that risk, leading to more accurate results.

As for specifics, the overall IVF cancer risk was shown to be about twice than that of the average woman. However, IVF patients were found to be three times more likely to develop borderline ovarian tumors, reports Reuters.

Borderline tumors are not malignant, but still contain abnormal cells. Those cells may eventually turn cancerous. They must thus be removed via surgery, which has its own set of complications.

Despite the study's results, researchers want to make clear that the IVF cancer risk is still incredibly low, notes the BBC. It ultimately should not be a major concern for women who choose to receive egg-stimulating fertility treatments.

Moreover, there are ways women can lessen both the regular and the IVF cancer risk. Women who maintain a healthy weight, become pregnant or take the pill, and are non-smokers are overall less likely to develop ovarian cancer.

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Imagine that you've set up a tranquil night at home. You've poured a glass of wine, and drawn a nice warm bath. You're about to dip your toe into your tub when the phone rings. Thinking it might be an emergency, you rush over to pick it up, only to find that it's someone trying to sell you something.

At that moment, you probably really wanted to report or stop the telemarketer. You might have even wanted to file a rage-induced lawsuit against the company.

Most Americans suffer through these annoying calls. Sometimes these calls come through even after you've placed yourself on the national Do Not Call Registry. But what exactly can you do to combat the calls that go through?

First, you should understand that not all calls are covered under the registry.

Calls that aren't covered include:

  • Calls from political organizations, charities, or surveys.
  • Calls from businesses that you have a pre-existing relationship with.
  • Calls from businesses that you've given permission to.

Also, note that it takes approximately 31 days for most telemarketing calls to subside after you've registered.

If you're looking to file a complaint against a telemarketer that you think is breaking the rules, you should file a complaint against them.

You can file complaints against telemarketers on the FTC website. You can also file complaints on the FCC website.

Note that you won't necessarily get any damages as a result of your complaint. But the FCC or the FTC may impose fines or penalties against companies that violate the law.

This by itself can stop telemarketers from calling your number again. After all, once you report telemarketers and they get fined, they might think twice about using the auto-dialing machine on your number.

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Are you starring in an Ashton Kutcher stoner flick? No? Then chances are you didn't misplace your car. It was probably stolen.

Don't panic. When your car is stolen, you need to keep a level head and figure out what to do. It's important to act fast.

Still panicking? Follow the list below, and you should be fine. That said, we can't guarantee that you'll get your car back.

1. Call the police. When your car is stolen, the first thing you need to do is call the police. Your insurance company will not process a claim unless you have a valid police report.

And if you don't have insurance, it lets law enforcement know that you weren't the one driving the getaway car last night.

2. Make a list and check it twice. You can start this while you're waiting for the officer to arrive. Write down everything of value that was in your car. You'll need it for the police report and your insurance.

3. Call your insurance company. This is absolutely essential, no matter what kind of coverage you have. Doing so will protect you when your car is stolen and the thief hurts a third party.

4. Call the leasing/financing company. If you're making payments, let the company know. They have a stake in the outcome, and may suspend payments.

5. Change your locks. Kept an extra key in your car? Or left your house keys inside? Call a locksmith, since your address was probably somewhere inside.

6. Call credit card companies. If your wallet, checkbook, or bankcard were inside, notify each company. Regardless, it might be a good idea to put a fraud alert on your credit report in case any identifying information was stolen.

In addition to the above, follow all directions given by the police and your insurance company. When your car is stolen, you want to get it taken care of fast. Cooperation and being proactive is the best way to accomplish this.

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5 Ways to Avoid Auto Accidents in the Snow

The recent storm that tore through the Northeast caught many Americans by surprise. Millions were left without power. Many faced long commutes on icy roads. As the days become shorter, drivers everywhere should start bracing themselves for the inevitable: driving in snow. What are some of the best ways to avoid accidents in bad weather?

Driving in Snow Tip #1: Check the weather and stay informed.

Not sure if you need chains? Or, are you wondering if you should head home early so you won't be battling both darkness and snow? While weather forecasts aren't 100% accurate, they can be useful in figuring out the big picture.

Driving in Snow Tip #2: Reduce your speed.

Make sure you maintain a large distance between your car and the car in front of you. When driving on icy roads, it can take longer for your car to slow down.

Driving in Snow Tip #3: Ensure your car is working properly.

From your tires to your car's cooling system , make sure your vehicle is working properly. While it may seem extreme to take your car to a mechanic just for a simple checkup, you might be thankful later on.

Driving in Snow Tip #4: Study up on best methods to brake if one of your wheels skids.

If you start skidding, don't panic. Make sure you've read up on on proper driving techniques. What you should do may vary depending on if your front or rear wheels skid. Generally, try to slow your vehicle.

Driving in Snow Tip #5: Stay alert.

Most drivers know that texting while driving is dangerous. Well, it's especially dangerous if road conditions aren't favorable. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled on the road so you can look out for obstacles or other issues that might come up.

With these tips in mind, hopefully you can avoid accidents. Driving in the snow can be difficult, but with the right preparation it can be done safely.

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