It Looked Like a Stabbing, but Takata Airbag Was the Killer

Air bags are supposed to protect passengers from serious injury in the event of a car accident.  But once again the National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is warning that faulty airbags, especially those manufactured by Takata, have not only contributed to injuries, but may have led to 3 deaths so far.  The defect can cause the airbags to explode and propel  potentially deadly shrapnel at front seat passengers.  NHTSA is urging owners of the affected cars to get the airbags fixed as soon as possible, because it is “essential to personal safety.” 

 

As many as 14 million vehicles made between 2000 to 2009 by 11 different automakers, including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota, are affected by the recall.  But fixing the problem presents its own challenges.  A NY Times story quotes Honda spokesman Chris Martin as saying:  "There's simply not enough parts to repair every single car immediately."   


Here is the latest list of recalled models from NHTSA, which its deputy administrator, David Friedman, admits may not be complete.  It should be noted that if you live in a high humidity region like Florida, there's an even greater risk that the propellant used to inflate the airbag could lead to an explosion.  

 

BMW: 627,615 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

Chrysler: 371,309 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 – 2008 Dodge Ram 1500
2005 – 2008 Dodge Ram 2500
2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 3500
2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 4500
2008 – Dodge Ram 5500
2005 – 2008 Dodge Durango
2005 – 2008 Dodge Dakota
2005 – 2008 Chrysler 300
2007 – 2008 Chrysler Aspen

Ford: 58,669 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2004 – Ranger
2005 – 2006 GT
2005 – 2007 Mustang

General Motors: undetermined total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 – 2005 Pontiac Vibe
2005 – Saab 9-2X

Honda: 5,051,364 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2001 – 2007 Honda Accord
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL
2005 – Acura RL

Mazda: 64,872 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 – 2007 Mazda6
2006 – 2007 MazdaSpeed6
2004 – 2008 Mazda RX-8
2004 – 2005 MPV
2004 – B-Series Truck

Mitsubishi: 11,985 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2004 – 2005 Lancer
2006 – 2007 Raider

Nissan: 694,626 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2004 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2004 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2004 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – 2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45

Subaru: 17,516 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2005 Baja
2003 – 2005 Legacy
2003 – 2005 Outback
2003 – 2005 Baja
2004 – 2005 Impreza

Toyota: 877,000 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2005 Lexus SC
2002 – 2005 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2005 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2005 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2005 Toyota Tundra

 

New York Times, 10/20/14

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Group Launches Campaign Warning Expecting Mothers About Wireless Radiation

Could radiation emitted from cell phones be harmful to a pregnant woman's unborn child?  The Environmental Health Trust wants expectant moms to be aware of the potential dangers.  Their newly launched campaign, which is supported by other health advocates, is called the "BabySafe Project."  Dr. Devra Davis, a scientist and founder of the group, expresses her concern:  "Right now, we are treating our children like experiments in a subject with no controls."  

 

There have been studies linking cell phone radiation to behavioral and neurological problems, but they were done using baby rats and mice.  As Dr. Davis explains:  “It would be unethical if we were to say ‘let’s take one group of pregnant women and expose them to cell phone radiation and the other group not.'”

 

To follow the campaign's advice, here is what you can do to limit exposure:  Avoid keeping wireless devices on your body.  If you aren’t using your WiFi router, shut it off.  And when you are talking on your cell phone, consider using a headset or putting the call on speaker.

 

Dr. Hugh Taylor, from Yale-New Haven Hospital, makes this point:  “Moving that phone away from your body even a little bit can have a fairly profound impact on radiation exposure.”    

 

CBS New York, 6/4/14

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FTC Wants Data Brokers, Brands to Know Less About Who You Really Are

Have you ever wondered how marketing data companies are able to collect highly personal information about you that is then sold to companies looking to target new customers?  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to crack down on how that data is collected.

 

As FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez puts it, “You may not know them, but data brokers know you.”  She says these data brokers can get their hands on valuable information “including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more.”

 

The FTC is calling on Congress to require data brokers to create a single website that discloses exactly how they got their information and then give you, the consumer, the option to decline  having your personal data collected.  Would you choose to opt out?

 

Brand Channel, 5/28/14

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Tax Day! Now Comes the Great Refund Rip-Off

It's become a growing problem--the crime of "stolen identity refund fraud".  Justin Gelfand, a former federal prosecutor in the Justice Department's Tax Division writes:  "If the problem continues unabated, Treasury estimates the IRS will lose 21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds over the next five years."  

 

Gelfand explains why it's not enough for the government to just investigate and prosecute more cases:  ",...the thieves stay one step ahead through the use of cutting-edge technology to mask IP addresses from which tax returns are filed, by directing stolen proceeds onto prepaid debit cards and stealing those cards from the mailboxes of strangers, and by stealing names and Social Security numbers from businesses that lack adequate security controls and firewalls.”  And because criminals can "make it look like the return was filed from one IP address when it was in fact filed from another," Gelfand says that makes it easier for innocent people, who are the victims, to get blamed for a crime they haven't committed.  

 

So what can be done? Here’s what Gelfand recommends:  “While the IRS claims otherwise, the solution isn’t particularly complex:  stop wire-transferring multiple tax refunds onto the same prepaid debit card; stop mailing hundreds of tax-refund checks to the same mailbox; stop accepting thousands of tax returns from the same IP address without looking into it; and stop paying tax refunds without actually verifying the accuracy of the information with existing IRS records.”


And he makes this point to taxpayers who may feel powerless to do anything about the problem:  "If we as a society are interested in actually stopping this problem, the solution cannot only be through law enforcement.  Citizens must ask the IRS why it is so easy to steal money in this way, and why the IRS is losing so much money to this crime alone."

 

The Wall Street Journal, 4/14/14

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Scaring young drivers into putting down their cell phones

Texting while driving could cost you your life.  Just ask 19-year-old Liz Marks who knows first-hand about the dire consequences of distracted driving.  Marks admitted that she was texting behind the wheel when she crashed into a stopped tow truck back in 2012.  Luckily she survived, but was left with a collapsed lung, fractured skull and traumatic brain injury.  Imagine how her mother, Betty, felt after finding out that she was the one who sent the last text to her daughter before the crash:  “And it was me.  That was the last text that was open.  She was reading my text.  I almost lost my little girl over a stupid text.”


Now, a national campaign is being launched to get the message across that distracted driving can be deadly.  In 2012 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported over 3,300 people died and around 420,000 more were injured in accidents in which distracted driving was a factor.  It’s already against the law to text behind the wheel in 43 states, but the Department of Transportation hopes the $9 million campaign will help people realize that safe driving is far more important than a timely text message response.

CBS Evening News,4/3/14

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GM recalls another 1.5 million vehicles, will take $300 million charge

General Motors (GM) previously recalled 1.6 million vehicles because of an ignition-switch problem that can cause the engine and important safety features to turn off.  At least 12 people reportedly lost their lives because of the faulty switch.  Now, the automaker is recalling an additional 1.5 million models, which include crossovers, full-size vans, SUV’s and luxury sedans because of a problem with the airbags.  The additional models involved in the recall include:  2008-2013 Buick Enclave and the GMA Acadia, 2009-2013 Chevrolet Traverse and some models of the 2008-2010 Saturn Outlook.  In addition, 303,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans made in 2009-2014 were recalled, because they don’t meet “head-impact crash standards”for those who aren’t wearing a seat belt.


GM has already agreed to pay $300 million because of the faulty ignition switch recall, but many are asking why it took so long to issue the recall in the first place, since the issue was identified back in 2001.
 

CBS News, 3/17/14

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Shocked To Learn How Data Brokers Are Watching You?

How safe is your personal information? An investigation by the 60 Minutes team explains what you really need to know about data brokers and how they get your information. Producer Maria Gavrilovic explains: "The majority of these companies don't even consider themselves a data broker. They like to call themselves an app maker or a marketing company or a retailer." And as producer Graham Messick says, "There's not a lot of transparency out there because there's so much money to be made." So what are data brokers? They are the ones who gather and interpret details about you, based on your Internet searches, then sell it without you even knowing. 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft had this reaction: "I just didn't know it was going on. I had no idea. When you go on a website, when you visit it, you are in effect giving them permission to take any information they want- that's the standard for consent." Simply checking a news site or using a dating site can give data brokers details about you. Another problem, according to Gavrilovic: "They're able to marry what you're doing when you're offline- where you're shopping, where you're going, what you're buying- to the information that's online." So why is this a problem? Messick explains: "Ultimately the concern is everything gets put in one pool, one identifier, and they know everything about you from minute to minute to minute to what you eat, when you go to bed, when you're home, when you're not home. It gets a little scary. It's like a force multiplier effect."

60 Minutes, 3/9/14

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1 in 3 Americans has used tanning beds, upping skin cancer risk

We know that indoor tanning can cause skin cancer, yet a new study found that more than half of college students and 35% of Americans still report using tanning beds. "It is appalling how often exposure to indoor tanning takes place in presumably educated populations and particularly worrisome that we allow adolescents to be exposed to this carcinogen... We must do a better job at educating people of all ages about the risks of indoor tanning," explains Dr. Mark Lebwohl, chairman of the department of dermatology at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. Lenox Hill Hospital dermatologist Doris Day agrees. She explains, "Over 1 million people visit tanning salons each day in the United States. Sadly, the majority of these are young girls and teens. Greater resources and studies are needed to help educate, and to decrease the use of tanning salons and help change the sentiment that a tanned took is more beautiful."

WOWK-TV, 1/31/14

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Got a charge for $9.84 on your credit card? Beware

A fraud alert was issued by the Better Business Bureau following complaints of a $9.84 charge showing up on many people's credit card statements. The charge may show up as "customer support" or as a charge from any one of a number of different websites. A blog named "KrebsOnSecurity," which is written by a former Washington Post reporter, sounded the alarm that these types of small charges are much more likely to go undetected by consumers than charges for large amounts. Since people are more aware of identity theft and fraudulent charges, Krebs says that consumers are now doing a better job of keeping track of their credit card charges and information. If your credit card statement shows a $9.84 charge that wasn't authorized by you, contact your credit card company immediately. You can also place a fraud alert on your account by filing with any of the three major credit bureaus. Closely monitoring your account is the best way to become aware of fraudulent charges and to protect yourself from identity theft.

CBS Money Watch, 1/25/14

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Consumer Reports: Too many sodas contain potential carcinogen

The caramel coloring used in many sodas contains a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, or 4-Mel, that may increase your risk of getting cancer, Consumer Reports says. The state of California now requires manufacturers to include a warning label on products that have more than 29 micrograms of the chemical. Yet, when Pepsi One and Malta Goya beverages were tested by Consumer Reports in California, the levels in a 12-ounce serving were still too high. Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a Consumer Reports toxicologist, explains, "We are concerned about both the levels of 4-Mel we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages. There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food and beverages brown." The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't currently regulate 4-Mel levels in foods and drinks, and levels of the chemical tested by Consumer Reports varied depending on which state the product was sold in. The FDA is investigating how safe 4-Mel is for consumers, but, in the meantime, if you drink soda regularly, would you consider reducing your consumption or opt for water instead?

CNN, 1/23/14

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Child deaths are tragic reminder that products pose risk long after recall

A hope chest recalled by Lane Furniture Company

Just because a product has been recalled doesn’t mean it isn’t still harmful. After the untimely deaths of two children from Massachusetts who got stuck in an antique chest, safety experts are advising parents to safeguard their homes and remove any items that have been recalled or that may not be safe for children. Nancy Cowles, the executive director of Kids in Danger, explains, “The majority of children’s products that are recalled remain in use.” She estimates that only about 30% of kid’s products that have been recalled are actually returned or repaired, saying, “It’s very dangerous. It’s a hidden hazard in the home. A recalled product doesn’t necessarily look dangerous, so unless you know it’s been recalled, your kids are at risk with the product.” Lane Furniture Company was the maker of the chest in which the two children lost their lives; the children were unable to open the chest from the inside. In 1996, the company issued a recall of 12 million chests made from 1912-1987 because of this concern, but some people still have the chests in their homes because they were unaware of the recall. Mark Massarella knows how deadly these products can be first-hand, since he lost his 15-year-old daughter Natalie in 1999 when she got trapped in an antique chest. Massarella says, “We always hope that we can help with our experience to publicize the fact that these are dangerous and that people need to take action. They’re passed down from one generation to the next. They last forever.” So how can parents keep their kids safe? Anthony Green, director of public policy for Safe Kids Worldwide, recommends: “Get on the floor again and think like a kid. What can my 5-year-old get into that I’m not thinking about?” To hear about all the latest recalls, parents can also sign up for alerts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (C.P.S.C.).

NBC News, 1/16/14

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Cars with crash-avoiding technology ranked safest

The annual list of the safest new cars was released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Last year's list contained 130 cars, while stricter safety standards cut this year's list down to 39 cars. The cars that earned the best ratings were those that helped to prevent accidents by alerting drivers, or actually stopping or slowing down the vehicle to prevent a collision. That top ranking was earned by 22 vehicles, including the Honda Civic Hybrid, Ford Fusion, Volvo XC60, and the Honda Odyssey, just to name a few. IIHS President Adrian Lund says, "Consumers should be encouraged because this change in the ratings shows that the state-of-the-art of motor vehicle safety is changing, and it's changing for the better and it's changing rapidly."

CBS Evening News, 12/19/13

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