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    Survey suggests where you lie down can affect quality of your sleep

    It's true, side matters

    There is an old expression that, when someone is especially disagreeable or in a bad mood, that they “got up on the wrong side of the bed.”

    There might actually be something to that.

    Most people have very set patterns for how they get their shut eye, and that extends to which side of the bed they lie down on and which direction they face. It stands to reason they would get up on the same side of the bed most of the time.

    A survey by mattress maker Saatva suggests something as simple as picking the right side of the bed or facing or not facing your partner actually make a difference in how well you sleep. The survey quizzed consumers on their bedside practices and how it affects their sleep and mood the following day.

    Creatures of habit

    Not surprisingly, it found that 40% of adults have always slept on the same side of the bed. Perhaps more of a surprise, more than half said they don't ever remember making a conscious decision about the side of the bed on which to lie down.

    When asked to think about it and actually pick on one side of the bed or the other, 20% ended up choosing the opposite side of the bed from their normal side.

    The survey-takers discovered that more Americans sleep on the right side of the bed than the left. Men prefer the right side by 58%, with only 50% of women choosing the right side.

    When asked why they chose the right side of the bed, 71% of men said it made them feel more relaxed.

    Sleepers of both sexes appear happier with their partner facing away from them in bed as compared to sleeping towards them but women appear to prefer it the most. Seventy-two percent of women said they need their space and prefer they face away from their partners.

    Practical choices

    Sometimes people choose a side of the bed, not because of how it makes them feel, but for more practical reasons. Among reasons for choosing, 75% of respondents said being close to an electrical outlet, to plug in a clock or other devices, determines where they settle in for the night.

    Other practical considerations include proximity to the bathroom or to a door or window.

    "Americans need to be more conscious of every aspect of the sleep choices they make today," said Ron Rudzin, CEO of Saatva Mattress. "Making a concerted effort to understand each factor of sleep wellness – even having open conversations about which side to sleep on – can make a difference in a good night's sleep."

    Tips for better sleep

    Americans spend billions of dollars on special mattresses, pillows and other sleep enhancement tools in an effort to get the right amount of restful sleep. Sleep problems are particularly common among older people.

    The National Council on Aging suggests following a regular sleep schedule and to avoid napping during the day, if you find it hard to sleep at night. While there is some research that suggests short naps can be healthy, they can also disrupt nighttime sleep patterns.

    Other tips include a bedtime routine, such as reading or listening to soothing music. Bedrooms should be dark and at a moderate temperature.

    Things to stay away from just before bedtime – caffeine, large meals and alcohol. All 3 are sleep disruptors, making you cranky the next day, regardless of which side of the bed you got up on.

    Most people have very set patterns for how they get their shut eye, and that extends to which side of the bed they lie down on and which direction they fac...
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    Suicide rates rising for older adults

    Rates up about 40% since 1999 for adults aged 40-64

    Suicide, especially involving suffocation, is rising at a rapid rate for adults between 40 and 64, with researchers pointing to the economic downturn as the likely culprit. 

    "Relative to other age groups, a larger and increasing proportion of middle-aged suicides have circumstances associated with job, financial, or legal distress and are completed using suffocation," said Katherine A. Hempstead, one of the authors of a new study.

    "The sharpest increase in external circumstances appears to be temporally related to the worst years of the Great Recession, consistent with other work showing a link between deteriorating economic conditions and suicide. ... Financial difficulties related to the loss of retirement savings in the stock market crash may explain some of this trend," she added.

    Economic factors

    In the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that external economic factors were present in 37.5% of all completed suicides in 2010, rising from 32.9% in 2005.

    In addition, suffocation, a method more likely to be used in suicides related to job, economic, or legal factors, increased disproportionately among the middle-aged. The number of suicides using suffocation increased 59.5% among those aged 40-64 years between 2005 and 2010, compared with 18.0% for those aged 15-39 years and 27.2% for aged >65 years.

    The data came from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), which links information on violent deaths from multiple sources.

    The suicide circumstances were grouped into three major categories: personal, interpersonal, and external.

    Examples of personal circumstances are depressed mood, current treatment for a mental health problem, or alcohol dependence. Interpersonal circumstances include an intimate partner problem, the death of a friend, or being a victim of intimate partner violence. Examples of external circumstances are a job or financial problem, legal problem, or difficulty in school.

    Increased awareness

    The four planning and intent factors are crisis in the past two weeks, leaving a suicide note, disclosing an intent to commit suicide, or a history of prior attempts.

    "Increased awareness is needed that job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and other financial setbacks can be risk factors for suicide, the study authors noted. "Human resource departments, employee assistance programs, state and local employment agencies, credit counselors, and others who interact with those in financial distress should improve their ability to recognize people at risk and make referrals."

    Suicide, especially involving suffocation, is rising at a rapid rate for adults between 40 and 64, with researchers pointing to the economic downturn as th...
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      Google backs down; says it won't ban adult-content blogs after all

      Censorship plan abandoned after three days

      Earlier this week, Google inspired an uproar when it announced a stunning change in its longstanding policy toward bloggers: starting next month, it would ban anyone on Blogger or Blogspot websites from being “able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity,” according to a Feb. 24 announcement Google posted on its support forum:

      Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.
      Note: We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

      At best, Google said, such content would have been made “private,” which means that the only people able to see the blog would be the blog's own administrators, plus those individuals with personal invitations from the blog owner. At worst, Google might delete the content, or disable access to the author's Google and/or Blogger accounts: a longstanding blog over a decade old could suddenly vanish along with all of its content.

      At the same time it made the announcement, Google reminded everyone on Blogger and Blogspot that if they didn't like the upcoming policy change, this Google support page explained how to save your blog content as an .xml file, then move the entire blog onto a different platform with more liberal policies (such as WordPress or Tumblr).

      Another course change

      Today, three days after announcing this abrupt policy change, Google changed course again and rescinded its intended ban. Jessica Pelegio, a Social Product Support Manager at Google, posted this announcement on Google's user forums:

      Hello everyone, 

      This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.  

      Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an “adult content” warning page.

      Bloggers whose content is consistent with this and other policies do not need to make any changes to their blogs.

      Thank you for your continued feedback.  

      The Blogger Team

      Google also changed some of the language in its online “Blogger Content Policy”; as of Feb. 27 it says this:

      Adult Content: We do allow adult content on Blogger, including images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity. If your blog contains adult content, please mark it as 'adult' in your Blogger settings. We may also mark blogs with adult content where the owners have not. All blogs marked as 'adult' will be placed behind an 'adult content' warning interstitial. If your blog has a warning interstitial, please do not attempt to circumvent or disable the interstitial - it is for everyone’s protection.

      Earlier this week, Google inspired an uproar when it announced a stunning change in its longstanding policy toward bloggers: starting next month, it would ...
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      A spurt in pending home sales

      They are now at their highest level in 18 months

      Rising buyer demand has pending home sales on the rise.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says its Pending Home Sales Index, (PHSI) a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, jumped 1.7% in January to its highest level since August 2013. All major regions except for the Midwest saw gains in activity in January.

      Last month's advance put the PHSI 8.4% above January 2014 for its fifth consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

      “Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.”

      Yun also also is optimistic about the months ahead, but notes, “the pace will greatly depend on how much upward pressure the impact of low inventory will have on home prices. Appreciation anywhere near double-digits isn't healthy or sustainable in the current economic environment.”

      Regional breakdown

      • The PHSI in the Northeast inched up 0.1% to 84.9 in January, and is now 6.9% above a year ago.
      • In the Midwest the index fell 0.7% to 99.3, but is 4.2% above January 2014.
      • Pending home sales experienced the largest increase in the South, surging 3.2% to an index of 121.9 -- the highest since April 2010 -- and are 9.7% above last January.
      • The index in the West rose 2.2% in last month to 96.4 and is 11.4% above a year ago.

      NAR projects total existing-homes sales this year to be around 5.26 million, an increase of 6.4% from 2014. The national median existing-home price for all of this year is expected to increase near 5%.

      Existing-home sales fell 2.9% last year, while prices rose 5.7%.

      Rising buyer demand has pending home sales on the rise. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says its Pending Home Sales Index, (PHSI) a forward-loo...
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      Nissan Sentra earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award

      Improvement in the small overlap front crash test was the key

      Improving from a poor to good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, has won the 2015 Nissan Sentra the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award.

      The big change? The small car's front structure, A-pillar and door sill were modified to reduce intrusion in small overlap crashes. Also, the side curtain airbag was lengthened to protect the driver's head.

      In the latest test, IIHS said, the driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of less than 5 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. The dummy's movement was well-controlled; the head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound, while the side curtain airbag had enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity.

      Big improvement

      In contrast, the 2013-14 Sentra didn't hold up as well in the test. Intrusion measured as much as 13 inches at the lower hinge pillar. The dummy's head slid off the left side of the frontal airbag, and the side curtain airbag didn't offer adequate coverage. Measures from the dummy indicated that injuries to the left leg would be possible in a crash of this severity.

      The Sentra's good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests carry over to the 2015 model year.

      To qualify for the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award, a vehicle must have good ratings in those four tests and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

      Improving from a poor to good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, has won the 2015 Nissan Sentra...
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      A slowdown in the fourth quarter economic growth rate

      It's considerably slower than what we saw in the previous 3 months

      The second estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the production of goods and services in the U.S., adjusted for price changes -- is in, and the growth rate isn't quite as robust as first estimated.

      According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.2% not the 2.6% reported last month. It increased 5.0% in the fourth quarter of of last year.

      The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available last month. A third and final estimate will be released in March.

      In the second estimate, private inventory investment increased less than previously estimated, while nonresidential fixed investment increased more.

      Contributors

      The growth in real GDP in the fourth quarter reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), nonresidential fixed investment, exports, state and local government

      spending, private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment. These were partly offset by a

      decline in federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

      The deceleration from the advance estimate primarily reflected an upturn in imports, a downturn in federal government spending, and decelerations in nonresidential fixed investment and in exports that were partly offset by an acceleration in PCE, an upturn in private inventory investment, and an acceleration in state and local government spending.

      GDP inflation

      The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, dipped 0.1% in the fourth quarter, compared with a decline of 0.3% in the first estimate. During the preceding quarter, the index was up 1.4%.

      Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, the “core” price index for gross domestic purchases jumped 0.7%, compared with the 1.6% surge reported last month.

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

      The second estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the production of goods and services in the U.S., adjusted for price cha...
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      Chrysler 200s recalled

      The transmission may not be able to shift into the Park position

      Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 25,734 model year 2015 Chrysler 200 vehicles manufactured March 9, 2014, to December 15, 2014, and equipped with a 9-speed automatic transmission.

      The automatic transmission parking pawl may become contaminated or the park rod may become dislodged or broken. This may prevent the transmission from shifting into the Park position. If the shift indicator displays "Park" but the park lock does not engage, the vehicle may roll away increasing the risk of a crash.

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers inspect the transmission. Any transmission found with contamination or a park rod will be replaced, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on April 10, 2015.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is R08.

      Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 25,734 model year 2015 Chrysler 200 vehicles manufactured March 9, 2014, to December 15, 2014, and equipped with a 9-speed a...
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      General Motors recalls Cadillac ATS vehicles

      A faulty roof panel switch could increase the risk of personal injury

      General Motors is recalling 58,698 model year 2013-2015 Cadillac ATS vehicles manufactured April 25, 2012, to February 9, 2015.

      The power-operated roof panels auto-close when the non-recessed "Slide" or "Tilt" switches are pressed. Because the switch is not recessed, the roof panel switch may inadvertently be pressed resulting in unintended auto-closure of the roof panel, increasing the risk of personal injury.

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the roof console accessory switch trim plate, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006. GM's number for this recall is 15119.

      General Motors is recalling 58,698 model year 2013-2015 Cadillac ATS vehicles manufactured April 25, 2012, to February 9, 2015. The power-operated roof p...
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      Sunset Farm Foods recalls sausage products

      The products contain hydrolyzed soy protein, an allergen not listed on the label

      Sunset Farm Foods of Valdosta, Ga., is recalling approximately 42,669 pounds of link sausage products.

      The products contain hydrolyzed soy protein, an allergen not listed on the label.

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

      The following link sausage items, produced on various dates between September 3, 2014, and January 28, 2015, are being recalled:

      • 11-lb. vacuum-packed case containing “SOUTHERN CHEF BRAND SMOKED LINK SAUSAGE.”
      • 11-lb. vacuum-packed case containing “GEORGIA MAID SMOKED LINK SAUSAGE.”

      The products bear the establishment number “EST. 9185” inside the USDA mark of inspection and have a sell-by date between January 1, 2015 and May 28, 2015. They were shipped to consumers and retail locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and New York.

      The problem was discovered by FSIS in-plant personnel during routine label verification.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Dan Houston, quality assurance manager, at (800) 882-1121 or info@sunsetfarmfoods.com.  

      Sunset Farm Foods of Valdosta, Ga., is recalling approximately 42,669 pounds of link sausage products. The products contain hydrolyzed soy protein, an al...
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      FCC votes in favor of net neutrality; makes broadband Internet a public utility

      Proposal would also apply to mobile devices

      The Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to require “net neutrality” rather than allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to create and charge extra for “fast lanes.”

      Specifically, the FCC voted that broadband Internet service should henceforth be classified as a public utility, similar to telephone lines, with ISPs becoming utilities, as “the phone company” has been for generations. The FCC's proposal would cover not just home Internet connections, but mobile devices as well.

      Discord on the Commission

      FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who supports net neutrality, said the policy would ensure that “no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.” It would also ban ISPs from “blocking, ban throttling, and ban paid-prioritization fast lanes.”

      But FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who cast one of the two votes against the proposal, said the FCC was “turning its back on Internet freedom” by leaving the Internet vulnerable to more government regulation.

      Pai and Michael O'Reilly, who cast the other dissenting vote, also complained that the complete policy (which is over 300 pages long) was not publicly released or debated beforehand.

      What's it all about?

      Net neutrality, as the label suggests, is basically the idea that all websites should be treated equally (or viewed neutrally) by ISPs: You can reach all websites at the same speed, whether those websites belong to big rich companies, or small-time bloggers and mom-and-pop startups. This also means the ISPs must carry all content equally, rather than make distinctions (or charge different prices) based on content.

      Proponents of net neutrality feared that without it, the Internet would be divided into haves and have-nots -- easily accessible websites for companies rich enough to pay for fast-lane service; slow and clunky websites for everyone else.

      Last May, the FCC rather confusingly spoke in favor of “net neutrality” while simultaneously arguing in favor of a “fast lane” proposal that would allow ISPs to charge content providers, such as Netflix, YouTube (or any other website), extra money in order to ensure that ordinary Internet customers could reach their sites in a timely fashion.

      While ISPs supported the fast lane proposals, the American public overwhelmingly did not; last November, when President Barack Obama publicly spoke against the FCC's proposed fast lanes, he cited “almost 4 million public comments” made to the FCC against fast lanes and in favor of net neutrality.

      ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have long been opposed to net neutrality proposals, and are expected to sue in hope of overturning the FCC's decision.

      The Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to require “net neutrality” rather than allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to create and charge ex...
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      Takata ordered to preserve defective air bag inflators

      Feds want access to all testing data

      As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues its air bag investigation, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx  has ordered Takata to preserve all air bag inflators removed through the recall process as evidence

      “This department is focused on protecting the American public from these defective air bags and at getting to the bottom of how they came to be included in millions of vehicles on U.S. roads,” said Foxx . “This preservation order will help us get the answers we need to accomplish those goals.”

      Investigation upgrade

      Foxx also said NHTSA will upgrade the Takata investigation to an engineering analysis, a formal step in the agency’s defect investigation process.

      Upgrading the investigation is an important step in determining the actual cause of the air bag failures and the appropriateness of remedies, as well as determining whether Takata’s refusal to notify the agency of a safety defect violates federal safety laws or regulations.

      Since 2008, automakers have recalled about 17 million vehicles with Takata air bags that can rupture when they deploy, producing fragments that can kill or seriously injure occupants. In 2014, five automakers -- BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Mazda -- launched national recalls at NHTSA’s urging for defective driver-side air bags.

      Those five, plus General Motors, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota, are recalling vehicles for defective passenger-side air bags in areas of consistently high absolute humidity, which is believed to be a factor in the ruptures.

      Order requirements

      Among the key provisions of the order:

      • Takata is prohibited from destroying or damaging any inflators except as is necessary to conduct testing.
      • Takata is required to set aside 10% of recalled inflators and make them available to private plaintiffs for testing.
      • Takata is required to submit for NHTSA’s approval plans for gathering, storing and preserving inflators already removed through the recall process and inflators removed in the future, as well as written procedures for making inflators available to plaintiffs in private litigation cases and automakers who request access.
      • Plaintiffs or automakers who seek access to inflators must submit to the terms of the preservation order, which grants NHTSA access to all testing data.
      • NHTSA retains the ability to collect inflators for its own testing if it determines such testing is necessary.

      On Feb. 20, NHTSA began levying $14,000 a day in civil penalties against Takata for failure to respond to requests for information about more than 2.5 million pages of documents it has produced under NHTSA orders.

      As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues its air bag investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHT...
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      Front-loader or top-loader -- which is better?

      Early front-loaders caused a lot of problems but have gotten better with time

      Front-loader or top-loader -- which is better? It's a little like under or over with your bathroom toilet paper. With washing machines we have seen a lot o..

      House prices rise for the 14th straight quarter

      Initial jobless claims spike above 300k

      Housing prices across the nation rose on both a quarterly and monthly basis.

      According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the House Price Index (HPI) was up 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2014 -- the 14th consecutive quarterly price increase. The seasonally adjusted monthly index for December was up 0.8% from November.

      On a year-over-year basis, house prices jumped 4.9% from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014. The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      “Contrary to prior indications of a possible slowdown, home price appreciation in the fourth quarter was relatively strong,” said FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis. “The key drivers of appreciation over the last few years -- low inventories of homes available for sa​le and improvement in labor markets -- likely played a role in driving up prices during the quarter.”

      Report highlights

      • ​​Between the fourth quarter of 2013 and the fourth quarter of 2014, the seasonally adjusted, purchase-only HPI rose in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The top 5 areas in annual appreciation: 1) District of Columbia: 12.5%; 2) Nevada: 9.0%; 3) North Dakota: 8.4%; 4) Colorado: 7.9%; and 5) Michigan: 7.8%.
      • ​As measured with purchase-only indexes for the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., fourth quarter price increases were greatest in the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif., area, where prices increased by 6.0%. Prices were weakest in the El Paso, Texas, where they fell 6.6%.
      • Of the nine census divisions, the Mountain division experienced the strongest increase in the fourth quarter, posting a 1.8% quarterly increase and a 5.5% increase since last year. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England division, where prices fell .03%.
      • The monthly seasonally adjusted, purchase-only index for the U.S. has increased for 23 of the last 24 months (November 2013 showed a decrease).

      The full report is available on the FHFA website

      Initial claims

      Separately, the government reports first-time applications for state unemployment benefits shot up 31,000 during the week ending February 21 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 -- from 283,000 to 282,000.

      The Labor department (DOL) says there were no special factors affecting this week's initial claims

      The 4-week moving average, which is not as volatile as the weekly figure and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, came in at 294,500, an increase of 11,500 from the previous week.

      The complete report may be found on the DOL website.  

      Housing prices across the nation rose on both a quarterly and monthly basis. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the House Price Inde...
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      Lower energy costs send consumer prices tumbling in January

      There's been no inflation over the last 12 months

      Consumer inflation is not just under control; it's nonexistent.

      According to the Labor Department (DOL), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was down 0.7% in January on a seasonally adjusted basis. Moreover, the cost of living is down 0.1% over the last 12 months -- the first negative 12-month change since the period ending October 2009.

      Looking to give credit? It's mostly energy prices, which were down 9.7%, thanks largely to an 18.7% plunge in the cost of gasoline. Had gasoline prices been unchanged, the CPI would have gone up 0,1%

      Energy and food prices

      In addition the the slide in gasoline prices, the energy sector was affected by declines in the costs of fuel oil (-9.9%) and natural gas (-3.4%). The only increase in the category was electricity (+0.9). Over the past year, energy prices are down 19.6%, with the gasoline costs falling 35.4%.

      Food prices were unchanged last month after rising through all of 2014. Four of the 6 major grocery store food groups declined in January: fruits and vegetables (-0.9%), dairy and related products (-0.9%), meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (-0.1%) and other foods (-0.1). Over the last 12 months, the food category is up 3.3%, with all six major grocery store food groups rising over that span.

      Core inflation

      Prices for all items less the volatile food and energy sectors -- the so-called “core rate” of inflation --- rose 0.2% in January, with shelter personal care, apparel and recreation posting gains. Medical care costs were unchanged, while prices for household furnishings and operations, alcoholic beverages, new vehicles, used cars and trucks, airline fares, and tobacco declined.

      Over the last 12 months, the core rate has risen 1.6% over the past 12 months, the same figure as for the 12 months ending in December.

      The complete CPI report is available on the DOL website.

      Consumer inflation is not just under control; it's nonexistent. According to the Labor Department (DOL), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was down 0.7% in J...
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      Housing affordability inches higher

      Lower interest rates are a big factor

      Consumers hoping to buy a home are in a better position to do so, thanks to slightly lower interest rates.

      According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) /Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), there was a slight increase in nationwide housing affordability in the fourth quarter of 2014.

      In all, 62.8% of new and previously-owned homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $63,900. That's a 1% improvement from the third quarter.

      The national median home price fell from $220,800 in the third quarter to $215,000 in the final three months of the year, while, average mortgage interest rates dipped to 4.29% from 4.35% in the same period.

      “Affordable home prices, historically low mortgage rates and an improving job market will release pent-up demand and help keep the housing market moving forward in the year ahead,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

      Affordability by market

      Syracuse, N.Y., claimed the title of the nation’s most affordable major housing market, as 92.8% of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $67,700.

      The median is the point at which half of all incomes are higher and half are lower

      Also ranking among the most affordable major housing markets in respective order were Akron, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa; The latter two tied for fourth place.

      Meanwhile, Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. topped the affordability chart among smaller markets in the final quarter of 2014. There, 96.2% of homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $54,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index include Kokomo, Ind.; Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio; Binghamton, N.Y.; and Salisbury, Md.

      For a ninth consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. was the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 11.1% of homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $100,400.

      Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; and New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.

      Pricey California

      All 5 least affordable small housing markets were in California. At the very bottom was Napa, where 12% of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $70,300.

      Other small markets included Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Rosa-Petaluma, and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles; in descending order.

      Consumers hoping to buy a home are in a better position to do so, thanks to slightly lower interest rates. According to the National Association of Home B...
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      Fairway brand raw hazelnuts recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Fairway of New York, N.Y., is recalling its Fairway brand raw hazelnuts (filberts).

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There have been no reported illnesses to date.

      The recalled product was distributed to Fairway stores in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and also through home delivery programs provided by Google and Instacart.

      The product is packaged in clear, plastic cello bags of varying weights of less than 1 pound and bears Item Code 228119 XXXXXX.

      All “SELL BY” Date codes of May 15, 2015 and earlier are being recalled.

      Consumers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (855) 856-9566, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm EST.

      Fairway of New York, N.Y., is recalling its Fairway brand raw hazelnuts (filberts). The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. There have been no r...
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