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    Unpopular Windows 10 privacy problems now available for Windows 7 and 8, too

    You can either not-install the latest Windows 7 and 8 updates, or disable these features therein

    Microsoft launched the Windows 10 operating system in late July, and critics soon responded by launching what's been a near-constant barrage of stories detailing the various ways Windows 10 violates users' privacy.

    Windows 10: a "privacy nightmare"

    Slate almost immediately dubbed Windows 10 a “privacy nightmare,” because “By default, Windows 10 gives itself the right to pass loads of your data to Microsoft’s servers, use your bandwidth for Microsoft’s own purposes, and profile your Windows usage.”

    A week later, BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow noted that Windows 10 “automatically spies on your children and sends you a dossier of their activity” (without informing children or their parents).

    Critics worried about the obvious Orwellian implications of such a policy. “Now we are teaching children from the youngest age their every motion is being digitally watched & they should self-censor as appropriate,” as “Glitch Girl” @mcclure111 later posted on Twitter. “When I was a kid I was terrified of my parents, and I ran to computers because it was the one place that was safe, where I could keep myself …. Maybe soon there will be a generation of children who has no space at all.”

    By last week, less than a month after the first Windows 10 rollout, the overwhelming consensus was, as PC World said, that “There’s no doubt about it: Windows 10 is veritably infused with data-tracking tidbits and hooks into all sorts of Microsoft’s online services.”

    Revisions to Windows 7 and 8

    Also last week, Microsoft revised its service agreements to Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, with the intention of blocking unauthorized or pirated games and software. But the end result, as Forbes put it, is that “Windows 10 worst feature [is] installed on Windows 7 and Windows 8.”

    Ghacks.net first discovered and reported on the Windows 7 and 8 revisions on Aug. 28, under the innocuous headline “Microsoft intensifies data collection on Windows 7 and 8 systems.”

    The blog post itself uses more pointed language, saying that “The operating system slurps data like there is no tomorrow, especially when systems are set up using the express settings. … it is nearly impossible to stop all of the data collecting that is taking place. While users may disable some, for instance by using privacy tools (of which there are plenty), others cannot be disabled or stopped that easily, for instance because of hardcoded host and IP address information that bypass the Hosts file of the operating system.”

    Avoiding privacy problems

    The simplest way to avoid the worst privacy problems in the Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 updates is to not install them in the first place. If they've already been installed, it's possible to disable some of them either by using the Control Panel (instructions here), or by using an elevated command prompt to run the following commands:

    • wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart

    • wusa /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart

    • wusa /uninstall /kb:3075249 /quiet /norestart

    • wusa /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart

    Microsoft launched the Windows 10 operating system in late July, and critics soon responded by launching what's been a near-constant barrage of stories det...
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    California bill would outlaw drones over private property

    Industry lobbyists say the measure would strangle a growing business

    California yards and rooftops may soon be "no-fly zones." A bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature would outlaw flying drones over private property.,

    The measure is the brainchild of California Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) who said her concern about drones results from an incident that occurred during a vacation in Hawaii, when a drone went buzzing past her.

    “Drones are a new and exciting technology with many potentially beneficial uses. But they should not be able to invade the privacy of our back yards and our private property without our permission,” Jackson said in a statement Thursday.

    The bill basically creates a “no-fly zone” over homes and private property. It doesn’t affect public places like parks, schools, and beaches.

    Jackson's concerns seem to center around privacy but there are also some very real safety issues. Most notably, fire crews fighting this year's disastrous wildfires have been hampered by drones that created a hazard for aircraft dropping water and slurry on fires.

    18,000 jobs

    It's a touchy issue in California, which is home to many of the companies, most notably Google, that are working on home delivery plans involving drones.

    “SB 142 would damage California’s leadership and handcuff innovation, just as this largely California-based and dynamically expanding industry is poised to bring major job growth to the state – adding roughly 18,000 new jobs and more than $14 billion in economic impact in the first decade once federal guidelines are implemented,” the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Consumer Electronics Association said in a joint statement.

    Brown has said her bill would not prevent companies like Amazon from using drones to make deliveries to customers’ doorsteps, since consumers would have to give their consent before such deliveries were made.

    The Federal Aviation Administration is also concerned about drones and has issued a proposed regulation after reporting more than 171 incidents in which pilots observed drones in the vicinity of their aircraft.

    Gov. Brown has not said whether he will sign the measure.

    California yards and rooftops may soon be "no-fly zones." A bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature would outlaw flying drones over private property.,...
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    Netflix ending relationship with major movie provider

    Will focus instead on exclusive content

    Netflix subscribers will notice that some recently released Hollywood blockbusters will disappear from the on-demand line-up soon.

    The company has announced it is ending its relationship with Epix, the cable network that holds the rights to popular movies like Hunger Games: Catching Fire, World War Z, and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

    The movies go away at the end of September when the Epix contract with Netflix expires. But if you think it is Epix that is pulling the plug on Netflix, then you would be mistaken.

    Focusing on exclusive content

    In an announcement Sunday, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said Netflix has chosen not to renew its agreement because Epix movies are available from other providers. It's part of the company's strategy to focus on original and exclusive content.

    It appears to be a very different situation from four years ago, when Netflix was primarily an on-demand movie service heavily dependent on Starz Entertainment's vast library. In September 2011, Starz announced it would not renew its contract with Netflix.

    Netflix was willing to pay Starz's price for the movies, but that was not the issue. The issue, apparently, was that Netflix did not charge consumers enough to view the content.

    “This decision is a result of our strategy to protect the premium nature of our brand by preserving the appropriate pricing and packaging of our exclusive and highly valuable content,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said at the time. “With our current studio rights and growing original programming presence, the network is in an excellent position to evaluate new opportunities and expand its overall business."

    Starz also licensed its content to cable TV providers, who charged a lot more for their services. The implication being that allowing Netflix to provide access to movies at $8 a month was a threat to services charging 10 times that amount.

    Turning lemons into lemonade

    Then an unexpected thing happened. Netflix did not crumble as perhaps many in the industry hoped it would. It began buying up rights to TV series – the only content it could find to replace the lost movies. Subscribers seemed to embace it.

    “Binge watching” entered into the common vocabulary, as viewers would sit down and watch an entire season of a series in a weekend. It helped that many of the series that were available, like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” were of higher quality than most movies.

    Since then, Netflix has more or less redefined itself and now has an emphasis on original programming, with series like the award-winning House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Sarandos says the emphasis on original content will continue, and will also extend to feature films.

    “Just like we’ve changed the game for TV watchers by releasing entire seasons around the world at the same time, we have begun making movies that will premiere on Netflix globally and in some cases, simultaneously in theaters,” Sarandos wrote in a blog post. “It will take us time to build a robust slate of original movies, but we’re hard at work on it with such great stars and directors as Brad Pitt, Ricky Gervais, Judd Apatow, Angelina Jolie, Sofia Coppola and Adam Sandler.”

    Meanwhile, Epix films will be available elsewhere. The company signed a deal with Amazon Prime in 2012 and will begin distributing content through Hulu in October.

    Netflix subscribers will notice that some recently released Hollywood blockbusters will disappear from the on-demand line-up soon.The company has annou...
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      Miracle Diet 30 and Miracle Rock 48 recalled

      The products contain undeclared ingredients

      The One Minute Miracle Inc. is recalling one lot each of Miracle Diet 30 and Miracle Rock 48.

      Miracle Diet 30 contains undeclared phenolphthalein, phenolphthalein was an ingredient used in over-the counter laxatives but was removed from the market because of concerns of carcinogenicity. Health risks of long term phenolphthalein consumption could include serious gastrointestinal disturbances, irregular heartbeat, and cancer with long term use.

      The product is marketed as a dietary supplement to support appetite control and lose weight, and is packaged in 30-count plastic bottles. The affected Miracle Diet 30, Lot Number 150416, Expiration 04/15/2018, was distributed via the Internet nationwide in the U.S.

      Miracle Rock 48 contains undeclared thiosildenafil, an analogue of sildenafil which is an approved drug used for the treatment of male sexual enhancement. Based on the similarity of chemical structures thiosildenafil, the analogue of sildenafil is likely to have a similar pharmacological effect as sildenafil and could cause a sudden and significant drop in blood pressure that may be life threatening.

      The product is marketed as a dietary supplement for male sexual enhancement and is packaged in two blister packages of 2-count capsules, four capsules per box. The product, Lot Number 20150602, Expiration 06/01/2018, was distributed via the Internet nationwide in the U.S.

      The undeclared ingredients in Miracle Diet 30 and Miracle Rock 48 make them unapproved drugs.

      The company has received no reports of illness associated with these products to date.

      In addition to the recall of the above products, the company is withdrawing all sizes and lots of the following products from the marketplace:

      • Miracle Cholesterol
      • Miracle Night Time
      • Miracle Joint-Flex
      • Miracle Stud 72
      • Miracle Magic Man
      • Male Mint Gum
      • Miracle 48 Hrs
      • Miracle Magic Woman
      • Miracle Cougar
      • Miracle Cougar Gum
      • Miracle Cougar G-Spot
      • Miracle G-Spot
      • Vagina Rejuvenation
      • Miracle Anti-Wrinkle
      • Miracle Stud Delay
      • Miracle Male Stud Spray
      • Miracle Male Stud Coffee
      • Miracle Male Coffee
      • Male 10
      • Miracle Male Stud Sublingual
      • Male 72 Hr
      • Miracle Tongue Sublingual
      • Miracle Tongue
      • Master Blaster

      The company is notifying its customers via mail and is arranging for return of recalled products.

      Customers who have the recalled products recalled should stop using them and return them immediately to:

      The One Minute Miracle Inc.

      3322 NE 166 Street

      North Miami Beach, FL 33160

      Consumers with questions regarding this recall may contact the firm at (305)947-6244 or by email at theoneminutemiracle@gmail.com Monday through Friday, 9:00am through 5:00pm EST.  

      The One Minute Miracle Inc. is recalling one lot each of Miracle Diet 30 and Miracle Rock 48. Miracle Diet 30 contains undeclared phenolphthalein, phenol...
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      Kapowsin Meats expands recall of pork products

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Kapowsin Meats of Graham, Wash., is expanding an earlier recall of pork products to a total of 523,380 pounds of products.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been conducting intensified sampling, which revealed positive results for Salmonella on Whole Hogs for Barbeque, associated pork products and throughout the establishment.

      FSIS has deemed sanitary improvement efforts made by the Kapowsin Meats insufficient, and the scope of this recall has been expanded to include all products associated with contaminated source material. The establishment has voluntarily suspended operations.

      FSIS has determined that there is a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses. Traceback investigation has identified 36 case-patients who consumed products from this establishment prior to illness onset. These illnesses are part of a larger illness investigation.

      Based on epidemiological evidence, 152 case-patients have been identified in Washington with illness onset dates ranging from April 25, 2015, to August 12, 2015.

      The following whole hogs and associated items, produced between April 18, 2015, and August 26, 2015, are being recalled:

      • Varying weights of boxed/bagged Whole Hogs for Barbeque
      • Varying weights of boxed/bagged fabricated pork products including various pork offal products, pork blood and pork trim.

      The recalled products bear the establishment number “Est. 1628” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to various individuals, retail locations, institutions and distributors in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

      Customers who purchased these products are urged not to consume them, and should throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact John Anderson at (253) 847-1777.

      Kapowsin Meats of Graham, Wash., is expanding an earlier recall of pork products to a total of 523,380 pounds of products. The products may be contamina...
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      California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken recalls duck products

      The products contain soy and wheat, allergens not listed on the labels

      California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken of Fremont, Calif., is recalling approximately 6,644 pounds of duck head and duck neck products.

      The products contain soy and wheat, allergens not listed on the labels.

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

      The following duck products, produced between Feb. 11, 2015, and Aug. 13, 2015, are being recalled.

      • 10” x 8” vacuum sealed packages of “Chinese Brand Spicy Duck Heads”
      • 10” x 8” vacuum sealed packages of “Chinese Brand Spicy Duck Necks”

      The recalled products bear establishment number “P-40286” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection, and were shipped to retail locations in California.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Ling Li at (408) 857-0901.

      California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken of Fremont, Calif., is recalling approximately 6,644 pounds of duck head and duck neck products. The products contain s...
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      Huffy recalls bicycles with front disc brakes

      The front wheel can come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle

      Huffy is recalling about 460 bicycles equipped with front disc brakes.

      An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle, posing a risk of injury to the rider.

      No incidents or injuries have been reported

      The recalled products are all model year 2014 Huffy TR 745 and TR-S 740 bicycles with 27.5-inch wheels. “Huffy” is on the downtube of the frame of both bicycles and model name TR 745 or TR-S 740 is on the rear portion of the frame.

      The TR 745 has a green frame with model number 26504M on the bottom of the frame near the pedals. The TR-S 740 has a white frame and model number 26604M on the bottom of the frame near the pedals.

      Bicycles that have a green dot on the inside of the quick release lever are not included in this recall.

      The bicycles, manufactured in China, were sold at Walmart.com, Sears Puerto Rico and The Northwest Company (Cost U Less) from September 2014, through May 2015, for between $250 to $370.

      Consumers should stop using the bicycles immediately and contact Huffy for a free replacement quick release lever for the front wheel.

      Consumers may contact Huffy toll-free at 888-366-3828 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, email at Service@Huffy.com or online at www.huffybikes.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of any page.

      Huffy is recalling about 460 bicycles equipped with front disc brakes. An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub can come into contact ...
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      Novacare recalls dietary supplements

      The products contain salicylic acid, making the supplements unapproved new drugs

      Novacare of Murray, Utah is recalling all lots of the following dietary supplements:

      Name*Brand NameQuantityUPCDates of
      Manufacture
      Thin & SlimFataway Ultimate Stack120 capsules8530020030252/21/2011-
      3/16/2011
      ThermoFXThermoFX<90 capsules7935739026654/5/2011
      Thin and
      Slim
      MaxOut Body60 capsulesN/A10/24/2011-
      2/11/2014
      Metabolic
      Accelerator
      Metabolic Accelerator120 capsules6376871145932/23/2011-
      3/18/2013
      Thin and
      Slim
      Burn Fat Now>90 capsulesN/A10/29/2011-
      10/29/2014
      Thin and
      Slim
      Thermogenic Fat Burner90 capsules02002550009510/29/2011-
      10/29/2014
      TruTrimBulk11/30/2011
      Thin and
      Slim Naturally AM
      Thin and Slim Naturally90 capsules63768701900310/29/2011-
      10/29/2014
      Thin and
      Slim
      Extreme Stack90 capsules6376870191331/30/2012,
      3/20/2012
      XcelleratorBulk10/27/2011-
      3/26/2012
      Asia BlackAsia Black100 capsules8596132742295/19/2011-
      5/13/2014
      Black WidowBlack Widow 25100 capsules8596132522581/25/2011-
      8/10/2014
      MethyldreneMethyldrene Original 25100 capsules8596136384961/19/2011-
      6/28/2013

      The products contain salicylic acid, an undeclared drug ingredient, making the supplements unapproved new drugs.

      Salicylic acid is acutely toxic, not recommended for oral use and is harmful if swallowed.

      No illnesses from these products have been reported to date.

      These products were marketed as dietary supplements aiding in weight loss, produced in capsule form, and were sold in bottles nationwide to distributors.

      Novacare, LLC is notifying its distributors and customers by certified mail and is arranging for return of all recalled product.

      Consumers/distributors/retailers who have the recalled products should stop using, distributing, or selling them and return them to:

      Novacare, LLC

      Returns Dept.: MS# 2000

      913 West 2900 South

      Salt Lake City, UT 84119

      Consumers with questions may contact Novacare directly at (801) 261-2252, Monday through Friday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (MST). Consumers should contact their physician or healthcare provider if they have experienced any problems that may be related to taking any of the aforementioned products.

      Novacare of Murray, Utah is recalling all lots of the following dietary supplements: Thin & Slim,Fataway Ultimate Stack, ThermoFX, MaxOut Body, Metabolic A...
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      Suit charges asphyxiation danger in keyless ignitions

      At least 13 deaths have been blamed on the devices

      The "keyless" ignition is one of those supposed conveniences that comes with a lot of downsides, the most extreme being the risk of asphyxiation.

      At least 13 people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning that apparently resulted from their inadvertently leaving their engines running in the mistaken belief that they would automatically shut off.

      Now a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Los Angeles accuses the world's biggest automakers of hiding the dangers inherent in the system and continuing to market the keyless ignition despite knowing of the dangers it presents.

      The suit names BMW, Mercedes Benz, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors Co, Honda, Hyundai/ Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

      Distracted or confused

      The keyless ignition allows a driver to start the car simply by pressing a button instead of having to insert a key into an ignition.

      The fob that replaces the traditional key must be in or near the car for the system to work; the suit alleges that it's easy for drivers to become distracted or confused and to think that the engine will automatically stop running when they walk away from the car, taking the fob with them.

      In fact, although the fob is needed to start the car, in most models the engine will continue to run even when the driver (and fob) aren't there. The lawsuit contends this presents an unacceptable danger when cars are left in garages attached to homes and other buildings.

      The lawsuit claims automakers have known of the risks since at least 2003 yet have continued to market their vehicles as safe. It contends they could have easily installed a system to turn off engines in unattended and unoccupied cars and says Ford and GM took steps to patent such a feature.

      The lawsuit says at least 27 complaints have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since 2009.

      The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring automakers to install automatic shut-off features on all existing and future models.

      The "keyless" ignition is one of those supposed conveniences that comes with a lot of downsides, the most extreme being the risk of asphyxiation.At lea...
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      Fat deposits in the brain may be an Alzheimer's trigger

      Discovery could provide a treatment breakthrough

      Alzheimer's researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital have made an odd discovery. They believe it could unlock the secret to the age-related disease.

      When the researchers examined brains of patients who died from Alzheimer's, they discovered the brains all contained droplets of fat. Could there be a connection?

      "Our experiments suggest that these abnormal fat deposits could be a trigger for the disease", said Karl Fernandes, a researcher at the hospital and a professor at the University of Montreal.

      Astonishing discovery

      The study started out as a way to solve the mystery of why the brain's stem cells don't repair brain damage in people with Alzheimer's like they would with other brain injuries and diseases. Doctoral student Laura Hamilton, who was conducting the research, said she was astonished to find fat droplets near the stem cells on the inner surface of the brain in mice predisposed to develop the disease.

      "We realized that Dr. Alois Alzheimer himself had noted the presence of lipid accumulations in patients' brains after their death when he first described the disease in 1906,” she said. “But this observation was dismissed and largely forgotten due to the complexity of lipid biochemistry."

      Further research revealed the fat deposits on the brains of nine Alzheimer's victims were triglycerides enriched with specific fatty acids, which can also be found in most animal fats and vegetable oils.

      "We discovered that these fatty acids are produced by the brain, that they build up slowly with normal aging, but that the process is accelerated significantly in the presence of genes that predispose to Alzheimer's disease," said Fernandes.

      In animal experiments, the researchers found that the fatty acids occur very early in life, correspnding in human years to the early twenties.

      Cause or consequence?

      Therefore, we think that the build-up of fatty acids is not a consequence but rather a cause or accelerator of the disease," Fernandes said.

      If it turns out that these fat deposits are a significant contributor to Alzheimer's, the researchers say it would be a huge breakthrough. That's because there are existing drugs that inhibit the enzyme that produces these fatty acids.

      The research team concludes these molecules, which are currently being tested for metabolic diseases such as obesity, could be effective in treating Alzheimer's disease.

      "We succeeded in preventing these fatty acids from building up in the brains of mice predisposed to the disease. The impact of this treatment on all the aspects of the disease is not yet known, but it significantly increased stem cell activity," Fernandes said. "This is very promising because stem cells play an important role in learning, memory and regeneration."

      The researchers say their discovery also supports the argument that Alzheimer's disease is a metabolic brain disease, almost like obesity or diabetes. They say it could lead to an entirely new approach to treatment.

      Alzheimer's researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital have made an odd discovery. They believe it could unlock the secret to the age-related disea...
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      What to make of Wall Street's wild week

      Economist sees strong positives for economy, even as stock values slide

      Granted, most consumers are not active investors in the stock market, so when the major averages rise and fall with whipsaw-like speed in the space of a few trading days, fewer people feel they are directly related.

      But millions have the bulk of their retirement savings invested in stock mutual funds, and large pension funds are heavily invested in stocks; so, what happens on Wall Street matters.

      Then what is the average consumer to make of this week's action in the financial markets? After huge intra-day swings, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is likely to end the week about 800 points or so higher than where it began on Monday.

      Then again, it would still be about 800 points lower than where it began the previous week.

      Overdue correction

      Most market-watchers have concluded the turbulence is the result of a long-overdue correction, based on the fact that the Federal Reserve finally appears ready to begin raising interest rates. When the cheap money disappears, stock valuations have to be adjusted lower.

      But is that all there is to it? Rajeev Dhawan of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, says the markets are also reacting to events in China, which has devalued its currency and sent other signals that its huge economy is badly in need of a jump start.

      Although financial markets reacted negatively to China's currency devaluation, Dhawan says the move was “positive news for the economy overall” that will boost domestic profit margins on imported goods.

      Consumer-friendly news

      There is other consumer-friendly news out there, he says. Between low gas prices and wealth gains from reflated home prices and stock portfolios, he believes consumers are finally in the mood to spend, albeit judiciously, on necessities, if not luxuries.

      Car sales are up, driven in large part by low interest rates. As for oil, Dhawan expects prices will stay below $60 a barrel until late 2016 due to a drop in global demand and an increase in drilling efficiency by U.S. producers.

      “People can safely expect low gas prices to continue for the next year,” he said.

      Businesses appear to be investing more in personnel and infrastructure. Dhawan expects the increase in business investment will be the final piece of the economic puzzle for the Fed, prompting it to start raising interest rates before the end of this year.

      Stronger economic growth

      Economic growth also appears stronger. After an anemic showing in the first quarter of 2015, the second quarter showed much more evidence of a rebound, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rising at an annual rate of 3.7%.

      Dhawan also thinks it will be easier to get a job in the months ahead. He expects jobs to grow by a monthly rate of 219,000 in 2015, 226,000 in 2016 and 214,000 in 2017.

      So despite the sideshow on Wall Street this week, Dhawan says the underlying economy is showing improvement, even if it is coming slowly.

      As for the markets, the turbulence is likely to continue for a while. Corrections, after all, usually take weeks, not days.

      Granted, most consumers are not active investors in the stock market, so when the major averages rise and fall with whipsaw-like speed in the space of a fe...
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      With rising tuition costs, tuition insurance becoming more common

      But like any insurance, costs are based on coverage

      Whenever you spend large amounts of money on things, some risk of loss is involved. That's why you purchase home and auto insurance.

      With the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, many parents are beginning to seek protection if their children have to withdraw from school for medical reasons. Thousands of dollars in tuition expense would otherwise be wasted. If the wasted tuition is part of a student loan, it's even worse – it's money you don't have but have to pay back.

      That's why part of the college application process is now likely to include a pitch for tuition refund insurance. Sallie Mae, a provider of student loans, offers tuition refund insurance on its website through a third-party company, Next Generation Insurance Group.

      “Tuition refund insurance helps you and your family protect your investment in education by covering up to 100% of tuition and fees lost due to a medical withdrawal or a withdrawal due to a mental health condition,” according to Sallie Mae.

      No protection from flunking out

      To be clear, tuition insurance does you no good if your student flunks out of school, or is dismissed for disciplinary reasons. It does protect against unexpected, involuntary termination of the semester because of death, illness – including mental condition – or injury.

      According to Sallie Mae, most insurance policies provide refunds of tuition, academic fees, and some other educational expenses.

      Allianz Global Assistance, a major provider of travel insurance, has also recently moved into the tuition insurance field.

      “With the average annual cost of tuition and fees passing $42,000 for a private, four-year university, the cost of education can be an enormous financial burden for American families,” the company says on its website. “Most colleges will give only a small tuition refund or none at all, if a student withdraws after classes begin.”

      Costs

      Like any insurance policy, the more coverage you receive the more you pay for the policy. Allianz says its basic policy costs just $29.95 but reimbursement is limited to $2,500.

      Allianz's Preferred policy, which it says is its most popular, pays up to $50,000 of eligible, non-refundable expenses. The cost is 1.35% of the covered expenses. If the tuition, fees and room and board totaled $42,000, the cost of the policy would be $567.

      The Advantage policy, which provides more coverage, costs significantly more – 6% of the covered expense.

      Some colleges and universities offer tuition insurance through third party companies. Whether you should purchase depends on your risk tolerance and what the institution's refund polices are like. If the college has a generous refund policy in case of an illness, then tuition insurance might be less useful.

      Pre-existing conditions

      FinAid.org, a non-profit financial aid website, also points out that most tuition insurance policies exclude pre-existing conditions – at least for the first six months. That means if your child has a medical condition that might force her to withdraw from school before completing the term, the policy might not pay off.

      The site's authors conclude that because most 17 to 21 year-olds are healthy, tuition insurance might not be a good investment, even though it does provide peace of mind.

      Whenever you spend large amounts of money on things, some risk of loss is involved. That's why you purchase home and auto insurance.With the skyrocketi...
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      Personal incomes and spending move higher in July

      The savings rate posted a gain as well

      American consumers were earning, spending, and saving more money in July.

      Figures released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show personal income rose $67.1 billion, or 0.4% for a fourth straight month, disposable personal income (DPI) -- personal income less personal current taxes -- increased by 0.5%, or $61.5 billion, and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) advanced $37.4 billion, or 0.3 % for the second month in a row.

      Wages and salaries increased $35.8 billion in July, following a $14.3 billion gain in June. Private wages and salaries were up $32.7 billion, more than triple the previous month's advance, while government wages and salaries were up $3.1 billion, compared with an increase of $3.3 billion in June.

      Personal outlays and saving

      Personal outlays -- PCE, personal interest payments, and personal current transfer payments – were slightly above June's $36.5 billion at $37.7 billion.

      Personal saving, which is DPI less personal outlays, was $651.1 billion in July, up $23.8 billion from June. That pushed the personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- to 4.9% in July from 4.7% in June.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      American consumers were earning, spending and saving more money in July. Figures released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show personal income rose $67...
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      FDA warns three cigarette companies about marketing claims

      Agency exercises new tobacco powers for first time

      ITG Brands LLC, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc., and Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C. Ltd. — three brands that describe their cigarettes on product labeling as “additive-free” and/or “natural” – have all received warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      That description violates section 911 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C; Act), the FDA said.

      This is the first time the FDA has exercised its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to pursue regulatory action regarding the use of “additive-free” or “natural” claims on tobacco product labeling.

      “The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like 'additive-free' and 'natural' pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “This action is a milestone, and a reminder of how we use the tools of science-based regulation to protect the U.S. public from the harmful effects of tobacco use.”

      2009 law

      Congress moved in 2009 to give the FDA the power to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. At the same time, the law created channels for companies to use if they wanted to make claims of modified risk for their products.

      Under the law, a “modified risk tobacco product” is “any tobacco product sold or distributed for use to reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease associated with commercially marketed tobacco products.”

      Companies that make this claim have to go through an approval process with the FDA and be prepared to back it up. The companies getting the warning letters, the agency says, did not do this.

      Specific infractions

      Specifically, ITG Brands was cited for marketing its Winston cigarettes with the MRTP claim “Additive-free.”

      Santa Fe Natural Tobacco was cited for its Natural American Spirit cigarettes with the MRTP claims "Natural” and “Additive-free.”

      The FDA said Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C. has been marketing its Nat Sherman cigarettes with the MRTP claim “Natural.”

      To make any of those claims, the FDA has determined that these products need an FDA modified risk tobacco product order before they can be legally introduced as such into interstate commerce.

      As we reported Thursday, several anti-smoking groups have petitioned the FDA to crack down on such labeling. In particular, these groups said the FDA should look into Reynolds American's Natural American Spirit cigarette brand, which uses phrases like "additive free" and "organic tobacco," making it seem like the cigarettes might be less harmful than other brands.

      The groups, in a letter to the FDA, say the tobacco may be “additive free” but smoking it is still a health hazard.

      ITG Brands LLC, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc., and Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C. Ltd. — three brands that describe their cigarettes on product lab...
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      Sid Wainer and Son recalls Jansal Valley raw macadamia nuts

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Sid Wainer and Son of New Bedford, Mass., is recalling Jansal Valley brand raw macadamia nuts.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

      The product is packaged in a plastic bag labeled as “Jansal Valley Raw Macadamia Nuts,” in both a 1-lb. and 8-oz. ounce size with Lot code 469566, and were sold through mail orders and retail stores nationwide.

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-423-8333, ext.168 or 119 between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.

      Sid Wainer and Son of New Bedford, Mass., is recalling Jansal Valley brand raw macadamia nuts. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella No illness...
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      General Mills recalls frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      General Mills is recalling a limited quantity of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans

      One package of the product tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

      No related illnesses have been reported in connection with this product.

      produced over two days in March 2014. The recall is being issued as a precaution after one package of finished product tested positive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. No related illnesses have been reported in connection with this product.

      This recall is limited to 10-ounce bags of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans, produced over two days in March 2014, with either of two “Better If Used By” dates printed on the package:

      • 10APR2016
      • 11APR2016

      The recalled product was sold at retail stores nationwide.

      Customers should dispose of the recalled product.

      Consumers who have products covered by this recall may contact Cascadian Farm Consumer Relations at 1-800-624-4123 for a replacement.

      General Mills is recalling a limited quantity of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans One package of the product tested positive for Listeria monocytoge...
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      Preparing for disaster on a tight budget

      Disaster prep is easy if you have lots of money. Here's some advice in case you don't

      How can Americans lose water, electricity, or other vital utilities through no fault of their own? Let me count the ways: tornado, derecho, El Niño, nor'ea..

      Why you might not be saving what you should for retirement

      Do you have a "live for today" mentality?

      Charles Schwab commissioned a survey of consumers to gauge how they were saving and, if their saving fell short, the reasons for it.

      The survey found that most workers need no convincing that the 401(k) is a key tool to build retirement income. But it appears people do need convincing to put money into these tax-deferred retirement accounts. A “live for today” mentality appears to be the biggest obstacle.

      More than one-third – 35% – say they aren’t saving more for tomorrow because they are unwilling to sacrifice their quality of life today. They say they don't want to cut back on expenditures like dinners out and vacations.

      Dealing with everyday life can be another obstacle. Thirty-one percent say paying for unexpected expenses and covering basic monthly bills is an impediment to putting money away. Twenty-four percent say credit card debt takes their extra money each month.

      Indispensable tool

      Even so, the survey found that most workers think a 401(k) is an indispensable tool.

      “When it comes to retirement, there’s been a significant shift of responsibility from employer to employee over the past 30 years, making the 401(k) plan a critical part of the retirement system,” said Steve Anderson, head of Schwab Retirement Plan Services. “Our survey found only one in five participants would be confident in their ability to save for retirement without a 401(k) plan. In fact, participants worry as much about having enough money to enjoy retirement as they do about being healthy enough to enjoy retirement.”

      Since most 401(k) plans are self-directed accounts, some basic knowledge of finance is necessary. However, it could be lacking. While 90% of workers in the survey knew what an ideal credit score is, only 58% knew how much they needed to save for a comfortable retirement.

      Health insurance material is more clear

      Nearly half said materials explaining their 401(k) plan investments are more confusing than materials explaining their health & medical benefits. Nearly 30% said they have reduced or made no change in the money flow into their retirement account in the last two years.

      Anderson says many employers recently tweaked their 401(k) plans to encourage more participation. They are using automatic enrollment, automatic savings rate increases, and automatic investment advice to help their employees prepare for retirement.

      “The industry needs to focus more on plan design features like these if we are to further our goal of improving participant outcomes,” Anderson said.

      Employer match is key

      Stock picking guru Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money, has famously criticized 401(k)s for their high management fees and limited investment choices that give savers little control. However, he says if an employer matches the employee's contribution, they can be good retirement vehicles.

      Most employees appear to have embraced the 401(k). The Schwab survey found 60% said the 401(k) is their only or largest source of retirement savings.

      Charles Schwab commissioned a survey of consumers approaching retirement to gauge how they were saving and, if their saving fell short, the reasons for it....
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