Current Events in December 2014

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    Kkot Saem Sprouts recalls soybean sprouts and mungbean sprouts

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Kkot Saem Sprouts of Spanaway, Wash., is recalling Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts sold under brand names Kkot Saem, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, and Winter Blossom.

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    There have been no illnesses or deaths reported to date.

    Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts were distributed at H-Mart in Washington and Oregon, and G-Mart in Oregon; the last date of distribution was on December 16, 2014.

    The mungbean sprouts product has a 5-day shelf life from the packing date and soybean sprouts product has a shelf life of up to 2 weeks from the packing date.

    RECALLED PRODUCTBrandNET WT.PACKAGE TYPEUPC
    Soybean SproutsWinter Blossom Bean Sprouts1.5 lbs.Plastic bag, multi-colored with orange stripe on top, lower middle portion and at bottom. Orange & black English and Korean letters on white background on front of bag.0 94922 55330 0
    Soybean Sproutsun-labeled5 lbs.Clear plastic bag with no labelNone
    Mungbean SproutsKkot Saem Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts0.8 lbClear plastic bag with blue letters on white background.  English and Korean letters on front of bag.1 80036 83737 2
    Mungbean SproutsKkot Saem2 lbs.Clear plastic bag with no label0 94922 55334 8
    Mungbean SproutsKkot Saem5 lbs.Clear plastic bag with no labelNone
    Mungbean SproutsWinter Blossom Bean Sprouts10 lbs.Orange and blue labeling in Korean and English on white background.0 94922 55331 7

    Consumers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase or discard them.

    Consumers with questions may call Kkot Saem Sprouts at 253-226-7569, Monday - Friday, 8 am - 5 pm PST.

    Kkot Saem Sprouts of Spanaway, Wash., is recalling Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts sold under brand names Kkot Saem, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, and ...

    Hyundai recalls 1.6 liter Sonatas

    The vehicles may have been assembled with an incorrect left axle shaft

    Hyundai Motor America is recalling 208 1.6 liter model year 2015 Sonata vehicles manufactured August 29, 2014, to October 28, 2014.

    The vehicles may have been assembled with an incorrect left axle shaft which may result in the shaft separating from the transaxle differential. If the left axle shaft separates from the transaxle, the vehicle may stop moving, increasing the risk of a crash.

    Additionally, a separated axle shaft may allow the vehicle to roll away as the driver and other occupants exit the vehicle or anytime thereafter. A vehicle rollaway increases the risk of injury to exiting occupants and bystanders.

    Hyundai will notify owners, dealers will inspect and replace the axle shaft, as necessary, free of charge.

    Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 126.

    Hyundai Motor America is recalling208 1.6 liter model year 2015 Sonata vehicles manufactured August 29, 2014, to October 28, 2014. The vehicles may have ...

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      Consumers cutting back on dessert purchases

      But researchers find nutritional content of these products hasn't changed much

      People tend to load up on empty calories at this time of year but perhaps this year we won't hit the cakes, pies, cookies and chocolate covered donuts quite as hard. At least, the recent trend suggests we won't.

      Researchers at the University of North Carolina monitored consumers' purchases of these products – known as ready-to-eat grain-based desserts (RTE GBDs). The study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

      They found that between 2005 and 2012 consumer purchases of RTE GBDs, which are high in calories and low in nutrition, fell by 24%. That's the good news.

      The bad news – at a time when the food industry has made some progress is producing healthier types of food, the improvements really haven't extended to RTE GBDs. These types of products contribute a significant amount of energy, sugar, and saturated fat to Americans’ diets, so making them healthier could be a way to reduce the number of empty calories in the American diet.

      Same nutritional content

      While Americans are buying fewer of these cookies and pastries, the products that are being sold and consumed still have much the same nutritional content they have always had.

      “The results of this study indicated that larger wide-scale efforts are needed among public health officials and all manufacturers of RTE GBDs to shift consumer purchases towards products with lower energy, sugar, and saturated fat content,” said the study's lead author, Dr. Kevin C. Mathias.

      When companies do make their dessert and pastry products healthier they don't usually make a big deal about it, not wanting to call attention to the nutritional makeup of the previous version. But Mathias says if consumers were informed about the changes, they might be willing to resume buying the products, leading to an increase in sales.

      Mathias says these potential issues highlight the need for continual monitoring of both the amount and nutritional content to ensure that efforts to improve consumer choices are effective.

      Challenge for manufacturers

      Manufacturers face many challenges when they set out to reformulate existing RTE GBDs to provide healthier food choices. They have to replicate the taste, appearance, and texture of the old products while keeping costs under control. That may be why the researchers say efforts so far haven't been all that impressive.

      “The results from this analysis show that the new RTE GBD products released in 2012 did not have lower energy, sugar, or saturated fat densities than the products already existing on the market,” Mathias said.

      On the public health sector side there is also room for improvement. Development of new front-of-package labeling systems that shift consumer purchases towards products with lower energy, sugar, and saturated fat content is another opportunity to help consumers improve their dietary intake.

      Since obese consumers likely get a lot of their empty calories from RTE GBDs, the Carolina researchers says improving the nutritional content of these products could pay off in healthier consumers.

      ”The results from the product and purchase level analyses highlight an opportunity for both food manufacturers and public health officials to work together to develop strategies to shift consumer purchases towards products with lower energy, sugar, and saturated fat densities in addition to decreasing overall purchases of RTE GBDs," Mathias said.

      People tend to load up on empty calories at this time of year but perhaps this year we won't hit the cakes, pies, cookies and chocolate covered donuts quit...

      Giving your dog a pill doesn't have to be an ordeal

      Camouflage can work but it's important not to be stressed out

      Giving your dog a pill, can actually be a pill for you. Dogs aren't any better than kids when it's time to take meds, but there are some ways to make giving a pill a little easier to swallow, both for you and your dog.

      Many times vets have the chewable meds as opposed to capsule form. They taste better and dogs think they are a treat. That would be the ideal situation for both of you. You can also ask your vet if there is an injectable form. That's something the vet will have to do but many times it is a stronger dose and it's just one trip to the vet as opposed to many pill episodes.

      If that isn't possible there is always the "fake out" method. You take the pill and hide it in the food. If you just feed dry dog food that pill will stick out like a sore thumb so add something wet to it. You can use a little canned dog food or put it in some cheese. Ask your vet if it is ok to crush it up and mix it directly with food. Depending on the medicine, this might not be a good option.

      Great disguise

      The great disguise can sometimes work. It's a little bit of a distraction. You get something the dog really likes, perhaps soft dog treats. You can use chunks of hot dogs, cheese, even bread that is soft, or pill pockets for dogs -- yes, they make treats that you can actually stick pills in.

      My dogs eat the treats and leave the pills behind. Which can be frustrating to say the least. But the key is to disguise these with as much food surrounding the pill as possible. First give a few treats without the pill, then insert the pill inside the treat and see if they go for it. As soon as he has the one with the pill follow up fast with a plain treat.

      You can try the "catch me if you can" method. If you normally toss treats to your dog, try slipping a pill in one of the treats, then throw it to your dog. 

      This last idea will work and it just might be more stressful to both of you, but it is only for a couple of seconds so it is not the end of the world and just as with kids you know it is for their health. They have to take it and you need to do it.  

      Hold the pill in the fingers of one hand. Place that hand on your dog’s lower jaw and the other hand on his upper jaw. Lift his head up toward the ceiling. Open your dog’s mouth and twist your hand around so you can insert the pill. Place the pill to the side of your dog’s tongue as far back as you can reach, and then quickly withdraw your hand as you close your dog’s jaws. Continue to hold your dog’s jaws closed with one hand while keeping his nose pointed up at the ceiling, and gently stroke his throat downward with the other to encourage him to swallow.

      This does work and, seriously, it is only for a few seconds. Have a treat ready right after it and praise your dog telling him how good he is. Just keep your eye on your dog to make sure the pill really went down.

      Don't be stressed


      Try not to be stressed when you do administer a pill. Dogs can read body language and pick up on when you feel tense. If they feel your stress about this it will make them feel uneasy so try to act natural.

      One thing you might want to do is to be proactive -- just start practicing in case you do need to give a pill. Teach your dog in advance that whenever you open his mouth and put something in, it’s almost always a tasty treat.

      Eventually, your dog will look forward to your putting things into his mouth and he will trust that it always tastes good and it's a reward.

      Giving your dog a pill, can actually be a pill for you. Dogs aren't any better than kids when it's time to take meds, but there are some ways to make givin...

      How to turn up the heat on your energy bill

      Keeping it cooler inside saves fuel and burns more calories

      Let's face it -- it's one thing to freeze your bottom off outside but in your home you want to be toasty and warm. That toasty feeling can put a damper on your bank account.

      Lets see if we can help take the heat off your bank account during these winter months.

      If you are going to invest in anything you might want to think about some extra blankets. Keeping the thermostat at 62 at night with a few extra blankets will give you that toasty cozy feeling you are after and also help lower your bill.

      By turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill -- a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is 8 hours long. The key is to keep it at the same temperature for an extended period of time -- 8 hours should do the trick.

      A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly.

      The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. 

      Add moisture

      If you have ever had a baby that needed a humidifier you might remember how warm the room got when you used it. Well why not fire one up to help keep you warm? By using a humidifier you will be adding moisture to your home.

      Winter air is cold and dry, that translates to heat escaping more rapidly. Warm, moist air will trap the heat in your home. Can't afford a humidifier? No problem, get some plants. They will actually do the same thing. Once you water them, it will create a condensation effect. The goal is to keep the air moist.

      Thermostat placement is important. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions so you don't get false readings. If your thermostat is by a window or door where you get lots of sun your reading may be off. It should be located where natural room air currents –- warm air rising, cool air sinking -– occur. Furniture will block natural air movement, so do not place pieces in front of or below your thermostat. 

      If you are leaving town, drop your thermostat to 55 degrees. Since you aren't in your home there is no reason to heat it up. You just want to make sure your pipes don't freeze.

      If these lower temps are hard to swallow, add this little fact to your brain. When the temperature drops, your personal energy expenditure increases, so you burn more calories (roughly 100 more a day). Over a period of several weeks, that increased energy can translate into an extra 3,500 calories burned, which means one lost pound. You might not even need to spend money on a gym membership -- just one of many savings from lowering your thermostat.

      Let's face it -- it's one thing to freeze your bottom off outside but in your home you want to be toasty and warm. That toasty feeling can put a damper on ...

      Girls are finally helping build the toy industry

      Girls like to build things too, even if they give them different colors

      What do Hewlett Packard, IBM and General Motors have in common? All are being run by female CEO's. It's really nothing new anymore, females are leaders in many different businesses and occupations. One place, believe it or not that, needed to catch up with the world was the toy industry.

      Toy companies have finally gotten the message -- girls like to build things and are interested in things mechanical even if they have a math component to them.

      Parents are demanding that toys their girls play with have some component of math and science. It has been reflected in what girls seem to want to play with. Construction toys have been a hot ticket item for girls, and are becoming a bright spot in the $22 billion industry, which has seen other categories go by the wayside like Barbie dolls. Barbie is still popular but not as popular as it once was.

      Mattel Inc. recently purchased Mega Brands, which is known for its bright colored construction sets. Lego has updated its classic building kits with a splash of purple and themes  that girls might find interesting like a pet salon and beauty shop.  New toy companies are designing girl-friendly toys that have that math and science components.

      Color scheme

      What toy manufacturers are learning is that girls like to build skyrockets and ships just as much as boys do but the color scheme might be what has been missing. 

      Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for Lego Systems said Lego devoted four years to researching the female market. They found girls didn't demand their toys as much as boys did. In 2012 they introduced their Friends line which was targeted to females.

      The sets have a bright colors that include lots of purple, and come with more human-like figures.“It changed the perception that Lego is for boys,” McNally said. “It’s been a gateway for girls.”

      The introduction of the Friends line was a game-changer for Lego. Before the Friends line was launched only about 10% of Lego sets were bought for girls. Within 8 months after the line was introduced it grew to 25%.

      Why are girls wanting to build more now? The reason could be the change in family structure. More dads are at home and partaking in childcare. Parents are also more open to gender equality and if a boy wants to paint his toenails, they are more open to the experimentation of it. The same goes for females that might want to get a Builder Bob toy as opposed to a Dress-Up Barbie.

      “Parents are telling kids it’s OK to be different,” said analyst Michael Swartz, research analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Swartz explained that  Hasbro has introduced an Easy Bake Oven with a color scheme more appealing to boys.

      Goldieblox  was one of the most talked about toy startups this holiday season and was founded by Debbie Sterling a woman with an engineering degree from Stanford. Goldieblox  is just one of the lines that encourages the STEM philosophy (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) trend that's become very popular in the toy industry.

      Goldieblox is a pastel-colored construction set that comes with a book featuring the adventures of Goldie, a girl inventor. Sterling was motivated to create a construction toy for girls after she was in school and saw there weren't many women who were majoring in engineering.

      Although Goldieblox has a female CEO the toy world is not very well represented when it comes to women being the leaders. Lego's senior management is made up of 22 men and two women. Mattel, the maker of Barbie, doesn't look all that different, with 11 men and one woman at the top. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, the CEO of a consulting firm focused on gender diversity, has a theory -- she thinks that toy companies need more women at the top. 

      Will having more women at the top change the way girls play? Will women create more toys for girls? It might, as Springer seems to have tapped into what little girls find appealing. Hasbro has a male CEO and it has made boy toys and girl toys as well as gender neutral toys.

      What Hasbro has  succeeded at most, at least from a marketing perspective, is its openness to discussion and goals to appeal to girls even with Nerf guns. Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, who has a daughter, told BusinessWeek that the company tries to understand how girls play to create toys they'll buy. Hasbro says revenue from its girls division rose 26 percent in 2013, topping $1 billion for the first time and more than tripling its $300 million in 2003 sales.

      Mattel ought to take note -- Construction Barbie could be the next big thing!

      What do Hewlett Packard, IBM and General Motors have in common? All are being run by female CEO's. It's really nothing new anymore, females are leaders in ...

      E-readers may not make good bedtime reading

      Not if you want to get a good night's sleep

      If you are in the habit of curling up in bed with a good book before dropping off to sleep, you might consider sticking with old fashioned books and not a tablet or e-reader.

      There's new evidence that exposure to the e-reader's lighted screen may interfere with your circadian clock, interfering with your sleep.

      "Electronic devices emit light that is short-wavelength-enriched light, which has a higher concentration of blue light -- with a peak around 450 nm -- than natural light," said Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. "This is different from natural light in composition, having a greater impact on sleep and circadian rhythms."

      iPad vs. book

      Chang and her colleagues base their conclusion on two week observations of 12 adults. Participants read each night before going to bed, sometimes from an iPad and sometimes a printed book. The researchers monitored the participants' melatonin levels, sleep and next-morning alertness, as well as other sleep-related measures.

      They found that their subjects took nearly 10 minutes longer to fall asleep and had a significantly lower amount of REM -- rapid eye movement -- sleep after reading from the iPad than they did after reading from a printed book,

      Surprise

      "Our most surprising finding was that individuals using the e-reader would be more tired and take longer to become alert the next morning," said Chang. "This has real consequences for daytime functioning, and these effects might be worse in the real world as opposed to the controlled environment we used."

      And it wasn't just an iPad that interfered with shut-eye. The experiment measured the amount of brightness coming from several devices, including an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Kindle Fire and Nook Color.

      The Kindle e-reader does not give off light, while the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook Color emit similar amounts of light. However, the iPad is the brightest of the devices measured.

      The study lasted 14 days and was conducted in a hospital setting. Each of the subjects read from an iPad before bedtime 5 consecutive nights, then switched to a printed book for five straight nights. Hourly blood samples measured melatonin levels.

      Sleep-restricted society

      "We live in a sleep-restricted society, in general," said Chang. "It is important to further study the effects of using light-emitting devices, especially before bed, as they may have longer term health consequences than we previously considered."

      In a poll released earlier this month the National Sleep Foundation discovered that 45% of Americans said poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.

      Despite sleeping within the recommended number of hours a night, 35% of Americans report their sleep quality as “poor” or “only fair.” Twenty percent of Americans reported that they did not wake up feeling refreshed on any of the past seven days.

      If you are in the habit of curling up in bed with a good book before dropping off to sleep, you might consider sticking with old fashioned books and not a ...

      Feds challenge wart-removal and weight-loss supplement promoters

      There's no evidence the products work, the FTC alleged

      You can't believe everything you read about wart removal and weight loss, the Federal Trade Commission cautions. Case in point: claims made by DermaTend and Lipidryl. The FTC says the claims were unsubstantiated and deceptive.

      The agency challenged ads for DermaTend, a skin cream that was promoted for do-it-yourself removal of moles, skin tags, and warts, as well as Lipidryl, a supplement promoted for weight loss. In another case, the agency challenged claims for Photodynamic Therapy anti-aging lotions, as well Shrinking Beauty, a supposed body-slimming lotion.

      The FTC settlements in both cases prohibit the defendants from misleading consumers about whether their products actually work and about whether their claims are backed by scientific evidence. In addition, the marketers of DermaTend and Lipidryl are required to disclose when people promoting the products are paid for their endorsement.

      “These companies made outrageous claims that their products could provide a range of benefits – from removing warts to decreasing the appearance of cellulite to providing substantial weight loss,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The common thread for all of these claims was the fundamental lack of scientific evidence. Consumers deserve better.”

      DermaTend and Lipidryl

      Aaron Lilly, a Nevada-based marketer, owns and operates both Solace International, Inc. and Bioscience Research Institute LLC, which sell DermaTend and Lipidryl, respectively. DermaTend was advertised in SkyMall (both the magazine and website), as well as on Amazon.com and eBay, and through Google AdWords. It was also sold on company-owned websites and marketed through affiliates.

      A 1.7 ounce container of the “Original” formula sells for $39.95, while a 3.4 ounce container of “Ultra” sells for $69.95. Consumers who bought DermaTend also received an emery board and instructions directing consumers to file down their mole, skin tag, or wart with the emery board before applying the product.

      Bioscience, Lilly’s other company, charged $129.99 for a three-month supply of Lipidryl, which contains African mango seed extract. The FTC complaint charges that ads for Lipidryl falsely claimed that the supplement was clinically proven to cause substantial weight loss (such as 28 pounds in 10 weeks) and reduce users’ waistlines.

      The order prohibits the defendants from making a number of specific unsubstantiated representations; requires disclosure if endorsers are provided with compensation; and requires monitoring of affiliate marketers. The order also requires the defendants to pay $402,338 and to provide the Commission with the proceeds from the sale of four homes in Texas.

      DERMAdoctor, Inc.

      According to the FTC’s complaint, DERMADoctor, Inc. and its majority owner, Audrey Kunin, M.D., violated the FTC Act by making deceptive claims about their anti-aging products and a body-slimming lotion. DERMAdoctor is based in Missouri and marketed Photodynamic Therapy Liquid Red Light Anti-Aging Lotion and Photodynamic Therapy Liquid Red Light Eye Lift Lotion, as well Shrinking Beauty, a “firming, sculpting & toning lotion with lobster weight loss inspired technology.”

      The complaint states that since October 2010, the defendants have marketed and sold Photodynamic Therapy lotion with extract of the noni fruit, which was promoted as able to capture UV light and transform it into visible red light that has purported anti-aging effects on the skin. The defendants charged $85 for a one-ounce bottle of the face lotion. DERMAdoctor products are sold in retailers such as Nordstrom, Sephora, and Ulta, and according to the FTC, Photodynamic Therapy was advertised on QVC, the DERMAdoctor website, and in women’s magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Shape.

      Since December 2012, the defendants also have marketed and sold Shrinking Beauty, with a retail price of $58 for a 5.5-ounce tube. Through ads in magazines such as Health and on the DERMAdoctor website, the defendants claimed the product would improve the appearance of cellulite, smooth and tighten skin, and that the results were “clinically proven to reduce measurements up to one inch in two weeks.”

      The proposed settlement order with DERMAdoctor requires that the defendants have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support future anti-aging and cellulite-reduction claims, as well as at least two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical studies to support claims relating to weight loss or reduction of body size. It also prohibits them from misrepresenting the existence or results of any scientific test, study or research. The order requires payment of $12,675.

      You can't believe everything you read about wart removal and weight loss, the Federal Trade Commission cautions. Case in point: claims made by DermaTend an...

      Feds say data broker sold consumers' identity to scammers

      LeapLab bought payday loan applications, then sold the info, FTC charges

      The Federal Trade Commission charges that a data broker, LeapLab, sold the sensitive personal information of hundreds of thousands of consumers – including Social Security and bank account numbers – to scammers who allegedly debited millions from their accounts.

      According to the FTC’s complaint, filed yesterday, LeapLab bought payday loan applications of financially strapped consumers, and then sold that information to marketers who it knew had no legitimate need for it. At least one of those marketers, Ideal Financial Solutions – a defendant in another FTC case – allegedly used the information to withdraw millions of dollars from consumers’ accounts without their authorization.  

      “This case shows that the illegitimate use of sensitive financial information causes real harm to consumers,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Defendants like those in this case harm consumers twice: first by facilitating the theft of their money and second by undermining consumers’ confidence about providing their personal information to legitimate lenders.”

      Payday loan websites

      The defendants collected hundreds of thousands of payday loan applications from payday loan websites known as publishers. Publishers typically offer to help consumers obtain payday loans. To do so, they ask for consumers’ sensitive financial information to evaluate their loan applications and transfer funds to their bank accounts if the loan is approved. 

      These applications, including those bought and sold by LeapLab, contained the consumer’s name, address, phone number, employer, Social Security number, and bank account number, including the bank routing number.

      The defendants sold approximately five percent of these loan applications to online lenders, who paid them between $10 and $150 per lead. According to the FTC’s complaint however, the defendants sold the remaining 95 percent for approximately $0.50 each to third parties who were not online lenders and had no legitimate need for this financial information.

      The Commission’s complaint alleges that these non-lender third parties included: marketers that made unsolicited sales offers to consumers via email, text message, or telephone call; data brokers that aggregated and then resold consumer information; and phony internet merchants like Ideal Financial Solutions.

      In the FTC’s case against Ideal Financial Solutions, the commission charges that between 2009 and 2013, Ideal Financial allegedly purchased information on at least 2.2 million consumers from data brokers and used it to make millions of dollars in unauthorized debits and charges for purported financial products that the consumers never purchased.

      The Federal Trade Commission charges that a data broker, LeapLab, sold the sensitive personal information of hundreds of thousands of consumers – including...

      A pre-Christmas rise in mortgage applications

      Initial jobless claims continue to fall

      Mortgage applications rebounded from the previous week's decline, rising 0.9% in the week ending December 19.

      According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey, the Refinance Index was up 1%, pushing the refinance share of mortgage activity to 67% of total applications from 66% the week before.

      Additionally, the adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 6.5% of total applications, the FHA share slipped to 8.6% from 8.7% and the VA share dropped to 10.3% from 10.6%. The USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.8%.

      Contract interest rates

      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) dipped 4 basis points -- from 4.06% to 4.02%, the lowest level since May 2013 -- with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.21 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) rose to 4.07% from 3.99%, with points falling to 0.23 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA fell 5 basis points to 3.81%, with points rising to 0.00 from -0.04 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages slipped to 3.29% from 3.33%, with points increasing to 0.29 from 0.27 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs shot to 3.10% from 3.00%, with points falling to 0.31 from 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

      The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.

      Initial claims

      The decline in the number of people applying for state jobless benefits for the first time continues.

      The Labor Department (DOL) reports initial claims were down 9,000 in the week ending December 20, to a seasonally adjusted total of 280,000. DOL says there were no special factors affecting the claims total.

      The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered a better gauge of the labor market, fell by 8,500 -- to 290,250.

      Economists generally consider levels below 300,000 indicative of an economy at, or near, full employment.

      The complete report is available on the DOL website.

      Mortgage applications rebounded from the previous week's decline, rising 0.9% in the week ending December 19. According to the Mortgage Bankers Associatio...

      Bribery -- a quick fix for parents but a long-term problem for kids

      Too much emphasis on rewards can make children materialistic

      Those gifts under the tree can be leverage to get the most from your children in terms of good behavior this time of year. A new study, however, urges parents to avoid this temptation. You may be doing more harm then good.

      It's a quick fix for you as a parent to get what you need, which is cooperation or chores done, but it may be harming your child in the long run.

      A study was done at the University of Missouri. They gathered 700 adults and asked them  questions about their childhood circumstances,their relationships with parents and what types of punishments they received.

      What the researchers concluded is that three  types of parenting strategies lead to increased materialism:

      1) Using gifts as a reward when children have accomplished something, such as good grades or making a team;
      2) Giving gifts as a way of showing affection; and
      3) Taking away gifts or favourite toys as a way to punish children.

      What's so bad?

      What's so bad about materialism? Empires are built on people who have a keen focus on making money. Marsha Richins, one of the researchers who is a professor of marketing at the University of Missouri, explains why this is damaging:

      “Our research suggests that children who receive many material rewards from their parents will likely continue rewarding themselves with material goods when they are grown – well into adulthood – and this could be problematic.”

      Kids who are raised like this develop the attitude as "the one with the most toys wins." I am sure you have seen the bumper sticker. What happens is they end up thinking that success in life is defined by the quality and number of material goods acquired, and that acquiring material objects will make them more attractive. 

      There is an increased risk for adults who have this belief system to have a higher risk of marital problems, to have addictions like gambling and to run into financial issues. All of this translates into poor self-esteem. 

      Earlier studies

      This recent study coincides with other research that was collected. A long-term study was published in the November 2003 issue of Psychological Science  it linked data that was collected 19 years apart on 12,000 people who had attended elite colleges and universities in the 1970s -- one drawn in 1976 when they were freshmen, the other in 1995.

      On average, those who had initially expressed stronger financial aspirations reported lower life satisfaction two decades later than those expressing lower monetary desires. But as the income of the higher-aspiration participants rose, so did their reported life satisfaction, the team found.

      Then there's price you pay for learning to be grateful. A 2003 study at the University of California at Davis showed that grateful people report higher levels of happiness and optimism -- along with lower levels of depression and stress. To keep your children emotionally healthy give them the gift of teaching them to be grateful. Their most important teacher will be you. 

      Those gifts under the tree can be leverage to get the most from your children in terms of good behavior this time of year. A new study, however, urges pare...

      Kkot Saem Sprouts recalls soybean sprouts and mungbean sprouts

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Kkot Saem Sprouts of Spanaway, Wash., is recalling Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts sold under brand names Kkot Saem, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, and Winter Blossom.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no illnesses or deaths reported to date.

      Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts were distributed at H-Mart in Washington and Oregon, and G-Mart in Oregon; the last date of distribution was on December 16, 2014.

      The mungbean sprouts product has a 5-day shelf life from the packing date and soybean sprouts product has a shelf life of up to 2 weeks from the packing date.

      RECALLED PRODUCTBrandNET WT.PACKAGE TYPEUPC
      Soybean SproutsWinter Blossom Bean Sprouts1.5 lbs.Plastic bag, multi-colored with orange stripe on top, lower middle portion and at bottom. Orange & black English and Korean letters on white background on front of bag.0 94922 55330 0
      Soybean Sproutsun-labeled5 lbs.Clear plastic bag with no labelNone
      Mungbean SproutsKkot Saem Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts0.8 lbClear plastic bag with blue letters on white background.  English and Korean letters on front of bag.1 80036 83737 2
      Mungbean SproutsKkot Saem2 lbs.Clear plastic bag with no label0 94922 55334 8
      Mungbean SproutsKkot Saem5 lbs.Clear plastic bag with no labelNone
      Mungbean SproutsWinter Blossom Bean Sprouts10 lbs.Orange and blue labeling in Korean and English on white background.0 94922 55331 7

      Consumers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase or discard them.

      Consumers with questions may call Kkot Saem Sprouts at 253-226-7569, Monday - Friday, 8 am - 5 pm PST.

      Kkot Saem Sprouts of Spanaway, Wash., is recalling Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts sold under brand names Kkot Saem, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, and ...

      Peanut Butter and Cranberry Crunch nutrition bars recalled

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Perfect Bar is issuing a nationwide recall of specific lot numbers of its Peanut Butter and Cranberry Crunch flavor recipes

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses to date have been associated with any of the recalled products to date.

      The recalled products, which reached the distributor, retail and end user level, have packaging and/or wrappers with the expiration date and lot codes listed below:

      BRANDFLAVORSIZEUPC CODEEXP DATELOT CODE
      Perfect BarPeanut Butter2.5 oz8-55569-00302-909-02-1502814
      Perfect BarCranberry Crunch1.6 oz8-55569-00305-009-02-1502814
      Perfect BarVariety Pack (Costco)1 lb 9.6 oz8-55569-00313-509-02-15
      09-01-15
      08-24-15
      02814V
      02914V
      03714V

      Consumers who have any recalled products should dispose of them immediately.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 866-628-8548, extension 3, Monday through Saturday, 8:00AM – 5:00PM PST.

      Perfect Bar is issuing a nationwide recall of specific lot numbers of its Peanut Butter and Cranberry Crunch flavor recipes The products may be contaminat...

      Katadyn North American Foods recalls spicy sausage products

      The product contains pork, which is not listed on the label

      Katadyn North American Foods of Rocklin, Calif., is recalling approximately 2,719 pounds of spicy sausage products produced on various dates from June 14 – November 13, 2014.

      The label indicates that the product contains beef, but is actually formulated with pork sausage, which is not indicated on the label.

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

      The following products are subject to recall:

      • 5 -oz. foil laminated pouches containing “ALPINEAIRE SPICY SAUSAGE PASTA.”

      The products bear the establishment number “EST. 8132” inside the USDA mark of inspection and were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

      The problem was discovered by FSIS inspection personnel during a label review. The label indicates that the product contains beef, but is actually formulated with pork sausage. Pork is not indicated on the label.

      Consumers with questions may contact Tim Pratt, general manager, at (800) 322-6325 x-15.

      Katadyn North American Foods of Rocklin, Calif., is recalling approximately 2,719 pounds of spicy sausage products produced on various dates from June 14 –...

      Real Foods recalls Tofu Pad Thai Bowl and Thai Noodle Salad

      The products contain shellfish, an allergen not listed on the label

      Real Foods of Kent, Wash., is recalling 299 units of Tofu Pad Thai Bowl and 178 units of Thai Noodle Salad.

      The products contain shellfish (shrimp), an allergen not declared on the product label.

      No adverse reactions or illnesses have been attributed to the recalled item.

      The products subject to the recall are:

      STOREITEM DESCRIPTIONUPC NUMBERBEST BY
      Fred Meyer13.5 oz. rigid plastic container of Tofu Pad Thai Bowl0 30223 00914 612/23/14
      12/24/14
      Quality Food Centers13.5 oz. rigid plastic container of Tofu Pad Thai Bowl0 30223 00914 612/23/14
      12/24/14
      12/25/14
      Haggen/Top Foods8.5 oz. rigid plastic 
      container of Thai Noodle Salad with Thai Peanut Salad
      0 45009 10116 712/18/14
      12/19/14
      12/20/14
      12/21/14
      12/22/14
      12/23/14

      Two units were produced on 12/18/14 with a best by of 12/23/14, and 2 were produced on 12/19/14 with a best by of 12/24/14. The 4 units were shipped to one Fred Meyer store in Kent, Wash.

      A total of 295 units were produced on 12/18/14, 12/19/14 and 12/20/14 and shipped to Quality Food Centers stores in the following cities:

      Belfair, Wash; Tacoma, Wash; Port Townsend, Wash; Lacey, Wash; Portland, Ore; Vancouver, Wash; Kent, Wash; Seattle, Wash; Mercer Island, Wash; Bellevue, Wash; Kirkland, Wash; Bothell, Wash; Redmond, Wash; Issaquah, Wash; North Bend, Wash; Mukilteo, Wash; Bothell, Wash; Lynnwood, Wash; Sequim, Wash; Edmonds, Wash; Everett, Wash; Mill Creek, Wash; Mt. Lake Terrace, Wash; Enumclaw, Wash; Renton, Wash; Stanwood, Wash; Maple Valley, Wash; Gig Harbor, Wash; and Pt. Hadlock, Wash.

      There were a total of 178 units produced on 12/14/14 through 12/19/14 and were shipped to a limited number of Haggen/Top Foods stores in Washington State and Oregon only.

      This product was distributed and sold to Haggen/Top Foods stores in the following cities:

      Olympia, Wash; Bellingham, Wash; Burlington, Wash; Stanwood, Wash; Snohomish, Wash; Ferndale, Wash; Mt. Vernon, Wash; Lake Stevens, Wash; Marysville, Wash; Auburn, Wash; Puyallup, Wash; Woodinville, Wash; Aberdeen, Wash and Tualatin, Ore.

      No other products or code dates are affected by this recall.

      Customers who purchased this product and are sensitive to shellfish (shrimp) products or have shellfish (shrimp) allergies should not consume the above-mentioned product. It may be returned to the store where purchased for a full refund.

      Consumers may call Bill Tarazawich at 214-354-1662 for any further information Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8am-5pm (PST).

      Real Foods of Kent, Wash., is recalling 299 units of Tofu Pad Thai Bowl and 178 units of Thai Noodle Salad. The products contain shellfish (shrimp), an al...

      Honda recalls Crosstour vehicles

      The inflator tube for the side curtain air bag may have been manufactured incorrectly

      American Honda Motor Company is recalling 1,252 model year 2015 Crosstour 4 Cylinder vehicles manufactured October 1, 2014, to November 4, 2014; Crosstour V6 2WD vehicles manufactured September 30, 2014, to November 13, 2014; and Crosstour V6 4WD vehicles manufactured September 30, 2014, to November 18, 2014.

      The inflator tube for the side curtain air bag may have been manufactured incorrectly. If the side curtain air bag does not inflate properly, it can affect the performance of the air bag in the event of a vehicle crash, increasing the risk of occupant injury.

      Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the left and/or right side curtain air bags, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 9, 2015.

      Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-310-783-2000. Honda's number for this recall is JN0, JN1, and JN3.

      American Honda Motor Company is recalling 1,252 model year 2015 Crosstour 4 Cylinder vehicles manufactured October 1, 2014, to November 4, 2014; Crossto...

      UCLA researchers excited by Alzheimer's findings

      Latest study suggests memory restoration possible in early stages of the disease

      The twin tragedies of Alzheimer's disease are that it is always fatal and, before the patient dies, they lose all memory function.

      Researchers at UCLA are convinced they are on the cusp of a breakthrough in which memory loss can not only be slowed but lost memories restored in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

      We reported in October on a small study conducted jointly by the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. It was the first to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and that improvement can be lasting. Since then there has been nothing to temper that optimism.

      The latest research focuses on where memories are actually stored in the brain. The assumption has always been that these memories are stored at the synapses -- the connections between brain cells, or neurons -- which are destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. The latest research provides evidence contradicting that assumption.

      Radical idea

      "Long-term memory is not stored at the synapse," said David Glanzman, a senior author of the study, and a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology. "That's a radical idea, but that's where the evidence leads. The nervous system appears to be able to regenerate lost synaptic connections. If you can restore the synaptic connections, the memory will come back. It won't be easy, but I believe it's possible."

      The UCLA team came to this conclusion, oddly enough, by studying snails. From that study the scientists conclude that the body may be able to grow new synaptic connections. It all has to do with protein substances created in the body naturally and which are tied to memory formation.

      As long-term memories are formed, the brain creates new proteins that are involved in making new synapses. If something happens to disrupt this process – for example by a concussion or other injury -- the proteins may not be synthesized and long-term memories cannot form. This is why people cannot remember what happened moments before a concussion.

      Role of proteins

      "If you train an animal on a task, inhibit its ability to produce proteins immediately after training, and then test it 24 hours later, the animal doesn't remember the training," Glanzman said. "However, if you train an animal, wait 24 hours, and then inject a protein synthesis inhibitor in its brain, the animal shows perfectly good memory 24 hours later.”

      In other words, once memories are formed, if you temporarily disrupt protein synthesis, it doesn't affect long-term memory. Glanzman says that's true for the brains of both snails and humans and explains why people's older memories usually survive a concussion.

      Stored in neurons?

      But what does this have to do with Alzheimer's disease? Glanzman says he believes his team has shown that memories are not stored in synapses but elsewhere in the brain – most likely in neurons. So when damaged synapses are restored, there would be restored access to those memories.

      Glanzman said the research could have significant implications for people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Specifically, just because the disease is known to destroy synapses in the brain doesn't mean that memories are destroyed.

      "As long as the neurons are still alive, the memory will still be there, which means you may be able to recover some of the lost memories in the early stages of Alzheimer's," he said.

      But in advanced stages of Alzheimer's neurons die. If Glanzman is correct that memories reside in neurons, that likely means the memories cannot be restored once the neurons are destroyed.

      There is a new urgency to Alzheimer's research since the large Baby Boom population is entering the period of highest risk. While Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging the Alzheimer's Association says people age 65 and older are at the highest risk.

      The twin tragedies of Alzheimer's disease are that it is always fatal and, before the patient dies, they lose all memory function....

      Emergency gifts for last-minute procrastinators: make-your-own tin or basket combos

      This late in the holiday season, most stores have sold out of "good stuff." You must improvise

      Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the last day of Hanukkah, so if you're still looking for this-year's holiday gift ideas … yeah, you already wish you'd done this sooner, you know putting things off until the last minute is a bad idea, and you resolve to do better next year. Lesson learned.

      Meanwhile, you still need a gift to give this year and it's too late to order anything online or through the mail, which means you're limited to what's available in the brick-and-mortar stores nearest you … and by now all the good stuff's probably gone.

      If you can't find anything to buy except cheap, uninspiring (and usually non-gift-worthy) items, remember the cynical old saying: quantity has a quality all its own. Take candy, for instance: a single ordinary candy bar isn't an appropriate holiday gift, but a variety of different candy bars in a decorative container might be, if you do it right.

      Candy is one possibility, but of course there's plenty of other themes you can use to put together a “gift basket,” “gift tin” or something similar.

      First you need the actual basket or tin – check your nearby thrift store or secondhand shop, if it's still open, before you commit to paying full price at your local retailer. Arts-and-crafts shops are likely to still have some decorative baskets or tins in stock, even at this late hour, though their prices tend to be much higher than the same items bought at a Target/Kmart/Walmart-type of store, which in turn are higher than what secondhand shops would likely ask.

      Once you have your container, all you need to do is fill it.

      Jams and jellies

      One jar of jam or jelly is a pretty lame holiday gift, but a variety of jars in different flavors, combined with a box or two of fancy crackers, can make a passable plausible last-minute gift, if they're attractively presented.

      Chocolate gift set

      Fill the box or basket with chocolate items or accessories, such as small packages of chocolate-covered cookies, pretzels or other affordable delicacies, or hot cocoa packets combined with decorative mugs and perhaps a package of marshmallows.

      Tin or basketful of candy

      Self-explanatory.

      Stationery/writing supplies

      Even in today's electronic era, there's still room for old-fashioned writing paraphernalia. Fill a tin or basket with various writing implements: nice pens; writing paper and envelopes; blank-page books with decorative covers; and similar items.

      Art or drawing supplies

      Fill the decorative container with a box of colored pencils (or a large box of crayons, if the recipient is a young child); black drawing pencils; blank-page sketch pads or sketch books; paints and paint brushes; and so forth.

      Decorative candles

      A couple of nice candles plus the appropriately sized candlesticks or candle holders. Candle snuffers are also a nice accessory if you can find them inexpensively. Avoid scented candles if possible, unless you know exactly which scents the recipient likes.

      Winter car emergency kit

      This is a “sensible” rather than “fun” gift, for drivers living in parts of the country where snowstorms are a possible winter hazard: combine a box of wooden matches, a small collection of metal-cup tealight candles, a metal coffee can or decorative tin, and a common other common household items into an emergency heating kit for drivers stranded in their cars. Instructions are here.

      Of course, this list is only meant to provide a partial sampling of ideas. The possible options are limited only by your own imagination ... and what's still available in local stores, this late in the holiday season.

      Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the last day of Hanukkah, so if you're still looking for this-year's holiday gift ideas … yeah, you already wish you'd done t...