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    The Worst Credit Cards of 2012

    Credit card expert highlights some credit card offers you should avoid

    A number of lenders compete to convince you their credit card is best. But what are the credit cards you should avoid?

    For starters, avoid cards that levy high interest rates and charge a large annual fee. There are just too many cards out there that offer better deals.

    The credit card site CardHub.com has analyzed the current offerings -- more than 1,000 -- and come up with a handful of cards that it says consumers should avoid.

    General consumer credit cards – rewards

    Credit card companies offer rewards, either cash back or points toward other purchases, to build loyalty. The worst in this category, according to CardHub, is the Visa Black Card, a product offered by Barclaycard US. This is not to be confused with the famed Centurion Card from American Express.

    While the latter is a status symbol and a pop culture staple, CardHub says the former is just grossly overpriced, charging a $495 annual fee for a measly 1 point per $1 spent, airport lounge access and the vague promise of luxury gifts.

    “It’s obvious that the Visa Black Card’s pricing is one of the ways that Barclaycard US is trying to fool consumers into thinking they’re getting the Black Card they see their favorite musicians and actors flaunting,” said Card Hub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. “They want you to think, ‘If it’s that expensive, it must be the real deal.’ However, the Centurion Card is rumored to have a $5,000 initial fee and a $2,500 annual fee. Besides, its secrecy is part of its lore, so the fact that you can even apply for the Visa Black Card online or see commercials for it on TV should tip you off that it’s not the real deal.”

    General-consumer credit cards – big-ticket new purchases

    Some credit cards give you a low introductory rate for new large purchases. Obviously, the lower the rate and the longer the introductory period, the better. CardHub says Arvest Bank Classic Credit Card offers a 4.9 percent interest rate for six month before it kicks up to 17.9 percent. CardHub says you can do a lot better.

    “There are simply too many credit cards out there offering 0% introductory APRs for well over a year to even consider a card whose intro rate is nearly 5% and lasts for only six months,” Papadimitriou said. “In fact, the average 0% credit card offers that rate for over 10 months. This card’s inferiority is best illustrated when you compare it to the likes of the Citi Diamond Preferred and Citi Simplicity cards, both of which offer 0% on new purchases for 18 months.”

    General-consumer credit cards – balance transfers

    Consumers often apply for a new credit card that will allow them to transfer a high-interest balance from another card and pay a lower interest rate. That's a sound strategy for speeding up the pay-down of your account balance.

    The worst of the balance transfer cards, according to CardHub, is the UBS Preferred Visa Signature card. It offers a 9.99% introductory balance transfer APR for 6 months and charges a 3% balance transfer fee as well as a $495 annual fee. Papadimitriou says there are plenty of cards that offer a 0% balance transfer option. A much better choice, he says.

    Rebuilding credit

    A number of cards promote themselves as a means for consumers to rebuild a damaged credit rating. All too often the cards in this category have the worst terms for consumers. But CardHub says the First Premier Bank Gold Card stands out.

    In addition to a 36% interest rate, this card charges a $95.00 processing fee prior to account opening, a $75.00 annual fee during the first year, a $45 annual fee in each subsequent year, a $6.25 monthly fee beginning in the second year, and a 25% fee for any credit limit increase.

    “When you’re building credit, you want a card with the lowest possible fee structure,” Papadimitriou said. “And under no circumstances should you waste $170 in fees when you can take $30 more and place a $200 fully refundable security deposit for a secured credit card with a $29 annual fee.”

    “I knew that the credit limit was going to be very low ($300), but didn't care as my only intention was to further establish my credit,” Les, of Bradley, IL, wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post about First Premier. “However, I didn't read all of the fine print (my fault) prior to receiving the card and soon found out that by the time they were finished applying all the needless charges i.e. annual fees, one-time fees, etc., I actually only had roughly $50 available for spending purposes. In the end, I ended up -$250 by the time I received the card.”

    Credit card for students

    Many students head off to college with a new credit card for expenses or emergencies. Which one should you avoid. CardHub awards the honor to U.S. Bank College Visa, saying it doesn’t provide any rewards or low introductory rates and students may end up with a regular APR as high as 20.99% APR -- the highest rate among student cards.

    A common mistake consumers make is applying for a card based on an advertising mailer that arrives in their mailbox. The best strategy is to think about what you want from a credit card and compare as many options in that category as possible.

    A number of lenders compete to convince you their credit card is best. But what are the credit cards you should avoid?For starters, avoid cards that levy...
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    FBI: Violent Crime Down in 2011

    It's the fifth straight decline, with a drop in robberies leading the way

    There's continued progress in the war against crime in the U.S.

    The estimated number of violent crimes declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, according to figures released by the FBI. Property crimes also fell, marking the ninth straight year that the collective estimates for these offenses were down.

    The 2011 statistics show that the estimated volumes of violent and property crimes declined 3.8 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, when compared with the 2010 estimates. The violent crime rate for the year was 386.3 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants – down 4.5 percent from the 2010 rate; the property crime rate was 2,908.7 offenses per 100,000 persons a drop of 1.3 percent from the previous year.

    These and additional data are presented in the 2011 edition of the FBI’s annual report, “Crime in the United States,” a statistical compilation of offense and arrest data reported by law enforcement agencies voluntarily participating in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.

    Local involvement

    The UCR Program collects information on crimes reported by law enforcement agencies regarding the violent crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, as well as the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

    (Although the FBI classifies arson as a property crime, it does not estimate arson data because of variations in the level of participation by the reporting agencies. Consequently, arson is not included in the property crime estimate.) The program also collects arrest data for the offenses listed above plus 20 additional offenses that include all other crimes except traffic violations.

    The breakdown

    In 2011, there were 18,233 city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies that participated in the UCR Program. A summary of the statistics reported by these agencies, which are included in “Crime in the United States, 2011”, follows:

    • Nationwide in 2011, there were an estimated 1,203,564 violent crimes.
    • Each of the four violent crime offense estimates decreased when compared with the 2010 estimates. Robbery had the largest decrease at 4.0 percent, followed by aggravated assault with a 3.9 percent decline, forcible rape with a 2.5 percent decline, and murder and nonnegligent manslaughter with a 0.7 percent decrease.
    • Nationwide in 2011, there were an estimated 9,063,173 property crimes.
    • There was a 3.3 percent decline in motor vehicle theft and a 0.7 percent decline in larceny-theft offenses. Estimated burglary offenses increased by 0.9 percent when compared with the 2010 estimate.
    • Collectively, victims of property crimes (excluding arson) lost an estimated $15.6 billion in 2011.
    • The FBI estimated that in 2011, agencies nationwide made about 12.4 million arrests, excluding traffic violations.
    • The 2011 arrest rate for violent crimes was 172.3 per 100,000 inhabitants; for property crime, the rate was 531.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • By violent crime offense, the arrest rate for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter was 3.5; forcible rape, 6.3; robbery, 34.5; and aggravated assault was 128.0 arrests per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • By property crime offense, the arrest rate for burglary was 95.6; larceny-theft, 410.6; and motor vehicle theft, 21.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. The arrest rate for arson was 3.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • In 2011, there were 14,633 law enforcement agencies that reported their staffing levels to the FBI. These agencies reported that, as of October 31, 2011, they collectively employed 698,460 sworn officers and 303,524 civilians, a rate of 3.4 employees for each 1,000 inhabitants.
    There's continued progress in the war against crime in the U.S. The estimated number of violent crimes declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, ac...
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    Hurricane Sandy Threatens East Coast

    From Kitty Hawk to Cape Cod, heavy wind and flooding damage is expected

    UPDATED: 12 Noon Monday

    Schools, government offices and mass transit closed today from Washington to Boston and beyond as Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least five dozen people in the Caribbean, took aim at more than 60 million as it moved up the East Coast towards the country's most densely populated region.

    As it moves north, the giant storm is expected to meet up with two other powerful winter storm systems, creating an even more threatening hybrid. At mid-morning Monday, it officially became the largest tropical storm ever recorded in the Atlantic.

    Crisis map

    Google's Crisis Map combines information from the National Hurricane Center, American Red Cross and other trusted sources. It offers details about the storm's current and forecasted locations, emergency shelter locations, live webcam feeds, public safety alerts, traffic conditions, and a wealth of other vital information.

    The New York Times, meanwhile, is publishing a state-by-state guide to Sandy. Both the Times and the Wall Street Journal have turned off their paywalls during the storm. 

    Besides hurricane-force winds, the massive storm system is expected to blanket the region with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow, threatening New York Harbor, Long Island Sound and other coastal areas with flash flooding.

    Mandatory evacuation orders were issued in much of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, as well as along the exposed outer coastlines of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.  Beaches began to disappear and in Ocean City, Maryland, a large pier collapsed.

    Officials warned that some barrier islands, many lined with expensive beach homes, could be wiped out by a massive storm surge.  

    Power outages and communications interruptions are expected to last for days and possibly weeks, as the storm-soaked ground and high winds combine to fell trees throughout the region.

    Phone companies are trying to prepare -- topping off fuel for backup generators and lining up disaster recovery trailers to move into flooded areas after the storm passes. Verizon says its network is operating normally so far (as of about 2 p.m).

    Local and state governments scrambled to prepare for the brewing disaster. In Fairfax County, Va., officials issued these preparedness tips:

    1.)    Supplies: Get your supplies – water, medicines, canned food, cash, pet food and more. We strongly recommend that you be prepared with at least three days of supplies.

    2.)    Gas: Fill your car’s gas tank. Gas stations will be in short supply in a power outage.

    3.)    Generators: If you have a generator or plan to buy one, please be familiar with safety tips.

    4.)    Food Safety:  Power outages and flooding may happen as a result of a tropical storm or hurricane, so have a plan for keeping food safe. Have a cooler on hand to keep food cold, and group food together in the freezer so it stays cold longer.

    5.)    Outdoor Items: Plan to secure all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.

    6.)    Trees: Remove dead limbs on trees that could fall on your property (home, car, land).

    7.)    Leaves: Clear leaves from storm drains, gutters and other areas that, if clogged, could cause flooding.

    8.)   Weather Forecasts: Pay close attention to weather forecasts for the latest storm track. We will provide guidance as needed. Purchase or charge up your weather radio. If you have a weather radio that uses SAME codes, Fairfax County’s SAME code is 051059.

    9.)    Tech Ready: View our Digital Preparedness Kit, which is an important way to stay informed and connected before, during and after an emergency.

    10.) Phone Numbers: Save important phone numbers to your phone or write them down, especially your power company. Always report a power outage.

    Best battery

    Consumer Reports magazine chimed in with some suggestions. If you're getting your flashlights ready to do battle, the magazine says the Energizer Ultimate lithium lasted the longest in the Consumer Reports flashlight tests, making it their recommendation for consumers who don’t want to get caught in the dark.  

    Also check out Consumer Reports generators ratings, and if generators in your area are all sold out CR has identified power inverters that can keep your refrigerator running when attached to your car battery. 

    Schools, government offices and mass transit closed today from Washington to Boston and beyond as Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least five dozen people ...
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      Whole, Skim, Soy Milk - What's the Difference?

      We spoke to an expert and registered nutritionist to see what type of milk consumers should be buying

      Milk, milk, milk -- It’s all over the place.

      When one goes to the grocery store, the shelf that holds the milk is a display of bright colors. There’s one color for whole milk, one color for skim milk, and by the time you’re ready to grab a container it’s hard to know just what’s the healthiest.

      Is there really that much of a health difference between milk that’s 1 percent and 2 percent?

      Some of us think that skim milk is too foul to drink, but surprisingly, a computerized sentiment analysis of 160,000 consumer comments posted on social media shows that some people actually like the stuff.

      There is, as they say, no accounting for taste.  

      But to get back on-topic, we're supposed to be talking about the health benefits of  various types of milk, so we spoke to Registered Dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Amy Jamieson-Petonic, who previously spoke to us about the differences in fresh, canned and frozen foods.  

      Jamieson-Petonic says that between cow’s milk, almond milk, rice milk, goats, and soy milk, the benefits differ depending on the health needs of the consumer.

      “If you are lactose intolerant, I would suggest an unsweetened soy milk or almond milk," she said in a ConsumerAffairs interview.

      "I recommend the unsweetened so that you do not get the added sugar  in the product. Added sugars increase inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. If you are allergic to soy, then a milk-based product would work better.”

      It’s safe to assume that most people associate milk consumption with getting needed levels of calcium, but according to Jamieson-Petonic, not all milks are created equal and consumers should carefully check the label on containers and do a little bit of math to determine just how calcium-rich a particular type of milk is.

      “You take the nutrition facts panel, and look at the calcium (it’s written as a percentage). You take the calcium percentage and add a zero to the end and that tells you how many milligrams of calcium are in the product,” explained Jamieson-Petonic.

      “For example, an 8 ounce (1 cup) serving of milk provides 30 percent of your daily calcium needs. Calcium needs are determined by 1,000 milligrams per day. So the 8 ounce cup of milk provides 300 milligrams of calcium for the day,” she said.

      And what’s the daily amount of calcium we should be taking in? It’s different for both genders says Jamieson-Petonic.

      “For men: 80 to 1,000 milligrams per day. For women: 1,000-1,200 milligrams per day,” she detailed.

      She also says that mothers should choose to use their own milk instead of using formula for their infant.

      “The Academy supports breastfeeding whenever possible," she said. "Breastfeeding not only promotes optimal nutrition, but also cognitive development, immunity, and perhaps long-term weight management strategies.”

      1% - What a difference

      Jamieson-Petonic, who authored the two books How to Lose Weight and Feel Great Without Dieting as well as No Nonsense Nutrition: Real Nutrition for Real People, explained the differences between 1 and 2 percent milk and skim milk are pretty substantial.

      “Whole milk provides 8 grams of fat per 1 cup, 2 percent [equals] 4 grams, 1 percent [equals] 1.5 to 2 grams, and skim [has] zero grams,” she said. "They all provide the same Vitamin D and calcium."

      And what about those people who don’t like milk at all and avoid it all costs? The nutrition expert says there are other ways a person can get the health benefits of milk.

      “There is calcium-fortified orange juice, breads, and other calcium-fortified products,” she said. “Calcium citrate is absorbed a bit better than calcium carbonate, so choose citrate if possible. Your body can only absorb about 500 to 600 milligrams of calcium at one time, so take your supplements at different times of the day. For example, take your 600 milligram supplement at breakfast and then the other with dinner, so you absorb the entire 1,200.”

      So in short, it’s wise to carefully read the milk cartons label, as opposed to blindly grabbing the same type of milk you've been buying for years, as one’s health needs may change as time passes.

      Jamieson-Petonic also says if milk is giving your infant or child a lot of phlegm and mucus, that's not normal, and the child should be taken to the pediatrician for further analysis.

      Milk, milk, milk-- It’s all over the place.When one goes to the grocery store, the shelf that holds the milk is a display of bright colors. There&r...
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      Lifestyle Lift Doesn't Always Turn Out as Expected

      Consumers complain of hard-sell techniques, outcomes that don't meet their hopes

      Want to light up your life? Songstress Debby Boone suggests you look into Lifestyle Lift, a nationwide cosmetic surgery chain that claims to take a "revolutionary approach" to "facial rejuvenation."

      In its infomercials and web ads, some narrated by Ms. Boone herself, Lifestyle Lift promises it "turns the clock back by tightening and smoothing your face and neck to create a more youthful appearance."

      The advertising promises a quick and painless procedure without the messy complications of full-blown surgery. But consumers say it doesn't always turn out that way.

      Hit by an IED

      "One year ago, my mother almost died after having a Lifestyle Lift in Huntersville, NC.," said Teresa of Wake Forest, N.C., in a ConsumerAffairs posting earlier this month.  "Prior to her surgery, she was told it was okay to consume a small meal before surgery. She had a small box of chicken nuggets (6) and an unsweetened tea. During her surgery, she began to vomit while under local anesthetic and aspirated some of the partially digested contents of her meal into her lungs."

      Teresa said that two days after the surgery, her mother's blood became septic and she wound up in the Intensive Care Unit.

      "She looked like she had been hit by an IED and was on a respirator. We were not given much hope by the doctors, but we knew she was a fighter," Teresa said.

      Linda of Upland, Calif., said she had the procedure in July 2011 but was unhappy with the results.  

      "The procedure was very painful. I experienced approximately 20 painful shots, which numbed the area, but I could feel (and hear) the cutting of my skin and stitching," she said.  "The recovery was long and painful and I followed their instructions to the letter, even sleeping in an upright position for a month. The results were not good. I saw no improvement."

      A follow-up surgery was scheduled which Linda said turned out even worse.

      "Now I am left looking worse than I did before the surgery with jowls and marionette lines and scars around my ears and chin area. I am out $6,000! I contacted the company and tried to get a refund (or partial refund) and they denied my request."

      Painful and unsatisfying

      Although their experiences were painful and ultimating unsatisfying, Teresa, Linda and the others who have posted on ConsumerAffairs can take some satisfaction in knowing that they have helped others by sharing their experience.

      As Martha of Bronx, N.Y., put it: "Thank you to all who have suffered. You have saved me from myself. I also felt pressured when I made that phone call. I asked for printed material and doctors' names. The salesperson refused to give me names and in the end didn't send the printed material. I've dodged a bullet. Thanks again to all who are still in pain. I pray for you."

      It hasn't always been easy to find honest reviews from real Lifestyle Lift patients. It was just a few years ago, in July 2009, that the company settled a lawsuit with the New York Attorney General over its attempts to post fake reviews on popular websites.

      Under the settlement, Lifestyle Lift agreed to stop publishing anonymous positive reviews about the company to Internet message boards and other Web sites, and paid $300,000 in penalties and costs. The case was believed to be the first in the nation aimed at combating "astroturfing," a growing problem on the Internet.

      Lifestyle Lift employees published positive reviews and comments about the company to trick Web-browsing consumers into believing that satisfied customers were posting their own stories, the attorney general said. 

      Astroturfing

      Consumers rate Lifestyle Lift

      “This company’s attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative, and illegal,” said then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. “My office has and will continue to be on the forefront in protecting consumers against emerging fraud and deception, including ‘astroturfing,’ on the Internet.”

      Internal emails discovered by Cuomo’s investigation showed that Lifestyle Lift employees were given specific instructions to engage in the illegal activity. One e-mail to employees said: “Friday is going to be a slow day - I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client.” Another internal email directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to “Put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had.”

      But that was then. We could find no reports of other substantive action against the cosmetic surgery chain, although some consumers -- like Linda of Upland -- think someone should do something.

      "This place should be shut down. I think a class action suit should be brought against them. I am frustrated and angry and wish I knew how to get help," Linda said.

      In fact, a class action suit is unlikely because of so many widely varying circumstances affecting each patient's case. What individual consumers Like Linda should do is consult an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice. If a patient has suffered serious and lasting harm as the result of medical error of negligence, there is always the possibility that litigation will bring relief.

      Consumers should deal only with lawyers with extensive experience in malpractice or personal injury cases and should insist on a contingency arrangement, under which the attorney's fee is paid from the settlement, not upfront by the consumer, legal experts said.

      Want to light up your life? Songstress Debby Boone suggests you look into Lifestyle Lift, a nationwide cosmetic surgery company that claims to take a "revo...
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      Survey Shows Many US iPad Owners Unhappy with Timing of New iPad 4 Launch

      iPad Mini still set to be a hit though the Kindle Fire is more popular

      While a lot of people may be happy with Apple's new iPad products, there are a lot who have a problem with the timing of the releases.

      Within 24 hours of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s unveiling of the new iPad as well as the iPad Mini, Toluna QuickSurveys has the first reliable consumer reaction to the launch. A survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers online found 45% of iPad owners feel disgruntled that Apple has released a new iPad 4 only seven months after the release of the iPad 3.

      Reaction to the iPad Mini was more positive with 14% saying they will “definitely buy one” and another 32% saying they will "probably buy one."

      However, when directly asked which device they would prefer out of the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 Tablet, the Kindle came out on top with 46%, followed by the iPad Mini (40%) and Nexus a distant third (14%).

      Size does matter

      Size was the major factor driving demand for the iPad Mini with 25% saying it was the most impressive feature, followed by “speed and performance” (22%) and enhanced battery life (22%).

      The survey also asked U.S. consumers about their general attitude toward Apple. More than 1 in 4 (26%) believe Apple’s reputation has been tarnished by the iMaps fiasco following the iPhone 5 release, and nearly half (45%) believe Apple is an inferior company since current CEO Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs.

      Other findings

      Other notable findings from the research include:

      • Current iPad owners were even more likely to purchase the iPad Mini, with 30% saying they would “definitely” purchase the new device and 39% saying they will “probably” purchase one.
      • The 3G or 4G iPad Mini is set to be marginally more popular than the Wifi only version with 51% of those intending to buy an iPad Mini preferring the cellular version.
      • Environmental friendly materials are a key driver for more than one-third of US consumers with 35% claiming the environmentally friendly and recyclable materials will positively impact their decision to buy one.
      • The iPad Mini is set to become a hot holiday gift with, 1 in 5 (21%) planning to buy the tablet as a holiday gift.
      • The double camera was the least impressive feature, with only 7% nominating it as a standout feature.
      While a lot of people may be happy with Apple's new iPad products, there are a lot who have a problem with the timing of the releases. Within 24 hours of...
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      Study Says Resveratrol Has Little Impact on the Healthy

      But another ingredient in red wine may be responsible for promoting health

      Resveratrol is an ingredient found in the skin of grapes that is thought to hold many health benefits. It may, in fact, but new research suggests it's not a miracle ingredient for everyone.

      Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say resveratrol may improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk of heart disease and increase longevity, but it does not appear to offer these benefits in healthy women.

      Admittedly, the study is a small one. It involved 29 post-menopausal women who did not have type 2 diabetes and who were reasonably healthy. For 12 weeks, half took an over-the-counter resveratrol supplement, and the rest got a placebo, or sugar pill.

      In supplement form

      "Resveratrol supplements have become popular because studies in cell systems and rodents show that resveratrol can improve metabolic function and prevent or reverse certain health problems like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer," said senior investigator Samuel Klein, MD, director of Washington University's Center for Human Nutrition. "But our data demonstrate that resveratrol supplementation does not have metabolic benefits in relatively healthy, middle-aged women."

      The study may call into question the assumption, derived from previous research, that drinking red wine or taking resveratrol supplements lowers the risk of health problems. That may be because previous studies have mostly measured resveratrol's effects on specific parts of the population.

      "Few studies have evaluated the effects of resveratrol in people," Klein said. "Those studies were conducted in people with diabetes, older adults with impaired glucose tolerance or obese people who had more metabolic problems than the women we studied. So it is possible that resveratrol could have beneficial effects in people who are more metabolically abnormal than the subjects who participated in the study."

      Big business

      Many people who have heard about red wine's health benefits but don't drink alcohol have purchased resveratrol supplements to get the benefits. Resveratrol has become a sizable segment of the supplement market, accounting for about $30 million in annual sales. But the research suggests that if you are a healthy person, you might not need them.

      As part of the study, Klein and his colleagues gave 15 post-menopausal women 75 milligrams of resveratrol daily, the same amount they'd get from drinking 8 liters of red wine, and compared their insulin sensitivity to 14 others who took a placebo.

      The team measured the women's sensitivity to insulin and the rate of glucose uptake in their muscles, infusing insulin into their bodies and measuring their metabolic response to different doses.

      "It's the most sensitive approach we have for evaluating insulin action in people," he said. "And we were unable to detect any effect of resveratrol. In addition, we took small samples of muscle and fat tissue from these women to look for possible effects of resveratrol in the body's cells, and again, we could not find any changes in the signaling pathways involved in metabolism."

      The researchers aren't ruling out that some other ingredient in red wine is providing a heart health benefit. They just don't know what it is.

      "The purpose of our study was not to identify the active ingredient in red wine that improves health but to determine whether supplementation with resveratrol has independent, metabolic effects in relatively healthy people," Klein said.

      Resveratrol is an ingredient found in the skin of grapes that is thought to hold many health benefits. It may, in fact, but new research suggests it's not ...
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      Pennsylvania Outlaws Gas Chambers for Pets

      The Keystone State is the 20th to take that step

      Pennsylvania has become the 20th state to outlaw the use of gas chambers to euthanize pets kept at animal shelters. Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate.

      "The citizens of Pennsylvania should be proud of their legislators for coming together to end this barbaric practice," said Nancy Shilcock of Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR).

      The bill was the subject of an intense lobbying effort but in the end, backers found that it was an easy sell. Many lawmakers were eager to sign on with their support.

      "This is a victory not only for the dogs and cats of Pennsylvania but for all the people who fought so hard to ban gas chambers in our state," said Bill Smith, also of MLAR.

      Only four Pennsylvania shelters still use gas

      The new law mandates an end to the use of carbon monoxide chambers in Pennsylvania. It affects only four animal shelters in the state that still use gas to put down animals.

      Supporters built on networks of support that proved instrumental in passing legislation in 2008 that cracked down on the state's puppy mills.

      MLAR worked to raise awareness among lawmakers about how gas is used to kill animals. The group says the process can last up to thirty minutes with multiple terrified dogs or cats in the chamber at one time.

      The American Humane Society says animal shelters are not required to keep records of the number of animals they take in and euthanize. However, it surveyed 1,000 animal shelters in 1997 and found that roughly 64 percent of the total number of animals that entered shelters were euthanized -- approximately 2.7 million animals in just these 1,000 shelters.

      It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008. This number represents a generally accepted statistic that is widely used by many animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).  

      Pennsylvania has become the 20th state to outlaw the use of gas chambers to euthanize pets kept at animal shelters. Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill th...
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      Look Out Apple, Android is Gaining

      Android tablets now make up 41 percent of the tablet market

      When Apple reported it's third quarter earnings Thursday, one stat stuck out. The high-flying tech company sold fewer than expected iPads during the period.

      Not surprising, says a report from Strategy Analytics, which follows the technology sector. Android tablet sales surged in the last quarter, allowing it to capture 41 percent of the tablet market to Apple's 57 percent. A year ago, Apple was thought to control two-thirds of the market.

      “Global tablet shipments reached 24.7 million units in Q3 2012, rising a sluggish 43 percent from 17.2 million in Q3 2011,” Peter King, director at Strategy Analytics, said. “Demand for tablets slowed due to ongoing economic uncertainty and consumers holding off purchases in anticipation of multiple new models, like the iPad Mini, during the upcoming Q4 holiday season.”

      Apple disappoints

      Strategy Analytics says Apple shipped a disappointing 14.0 million iPads worldwide and captured 57 percent share in the third quarter of 2012, dipping from 64 percent a year ago.

      “Apple’s slowdown allowed the Android community to make gains and Android’s global share of the tablet market now stands at a record 41 percent,” King said.

      Android's move up, meanwhile, has been dramatic. A year ago only 29 percent of the market belonged to Android. Now it has a 41 percent market share.

      “Global Android tablet shipments doubled annually to 10.2 million units,” said Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics. “No single Android vendor comes close to Apple in volume terms at the moment, but the collective weight of dozens of hardware partners, such as Asus, Samsung and Nook, is helping Google’s Android platform to register a growing presence in tablets.”

      The company says it expects tablet sales to pick up speed in the current quarter, thanks to new entries from Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

      When Apple reported it's third quarter earnings Thursday, one stat stuck out. The high-flying tech company sold fewer than expected iPads during the period...
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      Have a Cold? Maybe it's a Winter Allergy

      Here are some ways to avoid winter-time misery

      We've entered the cold and flu season and many people have already been afflicted. But not every sneeze and cough is caused by a cold. Sometimes it's winter allergies that are contributing to the misery.

      While allergies are often thought to act up only in the spring and summer, the winter months can be brutal for people sensitive to mold spores and dust mites.

      "During the winter, families spend more time indoors, exposing allergic individuals to allergens and irritants like dust mites, pet dander, smoke, household sprays and chemicals, and gas fumes -- any of which can make their lives miserable," said Dr. William Reisacher, director of The Allergy Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

      And then there is mold. Mold spores can cause additional problems compared with pollen allergy because mold grows anywhere and needs little more than moisture and oxygen to thrive. During the holiday season it is especially important to make sure that Christmas trees and holiday decorations are mold-free.

      If you or someone in your household suffers from allergies, here are some winter-time preventive steps you might consider:

      • Turn on the exhaust fan when showering or cooking to remove excess humidity and odors.
      • Clean your carpets with a HEPA vacuum to decrease dust mites and pet allergen levels.
      • Wash your hands after playing with the family pet and avoid touching your face to decrease exposure to common winter viruses.
      • Launder your bed linens and pajamas in hot water (above 130 degrees) to kill dust mites.
      • Treat your bedroom as the allergy "safe haven" of your home because this is where you may spend most of your time. Your bedroom should have the fewest allergy triggers so keep pets, carpets, rugs and plants out of this room to avoid dust mites and mold from decaying plants. You may also want to place an allergenic barrier around your pillows and mattress to create a barrier between dust mites and your nose.
      • Spray your live Christmas tree with a garden hose before setting it up and remove all dust from your holiday decorations.
      • Install high-efficiency furnace filters: they capture 30 times more allergens, and make sure your furnace fan is always on.
      • Keep your indoor humidity level between 30-40%, with the help of a humidifier or dehumidifier, to help prevent the growth of mold and mites.
      • Change the water and filters in your humidifier according to manufacturer recommendations to avoid contamination by mold and bacteria.
      • Perform an indoor and outdoor survey of the house every month to look for visible mold and identify areas that are at high-risk for mold formation, such as a pile of firewood close to the house or an area of the basement with a musty odor.
      We've entered the cold and flu season and many people have already been afflicted. But not every sneeze and cough is caused by a cold. Sometimes it's winte...
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      Consumers More Upbeat in October

      Government report shows economy grew at faster-than-expected rate

      Even though household incomes have fallen over the last three years and unemployment remains stubbornly high, consumers are feeling better about the economy this month.

      The monthly consumer confidence survey conducted by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan finds a significant one-month rise in the confidence index, from 78.3 to 82.6. That's the highest level since September 2007, just before the start of the Great Recession.

      Confidence rose in both what consumers see as current conditions and their expectations for the future. According to the survey, consumers are disregarding forecasts of higher food and fuel prices, saying they expect prices to go down in the coming months, or at least stay stable.

      Wall Street not feeling the love

      While consumers appear confident it's not altogether clear that Wall Street investors feel the same way. The stock market suffered its biggest one day loss this week since June as concerns mounted over prospects for growth.

      Part of the pessimism stems from the current earnings season, which has been marked by a number of disappointments. Both Amazon and Apple reported a worse than expected third-quarter performance Thursday on slowing sales.

      Stronger growth

      However, the U.S. Commerce Department reports the economy grew at a two percent rate in the third quarter -- faster than expected. The numbers show the housing actually got a boost from a recovering housing market, as well as an increase in defense spending.

      The economy grew in spite of a sizable drop in exports. The value of U.S. goods and services sold overseas dropped 1.6 percent in the third quarter after rising 5.3 percent in the second quarter.

      Consumers and homeowners did their part to boost the economy. Consumer spending rose two percent compared with 1.5 percent in the second quarter. The residential housing sector gained 14.4 percent, building on an 8.5 percent gain in the second quarter.

      Even though household incomes have fallen over the last three years and unemployment remains stubbornly high, consumers are feeling better about the econom...
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      Drops, Sprays Put Curious Kids at Risk

      Swallowing even a small amount of these products can cause children serious harm

      It's every parent's nightmare: Your back is turned, and your child swallows something toxic. It happens with products that you may not think of as dangerous.

      Take over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops used to relieve redness or nasal decongestant sprays. "In the hands of young children who are apt to swallow them, they can cause serious health consequences," says pharmacist Yelena Maslov, Pharm.D., at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      FDA is warning the public to keep these products -- which contain the active ingredients tetrahydrozoline, oxymetazoline, or naphazoline (known as imidazoline derivatives) -- out of the reach of children at all times. The products are sold under various brand names such as Visine, Dristan and Mucinex, as well as in generic and store brands.

      Tiny amounts are dangerous

      Maslov explains that one teaspoon of eye drops or nasal spays containing imidazoline derivatives is equal to about 5 mL, and that harm has been reported from swallowing as little as 1 mL to 2 mL. "Children who swallow even miniscule amounts of these products can have serious adverse effects," she says.

      Between 1985 and 2012, FDA identified 96 cases in which children ranging from one month to five years accidentally swallowed products containing these ingredients. Cases were reported by both consumers and manufacturers to government databases monitored by FDA. According to some case reports, children were chewing or sucking on the bottles or were found with an empty bottle next to them.

      There were no deaths reported, but more than half of the cases (53) reported hospitalization because of symptoms that included nausea, vomiting, lethargy (sleepiness), tachycardia (fast heart beat), and coma.

      "Underreporting of these types of events is common, so it is possible there are additional cases that we may not be aware of," says Maslov.

      A call for child-proof packaging

      These products are meant only for use in the eyes or nose. In the eyes, the ingredients work by narrowing blood vessels to relieve redness from minor eye irritations. In the nose, they constrict blood vessels to relieve nasal congestion due to the common cold, hay fever, or allergies.

      In January, 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a rule to require child-resistant packaging for all products containing at least 0.08 mg of an imidazoline derivative. However, this rule has not been finalized. In addition, FDA's Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis (DMEPA) is partnering with CPSC to warn consumers about the need to keep these products safely out of the reach of children.

      According to Up and Away and Out of Sight -- an educational initiative to remind families of the importance of safe medicine storage, in which FDA is a partner -- more than 60,000 young children end up in emergency departments every year because they got into medicines while their parent or caregiver was not looking.

      Up and Away literature suggests that parents explain to their children what medicine is and why parents must be the ones to give it to the child. In addition, never tell a child that medicine is candy to get him or her to take it, even if the child does not like to take the medicine.

      Out of harm’s reach

      If a child accidentally swallows OTC redness-relief eye drops or nasal decongestant spray, call the National Capital Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) and seek emergency medical attention immediately. Program this number into your home and cell phones so you will have it when you need it. Post it on the fridge so it is in plain sight.

      To help avoid a child's accidental exposure to any medication, parents and other caregivers should:

      • Store medicines in a safe location that is too high for young children to reach or see.
      • Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child's bedside.
      • If a medicine bottle does have a safety cap, be sure to relock it each time you use it.
      • Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them away and out of sight when they are in your home.
      • Avoid taking medicines in front of young children because they like to mimic adults.
      It's every parent's nightmare: Your back is turned, and your child swallows something toxic. It happens with products that you may not think of as dangerou...
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      Auto Claims from Deer Collisions on the Rise

      State Farm records a 7.7 percent increase over last year

      Deer are beautiful animals, except when they leap in front of your vehicle. That, unfortunately, is happening more and more.

      State Farm Insurance reports the number of deer-related collisions in the U.S. has increased by 7.7 percent over the last year. This jump comes after a three-year period during which these collisions dropped 2.2 percent.

      Over the last four years, the number of deer-related claims paid by State Farm has increased 7.9 percent while other similar auto claims have declined 8.5 percent.

      “We have known for quite a while that the frequency of auto insurance claims has been declining,” said Chris Mullen, Director, Technology Research. “But whatever is causing that trend is obviously not impacting deer-related crashes.”

      Increasing deer population

      In all likelihood the increase stems from the continuing increase in the deer population. The State Farm research shows the states with the highest number of auto-deer collisions tend to be rural states with large deer populations.

      For example, for the sixth straight year West Virgina topped the list of states where an individual driver is most likely to run into a deer. South Dakota was second and Iowa was third.

      When motorists strike a deer on the highway, it's usually costly. The average property damage cost of these incidents during the final half of 2011 and the first half of 2012 was $3,305 -- up 4.4 percent from the year before.

      And this is the time of year that motorists should be especially careful of deer crossing a highway. The State Farm statistics show November is the month when most of these accidents occur. October is second and December third.

      Avoiding Deer-Vehicle Mishaps

      For improved highway safety and reduced damage costs, avoiding these collisions is a priority. Some collisions are simply unavoidable but here are some tips for making these a little less likely:

      • Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds -- if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.
      • Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.
      • Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.
      • Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.
      • If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

      You may see advertisements for car-mounted deer whistles. As air generated by the moving vehicle moves through the whistle, it creates a high-pitched sound that is supposed to frighten deer away.

      If you mount one of these whistles on your vehicle, State Farm says you shouldn't count on it protecting you from a collision.

      Deer are beautiful animals, except when they leap in front of your vehicle. That, unfortunately, is happening more and more.State Farm Insurance reports ...
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      BMW Recalls 7-Series Vehicles

      Doors that appear closed and latched may inadvertently open

      BMW is recalling 7,485 model year 2005-2007 7-Series vehicles, equipped with both Comfort Access and Soft Close Automatic options, and manufactured August 23, 2004, through September 3, 2007.

      Due to a software problem, the doors may appear to be closed and latched, but, in fact, may inadvertently open. The door may unexpectedly open due to road or driving conditions or occupant contact with the door. The sudden opening could result in occupant ejection or increase the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      BMW will notify owners and dealers will update software. The recall is expected to begin in November 2012. Owners may contact BMW at 1-800-525-7417 or email BMW at CustomerRelations@bmwusa.com.

      BMW is recalling 7,485 model year 2005-2007 7-Series vehicles, equipped with both Comfort Access and Soft Close Automatic options, and manufactured August ...
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      Best Small and Medium Workplaces List for 2012 Released

      Ninth annual list recognizes 50 best small and medium workplaces in the U.S.

      Tired of the sweatshop where you toil for 8 hours a day? Think there's GOT to be something better out there? You may be right.

      In fact, you might want to take a look at Great Place to Work's list of the Best Small & Medium Workplaces list for 2012, published by FORTUNE magazine.

      Now in its ninth year, the list -- compiled by the global research and consulting firm -- recognizes the top 50 small and medium sized companies in the United States with exceptional workplace cultures.

      At the top

      The # 1 spot on the Small list is claimed by first-time list maker, Ruby Receptionists. "We have long been creating a unique and rewarding workplace culture that deserves recognition," said Portland, Oregon-based Ruby Receptionists founder and CEO Jill Nelson. "We all come to work each day with a real passion and purpose for the work we do -- and -- more importantly, for the people we work with."

      Returning to the top spot on the Medium list for the fourth straight year is ACUITY. "Being on the Great Place to Work list nine years in a row doesn't represent a competition to us,” said Jessica Antonelli of ACUITY. “Rather, it is a reaffirmation of the way we try to innovate the relationship with our coworkers. The Great Place to Work process helps you evaluate how you are cultivating these long term relationships."

      "The commitment to sustain great workplace cultures is flourishing in business of all sizes," said Susan Lucas Conwell, Global CEO of Great Place to Work. "We are pleased to recognize these companies and their success both as businesses and as workplaces. The diversity of industries, locations, and age of these companies suggests that there are no barriers to building great workplaces, except maybe the will to do so and the belief in the value of a strong workplace culture."

      New faces, old faces

      The 2012 Best Small & Medium Workplaces list features 18 first-time list makers, representing the largest influx of newcomers in several years. This year's list also features several companies that have been on the list for all 9 years the list has been produced, including -- as mentioned before -- ACUITY, EILEEN FISHER, Kahler Slater, Holder Construction Company and Professional Placement Resources.

      While professional and financial service companies dominate the list, a handful of technology companies, staffing agencies, and even a mining company also grace the list. The 2012 list also features the first government agency: the City of Rancho Corodova.

      Divided into two categories, Small (50-250 employees) and Medium (251-999 employees), the 2012 Best Small & Medium Workplaces list process, which uses Great Place to Work's unique methodology based on five dimensions: credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie.

      Best small workplaces

      #1 Ruby Receptionists

      #2 Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation

      #3 Badger Mining Corporation

      #4 Studer Group

      #5 ENGEO Incorporated

      #6 Talent Plus, Inc.

      #7 Walker & Dunlop

      #8 Root, Inc.

      #9 McMurry

      #10 Granite Properties, Inc.

      #11 Radio Flyer, Inc.

      #12 City of Rancho Cordova

      #13 Xactly Corporation

      #14 Akraya, Inc.

      #15 Kahler Slater

      #16 ZocDoc

      #17 Assurance Agency, Ltd.

      #18 Navigator Management Partners

      #19 Dixon Schwabl

      #20 Paramount Staffing

      #21 AnswerLab

      #22 Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.

      #23 Professional Placement Resources, LLC

      #24 Conductor, Inc.

      #25 Insomniac Games

      Best medium workplaces

      #1 ACUITY

      #2 Integrity Applications Incorporated

      #3 Quantum Health

      #4 Pinnacle Financial Partners

      #5 EILEEN FISHER

      #6 Ryan, LLC

      #7 OtterBox

      #8 Rally Software Development

      #9 Cirrus Logic

      #10 Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman PC

      #11 Return Path, Inc.

      #12 Snagajob

      #13 CustomInk, LLC

      #14 Noblis

      #15 Spectrum

      #16 Spokane Teachers Credit Union

      #17 dunnhumbyUSA

      #18 Embrace Home Loans, Inc.

      #19 DELTA Resources, Inc.

      #20 Holder Construction Company

      #21 Veterans United Home Loans

      #22 4imprint, Inc.

      #23 CALIBRE

      #24 Mercedes-Benz Financial Services

      #25 Higher One

      Tired of the sweatshop where you toil for 8 hours a day? Think there's GOT to be something better out there? You may be right. In fact, you might want to ...
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      FLO Cycling Recalls Rim Tape

      The tape can puncture the the bicycle's inner tube, posing a fall hazard to the rider.

      FLO Cycling of Las Vegas is recalling about 800 bicycle wheel rim tapes. The rim tape can fail and break under pressure. When this happens, the inner tube of the bicycle can puncture or burst. This poses a fall hazard to the rider.

      The firm has received four reports of exploding inner tubes and flat tires. No injuries were reported.

      The rim tape is a yellow plastic strip that was provided for free with the purchase of FLO 60, FLO 90 and FLO DISC wheels. The number 700X18 A/V is printed on the tape. The serial number is located either on the wheel rim under the tube or on the outer edge of the disc wheel.

      The following serial numbers are included in this recall:

      12DA3542 to 12DA354712EA294812GA0311 to 12GA0320
      12DA355012EA2953 to 12EA296012GA0643 to 12GA0662
      12DA3561 to 12DA356512EA317912GA0664
      12DA3582 to 12DA358412EA318012GA0665
      12DA358612EA3187 to 12EA318912GA0673 to 12GA0675
      12EA277012FA1972 to 12FA198012GA0976 to 12GA1000
      12EA2933 to 12EA294012FA1982 to 12FA199812GA1031 to 12GA1043
      12EA294312FA294312GA1125 to 12GA1130
      12EA294412FA302812GA1134 to 12GA1136

      The tape, manufactured in Taiwan, was sold exclusively at FLO Cycling's Website from May 2012 through July 2012 with the purchase of FLO wheels. The wheels cost between $375 and $700.

      Consumers should contact FLO Cycling to receive a $5 refund for each wheel purchased. The firm is contacting consumers who purchased wheels with the recalled rim tape directly.

      Consumers may contact FLO Cycling at (800) 959-8312 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.

      FLO Cycling of Las Vegas is recalling about 800 bicycle wheel rim tapes. The rim tape can fail and break under pressure. When this happens, the inner tube ...
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      401(k) Contribution Rises for 2013

      Because of cost-of-living adjustments, you can kick in additional $500

      You'll be able to contribute more to your 401(k) next year.

      The Internal Revenue Service has announced cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items because the increase in the cost-of-living index met the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment.

      However, some limitations will not be unchanged because the increase in the index did not meet the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment.

      The changes

      Highlights include:

      • The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $17,000 to $17,500.
      • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $5,500.
      • The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) rises to $5,500 from $5,000 in prior years.
      • The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $59,000 and $69,000, up from $58,000 and $68,000 in 2012. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $95,000 to $115,000, up from $92,000 to $112,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $178,000 and $188,000, up from $173,000 and $183,000.
      • The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $178,000 to $188,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $173,000 to $183,000 in 2012. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $112,000 to $127,000, up from $110,000 to $125,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.
      • The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $59,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $57,500 in 2012; $44,250 for heads of household, up from $43,125; and $29,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $28,750.
      You'll be able to contribute more to your 401(k) next year. The Internal Revenue Service has announced cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitat...
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      Gasoline Prices Plunge 14 Cents in Last Seven Days

      But gasoline is still more expensive than it was this time last year

      The free-fall in gasoline prices continued for another week as lower oil prices and the switch to winter-grade fuel combined to provide needed relief at the pump.

      The national average price of self-serve regular today is $3.575 per gallon, compared with $3.715 last Friday, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Survey. That's 23 cents lower than a month ago but still almost 14 cents higher than the price a year ago.

      The average price of diesel fuel today is $4.083 per gallon, versus $4.131 a week ago.

      Dramatic declines

      The drop in gasoline prices in some states this week has been dramatic. In California, where prices have surged in the wake of shortages, the average price plunged more than 25 cents a gallon in the last seven days. Hawaii has reclaimed its usual spot as the state with the most expensive gas after California held that distinction for two weeks.

      Some Midwestern states also saw unusual price declines. Ohio's average price fell another 17 and a half cents this week while prices fell 16 cents in neighboring Indiana. Minnesota, not known as a land of low fuel prices, saw its average price drop 24 cents a gallon in one week.

      “For the last several months changes in the national average have often obscured regional volatility, as prices in some states have risen dramatically even as prices in others have fallen,” said Avery Ash, AAA's manager of federal relations. “Over the last week, however, the decline in the national average has reflected lower pump prices in every state except Alaska and Utah, as regional supply concerns begin to diminish and demand continues to weaken nationwide.”

      Three states average above $4 a gallon

      Last Friday seven states had average gasoline prices over $4 a gallon. This week only three states -- Hawaii, California and Alaska -- hold that distinction.

      The states with the most expensive gas prices this week are:

      • Hawaii ($4.390)
      • California ($4.262)
      • Alaska ($4.249)
      • New York ($3.955)
      • Connecticut ($3.935)
      • Oregon ($3.903)
      • Washington ($3.892)
      • Nevada ($3.862)
      • Idaho ($3.817)
      • Vermont ($3.816)

      The states with the lowest gas prices this week are:

      • Missouri ($3.240)
      • Ohio ($3.277)
      • Oklahoma ($3.278)
      • South Carolina ($3.310)
      • Tennessee ($3.354)
      • Arkansas ($3.372)
      • Texas ($3.373)
      • Indiana ($3.374)
      • Minnesota ($3.384)
      • Mississippi ($3.385)
      The free-fall in gasoline prices continued for another week as lower oil prices and the switch to winter-grade fuel combined to provide needed relief at th...
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      25 Worst Computer Passwords

      Is yours on this list?

      With each passing year your computer becomes less secure. Hackers become more sophisticated and your PC or mobile device becomes more vulnerable.

      In the early days of the Internet consumers used simple, easy to remember passwords. Most us still do. SpashData, a provider of password management applications, issues an annual list of what it considers the worst, most insecure passwords that consumers use.

      Newcomers

      New entries on this year's list include "welcome," "jesus," "ninja," "mustang," and "password1," while the top three remain the same from last year's list -- the terribly unimaginative "password," "123456" and "12345678."

      With Halloween now upon us, SpashData is urging consumers to beef up their password security.

      "At this time of year, people enjoy focusing on scary costumes, movies and decorations, but those who have been through it can tell you how terrifying it is to have your identity stolen because of a hacked password,” said Morgan Slain, SplashData CEO. “We're hoping that with more publicity about how risky it is to use weak passwords, more people will start taking simple steps to protect themselves by using stronger passwords and using different passwords for different websites."

      The list

      According to SplashData, here are the Worst Passwords of 2012:

      1. password
      2. 123456
      3. 12345678
      4. abc123
      5. qwerty
      6. monkey
      7. letmein
      8. dragon
      9. 111111
      10. baseball
      11. iloveyou
      12. trustno1
      13. 1234567
      14. sunshine
      15. master
      16. 123123
      17. welcome
      18. shadow
      19. ashley
      20. football
      21. jesus
      22. michael
      23. ninja
      24. mustang
      25. password1

      The list was compiled from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers. The company advises consumers or businesses using any of the passwords on the list to change them immediately.

      “Even though each year hacking tools get more sophisticated, thieves still tend to prefer easy targets,” Slain said. “Just a little bit more effort in choosing better passwords will go a long way toward making you safer online.”

      What makes a password strong and secure? Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. One way to create longer, more secure passwords that are easy to remember is to use short words with spaces or other characters separating them. For example, “eat cake at 8!” or “car_park_city?”

      You should also avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Especially risky is using the same password for entertainment sites that you do for online email, social networking, and financial services. Use different passwords for each new website or service you sign up for.

      With each passing year your computer becomes less secure. Hackers become more sophisticated and your PC or mobile device becomes more vulnerable.In the e...
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