mercredi 28 juin 2017

Airports Must Enhance Security Screenings, Or Face Laptop Ban

The Department of Homeland Security is telling airports around the world that they could face a ban on carry-on electronics for U.S.-bound flights if their security doesn’t meet new DHS standards.

DHS Secretary John Kelly revealed the new measures Wednesday afternoon, noting that the agency is raising “the global baseline of global aviation security.”

“Unless we raise our security standards, terrorists will find a way to attack the weakest link,” Kelly said. “Today is just a starting point to reduce insider threats and identity suspicious passengers.”

The new measures, which will affect roughly 2,100 daily commercial flights departing from 280 airports, include:

• enhanced overall passenger screening
• heightened screening of personal electronic devices
• increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas
• advanced technology, expanded canine screening, and additional preclearance locations.

While Kelly did not provide specific details on the enhanced screening, he said DHS will lay out a “clear path” to encourage airlines and airports to adopt more sophisticated screening approaches, including better use of explosive detection canines and advanced checkpoint screening technology.

Additionally, the agency says it will encourage more airports to become Preclearance locations, where security is enhanced because passengers go through customs and border security screening before boarding flights to the U.S.

“The enhanced security measures are both seen and unseen but all passengers flying to the United States may experience additional screening of their person and property,” DHS said. “We recommend that passengers flying to the United States prepare for a more extensive screening process.”

Airports that do not cooperate with the new measures or are too slow to adopt them “could be subject to other restrictions—including a ban on electronic devices on their airplanes, or even a suspension of their flights to the United States,” Kelly added.

To determine if foreign airports are abiding by the new regulations, DHS will assess and inspect airlines.

“With this announcement, we send a clear message that inaction is not an option,” Kelly said.

Kelly didn’t provide a timeframe for when the new restrictions would take effect, but noted that the agency would work with aviation stakeholders over the next several weeks and months to ensure these enhanced security measures are fully implemented.

Reuters, citing people familiar with the agency, reports that airlines have 21 days to put in place increased explosive screening and 120 days to comply with other security measures.

Southwest Airlines Reducing Flights To Cuba

In light of the Trump administration’s decision to further restrict travel to Cuba, Southwest Airlines has decided to scale back the number of flights it offers to the island nation.

Southwest announced today that it would consolidate travel to Cuba by ending service to Varadero and Santa Clara after the summer. Effective Sept. 5, Southwest will only be offering flights to Cuba’s capital, Havana.

Currently, the airlines flies three nonstop flights to Havana, two from Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and one from Tampa. Southwest has applied for a third daily roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale.

The carrier says the change is meant to focus on customers’ desire for low-fare flights to Havana.

“Our decision to discontinue the other Cuba flights comes after an in-depth analysis of our performance over several months which confirmed that there is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets, particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to Cuba for American citizens,” Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President of Ground Operations and lead Executive sponsor for Florida, said in a statement.

That conclusion was similar to one reached by other airlines flying to Cuba. Spirit, Silver, and Frontier were approved for travel to the country, but dropped service to Cuba earlier this year amid waning demand.

Additionally, JetBlue and American revised their flights, shifting to smaller jets to minimize the number of empty seats, for the same reason.

Even with Southwest’s reduction of flights, there are several other airlines offering flights to the country, including American, United, Delta, JetBlue, and Alaska. Sun Country, which has been approved for travel to the country, delayed flights until this winter.

Earlier this month, President Trump proposed changes to existing Cuban travel policy that, once in effect, will heavily restrict travel to the island. The change also appears to indicate that the current administration has no immediate intention of permitting open tourism travel to Cuba, meaning demand for these flights likely won’t be growing at the rate these airlines had hoped.

New Law That Would Set Minimum Sizes For Airplane Seats Inches Closer To Becoming Reality

For at least the third time in as many years, federal lawmakers are hoping to pass legislation that would set minimum standards for airline seating. That battle inched slightly closer to becoming a reality last night.

On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee approved a bill that reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration, including an amendment offered by Rep. Steve Cohen (TN) that would establish minimum dimensions: seat widths, length, and pitch (the spacing between rows of seats).

The amendment is effectively the same as the SEAT Act, a separate piece of legislation that Cohen introduced earlier this year. Like that bill, this amendment doesn’t prescribe any seat dimensions. Instead, it directs the Secretary of Transportation to come up with appropriate minimum standards that “are necessary for the safety and health of passengers.”

One thing to be mindful of: There’s no promise that any seat standards set by the DOT/FAA would be any better than what we have now. There’s even the chance that regulators could look at the typical 16.5″ seat and determine that this is just fine, or that it could get even skinnier without putting travelers at risk. That’s not to say they will do that; just that you shouldn’t get your hopes up that any law will stop your knees from knocking into the seat in front of you every time you move.

A potential positive about putting the dimensions in the DOT’s hands is that the public would be allowed to comment and provide feedback during the rulemaking period. Again, that doesn’t mean your flight is going to get any more luxurious, but the regulators would have to justify the standards it ultimately sets, particularly if they do nothing to improve passenger comfort.

In a statement, Rep. Cohen points to the importance of standard seat dimensions to the safety of airline passengers.

“Emergency evacuation is a serious issue, as is the potential for air rage as tensions mount inside more tightly packed cabins,” explained the congressman. “In addition, doctors have warned that deep vein thrombosis can afflict passengers who do not move their legs enough during longer flights.”

Getting this amendment on to a reauthorization bill is significant, as the larger bill is effectively a must-pass piece of legislation, lest the government decide to bring the FAA to a grinding halt. However, sometimes Congress is unable to agree on a reauthorization package and just passes a brief extension of the status quo. That happened last year, and the current extension is set to expire on Sept. 30.

ABC News Settles ‘Pink Slime’ Defamation Case With Beef Company

Well, that was quick: Just a few weeks after Beef Products Inc. and ABC News squared off in the opening arguments of the trial over the broadcaster’s use of the phrase “pink slime” to describe an ingredient in some ground beef, the two sides have agreed to put the whole thing to rest.

The settlement’s terms are confidential, reports the Associated Press, but BPI was seeking $1.9 billion in damages. The damages could then have been tripled under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act.

The case involves a product known in the meat industry as Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), which is lean beef that has been mechanically separated from beef trimmings, a process that yields about 10-20 pounds of additional lean beef per animal. LFTB has been approved by the USDA for use in ground beef since 1993.

In its lawsuit [PDF], BPI accused ABC of defamation, product disparagement, and tortious interference, claiming that a March 2012 series of news reports misled viewers into believing that LFTB wasn’t safe, and implying that it wasn’t beef by referring to it as “pink slime.”

ABC had argued that the network presented views and information from “knowledgeable sources on a matter of keen public interest.” A spokeswoman reiterated that point in a statement today, noting that ABC has maintained that its reports accurately represented the facts and views of knowledgeable people about the product.

“Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the Company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase,” the spokeswoman said.

BPI says that although the lawsuit was difficult, it was necessary to repair the harm it claims was caused by ABC’s reports: The company said sales declined from around five millions pounds per week to less than two million pounds, and BPI had to shut down multiple plants in three states.

Several chains also stopped using the product around the time of those reports, though some preceded ABC’s coverage: In January 2012, McDonald’s, discontinued the use of the lean finely textured beef in their products. Other companies like Safeway and Kroger followed in March that year.

“Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: it is beef, and is safe, wholesome, and nutritious,” the company and its family owners said in the statement. “This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business, while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family.”

Ford’s Latest Recall Involves Only 3 Vehicles

Another day, another recall for airbags. But what makes this Ford recall stand out is that the recall involves a grand total of just three vehicles.

Not three car models, or three model years, but three individual SUVs. More precisely, three 2016 Ford Escape vehicles that contain knee airbags that the carmaker says do not meet safety standards.

According to Ford, the knee airbag modules may not inflate in the event of a crash due to the lack of inflator gas generate material.

If the airbag doesn’t inflate properly, it could increase the risk of injury to the driver.

Ford says that the dealerships associated with the three vehicles are working to contact owners, and will replace the knee airbag at no cost. Hopefully it won’t take more than a few calls, since again we’re only dealing with three SUVs here.

The recall wasn’t Ford’s only safety campaign announced Wednesday: The manufacturer also recalled 400,000 model year 2015 to 2017 Transit van/bus vehicles, and four 2017 Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.

The affected vans may have a cracked flexible coupling that could cause separation of the driveshaft, leading to loss of power while driving or unintended vehicle movement in park without the parking brake applied.

Ford says it is unaware of any injuries related to the recall. The company will notify owenrs and dealers will replace the flexible coupling if needed.

As for the police vehicles, Ford says the the second row main contain missing or ineffective seat attachment studs. If this is the case, the inboard attachments might not adequately restrain passengers in the event of a crash, increasing risk of injury.

Dealers are contacting owners to schedule service appointments to inspect for the presence of the second row seat attachment studs and repair as required.

CVS Ditches Tanning Oil, Hides The Candy

We all refer to chains like CVS and Walgreens as “drugstores,” but they also sell everything from makeup to school supplies to snacks. However, CVS has been quietly revising its inventory and store layout to remove or deemphasize some items that are making customers less healthy.

CVS made a big splash in 2014 when it decided to remove tobacco products, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the retailer has been making less obvious moves, like its decision to stop selling tanning oils or sunscreens with an SPF under 15. These products do little to nothing to prevent skin cancer.

Foods containing trans fats are next, with the chain removing them a year before a nationwide ban is set to go into effect.

Beyond the trans-fat ban, CVS is aiming to make its food offerings healthier in general. A new format that’s now in a few test stores and will roll out nationwide next year puts pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit where the candy and cookies once were, and moves the candy and cookies closer to the middle of the store.

Candy and gum will still be impulse items near the checkout, but you’ll have to go hunting for larger packages of these products. Some soda in the beverage case will give way to water and juices.

“We are giving more healthy-choice options and making sure the customer can find them,” the chief merchant at CVS told the WSJ.

Walgreens, meanwhile, is leaving the choice up to consumers, while rewarding them for making healthier selections through the chain’s customer loyalty program. Stores sell tobacco products, but no longer display them as prominently. Walgreens is adding more healthy snack options while keeping candy and cookies at the front of the store.

“How do you still give customers the choice and not tell them what is good for them, but help them make healthier choices?” the co-operating chief for Walgreens Boots Alliance asked the WSJ in an interview. “There’s a level of making things available so it’s the customer’s choice, and there’s a level of incentivizing the customer.”

Which model will win out? Maybe it doesn’t matter in the end: The retail business may take up most of the store’s square footage, but store sales are an ever-decreasing portion of drugstore chains’ income.

Best Buy Is Now A Showroom For Amazon, Google Home Products

How quickly tides turn. Not that long ago, Best Buy looked upon Amazon and Google with disdain, angry that “showrooming” customers were coming into Best Buy stores just to look at products that they would then — sometimes while in the store — purchase online for less. Now Amazon and Google have turned to Best Buy to showroom their growing array of devices.

Best Buy announced today that it would open Amazon Alexa and Google Home “experience stores” in 700 locations across the country this year.

The mini-stores, located near the smart home department, are intended to allow customers to explore “what’s possible with voice technology” with the help of specially trained Geek Squad agents and other employees.

Customers can test out the latest features available with Google Home and Amazon Echo’s Alexa, along with the products that work with the systems, like Nest thermostats, Philips Hue lighting, and Insignia’s smart plugs.

“In collaboration with Amazon and Google, these experiences will help people understand and use this groundbreaking technology to make their lives safer, easier and simply more fun,” Amy College, senior vice president of merchandising at Best Buy, said in a statement.

The new in-store experiences are Best Buy’s way of ensuring the company has a foothold in the connected-home business, one of the fasted growing categories in tech.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that IHS Markit projects that by 2021 there will be more than 220 million devices globally controlled by a voice assistant.

Of course, the Best Buy displays aren’t the only place you’ll be able to test out Amazon or Google’s voice-controlled products. Amazon’s physical book stores and planned pop-up stores have served as a way for the company to showcase its devices.