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    TF Supplements recalls RHINO 7 dietary supplement for sexual enhancement

    The product contains desmethyl carbondenafil and dapoxetine, which are not listed on the label

    TF Supplements of Houston, Texas, is recalling RHINO 7 dietary supplement.

    The product contains desmethyl, carbondenafil and dapoxetine, which are not listed on the label.

    Desmethyl carbondenafil is a phosphodiesterase PDE-5 inhibitor which is a class of drugs used to treat male erectile dysfunction, making this product an unapproved new drug. Dapoxetine is an active ingredient not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    The company says it has received no reports of illness associated with this product to date

    RHINO 7, marketed as a dietary supplement for sexual enhancement, is packaged in a bottle containing six (6) capsules WITH LOT# K824B719-P and in a single (1) count capsule hang card with LOT# SU-5102617*RP at the consumer level. Lot numbers are on the back top right of the (1) count and on the side of the (6) count bottle.

    TF Supplements is notifying its customers of this recall by email.

    Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop using it immediately and return it to:

    TF Supplements

    6666 Gulf Freeway

    Houston TX 77087

    TF Supplements of Houston, Texas, is recalling RHINO 7 dietary supplement. The product contains desmethyl, carbondenafil and dapoxetine, which are not lis...
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    Honda recalls model year 2015 Fit vehicles

    The wires inside the Plug Top Ignition Coils may suffer damage

    American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 17,796 model year 2015 Fit vehicles manufactured December 6, 2013, to August 28, 2014.

    The recalled vehicles may experience damage to the wires inside the Plug Top Ignition Coils (PTC) due to improper protection against electrical noise.

    If the wires become damaged, the coil may overheat and cause the engine to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

    Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the PTC with new design, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 6, 2015.

    Owners may contact Honda Automobile Customer Service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is JT9.

    American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 17,796 model year 2015 Fit vehicles manufactured December 6, 2013, to August 28, 2014. The recalled vehicles may e...
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    OC Raw Dog recalls raw frozen dog food products

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

    OC Raw Dog of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., is recalling 640 lbs. of Chicken, Fish & Produce Raw Frozen Canine Formulation.

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

    No illnesses have been reported.

    This recall is limited to Chicken, Fish & Produce Raw Frozen Canine Formulations that were packaged into 6.5-lb. Doggie Dozen Patties, 4-lb. Doggie Sliders, and 3-lb. Meaty Rox with the lot number 1819, and use by date of 05/05/16. The codes are on the bottom left corner of the back of the package.

    The recalled product was sold to customers through independent pet specialty retailers in Colorado, Vermont and Pennsylvania.

    Customer who purchased the recalled product should submit a picture of the package with the lot number to Olivia@ocrawdog.com for verification, and either dispose of the product immediately or return it to the place of purchase it for a replacement product.

    Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-844-215-DOGS (3647) Monday thru Friday 9am - 4pm (PST).  

    OC Raw Dog of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., is recalling 640 lbs. of Chicken, Fish & Produce Raw Frozen Canine Formulation. The product may be contamin...
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      Other diesel carmakers worry about VW fallout

      BMW Group assures consumers its diesel cars have low emissions without cheating

      What will be the impact on car buyers of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal? Will it dampen new car sales?

      Most industry experts say it shouldn't. Edmunds.com says the scandal appears to have had very little impact on consumer confidence in the overall industry, even as it proves to be a self-inflicted wound for the German automaker.

      "Volkswagen's deception is dominating headlines, but it is not keeping shoppers away from other brands' showrooms," said Edmunds.com Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell. "It puts the crisis in a little bit of perspective, since these Volkswagen diesels don't constitute a very big share of sales. It's also a reminder that buyers won't disappear from the market just because they suddenly can't or don't want to buy these affected cars. They're willing to turn to other automakers that will meet their needs."

      BMW may stand to benefit from Volkswagen's woes, and the fellow German automaker is taking great pains to assure consumers that its clean diesel vehicles don't cheat. BMW said it has “clear, binding specifications and processes” in place through all phases of development at the BMW Group in order to avoid wrongdoing.

      Cites studies

      In a news release, the car maker said the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) carried out two studies that confirmed the BMW X5 and 13 other BMW vehicles tested comply with the legal requirements concerning NOx emissions. No discrepancies were found in the X5 between laboratory-test and field-test NOx emissions, the company said.

      BMW Group also said it is willing to discuss its testing procedures with the relevant authorities in the U.S. and other countries and would make any of its vehicles available for testing at any time.

      The company said progress in meeting emissions goals has largely been accomplished with diesel technology and it is not backing away from diesel propulsion systems because of VW's problems. In fact, the company said meeting future requirements won't happen without diesel drive trains.

      According to BMW, a diesel engine emits roughly 15% to 20% less CO2 on average than a comparable gasoline engine.

      Refining and optimizing

      “At the BMW Group, we have invested a great deal in recent years in refining and optimizing diesel technology,” the company said in a statement.

      BMW has a lot riding on how consumers ultimately react since it is heavily invested,in diesel models, as are many other automakers. Diesel vehicles accounted for 38% of vehicles sold worldwide last year – mostly in Europe. Diesel is less of a factor in the U.S. since diesel-powered vehicles accounted for only 6% of total sales.

      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said last week that it is revising its emissions testing procedures to make it more difficult for a car maker to cheat. BMW said it supports efforts to bridge the gap between test results and real-life fuel consumption and emissions.

      What will be the impact on car buyers of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal? Will it dampen new car sales?Most industry experts say it shouldn't. ...
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      Payday lenders sue FDIC, saying it "stigmatized" them

      Federal agencies put pressure on banks to cut off payday lenders, suit charges

      The federal government has gone to war against payday lenders in recent years, and now the payday lenders are fighting back in court. A trade association, the Community Financial Services Association of America, and Advance America, a large payday lender, have sued the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), saying it pressured banks into breaking ties with the payday lenders.

      Payday lenders, after all, are just like everyone else in one sense -- they need banks to finance their activities. They borrow money at preferred rates from large banks and then lend it at high rates to individuals who have a bad or non-existent credit score.

      The payday lenders say they are performing a valuable service and that cash-short consumers would have nowhere else to go if payday lenders went away. But federal consumer protection agencies contend that payday lenders take advantage of consumers by charging exorbitant interest rates that make it almost impossible for consumers to get out of debt.

      Choke Point

      Allegedly seeking to throttle the lenders, the U.S. Justice Department organized a campaign called “Operation Choke Point” and enlisted the FDIC to put pressure on banks to stop doing business with the payday lenders, the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington charges. As a result, Advance America says it was left to look for new banking partners on short notice, hampering its business operations.

      The FDIC allegedly told banks that they were incurring a “reputation risk” by financing payday lenders, which the payday lenders say violated their rights to due process since there had been no finding that they had violated any laws.

      U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, in a 48-page decision, said the payday lenders had clearly shown that they had suffered an injury as a result of Operation Choke Point, allowing the lenders’ suit to move forward.

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      The federal government has gone to war against payday lenders in recent years, and now the payday lenders are fighting back in court. A trade association,...
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      One-week fantasy sports walks a fine line as its popularity explodes

      Why regulators and sports leagues don't consider it illegal gambling

      If you watched any NFL games over the weekend – or any television for that matter – you no doubt were bombarded with commercials for the two major one-week fantasy sports enterprises, DraftKings and FanDuel.

      Fantasy sports – particularly fantasy football – has been around for years. One-week fantasy sports is a relatively new phenomenon and has enjoyed explosive growth. Instead of picking your fantasy team for an entire season and getting a small cash prize at the end if you win, DraftKings and FanDuel allow players to choose different teams each week, earning sometimes significant cash prizes if their teams compile the most points. Players may play one week or every week.

      Wait a minute, I know what you're probably thinking. Isn't this illegal gambling?

      It might seem like it, but, so far, no one who enforces laws thinks so. The difference between betting $50 on the Cincinnati Bengals to cover the spread against the Oakland Raiders and putting up $50 to play your fantasy team is that fantasy football is considered a game of skill, not chance.

      Murky distinction

      According to FanDuel, as long as your are at least 18 years old and live in either the U.S. or Canada, you can legally pick your teams and place your bets. Pete Rose may have been banned from Major League Baseball for betting on baseball games, but for other sports leagues, whether professional athletes should be allowed to play one week fantasy games remains a murky subject.

      The leagues, meanwhile, are all in, as are sports media.

      “We've even partnered up with companies like NBC, Sports Illustrated, Comcast, Sporting News, and plenty of others,” FanDuel says on its website.

      How to play

      Instead of picking a particular team to beat another team, fantasy players assemble a “team” of actual players, winning points for how well those athletes perform in a particular game. In the case of football, participants “draft” a quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a team defense.

      There is a fairly complicated formula that assigns points based on how each player performs in a game. For example, if Tom Brady was your quarterback Sunday, you would have done quite well, earning eight points for Brady's two TD passes and 14.32 points for his 358 passing yards and no interceptions.

      Highest points win

      Each position has a similar formula to produce points. The highest point total in the league – the players in a particular group – wins the money put up by the rest of the participants, with FanDuel or DraftKings taking a small cut.

      To prevent participants from “drafting” the best players at every position, professional players are assigned a contract value, with the best-performing players having the highest values. Fantasy players have a budget, or salary cap, of $60,000 to assemble a team. If you want to draft Tom Brady at quarterback, you'll probably have to choose a lesser known, or sleeper player at one or two of the other positions to stay under the cap.

      If it all sounds like a male sports geek obsession, it isn't. Leger, The Research Intelligence Group, estimates nearly one-quarter of this year's NFL Fantasy Football players are women, a steady climb over the past few years.

      Women players

      "We're seeing a small, steady trend showing the rate that women are playing Fantasy Football is growing faster than that among Fantasy Football players in general," said Lance Henik, Senior Account Manager at Leger. "According to the Fantasy Sports Trade association, approximately 20% of all fantasy players in 2011/2012 season were women. The results from our 2013 poll showed 23% of Fantasy Football players were women, with our latest poll results currently showing that 25% of them are women."

      As the 2015 NFL season kicked off earlier this month, both DraftKings and FanDuel saturated the airwaves, competing for even more participants. According to iSpot.TV, Draft Kings spent $81 million in ads between August 1 and mid September, more than the traditional sponsors of NFL games, beer companies, carmakers, and athletic shoe companies.

      Season-long fantasy football leagues are mostly played for fun, a way for sports fans to enjoy the season. As the commercials make clear, one week leagues are all about the money – and there's a lot of it. In its TV commercials over the weekend, DraftKings boasted it would pay out more than $1 billion for the season.

      It can cost as little as $1 to field a team for the week, but the potential payout for that amount is very small. Players who pay more can potentially earn more – but can lose more as well.  

      If you watched any NFL games over the weekend – or any television for that matter – you no doubt were bombarded with commercials for the two major one-week...
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      Evidence suggests Millennials interested in buying homes

      When opportunity presents itself, young people appear interested in ownership

      As first-time home buyers have entered the housing market in 2015, a sizable portion of these new buyers was made up of Millennials. It was something of a surprise since this generation had been pigeon-holed as renters.

      Having come of age precisely at the time the housing market collapsed, it was thought many young people were leery of taking out mortgages and making long-term commitments to pieces of real estate.

      There may have been some truth to that but another explanation for the absence of Millennials buying homes is the recent sorry state of the job market and the difficulty in obtaining a mortgage.

      The movement of first-time buyers into the housing market coincided with continued improvement in the employment picture. As things began to get back to normal, young people did what previous generations have done – purchase homes.

      Looking online

      According to the real estate website Realtor.com, interest can't be measured solely by foot traffic. It reports nearly 65% of Millennials aged 21 to 34 looked at real estate websites and apps in August. That conclusion is based on an analysis of data from comScore and current population estimates.

      The company said 25-34 year olds were 70% more likely than the average adult to be currently looking for a home to buy on its website. In recent months new home sales have drawn the most interest.

      “While it is difficult to estimate the effect of Millennial buyers in the new home market, one can infer that since prices over the year have trended towards the more affordable, that some of the growth in the new homes market is a result of builders providing more affordable supply,” said Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has traced the increase in first-time buyers in 2015, crediting them with keeping the market moving forward. NAR says first-time buyers counted for 32% of August's sales, rising from 28% in July.

      68% of first-time buyers

      In fact, Smoke estimates that half of all home sales activity for the first half of the year can be attributed to first-time buyers. According to NAR's 2015 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, Millennial comprise 68% of all first-time buyers.

      This is an important piece of data, Smoke believes, because the people who have increased the demand for rental inventory – making it a lot more expensive in the process – are increasingly trading rent payments for mortgages.

      “People who believe that Millennials are disinterested in home ownership are grossly mistaken,” said Smoke. “This generation hit the job market during one of the largest recessions of all time and they’ve had to work hard to establish credit and save for a down payment. With the older segment just beginning to enjoy the life events that drive home ownership – marriage and children – now is the most appropriate time for them to consider home ownership, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

      As first-time home buyers have entered the housing market in 2015, a sizable portion of these new buyers was made up of Millennials. It was something of a ...
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      Audi admits "dirty diesel" involvement, pledges to fix cars

      The company says 2.1 million cars are affected, only a handful in the U.S.

      The Volkswagen "dirty diesel" scandal is starting to have overtones of Watergate. Every few days we're brought fresh news of yet another transgression, cover-up, or evasion.

      The latest affects Audi, VW's upscale brand sometimes referred to as Volkswagen's Lexus. Audi today said that 2.1 million of its diesel-powered cars are equipped with the same stealth software as its downmarket VW brethren.

      "We are working at full speed to find a technical solution," said Audi spokesman Juergen de Graeve, Bloomberg Business reported. "Once we have that solution, we will write to customers and we will upgrade the cars so that they are within emissions regulations.

      Audi said the 2.1 million cars included the popular A4 sedan and Q5 SUV. Only 13,000 of the cars were sold in the U.S.

      Ousted VW CEO Martin Winterkorn made much of his strategy of using interchangeable parts in the company's many brands, which include VW, Audi, Porsche, Seat, and Skoda.

      Common components

      Some analysts had questioned that strategy, saying it could spell disaster for the company if it had to recall a component common in many millions of cars. It is, of course, exactly that situation that VW now faces. It needs to replace or retool software in 11 million cars -- more than it sells in a year. About 5 million are VW brand cars, including Golfs, Passats, and Tiguans, according to Automotive News.

      Winterkorn, meanwhile, is the subject of a criminal probe opened by prosecutors in Germany. Investigators are trying to determine who is responsible for scheming to circumvent emissions regulations.

      But while trying to pin blame on someone, the German government is also “working hard to contain the damage,” according to Peter Altmaier, chief of staff to Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Berlin that the government is keen to ensure that the reputation of German cars in general is “not damaged.”

      A 2016 Audi S6 (Audi photo)The Volkswagen "dirty diesel" scandal is starting to have overtones of Watergate. Every few days we're brought fresh news ...
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      Community colleges probe rising student loan default rates

      Study finds students borrowing the least default the most

      Community colleges are almost all state-supported and have always cost significantly less than four-year colleges.

      So it was something of a surprise a couple of weeks ago when the Brookings Institution lumped community colleges in with for-profit schools as institutions where student loan recipients were most likely to default on their loans.

      Admittedly, the much larger risk is for students at expensive for-profit schools, but the report's authors note, with some concern, that community college students taking out loans – and then defaulting – is a relatively new development.

      The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) has dug deeper into community college student borrowing and repayment behavior. It has compiled a report using data from all 16 community colleges in Iowa to examine who borrows and who defaults.

      Persistence and completion

      "Our institutions are more focused on persistence and completion now than ever before," said ACCT President and CEO Noah Brown. "This report emphasizes just how important those factors are to post-enrollment success."

      In their report, the Brookings researchers appeared to suggest that students attending non-selective schools – for-profit and community colleges have open enrollment, accepting all who apply – were most at risk of defaulting on loans. The ACCT report suggests it might be more complicated than that.

      The report found that students who borrow the least amount of money, not the most, are more at risk of default. Many defaulting students take no action on their loans, suggesting the complexity of the repayment system and lack of information may be a contributing factor.

      "For borrowers with less than $5,000 in debt, there are almost as many borrowers in default as those who are actively repaying their loan debt," said Jee Hang Lee, ACCT's vice president for public policy and external relations. "The solutions that we have for struggling borrowers, like public service loan forgiveness and income-based repayment, are geared toward middle-income earners with high debts. We need a policy solution for the students who borrow a little but still struggle to make the minimum monthly payment."

      Who borrows and who doesn't

      The more successful community college students don't borrow money; students who do so are more likely to drop out. Those who default on their loans are even more likely to not finish school with a credential.

      Finally, community colleges have no easy way to share data that could help institutions address student loan defaults and better manage them.

      "As institutional policymakers, Iowa's Community College Trustees recognize the value of using data to drive our decision-making process," said Cheryl Langston, Des Moines Area Community College trustee and Iowa Association of Community College Trustees board chair. "This report demonstrates how community colleges can be more reflective and forward-looking by understanding where we are doing a good job and where we need to improve to help our students be as successful as possible."

      The report includes policy reform recommendations for colleges, as well as for Congress to incorporate into the Higher Education Act's reauthorization.

      Community colleges are almost all state-supported and have always cost significantly less than four-year colleges.So it was something of a surprise a c...
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      Feds report 17.6 million identity theft victims in 2014

      Most incidents involved stolen credit cards

      The government's latest accounting of identity theft shows the problem for consumers remains much as it was in 2012, the last time the government compiled the results.

      According to the U.S. Justice Department, about 7% of the U.S. adult population – some 17.6 million people – suffered some type of identity theft last year. But there was a wide variation in the severity of the impact.

      The Justice Department includes the unauthorized use of a credit card, in which the consumer's liability is limited, on its list of identity theft crimes, along with the more serious stealing of a consumer's personal information to open credit lines or clean out a bank account.

      In fact, most victims suffered the least serious type of identity theft in 2014, the unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account. Some 16.4 million people – the overwhelming majority of identity theft victims – had that experience.

      More than one attack

      Of course, some victims may have experienced multiple types of identity theft. An estimated 8.6 million consumer experienced the fraudulent use of a credit card, 8.1 million experienced the unauthorized or attempted use of existing bank accounts, and 1.5 million victims experienced other types of existing account theft, such as misuse or attempted misuse of an existing telephone, online, or insurance account.

      When a thief steals a Social Security number and other information to open bogus credit accounts, a victim can spend months trying to straighten out the mess and clear his or her name. The government report shows 52% of last year's identity theft victims were able to resolve any problems in a day or less, suggesting those incidents were not among the most serious.

      About 14% of identity theft victims experienced an out-of-pocket loss of $1 or more. Of those, about half suffered losses of $99 or less and 14% lost $1,000 or more.

      A helpful heads-up

      The report also suggests financial institutions are doing a better job of monitoring customers' accounts. About 45% of victims said they were alerted to suspicious activity on their accounts by a financial institution.

      The report also contains some good news and bad news. The good news is 85% of people surveyed took action in 2014 to prevent identity theft, such as checking credit reports, shredding documents with personal information, and changing passwords on financial accounts.

      The bad news? The number of identity theft victims who were 65 or older increased to 2.6 million in 2014, up from 2.1 million in 2012. Seniors are especially vulnerable to scams, and the report suggests the need for family members to help older relatives keep their financial information safe.

      The government's latest accounting of identity theft shows the problem for consumers remains much as it was in 2012, the last time the government compiled...
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      Another increase in personal incomes and spending

      But consumers weren't tucking away as much for emergencies

      Personal incomes rose in August, building on July's increase, as did personal consumption expenditures (PCE) or consumer spending.

      According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, income was up 0.3%, or $52.5 billion, and disposable personal income (DPI) -- also known as after-tax income -- increased $47.1 billion, or 0.4%. PCE was up $54.9 billion, or 0.4%.

      Compensation

      The increase in wages and salaries weakened in August, rising just $35.6 billion, compared with an advance of $43.8 billion the month before. Private wages and salaries were up $31.5 billion, while government wages and salaries rose $4.1 billion.

      Personal outlays and personal saving

      PCE, personal interest payments and personal current transfer payments increased $55.2 billion in August, after rising $46.0 billion in July.

      Personal saving -- DPI less personal outlays -- was $615.6 billion in August, compared with $623.6 billion in July. The personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income – was 4.6% versus 4.7% a month earlier.

      The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.

      Personal incomes rose in August, building on July's increase, as did personal consumption expenditures (PCE) or consumer spending. According to the Bureau...
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      An August drop in pending home sales

      Three out of four geographic regions posted declines

      Pending home sales declined in August but, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), remained at a healthy level of activity.

      The NAE says its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, was down 1.4% last month to 109.4. Even with that decline though, the PHSI is up 6.1% from August 2014 and has risen year–over–year for 12 consecutive months.

      Continuing demand

      Despite the modest decline in contract signings, demand continues to outpace housing supply and elevate price growth in numerous markets. "Pending sales have leveled off since mid-summer, with buyers being bounded by rising prices and few available and affordable properties within their budget," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Even with existing-housing supply barely budging all summer and no relief coming from new construction, contract activity is still higher than earlier this year and a year ago."

      Yun believes sales in the coming months should be able to roughly maintain their current pace. However, he warns that there are looming speed bumps.

      "The possibility of a government shutdown and any ongoing instability in the equity markets could cause some households to put off buying for the time being," he said, adding, "Furthermore, adapting to the changes being implemented next month in the mortgage closing process could delay some sales."

      The national median existing–home price is expected to increase 5.8% in 2015 to $220,300, the median being the point at which prices for half the homes are higher and half are lower. Yun forecasts total existing-home sales this year to increase 7.0% to around 5.28 million -- 25% below the peak set in 2005 (7.08 million).

      Regional sales

      • The PHSI in the Northeast fell 5.6% to 93.3 in August, but is still 8.9% above a year ago.
      • In the Midwest the index inched down 0.4% to 107.4%, and is 6.5% above August 2014.
      • Pending home sales in the South dipped 2.2% to 121.5, but are still 4.1% above last August.
      • The bright spot was in the west where the PHSI rose 1.8% 104.9, and is now 7.6% above a year ago.
      Pending home sales decline in August but, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), remained at a healthy level of activity. The NAE says i...
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      Calperf recalls chicken product

      The product contains milk, an allergen not listed on the label

      Calperf, operating under Creative Foods, of Santa Clara, Calif., is recalling approximately 216 pounds of chicken product.

      The product contains yogurt derived from milk, an allergen not listed on the label. While yogurt is declared on the front label, the product is missing an ingredient list identifying milk as a sub-ingredient.

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

      The following marinated skinless chicken item, produced on September 16, 2015, is being recalled:

      2-lb. sealed trays of “Green Meadows PREMIUM MEAT CUTS Marinated Skinless Chicken Bone-In Cubed Chicken in 23% Yogurt-Curry Marinade” with a use-by date/Case code date of September 30,

      2015.

      The recalled product, bearing the establishment number “P-6052” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retailers in the San Francisco, Calif., Bay Area.

      Customers who purchased this product should not consumer it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Saswata Bhattacharya at (925) 506-8286.

      Calperf, operating under Creative Foods, of Santa Clara, Calif., is recalling approximately 216 pounds of chicken product. The product contains yogurt der...
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      Hyundai recalls model year 2009-2011 Accents

      A malfunctioning brake light switch may cause the brake lights to not illuminate

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 99,500 model year 2009-2011 Hyundai Accents manufactured March 1, 2009, to February 11, 2011.

      The brake light switch may malfunction causing the brake lights to not illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed or may cause an inability to deactivate the cruise control by depressing the brake pedal. It may also prevent the shifter from being moved out of the PARK position.

      Failure to illuminate the brake lights during braking or the inability to disengage the cruise control could increase the risk of a crash.

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake switch, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 2, 2015. Owners may contact Hyundai's customer service at 1-855-671-3059 or by visiting www.HyundaiUSA.com/Campaign131. Hyundai's number for this recall is 131.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 99,500 model year 2009-2011 Hyundai Accents manufactured March 1, 2009, to February 11, 2011. The brake light switch m...
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      Dealers join consumers in suing VW over "dirty diesel" scandal

      Consumers looking for a bargain should probably act now

      Unsold VWs (Staff photo)

      It's not just Volkswagen owners who are outraged over the Volkswagen dirty diesel scandal, dealers are angry too. In fact, the dealers were already fed up with slow sales that they blamed on VW's plodding pace in bringing new models to market, and many are right behind consumers in filing class action litigation against the company.

      It might sound strange to consumers, but dealers stand to lose a lot more in the Volkswagen scandal than their customers do. After all, what's the worst that will happen to a VW owner? The cars aren't safety hazards and can still be driven; they stand to lose resale value and may take a performance hit when the emissions systems are straightened out, but no individual car owner is going to be wiped out financially.

      Dealers, on the other hand, argue that they have already taken multi-million dollar hits in lost sales because VW was slow to update its model line-up. And now they stand to lose much more if consumers turn their backs and head over to the Kia or Nissan dealer. 

      There's also the little matter of inventory. Volkswagen sales have been sluggish the last few years and if you look carefully at VW dealers' lots, you'll see they are bulging with unsold cars that appear as a huge liability on dealers' balance sheets. 

      Bargain hunter's dream

      Not to be crass, but there is one bright spot in the entire mess -- anyone looking for a new or used car should be able to drive a hard bargain and then drive off with lots of change jiggling in their pockets. 

      Dealers live from month to month. Between now and the end of September, anyone who walks into a VW showroom with cash or good credit should be able to knock thousands of dollars off the going price for most models. 

      Admittedly, this is not the time to buy a VW diesel, since no one knows what the emissions modifications will do to the cars' performance and fuel economy, but gas-powered Volkswagens are the same precision-engineered, fun-to-drive cars today that they were yesterday.

      Consumers too often make buying decisions based on morality instead of their own self-interest. Whether you buy a VW or not doesn't really matter to Volkswagen, but if you can do so at a fire-sale price, it matters a lot to your bank balance. 

      Headed for court

      The mess that VW has made for itself also presents a sterling opportunity for the legal profession, which is letting no grass grow under its feet. Lawyers who specialize in the auto trades are tuning up their word processors and getting ready to head for the courthouse, Automotive News reports

      “If I’m a VW dealer and they’ve made intentional decisions either in Germany or in Virginia, and those decisions damaged the brand, that hurts me as a dealer,” said Mike Charapp, a partner at Charapp & Weiss in McLean, Va., a McLean, Va., a firm that represents dealers, the trade journal reported. “I’m going to be looking at some potential recourse unless VW steps up and helps me with my business.

      VW's U.S. subsidiary is headquartered in Herndon, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. The proximity to Dulles makes it easy for executives to fly back and forth to Germany.

      It also makes it convenient for lawyers to shuttle into Dulles and head for the Fairfax County courthouse or the U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Reuters estimates that at least 25 class-action cases have already been filed, representing dealers in all 50 states. 

      Besides lost sales, dealers will argue that the value of their franchises has been decreased -- even wiped out -- by Volkswagen's skirting of U.S. emission laws. The damages sought by dealers could easily exceed those sought by consumers and could even rival the $18 billion in potential fines.

      Fahrvergnügen? Fuhgeddaboudit.

      Unsold VWs (Photo via Wikipedia)It's not just Volkswagen owners who are outraged over the Volkswagen dirty diesel scandal, dealers are angry too. In ...
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      Study: Deregulation of TV news to blame for political polarization

      Congress tried to spur competition but got consolidation instead

      The polarization of the American population is often blamed for the seeming inability of the government to get anything done, as politicians play to the fringe elements of their respective parties and ignore the day-to-day decisions that are needed to keep things running smoothly.

      But don't blame the voters, says a new study, which instead ties the trend to the Telecommunication Act of 1996, a train wreck legislation that was supposed to remove the shackles of regulation, let a million stars twinkle, and so on and so forth.

      What happened instead, says the study by Washington State University, is that the television industry was no sooner deregulated than it raced to consolidate, resulting in slashed newsroom budgets and ratings competitions that turned into a race to the bottom.

      "After 1996, we see changes in polarization based on how much television people are using," said researcher Jay Hmielowski, assistant professor in WSU's Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. He conducted the study with Murrow colleague Myiah Hutchens and former colleague Michael Beam, now at Kent State University.

      A specific moment

      The Murrow researchers found that U.S. citizens have become increasingly polarized since 1996. They also found that greater use of TV news is associated with higher levels of polarization.

      "Our study is unique," they wrote, "in that it focuses on a specific moment (1996) that perpetuated changes to the media system."

      "We thought it was important to look at polarization in the United States given that we have increasing polarization in Congress and some evidence that people in general are polarizing with their attitudes and their likes or dislikes for the out party," said Hmielowski.

      Their work was recently published online in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research.

      The polarization of the American population is often blamed for the seeming inability of the government to get anything done, as politicians play to the fr...
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      More than one-quarter of U.S. homes are losing value

      Disturbing pattern also appeared just before the housing bubble popped

      Despite real estate industry statistics that consistently show a rise in the average home price, there is evidence that these increases skip over several significant housing markets.

      In fact, real estate market site Zillow has compiled statistics showing that more than one-quarter of U.S. homes lost value over the last year, at a time when the real estate market as a whole was thought to be still improving.

      The disconnect is largely due to the nature of real estate, and the importance of “location, location, location.” In some markets, prices have already eclipsed those at the height of the housing bubble. Others are still struggling to put the housing crisis in the rear view mirror.

      From a national standpoint, Zillow says homes gained 3.3% from a year ago. Not a big gain but more than the inflation rate.

      Leveling off

      But the numbers show the national growth rate in home prices has leveled off over the past five months, suggesting the housing recovery is coming to an end and the market is returning to normal.

      A disturbing twist, however, is the 27.9% of homes that lost value over the past year. Something like that happened in the recent past – just before the market crash, in fact, when 21.2% of homes were worth less.

      The eroding values peaked in December 2008, when 81.6% of homes had lost value. Today, the most significant falling values are clustered in East Coast markets.

      According to Zillow, 48% of homes in Baltimore, 43% of homes in Philadelphia, 41% of homes in Washington, DC, and 38.6% of homes in New York and Northern New Jersey have lost value over the last year.

      Markets in the Midwest also had their share of losses. Home values were down 32% in Cincinnati, 31% in Cleveland, and 27% in St. Louis.

      Hot markets still holding value

      At the other end of the scale, some real estate markets remain red hot, with homes shedding little of their value. Markets like Denver, Dallas, San Jose, and San Francisco all saw double-digit home value growth over the past year. Less than five percent of homes in Denver and Dallas were worth less in August 2015 than they were a year ago.

      "We're not going in reverse, but we are hitting the brakes a bit in some markets," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "It's easy to say the recession is over when a third of the biggest markets are more expensive now than ever before, but we're still seeing a number of homes losing value. The reality is there are still areas lagging behind in the recovery."

      If you're renting, does that mean you should be dissuaded from buying? Again, it depends upon the market. However, renting in most areas is still no bargain.

      The Zillow Rent Index rose 3.8% on an annual basis to$1,381, suggesting that rents are rising faster than home values.

      Despite real estate industry statistics that consistently show a rise in the average home price, there is evidence that these increases skip over several s...
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      Springtime economy grew at a healthy clip

      More consumer spending was a big factor

      The final numbers for economic growth during the second quarter are in -- and things were looking pretty good.

      The Commerce Department reports real gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 3.9%.

      By way of comparison, real GDP increased a paltry 0.6% in the first three months of the year.

      These new numbers are based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate, in which the increase in real GDP was put at 3.7%. With this “third” and final look at the April – June quarter, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and nonresidential fixed investment increased more than previously estimated.

      Contributors

      The acceleration in real GDP came from an upturn in exports, an acceleration in PCE, a deceleration in imports, a turnaround in state and local government spending, and an acceleration in nonresidential fixed investment. Those were partly offset by decelerations in private inventory investment and in federal government spending.

      Real gross domestic income (GDI) -- the value of the costs incurred and the incomes earned in the production of goods and services in the nation’s economy -- rose 0.7% after increasing 0.4% in the first quarter.

      GDP inflation and corporate profits

      The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, rose 1.5% in the second quarter, in contrast to a decline 1.6% in the first quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” rate of GDP inflation jumped 1.2% after edging up just 0.2% in the preceding quarter.

      Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation adjustment (IVA) and capital consumption adjustment (CCAdj)) shot up $70.4 billion in the second quarter; they fell $123.0 billion in the first.

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

      The final numbers for economic growth during the second quarter are in -- and things were looking pretty good. The Commerce Department reports real gross ...
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      Hyundai Tucson and Sonata collect top IIHS awards

      A redesign for 2016 reaps rewards

      Hyundai tweaked the designs for both the Tucson and Sonata, qualifying the vehicles for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

      In the Tucson's small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well, with a maximum intrusion of six inches at the parking brake pedal, but no more than three inches at other locations. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and the front and side curtain airbags worked well together to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

      In contrast, when the previous generation of the Tucson was tested, the intrusion was severe, reaching a maximum of 16 inches at the parking brake pedal. The steering column moved in and to the right, causing the dummy's head to slide off the left side of the front airbag. The head hit the instrumental panel, and the side curtain airbag didn't deploy.

      Like its predecessor, the redesigned Tucson earns good ratings in the other crashworthiness tests -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

      Sonata changes

      The midsize Sonata was redesigned for the 2015 model year. For 2016, Hyundai made changes to the driver's safety belt and the front suspension in hopes of improving the small overlap rating from acceptable to good. Those changes weren't enough, and the rating remains acceptable. It earns good ratings in the other crashworthiness tests.

      Both the 2016 Sonata and the 2016 Tucson have an available front crash prevention system that includes automatic braking. The vehicles avoided collisions in IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph. The optional package also includes forward collision warning that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That gives the vehicles the maximum six points for a superior front crash prevention rating.

      To qualify for the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test. For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating.

      The Institute plans to raise the bar in 2016, requiring a good small overlap rating for either award. Vehicles with an acceptable rating, such as the Sonata, will need further improvements to qualify for 2016 honors.

      Hyundai tweaked the designs for both the Tucson and Sonata qualifying the vehicles for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+...
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