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    CG&C: Job cuts should slow in 2016 as hiring and pay accelerate

    A “lot of churn” is seen in the labor force

    “Wait till next year!”

    That's not just the perennial cry of Chicago Cubs fans. A leading outplacement consultancy has also taken it up when it comes to the labor market in 2016.

    Challenger, Gray & Christmas says while 2015 job cuts are expected to hit a six-year high, the pace of downsizing should slow in the year ahead as hiring and wages continue to make gains.

    Although year-end tabulations are still a few weeks away, U.S.-based employers announced 574,888 planned job cuts through November – 19% more than the 2014 year-end total of 483,171. At the current pace, this year is on track to be the biggest job cut year since 2009, when 1,272,030 jobs were eliminated.

    The oil patch took the heaviest hits

    Looking for somewhere to point the finger? Try the dramatic decline in oil prices, which prompted companies involved in exploration and extraction to make significant adjustments to workforce levels.

    All told, falling oil prices were blamed for 102,738 job cuts through November, or nearly one in every five job cuts announced in 2015.

    Heavy downsizing was also seen in the public sector, where military cutbacks claimed 57,000 troops and civilian personnel.

    “Cuts related to oil prices were heaviest in the first half of year, dropping by more than 50% in the second half,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “With oil prices expected to remain low for the foreseeable future,” he added, “we could continue to see the industry workforce shrink in 2016, though probably not at the rate we saw in the first part of 2015.”

    Challenger says a decline in oil cuts is expected to result in an overall slowdown in downsizing activity in 2016. “Job cuts may not reach the previous post-recession low, achieved in 2014, when year-end cuts fell to 483,171,” he pointed out, noting that “even if job cuts don’t fall to post-recession lows, increased hiring and wages are expected to offset the losses.”

    A slowdown in job growth

    The nation’s non-farm payrolls grew by an average of 210,000 jobs per month through November, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average in 2014 was 260,000 new jobs per month.

    Part of the slowdown, Challenger said, “may have been related to a weakened energy sector, which was one of the strong growth areas in 2013 and 2014. However, another contributor to the slower job gains this year may have been a shrinking supply of available talent.”

    A churning labor force

    “There is a lot of churn in the labor force right now,” said Challenger. “We have retirees leaving the workforce; we will continue to see layoffs, even in a strong economy; and, each month upwards of 2.7 million Americans quit their jobs. So, when casual observers look at that net job gain of around 200,000 new workers each month, they can easily miss all of this other activity that suggests a very frenetic employment picture where there are still a lot of separations alongside a lot of hiring,” he added.

    Challenger expects this heavy churn to continue in 2016, with around 10,000 baby boomers hitting retirement age each day. But he says, that doesn’t mean they are going to leave the labor force. “Recent improvements in the stock market might mean that more can leave the workforce if they want, but many will continue to work out of desire,”he said. “However, many will change jobs, others will cut back hours, and some may leave the workforce for a while and come back. In any case, baby boomers alone will be a significant contributor to labor force churn.”

    Job prospects

    Challenger says this churn, whether it’s related Baby Boomers or companies shifting strategies, creates opportunities, but that doesn't mean finding a job will be easy in 2016. Employers are still being selective and the hiring process is taking longer, as a result,” he said. “Job seekers should not expect to send out a bunch of resumes and job offers will simply come pouring in.

    They will still be required to do the hard leg work. Cold calling, networking, meeting with people on a daily basis, and all of the other activities necessary to uncover the hidden job market and find the best opportunities.

    “Wait till next year!”That's not just the perennial cry of Chicago Cubs fans. A leading outplacement consultancy has also taken it up when it comes to ...
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    FTC sets guidelines for 'native' advertising

    Advertising shouldn't look too much like surrounding editorial content

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlined a simple principle for so-called "native" advertising today, also known as sponsored content: it has to be clearly identified as advertising.

    “The FTC’s policy applies time-tested truth-in-advertising principles to modern media,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “People browsing the Web, using social media, or watching videos have a right to know if they’re seeing editorial content or an ad.”

    The policy statement explains that an ad’s format is deceptive if it materially misleads consumers about the ad’s commercial nature, including through any implied or express representation that it comes from a party other than the sponsoring advertiser.

    If the source of advertising content is clear, consumers can make informed decisions about whether to interact with the advertising and the weight to give the information conveyed in the ad, the FTC said.

    Data profiling

    The Center for Digital Democracy said the guidelines are a "wake-up call for digital marketers" but expressed concern that the FTC guidelines do not address the use that data profiling plays in targeting individuals.

    "Increasingly, the same Big Data driven tactics that undermine user privacy—where a person is identified and tracked regardless of the device they use—is being used to create and deliver native ads," said Jeffrey Chester, the group's executive director, in an email to ConsumerAffairs. "Known as 'programmatic native,' this growing practice raises additional consumer protection concerns about user privacy. The FTC should have specifically addressed it in its guidance and not just in a footnote.

    "Given the growing data-driven capability of native ads to be formatted to reflect a person’s interests and online behavior, as well as how it’s designed to work well on mobile devices and other screens, there are questions about the effectiveness of disclosure," Chester said. "What’s needed is a 21st Century set of safeguards that enable consumers to control the data used to deliver them ads, especially formats like native that are specially designed to be disguised as content."

    Business guide

    Also released today is “Native Advertising: A Guide for Business” to help companies understand, and comply with, the policy statement in the context of native advertising. The business guidance gives examples of when disclosures are necessary to prevent deception and FTC staff guidance on how to make clear and prominent disclosures within the format of native ads.

    The policy statement and business guidance is, in part, the result of the FTC staff’s analysis of information collected at a workshop held in December 2013 entitled “Blurred Lines: Advertisements or Editorial?”, its monitoring of how native advertising is used, and relevant consumer research over the past two years.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlined a simple principle for so-called "native" advertising today, also known as sponsored content: it has to be clea...
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      How well do those wearable activity monitors work?

      Researchers find they monitor some activity more accurately than others

      Wearable tech was big in 2015 and promises to be even bigger in 2016. Consumers have been buying wearable activity trackers that promise to monitor physical activity, sleep, diet, and other health data.

      But how well do these things work?

      Researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and RTI International decided it was a fair question. After their study, they conclude that these wearable gadgets are better at measuring some metrics than others.

      Lead author Kelly Evenson and her team studied 22 published articles researching the ability of Fitbit and Jawbone – two popular activity trackers – to measure steps, distance, physical activity, calories, and sleep.

      Accurate step count

      The researchers concluded that the devices do a good job of counting steps. Both were accurate in the lab and in the field. Only one study assessed distance tracking for the Fitbit, finding that the device tends to over-estimate at slower speeds and under-estimate at faster speeds.

      Using several different comparison measures, other researchers found that both tracker brands under-estimated calories used and over-estimated total sleep time.

      So if you want to keep track of your steps, the researchers say either device should work fine. If you want an accurate count of calories and sleep time, there might be issues.

      Tips for making them more accurate

      "When researching information on the trackers, we learned several tips users may be able to implement to make their tracker more accurate," Evenson said.

      To promote accuracy, the authors conclude you should wear the tracker in the same position each day. Enter personal details like height and weight correctly at initial set-up, and update if there is significant change in weight.

      If possible, calibrate the length of your walking stride.

      "Wearable devices that track physical activity, sleep and other behaviors are growing significantly in popularity," said Robert Furberg, senior clinical informaticist at RTI International and co-author of the study. "We conducted this review to understand how accurate these devices are."

      Jump in sales

      In fact, sales of wearable tech this year have been stunning. International Data Corporation (IDC) reports total shipment volume for the third quarter of the year was 21.0 million units, up 197.6% from the 7.1 million units shipped in the third quarter last year.

      Competition is intense. According to IDC, Fitbit held the advantage in the third quarter with 22.2% of the market. Apple was second at 18.6%. Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi was third at 17.4%.  

      Wearable tech was big in 2015 and promises to be even bigger in 2016. Consumers have been buying wearable activity trackers that promise to monitor physica...
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      Volkswagen vows to show some humility, coins a new slogan

      "Das Auto" is seen as too absolutist in the post-Dirty Diesel era

      It's been a bad year for Volkswagen and an even worse year for Volkswagen owners, who find their cars' resale value trashed and fear that they have been unwittingly poisoning their fellow Earthlings. 

      But time marches on and VW is fighting to recover from the Dirty Diesel scandal. How? Why, through advertising and public relations, of course. It's taking a bold move -- ditching its "Das Auto" slogan, widely used since 2007 when it replaced the little-mourned "Fahrvergnügen."

      Instead of the rather drab "Das Auto," which after all simply means "the car," VW will be rolling out its bold new slogan soon.

      "Wherever our logo appears in future, it will be backed by the new brand slogan 'Volkswagen,'" a VW spokesman said, according to Reuters. "The slogan will be rolled out in stages across the world."

      No, it's not a misprint. Volkswagen's new slogan will be "Volkswagen."

      Reuters quoted a VW executive who attended a recent strategy session in Dresden as saying that the old "Das Auto" slogan was seen as absolutist. You know, sort of stiff and elitist. The new one -- "Volkswagen" -- well, it's supposed to be more humble.

      Head-hanging

      Consumers rate Volkswagen

      After months of what has been seen in many quarters as arrogance and defensiveness and even outright prevarication at times, VW is trying to loosen up, show some humility, and be more open about its internal problems, even while claiming it has no idea who might have tinkered with the emissions control systems on its diesel engines.

      Wags have compared this to O.J. Simpson's oft-repeated pledge to find the fiend who murdered his wife and a friend. 

      But just to illustrate the depth of its commitment to a new openness, Volkswagen suggested that its executives ditch the neckties at the Dresden strategy session and some reports have even said that as a team-building exercise, top VW brass folded shirts together.

      Volkswagen obviously will stop at nothing to win back consumers' confidence.

      It's been a bad year for Volkswagen and an even worse year for Volkswagen owners, who find their cars' resale value trashed and fear that they have been un...
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      Cruise passengers aren't big spenders in port, study finds

      They walk around, buy a few trinkets, then reboard the ship

      The huge cruise ship docks and tourists pour off for a few hours in port. Is it a bonanza for local businesses? Actually, no, a new study finds.

      Cruising tourists spend very little money during the port of call even when they are offered an increased number of spending options, according to the study published in Tourism Management Perspectives.

      The study looked at the spending patterns of cruise passengers in Bergen, Norway's largest cruise harbor, hosting more than 300 cruise ships every season.

      The local tourist industry, media, port authorities and politicians often praise the ever-increasing number of cruise arrivals to Bergen, but for no good reason, according to Professor Svein Larsen at the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen (UiB).

      In their study, Larsen and colleague Katharina Wolff found that cruise passengers' expenditures do not vary as a function of spending opportunities. They compared tourists' expenditures on normal weekdays including Saturday, when shops and other services tend to be open, to expenditures on Sundays and holidays, when most shops tend to be closed.

      "Even if more possibilities to spend money arise, cruise tourists do not spend more. But land tourists do," says Larsen.

      "The myth that cruise passengers' expenditures are low because there is nothing to spend money on, as a Norwegian emeritus minister of trade phrased it in a local newspaper in 2013, is simply not true."

      Hurry back

      An earlier study by Larsen found that it is probably the length of stay on land that is the most crucial determinant of how much money cruise passengers spend. Currently, cruise tourists are normally not allowed much time in port, thus limiting their opportunity to spend money. 

      "After a short morning or afternoon stroll in the city, cruise passengers typically hurry back to the ship where they can enjoy their already paid-for lunch or afternoon tea," says Larsen.

      Another myth about cruise tourists is that they often return to a destination visited on the cruise on a later occasion. But the new study shows that among tourists who had visited Norway before, cruise tourists had visited as cruise tourists and land tourists had visited as land tourists. Similarly, revisit intentions, the expressed desire to come back to Bergen/Norway, are significantly higher among land tourists than among cruise tourists.

      At the same time, cruise tourists express a higher wish to return as cruise tourists also in the future, and they express a higher wish to return as cruise tourists than as land tourists.

      "It simply seems as if cruise tourism does not have any value as a promotor of Norway as a holiday destination at all," Larsen said.

      The huge cruise ship docks and tourists pour off for a few hours in port. Is it a bonanza for local businesses? Actually, no, a new study finds.Cruisin...
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      Southwest Airlines agrees to settle safety suit

      Charges involve the maintenance of its Boeing 737 fleet

      The U.S. Justice Department has announced that Southwest Airlines has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought against the carrier. The suit alleges that the company violated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety regulations in its maintenance of its Boeing 737s.

      In April, the FAA charged Southwest Airlines with two safety violations, including one involving a loss of cabin pressure during a flight from Boston to St. Louis. The agency charged that on May 13, 2013, a Southwest Boeing 737 lost cabin pressure, the cabin’s oxygen masks deployed, and the aircraft made an emergency landing in Baltimore.

      The FAA further alleged that after the event, Southwest mechanics failed to complete a mandatory inspection to check whether the change in cabin pressure damaged the aircraft and to ensure used oxygen bottles were replaced.

      In August, the FAA proposed a $325,000 civil penalty against the Dallas-based carrier for allegedly operating a Boeing 737 that was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations.

      The penalty is the result of an inspection made on July 9, 2014, when an FAA inspector performed an aging aircraft inspection on the 737 while it was at a maintenance facility in San Salvador, El Salvador. According to the FAA, the inspector discovered that Southwest improperly recorded a temporary repair to an approximately nine-inch crease in the aluminum skin of the jetliner’s rear cargo door as a permanent repair.

      Settlement terms

      Under the terms of the settlement Southwest will make operational changes to improve oversight of, and control over, third parties that perform maintenance on its aircraft. Southwest also agreed to pay a $2.8 million civil penalty and up to $5.5 million in deferred civil penalties if it does not implement the operational changes set forth in the settlement agreement.

      “The Justice Department believes the settlement agreement with Southwest Airlines Co. will provide meaningful improvements in safety and compliance and further ensure the integrity of FAA air safety regulations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

      FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the settlement provides strong incentives for the company to take specific steps to address the compliance problems that the FAA investigations uncovered.

      The U.S. Justice Department has announced that Southwest Airlines has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought against the carrier. The suit alleges that...
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      IRS cuts 2016 standard mileage rates

      Rates are being cut for business, medical, and moving mileage

      If you use your car for things that are usually tax deductible, you're not going to like this.

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is cutting the 2016 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes.

      Starting January 1, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups, or panel trucks) will be:

      • 54 cents per mile for business miles driven -- down 3.5 cents from 2015.
      • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes -- down four cents from 2015.
      • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. The charitable rate is based on statute.

      According to the tax agency, the standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

      You have options

      Keep in mind, though, that you always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using your vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

      A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle.

      In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

      These and other requirements for a taxpayer to use a standard mileage rate to calculate the amount of a deductible business, moving, medical, or charitable expense are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51.

      Notice 2016-01 contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

      If you use your car for things that are usually tax deductible, you're not going to like this.The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is cutting the 2016 op...
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      Existing-home sales hit the skids

      The November pace was the slowest since April 2014

      Sales of previously owned homes skidded in November to their lowest level in more than a year and a-half.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops -- plummeted 10.5% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million. That's the lowest since April 2014.

      Last month's decline, the largest since a 22.5% plunge in July 2010, pushed sales 3.8% below a year ago -- the first year-over-year decrease since September 2014.

      Many factors at play

      Multiple factors led to November's sales decline, but NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun thinks the primary reason could be an anomaly as the industry adjusts to the new Know Before You Owe rule. "Sparse inventory and affordability issues continue to impede a large pool of buyers' ability to buy, which is holding back sales," he said. "However, signed contracts have remained mostly steady in recent months, and properties sold faster in November. Therefore it's highly possible the stark sales decline wasn't because of sudden, withering demand."

      Yun says although real estate agents are adjusting accordingly to the Know Before You Owe initiative, the main takeaway so far has been the need for longer closing times.

      "It's possible the longer timeframes pushed a latter portion of would-be November transactions into December," said Yun. "As long as closing timeframes don't rise even further, it's likely more sales will register to this month's total, and November's large dip will be more of an outlier."

      Prices and inventory

      The median existing-home price for all housing types last month was $220,300 -- up 6.3% from a year ago, and the 45th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

      Total housing inventory at the end of November fell 3.3% to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 1.9% lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace, versus 4.8 months in October.

      Performance by region

      • Existing-home sales in the Northeast dropped 9.2% to an annual rate of 690,000 but are still 1.5% above a year ago. The median price posted a year-over-year gain of 3.2% to $254,800.
      • In the Midwest, sales plunged 15.4% to an annual rate of 1.10 million in November and are now 2.7% below November 2014. The median price was $169,300 -- up 5.3% from a year ago.
      • The South saw a sales decline of 6.2% to an annual rate of 1.98 million and are now 5.7% below the same time a year earlier. The median price rose 6.3% to $189,400.
      • Existing-home sales in the West totaled 990,000 down a whopping 13.9% in November and are now 4.8% lower than a year ago. The median price was $319,700 -- 8.3% above November 2014.
      Sales of previously owned homes skidded in November to their lowest level in more than a year and a-half.The National Association of Realtors (NAR) rep...
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      New safety rules proposed for indoor tanning devices

      Those under 18 would be barred from using them

      The risks of using indoor tanning devices are well known

      Things such as sunlamps, indoor tanning beds, and tanning booths expose you to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and increase your risk of eye injury, skin damage, and skin cancer -- including melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already requires such devices to be labeled with a visible, black-box warning stating that they should not be used by people under age 18 because the effects of exposure to UV radiation add up over one’s lifetime. Therefore, UV radiation exposure in youth and teenagers puts them at a greater risk for skin and eye damage later in life.

      Improving safety

      So, the FDA is now proposing a rule that would restrict their use to adults aged 18 and older. The proposed rule also would require indoor tanning facilities to inform adult users about the health risks of indoor tanning and to obtain a signed risk acknowledgment from these users.

      In addition, the agency is proposing a rule that would require manufacturers and indoor tanning facilities to take more actions to help improve the overall safety of indoor tanning devices.

      “There is increasing evidence that indoor tanning during childhood and early adult life increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma,” says Markham C. Luke, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist and the deputy office director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Hundreds of youth also are injured each year across the country due to using sunlamp products.”

      In fact, those who have been exposed to radiation from indoor tanning are 59% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

      On average, more than 3,000 emergency room visits in the United States occur each year because of injuries related to indoor tanning (based on data from 2003 through 2012), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 400 of those patients each year were younger than 18.

      “The FDA is particularly concerned about children and teens being exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning because the effects of exposure add up over your lifetime,” Luke explains. “Exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning is a preventable cause of skin cancer. The FDA is committed to protecting public health by informing consumers of the risks of indoor tanning.”

      Does this affect me?

      In addition to banning use for consumers under the age of 18, adult users would have to sign a certification acknowledging that they have been informed of the health risks related to the use of indoor tanning devices. Adults would sign this certification before their first indoor tanning session, and every six months after that.

      The FDA says this certification would help ensure that indoor tanning facilities are giving truthful and easy-to-read information to consumers that would help them make informed decisions.

      If the second proposed rule on sunlamp products (regarding performance standards) becomes final, it would require manufacturers and indoor tanning facilities to take more actions to protect consumers. (Performance standards, among other things, help ensure devices function as intended, which can help reduce risks to consumers.)

      The changes

      Some key proposed changes would include:

      • Changing requirements for warning statements to make them more effective;
      • Improving eye safety by adding requirements that would limit the amount of visible light allowed through protective eyewear 
      • Improving labeling on replacement bulbs so tanning facility operators make sure they are using the correct bulbs, reducing the risk of accidental burns;
      • Preventing changes to devices (for instance, preventing manufacturers from installing stronger bulbs) without re-certifying and re-identifying the device with the FDA; and
      • Requiring all sunlamp products to have an emergency shut-off switch (or panic button) that users can easily find and identify by touch or sight.
      The risks of using indoor tanning devices are well known. Things such as sunlamps, indoor tanning beds, and tanning booths expose you to ultraviolet (UV)...
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      Turmeric offers a wide range of health benefits

      But is the powerful herb really more effective than prescription medication?

      Turmeric (or Curcumin), the bright orange spice that gives curry its distinctive glow, has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years. The bitter herb sees generous use in nearly all Indian meals — and on a possibly related note, India has among the lowest rates of lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancer.

      The holistic health community has long utilized turmeric to clear infections and inflammations both in and outside of the body. But recently, Western medical practitioners have also hopped aboard the Turmeric train.

      As one of the most thoroughly researched plants ever, there are currently 8,421 peer-reviewed articles published which claim to prove the numerous benefits of turmeric.

      Benefits

      Packed with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, turmeric has been shown to fight free radicals, rejuvenate the cells, cleanse the liver, protect the heart, boost mood, and support the brain. It may also be helpful in treating osteoarthritis, viral and bacterial infections, stomach ulcers, cancer, and other conditions.

      “It’s a very powerful plant,” says Natalie Kling, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist who recommends it to clients for joint pain. Kling says that when taken as a supplement, it helps quickly. She advises adding raw turmeric to food whenever possible.

      “Sprinkling it on vegetables or mixing it into dressings is quick and effective,” Kling says. “It’s inexpensive, mild in taste, and benefits every system in the body.”

      More effective than medication?

      Of the studies published, many claim that the potent herb is even more advantageous than prescription drugs — one of the biggest reasons is due to the lack of side effects (other than allergic reactions).

      The attention-grabbing headline, “Turmeric confirmed to be as effective as 14 drugs” has recently been in circulation around the web. But upon review of scientific studies, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database concluded that the herb is “Likely Safe” or “Possibly Effective” for dyspepsia and osteoarthritis, and there is “Insufficient Reliable Evidence” to rate effectiveness for other indications, such as Alzheimer’s, anterior uveitis, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin cancer.

      "I see no reason to jump on the turmeric bandwagon," says Harriet Hall on ScienceBasedMedicine.org. "On the other hand, I see no compelling reason to advise people not to use it," adding that it's important for people to understand the state of evidence before simply going along with its touted benefits.

      As a supplement

      While most research is still in the animal stages or having only been conducted on humans through intravenous administration, it’s important to consult your doctor before starting this supplement to ensure that it’s safe for you.

      But according to New York University Langone Medical Center, Turmeric dosages must supply 400 to 600 milligrams of Curcumin three times per day to see therapeutic benefits. 

      A doctor can recommend a supplement type and dosage amount to address your health concerns.

      Turmeric (or Curcumin), the bright orange spice that gives curry its distinctive glow, has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for ...
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      Study seeks to slow mental decline during aging

      Holiday gatherings are a good time to notice older family members' memory issues

      What's a “senior moment” and what's a sign of more serious memory issues? That's a question seniors and their families often ask, and until now there have been few clear-cut answers.

      But researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Washington University in St. Louis have launched a major clinical trial to find out if mental decline in seniors can be slowed or halted through exercise and other health-related interventions.

      Specifically, the trial will focus on using Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), physical exercise, and health education. Researchers will be trying to find whether they can influence cognitive processes, such as attention and memory, in older adults.

      “Our overall goal is to find out how to improve memory and concentration in older people,” said Julie Wetherell, PhD, co-principal investigator and professor in UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.

      Timely trial

      The trial starts at a time when about 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day. In the next few decades the country’s senior population will almost double, from 43 million in 2012 to nearly 84 million by 2050.

      “As our society ages, we want to preserve cognitive function and enhance it if possible,” said Wetherell. “We know the brain is capable of growing new connections into old age. If we demonstrate that one, two or all three of these interventions work, it will be good news for older people who want to maintain and improve their cognitive abilities.”

      Holiday health assessment

      Holiday gatherings are a good time for family members to observe the cognitive function in parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The holidays can be especially useful if several months have passed since older and younger family members have been together.

      "If you haven’t seen your elderly loved one in a while, you might be more likely to notice changes in their memory and behavior that worry you," said Dr. Gregory Jicha, of the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

      Jicha says these are some troubling signs to watch for:

      • It's normal for someone to forget a date or a name but suddenly remember it later. What isn't normal is if they ask for the same information repeatedly, or struggle to recall important dates.
      • Are they having trouble following a recipe? Problem-solving skills can deteriorate in someone with Alzheimer's disease (AD).
      • Do they get lost when driving to a familiar location? If they have difficulty completing familiar tasks, it might be a sign of AD.
      • Healthy people occasionally struggle to find the right word, but using the wrong word -- particularly if they call something by the wrong name – could be something to worry about.
      • Poor judgment: are they giving lots of money to telemarketers or charities?
      • Poor hygiene.
      • Personality changes: are they suddenly irrational, fearful, or suspicious?

      Jicha says any of these observations should be discretely shared with other family members and a doctor.

      What's a “senior moment” and what's a sign of more serious memory issues? That's a question seniors and their families often ask, and until now there have ...
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      Young-adult homeownership rates may be headed in a positive direction

      Numbers hint at inbound stability as the population of 25-34-year-olds soars

      Young-adult homeownership has, for decades (with the exception of a growth spurt during the housing boom), been on the decline. Longer educational careers, delayed marriage and childbearing, and changes in the age distribution of the population are just a few of the demographic and social shifts to blame for the downward trend.

      Declines have moderated recently, however, as the young-adult population has continued to grow. According to FannieMae.com’s Housing Insights, this moderation could mean that a return to stability is on the horizon for the demographic.

      “After years of steep declines, the number of 25- to 34-year-old homeowners fell only modestly in 2013 and stabilized in 2014,” says FannieMae.com, “Strong population growth could soon generate increases in the number of young homeowners, even without much improvement in homeownership rate trends.”

      That’s not to say that we’re out of the woods yet. Numbers are still declining  just at a moderating pace. In other words, says the site: “The young-adult homeownership rate is no longer hemorrhaging, but bleeding continues.”

      Indications of stability

      During the housing bust, young adult homeownership took a major hit. Those in the 25-to 34-year-old age bracket experienced a greater decline in homeownership than any other age group, falling nearly 10 percentage points since the overall homeownership rate peaked in 2006.

      Moderating declines, however, have translated into much smaller decreases in the number of young owners.

      Between 2007-2012, the number of homeowners aged 25-34 fell by more than 250,000 each year but has declined less than 100,000 annually since. In fact, the decline between 2013 and 2014 was considered “statistically insignificant”  the first indication of stability in the number of young homeowners since the onset of the Great Recession, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

      Housing market implications

      With population growth among young adults poised to continue expanding rapidly, growth in the number of young homeowners can be stimulated by even the most modest of improvements.

      This return to modest growth in young homeowners could have several implications on the housing industry, including:

      • The need to adjust the size, type, and geographic location of new housing construction

      • The need to expand education and counseling efforts targeted at inexperienced homeowners

      • Demand for services and technologies designed to serve youthful home buyers as they search for housing and mortgages

      • An increased demand for starter homes

      Future predictions

      Forecasting future homeownership rate change is difficult and full of uncertainty. However, upon analyzing three possible homeownership rate path trajectories, experts say stability is “certainly plausible.”

      Given steady labor market improvements, nascent income growth, and persistently strong aspirations for homeownership among young adults, a return to stability  or at least modest improvement in homeownership rates  is headed our way.

      Recent efforts to expand mortgage credit for first-time home buyers also could help nudge the young-adult homeownership rate in a positive direction.

      Young-adult homeownership has, for decades (with the exception of a growth spurt during the housing boom), been on the decline. Longer educational careers,...
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      Cure House recalls pork products

      The products did not undergo federal inspection

      The Cure House of Louisville, Ky., is recalling an undetermined amount of cured pork products.

      The products did not undergo federal inspection.

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

      The the following cured ham items, produced from 2009 thru Dec. 19, 2015, are being recalled:

      • Various weights of individually wrapped “Woodland’s Pork Mountain Ham” products with no label.

      The recalled products bear establishment number “Est. 44888” inside the USDA mark of inspection; However, the firm was not issued a USDA grant of inspection.

      The items were shipped to distributors in Kentucky and New Jersey.

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Jay Denham at (502) 235-3792.

      The Cure House of Louisville, Ky., is recalling an undetermined amount of cured pork products. The products did not undergo federal inspection....
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      Bonavista Foods recalls pork products

      The products were not presented at the U.S. point of entry for inspection

      Bonavista Foods of Ovid, N.Y., is recalling approximately 4,338 pounds of cured pork products.

      The products were not presented at the U.S. point of entry for inspection. Without the benefit of full inspection, a possibility of adverse health consequences exists.

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

      The following cured pork back items, imported on Nov. 17, 2015, are being recalled:

      • Combo bin containing “GRAS DE DOS DE PORC SALE sel ajoute CURED PORK FATBACK salt added PRODUCT IF U.S.A./PRODUIT DES E.U.A.” with a packaging date of Nov. 30, 2015, and package code 306.
      • 50-lb. boxes of “CURED PORK FATBACK PRODUCT OF THE U.S.A” with a packaging date of Nov. 27, 2015.

      The recalled products bear establishment number “Est. 17978” inside the USDA mark of inspection. They were shipped to a warehouse and retail locations in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Canada.

      The problem was discovered during routine FSIS surveillance activities of imported products.

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Angelo Gaetano at (607) 869-9939.

      Bonavista Foods of Ovid, N.Y., is recalling approximately 4,338 pounds of cured pork products. The products were not presented at the U.S. point of...
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      Smart Lipo dietary supplement capsules recalled

      The product contains sibutramine, desmethylsibutramine and phenolphthalein, which are not listed on the label

      SmartLipo365 of Dallas, Texas, is recalling all lots of Smart Lipo (800, 900, 950 mg) capsules.

      The product contains sibutramine, desmethylsibutramine, and phenolphthalein, which are not listed on the label.

      Sibutramine is known to substantially increase blood pressure and/or pulse rate in some patients and may present a significant risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias or stroke.

      Phenolphthalein is an ingredient previously used in over-the-counter laxatives, but because of concerns of carcinogenicity, it is not currently approved for marketing in the U.S. Health risks associated with phenolphthalein could include potentially serious gastrointestinal disturbances, irregular heartbeat, and cancer with long-term use.

      These undeclared ingredients make the product an unapproved new drug for which safety and efficacy has not been established.

      The company has not received any complaints associated with this product to date.

      Smart Lipo is marketed as a dietary supplement and is packaged in bottles of 30 capsules in 800mg, 900mg and 950mg per capsule. The recalled product, which includes all expiration dates, was sold in stores, Centro Naturista in Richardson, Texas, SmartLipo365 in Arlington, Texas, and distributed nationwide via the Internet.

      Customers should immediately discontinue the use of these products.

      Consumers with questions may contact SmartLipo365 by calling 972-757-8136 Monday through Friday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. (CT).

      SmartLipo365 of Dallas, Texas, is recalling all lots of Smart Lipo (800, 900, 950 mg) capsules. The product contains sibutramine, desmethylsibutram...
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      The real problem with driverless cars: human drivers

      Self-driving cars obey traffic laws, confusing human drivers who often don't

      There's a big problem with driverless cars: human drivers. Google's fleet of autonomous vehicles has been involved in accidents at twice the normal rate, all of them technically the fault of human drivers.

      The self-driving cars that Google and others have been testing on public streets keep getting rear-ended, apparently because they're too law-abiding and too careful.

      The cars, after all, are programmed to obey all traffic laws. When they come to a stop sign, they stop. If a bicyclist is taking up part of a lane, they don't swerve across the double line to go around, they slow down or stop. If a pedestrian looks like he might be about to cross the street, the car stops.

      All of this may help explain why none of the cars have been involved in an accident involving injuries or fatalities. But it is presenting programmers with the need to develop algorithims that are a little more flexible than the ones that Google uses to look up the date of the Norman Invasion or other clear-cut factlets.

      Licensed human

      That's partly behind the reasoning the California DMV is using to map out new regulations for driverless cars. Basically, it wants them equipped with a licensed human who can take charge when the software runs out of options or makes a choice that is logical but may not be ideal.

      Google has decried the DMV's proposal as a wrong turn for the autonomous vehicle movement, but the DMV says its first responsibility is to the public, and it's not yet ready to abandoned human ingenuity for rote software.

      Google says it's working to make its cars react more like humans, making them a bit more aggressive without being reckless.

      As for California's proposed regulations, top federal regulators say they're concerned at the possibility that different states will develop a "patchwork" of laws that would hinder a nationwide rollout of self-driving cars.

      "Nimble, flexible ..."

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn't yet have a position on California's proposal that every car come equipped with a human driver, said Mark Rosekind, the agency's administrator.

      He said his agency favors a "nimble, flexible" approach to writing rules for driverless cars. States, of course, have long set their own rules about licensing and registering cars and drivers, so it is going to require some flexibility and nimble footwork by Rosekind's agency if it intends to impose a single standard nationwide.

      Meanwhile, consumers are coming up with their own proposals. An Automotive News reader, Jerry Segers, had a simple suggestion for the problem of self-driving cars being rear-ended:

      "Perhaps all that is needed is a sign on the rear and [sic] of the car that reads 'Driverless Car' much like there are 'Student Driver' signs on driver training cars. This would put the public on notice that this car will obey the law much like a student driver. This would increase the caution of other drivers until the time when most cars are driverless," Segers wrote.

      There's a big problem with driverless cars: human drivers. Google's fleet of autonomous vehicles has been involved in accidents at twice the normal rate, a...
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      What borrowers should know about a new student loan repayment option

      Plan could help borrowers' cash flow, but other factors should be considered

      Consumers with student loan debt may have a new repayment option under a new Department of Education regulation that recently took effect.

      The Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan will allow 5 million more direct loan borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payment amount at 10% of monthly discretionary income, without regard to when the borrower first obtained the loans.

      As the name implies, the REPAYE Plan improves upon the original Pay As You Earn Plan, while extending its protections to all student borrowers with direct loans.

      Besides the monthly payment cap, REPAYE will wipe the ledger clean after 20 years for those who borrowed only for undergraduate study and 25 years for those who borrowed for graduate study. It also provides new protections against ballooning loan balances for borrowers whose income-driven payments can't keep up with accruing interest.

      But before you rush to sign up, consider this.

      Might not be a perfect fit

      “Just because a new program is announced, it doesn’t mean that it is going to be a perfect fit for every borrower,” said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). “It takes a clear understanding of the benefits available through each option and how those are applicable to a person’s unique circumstances.”

      So, what does this new program mean, exactly, in dollars and “sense?” McClary says it could be substantial for consumers with huge student loan balances, struggling to make ends meet.

      Discretionary income for this purpose is calculated as the difference between adjusted gross income, taken from the tax return, and 150% of the current poverty line. For this year, that payment would be 10% of what is earned over $17,655 divided by 12 months.

      Here's an example; a person earning $30,000 a year would see payments capped at a budget-friendly level of about $102.88 a month.

      Why now?

      Policymakers are concerned that consumers struggling with student loan debt, many of whom are Millennials, are so financially stressed they can't afford other things – in particular, they are having a difficult time buying houses because they can't save for the down payment. This, in turn, is a strong drag on the economy.

      But what really has policymakers worried is the upward trend in student loan defaults. Those defaults can have a long-lasting impact on a borrower’s financial well-being. A record of late or missed loan payments impacts a borrower’s credit history by making any new loan requests -- for cars or homes -- more expensive or just extremely difficult to qualify for.

      There is a downside.

      McClary says borrowers need to proceed with caution. For some, this new payment option might mean the monthly payment doesn't cover both interest and principal payments, which means the balance could keep growing.

      That makes it harder to get other types of loans, from credit cards to mortgages, because the borrower’s credit capacity is tapped out.

      Another risk? McClary says the lower monthly payment under REPAYE could lead the borrower to pay substantially more over the life of the loan when compared to a Standard Repayment plan.

      Consumers with student loan debt may have a new repayment option under a new Department of Education regulation that recently took effect.The Revised P...
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