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Marketplace Murmurs is a daily blog of consumer-related news, thoughts and missives that cross the minds and desks of the CBC News: Marketplace staff...

NOTE: Marketplace Murmurs is taking a break while I'm away on maternity leave. Thanks for being such loyal readers, and for passing along your tips and comments (please keep 'em coming – contact Marketplace with your story ideas and feedback!)

~ Until next time, Tessa

2006

MAY

Air Canada banning pets in passenger cabin
May 12, 2006

Air Canada will become the first airline in Canada to ban pets from its cabins, CBC News reports.

Complaints from allergy sufferer Joanne Silver led the Canadian Society of Allergy Immunologists to write the president of Air Canada last year, requesting the ban.

Silver and her children survived a terrifying flight, all because of a cat underneath the seat in front of her on a flight to Saskatoon two years ago.

"I started to sneeze and get itchy eyes and my throat seized up," Silver recalled. 

A passenger across the aisle had his cat on his lap.  "I said, 'Oh no, I'm going to die.'"

The airline has decided to enforce a permanent ban on pets in the passenger cabin starting Sept. 18.  Guide dogs will be the only exception.    Dr. Donald Stark pushed for the changes after boarding a flight to Vancouver along side a pet he is allergic to.

"Usually when an attack starts - even if the cat or animal is moved elsewhere in the plane - we suspect the circulation will transfer that animal protein dander throughout the whole plane," the immunologist said.  "So that's a problem and once the attack starts we know it will become more severe." 

Three U.S. airlines have banned pets.    In Canada, Westjet advertises its pet-friendly policy of allowing pets in the passenger cabin, even though cats have been known to escape or even disappear in an aircraft. 

Some pet owners say a long trip, even in a ventilated, temperature-controlled cargo hold, is traumatizing for their pets.   But allergy experts say that's nothing compared with the feeling of being unable to breathe during an asthma attack precipitated by someone else's pet in the cabin.

via: CBC News

related Marketplace stories: Airport Safety, Testing the skies, Small plane safety

related murmurs:
Airline complaints range from bad attitudes to bland fruit cups, Are airlines considering standing-room-only 'seats'?, Air Canada hikes fares on higher fuel charges, Family files discrimination complaint against Air Canada, Airlines to post safety records, Lost your luggage? You've got plenty of company, Want an aisle seat? It'll cost you, Long flights linked to blood clots, Passengers, crew exposed to air travel toxins: UK investigation, Air Canada scraps North American inflight meal, Air Canada hikes fares to pay for fuel, When airport passenger screening fails…, Investigation highlights security concerns at Canadian airports, Lighters to be banned on U.S. flights, matches still a go

murmur categories: travel, health

tags: travel,

posted by Tessa | 10:05 AM (ET) | Permalink


'Better for you' options are en vogue with food makers, but are they just a fad?
May 11, 2006

Whole wheat is in, chocolate bars and pop are out. At least that's the message from food makers and marketers amid concerns over childhood obesity and raising diabetes rates. But how much substance is behind that message, or is it merely the latest bandwagon for the besieged food industry to hop aboard?

Lawmakers are working on legislation to ban junk food from schools, lawsuits are being filed against fast food joints … as the Christian Science Monitor reports, there are changes afoot, but many are wondering how meaningful they are:

"While Kraft is arguably the leader in this area among major brands, others are rushing to join them. PepsiCo has kept its traditional products - and still advertises them to kids - but has stepped up development of its 'better for you' ones. General Mills converted all its cereal to whole grain (though some critics still cite high sugar content), and also created nutrition requirements for the products it advertises to kids.

"'We believe our actions speak louder than words, and that our advertising demonstrates our commitment,' says Tom Forsythe, a General Mills spokesman.

"But not everyone agrees, and a few critics see all such changes as mere window dressing that still allows big companies to push junk food on kids."

More from the Christian Science Monitor…

via: Environmental Health News

related Marketplace stories: Cafeteria Confidential, Fat Grade, Junk Food Addiction, Sugar Surprise

related murmurs:
Disney getting out of Happy Meals over obesity concerns, U.S. schools to become pop-free, Teenage girls prefer pop: nutrition study, 'Say no to pop,' Nunavut residents told, European companies say they'll stop pitching sugar drinks to kids, Student's bill would junk unhealthy food in school cafeterias, Soft drink sales dip in U.S. schools, Change junk food ads aimed at kids: report, School nutrition programs lead to trimmer students: study Arkansas lawmaker wants to gut state’s ‘fat grade’ program

murmur categories: food, kids, health, advertising

tags:

posted by Tessa | 12:03 PM (ET) | Permalink


Airline complaints range from bad attitudes to bland fruit cups
May 11, 2006

Air passengers filed about 20 per cent more complaints with the Canadian Transportation Agency last year, griping about everything from the attitude of airline employees to lost baggage.

The federal watchdog, which deals with complaints that can't be sorted out between travellers and airlines, says in a new report about to be released that it handled more than 1,300 issues in 2005.

A spokesman, Jadrino Huot, said the agency successfully resolves more than two-thirds of all complaints it hears, but some are beyond its ability to fix.

He cited the example of one man whose luggage was lost while he was travelling from Halifax to Toronto. It was found four days later – but neither the bag nor the live lobsters it contained survived the delay.

"There's not a lot we can do about that, and that passenger will fall into the category of not being happy with the settlement."

Passengers should be aware of their rights, Huot said, but they should also know their responsibilities, and that includes not putting live crustaceans in their suitcases.

In another case, he said, "a passenger wanted two round-the-world tickets because the different melons all tasted the same in his fruit cup."

Huot said the top source of complaints was the attitudes of both ground staff and crew members on planes.

In second place was anything to do with flight disruptions, including delays and cancellations. Complaints involving lost and damaged baggage came in third.

Huot points out that the number of complaints filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency is small compared to the hundreds of thousands of people who take flights in Canada each year.

In many cases, he said, passengers who file complaints are looking for an apology, not compensation.

The 2005 complaints report is due to be released in June.

In the past, the agency has dealt with complaints that ended up changing airline policy.

For example, it sided with a man who said Air Canada should not have denied his two sons the right to board a plane when they arrived 45 minutes before their flight. Staff had said the boys should have shown up an hour in advance for the May 2005 flight from Montreal to Edmonton.

Craig McIntyre had to buy two full-fare tickets to let the boys travel on a later flight.

Air Canada had to give him the money for those fares after the agency's ruling that passengers must be allowed to board as long as they arrive at the departure gate 25 minutes before their flight's scheduled departure.

via: CBC News

related Marketplace stories: Airport Safety, Testing the skies, Small plane safety

related murmurs:
Are airlines considering standing-room-only 'seats'?, Air Canada hikes fares on higher fuel charges, Family files discrimination complaint against Air Canada, Airlines to post safety records, Lost your luggage? You've got plenty of company, Want an aisle seat? It'll cost you, Long flights linked to blood clots, Passengers, crew exposed to air travel toxins: UK investigation, Air Canada scraps North American inflight meal, Air Canada hikes fares to pay for fuel, When airport passenger screening fails…, Investigation highlights security concerns at Canadian airports, Lighters to be banned on U.S. flights, matches still a go

murmur categories: travel, service

tags: travel, service,

posted by Tessa | 10:35 AM (ET) | Permalink


Improve safety measures for drugs during pregnancy, Health Canada urged
May 10, 2006

Health Canada should change how it determines which drugs are safe for pregnant and nursing women, an obstetricians group says. 

At any given time, more than 500,000 women are pregnant or breastfeeding in Canada, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC).

Sometimes taking a drug can endanger a pregnant woman's life or harm her unborn child. On the other hand, failing to take certain medications may also lead to birth defects or even death.

To strike a balance, "we recommend that Health Canada develop a new drug review strategy, and create a science advisory board responsible for providing advice and recommending guidelines on drug therapy in pregnancy and breastfeeding," said Dr. Donald Davis, head of the society.

Women are often left without the benefits of medication during pregnancy and nursing, a vulnerable time in their lives, said Dr. Gideon Koren, founder of the Motherisk program at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Backs call for new standards

If there had been a similar "lack of vigilance" for marketing cars, class-action lawsuits would have been filed "long ago," said Koren. "In pregnancy, somehow … we behave to women, we as society, as if they were slaves 400 years ago."

Koren supports the society's call for new federal standards for drug evaluation during pregnancy and lactation.

Out of the 200 calls Motherisk receives each day, up to 40 are from women who aren't doing well because their medication was stopped without taking the effects into consideration, he said. Some depressed women are hospitalized or attempt suicide, Koren added.

He also wants the federal regulator to monitor the effects that drugs now on the market are having on pregnant women.

Ashley Ortega, who is eight months pregnant with her second child, isn't taking any chances with medications, although her doctor said some are okay.

"Nothing can be done later, right, if the effect has been made already," said Ortega. "So I would just rather not risk anything or take anything."

via: CBC Health & Science News

related CBC Indepth: Faint Warning: How Canada tracks dangerous drugs

related Marketplace stories: Out in the Cold, A Hard Pill to Swallow, Drug Marketing, Drug Trials

related murmurs: One-third of drug safety advisers in U.S. show conflicts of interest: study, New guidelines should improve drug testing: FDA, Advocacy group targets drug makers with satirical ad, Adverse drug reaction database goes online, Drugs killing thousands of seniors yearly

murmur categories: health

tags: , , , health, pregnancy, drugs, medications

posted by Tessa | 18:36 PM (ET) | Permalink


HP Sauce to be made in Netherlands, not Britain
May 10, 2006

Preferred by the likes of the Royal Family, Britain's beloved "brown sauce" will soon be manufactured in the Netherlands.

U.S.-based Heinz Co. has announced that it will shut the Birmingham plant that makes HP Sauce in March 2007, throwing 125 people out of work.

The American company, which bought HP Foods last year, said the move will improve productivity.

MORE: BrownSauce.org ("Petition to Save the Birmingham HP Sauce Factory")

A spokesperson for the Transport and General Workers Union called the move a "savage decision," saying they had been told the workers' jobs would be safe.

Developed in the early 1900s and first sold in 1903 under the HP brand, HP Sauce holds a Royal Warrant, meaning the product has been supplied to members of the Royal Family. The Royal Arms insignia on the bottle reads: "By Appointment ... Outfitters to HM The Queen."

Made with tamarinds, dates and spices, HP Sauce is said to be named after the Houses of Parliament, where it was served in the dining room.

via: CBC News Online

murmur categories: brands/logos, food, miscellaneous

tags: , , , HP Sauce, Britain, food, Heinz

posted by Tessa | 10:58 AM (ET) | Permalink


Food giants crafting messages against bird flu panic
May 9, 2006

Some of the world's fast food heavyweights are carefully creating marketing campaigns to quell anxiety over the avian flu.

Advertising Age reports that McDonald's, El Pollo Loco, Popeyes Chicken & Buscuits, Subway and KFC are all waging marketing programs to reassure consumers that chicken is safe to eat.

Says Ad Age:

Although an avian-flu epidemic among birds -- let alone humans -- is a long way from hitting America, marketers are moving to ward off a wave of fear that could have disastrous consequences for the $50 billion retail poultry industry. With producers Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride already suffering slower sales, the race is on to educate the public as ABC-TV prepares to air this week a disaster drama about avian flu and the U.S. government unleashes public service announcements about the flu.

America's chicken producers are so nervous about the public's avian flu fears that they tried to convince ABC to change the word "bird" to "pandemic" in the title of the network's made-for-tv movie airing tonight, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America."

The lobbying failed, but the National Chicken Council, which represents 95% of the country's chicken producers, did manage to convince the network to run a disclaimer before the movie.

via: Advertising Age

related Marketplace story: Flu's Gold

related murmurs:
KFC planning 'standby' ads to respond to Avian flu, Tamiflu sales halted as personal stockpiles grow, Canada, U.S. heed WHO flu warning, prepare for pandemic

murmur categories: health/safety, food/drink, advertising/marketing

tags: , , , avian flu, KFC, bird flu, chicken

posted by Tessa | 10:33 AM (ET) | Permalink


Fraud artist sold fake insurance to nearly 150 Yukoners
May 9, 2006

A Whitehorse woman who pleaded guilty Monday to insurance fraud against nearly 150 clients had a 'sinking feeling' every time she heard a police, fire or ambulance siren, according to her lawyer.

Crown counsel David McWhinney told a territorial court that Joanne Walker stole about $120,000 from unsuspecting Yukoners between late summer 2004 and July 2005 through her company, Territories Insurance Solutions.

She issued phoney insurance policies and letters, and even forged pink cards for automobile insurance.

Walker paid a couple of small insurance claims out of her own pocket to keep the scheme from being discovered.

But when one client went shopping for a better deal, another insurance agent noticed the policy Walker had forged was signed by an insurance company president who had retired years earlier.

The court heard that investigators found Walker in her office talking to another potential victim when they went to seize her records.

Walker's lawyer, Bob Dick, said the woman fully intended to run a legitimate business, and was simply trying to pay the bills until she could make a deal with legitimate insurance companies.

She had a "sinking feeling" every time she heard an emergency siren, Dick added.

McWhinney countered that she was simply greedy.

Walker has now paid back more than $30,000, Dick said, and is trying to sell her home and turn over the money to the court so she can stay out of jail.

Dick said she has found work, and has been putting $500 of her $1,200 a month salary into a restitution fund.  

Territorial court Judge John Faulkner said a large restitution settlement could have a significant impact on his decision on whether to send Walker to prison. He's given her until the beginning of June to put the deal together.

She is due back in court on June 5 for sentencing.

via: CBC News

murmur categories: scams, money

tags:

posted by Tessa | 9:23 AM (ET) | Permalink


Disney getting out of Happy Meals over obesity concerns
May 8, 2006

Walt Disney Co. is breaking up with fast food powerhouse McDonald's; the studio is cutting its cross-promotional ties with the chain in an effort to distance itself from fast food and its links to childhood obesity.

The L.A. Times reports that Disney will swallow a lot of lost revenue with the move – under the outgoing agreement, " McDonald's paid $100 million in royalties and conducted 11 promotions a year for Disney films, videos and TV shows, with seven aimed specifically toward the young Happy Meal consumers. Disney also agreed to let McDonald's set up shop inside its theme parks."

The last cross-promotional arrangement between Disney and McDonald's will take place this summer, with the release of "Cars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

via: Health the House

related Marketplace stories: Cafeteria Confidential, Fat Grade, Junk Food Addiction, Sugar Surprise

related murmurs: U.S. schools to become pop-free, Teenage girls prefer pop: nutrition study, 'Say no to pop,' Nunavut residents told, European companies say they'll stop pitching sugar drinks to kids, Student's bill would junk unhealthy food in school cafeterias, Soft drink sales dip in U.S. schools, Change junk food ads aimed at kids: report, School nutrition programs lead to trimmer students: study Arkansas lawmaker wants to gut state’s ‘fat grade’ program

murmur categories: food, kids, health, advertising

tags:

posted by Tessa | 12:13 PM (ET) | Permalink


Computer company beats Beatles' suit
May 8, 2006

Apple Computer can use its apple logo on the iTunes Music Store without infringing the trademark of Apple Corps Ltd., the Beatles' record company, a British judge ruled Monday.

Apple Corps, owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison, had accused the California computer company of violating a 1991 deal.

That agreement, reached to resolve a trademark lawsuit brought by the music company, set out areas in which each company would be able to exclusively use their respective apple-shaped logos. Under the deal, Apple Computer was not to enter the music business.

Apple Corps argued that the iTunes Music Store, which uses the Apple Computer logo, violated that deal. The company, led by former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall, sought to prevent Apple Computer from using its logo on iTunes, considered the world's leading music download service.

Judge Edward Mann ruled that the logo was used in association with the store, not the music, and didn't violate the terms of the agreement.

"I conclude that the use of the apple logo ... does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work," Mann said in his written judgment.

"I think that the use of the apple logo is a fair and reasonable use of the mark in connection with the service, which does not go further and unfairly or unreasonably suggest an additional association with the creative works themselves."

Lawyers for Apple Computer had argued consumers are smart enough to tell the difference between the logos.

Apple Corps uses a shiny green apple as its logo, while Apple Computer has a stylized apple with a bite taken out.

"We are glad to put this disagreement behind us," Apple Computers CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement.

"We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store," he said.

During the trial, Apple Corps revealed that the firm is preparing the band's catalogue to be sold online for the first time.

Any partnership will have to wait however, as Aspinall vowed to appeal, saying the judge had reached "the wrong conclusion."

"We felt that during the course of the trial we clearly demonstrated just how extensively Apple Computer had broken the agreement," he said.

The current case was the third lawsuit Apple Corps had filed against the computer company.

Apple Corps first sued the computer company for trademark infringement in 1978. They settled in 1981.

Apple Corps sued again in 1989, claiming that the ability of Apple computers to play MIDI music files violated the previous settlement. The two companies settled out of court in 1991 for a reported $26 million US.

via: CBC Arts & Entertainment

related CBC Indepth: Copyright and the web

related murmurs: Apple Corps. aims to take bite out of Apple Computers, Downloading doesn't hurt business: Canadian Record Industry Association study, Digital music sales triple in 2005, Protect consumers' digital rights, British MPs urged, Several lawsuits filed against Sony over rootkit fiasco, Revenge of the movie industry: Authorities shut down file-swapping site, Labels to appeal file-swapping decision, Music copyright case heads to Supreme Court

murmur categories: logos/branding, technology

tags: copyright technology music downloading trademark branding Apple Beatles iTunes

posted by Tessa | 11:10 AM (ET) | Permalink


No cancer risk from aspartame, EU food safety panel finds
May 8, 2006

The sugar substitute aspartame does not seem to raise the risk of cancer, a review by European food safety experts concluded Friday.

Last year, Italian researchers said aspartame, a sweetener commonly used in diet pop, was linked to higher rates of lymphoma and leukemia in rats.

The Italian findings led an independent group of scientists to review research on the topic for the European Food Safety Authority.

"Our conclusion on the basis of all the evidence currently available to us is that there's no reason to revise the previously established ADI [acceptable daily intake], nor at this stage … to undertake any further extensive review of the safety of aspartame," the body's Iona Pratt told a news conference in Rome.

The ADI for aspartame in Europe is 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight – the equivalent of consuming 80 packets of the sweetener per day.

Reviewers found aspartame did damage rat kidneys, but said this would not happen in humans.

They attributed health problems in the lab rats to chronic health conditions rather than the aspartame.

But the Italian scientist who led the rat study said he stands by the findings, noting other researchers didn't distinguish between artificial sweeteners, measure lifetime exposure, or use a comparison group of people who never use sweeteners as a control.

"How do you do a study on humans when aspartame is used in 6,000 products?" Dr. Morando Soffritti, of the Bologna-based European Ramazzini Foundation told Associated Press. "How do you find a population that has never used it?"

A spokesperson for UNESDA, an industry association representing leading pop manufacturers, welcomed the findings of the EU review.

Care should be taken to avoid confusing consumers about the findings of studies that haven't been peer reviewed, Alain Beaumont, the association's secretary-general, said.

via: CBC Health & Science News

related Marketplace story: Stevia, Sugar Surprise, Chasing the Cancer Answer

murmur categories: food, health

tags:

posted by Tessa | 10:41 AM (ET) | Permalink


Toxic technology
May 5, 2006

The computer you're using to read this will one day be nothing more than a pile of garbage, contaminated with heavy metals and toxic plastic.

There's lead in the keyboard, toxic flame retardants and antimony in the circuit boards, cadmium in the battery and the chips, all wrapped up in a casing of plastic that will release more deadly substances – furans and dioxins – when it's burned.

Environment Canada estimates that computer waste in Canada – totalling more than 67,000 tonnes in 2005 – put 1.1 tonnes of mercury, 4.5 tonnes of cadmium and 3,012 tonnes of lead into landfills in 2005.

CBC News Online has a fascinating look at the problem of obsolete technology being thrown away – a problem made worse by consumer demand for the newest, shiniest, most powerful things.

via: CBC News Online

related Marketplace story: High-tech Trash

related murmurs: Where do computers go to die?, Environmentalists take Apple to task over iPod

murmur categories: home, technology, environment

tags:

posted by Tessa | 8:49 AM (ET) | Permalink


Are companies vying to control your home PC?
May 4, 2006

How much control do you have over your home computer? You bought it, it's sitting on a desk inside your home, you choose what software installed on it, right?

Security expert Bruce Schneier has a fascinating article that says you might not have as much control over your home PC as you might think (here's the article on his blog – it originally appeared on Wired.com).

"How much control do you really have over what happens on your machine? Technically you might have bought the hardware and software, but you have less control over what it's doing behind the scenes…

"There are all sorts of interests vying for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer."

Schneier goes on to list examples of how companies are trying to gain access to your computer, including:

  • Entertainment software: Late last year, Sony BMG Music Entertainment came under fire for putting so-called spyware on some of its pre-recorded CDs. The spyware, which secretly installed itself when the music CD was played on a computer, was created to prevent people from copying music files.

  • Internet security: Schneier points to a recent story that the firewall in Microsoft Vista will ship with half its protections turned off. "Microsoft claims that large enterprise users demanded this default configuration, but that makes no sense," says Schneier. "It's far more likely that Microsoft just doesn't want adware -- and (digital rights management) DRM spyware -- blocked by default."
Read the full essay on Schneier's blog.

via: Schneier on Security

more CBC Indepth: Sony and the rootkit, Copyright and the web

related murmurs: Music consumers aren't the enemy: artists' coalition, RIAA sues computer-less family for downloading music Downloading doesn't hurt business: Canadian Record Industry Association study, Several lawsuits filed against Sony over rootkit fiasco, Two U.S. groups suing Sony over spyware on CDs, Sony releases list of infected CDs, More than half a million computers infected in Sony CD fiasco: researcher, Sony recalling controversial CDs

murmur categories: home, technology, privacy

tags:

posted by Tessa | 13:11 PM (ET) | Permalink


U.S. schools to become pop-free
May 4, 2006

In an effort to combat child obesity, about 35 million students in the United States will no longer be able to buy regular soft drinks at school.

Major beverage distributors and anti-obesity advocates have reached a deal, brokered by the William J. Clinton Foundation, to restrict the selection in vending machines.

Only water, juice and low-fat milks will be sold in elementary and middle schools.

In high schools, diet soda will still be sold, as will unsweetened teas, sports drinks and flavoured water.

Whole milk will no longer be offered to any schools because of its high calorie content.

The agreement should reach an estimated 87 per cent of the school drink market, said Susan Neely, the president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association.

Along with her group, the deal's signatories include industry giants such as Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Cadbury Schweppes PLC.

Nearly 35 million students nationwide will be affected, said the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which worked with Clinton's foundation and the American Heart Association on the deal.

"This is really the beginning of a major effort to modify childhood obesity at the level of the school systems," Robert Eckel, president of the American Heart Association, told the Associated Press.

Canadian schools have taken similar approaches with the Canadian soft drink industry, which has voluntarily withdrawn carbonated drinks from primary and middle schools across the country.

via: CBC Health & Science News

related Marketplace stories: Cafeteria Confidential, Fat Grade, Junk Food Addiction, Sugar Surprise

related murmurs: Teenage girls prefer pop: nutrition study, 'Say no to pop,' Nunavut residents told, European companies say they'll stop pitching sugar drinks to kids, Student's bill would junk unhealthy food in school cafeterias, Soft drink sales dip in U.S. schools, Change junk food ads aimed at kids: report, School nutrition programs lead to trimmer students: study Arkansas lawmaker wants to gut state’s ‘fat grade’ program

murmur categories: , food/drink, kids

tags:

posted by Tessa | 11:19 AM (ET) | Permalink


Retail group 'baffled' by July 1 introduction date for GST cut
May 4, 2006

A group representing Canada's retailers is upset with the federal government's plan to introduce its GST cut on July 1.

Diane Brisebois, the president and CEO of the 40,000-member Retail Council of Canada, said she is "baffled by the fact that the GST reduction will be effective not only on Canada Day, a statutory holiday, but also the fact that it is a Saturday."

"In many jurisdictions, most stores must be closed on July 1 or face fines for operating on a statutory holiday, with some exceptions such as designated tourist areas or where municipal bylaws permit, which creates an unfair playing field and lots of confusion for consumers," she said.

Brisebois added that retailers may not be able to get technology and telecommunications help on the long weekend if problems with the switch to the lower tax rate occur.

The reduction of the goods and services tax from seven per cent to six per cent means retailers will have to adjust their cash registers for the new tax rate.

Prior to the budget's announcement, the Retail Council said it had lobbied for the government to introduce the GST reduction on a day of slower customer traffic, not a Friday or a Saturday.

In a poll last month of its members, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that adjusting for the change in the GST will cost small- and medium-sized businesses, on average, more than $500.

via: CBC Business News

murmur categories: money

tags:

posted by Tessa | 11:01 AM (ET) | Permalink


Levis putting RFID chips in clothing tags
May 2, 2006

Levi Strauss & Co. has come under fire from a privacy group for putting radio-frequency identification chips (RFID) into consumers' pants. But as Advertising Age reports, the company says it is just testing the controversial technology as a means of tracking inventory, and that it's being entirely transparent with customers about the tags and how they're being used.

RFID tags are used to direct or monitor the movement of products through their distribution from warehouse to store shelf. While some say consumer-level applications of RFID are years away in North America, privacy advocates worry that the use of RFID technology will allow corporations and governments to track people and their activities through their belongings.

Consumers Against Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), a consumer/privacy advocacy group in the U.S., has been an outspoken critic of RFID chips.

"Companies like Levi Strauss are painting their RFID trials as innocuous," CASPIAN said in the statement, adding "once clothing manufacturers begin applying RFID to hang tags, the floodgates will open and we'll soon find these things sewn into the hem of our jeans. ... The problem with RFID is that it's tracking technology, plain and simple."

via: Advertising Age

related Marketplace story: Mining Your Business

related Marketplace murmurs: RFID shopping robots tested in Japan, RFID tags to measure print audiences, Navigating the supermarket: Study maps shoppers’ paths, RFID could make your toothpaste sing, RFID technology won’t be regulated in U.S., European consumers worry about use of RFID, Pub-crawling with Big Brother, Keeping track of the kids ... with RFID

murmur categories: services, technology, privacy

tags:

posted by Tessa | 11:09 AM (ET) | Permalink


Rein in baby video marketing: consumer group
May 2, 2006

Companies are deceiving the public with the marketing and advertising of so-called "educational toys," a consumer group in the U.S. says.

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, two of the leading producers of videos for infants and toddlers, for false and deceptive advertising.

related Marketplace story: Bringing Up Brainy

The group says the companies' branding, advertising and websites mislead parents and exploit their desire for what's best for their children.

"Companies such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby have capitalized on parents' desires to give their very young children a leg up on learning and development by deceptively and falsely marketing their videos as educational and beneficial for infant development," says the complaint.

"These claims are deceptive because no [supporting] research or evidence exists [and] preliminary research suggests that television is a poor tool for educating very young children."

The group also asks that the companies' advertisements, packaging and websites for all baby videos prominently display the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendation of no screen time for children under two.

via: Advertising Age

related Marketplace story: Bringing Up Brainy

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murmur categories: advertising, kids, logos/branding, activism

tags: advertising children education media parenting research

posted by Tessa | 10:35 AM (ET) | Permalink


Music consumers aren't the enemy: artists' coalition
May 1, 2006

A coalition of top Canadian musicians and the industry group that oversees the Canadian recording industry sent out opposing messages Monday about the development of new copyright legislation.

Barenaked Ladies lead singer Steven Page led a union of Canada's top musicians at a Toronto news conference Monday, as they demanded a seat at the table when the federal government drafts new copyright legislation.

Last week, Page, members of indie group Broken Social Scene, veteran act Blue Rodeo and other top artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, Randy Bachman and Sum 41 were among those who united to form the Canadian Music Creators Coalition.

"For a very long time, we – as artists – have allowed industry groups to speak on our behalf. We want that time to stop," Page said Monday.

Take cues from fans, group says

The group opposes two major initiatives that global recording industry groups have used to battle music piracy: suing music fans and placing copy-protection on albums to make it difficult or impossible to transfer the music onto digital music players.

Taking cues from music fans and not fighting them is what should be done, said Canadian singer-songwriter Andrew Cash.

"The music business has spent so much creative energy and money fighting instead of taking a look at what fans are really doing and trying to find a way to swim with it," Cash told CBC News.

The artists' coalition is not opposed to copyright reform, the members said Monday.

However, they are advocating a cooperative approach that incorporates emerging technologies, rather than a combative plan of attack.

"We cannot afford to have an adversarial relationship with our fans. New technology affords fans new ways to listen to music. We as artists... must adapt to that," Page said.

"To say, 'See you in court,' and then, 'See you at Massey Hall,' isn't going to work."

CRIA seeks tougher laws against file-sharers

For the past few years, the Canadian Recording Industry Association, which represents the world's major international record labels, has been pressuring the Canadian Heritage Department to toughen the country's copyright laws.

The group, which says it oversees about 95 per cent of the recordings released in Canada, would like to see the government sign international treaties that, among other things, would change the law to make it illegal to share music files for free.

This would pave the way for lawsuits against Canadians who share high volumes of music files, similar to lawsuits launched in the U.S., Australia and Europe.

Graham Henderson, president of the CRIA, believes that such measures are necessary to protect the industry.

"For every legal song or video file downloaded and paid for, 14 files are swapped without any compensation of any kind," he told a lunchtime audience at the Canadian Club in Toronto Monday.

"Canadians will continue to steal other people's property until we tell them it's wrong and find ways to stop them."

Henderson also argued that artists support this view, as he unveiled a public service announcement that criticizes free music file-sharing and features singer Alanis Morissette.

While some musicians agree to make their music available for free to "seed the marketplace," he said, "if in Canada the only thing we're thinking about is how to give it away, I think we're making a mistake."

He urged Canadians to "respect artists who want to be paid."

via: CBC Arts & Entertainment News

related CBC Indepth: Copyright and the web

related Marketplace murmurs: RIAA sues computer-less family for downloading music Downloading doesn't hurt business: Canadian Record Industry Association study, Digital music sales triple in 2005, Protect consumers' digital rights, British MPs urged, Several lawsuits filed against Sony over rootkit fiasco, Revenge of the movie industry: Authorities shut down file-swapping site, Labels to appeal file-swapping decision, Music copyright case heads to Supreme Court

murmur categories: technology

tags: DRM copyright technology music downloading research P2P

posted by Tessa | 17:06 PM (ET) | Permalink


Long-term study says benefits of eating fish outweigh mercury risk
May 1, 2006

According to a new study, the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to eating fish.

In the past year, several studies have shown higher than normal levels of mercury in a variety of seafood. Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults.

But a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee concludes that it is more beneficial for healthy adults to keep fish in their diets rather than avoid it .

Researchers spent 12-years looking at Native Americans, who tend to eat 10 times more fish than the average American. The study found that the subjects had higher than average levels of mercury in their bodies, but reported few cases of illness or infection.

"There is a lot of nutritional value in fish," John Dellinger, professor of clinical laboratory sciences in UWM’s College of Health Sciences, said in a statement. "It contains high protein, vitamins and the fatty acid Omega 3."

Still, Dellinger cautions that " mercury is harmful to people in large doses, particularly to a developing fetus," and that it remains unclear at which point levels of mercury begin to contribute to illness in otherwise healthy adults.

via: Environmental Health News

murmur categories: health/safety environment food/drink

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tags: environment fish food pollutants chemicals toxins seafood mercury

posted by Tessa | 11:11 AM (ET) | Permalink

APRIL

How to talk to a real person at Rogers Wireless
April 28, 2006

You're a Rogers Wireless customer. You have a problem with your service – nothing serious, nothing a quick chat with a customer service representative can't fix. But circumventing Rogers' automated voice phone system and getting through to a living, breathing human can be a heck of task.

All hail Peter Rukavina and his generous tip of the day:

As soon as you call Rogers' main service number and you encounter the Rogers Robot voice, just say "Other Options" when he asks what you're calling about.

Rogers Robot should then ask if you have an urgent issue. Say "Yes."

Ta-dah! Open Sesame! You're through the maze and soon will be connected with a living Rogers rep who will (hopefully!) be able to solve your problem in a jiffy.

via: The Consumerist

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Cellphone Secrets, Underdogs, How to Complain

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murmur categories:
activism services

tags:

posted by Tessa | 11:28 AM (ET) | Permalink


Subliminal advertising (read this post) debate resurrected
April 28, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to watch television again…

A few decades ago there was much anxiety over "subliminal advertising" – the idea that companies were inserting rapid-fire images and ideas into television and movie content in the aim of subconsciously pushing consumers' buy buttons.

(There was so much fear, in fact, that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission banned subliminal advertising from the airwaves in 1974.)

The "research" behind subliminal advertising was eventually debunked and dismissed and the book was closed on what many researchers deemed junk science.

But this week researchers at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands cracked it open again with a new study that concludes that if conditions are right, subliminal advertising can successfully promote a brand.

The researchers asked subjects count letter B's on a screen – and flashed a 23-millisecond message in the mix. One test group was shown the words Lipton Ice; the other was shown a meaningless jumble ("Nipeic Tol"). After the test, more subjects from the Lipton Ice group choose that beverage over another popular drink (and the majority of those from the jumbled group chose the other drink).

More from New Scientist…

via: MIT Advertising Lab

murmur categories: advertising, miscellaneous

tags:

posted by Tessa | 10:52 AM (ET) | Permalink


Should you buy travel insurance?
April 28, 2006

It's the last thing most of us want to think of before we set out on that eagerly anticipated trip, but it's an unfortunate fact of travelling life that reality sometimes doesn't follow the posted itinerary.

People have accidents. Or they get seriously ill and end up in a hospital far from home.

In that case, some of the best medicine may be that travel health insurance policy you were wise enough to buy before you left.

CBC News Online has the skinny on whether you should buy travel insurance, what is/isn't covered and questions you should ask when your shopping around for the best plan. More here.

via: CBC News Online

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murmur categories: travel, money, health

tags: travel insurance health personal finanace

posted by Tessa | 10:21 AM (ET) | Permalink


Are airlines considering standing-room-only 'seats'?
April 27, 2006

As airlines join the chorus of complaints about rising fuel costs, one aircraft manufacturer is reportedly shopping around an idea to cram more bodies onto flights: a standing-room-only section.

The New York Times reports that Airbus has been quietly making a pitch for a standing section on flights, in which passengers would be "propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness… The result is an additional six seats on a typical Boeing 737 for a total of 156, and as many as 12 new seats on a Boeing 757 for a total of 200."

Airbus flatly denies that it's developed a standing-room-only proposal, with one spokesperson telling CNN that the NYT report is "crap."

via: BoingBoing

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murmur categories: travel

tags: travel Airbus

posted by Tessa | 11:46 AM (ET) | Permalink


One-third of drug safety advisers in U.S. show conflicts of interest: study
April 26, 2006

Industry ties are common among advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's panels, but their votes wouldn't change the overall decision to approve or reject a new drug, a new study suggests.

A consumer group, Public Citizen's Health Research Group, reviewed the financial ties of 221 panellists at regulatory meetings from 2001 until 2004.

Of the nearly 3,000 panellists appointed based on their drug expertise, 28 per cent disclosed a financial relationship with the company making the drug under review or a competitor, the consumer group reports in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations made by outside experts on approving a new drug, although it usually does.

The review of common conflicts of interest found:

  • 19 per cent of consulting involved over $10,000.
  • 23 per cent of contracts or grants exceeded $100,000.
  • 30 per cent of investments were over $25,000.

For all three types of involvement, excluding those with conflicts would have reduced the margin by which a drug was approved at the majority of meetings, but the majority opinion would remain the same, the team concluded.

"Ideally, all panels of scientific experts advising a federal decision making body would be free of financial conflicts of interest with the affected companies," the authors wrote.

"Certainly, advisory committee members who have conflicts of interest with higher dollar values should not be allowed to participate."

For those with smaller conflicts of interest, the study's authors recommend full disclosure several days before the meeting.

The FDA weighs potential conflicts of interest of panellists against their expertise, a spokeswoman said.

"The FDA is committed to a strict code of ethics and transparent process," Susan Bro said in a statement.

Reviewing drugs on the market

The analysis did not include panel meetings in February 2005 on the safety of COX-2 inhibitors such as Vioxx, which has been linked to heart problems. It was recalled by its manufacturer in 2004.

On Tuesday, congressional investigators recommended the FDA gain the power to review the safety of prescription drugs that are already on the market.

"[The] FDA lacks clear and effective processes for making decisions about and providing management oversight of, post-market safety issues," said the report by the Government Accountability Office.

via: CBC Health & Science News

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murmur categories: health

tags:

posted by Tessa | 9:33 AM (ET) | Permalink


Common pesticide linked to cancer
April 25, 2006

What you might be spraying on those pesky dandelions could be doing more harm than good.

A new study, published in the journal Paediatrics and Child Health, says Canada's most popular weed killer – 2, 4-D – is "persuasively linked" to cancer, neurological impairment and reproductive problems.

That contradicts findings from the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which says 2, 4-D is safe to use if consumers follow directions.

via: Toronto Star

related CBC News Indepth: Pesticides

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murmur categories: home, health, environment

tags:

posted by Tessa | 9:40 AM (ET) | Permalink


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