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    FAA clears electronic devices for take-off

    Most devices will be OK to use most of the time on most airplanes

    The days of starting blankly into space during airline take-offs and landings are just about over. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with guidance on implementing the new rules. 

    Because of differences among aircraft and operating policies, rules will vary among airlines but the FAA says it expects that most carriers will be able to allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.

    The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.

    “We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”     

    Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll.

    Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones.    If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services.  You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

    Industry reaction

    U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow welcomed the announcement.

    “We’re pleased the FAA recognizes that an enjoyable passenger experience is not incompatible with safety and security,” Dow said. “The Obama administration deserves credit for common-sense, ‘win-win’ policies like this, as well as the implementation of Automated Passport Control and the expansion of programs such as Visa Waiver and Pre-Check.

    “The travel community is grateful, because what’s good for the traveler is good for travel-related businesses and our economy. It’s this kind of forward thinking that will enable us to remain among the leading industries in growth and job creation.”

    Tolerate interference

    The FAA's committee concluded that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from the devices. Once an airline verifies the tolerance of its fleet, it can allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones—at all altitudes.

    In rare instances of low-visibility, the crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.

    The FAA said it did not consider changing the regulations regarding the use of cell phones for voice communications during flight because the issue is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

    The days of starting blankly into space during airline take-offs and landings are just about over. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator...
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    Homeowners should beware of stink bugs this winter

    After a summer of destroying crops, these pests may invade your home

    Don't look now but the stink bug is back. This pest threatens to invade U.S. homes in record numbers as winter approaches, according to agriculture officials.

    Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) named the brown marmorated stink bug the agency's number one invasive pest. It's been sighted in 39 states and is wreaking havoc in homes and gardens, in addition to being a threat to orchards, vegetables and crops.

    The brown marmorated stink bug, formally known as Halyomorpha halys, was likely introduced into the U.S. by accident as recently as 1998. It's widely found in China, Korea and Japan.

    You can identify these creatures their distinctive “shield” shape. If you step on one you can identify it by its pungent odor. The adults are approximately two thirds of an inch long and about as wide.

    They are various shades of brown on both the top and undersides, with gray, off-white, black, copper, and bluish markings. Markings unique to this species include alternating light bands on the antennae and alternating dark bands on the thin outer edge of the abdomen.

    Home invaders

    In addition to causing plant damage, these insects can cause discomfort when they invade your home, and as autumn turns to winter that's exactly what they try to do. They can slip into a home through window air-conditioners, small holes in the foundation and along cable television lines. You know you've got a problem if you spot one or two hanging on curtains, lampshades or clothing.

    "Once inside walls, stink bugs may be difficult, if not impossible, to totally eliminate," said Stoy Hedges, senior technical professional with Terminix, a pest control company.

    Stink bugs were especially problematic in 2010. Experts think they could be as bad, or worse, this year.

    Keeping them outside is a homeowner's preferred strategy. Sealing cracks and holes in the home's exterior with silicone or caulk will help. Be sure to check for damaged window or door screens, torn weather-stripping and loose mortar. Equip vents with tight-fitting insect screens.

    It's also important to properly ventilate basements, attics, garages and crawl spaces. Keep those areas dry and use a dehumidifier if necessary. It may also be helpful to reduce outdoor light at night.

    Traditional pesticides often ineffective

    While traditional pesticides can be effective against the bugs you can see, there are a number of home-made formulas and strategies you can find on the Internet. One we foundsuggests drowning the bugs in a concoction of soapy water. However, it could be tedious and time-consuming, since you have to find the bugs and knock them into the soapy soup one at a time. 

    You'll also find a number of commercial stink bug traps. This one can be adapted for use both inside and out. 

    The Agriculture Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Md., is actively trying to develop a potent weapon with which to wage war on this insect. There's also a multi-state effort with over 50 entomologists trying to track these bugs while looking for ways to control their spread.

    While stink bugs are a relentless threat to corn, cotton and soybeans, agriculture experts concede they may be a bigger nuisance to homeowners -- at least over the winter months.

    Don't look now but the stink bug is back. This pest threatens to invade U.S. homes in record numbers as winter approaches, according to agriculture officia...
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      Halloween nostalgia: food dyes that color both ends of the digestive process

      Brightly colored cereals can lead to brightly colored ... um ... toilet bowls

      Warning: don’t read this if you’re trying to eat, or have an unusually sensitive constitution. We say this because, although we’re trying to keep this as tasteful as possible, we’re here to discuss a food-dye side effect on the commonplace, natural, and perfectly healthy biological process colloquially known as “pooping.”

      To celebrate Halloween, Smithsonian Magazine’s food blog has a fascinating albeit semi-icky 1970s nostalgia article about FrankenBerry, which it calls a “beloved Halloween cereal” that “was once medically found to cause pink poop.”

      Indeed, in 1972 a respected pediatric medical journal somberly discussed the problem of “Franken Berry Stool,” and discussed the case of an otherwise-healthy 12-year-old boy who went to the emergency room on suspicion of rectal bleeding, after he went to the bathroom and saw, as the doctor noted, “The stool had no abnormal odor but looked like strawberry ice cream.”

      Amaranth

      Come to find out the boy had eaten a couple bowls of Franken Berry over the past few days. Back then, the cereal contained a red food dye called amaranth, which is harmless to humans but cannot break down in the body; instead, it comes out when you go to the bathroom and colors its – um – surroundings bright pink.

      But that was 40 years ago, and Franken Berry now uses more digestible dyes. But, as Smithsonian notes, there’s still plenty of foods on the market today that result in Technicolor bathroom visits, though people are less concerned when they know it isn’t caused by bleeding. Or, as the writer put it, “Apparently, green stool seems less life-threatening than the reddish hue caused by Franken Berry.”

      Back in our college days we discovered, entirely by accident, that if you eat in one sitting too much of a certain children’s rainbow-colored dry breakfast cereal, the next-day results are … well, we can’t say “a bright shade of green that does not belong in nature,” but we will say it doesn’t belong in whatever bits of nature you flush down your toilet bowl.      

      Warning: don’t read this if you’re trying to eat, or otherwise have an unusually sensitive constitution. We say this because, although we&rsquo...
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      ADP: Job creation weakens in October

      Initial jobless claims dip by 10K

      It'll be a little over a week before the government's October jobs report comes out, but ADP is giving us a preview of what we're likely to see.

      In its National Employment Report, the firm says private sector employment increased by 130,000 jobs from September to October.

      The report, which is compiled in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics, is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data It measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

      ADP put September’s job gain at 166,000, but revised that down to 145,000.

      Well below average

      The addition of just 130,000 in October is “well below the average of the last twelve months,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP. "Small business growth was down from the previous month, while payrolls among large enterprises showed an increase."

      The way Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, sees it, a “Any further weakening would signal rising unemployment. The weaker job growth is evident across most industries and company sizes.”

      Who's hiring

      Service-providing industries added the bulk of the new jobs in October -- 107,000 jobs in October, down from 130,000 in September. Within that category, trade/transportation/utilities added the most jobs with 40,000. Professional/business services employment rose by 20,000, while financial activities shed 5,000 jobs.

      Goods-producing employment rose by a mere 24,000 jobs in October, up from 16,000 in September. Construction payrolls added 14,000 jobs, while manufacturing payrolls increased by 5,000.

      Businesses with 49 or fewer employees added 37,000 jobs in October, while employment levels among medium-sized companies with 50-499 employees rose by 13,000 and employment at large companies -- those with 500 or more employees -- increased by 81,000.

      Initial claims

      In what's being called the first clean reading for the labor market since August, the government reports initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 in the week ending October 26 to a total of 340,000. That's slightly above the Briefing.com expectation of 335,000.

      Glitches from computer systems in California along with layoffs resulting from the government shutdown have biased the claims data. Those problems have now cleared. The bad news is without those biases, the data show the job-cut level has modestly increased over the past couple of months. Analysts say an initial claims reading of 340,000 is enough to keep the unemployment rate steady, but not enough to drive steady payroll gains above 200,000.

      The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile than the weekly number, rose by 8,000 to 356,250.

      The full initial claims report can be found on the Labor Department website.

      It'll be a little over a week before the government's October jobs report comes out, but ADP is giving us a preview of what we're likely to see. In its Na...
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      General Motors recalls Chevrolet Camaro coupes

      The required air bag warning label on the sun visor may peel off

      General Motors is recalling 18,941 model year 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Camaro coupes manufactured June 9, 2013, through September 6, 2013.

      In the affected vehicles, the required air bag warning label on the sun visor may peel off. If the air bag warning label detaches from the visor, the driver and front seat passenger may not be warned of the risks of air bag deployment, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      GM will notify owners, and instruct them how to inspect the visor sticker. As necessary, dealers will replace the sun visor, free of charge. The recall began on October 28, 2013.

      Owners may contact GM at 1-800-521-7300. GM's recall campaign number is 13284.

      General Motors is recalling 18,941 model year 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Camaro coupes manufactured June 9, 2013, through September 6, 2013. In the affected...
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      Gree expands dehumidifier recall

      The dehumidifiers can overheat, smoke and catch fire

      Gree Electric Appliances is recalling about About 2.2 million dehumidifiers in the U.S. and Canada, adding four models of SoleusAir dehumidifiers, and expanding several date code ranges to the recall issued in September 2013.

      The dehumidifiers can overheat, smoke and catch fire, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers. There have been 325 incidents, including 71 fires and $2.725 million in property damage.

      This recall involves 20, 25, 30, 40, 45, 50, 65 and 70-pint dehumidifiers with brand names Danby, De'Longhi, Fedders, Fellini, Frigidaire, Gree, Kenmore, Norpole, Premiere, Seabreeze, SoleusAir and SuperClima. Recalled model numbers and date codes are listed below:

      Danby or Premiere

      Model number

       Capacity 

      Date code range   

      DDR3011 

      30-pint 

      All units

      DDR30P 

      30-pint 

      All units

      DDR4511 

      45-pint 

      All units

      DDR45P 

      45-pint 

      All units

      DDR6511 

      65-pint 

      All units

      DDR65CHP 

      65-pint 

      All units

      De'Longhi or SuperClima

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range

      DDSE30 

      30-pint

      All units

      DDSE40 

      40-pint 

      All units

      DG50 

      50-pint 

      All units

      Fedders

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range

      FEDH-MAH030-C15 

      30-pint 

      All units

      FEDH-MAH070-C15 

      70-pint 

      All units

      Fellini

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range

      13-06030 

      50-pint 

      All units

      13-06031 

      70-pint

      All units

      Frigidaire

      Model number 

      Pint capacity 

      Date code range

      FDB30R1 

      30-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDB50R1 

      50-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDB70R1 

      70-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDD25S1 

      25-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDF50S1 

      50-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDF70S1 

      70-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDL30R1 

      30-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDL50R1 

      50-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDL50S1 

      50-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDL70R1 

      70-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDL70S1 

      70-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDM30R1 

      30-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      FDR30S1 

      30-pint 

      01/07 through 09/08

      Gree

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range   

      13-06090 

      30-pint 

      All units

      13-06091 

      45-pint 

      All units

      13-06092 

      50-pint 

      All units

      13-06093 

      70-pint 

      All units

      GDN20AH-K4EAB1A 

      20-pint 

      All units

      GDN20AH-K5EBB3A 

      20-pint 

      All units

      GDN30AE-A3EBA8A 

      30-pint 

      All units

      GDN30AH-A4EBB1A 

      30-pint 

      All units

      GDN40AH-A4EBB1A 

      40-pint 

      All units

      GDN45AH-A3EBB2A 

      45-pint 

      All units

      GDN50AF-A3EBA8A 

      50-pint 

      All units 

      GDN50AF-A3EBA8B 

      50-pint 

      All units

      GDN70AF-A3EBA8A 

      70-pint 

      All units

      GDN70AF-A3EBB3A 

      70-pint 

      All units

      GDN70AI-A3EBB2A 

      70-pint 

      All units

      GDNE30AEBA1A8A 

      30-pint 

      All units

      GDNE40AEBA1A8A 

      40-Pint 

      All units

      GDNE50AFBA1A8A 

      50-pint 

      All units

      GDNE65AFBA1A8A 

      65-pint 

      All units

      Kenmore

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range        

      407.52301210

      30-pint 

      2012-04 through 2012-09       

      407.52501210

      50-pint 

      2012-04 through 2012-09

      407.52701210

      70-pint 

      2012-04 through 2012-09       

      407.52702210

      70-pint 

      2012-04 through 2012-08       

      Norpole

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range

      NPDH30PG 

      30-pint 

      All units

      Seabreeze

      Model number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range

      DH450S 

      50-pint 

      All units

      DH470S 

      70-pint 

      All units

      SoleusAir

      Model Number 

      Capacity 

      Date code range

      CFM-25E 

      25-pint 

      All units

      CFM-40E 

      40-pint 

      All units

      DP1-30-03 

      30-pint 

      All units

      DP1-40-03 

      40-pint 

      All units

      DP1-50-03 

      50-pint 

      All units

      DP1-50-03A 

      50-pint 

      All units           

      DP1-70-03 

      70-pint 

      All units

      GL-DEH-30-1 

      30-pint 

      1211 through 0612      

      GL-DEH-45-2 

      45-pint 

      1211 through 0612

      GL-DEH-50-2L2 

      50-pint 

      1211 through 0612

      GL-DEH-50-2Q2 

      50-pint 

      1211 through 0612

      GL-DEH-70-2S2 

      70-pint 

      1211 through 0612

      GL-DEH-70P-2S2 

      70-pint 

      0112 through 0612

      GM-DEH-30M-1L2 

      30-pint 

      010512 through 061412

      GM-DEH-30M-1R2 

      30-pint 

      010512 through 061412

      GM-DEH-45-1 

      45-pint 

      122511 through 062112          

      GM-DEH-70-1S2 

      70-pint 

      010512 through 062112

      SG-DEH-25-4 

      25-pint 

      032711 through 081712

      SG-DEH-30-2 

      30-pint 

      032711 through 050712

      SG-DEH-30B-1 

      30-pint 

      011210 through 041310

      SG-DEH-30M-1 

      30-pint 

      010210 through 071512

      SG-DEH-30M-1A 

      30-pint 

      121510 through 111011

      SG-DEH-30M-1L2 

      30-pint 

      010510 through 071512

      SG-DEH-30M-1R2 

      30-pint 

      010510 through 071512

      SG-DEH-45-1 

      45-pint 

      010210 through 071512

      SG-DEH-45-1A 

      45-pint 

      121510 through 111011

      SG-DEH-45-2 

      45-pint 

      032711 through 050712

      SG-DEH-50-2 

      50-pint 

      010712 through 010712

      SG-DEH-70-1 

      70-pint 

      010210 through 071512

      SG-DEH-70-1A 

      70-pint 

      121510 through 111011

      SG-DEH-70-2 

      70-pint 

      032711 through 050712

      SG-DEH-70-2S2 

      70-pint 

      032711 through 050712

      The brand name and the pint capacity are printed on the front of the dehumidifier. The model number and date code are printed on a sticker on the back, front or side of the unit. The dehumidifiers are white, beige, gray or black plastic and measure between 19 and 24 inches tall, 13 and 15 inches wide, and 9 and 11 inches deep.

      The dehumidifiers, manufactured in China, were sold at AAFES, HH Gregg, Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe's, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, Sam's Club, Sears and other stores nationwide and in Canada, and online at Amazon.com and Ebay.com, from January 2005, through August 2013, for between $110 and $400.

      Consumers should immediately turn off and unplug the dehumidifiers and contact Gree to receive a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Gree toll-free at (866) 853-2802 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET.  

      Gree Electric Appliances is recalling about About 2.2 million dehumidifiers in the U.S. and Canada, adding four models of SoleusAir dehumidifiers, and exp...
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      Nissan recalls Pathfinders with Almond interiors

      The airbag may not deploy properly

      Nissan North America is recalling 2,310 model year 2014 Pathfinders manufactured from July 25, 2013, to September 5, 2013, with Almond interiors only.

      The instrument panel tear seam on the passenger frontal air bag was incorrectly cut on the back side of the instrument panel which could cause the air bag to not deploy properly. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger's frontal air bag, the improper air bag deployment may increase the risk of personal injury.

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected instrument panel assemblies, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early November 2013.

      Owners may contact Nissan Customer Service at 1-800-647-7261.

      Nissan North America is recalling 2,310 model year 2014 Pathfinders manufactured from July 25, 2013, to September 5, 2013, with Almond interiors only. Th...
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      BMW recalls xDrive and sDrive vehicles

      The vacuum pump that supplies brake power assistance may fail

      BMW of North America is recalling 76,191 model year 2012-2014 320i, 328i, 320i xDrive, and 328i xDrive sedans; model year 2014 328i xDrive Sports Wagons; model year 2012-2013 528i and 528i xDrive sedans, model year 2013-2014 X1 sDrive28i and X1 xDrive28i vehicles and model year 2012-2014 Z4 sDrive28i roadsters.

      Due to insufficient lubrication, the vacuum pump that supplies brake power assistance may fail. A failure of the brake vacuum pump results in a reduction in braking power that could increase the risk of a crash.

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will modify the vehicles to prevent insufficient vacuum pump lubrication, free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin in November 2013.

      Owners may contact BMW customer relations at 1-800-525-7417 or email BMW at CustomerRelations@bmwusa.com.

      BMW of North America is recalling 76,191 model year 2012-2014 320i, 328i, 320i xDrive, and 328i xDrive sedans; model year 2014 328i xDrive Sports Wagons; m...
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      New York attorney general investigates Macy's, Barneys New York

      Stores suspected of harassing customers for "shopping while black"

      There’s a game of legal hot potato going on right now between the New York Police Department and luxury retailers Macy’s and Barneys New York, each side blaming the other for recent cases of “shop and frisk,” wherein black shoppers who legally purchased various expensive goods were nonetheless arrested or detained on suspicion of stealing them or using a stolen credit card.

      Earlier this week we told you the story of Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old college student arrested on suspicion of stealing the debit card he used to buy an expensive designer belt from Barneys.

      Christian claims an unnamed detective from the NYPD said Barneys called to report Christian as a suspected thief; Barneys counter-claimed that the NYPD chose to arrest Christian on its own initiative, with no input from any Barneys staffers.

      Barneys made similar protests of innocence the next day regarding the case of 21-year-old Kayla Phillips, harassed by plainclothes police after buying an expensive luxury handbag from Barneys.

      Unfortunately, such stories have become common enough that New York’s attorney general’s office announced on Tuesday that it was launching an investigation into Barneys’ and Macy’s security practices.

      An extreme experience

      After news of Christian’s false arrest broke, Macy’s collected some unwanted publicity from actor Rob Brown, star of the Treme series on HBO. 

      Brown (who said reading about Christian inspired him to come forth with his own story) tried to buy his mother a $1,350 watch at Macy’s last June, and claims he was detained for an hour after a store clerk accused him of buying the watch with a fake card.

      Once again, the store and the NYPD blamed each other: a Macy’s spokeswoman said Brown’s detainment was “an operation of the New York City Police Department,” whereas an NYPD spokesman countered that officers only acted after getting a tip from Macy’s staffers.

      Regardless of who is to blame for the harassment of Rob Brown, it’s an indisputable fact that in 2005, Macy’s paid $600,000 to settle similar claims of racial harassment -- specifically, that black and Latino shoppers in its New York stores were racially profiled and suspected of theft.

      Nor is there any dispute that Trayon Christian spent time in a police holding cell after being accused of stealing his own rightfully obtained debit card. And it does seem more than coincidental, the way so many innocent New Yorkers detained for not-shoplifting an expensive item also turn out to be not-white.

      There’s a game of legal hot potato going on right now between the New York Police Department and luxury retailers Macy’s and Barneys New York,...
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      An ETF might be a good alternative to mutual fund investing

      The two vehicles are similar, with important differences

      Most investors – especially those who only purchase stocks for their retirement accounts – usually shy away from buying individual stocks in favor of mutual funds. These funds are a basket of individual stocks or other assets that cumulatively return a profit. At least, that's the goal.

      Mutual funds are often considered safer and less volatile than buying individual shares, with professional fund managers doing the stock picking. But those stock pickers charge fees, which can cut into your portfolio's earnings. And if they pick wrong, your portfolio suffers.

      In recent years Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs, have emerged as alternatives to mutual funds that might give your portfolio a boost. They work in much the same way as mutual funds but are usually less costly. It's important to understand the differences between the two.

      Similarities

      While ETFs are similar to mutual funds, in that they are a collection of assets, they are similar to individual stocks in the way they trade. Holding assets such as stocks, bonds or commodities, an ETF's value fluctuates throughout the trading day, just like a stock.

      For example, a few years ago when gold prices were rapidly rising, gold ETFs gave investors a way to quickly buy the precious metal without actually taking delivery of it. For example, SPDR Gold Shares, ticker symbol GLD, could be purchased at a share price, just like a stock. Each share was backed by gold bullion, owned by the fund. The ETF transaction price rose and fell with the price of gold, as well as investor demand for the ETF.

      In addition to commodities like gold, there are ETFs for stocks and bonds. Stock ETFs are usually broken down in a way that the fund offers exposure to a particular class of asset. For example, if you want exposure only to blue chip companies like IBM or Microsoft you could buy a large cap ETF, which would be made up of stocks of those kinds of companies.

      Safer

      Other ETFs can give you exposure to small but growing companies or companies in emerging markets. In the latter case, an ETF might be the safest way to get emerging market exposure since it would be hard for an individual investor to educate themselves about these sometimes volatile markets.

      Let's say you only want to invest in companies with solid fundamentals, such as strong cash positions and limited debt. There are ETFs that only include those kinds of companies.

      Suppose you want to invest in companies that pay attractive dividends, but aren't sure which companies will continue dividends at their present level. Your answer might be an ETF made up of carefully-chosen dividend stocks.

      Fees

      While ETFs generally have lower fees than mutual funds, an investor should always be aware of the costs. When considering an ETF, check its expense ratios. That's the percentage of the assets taken out each year to cover fund expenses.

      If your ETF has an expense ratio of 0.25%, you'll pay a fee of about $2.50 for every $1,000 invested. You'll also pay a commission when you buy or sell an ETF, just as you would with a stock. But you can buy and sell them using an online brokerage account, where trading fees are minimal.

      There are other things to look out for. According to the experts at Morningstar, an investment research firm, you should avoid placing orders for an ETF near the open and close of trading. For example, at the start of trading ETF prices may adjust to the difference (premium or discount) between the previous day's closing price and their net asset value. This can result in ETF prices moving in the opposite direction of their underlying holdings. As the closing bell approaches, market makers often begin to take down positions and hedge their books.

      Avoid volatile trading days

      On days when the market is volatile, with extreme movement up or down, it's a good idea to avoid trading ETFs. Volatility can sometimes put some distance between a fund's underlying value and its price.

      According to Morningstar, there are times when a mutual fund might be a better choice than an ETF because of brokerage fees. These costs are more important if you're frequently investing a small amount of money. In that case, an index mutual fund might be a better option if you can find a similar one.  

      As with any investment, do your research and consult with a trusted and objective financial advisor.

      Most investors – especially those who only purchase stocks for their retirement accounts – usually shy away from buying individual stocks in fa...
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      Google asks for short-cut to appeals court in wiretap case

      It says a rapid appeal will help define Internet privacy issues for everyone

      Normally, the defendant in a lawsuit drags its feet, using whatever delaying tactics it can come up with, thinking of appeals court only as a last resort.

      But sometimes the defendant is Google. Deep pockets. Overwhelming strategic motivation to win. Business model at stake.

      Seen in that light, it's perhaps not surprising that Google has asked U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh to let Google go directly to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to overturn -- or wriggle out from under, depending on your point of view -- Judge Koh's September decision to allow a wiretapping case against Google to go forward.

      In that case, lead plaintiffs Brad Scott and Todd Harrington claim that Google scans Gmail messages for words and content, and intentionally intercepts messages between Gmail subscribers and non-subscribers.

      Google has said that emails are only read by computers and that, therefore, there is no invasion of users' privacy. But Judge Koh rejected Google's claims that wiretapping laws do not apply to its Gmail business and that consumers who email Gmailers have no reasonable expectation of privacy. 

      At Tuesday's hearing, Judge Koh asked how an expedited appeal would help move the case forward.

      “We think clarification from the circuit will advance the termination of the litigation, if the circuit finds there are grounds to dismiss the case,” attorney Kathleen Sullivan, representing Google, said, according to Law360.com. An appeals court review would also clarify similar arguments now being lodged against Yahoo and other tech companies, she argued.

      The judge and the attorney for the plaintiffs asked Sullivan if Google thinks there is any limit to what it can do. Sullivan replied that Google's privacy policy and terms of service outline what it can and cannot do and that users of Gmail agree to those policies by using the service.

      Sullivan noted that under federal law, only one of the two parties in an email exchange must consent to the interception of email for it to be legal, Sullivan said.

      “If you communicate with a Gmail user, you assume the risk," she said.

      Normally, the defendant in a lawsuit drags its feet, using whatever delaying tactics it can come up with, thinking of appeals court only as a last resort....
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      Some see economic storm clouds on the horizon

      For some, the economic storm clouds have never lifted

      The economy these days can be a lot like the weather – subject to abrupt change. At least, the perceptions of it can be.

      Despite the fact that the stock market has regained its lofty position, making up for the summer's losses, some economists are warning that the economy – which has never fully recovered from the Great Recession – is giving us something to worry about.

      Belief that the Federal Reserve was preparing to “taper” its aggressive campaign to hold down interest rates was behind the summer's stock market swoon. By September, however, the markets were convinced that wasn't going to happen anytime soon because the economy was still too weak.

      Wall Street traders took that as good news. Economists, not so much.

      'Dangerous combination'

      "Interest rates have been held artificially low for years by the Fed, pushing the stock market artificially high,” said Casey Bond, managing editor at GoBankingRates.com. “That's a dangerous combination, especially considering the economy is still sluggishly recovering according to common indicators."

      Another factoid gives Bond pause. According to the White House, only 45% of the wealth lost during the recession has thus far been recovered.

      “If you really consider the numbers, the most terrifying thing about this Halloween might be the state of our economy – especially for those nearing retirement age," she said.

      For soon-to-be retirees, low interest rates on their savings and a worsening job market spells double-trouble. Not only do savings not grow but plans to stay in their careers longer could be derailed if they become unemployed.

      Sense of pessimism

      The early October government shutdown, followed by some Congressional brinkmanship over raising the government debt limit, may have colored consumers attitudes about the economic future, heading into the critical holiday shopping season.

      A new Harris Interactive poll notes a growing sense of economic pessimism among consumers in the aftermath of the government shutdown. In September, almost half of U.S. adults surveyed said, in the coming year, that they expect the economy to stay the same, while less than one-quarter – 22% -- expected it to improve and one-third expected it to get worse. This month, while 22% still believe the economy will improve in the upcoming year, now four in ten Americans believe the economy will get worse and 37% say it will stay the same.

      Among the pessimists on the U.S. economy is Robert Shiller, who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. Interviewed this week on the Daily Ticker webcast, Shiller said the world economy – not just the U.S. economy – is softening, raising the chances for another recession. 

      Recession overdue?

      “It's been six years since the last recession started,” Shiller said. “They tend to come along with some regularity.”

      And if another recession comes along, Shiller says, there is little confidence that Congress will be able to reach any kind of agreement on how to respond.

      But Shiller isn't putting money on a recession occurring next year, since he says we haven't fully gotten out of the last one.

      “I don't think we have any clear sense of timing,” Shiller said.

      And it is true consumers haven't really gotten back on their feet since the last recession. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report shows median household income last year was actually a few dollars less than it was in 2011.  

      The economy these days can be a lot like the weather – subject to abrupt change. At least, the perceptions of it can be.Despite the fact that the s...
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      That's entertainment: Virgin America turns safety instructions into song and dance

      Passengers to be tutored on safety rules by Hollywood production number

      Air travelers know that flying is no picnic. Besides the fees for everything under the sun, there's the hassle of passing through security and getting on the airplane.

      But once on board, Virgin America is greeting passengers with a little entertainment. A lot, actually. The air safety instructions, delivered in mind-numbing monotone by most flight attendants who might recite them dozens of times each week, have been replaced on Virgin America by a domestic safety video set entirely to music and performed in dance.

      Entitled “#VX Safety Dance,” the video is a music and dance extravaganza that may blow passengers back in their seats – in an upright and locked position, of course.

      Going airborne in November

      The video goes airborne in the U.S. in November. This isn't the first time the airline has gotten cute with video instructions. In 2007 it produced an animated video to remind passengers of government safety rules.

      For the new incarnation Virgin America tapped film director Jon M. Chu and singers, dancers and choreographers from TV's "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance." To get maximum impact, the airline is inviting the flying public to compete for a chance to be cast in a future version of #VX Safety Dance by submitting their own video versions.

      "We knew how much our guests loved the fun and irreverence of our current video, but after six years we wanted to give them something unexpected – a fresh take on what a safety video could be and even a chance to be a part of it, literally" said Jesse McMillin, Creative Director at Virgin America. "We thought, what better way to shake things up than to re-imagine the safety video through the language of music and dance?”

      To celebrate its new video – and how many airlines celebrate a new version of their safety instructions? – Virgin America is launching a one-day sale on fares for travel between Nov. 4 and Dec. 17.

      Air travelers know that flying is no picnic. Besides the fees for everything under the sun, there's the hassle of passing through security and getting on t...
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      Sure jumps on the genderizing bandwagon

      Raise your hand if you're Sure — and a woman

      Sure antiperspirant is trying to increase sales by alienating males in its customer base — or, as AdWeek put it, “Sure deodorant is now going after the female demographic” and abandoning its former status as a unisex deodorant.

      Beardwood and Company handled the product redesign and put out a graphic showing and explaining some of the newly feminized features. For example: the old Sure had a plain white plastic cap whereas the new Sure’s cap is see-through lilac-colored plastic because, according to a genuine quote lifted straight from the ad literature: “The transparent plastic glows when light hits it, and it becomes a lighthouse on the shelf.”

      At least until you actually use it, and white deodorant residue inevitably smears itself visibly along the inside of the transparent cap. Which isn’t really a problem unless you intend your deodorant do double-duty as actual décor, which Beardwood and Company presumably hopes you will, ladies.

      In the past, we’ve noticed how companies which offer “feminine” versions of otherwise gender-neutral products tend to charge considerably more for the ladystuff. Perhaps the most notorious recent example is Bic Cristal ballpoints, which cost less than $2 a dozen for gender-neutral “Bic Cristal” pens, compared to over $9 for 16 pastel-colored “Bic Cristal For Her.”

      Thus far there’s no mention of whether the new lady-specific Sure will cost more than the old Sure for everybody, but if it does, we advise any woman who wants a lighthouse on her bathroom shelf to stick with a less-expensive brand of deodorant, and use the money you save to buy an actual decorative lighthouse figurine.

      Sure antiperspirant is trying to increase sales by alienating males in its customer base—or, as AdWeek put it, “Sure deodorant is now going aft...
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      HCG promoter sued for claiming his homeopathic potion can make the pounds melt away

      The hormone, derived from the placenta, has been a favorite of potion pushers for years

      Chalk up another loss for homeopathic potions. This time it's HCG Platinum, a supplement containing HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced by the human placenta that, for decades, has been falsely promoted by various marketers for weight loss.

      The Federal Trade Commission has sued an Arizona man, Kevin Wright, who markets HCG Platinum diet products by falsely claiming the products will cause consumers to lose substantial amounts of weight.

      In November 2011, Wright and six other HCG marketers received warning letters issued jointly by the FDA and FTC, advising them that their HCG products are mislabeled drugs under the FDA Act, and warning that it is unlawful to make weight-loss claims that are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

      Marketing through retail outlets such as GNC, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, and through their own  websites, Wright and his companies promise consumers that HCG Platinum liquid drops will cause rapid and substantial weight loss, and they claim consumers will likely lose as much weight as the endorsers in their advertisements.

      The defendants direct consumers to place the HCG concoctions under their tongues before meals and stick to a very low calorie diet of 500 to 800 calories per day. They typically charge between $60 and $149 for a thirty-day supply of one of their three HCG Platinum formulations.

      The defendants market two of their three formulations as “homeopathic,” which means the listed ingredients are diluted to the point they are undetectable. On product packaging and in other advertising, they claim that the products cause consumers to lose a pound a day, are safe to use, and are clinically proven to burn fat, reduce weight, and lower cholesterol.

      The defendants have sold more than $13 million of HCG Platinum since 2010. The FTC has asked the court to order the defendants to surrender the ill-gotten gains they received from their deceptive marketing of HCG Platinum products.

      Chalk up another loss for homeopathic potions. This time it's HCG Platinum, a supplement containing HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone pr...
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      Is that plastic really biodegradable? Not always

      The FTC cracks down on six companies, fines one $450,000

      The notion that plastic can be biodegradable may be one of those things that sounds too good to be true, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking a close look at manufacturers' claims.

      The FTC today announced six enforcement actions, including one that imposes a $450,000 civil penalty and five that for the first time address biodegradable plastic claims, as part of the agency’s ongoing crackdown on false and misleading environmental claims.

      The plastic cases include a complaint against a company that markets an additive it claims makes plastic products biodegradable and four complaints against companies that marketed various plastics with allegedly false and unsupported claims that their products were biodegradable. 

      In the civil penalty case, the FTC filed a complaint and consent order against a company for violating a 1994 FTC order that prohibited it from making unsupported green claims for its paper plates and bags.

      All of these cases are part of the FTC’s program to ensure compliance with the agency’s recently revised Green Guides.  The Commission publishes the Guides to help businesses market their products accurately, providing guidance as to what constitutes deceptive and non-deceptive environmental claims.

      “It’s no secret that consumers want products that are environmentally friendly, and that companies are trying to meet that need,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “But companies that don’t have evidence to support the environmental claims they make about their products erode consumer confidence and undermine those companies that are playing by the rules.”

      More information is available here

      The notion that plastic can be biodegradable may be one of those things that sounds too good to be true, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking a...
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      Chevrolet Cruze vehicles recalled

      The right front half shaft may fracture and separate

      General Motors is recalling 3,161 model year 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles equipped with manual transmissions (MF3/MR5) and manufactured January 24, 2013, through August 1, 2013.

      On the affected vehicles, the right front half shaft may fracture and separate. Should that happen while the vehicle is being driven, the vehicle would lose power and coast to a stop. Additionally, if a vehicle with a fractured half shaft is parked without the parking brake applied, it could move unexpectedly. Either condition increases the risk of a crash.

      GM has notified owners. Dealers will replace the half shaft assembly, free of charge. The safety recall began on October 15, 2013.

      Owners may contact GM at 1-800-521-7300. This is General Motors campaign number 13276.

      General Motors is recalling 3,161 model year 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles equipped with manual transmissions (MF3/MR5) and manufactured January 2...
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      Garden Fresh adds to list of recalled ready-to-eat chicken and ham products

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Garden Fresh Foods of Milwaukee, Wis., is recalling approximately 103,080 additional pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

      The products are in addition to the 25,748 pounds of similar products that were recalled on Sept. 25 and Oct. 17, 2013.

      The additional products being recalled are listed below:

      Pack/SizeProductProduct CodeCode Date

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Crunchy Poppy Seed Chicken Salad Kit50019/3/2013-10/09/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Chicken Salad51139/4/2013-9/26/2013

      12 oz.

      Garden-Fresh Chicken Salad61649/11/2013-10/09/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh All White Meat Chicken Salad with Cranberries51149/3/2013-10/09/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Greek Brand Pasta with Chicken51169/3/2013-10/09/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Ham Salad with Sweet Relish51219/3/2013-10/09/2013

      12 oz.

      Garden-Fresh Ham Salad61639/06/2013-10/04/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Creamy Ceasar Pasta with Breast of Chicken513309/13/2013-10/09/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Premium Chicken Salad516709/06/2013-10/03-2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Sandwich Spread519009/12/2013-10/03/2013

      5 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Reduced Fat Chicken Salad530509/24/2013-10/09/2013

      10 lb.

      Garden-Fresh Chipotle Chicken Wrap Filling53199/17/2013

      5 lb.

      Grandpa's Bacon Parmesan Dip59049/13/2013

      6 oz.

      Archer Farms Rotisserie Chicken Breast Salad00221609/06/2013-09/20/2013

      16 oz.

      Archer Farms Rotisserie Chicken Breast Salad40210809/05/2013-09/20/2013

      11 oz.

      Archer Farms Bacon Parmesan Dip6901709/09/2013-09/17/2013

      12 oz.

      Market Pantry All White Meat Chicken Salad2410309/12/2013-09/23/2013

      6 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Farfalle with Chicken, Bacon & Sun Dried Tomato10021909/03/2013-09/25/2013

      14 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Farfalle with Chicken, Bacon & Sun Dried Tomato10022609/03/2013-09/25/2013

      6 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Ranch Pasta Salad with Chicken, Spinach & Bacon10023309/04/2013-09/18/2013

      14 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Ranch Pasta Salad with Chicken, Spinach & Bacon10024009/11/2013-09/18/2013

      14 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Chicken & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad10121609/12/2013-09/17/2013

      6 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Chicken & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad10122309/12/2013-09/17/2013

      14 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Chicken Salad with Rosemary10125409/12/2013-09/17/2013

      6 oz.

      D'Amico & Sons Chicken Salad with Rosemary10126109/05/2013-09/26/2013

      The products being recalled bear the establishment number “EST. 17256” or “Est. P-17256” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were distributed to retail and food service establishments nationwide. Although product included in this recall may be expired, there is concern that some product may be frozen in consumer or retail freezers.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact the company at (800) 645-3367.

      Garden Fresh Foods of Milwaukee, Wis., is recalling approximately 103,080 additional pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and ham products due to possible contam...
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      Nissan recalls Titan and Armada vehicles

      The brake master cylinder may reduce the pressure supplied to the front brakes

      Nissan North America is recalling 3,247 model year 2013 Titan and Armada vehicles manufactured February 22, 2013, through May 3, 2013.

      The affected vehicles have a brake master cylinder which may intermittently reduce the pressure supplied to the front brakes. That could result in less braking power, requiring a longer distance to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      Nissan has notified owners, and dealers will replace the master cylinder, free of charge. The recall began on October 14, 2013.

      Owners may contact Nissan at 1-800-647-7261.

      Nissan North America is recalling 3,247 model year 2013 Titan and Armada vehicles manufactured February 22, 2013, through May 3, 2013. The affected vehic...
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