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    What is a college degree worth in today's job market?

    With jobs harder to find, the debate is heating up

    The cost of a four-year college education keeps going up. Over the last four years it seems the number of jobs – at least fulltime ones – has been going down. It's led many, including former Education Secretary William Bennett, to question whether college is worth the cost.

    In his book, "Is College Worth It?" Bennett raises a question that a lot of recent graduates may be asking themselves. After getting a bachelors degree and running up thousands of dollars in student loans, they may be working as retail clerks, right alongside their peers who didn't go to college.

    Bennett concluded that a degree from some colleges might be worth the cost while degrees from others most definitely are not. And he isn't the only one to weigh in on the topic.

    Debate

    When U.S. News threw out the question – is college worth it – on its Debate Club website, it drew diverse responses and a two-to-one margin of replies endorsing a college degree. Craig Brandon, author of "The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It," was among those voting no.

    “Four to six years of partying do not equal an education,” he wrote.

    But Chris Farrell, Economics Editor of Marketplace Money, was among those voting yes.

    “The return on investment in postsecondary education remains compelling,” he wrote.

    Salary study

    At this point, many career counselors tend to agree with Farrell. A study by the job-matching service TheLadders found that people with a four-year degree earn, on average, $215,000 more than people without college, over a 20-year period.

    The study, based on data from its more than six million users, found a graduate degree is even more valuable. Someone with a masters degree or higher earned an average of $440,000 more than non-graduates over the same two-decade span.

    The difference, however, may not be evident right away. Graduates could see their compensation grow exponentially as the years pass. While the immediate benefit of a college degree seems nonexistent, the big payoff is typically seen over the course of a long career, the company says.

    "TheLadders' study proves that an undergraduate degree is beneficial and promotes growth over time during any career," said Amanda Augustine, job search expert for TheLadders. "If you're wondering whether to go back and finish your four-year degree, this new information encourages you to take the plunge."

    Paying for college

    First, however, you should probably figure out how you are going to pay for it. In early 2013 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimated the outstanding student loan total in the U.S. exceeded $1 trillion. In a more recent report, the CFPB said over seven million borrowers were in default on a federal or private student loans.

    The lesson here is to not get over-extended. Know what your costs are going to be, where the money will come from, and if you have to pay it back, how you'll do it.

    Finally, there should be a compelling reason to go to college, whether you are going right out of high school or returning after a few years in the military or work force. What are you going to study and how is that going to help you advance in a career?

    Without good answers to those questions, experts say you may in fact be wasting money. The job market has changed and doesn't have a rewarding job waiting for everyone who gets a college degree.   

    The cost of a four-year college education keeps going up. Over the last four years it seems the number of jobs – at least full time ones – has ...
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    Fat & fit? Study says it's not impossible

    Inflammatory markers may more precisely identify those prone to disease

    Remember the firestorm of derision New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy brought down on himself when he claimed to be fat but fit? It turns out the governor may have been onto something.

    "I'm the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen," Christie bristled after former White House physician Connie Mariano publicly voiced concern about his weight. 

    And sure enough, a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) finds that "healthy obesity" does indeed exist and recommends that doctors take the concept more seriously to ensure that those at greatest risk of obesity-related disease get the treatment they need.

    While obesity is generally linked to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, some people who are obese don't develop high blood pressure and unfavorable cholesterol profiles -- factors that increase the risk of metabolic diseases. This phenomenon is described as metabolically healthy obesity. 

    The article estimates that as many as 35% of obese people may be metabolically healthy and asserts that a person's "inflammatory profile" is the key.

    Inflammatory markers

    "In our study, metabolically healthy people -- both obese and non-obese -- had lower levels of a range of inflammatory markers," said the study's lead author, Catherine Phillips, BSc, PhD, of University College Cork in Ireland. "Regardless of their body mass index, people with favorable inflammatory profiles also tended to have healthy metabolic profiles."

    The cross-sectional study looked at 2,040 participants an Irish diabetes and heart disease study and examined the subjects' inflammatory markers. People who were metabolically healthy -- a group that included both obese and lean individuals -- had reduced counts of white blood cells and acute-phase response proteins, which proliferate when inflammation occurs. 

    The study could help identify those who are likely to develop diabetes and heart disease, researchers said. 

    "From a public health standpoint, we need better methods for identifying which obese people face the greatest risk of diabetes and heart disease," Phillips said. "Inflammatory markers offer a potential strategy for pinpointing people who could benefit most from medical interventions."

    Besides identifying those at risk, the study of inflammatory markers could also help those who are not at risk avoid expensive and risky surgery and other treatments that they may not need, the researchers said.

    But as for Gov. Christie, he may have taken Dr. Mariano's advice to heart, even though he dismissed her as a "hack." The potential GOP presidential candidate underwent lap-band surgery six months ago and, although he won't discuss how much weight he's lost, he is noticeably thinner these days. 

    Ah, but how about his inflammation markers? 

    Remember the firestorm of derision New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy brought down on himself when he claimed to be fat but fit? It turns out the governor may h...
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      Ticket agents fined for code-share disclosure violations

      The companies failed to disclose how the flights were being operated

      Violation of the Transportation Department’s (DOTs) rules on disclosure of code-share flights is costing three companies nearly $200,00. 

      DOT levied a $100,000 fine against Liberty Travel and $40,000 fines against both STA Travel and AAA Mid-Atlantic. In addition, it ordered all three to cease and desist from further violations. The amount of the fines was based on the specific circumstances of the individual cases.

      “When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have a right to know which airline will be operating their flight,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “We will continue to make sure that all companies selling air transportation are transparent with consumers and comply with our code-share disclosure rules.”

      Seat-selling procedures

      Under code-sharing, an airline will sell seats on flights using its designator code but the flights are operated by a separate airline. 

      Enforcement action is taken based on consumer complaints and DOT’s own internal investigations. In this case, the Aviation Enforcement Office made telephone calls to a number of agents this past January and February and inquired about booking certain flights.

      During these calls, the reservations agents for all three companies failed to disclose that the flights were being operated under code-share arrangements. They identified only the name of the marketing airline and not the corporate name of the airline operating the flight or any other name under which the flight was marketed.

      This violated DOT rules requiring airlines and ticket agents to inform consumers if a flight is operated under a code-share arrangement, as well as disclose the corporate name of the transporting airline and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public.

      DOT has now issued four fines for code-sharing violations this year, following a $60,000 penalty on May 23 against ticket agent JTB USA .

      Violation of the Transportation Department’s (DOTs) rules on disclosure of code-share flights is costing three companies nearly $200,00. DOT levied a $10...
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      Same-sex marriages to get equal federal tax treatment

      The decision follows the Supreme Court decision on theDefense of Marriage Act

      In the eyes of the federal government, all marriages are created equal when it comes to taxes.

      Both the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have ruled that same-sex couples -- legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages -- will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.

      And, it doesn't matter whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or one  that does not.

      In line with the high court

      The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26 Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

      Under that ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

      Exceptions

      Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.

      Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status.

      Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.

      An element of time

      Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

      Some taxpayers may have special circumstances, such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open, that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.

      Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.

      What to do

      Taxpayers who want to file a refund claim for income taxes should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

      Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for gift or estate taxes should file Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. For information on filing an amended return, see Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns, available on IRS.gov, or the instructions to Forms 1040X and 843. Information on where to file your amended returns is available in the instructions to the form.

      Treasury and the IRS will begin applying the terms of Revenue Ruling 2013-17 on Sept. 16, 2013, but taxpayers who wish to rely on the terms of the Revenue Ruling for earlier periods may choose to do so, as long as the statute of limitations for the earlier period has not expired.

      In the eyes of the federal government, all marriages are created equal when it comes to taxes. Both the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Servic...
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      Cycle Gear recalls motorcycle helmets

      Some of the headgear does not comply with federal safety standards

      Cycle Gear is recalling 222 Street & Steel brand Big Bore model motorcycle helmets, sizes Extra Small and Small, manufactured in December 2012.

      During testing, some of the affected helmets did not comply with the dwell time requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, "Motorcycle Helmets." In the event of a crash, the wearer may not be adequately protected, increasing the risk of injury.

      Cycle Gear will notify owners and provide a replacement helmet or reimbursement. The recall is expected to begin in September 2013.

      Owners may contact Cycle Gear by calling 1-800-292-5343 or emailing at customerservice@cyclegear.com.

      Cycle Gear is recalling 222 Street & Steel brand Big Bore model motorcycle helmets, sizes Extra Small and Small, manufactured in December 2012. Durin...
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      Westlake Foods expands pork product recall

      Two more products have been added to an earlier list

      Westlake Foods of  Santa Ana, Calif., is expanding an earlier recall of cured pork products to include and additional 69,123 pounds products.

      The additional products, like those in the initial recall, contain wheat and soy, allergens which are not declared on the labels.

      The expanded recall includes the following products: 

      • 12-lb. blocks of “PATE GAN TAY HO LIVERWURST SPREAD” distributed in cases for restaurant and wholesale use nationwide.
      • 6-oz. cups of “PATE GAN TAY HO LIVERWURST SPREAD” distributed at retail, restaurants and wholesale locations nationwide.

      The following products were named in the earlier recall: 

      • 11-lb. to 13-lb. cases of “Tay Ho Cured Pork Artificially Colored.” This product was distributed for institutional use nationwide.     
      • 14-oz. packages of “Tay Ho Cured Pork Sausage With Pork Ears And Snouts.” This product was distributed for retail sales nationwide.
      • 11-lb. to 13-lb. cases of “Don Cafe Cured Pork Meat and Binder Product Pork skin added.” This product was distributed for institutional use in the Houston, Texas area.

      All of the products bear the establishment number “EST. 1627A” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. They can be further identified by a case code “213001” through “213234.” All products were produced between Jan. 1, 2013, and Aug. 22, 2013. 

      The problem is believed to have occurred due to a change in the company’s spice mix, which was not reflected on the products’ labels.

      There have been no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. 

      Consumers with questions about the recall should contact Thuy Nguyen, Secretary, at (714) 973-2286.

      Westlake Foods of Santa Ana, Calif., is expanding an earlier recall of cured pork products to include and additional 69,123 pounds products. The...
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      Beijing Capital Tyre recalls Autoguard tires

      The tires contain incorrect maximum load load data on the sidewall

      Beijing Capital Tyre Co. (BCT) is recalling 2,711 Autoguard LT245/75R16 tires manufactured June 25th, 2012, through November 11th, 2012.

      These tires failed the endurance test standards of FMVSS 139 and contain incorrect maximum load load data on the sidewall. Thus, these tires fail to to comply to the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 139, "New Pneumatic Radial Tires for Light Vehicles."

      During use, the tires may crack in the tread area leading to sudden air loss, and tire failure. Additionally, owners may unknowingly overload the tires which may lead to tire failure. Either condition increases the risk of a crash.

      Beijing Capital Tyre will notify owners and dealers will replace the tires, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on September 2, 2013.

      Owners may contact Tire & Wheel Master at 1-209-465-9000.

      Beijing Capital Tyre Co. (BCT) is recalling 2,711 Autoguard LT245/75R16 tires manufactured June 25th, 2012, through November 11th, 2012. These tires faile...
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      Lone Star Western Beef recalls beef jerky products

      The product was not processed at the correct temperature to ensure safety

      Lone Star Western Beef of Fairmont, W.Va., is recalling approximately 109 pounds of beef jerky products due to a processing deviation.

      An inspector reviewing processing records found that the beef jerky was not processed at the correct temperature to ensure that the ready-to-eat product was safe to consume.

      There have been no reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products.

      The products subject to recall include:

      • 1-oz., 3-oz. and 16-oz. packages of “Lone Star Western Beef Inc. W.V. Original Beef Jerky.” 

      The products were produced on Aug. 12, 2013, and bear the establishment number “EST. 19563” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. The 16-oz. package can be further identified by the package code “081213.” The products were shipped to a distributor in North Central West Virginia and sold to retail stores.     

      Consumers with questions about the recall should contact John Bachman, Lone Star Western Beef, Inc.’s Owner, at 1-800-332-4305.

      Lone Star Western Beef of Fairmont, W.Va., is recalling approximately 109 pounds of beef jerky products due to a processing deviation....
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      Vitamix recalls 64-ounce low profile blender container

      The blade can break, creating a laceration hazard

      Vita-Mix Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio, is recalling about 169,000 Vitamix 64-ounce low profile blender containers in the U.S and Canada.

      The blade can break, creating a laceration hazard to consumers. The company has received 18 reports of blades breaking.  No injuries have been reported.

      The recall involves Vitamix 64-ounce Low-Profile containers with blade part number 103208 A and blade date codes 03-12 (March 2012) through 07-13 (July 2013). The blade part number and date code are laser etched onto the top of the blade at the bottom of the container.  The clear, plastic, 64-ounce container with black plastic handle and lid was sold with Vitamix blender models 7500, Professional Series 300, Professional Series 750 and individually.  Replacement blades with part number 104602 A are not affected.

      The containers, manufactured in the U.S, were sold at major retailers nationwide and online at vitamix.com from April 2012, to August 2013, for about $529 to $749 with different model base or $149 for the container alone.  Products were also sold through show demonstrators, who demonstrate products at retail outlets, consumer shows, fairs and other venues.

      Consumers should stop using the recalled container immediately and contact Vitamix for instructions on how to send back the container (without the lid or any accessories) to the firm for a free repair.  
      Consumers may contact Vitamix toll-free at (888) 350-4386 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturdays.

      Vita-Mix Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio, is recalling about 169,000 Vita mix 64-ounce low profile blender containers in the U.S and Canada.The bla...
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      Boomers and Gen-Xers: Two different takes on retirement

      The generations are at different stages, but both need to have plans

      Everyone, if they live long enough, will look forward to retirement but not everyone is at the same place when it comes to building a retirement strategy. What is right for a 60-year old Baby Boomer is probably not right for a 40-year old Gen-Xer.

      Even among people the same age group, there is no such things as a one-size-fits-all approach to retirement planning. And it's definitely different for Boomers and Gen-Xers. Michelle Perry Higgins, a principal at Maloon Powers Pitrie & Higgins California Financial Advisors, in San Ramon, Calif., says Boomers should be focused on aligning their financial plans with their retirement plans.

      “Having a strong financial plan in place, well in advance of retirement, will answer the questions as to when they will be able to retire and what retirement will look like for them,” Higgins said.

      After all, the greatest retirement plan in the world is worthless if there isn't a solid financial plan to back it up. It serves as sort of a reality check.

      Shows what you need to do

      “For example, if a Boomer’s financial plan shows that they have not saved enough into their retirement plan, then they should decrease current spending and increase retirement savings,” Higgins said. “Similarly, if their financial plan dictates that downsizing their home needs to occur, then they should take action to ease the stress of that transition.”

      What should be in the financial plan? For Boomers, it's important to have a well-diversified portfolio at this point. Their time line is much shorter, and shrinking.

      “They definitely took the brunt of the Great Recession,” Higgins said. “For those who had strong defensive barriers, bonds and cash equivalents, it was easier to sleep at night when the equity markets were having tantrums. For all Boomers, maxing out their 401(k) pre-tax allowable limit, along with their catch-up is usually a must on my list.”

      The oldest Boomers are already at retirement age. The youngest are turning 50. They still have some flexibility in planning their retirement but should take advantage of that extra time.

      Gen-X

      Gen-Xers, those in their late 40s and younger, have an advantage of even more time. Higgins recommends members of this generation get serious about eliminating debt – paying down credit cards, student loans, car loans and living in a home with a mortgage they can comfortably afford.

      Of course, many Gen-Xers still have a lot of family responsibilities that have an impact on finances.

      “College costs have increased dramatically and retirement for Gen-Xers will only be attainable by adequately preparing for their children’s higher education expenses,” Higgins said. “Without good preparation, paying those college costs could delay retirement for the parents. Instead of being overwhelmed by college expenditures and ignoring what will be coming, Gen-Xers need to address it head on.”

      That means sticking to budgets and putting away money for both retirement and education – sometimes hard to do at the same time. Over the last several years much of the coverage of retirement issues has focused on Boomers, but the generation behind them has quietly been working on a plans of their own, and going about it a little differently.

      High on Roth IRAs

      “Gen-Xers seem to have latched on to Roth IRAs, which are a wonderful savings vehicle, overall,” Higgins said. “One of the shortcomings of this type of savings plan is that the Roth limits are not as high as the 401(k) federal limits.”

      Unlike a traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA), contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible when you make them. But unlike a traditional IRA, withdrawals are not taxed when you start making them in retirement. That allows the investments in the account to grow and provide tax-free income in retirement.

      Higgins says she also sees Gen-Xers flocking to mutual funds, which offer a variety of investment options. And many are making every penny count.

      “Gen-Xers are smart and have gravitated toward no-load funds which, in my opinion, is a prudent move,” she said.  

      Everyone, if they live long enough, will look forward to retirement but not everyone is at the same place when it comes to building a retirement strategy. ...
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      DHS cops roust doctors, parents holding news conference at HHS

      Public Citizen was airing concerns over ethical standards covering testing on infants

      The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) descended on a press conference being conducted by Public Citizen outside the Washington offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday.

      With sirens blaring, about ten black DHS SUVs raced up to the HHS building, participants in the news conference said.

      The end result of all the commotion and disruption? The doctors, scientists, parents and at least one disabled child picked up their belongings and moved about 70 feet from the steps of the HHS building onto the sidewalk as the armed DHS police "guarded" the building. Meanwhile, HHS employees lounged on the steps nearby eating their lunch.

      It's OK, apparently, for federal workers to sit on the steps doing nothing but not for others to venture onto public property to air concerns and grievances.

      Tests on infants

      The news conference involved tests being conducted on premature infants under grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Public Citizens wants the tests halted until it can be determined that parents have been adequately informed of the dangers. The group also wants HHS to strengthen ethical and regulatory standards for research carried out on humans.

      HHS convened an unusual public forum on the topic yesterday and Public Citizen says it fears the agency is trying to drum up support for weakening existing standards.

      “The fact that HHS is having a public discussion about this indicates that an enormous amount of pressure is being brought to bear by people who are trying to weaken the current standards of research with human subjects,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. 

      Publicity generated by Public Citizen over what it says was an unethical trial, known as the SUPPORT study, prompted HHS to convene the unusual public forum at its headquarters. The meeting is designed to solicit comments from experts and the public about what risks should be disclosed to participants when research is focused on the so-called “standard of care” treatment given patients for a particular condition.

      Risk of blindness, death

      In the SUPPORT study, which took place from 2005-2009 and was funded by the NIH, 1,316 premature infants were exposed to an increased risk of blindness, brain injury and death as researchers tested two experimental approaches for managing oxygen therapy, Public Citizen said.

      Carrie and Shawn Pratt, parents of a baby enrolled in the trial, came from their home in Kingwood, W.Va. to speak at the HHS meeting. They were accompanied by Dagen, now 6, who required surgery early in life for an eye disease known as retinopathy of prematurity and who now suffers from cerebral palsy.

      “The SUPPORT study looked good on paper,” Carrie Pratt said. “We were told that it wouldn’t hurt Dagen in any way. We were shocked to learn that the care she received was based not on what she needed but on what some protocol dictated. Had we known of the risks, we never would have agreed to have her be in the trial.”

      “The SUPPORT study may represent the tip of the iceberg with the problems in contemporary medical research,” saidAlice Dreger, Ph.D., professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, who spoke at the press conference. “Here, as so many times in the history of American medical research, the consent process failed.”

      "It is unclear how much input HHS really wants," Public Citizen said in a statement. "Many people in Washington, D.C., are out of town in August because that is when Congress is out of session. In addition, HHS chose to hold the meeting on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington."

      The Department of Homeland Security descended on a press conference being conducted by Public Citizen outside the Washington offices of the U.S. Department...
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      Bedbugs headed back to school too

      The pest is expected to show up in dormitories this fall

      Bedbugs were once a common problem in the U.S., but after World War II and a public health campaign that included heavy use of pesticides, the little pests largely disappeared.

      Until recently. Over the last decade the bedbug has made a strong rebound in the U.S., with infestations of urban hotel rooms getting the most publicity. And not just the seedy, rundown establishments. In July a California woman sued the Renaissance Marriott Hotel in Palm Springs, claiming she was bitten by bed bugs more than 400 times while sleeping at the hotel.

      It's not just hotels that are a favorite gathering place for these creatures. Pest control provider Terminix says students returning to college should be aware that bedbugs are infesting dormitories and apartment buildings, anywhere people are living in close quarters.

      'Don't let the bedbugs bite'

      Besides being creepy, bedbugs do, in fact, bite. When they bite, they suck human blood, just as mosquitoes do. They're most active at night and are most likely to feast on any exposed areas of skin while someone is asleep. The face, neck, hands, and arms are favorite areas for bedbug bites.

      The bite doesn't hurt but can cause itching. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bedbugs are not known to spread disease or present a public health hazard. Still, if you can keep bedbugs out of your living space it's probably highly desirable to do so.

      How do you know you have bedbugs? You aren't likely to see them during the day but you may find evidence. There may be brown spots on bedding, tiny blood smears on sheets and – in the case of heavy infestations – a strong, musty odor.

      Despite popular belief, Terminix says bedbugs aren't a sign of unsanitary conditions. Instead, they tend to be attracted to places where there are a lot of people who come and go. Dorm rooms and hotels fall into that category. So do libraries.

      High-traffic areas

      Dorms are vulnerable because a lot of people are in transit over the summer months. They are often used to house students or others who are visiting the campus for a week or two at a time. You may be returning to your same dorm room after the summer break but many others will likely have stayed there over the summer.

      Once bedbugs find a spot they like they tend to spread out. They can spread from one room to the next by crawling through wall cracks and under baseboards. This means your neighbor's infestation could end up being your infestation.

      "Bedbugs continue to have a significant presence across the country, particularly on college campuses, and pose concern for public health," said Stan Cope, PhD and entomologist with Terminix. "Bedbug infestations can cause emotional stress and irritability, which is the last thing students need to deal with on top of their heavy workloads. If you think you have an issue with bedbugs, you should immediately have the facility manager or resident assistant contact a professional to treat your living space."

      What to do

      To make your room less inviting to bedbugs, Terminix suggests using zippered encasements on bed mattresses and box springs, since bedbugs particularly like to set up shop in bedding. Keep your clothes off the floor since bedbugs are more likely to climb on things at ground level.

      Everyone wants to save money but you might be advised to take a pass on the used mattress and box springs advertised on craigslist. You never know what extras you might be getting with it. That actually goes for all sorts of used items. Be careful about bringing used books, backpacks, bedding and clothing into your apartment or dorm.

      The best course of action is to avoid bedbugs in the first place. Once you have them, they are notoriously difficult to get rid of.

      Bedbugs were once a common problem in the U.S., but after World War II and a public health campaign that included heavy use of pesticides, the problem of t...
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      Court boots hotel owner's lawsuit challenging TripAdvisor

      Grand Resort Hotel was described as "one of America's dirtiest"

      A Tennessee hotel owner who sued TripAdvisor for $10 million has been told there's no room for him in court. A federal judge dismissed the suit filed by Kenneth Seaton, owner of the Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, who objected to his hotel being described as "one of America's dirtiest."

      Seaton filed for defamation after his hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains top TripAdvisor's 2011 list of America's dirtiest hotels. The hotel closed last year and has since reopened under new management, but still ranks poorly on TripAdvisor. It's ranked 89 out of 94 hotels in Pigeon Force, with travelers posting comments including "Absolute dump" and "Dirty room, unsafe pool."

      Seaton said the rating was the product of a flawed system dependent on "unsubstantiated rumors" but TripAdvisor said the ranking was based on traveler ratings for cleanliness.

      The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Wednesday said travelers could not reasonably interpret the ranking as a statement that Grand Resort was in fact "America's dirtiest hotel," and that website operators deserve broad protection from lawsuits over reader-generated reviews.

      Judge Karen Nelson Moore said "dirtiest" amounted to "rhetorical hyperbole," and that the general tenor of the list showed that it was also meant to entertain.

      Comments about other hotels on the list included such snipes as "probably more sanitary to sleep in the bathroom" and "camp out on the beach instead."

      The ranking "is not capable of being understood as defamatory," Moore wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel. 

      Of the 321 reviews on TripAdvisor, 265 rated the hotel as "poor" or "terrible" and many posted unflattering photos of dirty rooms, ripped bedsheets and soiled carpets.

      A Tennessee hotel owner who sued TripAdvisor for $10 million has been told there's no room for him in court. A federal judge dismissed the suit filed by Ke...
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      Toyota developing wireless battery charging system for plug-in Prius

      The company says the next Toyota Prius will get even better fuel economy

      There are wireless chargers for smartphones, so why not for cars? That seems to be the thinking at Toyota, which will begin testing a wireless battery-charging system for plug-in hybrids next year.

      And Toyota executives say that's not all. The next Prius will get significantly better fuel mileage in a package that's described as lighter and more compact.

      Company officials held a press briefing in Ypsilanti, Mich., today to give reporters a look at what's on their agenda for the next few years, Automotive News reported.

      "The performance of this next generation of powertrains will reflect significant advances in battery, electric motor and gas engine technologies," said Satoshi Ogiso, managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp. But Ogiso said that while the hybrid components will be shrinking, the size of the vehicle itself won't change.

      Fuel economy is also expected to improve from its current 50 miles per gallon perhaps reaching 55 mpg, which would be a ten percent improvement.

      Ogiso said Toyota's next generation of batteries will have higher energy density. While the next generation is likely to be lithium-ion and nickel-metal-hydride, future batteries will likely be based on solid state, lithium-air and magnesium, he said. 

      Prius is the leader in conventional gas-electric hybrids but Toyota trails GM, Nissan and Tesla in fully-electric cars.

      There are wireless chargers for smartphones, so why not for cars? That seems to be the thinking at Toyota, which will begin testing a wireless battery-char...
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      The economy steps it up

      Government figures show a solid pickup in growth

      Things seem to be going a lot better for the economy than recent reports would indicate.

      In its second look at second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- the Bureau of Economic Analysis says growth was at an annual rate of 2.5%, not the 1.7% estimated a month ago.

      In the first quarter, real GDP increased at an anemic rate of 1.1%.

      More info

      This latest estimate is based on more complete source data than were available last month. With this second estimate for the second quarter, the increase in exports was larger than previously estimated, and the increase in imports was smaller than previously estimated.

      The increase in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a drop in federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

      The complete GDP report can be found at the Commerce Department website.

      Jobless claims

      Separately, the government reports first-time applications for jobless benefits fell by 6,000 in the week ending August 24 --to a seasonally adjusted 331,000.

      Analysts at Briefing.com say that level suggests a solid improvement in labor conditions and that monthly nonfarm payroll growth should be in the neighborhood of 200,000.

      The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile and seen as a better gauge of the labor market, rose by 750 -- to 331,250.

      The full report may be found on the Labor Department website.

      Things seem to be going a lot better for the economy than recent reports would indicate. In it's second look at second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP...
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      Southwest agrees to set 'em up

      Long-running bar fight over drink coupons is settled for $29 million

      Talk about a barroom brawl. You promise to buy somebody a drink sometime and when you don't, they and all their friends pile onto you.

      That's basically what happened to Southwest Airlines. For years, it handed out free drink coupons that didn't have an expiration date to its Business Select customers. But then, the bean-counters added up what all those coupons were worth and in August 2010, Southwest announced the old coupons were about as worthless as a Confederate dollar in 1866.

      Instead, Southwest said free drink coupons would only be good on the travel day for which they were issued. That incensed those left high and dry and they did what any self-respecting, drink-slinging Texan would do: filed a class-action lawsuit.

      The courtroom's swinging doors were kept busy for years until January 2013, when Southwest agreed to set up another round, about 5.8 million drinks, for those deprived of alcoholic solace.

      Class members will receive a replacement drink voucher for each unredeemed drink coupon, which expires one year after its date of issuance, and they may sell them or give them away if they do not desire to use them.

      Final approval

      The tab comes to an estimated $29 million, which is a pretty hefty round of drinks any way you look at it. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly granted final approval of the settlement earlier this week, noting that unlike many class actions, this one actually produces something wet and tangible for consumers. 

      He said it a bit more grandly, however: "The key factor in this particular case is that the proposed settlement calls for a full-value, one-to-one reimbursement of drink vouchers for class members and allows class members to sell or otherwise transfer the new vouchers should they desire."

      "The fact that they (plaintiffs) get back almost exactly what they lost weighs heavily in favor of approval of the proposed settlement," Kennelly wrote.

      If you find yourself with a fistful of free-drink coupons, you can toast Southwest or Juge Kennelly if you like but you might also raise a glass to Adam Levitt and Herbert Malone, the sorehead consumers who were the named plaintiffs in the case.

      It should be a happy day aloft as everyone appears infused with bonhomie. Only 13 class members of 2.4 million objected to the settlement, less than 0.01 percent. After all, who in his right mind would turn down a free drink?

      Talk about a bar room brawl. You promise to buy somebody a drink sometime and when you don't, they and all their friends pile onto you.That's basically w...
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      Pride Foods recalls of beef pattie and chub products

      The products contain soy, an allergen not declared on the labels.

      Pride Foods of, Raiford, Fla., is recalling approximately 116,404 pounds of beef pattie and chub products.

      The products contain soy, a known allergen which is not declared on the labels. The problem is believed to have occurred due to an oversight after using a unique label for one customer.  

      There have been no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

      The products subject to recall include:

      • 10-lb. cases of 3, 4, and 6 oz. “Savory Beef Patties.” These products were exported to the Bahamas and distributed throughout the Caribbean.
      • 10-lb. cases of 4 oz. “Beef Patties.” This product was exported to the Bahamas and distributed throughout the Caribbean.
      • 24-lb. cases of 1 lb. “Beef Pattie Mix” chubs. This product was distributed to a food bank in Pennsylvania.

      The products bear the establishment number “EST. 18506” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. All products were produced between Dec. 1, 2012, and Aug. 27, 2013. 

      Consumers with questions should contact Ryan Yax, Manager, at (813) 890-6541.

      Pride Foods of, Raiford, Fla., is recalling approximately 116,404 pounds of beef pattie and chub products.The products contain soy, a known allergen...
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