Chattanooga's Ruby Falls named among best caves in the US and other business news

Staff file photo / A visitor takes a photograph inside Ruby Falls in Chattanooga.
Staff file photo / A visitor takes a photograph inside Ruby Falls in Chattanooga.

Ruby Falls listed among best caves

Backpackers Tale, a website that bills itself as "a blog for travel junkies," has named Ruby Falls in Chattanooga and Craighead Caverns in Sweetwater, Tennessee, among the best caves in the United States.

Blogger Stephen Schreck, who travels the world to highlight the best designations on Backpackers Tale, picked Ruby Falls as "one of the best caves in the United States" and "a great side trip" for any visit to Tennessee. Schreck praised the cave and its 145-foot underground waterfall at Ruby Falls, which has been hosting visitors since it opened as a visitor's attraction in 1929. 

"This exquisite cave is located deep within Lookout Mountain and is known for its spectacularly illuminated underground waterfall," he said. "Visitors can take a guided tour of the cave, which is filled with breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the gorgeous, 145-foot underground waterfall."

He singled out the Haunted Caverns themed event, although that was discontinued in 2016.

Schreck also highlighted Craighead Caverns in McMinn County, which features a variety of unique stalactites and stalagmites, underground pools, and a variety of rare minerals.

"The cave system has been in use for thousands of years by Native Americans and is the site of the Lost Sea, the largest underground lake in the United States," Schreck said.

Among the 40 best U.S. caves chosen by Schreck, Backpackers Tale also listed Desoto Caverns near Fort Payne, Alabama, which Schreck said "has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years." Desoto Caverns is a limestone cave that has three levels, with the deepest reaching over 100 feet.


Cryptocurrency head sentenced to prison

The founder of a cryptocurrency and virtual payment services company who authorities say cheated dozens of investors out of about $7.5 million, which he used to buy a house, cars, jewelry, and other luxuries, has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

Randall Crater, 52, founded Las Vegas-based My Big Coin Pay Inc. in 2013, offering virtual payment services through a fraudulent digital currency, My Big Coin, from 2014 to 2017, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston said in a statement on Tuesday.

Crater and associates he paid to promote the scheme through social media, email and text messages, said the coins were a fully functioning cryptocurrency backed by gold; that the company had a partnership with MasterCard; and that the currency could be exchanged for government-backed currency or other virtual currencies, none of which was true, prosecutors said. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleged that My Big Coin was a fraud in January 2018.

Crater's 55 victims had to delay retirement, lost tuition money, and suffered other financial hardships, Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI's Boston office, said in a statement. A federal jury convicted Crater in July of wire fraud, unlawful monetary transactions, and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

In addition to eight years and four months behind bars, Crater, of Lake Mary, Florida, was sentenced to three years of probation, ordered to forfeit more than $7.5 million, and pay restitution of an amount to be determined.


Europe's inflation dropping in 2023

Europe's inflation rate dipped at the start of the year, giving some relief to consumers but still leaving them facing higher prices that have driven protests and will likely press the European Central Bank into another interest rate hike Thursday.

The consumer price index for the 20 countries that use the euro currency reached 8.5% in January compared with a year earlier, European Union statistics agency Eurostat said Wednesday. That's down from the annual rate of 9.2% in December.

It's the first report on consumer prices that includes data from Croatia, which joined the eurozone on Jan. 1, but lacked unavailable figures from Germany, Europe's biggest economy. Inflation in Europe has now slowed for the third month in a row, falling from a record high of 10.6% in October.

Food and energy prices are persisting as the major factors driving up European inflation. Prices for food, alcohol and tobacco rose at a 14.1% annual pace in January, while energy prices rose 17.2%.

Russia's war in Ukraine has shaken up food and energy markets, and while commodity prices have fallen from all-time highs last year, consumers are not yet seeing relief on their utility and grocery bills.


FTC fines GoodRx for privacy violation

In a first-of-its-kind enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission has imposed a $1.5 million penalty on telehealth and prescription drug discount provider GoodRx Holdings Inc. for sharing users' personal health data with Facebook, Google and other third parties without their consent.

California-based GoodRx also accepted that it will be prohibited going forward from sharing user health data with third parties for advertising purposes, the FTC said. The agreement is pending federal court approval.

Consumer protection advocates hailed Wednesday's announcement as a potential game-changer that could seriously curtail a little-known phenomenon: The trafficking in sensitive health data by businesses not strictly classified as health care providers.

"Digital health companies and mobile apps should not cash in on consumers' extremely sensitive and personally identifiable health information," Samuel Levine, head of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "The FTC is serving notice that it will use all of its legal authority to protect American consumers' sensitive data from misuse and illegal exploitation."

GoodRx did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the business impact of the enforcement action.

It is the first such enforcement under a 2009 law, the Health Breach Notification Rule, which applies to personal health record vendors and related providers not covered by HIPAA, the federal privacy rules that govern the health care industry.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner