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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to our 29th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including lead, chromium and phthalates, all of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Data Breaches | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, 11/29, I'll discuss data breaches and card security on C-Span Washington Journal at 8:40 AM Eastern. It's the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday bracketing 2 more shopping days. If I shop, it'll be online, with credit, not debit, cards.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Forex settlements prevent banks from writing off multi-billion dollar payments as tax deductions

The six banks that today announced out-of-court settlements with federal agencies to atone for manipulating foreign exchange markets won't be able to write off those payments as a tax-deductible business expense. Why isn't that always the case?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On Veterans Day, How The CFPB Helps Veterans, and All of Us | Ed Mierzwinski

Columnist George Will recently (and not for the first time) urged Congress to “abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” His reasons may seem to come from his conservative philosophy, but merely pander to the powerful Wall Street interests that left our economy in ruins just a few years ago. As a counterbalance, let’s discuss some recent speeches and statements by CFPB Director Richard Cordray on his vision for the bureau and some of its current work, including – on this Veteran’s Day – its efforts to protect military families from financial predators.

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Prepaid cards can be a good choice if you choose wisely

Prepaid debit cards are billed as a better way to manage your money, a smart alternative to checking accounts. [...but prepaid] debit cards are different from credit cards or even debit cards tied to a checking account. They may not provide the same level of protection again loss or fraud. Ed Mierzwinski, director of consumer programs at U.S. PIRG, doesn’t think most people understand the difference.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG, PennPIRG | Democracy

PennPIRG to EQT: Elections Are Not for Shale

This morning, PennPIRG, PennEnvironment, Public Citizen, Keystone Progress, One Pittsburgh, Common Cause PA, University of Pittsburgh students and others held a press conference outside gas drilling company EQT’s annual shareholder meeting to call on it to end the practice of spending corporate money in elections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

New Poll: Small Businesses Overwhelmingly Support Closing Offshore Tax Loopholes for Large Corporations

A new scientific poll of small businesses found that small business owners overwhelmingly support closing loopholes that let large multinationals avoid taxes by artificially shifting their profits offshore. 85% of small business owners oppose “a tax system that would allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes permanently by shifting their income to places like the Cayman Islands.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Encouraging news on HUD/state AG settlement with big mortgage servicers | Ed Mierzwinski

Update: The terms of the settlement, which was announced this morning, are at the page http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com. We are reading it now. Original: If I am reading the overnight news stories correctly (NY TIMES and Politico and Boston Globe), it appears that negotiators have clarified that the well-publicized settlement between HUD and state AGs and the nation's 5 largest mortgage servicers will not release the big banks from claims related to their activities with the mysterious entity known as MERS that aided and abetted their illegal foreclosures. If so, this is a big deal in ultimately holding the big banks fully accountable.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Airline passenger rights reforms finally take off, heading to President's desk | Ed Mierzwinski

PIRG-backed reforms designed to guarantee that passengers stranded in planes sitting on runways are not treated like cattle have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed by the president as part of FAA reauthorization (New York Times story). The reforms are largely based on the work of former stranded passenger Kate Hanni and her flyersrights.org campaign for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Kate's statement).

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Blog Post | Transportation

House Transportation Bills Strikes First as Tragedy, Then as Dangerous Farce

The House introduced additional legislation proposing that new revenue for the Transportation Fund would come through increased volumes of oil drilling and that public transit would be kicked out of the transportation fund. This breaks with three decades of public transit being supported by a small portion of the federal gas tax. The House measure would instead funnel all these funds to highways, and leave mass transit to search for new money from Congress at a time when debt reduction rules require massive cuts to the general budget. If you were trying to make America as addicted to oil as possible, you might design legislation like this.

 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus? | Ed Mierzwinski

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

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Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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