UnHappy Meal Lawsuit

June 23, 2010

Toys make a Happy Meal happy, right?  So, why would anyone want to take that joy away from our little tikes?  Well, some say it’s part of the reason so many kids are becoming obese.  Is using that toy to get kids to buy food that’s bad for them unfair and deceptive?  One consumer group says “yes,” and they’re threatening to sue McDonalds over it. Click here to see this ABC News report on the latest attack of the food police.

Who Is BP? Will It Survive?

June 23, 2010

By Terry Smilijanich:

As BP (formerly British Petroleum) continues to struggle with the massive amounts of oil leaking from its Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, many are wondering just how big this company is and whether it can make good on its promise to clean it all up and compensate all its victims. Let’s take a look at a little history of BP and see if we can answer these questions.

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CWN Wins 2 Telly Awards

June 23, 2010

Congratulations go out to our CWN staff as the 2010 Telly Awards honored the Consumer Warning Network with two Tellys. The Telly Awards honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web.

Ordering Flowers: Do You Get Your Moneys Worth? compared several floral delivery services head-to-head and received a Bronze Award in the Information Category for Online Video Productions.

Our report exposing the mortgage industry catch-22 that leaves struggling families with no way out of foreclosure, Why Wont My Mortgage Company Help? also received a Bronze Award in the Social Issues category.

Both winning stories were written and produced by Angie Moreschi, featured video by Chad Soriano and editing and post production by Larry Wiezycki.

Cell Phone Radiation Warning

June 18, 2010

If you use a cell phone, you’ve probably worried about whether it can increase your chances of getting a brain tumor.  Some new studies say yes, not to mention a possible link to early Alzheimer’s and a low sperm count.  So, should your cell phone carry a Surgeon General’s warning? A new law in San Francisco requires cell phone companies to carry radiation warnings on the label.  Click here to see this report by ABC’s Good Morning America, which takes a look at the growing controversy.

Goodbye Recession – Men are Buying Underwear Again!

June 16, 2010

By Angie Moreschi:

Good news.  Men’s underwear sales are up! Men’s briefs have long been considered a leading economic indicator.  So, breathe easy, the recession is certainly winding down.  MarketWatch reported a 7.9% increase in underwear sales for the first quarter of 2010.  Even more impressive, Hanesbrand, Inc. reported an 8.2% increase in first quarter sales and predicted robust sales for all of 2010.  So much for all those fears about a double-dip recession.

As CWN first reported back in the summer of ’09, the dean of the financial markets, Alan Greenspan, points to the sale of men’s briefs as one of the most accurate predictors of economic conditions. Sagging sales reflect a sagging economy.  And, in turn, renewed sales show a pull-up in consumer confidence.

True to form, the American Bankers Association’s Economic Advisory Committee reports the US economy is slowly healing and will avoid a relapse into recession. More than 500,000 private industry jobs were created in the first five months of this year, and the committee is forecasting a total of 2.2 million new jobs in 2010, with another 2.5 million new jobs next year.  The committee unanimously agreed that a double-dip recession was very unlikely.

Adding to the optimism, more than half the consumers in a national survey said they think the recession will end before January 2012.  Those responding to the survey by PriceGrabber.com, an online shopping site that is part of Experian, found that 52-percent of consumers believe the recession will end before January 2012 and 56-percent have already purchased a big-ticket item this year.

So, don’t be shy.  Head to the store and pick up some brand new undergarments. It’s time to spend again on those little things, that no one sees.  Well, hopefully not no one.

How to Become a Millionaire

June 15, 2010

The answer:  act poor.  Truer words were never spoken. One of our favorite personal finance columnists, Kathy Kristoff, wrote about this age old lesson in a column for CBS Money Watch. Her message was directed to the college graduates of 2010, but it’s one we can all take to heart.  Click here to read more of  Kathy’s sage advice, from living with your parents and saving your money to investing early, so you can happily watch your compounding interest grow.

Tech Addicted Parents Neglect their Kids

June 11, 2010

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Blackberrys, iPhones, smartphones and now iPads all have infiltrated the psyche of well meaning parents everywhere.  We love our children, but just can’t get enough of our gadgets.  What’s a parent to do? Click here to watch CBS News reporter Michelle Miller’s story on how technology has increased productivity for grown ups, but perhaps at the expense of their kids.

Travel Secrets to Help You Save Money on Vacation

June 11, 2010

Planning a vacation? Knowing the best way to book travel can slash your costs. Airlines often announce airfare sales on Friday night, so all the matching/cross-cutting happens over the weekend. But, according to Peter Greenberg, CBS News’ travel editor, this is actually the worst time to buy tickets, because everybody else is looking then as well.  Instead, he suggests, try booking after midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning: “All the tickets that were booked but not purchased on Monday come flooding back into the airlines computer system at the discount fare.”

Click here to read more of Greenberg’s tips.  He shared some of his best secrets in a recent CBS MoneyWatch interview. You can use these tips to save on airfare, hotels, and more — and wind up with a better trip.

The Truth & Myths of Lightning – Get off the Phone? Out of the Shower?

June 10, 2010

By Terry Smiljanich:

With a hot summer in store for much of America, thunderstorm season is quickly approaching. Is it just an urban myth that you shouldn’t use a telephone, even a cell phone, during a thunderstorm, because a lightning strike could kill you? The Consumer Warning Network looks at the issue.

Lightning Strikes Can Kill

Lightning carries a mighty wallop, with a peak power of more than a billion kilowatts transmitted in one stroke, lasting 30 microseconds. Anything that conducts electricity can provide a path for this electrical surge, including anything plugged in at your home – corded telephones, plumbing, refrigerators, televisions, metal doors and window frames. By the time the surge reaches indoors, however, much of the power jolt has been reduced. This is why, getting a mild electrical shock touching such items during a storm is a frequent occurrence, whereas deaths or serious injuries are uncommon.

Surge protectors in your home can kick in when lightning attempts to travel through the power grid, but even the best can’t always provide complete protection from a direct and powerful hit.

Metal pipes in your home can carry a current as well. The “myth” about the dangers of showering or bathing during a storm is not really a myth. The plumbing can transmit a shock. There have been no reported lightning-related deaths resulting from bathing or showering at home in the past few years, but it remains a good idea to fore-go such activities during a storm.

Lightning doesn’t have to hit you directly in order to deliver a shock. More often, a nearby strike (on a tree, for example) can travel through the ground and reach you. Its power will be diminished, but still can be strong enough to give you a good jolt.

Lightning Statistics

Florida is the “lightning capital of America,” with more thunderstorms and lightning strikes than any other state. Annually, Florida leads the nation in deaths caused by lightning, with 15% of the total deaths occurring within the state. In terms of per capita deaths caused by lightning strikes, however, Florida ranks fifth. Leading the pack is New Mexico, followed by Wyoming, Arkansas, Colorado, and then Florida. The safest states are Alaska, Hawaii and California.

Lightning deaths are rare events. On the total list of the most common causes of accidental deaths in the U.S., lightning deaths aren’t even in the top 100 causes. You’re more likely to die from a slip in your bath tub, choking on a steak, or being bitten by a wasp.

Still, lightning is nothing to fool around with. Of the 34 fatalities caused by lightning strikes in 2009, 11 happened during an outdoor sporting activity such as golfing, fishing, jogging, and baseball. Six people were killed while doing yard work. The lesson is obvious: if a lightning storm is nearby, get indoors!

Get Off The Telephone!

But are you also safe indoors? Not always. In 2006, an unfortunate 15 year old girl was standing by the window in her room when a lightning strike killed her. That same year, a 64 year old man in Mississippi was killed when lightning struck his telephone line while he was on the phone. Yes, it can happen.

In the past 25 years, there have been at least five reports of serious injuries to persons using a telephone during a lightning strike. In 1985, for example, 17 year old Jason Findley of Piscataway, New Jersey, was electrocuted by a lightning strike while he was on the telephone in his home. In 1988, 22 year old Laura McDowell, eight months pregnant at the time, was killed instantly when lightning traveled through her telephone line while she was on the phone.

The danger may be small, but absent an emergency, a thunderstorm is not a good time to chat with your best friend on the telephone.

Cell Phones Too?

So what about cell phones? Can’t the electricity travel through the radio waves associated with the devices and deliver a shock to the person using them? No. Radio waves don’t conduct electricity. As long as the cell phone is not connected to an electrical outlet, no lightning can reach the user through the wiring in the house. And there’s no evidence that cell phones somehow “attract” lightning.

Interestingly, though, there is another danger posed by using cell phones during a storm, especially while outside and holding a metallic cell phone to your ear. Skin is a poor conductor of electricity. Most of the electricity from a strike is conducted over the skin rather than through the body. Add some metal in contact with that skin, however, and the impact is multiplied as the electricity has an easier entry into the body.

Even iPod’s Can be Dangerous in a Storm

Ask Jason Bunch of Castle Rock, Colorado. In 2006 the teenager was mowing his lawn listening to his iPod. He was struck by a lightning bolt from a nearby thunderstorm (you don’t have to be directly under a thundercloud to be struck). Aside from the obvious mistake of doing yard work with a storm nearby, he was also unfortunate that his iPod was plugged into his ears. When he woke up, blood was coming from his ears. His eardrums had busted, and he had deep burn lines where the headphone wires had draped down his body. “I’m just extremely blessed to be alive,” Jason said from his hospital room.

Similarly, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a jogger in Vancouver, listening to his iPod, when a lightning strike on a nearby tree suddenly threw him 8 feet through the air. He survived, but had ruptured eardrums and two linear burns up his chest corresponding to the positions of his earphones.

The British Medical Journal reported on four incidents of similar injuries caused by using a cell phone outdoors during a storm – in London, Malaysia, South Korea and China.

There’s nothing special about cell phones and iPods when it comes to such lightning danger. You could just as easily be injured holding a toaster to your ear while either jogging or mowing the lawn with a storm nearby. The simple solution to protecting yourself from such dangers is to get indoors if a thunderstorm approaches. If you are outdoors, unplug your iPod from your ears and put the cell phone away. Lightning deaths and injuries are rare, but there’s no reason to tempt the fates.

Consumer Complaints & the Power of the Internet

June 2, 2010

By Angie Moreschi:

As a consumer, you have a very powerful tool to fight back against a business you feel is treating you badly:  the internet.  More and more consumers are wielding their mighty comments on the world wide web, much to the chagrin of the companies that drive them to do it.  A consumer free speech war has broken out over this issue in the little town of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Click here to see the story that started it all and to read more about the fall-out which includes a lawsuit from the company in question and a front page story in the New York Times.

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