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May 2020

Genetically engineered and gene edited plants face less oversight under the Trump administration’s USDA

A majority of genetically engineered and gene edited plants now will escape any oversight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture under revised regulations issued recently by the agency. Despite comments from environmental groups, consumer organizations, biotech crop developers, and food industry stakeholders asking the USDA to eliminate a provision allowing crop developers to self-determine whether their products are regulated, the Trump administration refused to require developers to even notify the agency of products they believe are exempt under the new regulations. “The result is that government regulators and the public will have no idea what products will enter the market and whether those products appropriately qualified for an exemption from oversight,” said Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “They will stealthily enter our food supply at a time when consumers want greater transparency, leading to potential consumer backlash and acceptance problems, even for safe and beneficial products. That is why many industry members supported increased transparency.” Read more →

Trump sped up spread of covid-19 in 12 ways, consumer group says

Just three months after the first reported coronavirus-related death in the United States on Feb. 29, the confirmed covid-19 death toll in the nation has surpassed 100,000, far exceeding the number of confirmed deaths in any other country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Donald Trump’s chaotic and incompetent response has fueled the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and beyond, causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths, according to Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. Here are 12 things Trump did to speed the pandemic and push the death count higher: He didn’t prepare. For the first three years of his administration, he failed to take steps to prepare for a long-expected pandemic by expanding the inventory of critical medical supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile, strengthening the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and bolstering other critical components of our national public health system. Read more →

College students are being targeted by coronavirus scams

If you’re a college students, you’re probably not on campus. However, scammers are still trying to find you. You or your friends may have received an email saying it’s from the Financial Department of your university. It tells you to click on a link to get a message about your covid-19 economic stimulus check – and it needs to be opened through a portal link requiring your university login. Don’t do it, said Ari Lazarus, consumer education specialist for the Federal Trade Commission, because it’s a phishing scam. If you click to “log in,” you could be giving your user name, password, or other personal information to scammers, while possibly downloading malware onto your device. How can you spot and avoid scams like these? Lazarus advises before you click on a link or share any of your sensitive information: Read more →

Boomers have a low-key beginning of summer this year

On Friday, I advised readers to have a barbecue with people in their household for Memorial Day and skip going out to a restaurant or to the beach. I took my own advice and had a quiet holiday. Since I’m home so much and didn’t get to go to Madrid and visit my daughter and her family in Madrid for the month of May, I’ve spend a lot of time in my yard. I’ve arranged dozens of bouquets, a first. See my Memorial Day arrangement on the above. I have 40 rhododendrons and about 10 azaleas in my yard. When I moved into my house, they were small bushes. Now, they’re huge. Thank goodness I met a forester who is helping me prune them. I can’t imagine why the previous owners bought 50 plants. I wonder if there was a big sale. Read more →

Best wishes on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day is unlike any other in American history. At least 1,636,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and 90,000 have died. I’m going to be staying home and working in my yard and on my book about my journalism career. In an article I wrote Friday, I advised people to have a barbecue with people in their neighborhood and skip going out to a restaurant or to the beach. I also suggested camping in your yard, taking a drive in your neck of the woods, or ordering a special dinner. As for going to a cemetery, call to find out if it’s open to family members and when it opens so you can go early and avoid any crowds. Read more →

Healthy Choice frozen chicken and turkey bowls are being recalled by Conagra Brands due to contamination

Conagra Brands is recalling about 276,872 pounds of frozen chicken and turkey power bowls because they may contain small rocks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Friday. The recall has been expanded to include the following Healthy Choice power bowls: Chicken Feta & Farro, Unwrapped Burrito Scramble, and Turkey Sausage & Egg Scramble produced on various dates. The power bowls were produced at two different establishments. Read more →

How to celebrate Memorial Day during the coronavirus pandemic

Memorial Day, a day honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, is Monday. Normally, most communities have gatherings and people often travel in what has become the unofficial beginning of summer. Last year, nearly 43 million Americans took a Memorial Day weekend trip. It was the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000, with the highest set in 2005. This year, AAA isn’t making a travel forecast for Memorial Day due to COVID-19 impacts on the underlying economic data used to create the forecast. AAA anticipates this year’s holiday will likely set a record low for travel volume. What are the options for Americans for celebrating Memorial Day in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic? Read more →

For the first time in 20 years, AAA won’t make a Memorial Day travel forecast

Gas prices continue to increase across the country with nearly every state’s average increasing by an average of 4 cents. At the start of the Memorial Day work week, the national gas price average is $1.87. The last time the national gas price average leading into the holiday was under $2 a gallon was in 2003. That year motorists paid, on average, $1.50 to fill-up. “Gas prices around Memorial Day have not been this cheap in nearly 20 years,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “However, as the country continues to practice social distancing, this year’s unofficial kick-off to summer is not going to drive the typical millions of Americans to travel.” Read more →

What to buy and not buy at Memorial Day sales 2020

Memorial Day sales have begun, even though stores aren’t operating like they usually do due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shop online for safety or pick up items you’ve ordered from local retail stores. Many states have opened retail stores, including Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Iowa. However, I wouldn’t take the risk to go shopping for clothes yet. About a dozen states – Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Mississippi – have opened retail stores even though their coronavirus cases are going up or have plateaued rather than dropping. See this New York Times article on the reopening plans of states. suggests consumers look for Memorial Day deals on: Read more →

Nation’s largest subprime auto lender agrees to pay more than $550 million for deceptive auto loan practices

Santander Consumer USA Inc. agreed Tuesday to pay about $550 million or more to consumers nationwide to resolve charges that its subprime lending practices exposed them to high levels of risk with auto loans that had a high likelihood of default. Santander also agreed to make changes to its terms and conditions for extending credit. “Santander defrauded desperate consumers by placing them into auto loans the company knew these customers could never afford to pay, resulting in defaults and negative ratings on consumers’ credit reports,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. In March 2015, a coalition of 34 attorneys general opened an investigation into Santander — the largest subprime auto financing company in the  — after receiving an increase in consumer complaints on subprime auto loans. The coalition alleged that Santander – through use of credit scoring models that could forecast the risk of borrower default – knew that certain groups of consumers would have a high likelihood of default. Read more →