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    BioAnue Labs ordered to halt sale of dietary supplements

    The products were marketed as treatments for conditions including cancer

    BioAnue Laboratories of Rochelle, Ga., and its owner/operators, Gloria and Kelly Raber, have been ordered to stop illegally marketing its products as treatments for disease, and to terminate the sale of supplements until the company complies with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) manufacturing regulations and other requirements.

    The products were sold as dietary supplements but were unapproved new drugs because they were marketed as treatments for conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes, without approval from the FDA, according to the court order.

    According to the FDA, the defendants did not take appropriate corrective action in response to a warning letter issued on Feb. 9, 2012, involving the marketing of the firm’s dietary supplements as unapproved new drugs.

    A follow-up FDA inspection in August 2012 revealed that BioAnue was also manufacturing products that were not in compliance with FDA’s current good manufacturing practice requirements for dietary supplements.

    Manufacture and distribution banned

    The permanent injunction prohibits the manufacture or distribution of products until the defendants hire independent experts to assist in bringing the firm’s manufacturing practices and labeling into compliance with the law.

    In his court order, federal Judge Marc T. Treadwell said the government was able to provide evidence that the defendants sold unapproved new drugs and failed to follow FDA’s current good manufacturing practice regulations for dietary supplements.

    “The FDA is committed to ensuring that consumers do not become victims of false products claiming to cure diseases,” said Melinda Plaisier, associate commissioner for the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. “This firm has ignored previous FDA warnings, continued to produce and promote products with unproven claims and ignored good manufacturing practices.”

    The defendants’ products include: TumoRx Cardio Clean, TumoRx Apoptosis Full Strength, TumoRx Formula CX, BioAnue Diabetic Mender, BioAnue Heart Mender, Stroke Mender, Cardiovascular Mender and Bovine Cartilage.

    BioAnue Laboratories of Rochelle, Ga., and its owner/operators, Gloria and Kelly Raber, have been ordered to stop illegally marketing its products as treat...

    Best way to lose weight: cut fat or carbs?

    Another study suggests some fat may be better than carbohydrates

    Dieters can be excused for feeling confused about all the conflicting information from reputable experts about the best way to shed pounds. It's hard to know what to eat and what not to eat.

    Recent research made news when it suggested a low-fat diet might not be all that healthy. Now research from Tulane University makes the case for cutting carbohydrates rather than fat to lose weight.

    The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, followed a group of test subjects who were divided into two groups. One consumed fewer than 40 grams of digestible carbs per day while the others consumed less than 30% of daily calories from fat.

    Both diets worked

    It's important to note that both groups lost weight. But after a year, the low-carb group lost an average of 7.7 pounds more than the low-fat group.

    The study also found the two diets affected health in different ways. The group that ate more fat and fewer carbs experienced improvements in blood levels of certain fats that are predictors of heart disease risk.

    The low-carb dieters also saw a significant improvement in so-called “good” HDL cholesterol and a decline in “bad” cholesterol.

    For lead author Dr. Lydia Bazzano, the takeaway is that the longtime belief that low-fat diets are better for the heart just doesn't stand up.

    “Over the years, the message has always been to go low-fat,” Bazzano said. “Yet we found those on a low-carb diet had significantly greater decreases in estimated 10-year risk for heart disease after six and 12 months than the low-fat group.”

    Atkins diet

    Losing weight by cutting carbs is not exactly a new idea. In 1963 Dr. Robert Atkins cited studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association to develop a weight loss plan based on controlling carb consumption.

    Atkins said eating nutritious food while limiting refined carbohydrates altered the metabolism from primarily burning carbs to primarily burning fat.

    But not everyone is buying into the fat-over-carbs strategy, at least not yet. Writing on the nutrition coaching site Precision Nutrition, Brian St. Pierre argues that cutting carbs has a downside.

    “Most of us require some level of carbohydrates to function at our best over the long term,” he writes.

    “Sure, we can cut carbs temporarily if we need to lose weight quickly. But for most of us, keeping carbs too low for too long can have disastrous consequences.”

    You especially need some level of carbs if you work out, or have an active lifestyle, he argues. Restricting carbs too much can lead to decreased thyroid output, increased cortisol output and suppressed immune function, among other things.

    Not all carbs are equal

    The distinction, St. Pierre points out, is between carbs that are processed or refined and those that occur naturally in food. An orange has carbs and so does a slice of chocolate cake. It isn't hard to figure out which one is better for you.

    As for her study, Bazzano says it isn't a green light to gorge on fat. And just as there is a difference in carbs, she notes the difference in fats.

    While the low-carb dieters got 41% of their calories from fat, most were healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive or canola oil. The group only got 13% of calories from saturated fats like butter.

    “It’s not a license to go back to the butter, but it does show that even high-fat diets – if they are high in the right fats – can be healthy and help you lose weight,” Bazzano said.

    A word of advice; before embarking on any change in your diet, no matter how healthy you think it is, it is always a good idea to discuss it first with your doctor.

    Dieters can be excused for feeling confused about all the conflicting information from reputable experts about the best way to shed pounds. It's hard to kn...

    Some second thoughts about driverless cars

    Computers can help drivers be safer but might not be ready to drive themselves

    Thousands of international business, government and research leaders are in Detroit this week for the 21st World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

    In addition to the speeches and scientific papers, attendees will get a glimpse at the latest in automotive automation, otherwise known as driverless cars.

    “Connectivity may drive more positive change for customers than any other technological innovation our industry has produced in decades,” said GM CEO Mary Barra, who delivered Sunday's keynote address. “Anywhere in the world that we connect cars to cars, and cars to their surroundings, we will save lives, save time and protect the environment. But only if automakers, suppliers and regulators move forward together to make it happen.”

    In a 2013 report, the consulting group KMPG noted that automated cars are evolving at a rapid clip. GM plans to have semi-autonomous vehicles on the road by the end of the decade. Nissan announced that it would be ready with revolutionary, commercially viable autonomous drive in multiple vehicles by 2020.


    Semi-autonomous cars are already available. BMW's traffic jam assistant controls the speed of the car and distance to the car ahead in dense traffic on motorways at speeds of up to 60 km/h, and even takes over steering.

    Mercedes Benz's stop-and-go pilot uses cameras and radar sensors to match the speed of the car in front of you. It's available as an option on the top-of-the-line S Class.

    Volvo's Adaptive Cruise Control adapts the cruising speed and the distance to the car in front of you. Volvo produced this explanatory video in 2012, providing a preview of what's coming.

    “Drivers will have to stay in the loop, but in certain situations the car's automation will be able to control the throttle, brake and steering simultaneously,” KMPG notes.

    Second thoughts

    But lately there have been some second thoughts about completely handing over the driving duties to a computer. Toyota, for example, currently has no plans for a fully-automated vehicle.

    At a briefing late last week, Ken Koibuchi, Toyota's General Manager of Intelligent Vehicle Development, said someday, in specific traffic environments, Toyota vehicles will be capable of full automation, but with drivers always in control.

    “As is the case with zero traffic fatalities, full automation is a target difficult to achieve,” Koibuchi said.

    On one hand, computers guiding automobiles might reduce accidents. Computers don't try to text while they drive or shave or put on makeup.

    But computers aren't infallible, and as we have seen time and again, they are prone to hacking. What happens if someone hijacks your car's computer as your vehicle is zooming down the interstate?

    Bloomburg News recently looked at the risks associated with driverless cars – everything from a hacker causing gridlock in a major city, just for the fun of it, to a dangerous malfunction.

    Computers are machines, after all, and machines do fail. What kind of exposure does that create for automakers?

    GM lost billions in recalls this year, some stemming from a faulty ignition switch. Definitely something for automakers to think about.

    Government regulations

    Ultimately the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will have a lot to say about how automated cars are and are not deployed on American highways. NHTSA recently announced a new policy concerning vehicle automation, including its plans for research on related safety issues and recommendations for states related to the testing, licensing, and regulation of autonomous or self-driving vehicles.

    Several states, including Nevada, California and Florida have enacted legislation that allows operation of self-driving cars under certain conditions. These experimental vehicles are at the highest end of a range of automation classes NHTSA has established.

    The four classes begin with some safety features already in vehicles, such as electronic stability control. The fourth class includes cars that drive themselves. The government regulator appears to be encouraging a go-slow approach.

    "We're encouraged by the new automated vehicle technologies being developed and implemented today, but want to ensure that motor vehicle safety is considered in the development of these advances," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, as he announced the government's policy last year. "As additional states consider similar legislation, our recommendations provide lawmakers with the tools they need to encourage the safe development and implementation of automated vehicle technology."

    Thousands of international business, government and research leaders are in Detroit this week for the 21st World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Sys...

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      Will the end of carrier subsidies mean more expensive smartphones?

      The standard smartphone pricing model is about to change

      There's possible bad news on the horizon for the Apple company and its stockholders — not to mention ordinary consumers who want to buy the latest iProducts but think current iPrices are already too high: the up-front cost of an iPhone and other devices, whether from Apple or otherwise, is due to rise, now that various carriers have decided to stop subsidizing them.

      AndroidHeadlines reported two weeks ago that Chinese wireless-service carriers will be ending their device subsidies, and that “high-end device sales” were sure to suffer as a result.

      On Sept. 7, The Wall Street Journal reported a similar story about carriers in the U.S. (especially Apple, which is unveiling a new and more expensive iPhone this week): “In recent years, Americans have been spared the sticker shock of paying full price for a new iPhone because wireless operators offered upfront discounts approaching $500 a phone.”

      In China, which due to its enormous population has more wireless subscribers than any market in the world, the subsidy is even higher: a latest-gen iPhone or Samsung Galaxy that would ordinarily cost $800 “only” costs $100 or $200 to the end user. (Bear in mind: the average Chinese household income is only about one-eighth the average American household income. Even when purchasing power parity is taken into account, a $500 or $600 subsidy is worth far more to the average Chinese citizen than the average American.)

      Balancing act

      Phone companies and carriers already engage in a tricky balancing act with their consumers: of course, the company wants to get as much money from you as possible. Meanwhile, you probably want to pay the company as little money as possible — even if you're extravagant enough to change phones every two months or so, whenever the latest improved or upgraded version comes onto the market.

      Even with subsidies, you can still find yourself spending a lot of money on new phone technology, especially if you're a fan of Apple products which tend to sell for a premium compared to the other brands.

      So, at first glance, it looks like the end of carrier subsidies will turn out badly for somebody: bad for the consumers who will pay more for the same product, or perhaps bad for the companies, if enough consumers decide “Rather than pay more for new-gen technology, let's hang on to this slightly older-gen technology awhile longer.”

      On the other hand, perhaps the idea “This will end badly” is unreasonably pessimistic — or perhaps the idea “Subsidies are good, thus the end of a subsidy is bad” is false.

      The Motley Fool investment blog certainly thinks so. It suggested that the end of subsidies could ultimately benefit Apple, and iPhone consumers:

      Going back to the first rule of economics -- there's no such thing as a free lunch -- the carrier isn't paying the subsidy, you are. The carriers are simply paying up front to lock you into a contract; they price the monthly plans accordingly to reap the costs of the initial hardware subsidy.

      Contract terms

      True enough. If you have a subsidized smartphone — either an $800 new-gen model for which you paid a fraction of that, or an older-gen model you got “for free” — it's almost certain that in exchange for that free or reduced-price phone, you had to sign a contract agreeing to pay for phone service from a particular provider for a certain length of time. And if you could see your wireless carrier's precise financial breakdown (its profits versus its expenditures), you'd certainly see that the company did not lose any money off your free or discounted phone.

      Even with the consumer directly bearing the full, unsubsidized cost of a new phone, the cost rarely appears upfront; most companies offer payment plans, so that instead of (for example) paying $600 at once, you might be charged an extra $25 per month, every month, for the two-year life of the contract. (That's assuming an interest-free loan, of course; otherwise you might instead have a situation where you pay off that $600 phone in $30 monthly installments, ultimately paying $720 in all.)

      Then again: most people — even those who self-identify as frugal — have one or two hobbies or favorite luxuries on which they're willing to splurge: some people might scrimp and save in most things so they can afford to take exotic vacations. And there are plenty of technophiles who like new technology for its own sake, and want to upgrade to the newest and latest technology solely because it's the newest and latest.

      Are there enough technophiles – and do they have enough money – to keep buying high-end new-gen products at a rate that won't sink companies' profit margins? It's possible, especially if the new, no-subsidy system also means an end to two-year contracts written to ensure the companies or carriers recoup the cost of the subsidy.

      Downsides of two-year contracts

      The Motley Fool discussed these downsides of traditional two-year contracts: “A two-year contract essentially guarantees a two-year refresh cycle for its customers. The early termination fee -- which is as high as $350 at some carriers -- essentially locks the buyer into the phone as well as the contract.”

      That's not much of a problem for the type of person who views a smartphone (or computer, or any other techno-gadget) as merely a tool or toy, the type who avoids buying Version 1.0 products in lieu of waiting for later, cheaper versions with the “bugs” worked out of the system. But those two-year contracts are very hobbling to technophiles who'd love to upgrade to the newest devices as soon as they come on the market — except they're still locked into a pre-existing phone contract for a number of months. If the end of subsidies also comes with the end of fixed-term contracts, this just might prove a win-win situation for everybody: lower prices for consumers and higher profits for companies.

      There's possible bad news on the horizon for the Apple company and its stockholders — not to mention ordinary consumers who want to buy the latest iP...

      Report: Same malware used in Home Depot, Target database breaches

      Pro-Russian hackers supposedly acting in retaliation for U.S. foreign policy

      New information released this weekend about the Home Depot database hacking confirms what was only suspected before: the malware used to steal customer information from the Home Depot database was the same as the malware from last year's similar breach at Target.

      However, it appears that, in terms of the number of customers made vulnerable, and length of time for which they were, the Home Depot breach is far worse than Target's.

      Security expert Brian Krebs, who first broke word of the Target and Home Depot breaches even before the companies themselves publicly admitted to them, reported on Sept. 7 that “at least some of Home Depot’s store registers had been infected with a new variant of “BlackPOS” (a.k.a. “Kaptoxa”), a malware strain designed to siphon data from cards when they are swiped at infected point-of-sale systems running Microsoft Windows.”

      Information discovered within that malware showed the similarities with the earlier Target malware. In both cases, the stolen data was sold in an “underground crime store” called Rescator.

      Russians or Ukrainians

      It definitely appears that the malware writers are either Russians, or Ukrainians with pro-Russian sympathies (particularly in regard to Russia's current war with Ukraine), and are specifically targeting American companies and consumers, supposedly in retaliation for American foreign policy:

      The new BlackPOS variant includes several interesting text strings. Among those are five links to Web sites featuring content about America’s role in foreign conflicts, particularly in Libya and Ukraine.

      Three of the links point to news, editorial articles and cartoons that accuse the United States of fomenting war and unrest in the name of Democracy in Ukraine, Syria, Egypt and Libya. One of the images shows four Molotov cocktails with the flags of those four nations on the bottles, next to a box of matches festooned with the American flag and match ready to strike. Another link leads to an image of the current armed conflict in Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

      Krebs went on to explain that his own research suggests that Rescator, the underground crime store selling these stolen credit card numbers to identity thieves, is run by a programmer in Odessa, Ukraine, who admired the late Libyan dictator (and noted U.S. non-ally) Muammar Gadhafi, and also blames the U.S. for the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the rise of “Western globalism.”

      Of course, despite such anti-American pro-Russian nationalist rants, it's still very probable that the thieves' primary motivation was financial gain, and the anti-American commentary, though sincere, is primarily a marketing ploy: even among identity thieves, “I'm using this stolen data to fight U.S. hegemony!” probably sounds better than “I'm using this to steal money for myself!”

      New information released this weekend about the Home Depot database hacking confirms what was only suspected before: the malware used to steal customer inf...

      Judge orders "Fat Burner" promoters jailed for contempt

      Defendants haven't complied with recall requirements in $40 million settlement, court finds

      Jared Wheat and Stephen Smith had a good thing going for awhile. Their Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was selling dietary supplements advertised as "fat burners" that supposedly made the pounds melt right off.

      But things started to go bad in 2008 when a federal court ordered them to stop making unsubstantiated claims for their products. Then, earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission won a $40 million judgment against the two and their company, one of the largest judgments ever returned against a supplement peddler.

      Now, a federal district judge in Atlanta has issued an order finding that Wheat and Smith failed to comply with a court order that required them to recall any of their products still in circulation. The judge ordered them jailed until they comply with the order.

      Continued availability

      In issuing the order, the judge wrote: “The continued availability of the violative products in retail stores is not surprising considering the lack of effort by the defendants to comply with the court’s order to effectuate a complete recall. Despite [their] assurance to the contrary, a recall was and is necessary to protect consumers.”

      Specifically, in order to be released from jail, Wheat and Smith must: 1) ensure that the products are not available for purchase from retail stores; 2) send out a proper recall notice for each product; 3) ensure the recall notice has been distributed to all retailers and anyone else associated with the products; and 4) ensure that links to the recall notices are prominently displayed on each page of the company’s website.

      Jared Wheat and Stephen Smith had a good thing going for awhile. Their Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was selling dietary supplements advertised as "fat bur...

      Post office to lower package prices, hopes to compete with UPS and FedEx

      No suggestion of improving customer service, though

      The U.S. Postal Service has been in dire financial straits for as long as the Internet has been commonplace, and for the same reason: for most of its history, the USPS made the bulk of its operating income by delivering First Class mail – mainly letters, bills and greeting cards.

      But recent technological innovations ranging from email to online or automatic bill payment to free unlimited long-distance phone calls have killed most of the market for First Class mail.

      In 2005, for the first time in USPS history, the amount of First Class mail it delivered was less than the amount of junk mail.

      (Indeed, it appears that the post office has been actively courting junk mailers – “direct-mail marketers” – to make up for the lost First Class income: Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has allegedly said “American citizens aren't our customers — about 400 junk mailers are our customers.”)

      But now it appears the USPS is trying a new tactic to increase its customer base. The Wall Street Journal reports that the post office will be reducing its prices for package delivery, hoping to compete with FedEx and United Parcel Service.

      Protected from competition

      Where First Class mail is concerned, the post office is legally protected from having to compete with private carriers, thanks to a series of federal civil and criminal laws collectively known as “Private Express Statutes.”

      Broadly, the statutes say it is illegal for private carriers to offer First Class mail delivery. There are some exceptions to these rules – in 1979, it became legal for private carriers (such as FedEx or UPS) to deliver certain types of letters, but only if they are marked “extremely urgent,” the carrier charges at least double the price the USPS would charge for the same delivery, and other conditions are met.

      But Private Express Statutes apply only to the delivery of letters, not parcels or packages – where those deliveries are concerned, private companies are free to openly compete with the post office.

      If “price” is the only reason certain people (or businesses) choose FedEx or UPS over the postal service, then the lower-priced-package plan might succeed in reversing the USPS' financial decline. But there is another possibility: perhaps some of the USPS' customer loss is due to poor customer service. (Our own customer-complaint archives about the USPS have almost 1,600 entries exclusively dedicated to “Lost Mail.”)

      In September 2013, we reported the infuriating story of a Manhattan man who, along with his roommates, went more than an entire month without receiving a single piece of mail — no letters which he knew his friends and colleagues had sent him; none of the magazines he subscribed to; not a single bill; not even so much as a piece of junk mail.

      His repeated attempts to get answers from the post office went nowhere (and we, seeking answers as official Representatives of The Media, had no better luck); the post office went so far as to say that, since the man's regular postal carrier was on vacation that month, the USPS couldn't even determine who was reponsible for delivering all that missing mail.

      Lost track

      We also collect frequent complaints from readers who say that the USPS' tracking service is unreliable; among other things, it will report a letter or package as having been “delivered” although the recipient never received it.

      “Ordered an item from a company based in Oregon,” said “R” from Iowa, on June 27. “They supplied me with a tracking number for the 'first class' package that was being sent to me. Not sure if you caught it but when I searched on the 26th it showed that it had been processed at the Des Moines facility and departed. It doesn't show an arrival scan at my local office. It never arrived on the 26th. So I checked this morning and it had again been processed through the Des Moines facility. Guess what? No arrival scan at my local post office. No delivery made. I called their 800 'customer service' number. The lady made a huge mistake when she said to me that the first process scan was a 'system-generated scan.' Now, what did that mean? I'll tell you, that means their system created a bogus scan entry and that they didn't have the item as clearly show since it was "processed" again. ….”

      Sue in Georgia wrote us on June 23 with the opposite problem: she's a business owner who is apparently unable to mail packages to her customers, and USPS tracking is no help: “We sell horse cookies from Georgia. Over the last few months, we have had 3 packages not reach their destination. USPS tracking for priority mail shows all packages scanned IN to the Clarkesville, GA P.O., but that's it. The odd thing is that 2 of the 3 packages were going to the same horse rescue in Tennessee. When asked for an explanation, they continue to say it was lost in the Gainesville, GA distribution center. I am not buying that since they would have scanned the package when it left Clarkesville. I am wondering if the aroma of the cookies is setting off some kind of drug sniff test and they are disassembling the package, but not admitting to it. We use fenugreek, peppermint, and licorice as a flavoring, and maybe they think the overwhelming scent is covering something up?? At any rate, it is a business killer for sure.”

      Missing passport

      I personally have suffered a similar problem; in the summer of 2009, I was living in Connecticut and waiting for delivery of my first-ever passport, plus the return of the birth certificate I'd sent to prove I qualified for one. The U.S. Department of State sent the passport via Priority Mail, with a tracking number. On July 7 I typed that tracking number into the USPS website and was horrified to read that my passport had allegedly been delivered on June 29. On July 9, I formally reported the passport as “missing,” and the very next day, the now-invalidated passport (which, you recall, had allegedly been delivered to me two weeks before) finally arrived in my mailbox. Of course, by then the passport had already been cancelled as “lost or stolen,” so I had to start the process all over again, and barely got my passport in time to take my planned out-of-country vacation.

      My birth certificate, which the USPS also insisted it had delivered into my mailbox, eventually turned up in a passport office in Charleston, South Carolina. (In fairness, I suppose it's understandable why the post office might confuse Charleston with Connecticut – they both start with the letter C, they're both in the Eastern Time Zone....)

      But if the Wall Street Journal report is any indication, future USPS customers can enjoy this same high quality of service for a much lower price than before.

      The U.S. Postal Service has been in dire financial straits for as long as the Internet has been commonplace, and for the same reason: for most of its histo...

      What is it about dogs and their owners?

      Well, for one thing, they tend to look alike

      I know you have seen it -- you are taking a walk and up walks this lady and her dog. As the dog lifts its leg to pee you look at its face and notice, they look alike!

      They just do. Actually there has been research done where they asked people to pick out owners and dogs and see if they could match up who goes with who and they did!

      It seems that the thing we share with our canine brethren is the eyes. A Japanese psychologist Sadahiko Nakajima set out to solve this mystery. The recent study was published in the journal Anthrozoos. This wasn't the first crack he had at this either. He did research before that showed people could match owners with dogs just by facial recognition. But now he has taken it one step further to find out which facial feature is the clue.

      Nakajima and colleagues started off with 502 college kids from Japan  and gave them photos of 40 people and dogs. The only thing they could see were the shoulders up. People and dog were paired up, some in the correct owner combo. The others were random. Their mission was to identify actual pets and owners. Ready for this? They chose correctly 80% of the time. 

      Success rate

      For the next part, they covered parts of the pics -- either the dogs' or the humans' eyes or mouth.They still had a success rate of picking 73% of the time. when they saw just the eyes success was still pretty good  at 74% .

      According to Slate, Nakajima was so surprised by their ability to do this by seeing just the eye regions that he said let's do it again and he used a different group of subjects on the eyes-only component. He repeated it just to be sure. This group did even better than their counterparts: 76% picked correctly. 

      What's really odd or amazing about this study is that it's not in the smiles of the people and it's not that a dog was fat and the owner was as well. Or a poodle had curly hair and so did the owner. It was the eyes. Japanese people have slanted eyes and dogs don't. So what was the clue?

      What Nakajima revealed was that it  is something about a shared look in the eyes of owner and dog. The reason is still a mystery to Nakajima  and the rest of the researchers. I guess it's the reason when my dogs look at me with those big brown eyes and they want a treat I go get one too! Maybe it's the other way around.

      I know you have seen it -- you are taking a walk and up walks this lady and her dog. As the dog lifts its leg to pee you look at its face and notice, they ...

      Dr. Oz' green coffee bean weight loss claims were baseless: FTC

      Botched study didn't prove anything, feds charged

      If you look long enough, you can find claims that just about anything you can think of will help you lose weight. Unfortunately, most of those claims don't hold water. And they certainly don't help you lose weight, even when they're made by Dr. Oz or some other celebrity.

      One thing you can add to the not-much-help list is green coffee beans. the subject of a flawed study touted by Dr. Oz but later discredited. 

      Now, a Texas-based company, Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it used the results of that flawed study to make baseless weight-loss claims about its green coffee extract to retailers, who then repeated those claims in marketing finished products to consumers.

      The FTC complaint alleges the study was so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it. 

      The settlement requires AFS to pay $3.5 million, and to have scientific substantiation for any future weight-loss claims it makes, including at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests.

      “Applied Food Sciences knew or should have known that this botched study didn’t prove anything,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In publicizing the results, it helped fuel the green coffee phenomenon.”

      Researchers in India

      According to the FTC’s complaint, in 2010, Austin, Texas-based AFS paid researchers in India to conduct a clinical trial on overweight adults to test whether Green Coffee Antioxidant (GCA), a dietary supplement containing green coffee extract, reduced body weight and body fat.

      The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial.

      When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.

      Despite the study’s flaws, AFS used it to falsely claim that GCA caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5 percent of body weight, and 16 percent of body fat with or without diet and exercise, in 22 weeks, the complaint alleges.

      "Without diet or exercise"

      Although AFS played no part in featuring its study on The Dr. Oz Show, it took advantage of the publicity afterwards by issuing a press release highlighting the show.

      The release claimed that study subjects lost weight “without diet or exercise,” even though subjects in the study were instructed to restrict their diet and increase their exercise, the FTC contends.

      The proposed order settling the FTC’s charges bars AFS from misrepresenting any aspect of a test or study related to the products it sells, and prohibits the company from providing anyone else with the means of falsely advertising, labeling, promoting, or using purported substantiation material in marketing their own products.

      If you look long enough, you can find claims that just about anything you can think of will help you lose weight. Unfortunately, most of those claims don't...

      Researchers find solution to too much sitting

      A few short walks make up for hours of sitting

      You have to hand it to science. There is no conundrum too challenging for practitioners of the scientific method to attack, dissect and conquer. 

      Take the scourge of too much sitting, for example. For the last few years, we've been told that spending too much time sitting is as bad as smoking or gulping down huge helpings of Ben & Jerry's.

      The problem, of course, is that sitting at your desk all day -- whether working or just eating doughnuts and tweeting -- doesn't do much for your weight or overall fitness levels. 

      After all, when people sit, slack muscles do not contract to effectively pump blood to the heart. Blood can pool in the legs and affect the function of arteries, or the ability of blood vessels to expand from increased blood flow.

      What to do? Well, you could get a stand-up desk, although standing all day has its drawbacks as well. Or, some personal trainers say, you could substitute a large medicine ball for your chair. The need to constantly keep yourself from rolling off the ball supposedly keeps the blood flowing more effectively, although we don't know of any studies that lend credence to this assertion. 

      Get up and move

      But not to worry -- researchers at Indiana University have found that getting up and walking around may be the answer. They found that three easy -- one could even say slow -- 5-minute walks can reverse the harm caused to leg arteries during three hours of prolonged sitting.

      This study is the first experimental evidence of these effects, said Saurabh Thosar, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, who led the study as a doctoral candidate at IU's School of Public Health-Bloomington.

      "There is plenty of epidemiological evidence linking sitting time to various chronic diseases and linking breaking sitting time to beneficial cardiovascular effects, but there is very little experimental evidence," Thosar said. "We have shown that prolonged sitting impairs endothelial function, which is an early marker of cardiovascular disease, and that breaking sitting time prevents the decline in that function."

      The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour.

      The study participants who walked for 5 minutes each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same -- it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this.

      Light activity

      "American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," he said. "The impairment in endothelial function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment."

      The study involved 11 non-obese, healthy men between the ages of 20-35 who participated in two randomized trials. In one trial they sat for three hours without moving their legs. Researchers used a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound technology to measure the functionality of the femoral artery at baseline and again at the one-, two- and three-hour mark.

      In the second trial, the men sat during a three-hour period but also walked on a treadmill for 5 minutes at a speed of 2 mph at the 30-minute mark, 1.5-hour mark and 2.5-hour mark. Researchers measured the functionality of the femoral artery at the same intervals as in the other trial.

      The study is being published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

      You have to hand it to science. There is no conundrum too challenging for practitioners of the scientific method to attack and conquer. ...

      Drug products seized from Flawless Beauty

      The products were unapproved and improperly labeled

      U.S. Marshals have seized various unapproved and improperly labeled drug products that were marketed, sold and distributed via the Internet by Flawless Beauty of Asbury Park, N.J.

      These products -- including injectable drug products -- were marketed, sold and distributed to individuals, retail outlets, health spas and clinics.

      The products, seized at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, also were marketed on websites and include:

      • Relumins Advanced Glutathione “kits” and
      • Tatiomax Glutathione Collagen Whitening “kits”

      Many of the injectable products also include claims to treat scurvy, degenerative brain and liver diseases, and “alcoholic liver diseases.”

      Serious injury possible

      None of these products, according to FDA, have been proven safe or effective for their intended uses. The agency points out that unapproved injectable products are of concern because their quality, safety and efficacy have not been reviewed. Further, improper injection practices may result in serious injury, including the transmission of disease.

      “Companies have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe for distribution,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “We have taken action to protect consumers and demonstrate our commitment to their safety by preventing these products from being distributed.”

      FDA says it has, so far, received no direct reports of illnesses or serious side effects related to the seized products.

      Illnesses or side effects related to the use of these products should be reported to the FDA via MedWatch’s online form or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.

      U.S. Marshals have seized various unapproved and improperly labeled drug products that were marketed, sold and distributed via the Internet by Flawless Bea...

      Perdue Food recalls fresh, raw chicken products

      There may have been a processing deviation in temperature during production

      Perdue Food of Salisbury, Md., is recalling approximately 720 pounds of raw, fresh chicken products.

      The products may have experienced a processing deviation in temperature during production.

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

      The products subject to the recall include:

      • 80-lb. cardboard boxes, containing approximately 28, 2.5-lb. ice-packed, sealed packages of “COOKIN’ GOOD WHOLE YOUNG CHICKENS” with giblets and necks.

      The products were produced Sept. 3, 2014 and then shipped to a New York distributor for re-sale and foodservice use in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The packages bear the establishment number “P-764” on the box.

      Consumers with questions may contact Perdue consumer affairs at 800-4Perdue (800-473-7383).  

      Perdue Food of Salisbury, Md., is recalling approximately 720 pounds of raw, fresh chicken products. The products may have experienced a processing deviat...

      Yamaha recalls snowmobiles

      The fuel hose joint can leak during operation

      Yamaha Motor Corporation of Cypress, Calif., is recalling about 2,520 Yamaha snowmobiles.

      The fuel hose joint can leak during operation, posing a fire hazard.

      There have been four reports of fuel leakage. No injuries are reported.

      This recall involves model year 2014 SR10R (SRViper), SR10RXS (SRViper RTX SE), SR10L (SRViper LTX), SR10LS (SRViper LTX SE) and SR10XS (SRViper XTX) snowmobiles and model year 2015 SR10LS (SRViper LTX SE) snowmobiles. They were sold in a variety of red, black, blue and white color combinations.

      The VIN number is stamped on the tunnel near the right side footrest. The letter E in the 10th position of the VIN number indicates that the unit was made in the 2014 model year, and a letter F in the 10th position indicates that the unit was made in the 2015 model year. The model number can be found on the lower left and right cowling just below the word “YAMAHA.”

      The snowmobiles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Yamaha snowmobile dealers nationwide from October 2013, through August 2014, for about $12,000 to $14,000.

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled snowmobiles and contact their local Yamaha dealer to schedule a free repair. Yamaha is contacting its customers directly.

      Consumers may contact Yamaha at (800) 962-7926 anytime.

      Yamaha Motor Corporation of Cypress, Calif., is recalling about 2,520 Yamaha snowmobiles. The fuel hose joint can leak during operation, posing a fire haz...

      Rising rents a troubling housing trend

      Report shows most housing markets becoming less affordable

      There's some disconcerting news for consumers who have decided to keep on renting instead of buying. That option is getting more costly.

      Over the last few months people looking for apartments and those renegotiating a lease have been shocked at how much it costs to put a roof over their head.

      Real estate site Zillow reports that of the 100 largest U.S. rental markets, only 10 are now more affordable than they were before the housing bust.

      Part of the problem is supply and demand. After the housing bubble popped, mortgage lenders raised standards for making loans. No more no-money-down mortgages. No more loans without checking everything on your application pertaining to income and debt.

      Falling house payments

      As home prices plunged and interest rates dropped to record lows, a house payment was nearly the same as some car payments. Yet many kept renting because they either didn't have the down payment or couldn't qualify for a mortgage.

      Others, who witnessed what happened when home values collapsed 5 years ago, decided their American Dream didn't include owning a home and having a mortgage, so they kept renting.

      While it is true that many investors have actively purchased distressed properties and converted them into rental units, the demand for places to rent often exceeds the supply in some area.


      Gentrification is also having an impact. Low income areas hard hit by foreclosures are being transformed by investors and buyers with cash in search of a cheap turnaround.

      The Boston Globereports that rents in Sommerville, a Boston suburb, have skyrocketed due to gentrification, displacing many long-time residents who are renting.

      Across the country in Sonoma, Calif., rents are among the fastest-rising in the nation, yet apartments are hard to come by. The local paper, the Press-Democrat, reports one property management company has stopped advertising – apartments are let through word-of-mouth.


      Zillow reports rental affordability is now much worse than mortgage affordability, mainly because rents didn't experience the huge drop seen in home values during the recession, and instead have just kept climbing upward. If anything, the housing crisis just contributed to the rise.

      Look at the difference between buying and renting -- purchasing the average house for $180,000, with a 20% down payment, yields a total monthly payment of less than $700. Renting the same house might cost $1,200 to $2,000 a month.

      The problem is, who has $36,000 for a 20% down payment? And with skyrocketing rents, home ownership slips farther away.

      "As rents keep rising, along with interest rates and home values, saving for a down payment and attaining homeownership becomes that much more difficult for millions of current renters, particularly millennial renters already saddled with uncertain job prospects and enormous student debt,” said Zillow's chief economist, Dr. Stan Humphries. “In order to combat this phenomenon, wages need to grow more quickly than they are, particularly for renters, and growth in home values will need to slow."

      Separated by income

      And therein lies the problem. A look at Census Bureau figures reveals a significant disparity in the incomes of people who own homes and those who rent. Homeowners on average earn $65,514 per year, compared to $31,888 for renter.

      Renters who want to become buyers don't necessarily have to save for a 20% down payment. A government-backed FHA loan requires only a 3.5% down payment – $6,300 for the median-priced $180,000 loan.

      The monthly payment will be a lot higher than if you put down 20%, but will still probably be less than you would pay in rent. And it won't go up every year.

      There's some disconcerting news for consumers who have decided to keep on renting instead of buying. That option is getting more costly....

      Identity theft, data breaches -- why are they your problem instead of your bank's?

      Your identity or the assets of wealthy financial institutions: which needs the most protection?

      As a consumer journalist I'm fed up with writing the same damned story over and over, and as a consumer-news reader you're sick of hearing it:

      “Hackers broke into the customer database of yet another retailer, data broker, government agency or educational or financial institution. So beware, Reader: you must protect yourself from identity theft. Contact your credit or debit card company and change your account information as necessary. Update any and all automatic-payment plans connected to the affected accounts. Call your bank. Change your passwords. Keep an extra-sharp eye on your account activity. Take out a credit alert. Get a credit freeze. Call the following toll-free customer-service numbers and spend a couple hours waiting on hold until you're disconnected and have to call back. And don't forget to contact either TransUnion, Equifax or Experian to let them know about the breach! If you're lucky, maybe this time neither Experian nor the other two will screw up and sell your confidential data to an identity thief way the hell over in someplace like Vietnam — okay, you've done all this? Great! Now kick back and relax for a week or two until you have to do it all over again, the next time hackers break into the customer database of yet another retailer, data broker, government agency or ….”

      Why is this still a problem? Why in hell's name do financial companies still operate according to the fiction “Hey, here's a form filled out with Jennifer's own Social Security number, date of birth and full name – by Zod, that must be her, because nobody else on the planet could possibly have this super-secret information. Let's lend thousands of dollars in high-interest, unsecured debt based on that! Then, if she calls to complain that this is not her debt and she is not responsible for repayment, she'll have to spend lots of time and effort jumping through hoops to prove her innocence, and of course she won't receive a single penny in compensation for her time, since it's worthless to us and what she thinks about it is irrelevant....”

      Usual suspects

      Who actually does have access to my name, SSN, DOB and other presumably “confidential” data about me? In addition to close family members, and various hackers through the years who broke their way into databases they had no business accessing in the first place, a partial listing of people who can access my private, top-secret, “nobody knows it except me” identifying information includes:

      Various employees of every local, state or federal tax department I've ever paid money to.

      DMV employees in the states where I've held driver's licenses.

      Employees of the two state universities I attended.

      Employees of every financial institution through which I've taken out a loan, or held a savings or investment account.

      The HR/personnel staff at every job I've ever held.

      The HR/personnel staff at every job my now-husband ever held with me listed as his health-insurance dependent or life-insurance beneficiary.

      Employees of every insurance company I've dealt with: medical, dental, auto, life and renters' insurance.

      The staff of every hospital, medical or dental center where I've sought treatment or had a checkup.

      Every pharmacist who's ever filled a prescription (and dealt with the required insurance paperwork) for me.

      Every landlord from whom I ever rented a place to live (I haven't bought a house yet, but when I do, add realty agents and mortgage brokers to this list).

      Possibly the employees of the K-12 public school districts I attended back in the day; I have no idea how long they keep such records on file.

      And maybe the federal workers with access to U.S. military personnel-budget files, since I spent my entire childhood as an active-duty-Navy dependent; again, I have no idea if records from my days as a legal minor would still be around.

      I'm sure there's a few I forgot to mention here. And you, of course, have a similar list of all the many, many people whose jobs grant them access to your personal identifying information. That list is separate from, though occasionally overlaps with, the list of people and institutions who have or can get your bank, credit card or other financial account information.

      Yet the bulk of our entire financial-services industry (at least the part you need to worry about, where identity theft is concerned) seems committed to the idea that either none of these people exist, or every last one of them is completely, 100% trustworthy and responsible.

      What's at stake

      The strange thing about identity theft is that, while you're supposed to “protect your identity,” ultimately it's the bank's money at stake here: if someone steals your identity and borrows money (or buys a cell phone) in your name, it will be a very annoying and time-consuming process for you to straighten out the mess, but at least you're not liable for whatever money and property the lender lost.

      So how, exactly, did it become your responsibility and mine to protect the assets of lending institutions who we might never even have done a lick of business with, because they're too careless to verify a borrower's identity before lending out their own money?

      Back in 2007, I tried finding the answer to that question. At the time, I lived in Connecticut, paid taxes to same and wrote for a (now-defunct) alt-weekly. Meanwhile, some twit at the state Department of Revenue Services decided to put information about 106,000 state taxpayers onto a laptop computer, which then got lost or stolen.

      A couple weeks later, I got a letter from the DRS warning that my information was on the laptop. As part of the state's “We're sorry; our bad” make-good efforts, the letter advised me to contact Experian or one of the other credit-monitoring agencies, who would then be legally obligated to put a 90-day “credit alert” on my records.

      What does that mean? Over the course of those 90 days until the credit alert expired, if anybody contacted Gigantobank, MegaCellPhone or any similar institution and said “Howdy, I'm Jennifer, here's my SSN and DOB to prove it, now gimme hundreds if not thousands of dollars' worth of unsecured high-interest debt,” Gigantobank, MegaCellPhone et al. were required to make a “good-faith effort” (exact quote from the DRS) to determine this genuinely was me, before saddling my financial record with the legal obligation to pay back this debt.

      Determining you're really you, before making you liable for a debt – that's considered a rare and special high-alert privilege, not the default setting. And should you happen to discover the existence of one or more previously unknown credit cards or other loans in your name, it's up to you to prove they're not yours; no “innocent until proven guilty” assumptions apply.

      Oh, that's simple

      Why can't you just tell the company “I never borrowed this money, and if you think I did then prove it – show me some evidence, my signature, a security-camera image of me filling out the forms in a bank?” Why is the onus on you to prove your innocence, rather than them to prove your liability?

      I asked Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center, who said, “That's simple -- the fact that your personal information was used to open the account.”

      Except it's not really “my” personal information, is it? It's not just me, my mother and some laptop thief in Connecticut who knows all of my “personal information” -- it's everyone on that earlier list plus everyone I forgot to put on it, and hackers from all over the world. So that temporary, special-privilege “credit alert” – the radical idea that a credit-card company shouldn't issue a credit card in my name without first making a “good-faith effort” to ensure it's actually me – why isn't that standard procedure?

      In 2007, Jay Foley said it's because proper identity verification would make it impossible for stores to offer instant, on-the-spot credit; instead, people who applied for a card might have to wait several days before they get it. “If it fell to credit card companies to prove the individual opened the account, [I couldn't get same-day credit] if I walked into a Kmart, or a Wal-Mart, or a Sears.”

      Heaven forbid anybody wait a day or two before getting a shiny new store credit card; that would leave time enough for second thoughts, and consumers might even decide “You know, in light of my not-too-good financial situation, maybe I shouldn't buy these inflatable floating color-changing LED bathtub lights after all ... or at least wait until I can afford to pay cash, rather than buy on the installment plan.”

      Brand-new accounts

      And, of course, the problem of ID thieves opening brand-new credit accounts in your name is entirely different from the problem of ID thieves getting your legitimate credit-card or financial information out of some corporate or government database, and using it to fund an intense, short-lived spending spree.

      Nowadays, you can barely go more than a week without hearing another hacked-customer-database story. In just the past month, such data-theft hackings were discovered at Home Depot, The UPS Store, Dairy Queen, SuperValu grocery and liquor stores, Community Health Systems (a for-profit hospital network you've never heard of although they operate in 29 states), JP Morgan Chase and other banks … and that list is almost certain to grow longer before the end of the month.

      Remember: when thieves steal with credit cards in your name, you're not legally liable for all the money the credit card company lost – but you do have to spend time straightening out the mess, and take extra care to ensure the various data brokers who decide your credit score know about it, because a low credit score means you must pay higher interest on any loans or service plans you take out, and in certain instances you can even be denied a job if your credit rating is deemed “too low” … but if you're unjustly denied a mortgage or even rejected for a job because some lender or data broker screwed up and dragged down your credit score, too bad. You have no legal recourse at all.

      As for how much longer banks and other lenders can continue eating the cost of the hackers' frequent spending sprees in lieu of changing their operating procedure to make them less frequent — your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, brace yourself for the next time hackers break into a customer database with your information on it, and you must take steps to protect yourself from identity theft, monitor your accounts, call all these numbers and ….

      As a consumer journalist I'm fed up with writing the same damned story over and over, and as a consumer-news reader you're sick of hearing it: “Hackers br...

      Credit-card industry promises better security in future cards

      “Tokenization” expected to make customer data more secure

      If you're a credit-card holder who's fed up with the regular weekly warnings to protect yourself if your information was on the database of the latest major retailer who got hacked, there might be good news on the horizon.

      The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the “credit-card industry is accelerating efforts to keep sensitive customer information out of the hands of merchants, as a rash of data breaches at major U.S. retailers erodes confidence in electronic payment systems.”

      Visa and MasterCard are both adopting a new technology called “tokenization” which, according to the Journal, “replaces cardholder information such as account numbers and expiration dates with a unique series of numbers that validates the customer's identity.”

      With the current credit-card system, merchants store their customers' account numbers and related information on their own databases. With tokenization, however, a “merchant can conduct a normal transaction without seeing or storing the customer's account number, expiration date or other information contained on a card. The actual card data is stored by the card issuer or processor in a 'virtual vault.'”

      Virtual vaults

      Presumably, whoever runs those virtual vaults will still have to ensure nobody hacks into them and steals the valuable data therein. Still, from the perspective of (for example) the MasterCard company, making sure their one “virtual vault” is secure should be much easier than hoping every single merchant who accepts MasterCard keeps their customer information in a properly secured database.

      Tokenization is not the only security improvement on the horizon. American credit card companies have already promised, at some future time, to switch from current magnetic-strip credit cards to cards with “EMV” chips.

      EMV, which stands for "EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa," has been standard on European credit cards for over a decade already. The difference between magnetic-strip credit cards and EMV is that the latter stores information on an encrypted microchip, rather than on the non-encrypted (and relatively easy to counterfeit) magnetic strip found on most American credit cards.

      EMV cards also require a personal identification number (PIN) at point of sale. The idea is that with EMV, a thief who knows your credit card account number can no longer make and use a fraudulent credit card with that alone.

      On the other hand: while these new technologies might help protect credit-card shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores, security experts fear thieves will simply switch focus to online card purchases, as has already happened in countries where most credit cards have EMV chips. The arms race between merchants and thieves is unlikely to ever end.

      If you're a credit-card holder who's fed up with the regular weekly warnings to protect yourself if your information was on the database of the latest majo...

      Goodwill confirms customer database breach dating back to February 2013

      Hackers stole data from stores in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

      In July, security bloggers first reported signs indicating that hackers might have gained access to the customer database of Goodwill stores throughout the nation, in order to steal credit-card numbers and similar information.

      Consumers rate Goodwill Store

      At the time, spokespeople for Goodwill would only confirm that “a payment card industry fraud investigative unit and federal authorities” had warned the company about the possibility of malware-driven data theft.

      This week, however, Goodwill confirmed the full story: yes, customer information was stolen from many (though not all) Goodwill locations, due to a malware attack against the “third-party vendor” Goodwill hired to process credit card payments.

      The good news is that, as bad as the attack was, it wasn't quite as far-reaching as initial reports suggested. Prelimiary reports in July seemed to indicate that stores in at least 21 states were hit, though in reality, it “only” affected stores in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

      The forensic investigation has confirmed that a third-party vendor’s systems were attacked by malware, enabling criminals to access some payment card data of a number of the vendor’s customers. The impacted Goodwill members used the same affected third-party vendor to process credit card payments. Each of the impacted Goodwill members took immediate action to ensure that the malware found on the third-party vendor’s systems no longer presents a threat to individuals shopping at the affected Goodwill members’ stores. … The malware attack affected the third-party vendor’s systems intermittently between February 10, 2013, and August 14, 2014.

      Goodwill posted a list of all affected stores, including the full street address of each location, and the dates each individual store was affected. The affected stores were in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

      Goodwill also added “If [a] state does NOT appear on this list, it has not been affected.” Of course, the corollary to that statement is: If you made a credit- or debit-card purchase in any Goodwill store in any of those states since February 2013, you must check this list to see if the specific store you patronized was attacked. If so, make sure you take all the standard precautions to protect yourself from identity theft.

      In July, security bloggers first reported signs indicating that hackers might have gained access to the customer database of Goodwill stores throughout the...

      Why the latest obesity stats mean trouble

      Despite increased awareness, America's weight problem is getting worse

      The annual report on American obesity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation can't be considered a surprise. It can be considered a bit depressing, however.

      In a nutshell, America's obesity problem got worse last year. The adult obesity rate increased in 6 states – Alaska, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming. In Mississippi and West Virginia, more than 35% of the adult population is obese.

      In 20 states, the adult obesity rate is at or above 30%. In no state is the rate below 21%. And in no state did the obesity rate decline.

      Obesity rates tend to be highest in the south and among low-income groups with the least education. Perhaps most depressing of all, these numbers are just for adults – they don't measure children.

      The report's authors predict that 10% of children will become obese between the ages of 2 and 5.

      Critical juncture

      "Obesity in America is at a critical juncture. Obesity rates are unacceptably high, and the disparities in rates are profoundly troubling," said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "We need to intensify prevention efforts starting in early childhood, and do a better job of implementing effective policies and programs in all communities - so every American has the greatest opportunity to have a healthy weight and live a healthy life."

      If obesity had no health consequences no one would worry about it. But the fact is, obesity has huge consequences, both in terms of health and health care costs.

      Heart disease

      Obesity is a leading cause of coronary heart disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns that coronary heart disease packs a waxy substance called plaque inside your arteries. The result is your heart doesn't get the supply of oxygen it should.

      “Obesity also can lead to heart failure,” NIH warns. “This is a serious condition in which your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs.”

      High blood pressure

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that obesity leads to high blood pressure. A dangerously high blood pressure reading means your heart is using more force to push blood through your veins and arteries.

      That extra force can eventually cause a rupture in a blood vessel, causing a stroke. It can also lead to a heart attack.


      One of the most common negative side effects of obesity is type 2 diabetes. Not surprisingly, doctors have seen explosive growth in that disease over the last 2 decades.

      When you have diabetes, your body's blood glucose, or blood sugar, level is too high. When that happens your body doesn't break down food the way it is supposed it.

      Your body's cells don't use insulin properly. At first, the body reacts by making more insulin but eventually it can't keep up.

      It's a leading cause of early death, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. And in nearly every case, people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.

      Economic cost

      All of this carries a very high price tag. The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPV) estimates treating obesity and obesity-related disease costs billions of dollars each year.

      “The enormity of this economic burden and the huge toll that excess weight takes on health and well-being are beginning to raise global political awareness that individuals, communities, states, nations, and international organizations must do more to stem the rising tide of obesity,” HSPV says.

      But the awareness appears to be limited. Because in the U.S., more Americans are classified as obese every year.

      The annual report on American obesity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation can't be considered a surprise. It can be considered a bit depressing, howeve...

      When your dog has cancer

      As dogs live longer, their chance of getting cancer increases

      As a pet owner nothing could be more devastating than hearing the news that your animal has cancer. You feel awful for your pet and you want to make them as comfortable as possible and ensure that they are getting the best treatment available.

      Unfortunately, the likelihood of your pet coming down with cancer is higher than it would have been 30 or 40 years ago.

      “Pets are living longer because of preventative health care. We're able to diagnose cancers earlier. As a result there is an increased need for better cancer treatments,” says Lisa Troutman of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's veterinary division. She says that cancer is now responsible for almost half of the deaths of pets over the age of 10.

      In the last few years the pharmaceutical companies have responded to the growing need for pet medications. They have developed drugs specifically for animals whereas before animals were often given drugs that were developed for humans.

      Currently, three drugs are available specifically to treat cancer in dogs. Two have only conditional approval, which means they can stay on the market for up to five years while the company collects data to support a new animal drug application so it can get the full approval. To date, there are no FDA-approved treatments for cancer in cats.

      If you want to check out clinical trials and what is available go to the Veterinary Cancer Society's database

      What to do

      If you're told your dog has cancer, it's important to talk to your vet just as you would your own physician if you were ill. Here are a few questions you may want to think about and discuss with your vet:

      • What types of treatments are available?
      • What is the prognosis for the treatments?
      • Are there side effects and if so will they make a quality of life difference to my pet?
      • What is the cost?
      • How long will it take to do the treatments?

      You may also want to discuss hospice care and euthanasia. In elderly dogs, just as in elderly humans, treatment can be not only grueling but expensive. You may not want to put your animal through that or may not be able to afford to do so. There is nothing wrong with giving your animal supportive care, what would amount to hospice care in humans, and withholding the full arsenal of modern medicine. If your regular vet won't do agree, go somewhere else.


      You may wonder what symptoms to watch for that may indicate cancer, especially in older dogs. 

      The FDA's Troutman says it very similar to what we see in people -- a lump or a bump a wound that doesn't seem to heal or go away. Look for any kind of swelling or abnormal bleeding.

      If any of your dog's normal functions change like their eating habits or you see they are drinking excessively or maybe not at all, those are signs of caution. Are they OK to pee or is it hard for them? Are you seeing runny stools or any pattern of change in bowel habits? Do they seem tired?

      These are all concerns to take up with your vet and are good indicators of some type of a problem. As in any situation where health is concerned being as informed as possible will give you a leg up.

      As a pet owner nothing could be more devastating than hearing the news your animal has cancer. You feel awful for your pet and you want to make them as com...