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    Gerber charged with falsely advertising its formula

    The company is accused of making unsubstantiated health claims

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is accusing Gerber Products of deceptively advertising that feeding its Good Start Gentle formula to infants with a family history of allergies prevents or reduces the risk that they will develop allergies.

    Gerber also -- according to the agency -- has falsely advertised Good Start Gentle’s health claims as FDA-approved. The commission is seeking, through a federal court enforcement action, to prohibit the company from making the alleged false and unsubstantiated allergy-prevention claims.

    “Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company’s ads failed to live up to that trust,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Gerber didn’t have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents’ allergies.”

    Questionable marketing

    In its complaint, the FTC alleges that since 2011, Gerber has marketed its Good Start Gentle formula through ads that ran on TV in magazines, at point-of-sale displays, online, and in other promotional material. Good Start Gentle sells for about $24 for a 23.2-ounce package of powdered formula.

    The product is made with partially hydrolyzed whey proteins (PHWP). Gerber claims that feeding babies this formula, instead of formula made with intact cow’s milk proteins, will prevent or reduce the risk that they will develop allergies. In its ads, Gerber promotes Good Start Gentle by saying, for example:

    • “You want your baby to have your imagination…Your smile…Your eyes…Not your allergies.”

    Also, a sticker on the package states that Good Start Gentle Formula is the:

    • “1st & ONLY Routine Formula TO REDUCE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING ALLERGIES.”

    The agency contends that Gerber lacked the scientific substantiation to make these general allergy-prevention claims, in violation of the FTC Act.

    Bogus approval claims

    In addition, according to the FTC, Gerber’s ads also misrepresent that Good Start Gentle has qualified or received approval for a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) health claim. For example, some ads prominently featured a gold badge stating that Good Start Gentle is the “1st and Only” formula that “Meets FDA Qualified Health Claim.”

    Gerber petitioned the FDA in 2009 for permission to make a claim connecting PWHP with the reduced risk of one type of allergy, atopic dermatitis, in infants. The FDA allowed Gerber to make the narrow claim but only if Gerber carefully qualified its statement to make it clear that there is “little scientific evidence” for the relationship.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is accusing Gerber Products of deceptively advertising that feeding its Good Start Gentle formula to infants with a fam...
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    Should you consider an adjustable rate mortgage?

    Maybe, but do so carefully

    The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) got a nasty reputation at the height of the housing meltdown, largely because they were associated with subprime mortgages.

    Unlike a fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate on an ARM fluctuates on the basis of prevailing interest rates and other factors. Subprime lenders used ARMs so that more consumers could afford mortgage payments, at least at first.

    The rate was set very low for the first couple of years. After that, it reset to a much higher rate – sometimes twice the rate of a prime mortgage.

    That's where subprime borrowers ran into trouble. The mortgage payments, which they could barely afford to begin with, suddenly became unaffordable. When home values plunged, they were unable to sell or refinance, so many defaulted.

    Not all ARMs are bad

    But not all ARMs are associated with subprime mortgages and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says some ARMs might be useful to consumers in some circumstances.

    Typically the initial interest rate of an ARM is lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage. It's true that fixed rate mortgages rates are near historic lows, but the opening rate on an ARM is even lower.

    HUD says an ARM may be a good option if you plan to own your home for only a few years, you expect an increase in future earnings or the prevailing interest rate for a fixed rate mortgage is too high.

    ARM rates are calculated using an index, a margin, an interest rate cap structure and an initial rate period. Since the index is often keyed to government bonds, ARM rates over the last 5 years have been remarkably stable because bond yields have remained low.

    However, there is no guarantee they'll stay that way, especially since the Federal Reserve has just announced an end to its bond-purchase program and many market analysts expect the Fed to begin tightening interest rates next year.

    Yellow flag

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has urged caution when it comes to ARMs, noting that borrowers might get the benefit of lower initial payments but could face some disadvantages later. Payments could up, sometimes by a lot, even if rates don't go up. Your payments could go down, but might not.

    “You could end up owing more money than you borrowed, even if you make all your payments on time,” CFPB warns.

    Benefits

    But researchers at the University of Chicago say the lower initial payment an ARM provides can give individual consumers and the economy as a whole a significant boost.

    In their study they found a reduction in mortgage payments of as little as $150 a month led to a reduction in mortgage defaults and an increase in consumer spending, particularly the financing of vehicle purchases, while improving household credit ratings.

    In their study they found households that refinanced with an ARM applied more than 70% of the savings to paying down credit card debt. As a result both mortgage defaults and credit card delinquencies declined.

    In the end, whether an ARM is a good choice will depend on a lot of factors inherent in the loan. Among the most important are the interest rate caps and how long the initial interest rate period lasts.

    If interest rates begin to rise, as many analysts fully expect, having a fixed rate mortgage might help you sleep a little better at night. The rate doesn't change over the life of the loan and over time, might cost the same or less than an ARM.

    The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) got a nasty reputation at the height of the housing meltdown, largely because they were associated with subprime mortgag...
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      Office Depot starting Black Friday deals Sunday

      Amazon.com starting its Black Friday promotions this weekend as well

      © Marek - Fotolia.jpg

      Office Depot and OfficeMax, which merged last year, are the latest retailers to jump on the early Black Friday bandwagon.

      The company has announced a campaign it calls "Your Holiday Workshop," offering Early Black Friday and "Every Monday is Cyber Monday" deals, starting on November 2. The deals will be available both in-store and online.

      Early Black Friday deals will be available November 2-15 while "Every Monday is Cyber Monday" online deals will be posted on November 3, 10, 17, and 24.

      In recent years office and business supply retailers have competed with electronics retailers, selling not just pens and notebooks but all manner of gadgets, from desktop computers and printers to smartphones.

      Laptop deals

      For the Early Black Friday specials November 2 - 8 Office Depot and OfficeMax will feature an HP laptop computer that normally sells for $299.99 for $229.99. They've also marked down a Dell Inspiron 15 series 3000 touchscreen laptop from $549.99 to $369.99.

      From November 9 - 15 the deals include a Dell laptop that normally sells for $479.99 on sale for $279.99 and a Toshiba Satellite L55t touchscreen laptop with 6GB of memory for $399.99. The computer normally sells for $659.99.

      A company spokeswoman says other Black Friday deals, along with store hours, will be announced closer to Thanksgiving Day. She says consumers may sign up online to receive alerts about deals and events.

      Office Depot and OfficeMax have a 90-day return policy but it is being extended during the holidays. The company says anything purchased between now and December 24, 2014 can be returned until Jan. 14, 2015 or as the policy allows, whichever is later. Items purchased online can be returned in store.

      Amazon.com

      Amazon.com is also getting a jump on Black Friday starting this weekend. Its Countdown to Black Friday event starts Saturday, with deals throughout November.

      “Starting in November, millions of holiday shoppers come to Amazon hunting for the best deals and that one perfect gift,” said Steve Shure, Amazon Vice President Worldwide Marketing. “This year, we will have more than 15,000 hand-selected, limited time promotions on hot products, including new early access deals for Prime members on many Lightning Deals from Amazon.com and daily sales events on MyHabit.”

      In the weeks ahead Amazon says it will be offering savings of 40% or more on select Star Wars toys, Mickey and Minnie, Crayola and Disney Princess toys and discounts up to 70% on Cuisinart cookware sets.

      Other deals will include 50% off the SodaStream Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker Starter Kit and $150 off on the Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR.

      Office Depot and OfficeMax, which merged last year, are the latest retailers to jump on the early Black Friday bandwagon....
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      Morris the cat relaunches his career

      In his latest incarnation, Morris is "charmingly choosy," not finicky

      A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers spend more “when feeling a sense of nostalgia-evoked social connectedness.” That's the theory for 9Lives cat food.

      And guess who is making a comeback? Morris! The finicky cat has represented the 9Livesbrand of cat food since his creation in 1969 by the Leo Burnett agency. Morris has lasted through 8 presidencies and 40 Super Bowls.

      It was a group effort to bring Morris back into the claws of the advertising world. Several agencies got involved in the rebranding and they say that this time Morris will be appealing to the millennials and he will sport a whole different attitude. He no longer will be presented as finicky. He will now become “charmingly choosy."

      There is a little issue with that as research shows that "charmingly choosy" could ultimately turn off consumers. (How many agencies does it take to change a lightbulb?) But it should make sense to let Morris loose on social media considering it's a haven for cat videos.

      But finicky or not, Morris will be a pretty hip cat in his new life, we're told. He will be trying out wearable technology and offering his approval to the world around him.

      It appears that Morris is really using the 9 lives we hear so much about, as this isn't Morris' first reboot in his life.

      When he reappeared in television advertising in 2004 he was rendered less finicky, willing to turn somersaults for a steady supply of 9Lives. So this cat has had a makeover before.

      Comfort marketing

      Apparently Madison Avenue has been embracing a trend known as comfort marketing, which has been popular following the turmoil with the market in 2008. It's the idea of conjuring up the past with old slogans, mascots and jingles to stimulate positive memories when the present seems uncertain.

      Not to worry, though. There'll be plenty of Morris to go around. Patrick Maravilla, group creative director at one of the agencies managing the new Morris, assures us that “every single piece of content is designed to be shareable.”

      He said that "Morris will be looking at a fishbowl -- if you click on the fishbowl it plays a 1980s 9Lives commercial with Morris and a fishbowl."

      The verdict is out whether Morris has one more life left in him, but it seems that launching into the world of social media makes a lot of sense, “charmingly choosy" or not.

      A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers spend more “when feeling a sense of nostalgia-evoked social connectedness.” That's ...
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      Security camera catches UPS driver repeatedly kicking package marked "fragile"

      Unknown if $12,000 piece of equipment sustained any damage

      This week's kid glove award goes to a UPS driver, who was caught on video using a package clearly marked “fragile” as a kickball.

      The driver had to deliver a package to East Hills Instruments in Westbury, New York. But East Hills couldn't accept the $12,000 package – containing a delicate nitrogen calibration system – because it had been sent cash on delivery; presumably the company doesn't keep that much money in its office.

      Apparently, the driver didn't like the idea of hauling the heavy box to the truck, so rather than carry the box, or load it onto a wheeled handtruck, he chose to kick the box hard enough to make it flip onto another side, and continued flip-kicking it back to the truck. He did this in full view of other East Hills employees — and also in full view of the East Hills security camera.

      “He did it in plain sight,” East Hills' Ray Martel told CBS News. “He does it right in front of the camera. I mean, who does that? We have a hand truck he could have used. He has one. I know they all have one in their truck. But I guess laziness got to him.”

      Martel also said that the UPS driver had been warned that the package contained delicate equipment – as of press time, it's not known how much, if any, damage the equipment received.

      A spokesperson for UPS said that “UPS does not condone this specific driver’s behavior” and is “investigating the issue and will take corrective action with this driver.”

      Meanwhile, East Hills says that UPS makes deliveries to its company almost every day, and they've never had a problem before.

      This week's kid glove award goes to a UPS driver, who was caught on video using a package clearly marked “fragile” as a kickball....
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      Bad week for mobile wallets: Apple Pay loses retailers and CurrentC gets hacked

      Still some bugs to work out of non-cash electronic payment systems

      It's far too early to predict who if anyone will be the eventual winner of the mobile-payment wars, especially since Apple Pay and its upcoming rival CurrentC both faced major setbacks this week.

      Less than seven days after it was first made available, Apple Pay encountered its first roadblock when the pharmacy chains CVS and Rite-Aid stopped accepting it. Although neither chain officially explained why, most observers agree it's because they decided instead to work with a retailer-owned group called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) to develop a competing mobile-payments app called CurrentC, scheduled to be widely released next year.

      Mobile payment systems are being touted as far more secure than traditional credit and debit cards, which did not stop CurrentC from getting hacked this week (though full release won't be until next year, the app is currently being tested in a limited pilot program).

      On Wednesday, participants in CurrentC's pilot program received a warning from the MCX: at some point in the previous 36 hours, hackers had managed to grab the email addresses of all participants.

      Granted: by hacking-damage standards, hackers gaining access to a mere list of email addresses (without even getting the passwords to control them) is very mild indeed, and there's no evidence to suggest the hackers managed to get any other information MCX keeps on its users, such as their name, home address, phone number and actual physical location (or at least their phone's physical location). At least not this time.

      It's far too early to predict who if anyone will be the eventual winner of the mobile-payment wars, especially since Apple Pay and its upcoming rival Curre...
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      Don't throw it out -- grow it out

      It's fairly easy to grow vegetables inside -- try it this winter

      Recycling is all the rage, so why not do it with your food?

      You can actually regrow some of your food and do it inside and become pretty impressive to your kids! Just make sure you use veggies that are slightly fresh and remember to pay attention to your future plant, making sure it has the water and light it needs.

      If your romaine head of lettuce is getting weak just get rid of the leaves and keep the stalk. This is pretty amazing. If the bottom of the stump is saved and placed in water, regeneration and new growth will occur. Place each piece in a half-inch of water, check the water level daily, and marvel as the stump starts to sprout and grow. No dirt needed just a cool environment and a lot of sun.

      Nobody likes the end of a carrot except maybe a horse but they are pretty good for creating carrot tops. You won’t be able to grow carrots from the tops but they are good in salads or cooked. More people tend to use them cooked, especially in soups, than raw. Get carrots that have a little bit of green on the top. Cut off the top 2 inches from the crown of one or more carrots.
      Place the in a shallow saucer cut side down. Add water so that half of the top is submerged in water.

      Place it near light and add water daily. In a couple weeks you will have green tops.

      Celery is similar to the romaine lettuce, cut off the bottom of the stalk and place the chunk in a bowl of water and in a few days marvel as little stalks start to form. After 5 days you should transfer it to a planter with dirt. Cover it completely with a mixture of dirt and potting soil. Three to four weeks and you have a nice celery plant with little stalks. Never need to buy celery at the store again.

      As long as you aren't kissing anyone onions are great and easy to grow. Start off with the bottom of an onion and chop it off at the roots. The more roots the better. Allow to dry for a few hours to a couple days in a shaded, well-ventilated area to allow for callousing. Get a little starter flower pot and fill it 2/3 with soil. Make sure you make it very compacted. Create an indentation in the center to cradle the onion bottom and allow for good soil contact. Cover with 1-2" of soil. Water as needed.

      Avocado tree

      How about growing an avocado tree from its pit? This one is a long-term project. It actually takes a little longer than watching water boil. Really long term -- 10-13 years -- but heck, it's worth a shot.

      Wash the seed. Using three toothpicks, suspend it broad end down over a water-filled glass to cover about an inch of the seed. Put it in a warm place. You don't want direct sun on it. Add water as it's needed. You will probably see roots and stems in about 2-6 weeks. When it is 6-7 inches long cut it back to three inches.

      When the roots are thick and the stem has leafed out again, plant it in a rich humus soil in a 10-1/2" diameter pot, leaving the seed half exposed. Light water with a deep soak once in a while. Lots of sun at this point. Once it is 12 inches high cut it back to 6. A plant grown from seed will take anywhere from 5 to 13 years to flower and bear fruit.

      The moral of this story is don't throw it out, grow it out!

      Recycling is all the rage, so why not do it with your food?...
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      Incomes creep higher in September, while spending dips

      Consumers tucked away more money for that rainy day

      Personal income rose last month, while consumers tightened their grip on their pocket books.

      According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, incomes were up $22.7 billion, or 0.2%, and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) dipped $19.0 billion, or 0.2%.

      By way of comparison, personal income increased $50.7 billion, or 0.3% in August and PCE jumped $58.7 billion, or 0.5%, based on revised estimates.

      Disposable personal income (DPI) -- personal income less personal current taxes increased $15.7 billion, or 0.1%, in September, versus an advance of $37.5 billion, or 0.3%, the month before.

      Wages and salaries

      The September increase in private wages and salaries was about a third of it was the previous month: $12.6 billion vs. $36.3 billion.

      Goods-producing industries' payrolls inched up just $0.7 billion, following $4.8 billion increase in August. Within that sector, manufacturing payrolls fell 0.3 billion, after adding $2.2 billion a month earlier.

      Payrolls of services-producing industries rose $11.9 billion, compared with an increase of $31.4 billion in August, while government wages and salaries increased were up $1.4 billion, following a $0.9+ billion gain the previous month.

      Personal outlays and personal saving

      Personal outlays -- PCE, personal interest payments, and personal current transfer payments -- decreased $14.5 billion in September, in contrast to a $63.4 billion surge in August.

      Personal saving -- DPI less personal outlays -- was $732.2 billion in September, compared with $702.0 billion in August. The personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- was 5.6% in September, compared with 5.4% in August.

      The rate was 4.9% at the start of the year.

      The complete incomes and expenditures report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Personal income rose last month, while consumers tightened their grip on their pocket books. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, incomes were up...
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      Nissan recalls Infinitis with air bag issues

      The driver's frontal air bag inflator may have been manufactured with an incorrect part

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,848 model year 2013 Infiniti QX56 vehicles manufactured September 1, 2012, to April 26, 2013, and 2014 Infiniti QX80 vehicles manufactured June 18, 2013, to February 11, 2014.

      The driver's frontal air bag inflator in the affected vehicles may have been manufactured with an incorrect part. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver's air bag, the incorrect part may block the flow of propellant to the air bag and the air bag's inflator may rupture. The rupture could cause metal fragments to strike and potentially seriously injure the vehicle occupants.

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front driver air bag inflator, free of charge. The recall will begin by late December 2014.

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

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,848 model year 2013 Infiniti QX56 vehicles manufactured September 1, 2012, to April 26, 2013, and 2014 Infiniti QX80 ve...
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      Fuel issue prompts recall of various Toyota vehicles

      Fuel may leak from the one of the fuel delivery pipes in the engine compartment

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 20,000 model year 2014 Toyota Avalon, Camry, Sienna, and Highlander and model year 2015 Lexus RX350 vehicles.

      Fuel may leak from the one of the fuel delivery pipes in the engine compartment. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire.

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace any of the suspect fuel delivery pipes free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on November 3, 2014.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 20,000 model year 2014 Toyota Avalon, Camry, Sienna, and Highlander and model year 2015 Lexus RX350 ...
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      Most U.S. adults don't get enough nutrition

      If you have a disability you are even more likely to be malnourished

      People need a certain number of calories each day to survive. But they need to be the right kind of calories and many U.S. adults apparently aren't getting them.

      And it turns out that Americans with some kind of physical disability are even more likely to be malnourished.

      An estimated 10% to 25% of U.S. adults fit into one or more category of disability, from those who have difficulties with activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and eating, to those who cannot use their legs or have difficulty carrying out routine tasks, such as money management or household chores.

      To get a getting understanding of how these difficulties can affect nutrition, University of Illinois researchers analyzed two sets of self reported food and supplement consumption data from 11,811 adults, more than 4,200 of whom met the guidelines of being disabled.

      The data came from the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

      "We conducted statistical analyses to compare people with and without disabilities in terms of nutrient intake," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An, who guided the study.

      He and his colleagues wrote up their findings in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

      Not even close

      "We found that American people consume much lower amounts of nutrients than are recommended," An said. "For example, only 11.3% of people meet the daily recommended intake of fiber. Only 4.7 percent of adults consume recommended amounts of potassium."

      Vitamins are another area of deficiency. Consumers don't get enough vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium and iron, An said. Making matters worse, they eat more saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than recommended.

      Consumers who are disabled tend to get even less nutrition. Disabled consumers were less likely to meet recommended dietary levels of saturated fat, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and potassium, the researchers report.

      "In general, people with disabilities are also disadvantaged nutritionally compared with people without disabilities, even though the bar is already so low," An said.

      Disabilities a big complication

      As it turns out, those with the most severe physical and mental disabilities were also the least likely to eat enough of the right food.

      "Physically, financially and mentally, they have different barriers to accessing healthy food," he said.

      If you think about it a trip to the grocery store can be a challenge for anyone who uses a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around. Some who are disabled cannot grasp small items, open cans or jars, or stand at a countertop to prepare foods.

      Supplements help

      Dietary supplement use moderately improved vitamin C, vitamin D and calcium intakes. But that usually required the intervention of a health care provider to suggest it. The findings may shift the focus of how best to improve the overall health of disabled consumers.

      "Policymakers and activists for the disabled traditionally have focused primarily on improving transportation options and the physical accessibility of buildings, roads, paths and parking lots," An said. "Now it's time for them to turn their attention to the nutritional challenges that confront people with disabilities."

      Even consumers who are not disabled might be surprised at how little of the daily recommended nutrients they consume. To help you determine that number, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has produced this online calculator.

      People need a certain amount of calories each day to survive. But they need to be the right kind of calories and many U.S. adults apparently aren't getting...
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      Your kid's best holiday could be your dog's worst

      Halloween can be a dangerous, nerve-wracking time for pets

      Make sure your dog is safe this Halloween. There are many elements that can actually spook you and your dog if you don't watch out.

      Candy is the biggest problem. Grab a handful for yourself then put the rest where your dog or cat can't reach for a treat on his own. Hershey's kisses are not good for your pets -- any chocolate is downright dangerous. Chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs, can trigger vomiting, diarrhea and — if eaten in larger amounts — seizures and even death.

      Its not just what's on the inside of that candy, the outside can be a real problem too. A dog's nose works pretty well and just the smell of candy can get them going, but ingestion of foil and cellophane wrappers can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction requiring surgery. It’s very important to stress to your kids to keep all candy wrappers out of the reach of pets.

      Sugar-free candy doesn't mean worry-free, it means you could have some serious problems. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that's in sugar-free candy, gum, mints, and baked goods. A small amount of xylitol can cause a rapid and dangerous blood sugar drop in dogs, as well as acute liver failure. Xylitol's effect on cats is not known but why risk it?

      You might think raisins are healthy. Well, they are healthy for humans but not a good choice for pets. They are toxic to dogs and cats and can potentially cause kidney failure in very small amounts. Chocolate-covered raisins pose an even bigger risk.

      Freaked-out dog

      Costume selection for people could freak out your dog. We know zombies aren't real right? Maybe they aren't but even Minnie Mouse can spook a dog and cause them to bark and then bolt, turning a night of trick or treating into tricking.

      Make sure your pet has an ID tag and is wearing it.

      Your dog's costume should fit well. Don't let them chew a part of it off or smother themselves.

      You really don't want your dog to glow in the dark. The glow sticks that kids use so they are visible can disappear inside a dog as soon as they bite into it. They usually are non-toxic but ASPCA Poison Control commonly gets calls about pets puncturing the sticks. They taste really nasty; you can give your dog a treat or a sip of milk to stop the taste reaction.

      You know how your dog goes crazy when the doorbell rings when UPS drops off a package. Well, multiply that by 50 times and you have a really stressed-out dog. Keep your dog away from the door in a separate bedroom so the doorbell doesn't create a ton of anxiety.

      Just keep a close watch on your pet and have a safe and Happy Halloween.

      Make sure your dog is safe this Halloween. There are many elements that can actually spook you and your dog if you don't watch out....
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      Do you know what payments impact your credit score?

      Survey finds a lot of confusion

      You probably have heard that being late in paying your bills can whittle away at your credit score. But which bills have the most impact?

      When credit bureau TransUnion conducted a survey of consumers asking that very question, it found a lot of confusion. The fact is that not all of your monthly payments are routinely reported to credit agencies. But some are.

      Nearly half of consumers who rent their homes mistakenly believe rental payments are automatically reported to credit bureaus and therefore affect their credit scores.

      "Most consumers report paying rent on-time, but many don't realize that until now these payments are not boosting their credit histories," said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of TransUnion.

      Rental payments are starting to count

      But that appears to be changing. Chaplin says more property managers are starting to report payments to credit bureaus and renters should be consistently monitoring what is being registered on their individual report.

      More than 50% of consumers in the survey mistakenly believe payments for cable and Internet fees, utility bills and cell phone bills are regularly reported to credit bureaus. They aren't, unless of course you fall so far behind that it gets turned over to collections.

      Paying your mortgage on time is regularly reported to credit agencies but fewer than 29% of consumers knew that.

      The trend of property managers reporting rental payments to credit agencies is one TransUnion says will benefit renters in the long run. That's because, to build up a credit rating you need credit.

      If rent is counted as reportable credit, then renters have the same opportunity to build their credit score as homeowners who pay a mortgage.

      "Expanding the share of property managers who report rental payments will produce more accurate information that truly reflects how consistently consumers meet their financial obligations," said Chaplin. "It will benefit renters who want to help their credit scores and landlords who want to attract renters who pay rent on-time."

      Renters appear to welcome the monitoring. More than half of renters in the survey said they would be more likely to choose a property to rent if they knew their landlord would report their rental payments to credit bureaus.

      Check your credit report

      There are other ways consumers can improve their credit scores. It starts with checking your credit report once a year, using www.annualcreditreport.com. Your credit report contains the data used to calculate your score and it may contain errors. Additionally consumers can hire a credit repair company - these companies provide consumers legal services to address credit report issues.

      It's important to check to make sure that there are no late payments incorrectly listed for any of your accounts and that the amounts owed for each of your open accounts is accurate. If you find errors on any of your reports, dispute them with the credit bureau and reporting agency.

      Be on time

      The best way to improve you credit score is to pay all your bills on time, whether they are reported to credit agencies or not. Take advantage of your bank's payment reminders. They can send you a reminder by text or email when a payment is due.

      You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account. However, this tool usually makes only the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.

      If you are having trouble paying bills contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor.

      This won't rebuild your credit score over night but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score should increase over time. Seeking assistance from a credit counseling service will not hurt your FICO score.

      You probably have heard that being late in paying your bills can whittle away at your credit score. But which bills have the most impact?...
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      Time change ritual may be dangerous to diabetics

      It's crucial to be sure insulin pumps are properly adjusted

      The daylight time ritual is coming around again, when most of us will get an extra hour of sleep before getting up Sunday morning. But for some of us, there's more than sleep at stake in the switch back to standard time.

      Diabetics who use insulin pumps should be sure to remember to change the timer on their pump, according to Saleh Aldasouqi, associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University.

      “Some diabetes patients who use insulin pumps may forget to change the clock that is found in these devices,” said diabetes expert Aldasouqi. “Forgetting to change the time can result in insulin dosing errors that can be harmful.”

      Dosing errors could cause too little or too much insulin being delivered at the right time for these patients.

      Too much insulin produces hypoglycemia, which could be severe and trigger seizures, fainting spells or coma. Hyperglycemia is a result of too little insulin being delivered and in the short term isn’t as harmful as hypoglycemia. Early effects of hyperglycemia may include tiredness and frequent urination, yet longer-term effects could cause the body to become acidic, known as diabetic ketoacidosis, and could also produce life-threatening complications.

      Aldasouqi said he’s had a number of patients come into his office who have forgotten to make the time change or in other cases, haven’t adjusted the clock after changing the pump battery. He’s also come across additional issues in his research such as health providers finding incorrect a.m. and p.m. settings.

      “At this point, I haven’t seen a fatal error occur, but why wait?” he said. “That’s why it’s important to raise awareness about this issue now and encourage physicians and patients alike to make sure these clocks are set up correctly at all times.”

      Old technology

      Currently, insulin pump technology lags behind and doesn’t have clocks that automatically adjust. GPS technology could be used to help solve this problem, but is considered controversial due to privacy concerns.

      For now, Aldasouqi said the responsibility is on the patient and also on the medical community to educate patients and make sure pumps are set correctly.

      “The implications of remembering to change the clock in these devices means so much more than just remembering to adjust the alarm clock for that extra hour of sleep,” he said. “As a physician, I’m going to do what I can to make sure patients are safe.”

      His article can be found in the November issue of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

      The daylight time ritual is coming around again, when most of us will get an extra hour of sleep before getting up Sunday morning. But for some of us, ther...
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      Home Depot security breach cost credit unions at least $60 million

      Re-issuing a single stolen card number costs over $8

      It's been less than two months since Home Depot first admitted (on Sept. 2) that it was “looking into some unusual activity” which everyone now knows was the largest retailer data theft to date, with at least 56 million debit and credit card numbers stolen. Home Depot formally admitted the breach on Sept. 18.

      At the time, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) urged its member credit unions to take part in a survey assessing the damages caused by the breach, including:

      • Number of debit and credit cards affected;
      • Costs incurred for card reissuance;
      • Costs related to additional staffing, member notification, account monitoring, etc.;
      • Changes in call volume;
      • Changes in staffing; and
      • Any specifically identifiable fraud-related losses.

      By the end of September, two credit unions in Pennsylvania and New York had already filed federal lawsuits against Home Depot, seeking class action status on behalf of all financial institutions similarly affected by the breach.

      And the financial fallout continues to be felt. Today CUNA released the results of its member survey and announced that Home Depot's security breach has cost U.S. credit unions nearly $60 million so far.

      Still costs money

      From the perspective of credit unions and other card issuers, one major problem with stolen credit card and similar account numbers is that even in a best-case scenario, where the theft is discovered and cards cancelled before the thief can make any fraudulent purchases with them, it still costs money just to issue new cards and set up new accounts. And of course, the Home Depot security breach was far from a best-case scenario for the credit unions and banks.

      CUNA said that, according to a survey of member credit unions, 7.2 million of their debit and credit cards were affected, and had to be re-issued. The average cost per card was $8.02, which includes re-issuing the card itself, paying for fraudulent charges, and paying additional staff costs for account monitoring, member notification and similar costs.

      CUNA economist Bill Hampel said that fraud accounted for 60% of the total cost, averaging $4.89 per card. But that means that even had this been a best-case security breach, with all 7.2 million of those cards cancelled before being put to any fraudulent use, it still would've cost roughly $3.13 to re-issue each card, and pay staff to notify members and monitor accounts to ensure no fraudulent activity; the best-case scenario still would've cost credit unions over $22.5 million.

      Who pays?

      How much of that cost is likely to be borne by Home Depot? Despite the pending lawsuits, chances are the credit unions and their members will be stuck with the bulk of it.

      CUNA president and CEO Jim Nussle said “The cost to credit unions of data breaches — which seem to be occurring with increasing regularity — is rising, as the CUNA surveys clearly demonstrate …. The bottom line is that credit union members end up paying the costs — despite the fact that the credit unions they own had nothing to do with causing the breach in the first place.”

      It's been less than two months since Home Depot first admitted (on Sept. 2) that it was “looking into some unusual activity” which everyone now knows was t...
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      Staying safe on the road this Halloween

      Here are some tips to keep drivers and pedestrians alike out of harm's way

      With the arrival of Halloween and the end of Daylight Saving Time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reminding everyone to drive safely, keep an eye out for trick-or-treaters, and never drink and drive if you’ve celebrated with alcohol.

      As the clocks turn back on November 2, drivers and pedestrians need to be aware of the safety challenges that occur during the shorter days of fall and winter.

      A dangerous combination

      Drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween night has historically been a dangerous combination. On Halloween night in 2012, 54 people died, and nearly half of those deaths (26) involved a crash with a drunk driver, as opposed to one-third on an average day.

      More than one-quarter (28%) of Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, versus 14% on an average day. From 2008-2012, 21% of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver.

      Generally, evening hours are the deadliest time on the road, so drivers and pedestrians should be on guard with the end of Daylight Saving Time. In 2012, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes. Most of these pedestrian deaths occur in urban environments, and the majority of pedestrian fatalities occur when it is dark, with 24 percent occurring from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and 32 percent occurring from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

      Halloween safety tips

      For motorists

      • Use caution while behind the wheel.
      • Slow down and be alert in residential areas.
      • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
      • Eliminate distractions so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
      • Drive sober or get pulled over.
      • Always designate a sober driver and plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night if you plan on celebrating Halloween with alcohol.
      • Use your community’s sober ride program or take a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
      • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
      • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.

      For pedestrians

      • Walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
      • Help keep kids safe.
      • Children out at night and under the age of 12 should have adult supervision.
      • Kids should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
      • Choose face paint when possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
      • Decorate costumes with reflective tape and have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights.
      • Always cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks, and look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.

      Time-change safety tips

      For motorists

      • Slow down. During the evening hours, you need more time to see a pedestrian in your path.
      • Keep in mind that pedestrians who are wearing headphones, hats or earmuffs may not hear your vehicle as it approaches.
      • Keep your windshield, windows, and mirrors clean. Make sure your defrosters and windshield wipers are working properly and that washer fluid is replaced as needed.

      For pedestrians

      • Carry a flashlight or attach reflective materials -- such as fluorescent tape -- to clothing, backpacks, purses and briefcases.
      • Don't depend on the traffic signal to protect you. Motorists may be distracted, especially when adjusting to the nighttime travel environment.
      • Use crosswalks. Avoid jaywalking and crossing between parked vehicles.
      • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If you must walk on the street, face traffic.
      • When crossing the street, look left-right-left for cars from the curb.
      • Do not cross the street if a car is coming and use a crosswalk if available.
      • Watch out for cars at every driveway and intersection.
      • Pay attention to what is happening on the road and avoid distractions.
      With the arrival of Halloween and the end of Daylight Saving Time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reminding everyone to driv...
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      Who needs towels? Body dryer offers hands-free drying

      The inventors are still raising money to get into production so it may be awhile

      Nothing feels better on a warm summer day then a nice breeze against your neck and the wind gently blowing through your hair. How would you like to have that same effect when you step out of the shower?

      Enter the body dryer.

      It's a full-blown dryer that dries off your whole body. No towel is needed. In fact thats the point. It's a larger version of the hand dryers you see in the airport bathrooms. The body dryer is designed out of a need to “replace bacteria filled and environmentally harmful bathroom towels,” said designer Tyler Overk.

      It just might feel good as well! It was designed in the U.S. and as long as you are 325 pounds or less you should be able to get blown away! You can monitor your weight with the built-in scale. It only takes 30 seconds and you will be drip dry via compressed, ionized air.

      Personalized breeze

      How do you like your air? Full force or just a light breeze? You can adjust the way the air stream is delivered through different shaped nozzles on the footplate that develop a cylindrical tunnel of air around your damp little body. Sounds like fun doesn't it? Might be something to do as a couple. Who knows?

      It's not in stores yet. The team has been raising money through Crowdfunding.com and Indiegogo. If it makes it into stores it should sell for around $250.00.

      The body dryer should be great for company as well, there is no washing all of those dirty towels. Think about it -- kids will no longer leave towels on the floor. This thing could make your life a breeze!

      Nothing feels better on a warm summer day then a nice breeze against your neck and the wind gently blowing through your hair. How would you like to have th...
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      Economic growth continues through the summer

      However, the rate is a bit slower than in the spring

      The nation's economy continued to chug along during the third quarter, although not as robustly at it did in the spring.

      The "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows real gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the production of goods and services in the U.S., adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 3.5% in July, August and September. Real GDP surged 4.6% in the second quarter.

      Keep in mind that this advance estimate is based on data that are incomplete or subject to further revision. The "second" estimate -- based on more complete data -- will be released in a month.

      Consumers lend a hand

      The third-quarter increase reflects positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, nonresidential fixed investment, federal government spending, and state and local government spending. These were partly offset by a drop in private inventory investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

      The deceleration in the percent change in real GDP reflected a downturn in private inventory investment and decelerations in PCE, in nonresidential fixed investment, in exports, in state and local government spending, and in residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a downturn in imports and an upturn in federal government spending.

      GDP inflation

      The price index for gross domestic purchases -- which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, rose 1.3% in the third quarter, following a 2.0% increase in the second three months of the year. The “core rate,” which excludes the volatile food and energy categories, increased 1.5%, versus a 1.7% advance in the second quarter.

      The full GDP report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Initial jobless claims

      From the Labor Department (DOL), word that first-time applications for state unemployment benefits rose by 3,000 in the week ending October 25, to a seasonally adjusted total of 287,000.

      It's now been several weeks that the claims level has been below 300,000, leading many economists to suggest that the economy is at, or near, full employment.

      The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile than the weekly report and considered a better gauge of the labor market, cam in at 281,000 -- down 250 from the previous week.

      The complete initial claims report may be found on the DOL website,

      The nation's economy continued to chug along during the third quarter, although not as robustly at it did in the spring. The "advance" estimate released b...
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