Current Events in October 2014

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    September brings more jobs, lower unemployment

    The jobless rate is the lowest in more than 6 years

    A surge in jobs in professional and business services, retail trade, and health care helped push total nonfarm payroll employment up by 248,000 in September.

    At the same time, figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate fell to 5.9% -- the lowest since July 2008.

    The 0.2% decline in the jobless rate came as the number of unemployed persons fell by 329,000 to 9.3 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 1.3% points and 1.9 million, respectively.

    The civilian labor force participation rate, at 62.7 percent, changed little in September. The employment-population ratio was 59.0% for the fourth consecutive month.

    Who’s working and who’s not

    Among the major worker groups, unemployment rates declined in September for adult men (5.3%), whites (5.1%), Hispanics (6.9%) and Asians (4.3%). The rates for adult women (5.5%), teenagers (20.0%), and blacks (11.0%) showed little change over the month.

    Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs decreased by 306,000 in September --  to 4.5 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 3.0 million in September. These individuals accounted for 31.9% of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed is down by 1.2 million.

    Where the jobs are

    Professional and business services added 81,000 jobs in September, followed by employment services (+34,000), management and technical consulting services (+12,000), and architectural and engineering services (+6,000). Employment in legal services declined by 5,000 over the month.

    Employment in retail trade rose by 35,000 in September, with food and beverage stores adding 20,000 jobs. Employment in retail trade has increased by 264,000 over the past 12 months.

    Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade,transportation and warehousing, and government, showed little change over the month.

    The complete report is available on the Labor Department website.

    A surge in jobs in professional and business services, retail trade, and health care helped push total nonfarm payroll employment up by 248,000 in Septemb...

    Chrysler recalls SRT Vipers

    The frontal air bags may deploy with a lower velocity than designed for the actual seat position

    Chrysler Group is recalling 1,624 model year 2013-2014 SRT Viper vehicles manufactured November 28, 2012, to June 26, 2014.

    Due to inaccurate seat position sensors, the frontal air bags may deploy with a lower velocity than designed for the actual seat position. In the event of a vehicle crash necessitating air bag deployment, an air bag that deploys at a lower velocity than designed may increase the risk of personal injury.

    Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will install a metal shim on the detection plate to correct the seat position sensor accuracy, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 24, 2014.

    Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403.Chrysler's number for this recall is P52.

    Chrysler Group is recalling 1,624 model year 2013-2014 SRT Viper vehicles manufactured November 28, 2012, to June 26, 2014. Due to inaccurate seat positio...

    Chevrolet Spark vehicles recalled

    The secondary hood latch may not engage properly

    General Motors is recalling 89,294 model year 2013-2015 Chevrolet Spark vehicles manufactured January 17, 2012, to July 29, 2014.

    The secondary hood latch may prematurely corrode at the latch pivot causing the striker to get stuck out of position, preventing it from properly engaging the hood latch. If the primary hood latch is not engaged, the hood could unexpectedly open while driving, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

    GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the striker and latch with a new part with superior corrosion protection, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

    Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 14456.

    General Motors is recalling 89,294 model year 2013-2015 Chevrolet Spark vehicles manufactured January 17, 2012, to July 29, 2014. The secondary hood latch...

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      Complex therapy reverses Alzheimer's memory loss

      Treatment relies on a combination of therapies, not a single drug


      A small study of early Alzheimer's disease patients has produced stunning results. Researchers say a novel and complex treatment has restored memory function in 9 of the 10 participants.

      The study, conducted jointly by the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, is the first to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and that improvement can be lasting.

      The treatment consists of a 36-point therapeutic program involving comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific drugs and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.

      Caveat

      While this is very hopeful news, it comes with a rather large caveat. Dale Bredesen, author of the study, notes the very small size of the sample makes the results anecdotal. Still, it's impressive.

      To prove whether or not researchers have finally unlocked the secret to turning back Alzheimer's, Bredesen says the treatment should be subjected to a large clinical trial. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, Bredesen says there is not one drug that has been developed that stops or even slows the disease’s progression, and drugs have only had modest effects on symptoms.

      “In the past decade alone, hundreds of clinical trials have been conducted for Alzheimer’s at an aggregate cost of over $1 billion, without success,” he said.

      Combination of treatments

      While a combination of therapies has been used to control major chronic illnesses like cancer, the combination approach has never been applied to Alzheimer's. Bredesen says a broader-based therapeutics approach, rather than a single drug that aims at a single target, may be feasible and potentially more effective for the treatment of the disease that eventually robs victims of their memory.

      Though too small to be considered scientific proof, the UCLA-Buck Institute study achieved remarkable results. One patient had two years of progressive memory loss and was considering quitting her job, which involved analyzing data and writing reports. She got disoriented driving, and mixed up the names of her pets.

      A second patient kept forgetting once-familiar faces at work, forgot his gym locker combination, and had to have his assistants constantly remind him of his work schedule.

      A third patient's memory was so bad she used an iPad to record everything, then forgot her password. Her children noticed she commonly lost her train of thought in mid-sentence, and often asked them if they had carried out the tasks that she mistakenly thought she had asked them to do.

      Improved memory function

      Following the complex therapy, all 3 patients displayed improvement in their memories beginning within 3 to 6 months after the program’s start. Six patients who had to stop working or were struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance.

      The only patient in the study who did not show improvement turned out to be in late stage Alzheimer's disease, suggesting the therapy is most effective for those whose cognitive impairment is diagnosed early.

      A small study of early Alzheimer's disease patients has produced stunning results. Researchers say a novel and complex treatment has restored memory functi...

      Wireless carriers offer double the data as battle for customers heats up

      In a saturated market, the only way to grow is to swipe your competitors' customers

      If it seems to you that wireless prices are gyrating even more wildly than gas prices, you may be right. Since just about everyone in the U.S. now has a smartphone, carriers are having a hard time figuring out to grow, and growth is the name of the game in any business.

      Consumers rate Verizon Wireless

      AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon already offer unlimited calling -- not that anyone makes phone calls anymore -- and now they're doubling the amount of data they're offering, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to keep their customers from clogging up their networks by using all that data they're paying for.

      If this sounds contradictory, it's because it is. It can also be embarrassing. Take Verizon Wireless. It has been complaining lately that customers with "unlimited" data plans (offered in 2012 but no longer being sold to new customers) were using too much data, so it announced plans to start throttling data speeds for users who actually dared to use a lot of the "unlimited" data they're paying for.

      Meanwhile, Sprint and AT&T were launching new promotions offering to double the amount of data on some of their most popular plans and T-Mobile, which apparently sees itself as the Southwest Airlines of the wireless business, has been practically giving away the store.

      Here are a few of the rates for individual plans we found today. As always, the various plans are incredibly confusing and require your undivided attention. 

      CarrierDataPrice
      AT&T2 GB$65
      SprintUnlimited$60
      T-Mobile3 GB$60
      Verizon3 GB$60

      On second thought ...

      Consumers rate AT&T Wireless

      Since this is the day that Verizon had said it would begin throttling data-hungry customers, it was turning into something of a public relations nightmare to have all those other companies offering more data for the same price.

      So, hat in hand, the company now says it has thought better of its plan, which it couched under the slightly better-sounding moniker "network optimization."

      This is basically what a nightclub bouncer does -- throw out customers who overimbibe under the guise of "ambiance optimization." Anyway, whatever you want to call it, Verizon now says it won't do it. At least not now.

      “We’ve greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we’ve decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans,” said Verizon, tacitly admitting it had caught hell for even thinking of such a thing.

      Not only did Verizon take a beating in the press and from its customers, it caught the attention of Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communications Chairman, who pronounced himself "deeply troubled" by the plan.

      Who can you trust?

      But despite Verizon's backing down, the whole affair may cause consumers to be a little skeptical of the latest load o'data plans. After all, what's to stop one or more of the carriers to launch their own "network optimization" campaign a year or two from now when it decides it wasn't such a good idea to sell so much data capacity so cheaply?

      The wireless companies, after all, must answer to their shareholders, who tend to take a dim view of giving away even one little gigabite more than necessary. 

      You don't have to read between the lines to see how financiers feel about it. The Wall Street Journal today says the doubled data promotion "has little cost in the near term but ... could be trading away future revenue growth."

      Our advice: find the best deal you can but don't count on it being there forever.

      If it seems to you that wireless prices are gyrating even more wildly than gas prices, you just may be right. Since just about everyone in the U.S. now has...

      Is the Internet broken?

      Maybe “Internet security” is bad because it was never intended to exist

      You can't go a week anymore without hearing news of yet another massive computer-security breach.

      Sometimes it's a business-specific hacking: “Everyone's at risk who used a credit or debit card to make payment at a given restaurant, retailer or service provider in the past year or so.”

      Sometimes it's a bank-specific hacking: “All clients of this particular financial institution are at risk.”

      Then there's the healthcare hackings: “Beware if you sought treatment from any hospital, physician or medical center in this network.”

      And the government hackings: “This state's licensed drivers are at risk after hackers broke into the DMV database.” “That state's income taxpayers are at risk.”

      Car insurance or security companies have started putting out lists of which makes and models of automobiles are at the greatest risk of hackers hijacking their vital control systems. And as people equip their homes with Internet-connected “smart” devices, they risk hackers taking control of everything from their baby monitors to their HVAC systems.

      Global risks

      In addition to these relatively “localized” computer-security problems, there's also the occasional gigantic security flaws affecting the entire Internet: the “Heartbleed” open-source security flaw discovered last April put almost every password-protected online account at risk. The current “Shellshock” flaw discovered last week in software widely used in UNIX, Linux and Mac OS X systems can apparently let hackers take control of any computer that visits a compromised website.

      Of course, there are certainly ways you can reduce your vulnerability to some online security flaws – I for one pay with cash in lieu of credit card anytime I can (though as a practical matter, credit cards are mandatory if you want to go on vacation: renting a hotel room or a car is impossible without one). This cash-only policy is partly to avoid the temptation of spending/charging more than I should, but mainly so I needn't bother getting a new credit card every week after my last one got compromised in the database hacking du jour.

      But unless you completely drop out of modern mainstream society, staying out of all hackable databases simply isn't possible: if you hold a job, pay taxes, have a driver's license or visit a doctor, your personal information is at risk.

      Can't patch the holes?

      And if you're old enough to have adult, or at least teenage, memories of life before the Internet, you might occasionally grow frustrated enough to wonder: how did we reach the point where pretty much our entire system of business, finance and government is reliant on this constantly insecure network? Can't we patch these security holes, and fix the Internet?

      Jose Pagliary, writing about “the cybercrime economy” for CNN, suggests the answer to that last question is “no.” Or maybe it's even the wrong question: these massive security flaws aren't a sign that the Internet is broken, so much as an indication the Internet is being used for purposes it was never intended to serve. As Pagliary said (bold print from the original):

      The Internet was never meant for this. We use the Internet for banking, business, education and national defense. These things require privacy and the assurance that you are actually who you say you are.

      The Internet, as it was designed, offers neither. When the Worldwide Web was built 25 years ago, it existed as a channel for physicists to pass research back and forth. It was a small, closed community. The scientists at Stanford trusted the researchers at the University of California - Los Angeles.

      In other words: the whole point of the Internet was originally about making it easier to share information – remember the “information superhighway?” – whereas for modern “online security” concerns, the point is to prevent unauthorized sharing (read: “theft”) of information.

      You can make it easier to share something, or you can make that something harder to steal – but try accomplishing both tasks at once, with the same tool, and you've got a problem. And that, in a nutshell, is what's wrong with “Internet security.”

      Pagliary notes:

      In 2014, it's still standard to send Internet communication in plain text. Anyone could tap into a connection and observe what you're saying. Engineers developed HTTPS nearly 20 years ago to protect conversations by encrypting them -- but major email providers and social media sites are only now enabling this. And sites like Instagram and Reddit still don't use it by default.

      Not everyone favors privacy

      One problem Pagliary does not mention: in a post-Edward Snowden world, where it's common knowledge that the NSA engages in warrantless monitoring of pretty much all American electronic communications, some members of the American government actively oppose certain forms of Internet security.

      When Apple bragged last month about the secure encryption it uses on it iPhone 6, for example, FBI director James Comey said he was “very concerned” about what he considers “companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”

      Yet even assuming encrypted communications win out over law enforcement's desire to read communications at will, that alone wouldn't be enough to make the Internet “secure,” thanks to problems not just in the software itself, but in the very culture that creates it.

      Pagliary said “software is a hodgepodge of flawed Lego blocks. The big, ugly secret in the world of computer science is that developers don't check their apps closely enough for bugs. ”

      Even professional developers – those getting paid for their efforts – don't have time to properly vet their software, in the fast-paced world of computer and Internet technology where anything more than a few years old is most likely obsolete. Pagliary notes that the problem's even worse with open-source software (like Linux) made and maintained mostly by unpaid volunteers:

      Sometimes, that flawed code becomes widespread. Most of the world relies on open-source software that's built to be shared and maintained by volunteers and used by everyone -- startups, banks, even governments.

      There's an illusion of safety. The thinking goes: So many engineers see the code, they're bound to find bugs. Therefore, open-source software is safe, even if no one is directly responsible for reviewing it.

      Nope. Last week's shellshock bug is the perfect example of that flawed thinking. Bash, a program so popular it's been placed on millions of machines worldwide, was found to have a fatal flaw that's more than 20 years old.

      So what do we do? We live in a modern society where our allegedly confidential and secure data is stored in and shared by an inherently insecure system – yet abandoning the Internet clearly isn't a feasible option (and few would want to try it, anyway). How do we leave the corner we've painted ourselves into?

      Maybe we can't. Pagliary ended his piece with a quote by Scott Hanselman, a programmer and former college professor living in Oregon, who made this analogy: “It's not Toyota having a recall. It's like tires as a concept have been recalled and someone says, 'Holy crap, tires?! We've been using tires for years!' It's that level of bad.”

      You can't go a week anymore without hearing news of yet another massive computer-security breach....

      When you should call 9-1-1

      Surprisingly, a lot of heart attack victims get to the ER on their own

      There are news stories from time to time about people who call 9-1-1 when they shouldn't. The most famous, perhaps, is the woman who called the emergency number because she went to a McDonald's and they were out of chicken nuggets.

      There have been other cases where emergency help was summoned because someone felt they were shortchanged on a marijuana purchase or the strip club patron who called to report a stripper refused to have sex with him.

      Ninety-nine percent of the population knows these are definitely not reasons to call 9-1-1, but it turns out a lot of people who could legitimately summon emergency help, don't.

      Sometimes they don't think it's a real emergency. Sometimes they think they will be better off handling it themselves.

      When you should summon help

      While 9-1-1 should be called only in a true emergency, Harris County, Tex., emergency services says you should call for help in any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police or sheriff, the fire department or an ambulance.

      When in doubt, you are better off calling – especially in situations that can be a health threat.

      It's better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 dispatcher determine if your situation requires emergency assistance. These situations include, but aren't limited to:

      • Heart attack or stroke
      • House fire
      • Domestic violence
      • Burglary or theft in progress
      • Car accident
      • Suspicious activities

      Heart attacks

      MedStar, which provides health care services in a number of U.S. markets, says it is especially important to call 9-1-1 if you think someone might be suffering a heart attack.

      “We want people to trust their care to medical professionals and call for help at the first warning signs of a heart attack,” said Lowell F. Satler, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “Our message is simple. Don’t call a relative or friend or drive yourself or others to the hospital. Calling 9-1-1 first can be the difference between life and death.”

      MedStar commissioned a survey that found 75% of the heart attack patients in the study either drove themselves or were driven by someone else to the hospital. A few actually used public transportation.

      The study found that while a patient who was driven to the ER by a family member of friend might arrive quickly, that didn't necessarily translate into speedier treatment.

      Driving yourself is the worst option. You could lose consciousness en route and be involved in an accident. And there's the little matter of finding a parking place and walking into the E.R. once you get there.

      Door-to-balloon time

      It found the “door-to-balloon” (DTB) time, or the time between when a patient arrives in the ER and when a balloon angioplasty procedure restores blood flow, was significantly shorter for patients transported in an ambulance.

      Eighty-three percent of heart attack patients who used emergency medical services (EMS) reached the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory in fewer than 90 minutes – the gold standard – compared to 54% of self-transported patients. The median DTB time was 20 minutes shorter when patients arrived by EMS than when they were self-transported: 65 minutes versus 85.

      “Every second wasted is heart tissue lost.” Satler said. “The faster blood flow is restored to the heart, the greater chances of survival and recovery.”

      There are news stories from time to time about people who call 9-1-1 when they shouldn't. The most famous, perhaps, is the woman who called the emergency n...

      Buying a used iGadget? Here's how to make sure it's not stolen

      Apple unveils free new Cloud-based security tool

      The good news is: Apple has unveiled a free new service that will hopefully cut down on the theft of iGadgets (more specifically, the resale of stolen iGadgets) by allowing potential buyers of used iPads, iPhones and iPods with touch screens to check whether the device was stolen from its rightful owner.

      The bad news is: apparently hackers have already developed a devious workaround for it.

      Here's how the Apple service works: recent generations of iGadgets come with what Apple calls an “Activation Lock” option, basically the Apple-specific name for a generic “kill switch.”

      A kill switch, in turn, is an anti-theft mechanism enabling you, the legitimate owner of a smartphone or other device, to remotely kill or deactivate it, if it gets lost or stolen. The hope, of course, is that thieves will stop stealing smartphones, tablets and other pricey electronics if they know those devices will be rendered useless and worthless.

      iThieves

      Apple's newly offered online anti-theft tool is on the iCloud website's “Activation Lock” page. Potential buyers of a used iThing can visit the page and type in the device's IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) or serial number, to check the device's activation lock status.

      If you don't know how to find the IMEI or serial number for a given device, Apple has an online list of model-specific instructions here.

      Unfortunately, as PCWorld noted, hackers almost immediately figured out a way to work around Apple's system by tricking locked devices into visiting an alternative iCloud server.

      The good news is: Apple has unveiled a free new service that will hopefully cut down on the theft of iGadgets (more specifically, the resale of stolen iGad...

      Should your cat floss?

      Regular brushing can freshen up your cat's breath and improve its oral health

      Let's face it -- there is nothing worse than fish breath and, well, your cat probably has it. 

      You can eliminate it -- or at least reduce it -- with regular brushing. If you take things slowly at the beginning and give lots of praise, you and your cat will start looking forward to your brushing sessions. Your cat will soon have a Cheshire grin.

      Here is how to do it.

      You have to get your cat used to having you put things in its mouth. You get to be the tuna in this one. Dip your finger in tuna or chicken broth or any other liquid your cat might like. Then do the "here kitty kitty" call or however you sound when you have a treat.

      Let your cat lick it off your finger, and oh, you might want to wear an apron or something in case it drips on you. It's probably not a good smell to be walking around with.

      Get some gauze you can put around your finger. Do the tuna dip again and gently rub it all over the cat's teeth. Do this with a circular motion. Keep a positive attitude with lots of praise and keep doing it until your little tiger is comfortable having it done. Then you can add the toothbrush or dental sponge. Let your cat lick the toothbrush so it gets used to the texture and it becomes fun.

      Not Crest

      Next we are going to add the toothpaste. It's not Crest so don't go rummaging through your house for an old tube. Pet toothpaste is made out of chicken or malt or some other flavor cats like. Again we have to repeat and rinse with putting a little on your finger so you cat gets used to the taste and texture.

      Once you can tell they like it, it's time to add the ingredients together. Lots of praise telling your cat how wonderful they are and how happy you are. keep it positive and start brushing a few at a time until you are able to do more. always end on a positive note.

      No need to floss -- all the yarn and hair balls get in the middle of the teeth so your brushing should be quite enough and your cat will look puuuurfect and have a healthy smile.

      Let's face it -- there is nothing worse than fish breath and, well, your cat probably has it. ...

      Mobile-home owners tend to have expensive loans

      Stronger consumer protections may be needed, report finds

      Manufactured homes -- commonly called "mobile homes" or "trailers" -- provide inexpensive housing to millions of Americans but a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finds that buyers often pay higher interest rates for their loans than borrowers whose homes were built onsite.

      The report also found that manufactured-home owners are more likely to be older, live in a rural area, or have lower net worth.

      “Manufactured housing is a critical source of affordable housing for some consumers, particularly those who are older, live in a rural area, or have less income and wealth,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “These consumers may be more financially vulnerable and benefit from strong consumer protections. The Bureau is committed to ensuring that consumers have access to responsible credit in the manufactured housing market.”

      One of the main differences between a manufactured home and a home built onsite is that manufactured homes may be titled as either real estate property or personal property. A home built onsite is almost always titled as real estate property.

      For a manufactured home to be titled as real estate property, the home generally must be set on a permanent foundation on land that is owned by the home’s owner. If a manufactured home is titled as personal property, it generally must be financed through a personal property loan, also known as a chattel loan.

      More lax

      In the 1990s credit standards and underwriting practices for manufactured-housing loans became more lax, and the market boomed with expensive loans. The market collapsed in the early 2000s, however, as consumers struggled to pay back their loans and the market significantly shrank.

      Currently, more than a decade after this collapse, production and sales remain at historically low levels and many mortgage lenders do not originate chattel loans. The national lending market for chattel loans is concentrated among five lenders.

      The report found that in 2012, about 68% of all manufactured-housing purchase loans were considered “higher-priced mortgage loans,” compared with only 3% of site-built home loans. 

      Even though many were paying higher rates, two out of three manufactured-home owners were eligible for mortgages because they own the land their home sites on. 

      Crucial factor

      Although they are relatively rare in major urban areas, manufactured homes are a common source of low-cost housing in rural areas. The report found that manufactured homes account for only about 6% of all occupied U.S. housing, but outside metropolitan areas, however, one out of every seven homes is a manufactured home. South Carolina has the highest prevalence of manufactured housing in the country, followed by New Mexico.

      Manufactured-home owners are more likely to be older. Nearly one out of five families that live in manufactured homes do not have children in the home and are headed by someone aged 55 or older — compared with less than 15% of families that live in site-built homes.

      Also, manufactured-home owners are more likely to have lower net worth. The 2004–2010 Surveys of Consumer Finances indicate that the median net worth among households that lived in manufactured housing was just about one-quarter the median net worth of families living in all other types of housing.

      Manufactured homes -- commonly called "mobile homes" or "trailers" -- provide inexpensive housing to millions of Americans but a report from the Consumer F...

      Taking time out on time outs

      They were popular in the 90s but child psychologists have cooled on them

      It was the rage in parenting in the 90's. The TV shows "Super Nanny" and "Nanny 911" used it all the time -- the  "Time Out" method of discipline.

      Time Out was created by by Arthur Staats in his extended work with his daughter (and later son), and was part of a long-term program of behavioral analysis beginning in 1958 that treated various aspects of child development.

      The purpose is to isolate or separate the child for a short period of time (usually 5 to 15 minutes) in order to allow the child to calm down, as well as to discourage inappropriate behavior. Time-outs can be on a chair, step, corner, bedroom, or any other location where there are no distractions. The child should be old enough to sit still and is required to remain there for a fixed period.

      It seemed to work for some kids and it also gave the parent a time out if the child was having a major fit and screaming or throwing things. It was a way for everyone to reflect and calm down.

      But times have changed and with that comes brand new discipline styles and ideas. Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D., author of "How Toddlers Thrive" says time-outs make no sense.

      They're not healthy for your child's emotional well-being now or later, and they're not effective in terms of curbing "bad" behavior, Klein argues. If you're constantly giving your child a time out, that tells you something, doesn't it?

      Two other child psychology experts, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., explain they're not big fans of the time out method. They believe when the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet.

      In fact, they say, brain imaging shows that the experience of relational pain — like that caused by rejection — looks very similar to the experience of physical pain in terms of brain activity.

      Dr. Peter Haiman of the Natural Child project feels time out can have a lasting effect emotionally on a child. He says that for the frustrated and uncomfortable child, time out offers enforced silence and the feeling of being rejected by one's parents.

      A youngster who misbehaves and then is given time-out feels hurt, Haiman says. This hurt, combined with the frustration that caused the youngster to misbehave, gives birth to anger. And discipline practices like time out, which create hurt and anger, can harm a child and create life-long emotional effects.

      It was the rage in parenting in the 90's. The TV shows "Super Nanny" and "Nanny 911" used it all the time -- the "Time Out" method of discipline....

      Job cuts down sharply in September

      This could be the lowest year for job cuts in more than a decade

      Planned job cuts announced by employers based in the U.S. plunged 24% in September to a 14-year low of 30,477.

      Figures released by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas suggest 2014 is on pace to be the lowest job-cut year since 1997.

      Last month’s job cuts were the fewest since June, 2000, when just 17,241 workers were let go. The September decline brings the 2014 monthly average down to 40,379. If this pace holds, the year could end with fewer than 500,000 job cuts for the first time since 1997 (434,350).

      So far this year, employers have announced 363,408 planned terminations -- 6.2% fewer than the 387,384 cuts announced through September, 2013. 

      “There have been a couple of bumps in the road for the economy lately, which caused consumer confidence to drop in its latest reading,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “However,” he added, “as this report shows, the recent hiccups have not resulted in widespread layoffs. Job security is being helped by the fact that corporate profits remain near record highs. So, we may see some ebb and flow in the rate of hiring, but employers, at this point, are reluctant to make any over-correction in workforce levels.”

      Casinos take a hit

      Job cuts in September were led by the entertainment industry, where the closing of casino resorts in Atlantic City resulted in more than 7,000 firings. Overall, employers in the entertainment and leisure industry announced 8,119 job cuts during the month -- the most since December, 2005.

      The computer sector continues to lead all industries in terms of year-to-date job cuts, despite the fact that just 74 were reported by these firms in September. Employers in the computer industry have announced 49,002 job cuts, so far this year -- nearly double the 27,892 computer-sector job cuts tallied in the first nine months of 2013.

      “The Atlantic City cuts are not as much an indication of the overall economy as they are an indication of trends re-shaping the casino industry,” Challenger pointed out. As states allow more cities to open gambling establishments, destinations like Atlantic City, start to lose their draw. Atlantic City has not been able to mimic Las Vegas, where a diversity of entertainment options beyond gambling attract tourists.”

      By the quarter

      Over the last few years -- since the end of the recession -- the fourth quarter has been among the lowest job-cut quarters.

      In four of the previous five years, the fourth quarter saw the fewest or second fewest job cuts of the year, according to Challenger data. In fact, from 2009 through 2013, the fourth quarter averaged 131,174 job cuts, making it the smallest job-cut quarter during that period.

      The fourth-quarter average was 18% lower than the next highest quarterly average during the five-year period: the second quarter, which averaged 160,721.

      “The first quarter is the most active period for job cutting. So, looking ahead to 2015, we are likely to see a first-quarter surge. However, unless there is a major shock to the economy between now and the end of the year, the first three months of the new year should remain relatively low by historical standards,” said Challenger.

      Initial claims

      Separately, first-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 during the week ending September 27 to a seasonally 287,000. At the same time, the government said the previous week’s total was revised upward by 2,000.

      Sterne Agee Chief Economist Lindsey M. Piegza said that despite week-to-week volatility, jobless claims have hovered around the 300,000 mark for most of the third quarter suggesting, “stabilization but also little improvement in terms of firing rates.”

      The definitive word on jobs is due tomorrow, when the September employment report is released.

      The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered a more accurate barometer of the labor market, was 294,750 -- a drop of 4,250 from the previous week'.

      The full report is available on the Labor Department website.

      Planned job cuts announced by employers based in the U.S. plunged 24% in September to a 14-year low of 30,477. Figures released by outplacement consultancy...

      Toyota recalls Tacoma Pre-Runner and 4x4 vehicles

      One of the leaf springs may fracture due to stress or corrosion

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 690,000 model year 2005-2011 Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner and 4x4 vehicles manufactured September 14, 2009, to October 11, 2010.

      One of the leaf springs in the recalled vehicles may fracture due to stress or corrosion. While being driven, the broken leaf could move out of position and contact surrounding components including the fuel tank, possibly puncturing the tank and causing a fuel leak, increasing the risk of fire.

      The remedy for this recall is still under development. The recall is expected to begin November 28, 2014.

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

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 690,000 model year 2005-2011 Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner and 4x4 vehicles manufactured September 14, 200...

      Trimfoot recalls children's soft-soled sneakers

      A small metal eyelet can detach from the inside of the sneaker

      Trimfoot Co. LLC., of Farmington, Mo., is recalling about 5,300 pair of children's soft-soled shoes.

      A small metal eyelet can detach from the inside of the sneaker, posing a choking hazard to infants.

      No incidents or injuries have been reported.

      The recall involves First Impressions high-top, soft-soled sneakers for infants that are crawling or standing. The recalled shoes have blue denim soles and uppers, brown canvas tongues, tan shoe laces and white polyurethane toes.

      Each upper has eight 3/16-inch eyelets for the laces. The shoes came in sizes 0, 1, 2 and 3. Style number 42090 is on a cloth tag inside of shoe.

      The sneakers, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Macy’s stores nationwide from February 2014, to August 2014, for about $17.

      Consumers should immediately take the recalled shoes away from children and return them to Macy's or contact Trimfoot for a full refund.

      Consumer may contact Trimfoot at (800) 325-6116 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

      Trimfoot Co. LLC., of Farmington, Mo., is recalling about 5,300 pair of children's soft-soled shoes. A small metal eyelet can detach from the inside of the...

      Feds update reverse mortgage guide

      Guide highlights important changes in the rules

      Since they were first allowed by the federal government, reverse mortgages have received mixed reviews. Some economists argue that, properly used, they can help aging seniors receive needed income to see them through the rest of their lives.

      Others have argued that reverse mortgages usually aren't properly used, and make life harder for the people these loans were designed to help.

      The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has described these loans as “complex products and difficult for consumers to understand.” To help consumers understand the in and outs of reverse mortgages, the agency has updated its guide to these financial products.

      Definition

      Put simply, a reverse mortgage is a type of home equity loan available to homeowners aged 62 years and older. What makes it special is it doesn't have to be repaid until the homeowner dies or heads off to a nursing home.

      The homeowner gets the equity out of their home now, to use as they see fit. The lender is paid off when the house is finally sold. It sounds simple enough, but isn't always that simple.

      Things to consider

      The CFPB's new guide calls attention to some key points that borrowers need to consider. The first is the requirement that the homeowner keep paying homeowners insurance and taxes, and keep up with general maintenance.

      Another point to consider is whether you plan to age in place – in your home – or go to a nursing home. Once you move out of the home the loan is due.

      What about other people who are living in the home? If a spouse, child or grandchild happens to be living with you and you die or go to a nursing home, they will likely have to find another place to live.

      Changes

      CFPB has updated its guide because there have been some important changes to these mortgage products.

      One change limits the amount of money you can draw from your loan in the first year. It's designed to prevent borrowers from getting into trouble by taking a lump-sum payment early in the loan. What can happen is the borrower outlives the money – which leads to financial trouble for borrowers who live longer lives.

      Borrowers can still take out lump-sum single payments but some risk remains. As an alternative CFPB suggests borrowers consider taking their equity in a monthly payment or line of credit. These options provide more long-term security than lump-sum payments.

      Protection for couples

      Another important change lessens the risk for couples who take out a reverse mortgage. Before, if a couple took a reverse mortgage in the name of just one spouse, the other was in trouble if that person died.

      When a borrower died, the “non-borrowing spouse” had to pay back the reverse mortgage or move out. This often came as a surprise at a very bad time.

      With changing rules, the non-borrowing spouse may now be able to continue to live in the home under certain conditions, even after the spouse who signed the loan dies. However, the non-borrowing spouse will stop receiving money from the reverse mortgage after his or her spouse dies.

      For that reason, CFPB strongly urges any couple seeking a reverse mortgage to take out the loan in both names. If both are on the mortgage the surviving spouse will be able to receive monthly payments and remain in the home.

      Even with the changes CFPB warns a reverse mortgage still isn't right for everyone. The costs are high, the agency says, and so is the risk.

      CFPB's new guide says a safer alternative may, in fact, be an old-fashioned traditional mortgage. If you have equity in your home but feel your payments are too high, consider refinancing at a lower rate.

      Read more about reverse mortgage lenders.

      Since they were first allowed by the federal government, reverse mortgages have received mixed reviews. Some economists argue that, properly used, they can...

      Microsoft previews Windows 10 to cautious reviews

      The Start menu is back and the tiles are animated

      What do you get when you add 7 and 8.1? Well, if you're Microsoft the answer is 10 -- Windows 10, that is.

      Microsoft has unveiled its next version of Windows and it looks remarkably like the widely reviled Windows 8 overlaid on a background of the rather popular Windows 7.

      The Start button is back. Not just the button but the whole Start menu, actually, over on the left side of the screen where everyone expects it to be. To the right are the tiles that puzzled so many early users of Windows 8.

      The tiles represent commonly-used programs and apps and can actually be live previews of whatever is going on in that app at the moment -- the latest stock prices, cute kitten movie or whatever.

      Most reviewers were cautious bordering on positive. "The latest version of Windows walks back some of the more jarring changes of Windows 8, including the return of the Start menu and improvements to how apps are displayed, while also adding multitasking enhancements that will appeal to those who use touchscreen devices as well as PCs," said Mashable's Karissa Bell.

      And even though it no longer has Steve Ballmer to wax ebullient, Microsoft was not unduly modest in its proclamations.

      "Whole new generation"

      “Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows, unlocking new experiences to give customers new ways to work, play and connect,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Operating Systems group at Microsoft. “This will be our most comprehensive operating system and the best release Microsoft has ever done for our business customers, and we look forward to working together with our broader Windows community to bring Windows 10 to life in the months ahead.” 

      Just which months will those be? No one is saying just yet but it's expected that a beta version will be available late this year or early next with the full commercial version hitting the streets sometime in 2015.

      One question asked but not answered is whether Microsoft will consider giving free updates to Windows 8 users. (It does promise upgrading to 10 will be easier and won't involve the dread wipe-and-reload scenario). After all, critics chirped, Apple doesn't charge for its updates.

      Microsoft might want to consider that. With many users still happily using the now-abandoned Windows XP and others refusing to forsake Windows 7, the company has a challenge getting in sync with its customers.

      The last thing it wants is for consumers to shrug and basically say, "Oh to hell with it, I'll just switch to Apple." Apple has been cleverly integrating functions among its phones, tablets, laptops and desktops, making it more and more attractive for customers to use the same system on all their devices.

      And that, of course, is what Windows is promising as well.  

      Windows everywhere

      "Windows 10 adapts to the devices customers are using — from Xbox to PCs and phones to tablets and tiny gadgets — and what they’re doing with a consistent, familiar and compatible experience, enabling even greater productivity. Windows 10 will run across the broadest range of devices ever from the Internet of Things to enterprise datacenters worldwide," the company said in a press release yesterday.

      Which brings us around to Microsoft's biggest advantage, which is also sometimes its Achilles heel -- namely, it builds software that will run on any machine built to the prevailing standard for generic PCs. Apple, as we know, bundles its software and hardware. This makes Apple devices simpler to buy (and build) but allows Apple to build quite a hefty premium into its sticker prices.

      Microsoft lets consumers choose their own hardware, with often disappointing results. Many complaints lobbed towards Redmond should actually be sent in the direction of Taiwan or China. The reverse is also true, of course.

      In its latest epistles, Microsoft has been sounding like Apple, promising that it has done the heavy lifting in the hardware and software integration department.

      "Windows 10 builds nearly everything that businesses need right into the core of the product — including enterprise-grade security, identity and information protection features — in ways that can reduce complexities and provide better experiences than other solutions," the company said.

      We'll see.

      What do you get when you add 7 and 8.1? Well, if you're Microsoft the answer is 10 -- Windows 10, that is. Microsoft has unveiled its next version of Wind...

      California outlaws “single-use” plastic shopping bags

      Proponents praise environmental benefits, critics lament environmental or monetary costs

      California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law the nation's first statewide ban on plastic single-use grocery bags.

      Under the measure, known as SB 270, shoppers will either have to bring their own reusable grocery bags, or pay 10 cents apiece for paper shopping bags. Stores that either use plastic shopping bags, or use paper bags but do not charge customers for them, would be fined up to $5,000. Unless the law is overturned, larger stores will be expected to comply starting in July 2015, and smaller businesses in 2016.

      The ban is hardly a new idea; over 100 localities within the state had already enacted similar ones on their own. However, the Sacramento Bee said that in San Francisco, the first city to have imposed such a ban, an unnamed spokesman said the city had not yet levied a single fine.

      Pro and con

      Supporters for the ban all cite various environmental concerns: plastic bags require petroleum to produce, and are destined to eventually turn into trash, so if customers brought their own reusable bags instead, both problems would be significantly reduced.

      Opponents of the bag ban cite a variety of different reasons, though. One critique is that the law will impose extra costs on people least able to afford it. State assemblyman Scott Wilk, who voted against SB 270, called it “another funding source for the grocery store industry. It’s just another way of taking a shot at the little guy.”

      The plastic bag ban, and mandatory fee for paper bags, basically only applies to food and consumable purchases: grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor and convenience stores all must obey the bag bans. The bans do not apply to non-food retailers; clothing and electronics stores can use plastic or freely give away paper bags.

      A cynic might even say, “The bag ban only covers necessities, like food and medicine, which poor people are as likely as rich people to buy.”

      (As a personal anecdote, I'll mention another way the bag ban might hurt poor and/or thrifty people: I'm a longtime follower of the common frugal-living tip “Re-use plastic shopping bags as garbage bags,” and if it became illegal for me to get plastic bags from stores for free, I'd spend money to buy plastic garbage bags from stores. My own household would still dispose of pretty much the same net amount of plastic, though.)

      Water usage

      Another critique of the plastic bag ban is that (especially in the case of contemporary California, currently undergoing the fourth year of the most severe drought in its history), it might simply replace one environmental problem with another: the problem of plastic trash replaced by the problem of increased water and energy use.

      The goal of the bans is to encourage consumers to rely on reusable rather than disposable shopping bags. But reusable bags, especially those used to carry food, need frequent washing to ensure they don't become microbial breeding grounds.

      People have already gotten sick from contaminated reusable shopping bags. In 2010, for example, a particularly nasty norovirus outbreak among a kids' soccer team and their adult chaperones in Oregon was eventually traced to a contaminated bag: everyone who caught the norovirus had eaten packaged cookies which had been carried in the infected bag.

      Presumably, the norovirus jumped from the bag to the outside of the cookie package, then rubbed off on the cookies themselves once the package was opened.

      Energy consumption

      The way to avoid bacterial or viral contamination is to treat reusable shopping bags the same way you treat underwear: use it (or wear it) once, then wash it in hot water, not just to clean it, but also to kill any microbes. Of course, this requires not just the water, but also the energy to heat it.

      Yet anything that increases California water consumption right now arguably works against the state's best interest. The Los Angeles Times reported on Sept. 25 that the drought has “14 communities [in the state] on the brink of waterlessness,” with some towns already reduced to trucking in water supplies because the regular public water supply has been depleted.

      Unless rains come to replenish the groundwater, some communities are predicted to run out of water within 60 days. Granted: should their taps go completely dry, insufficient water to launder their shopping bags will be low on their list of immediate worries.

      California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law the nation's first statewide ban on plastic single-use grocery bags....

      California toughens pet insurance rules

      Consumers get a 30-day "free look" period

      California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation adding new consumer protections to pet insurance, giving consumers a 30-day "free look" period, standardized definitions and tougher disclosure requirements.

      Under the new law, pet insurers will be required to disclose baseline information regarding their policies such as reimbursement benefits, pre-existing condition limitations, and a clear explanation of limitations of coverage including coinsurance, waiting periods, deductibles, and annual or lifetime policy limits.

      Consumers will also gain a 30-day “free look” period in which a pet insurance policy can be returned for a full refund.

      “California consumers will now have greater protection when they purchase pet insurance,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “In the state with the largest number of insured pets, once again California is leading the way by becoming the first state in the nation to enact a law that adds consumer protections to this rapidly growing line of insurance.”

      Jones said the new law directly addresses the majority of the complaints the department hears about pet insurance, and said consumers will now have a better understanding of what they’re getting for their money, including the vital parameters of what constitutes of pre-existing condition.

      Actors and Others for Animals, a leading supporter of the measure, said it seen an increase in applications from pet owners with pet insurance who need help paying for their sick or injured pets because they have found that the policy’s exclusions exceed the benefits.

      The new law will give consumers information that will help them better understand policy terms and allow them to select a product that fits their needs.

      Jones cited the case of pet owner Gary Lucks, who learned too late that he would be reimbursed only about one third of the cost of his dog Brodie’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

      Lucks had relied on marketing materials that advertised a 90 percent reimbursement rate, but in reality the company only covered 90 percent of the plan’s benefit schedule allowance. This bill will allow consumers like Lucks to make more informed decisions regarding pet insurance policies.

      Jones first introduced this pet insurance consumer protection bill in 2008 when he served in the State Assembly. He was successful in getting the bill to the Governor's desk, only to have it vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

      California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation adding new consumer protections to pet insurance, giving consumers a 30-day "free look" period, standard...