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Spring is here which brings warmer temperatures.  Warmer temperatures mean that motorcycle riding season is here in Pennsylvania.

PennDOT is urging riders of all ages and skill levels to prepare for the season by taking the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program training course. The training courses are available throughout Pennsylvania and are free to all Pennsylvania residents and active duty military with a Motorcycle Learner’s permit or motorcycle license.  The free courses are for novice through seasoned riders and are under the supervision of certified instructors.

“Keeping skills sharp and reinforcing the importance of safety through Pennsylvania’s free motorcycle safety classes help both novice and experienced riders enjoy a safe and enjoyable riding season,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Riders can practice and refine their techniques while honing the split-second decision making required to safely operate a motorcycle.”

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Over the past few years consumers have been becoming more aware of the potential that the hoverboard (self-propelled scooter) they purchased may burst into flames and do untold damage to property and people.  Tragically, the first deaths in the United States related to a hoverboard ignited fire occurred this month in Pennsylvania.  Ashanti Hughes (2) and Savannah Dominick (10) both lost their lives as a result of a fire that destroyed their Harrisburg home on March 10, 2017.  The fire was caused by a hoverboard that ignited as it was charging in the home of the victims.  The fire also claimed the life of Harrisburg firefighter Lt. Dennis DeVoe who died from injuries he suffered in a crash on the way to the scene of the fire. Other injuries related to the fire were also reported.22011874862_770124302d_b

Hoverboards have been recalled, banned on airplanes, and removed from countless stores. In 2016, more than 500,000 hoverboards made by 11 companies were recalled.  The reason for the recall was that the products did not meet fire safety standards. However many still remain in circulation. This has encouraged a renewed call for officials to again warn consumers about the potential dangers of these products and to get these dangerous products out of stores and homes.

The reasons for the hoverboard igniting vary but the most common is the faulty lithium-ion batteries overheating and catching fire.  Many of the incidents have been reported to have happened while the hoverboard was charging but fire incidents have also been reported when it was sitting idle off the charger and while being ridden.

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Long shelf-life snacks like chocolate covered pretzels are being recalled by six grocery store chains across the country, as reported by Food Safety News. Palmer Candy Company produced the snacks, which are recalled for salmonella contamination. The salmonella was found specifically in the powdered milk product used in the making of the snacks and manufactured by Valley Milk Products LLC. The six chains recalling the products are HyVee, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, Tom Thumb and Lucky.

The affected products are dated between Jan. 26 and Feb. 23, 2017. Consumers can either throw the contaminated items out or return them for a refund.

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has applied to the US Department of Transportation hoping to have Pennsylvania be designated as an Automated Vehicle Proving Ground.  The purpose of the application is to help in the facilitation of the safe and innovative development of Automated Vehicle technologies.

The application puts forth the benefits of Pennsylvania as a testing location because of the already existing facilities, environments, and topography within the state. “This application further illustrates that we’re a national leader in supporting automated vehicle development with safety and flexibility in mind,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “We’ve put in significant work on this issue with our task force, with our partners in the legislature, and through close collaboration with the industry.”

The application also highlighted the Pennsylvania Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force, which recently issued its recommended guidance to assist with testing policies helping to make testing proving grounds a success.

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Recently, competing with Apple isn’t the only thing Samsung is concerned with. The recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 happened months ago, but matters have yet to be completely resolved. The phones have been overheating and catching fire, clear reasons for a recall. What is not so clear, however, is the reason behind the fires.

These accidents have not only affected Galaxy Note 7 owners, but have also stalled the release of the Galaxy S8, Samsung’s newest model.  A spokeswoman for the phone company told CNET, “We recognized that we did not correctly identify the issue the first time and remain committed to finding the root cause…Our top priority remains the safety of our customers and retrieving 100 percent of the Galaxy Note 7 devices in the market.”

The recall will cost Samsung not only $3 billion, but also affect their place in the mobile market.

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Pennsylvania’s Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force has created some recommendations for PennDOT to review regarding the testing of Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs). The public even had the chance to be involved, with the ability to ask questions and review the report during an online public forum that occurred earlier this month. This technology could be the future for transportation, so it was vital that safety as well as modernization were both kept at the highest importance during testing.

“Autonomous and connected vehicles will change transportation and could bring benefits of safer travel and greater ease of mobility for all if rules are in place to ensure passenger and pedestrian safety,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards in a press release. “Since HAVs will bring major changes to our transportation system, it is vital for Pennsylvanians to be informed and engaged in this process, so I encourage the public to participate in the Dec. 12 on-line forum.”

Some key highlights from the recommendations included restricting testing on only certain routes, ensuring PennDOT is notified when any HAV is tested without an operator, and more.

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Social Security

More than one million Americans are waiting. They wait as their livelihoods hang in the balance. They wait an average of 575 days for a hearing about their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claims. During this waiting period, people struggle to pay rent, buy groceries, and merely survive.

 

Since 2010, Social Security’s budget has been cut by more than 10%. Between field and mobile offices, hundreds have been forced to close. But the cuts don’t stop there. A proposed $250 million more in cuts are being considered by Congress in a bill that could happen in 2017. This cut would not only affect Americans, but also SSA employees who would be off work for two weeks. The stall in hiring would only push delays and waiting time even further. Retirees, survivors and disabled citizens would all suffer. Funding would increase somewhat, but other basic resource needs would go untouched.

 

It’s up to us to act and fight for fairness. Encourage those around you to contact their members of Congress and urge them to make sure SSA’s budget is entirely funded for next year, and the future overall.

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There’s nothing better than the smile on a child’s face when they are given ice cream, but that smile can’t come at the cost of safety. Blue Bell Ice Cream has recalled some of their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookie Two Step ice cream products. The recall affects the Sylacauga, Alabama plant, where a potential listeria outbreak is suspected.

This is not Blue Bell’s first encounter with a listeria-related recall. In 2015, three deaths connected to a Blue Bell listeria outbreak resulted in a national recall. In this case, the following ten states are carriers of products from the Alabama plant: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. No illnesses have been reported thus far.

In a press release, the company stated, “Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test and hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution.”

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Schuylkill County has schedule a Fall Clean Up that will be open to all county residents.

The clean up is scheduled from September 12th to September 24th and will be funded through the County Commissioners Office at the State Department of Environmental Protection.
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When food product recalls occur, there is always a harmful or potentially harmful reason behind them. Most companies try to be as transparent as they can, but in some cases, that potential danger may be something you are not too familiar with. There are so many things that can affect or jeopardize a product and lead to a recall. Here are some of the common perpetrators behind food product recalls and the basics about each.

Listeria

listeriaFrom hot dogs to frozen vegetables, Listeria can send numerous products directly to the garbage or returned to their seller. A bacterium that infects and contaminates food, Listeria has around 15 species and can lead to serious illness or even death. According to the CDC, Listeria mostly affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include headaches, fevers, muscle aches, confusion, a loss of balance and convulsions. For pregnant women, the bacterium can cause premature delivery, stillbirth and miscarriages.