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Democratic chair co-sponsors bill to hamper CFPB's regulation of payday lenders
Groups call on Debbie Wasserman Schultz to withdraw her support of the pro-industry bill05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
While Republicans work to tighten the purse strings of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a number of Democrats -- including Democratic Natio...
While Republicans work to tighten the purse strings of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a number of Democrats -- including Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- are co-sponsoring a bill that would restrict the CFPB's ability to regulate payday lenders.
An activist group says it has gathered 40,000 signatures demanding Wasserman Schultz' ouster and today, television viewers in her South Florida district are seeing TV and cable ads that include a recent news clip in which she calls payday lending "unfortunately ... necessary."
"What’s truly ‘unfortunate’ is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is still refusing to put her constituents and millions of vulnerable Americans ahead of an industry that has given her more than $68,000 in campaign cash,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a liberal advocacy group.
Opponents of the measure Wasserman Schultz is co-sponsoring say it would encourage states to adopt the "Florida model" of regulating payday lenders, a model consumer groups have called "disastrous."
“The average borrower in Florida pays more than 300% interest and ends up taking out nine loans each year. They find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt while payday lenders rake in piles of cash they then turn around and donate to powerful politicians like Wasserman Schultz. How anyone could describe this racket as ‘necessary’ – unfortunate or not – is beyond me," Frisch said.
The controversy is raging as the CFPB is expected to announce new national rules reigning in some of the worst abuses of the payday lending industry during a field hearing in Kansas City later this week.
It also coincides with a nasty spat between Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has accused Wasserman Schultz and other party bosses of being openly biased in favor of apparent front-runner Hillary Clinton in the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
Sanders has called the fees charged by banks and other lenders "usury" and said he would open bank-like storefronts in post offices if elected.
Frisch says Wasserman Schultz should withdraw her support for H.R. 4018, the "Consumer Protection and Choice Act," which would prohibit the CFPB from enforcing its payday rules in any state that had enacted its own regulations.
Wasserman Schultz is one of nine Democratic co-sponsors of the bill, which has 15 Republican co-sponsors.
Allied Progress said it is making an initial investment of $100,000 to air its ad on network and cable television beginning May 31 and will be running it for at least a week.
Judge orders Trump University documents released
Trump calls the judge a "hater," speculates incorrectly that he is Mexican05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
One claim Bernie Sanders hasn't made but could is that he is the only remaining Presidential candidate who doesn't have a legal issue hanging over his head...
One claim Bernie Sanders hasn't made but could is that he is the only remaining Presidential candidate who doesn't have a legal issue hanging over his head.
Hillary Clinton has the email server matter and Donald Trump is in the midst of fighting a lawsuit that says the "university" that bore his name relieved its students of up to $35,000 while imparting little of value to them.
Trump has repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to have the suit dismissed and on Friday he lost an attempt to keep documents related to the case under seal, as U.S. Distrit Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel agreed with the plaintiffs that the material should be made public.
The material includes documents detailing Trump University's dealing with students and with the press. Judge Curiel noted that much of the material has already been published and said much of it is "routine."
Insulted the court
Trump didn't take well to the decision. Reuters reported that at a San Diego rally he called the judge a "hater"
"We're in front of a very hostile judge. The judge was appointed by Barack Obama," Trump said, adding he believed Curiel was Mexican.
In fact, Curiel is an American who was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and graduated from the Indiana University School of Law, Reuters said.
Legal experts said Trump's remarks could get him in further hot water if the judge decided to hold him in contempt but said they didn't expect Curiel to do so.
Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, has frequently made derogatory remarks about Hispanics, a major voting bloc in the U.S.
Just an infomercial?
The lawsuit in question is a class action that claims Trump University's "seminars" were little more than infomercials.
Lead plaintiff Tarla Makaeff sued Trump and Trump University in 2010, claiming she spent $60,000 for one of the three-day workshops and got no benefit from it. Trump moved for summary judgment dismissing the claims, but in November 2015, Judge Curiel denied most of Trump's requests.
Donald Trump argued that he cannot be held liable for unfair competition and false advertising because he himself did not make any misrepresentations to students. But Makaeff testified that she paid for the program after seeing slides with statements from Trump such as, "You'll learn inside secrets from me," and, "This is the next best thing to being my apprentice."
Is a new housing bubble forming?
Median home prices are well beyond pre-housing crash levels in many markets05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The year-long housing market narrative has been one of rising prices, which has been cheered as a good economic sign.After all, the housing crash of 20...
The year-long housing market narrative has been one of rising prices, which has been cheered as a good economic sign.
After all, the housing crash of 2008-09 left millions of homeowners underwater and led to widespread foreclosures.
But real estate marketplace Zillow reports home prices are now rising faster than anyone expected. And it isn't due to a robust economy – it's because the supply of homes for sale has shrunk, making the homes that are on the market worth more.
In its existing home sales report for April, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said the median price for all types of homes was $232,500 – a gain of 6.3% year-over-year.
Zillow uses a different metric to measure home prices, and it places the median home price in the U.S. significantly less, at $187,000. Still, that's a 5% increase over the last 12 months and may be a cause for concern.
"The temporary relief from mortgage rates currently near three-year lows has helped preserve housing affordability this spring, but there's growing concern a number of buyers will be unable to find homes at affordable prices if wages don't rise and price growth doesn't slow," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist.
The Zillow report shows a wide gap in home prices, depending on the market. While prices seem to be rising in most markets, the median price appears to be reaching bubble proportions in some markets faster than others.
For example, in Dallas-Fort Worth, the median home price gained 12.6% in the last 12 months, but is only $183,000. San Francisco, meanwhile, saw a 10% appreciation in the median home price, which is now $806,800.
Wide price variations
Using Zillow's national median home value of $187,000 as a baseline, the median home in Dallas is 2% below the national average. However, the median home in San Francisco is more than four times the national average.
Denver, the nation's hottest housing market, saw the median home value rise 15.2% in the last year to $336,600 – nearly twice the national average. The median home price in Los Angeles is $567,700, more than three times the national average.
But the median home prices in Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta remain well below Zillow's national average, yet values grew in all three metros last year by at least 6%.
If a housing bubble is forming, it isn't universally recognized. People in Atlanta aren't seeing it. But home buyers in markets where inventory is low and high-income jobs are plentiful certainly are.
House GOP seeks to rein in pro-consumer regulators
Budget bill takes aim at consumer bureau and FCC05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
House Republicans have submitted a budget bill that curbs the activities of two key regulatory agencies – the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) a...
House Republicans have submitted a budget bill that curbs the activities of two key regulatory agencies – the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In a statement, Rep. Harold Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill includes a provision to increase oversight of the CFPB. It would do that by changing how the agency's funding is approved.
Currently, CFPB's funding falls under Federal Reserve review. The budget bill would place it under Congress' control.
“This change will allow for increased accountability and transparency of the agency’s activities and use of tax dollars,” Rogers said.
The legislation would also alter the leadership structure of the CFPB from its current single Director to a five-member Commission. It would also require the CFPB to study the use of pre-dispute arbitration prior to issuing regulations.
CQ-Roll Call reports that Wall Street interests have long pushed for limits on the regulatory agency, which business interests have complained is overly aggressive.
Cutting the FCC budget
The draft legislation also takes aim at the FCC. It cuts the agency's budget $43 billion below the administration's request, which would give the FCC less money than it got in Fiscal 2016.
The legislation would also bar the FCC from implementing its net neutrality order until certain court cases are resolved; would require newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them; would prohibit the agency from regulating broadband rates; and would halt further FCC activity on the recently proposed set-top box rule until a study is completed.
The Obama administration has proposed opening cable TV set-top box sales to competition, meaning subscribers could purchase their own box and not be required to rent one from their cable TV providers.
President Obama issued an executive order in April to start the move toward competition. The administration maintains that ending the set-top box monopoly would not only be less costly for consumers, but could open up more programming choices.
While the legislation may have an excellent chance of passing in the GOP-controlled Congress, it is highly unlikely Obama would sign a bill rolling back two pet consumer initiatives.
That could set up a budget showdown between the White House and Congress later in the year, just as the 2016 presidential race is in the home stretch.
Smoking during and right after pregnancy could change your baby's brain chemistry05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
The health risks of smoking while pregnant are well known. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that pregnant women who smoke, or ar...
The way you choose to argue can impact your health
Back problems may await those who check out emotionally during a fight, study finds05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Finding a partner whose views and opinions are perfectly in line with ours is unlikely. Even the most compatible couples may find themselves in a heated ar...
Finding a partner whose views and opinions are perfectly in line with ours is unlikely. Even the most compatible couples may find themselves in a heated argument from time to time.
But while arguing can be a healthy way for committed couples to communicate, experts say the way you argue could actually determine what type of health problem you'll experience later in life.
Do you close yourself off from your partner, or do you dive headfirst into the argument? Either way, you could be setting yourself up for an undesirable ailment.
‘Stonewalling’ Vs. Sudden outbursts
How you react during a conflict may predict certain health outcomes, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, and Northwestern University.
The decade-long study finds that those who shut down emotionally in an argument may be at an increased risk for a bad back or stiff muscles, while people prone to sudden outbursts of anger may experience cardiovascular problems later in life.
"Our findings reveal a new level of precision in how emotions are linked to health, and how our behaviors over time can predict the development of negative health outcomes," UC Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the study, said in a statement.
The study, published recently in the journal Emotion, looked at how people responded to their partner during an argument. Researchers tracked displays of anger in each of the 156 middle-aged participants.
Signs of “stonewalling” included a stiff face, rigid neck muscles, and avoidance of eye contact. This style of confrontation, marked by “away” behavior, was found to predict muscle tension later in life.
Spouses who tended to display more overt anger responses were at greater risk of developing chest pain, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems over time.
The study, which was based on 20 years of data, controlled for such factors as age, education, exercise, smoking, alcohol use, and caffeine consumption.
Neither of the above styles of confrontation are necessarily healthy for a relationship. So how can you fight fair when an argument arises?
- Don't fight to "win." Instead of fighting to be "right," fight for your relationship. The goal of maintaining a stable, healthy relationship should come first, helping to pave the way for open and honest communication.
- Speak in a non-confrontational way. Start by sharing an emotion, then share the thoughts that gave way to the emotion. Next, share a fact that you know to be true. And finally, state what you want.
- Respond, don't react. Steer clear of statements beginning with "you never" or "you always." Recognize that you have the power to change the direction of the argument and take responsibility for your reactions. This can help ensure communication stays healthy.
Communication expert sees some simple fixes for airport delays
TSA urged to communicate better with novice travelers before they get to the gate05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The Memorial Day weekend came and went without headlines or viral videos about excessive waits to get through airport security. There were still extended w...
The Memorial Day weekend came and went without headlines or viral videos about excessive waits to get through airport security. There were still extended waits at some airports, but nothing like the breakdowns that occurred the previous week.
While things may have temporarily improved, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials say there will be no quick and easy fix. TSA, Congress, and the Airlines have blamed one another for the mess and passengers seem to blame all three.
“Blame is great but it doesn’t solve anything,” said Guy McHendry, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Creighton University.
A communications expert, McHendry has studied the delays at security checkpoints as a communication issue. He says he's observed several problems.
Failure to communicate
McHendry says TSA has very little communication directed at consumers who rarely travel by air. When confronted with security procedures, their lack of understanding of what is expected from them can slow things down.
He notes that TSA has blamed passengers, in part, for the bottlenecks since they aren't prepared when they reach the checkpoint. But whose fault is that, he asks?
“Seasoned travelers have it down to a science, they do it so regularly,” McHendry said. “But there’s another segment of travelers, arguably a larger segment, that doesn’t fly very often and, therefore, they see security as an interruption and inconvenience and they don’t always understand what it is they’re supposed to do at a checkpoint.”
Things that could help
McHendry says clearer statements of the expectations, better signage, and a cheerful TSA screener walking lines and providing helpful reminders could help move the process along. Better communication, he says, might also reduce the number of prohibited items that show up at checkpoints, contributing to delays.
Finally, McHendry says better TSA internal communication might help morale and slow the turnover of personnel that has contributed to staff shortages.
“TSA has to ask itself why people are leaving and what the impact will be,” he said.
Another possible reason for the security bottlenecks may have its origins in drills conducted late last year. TSA officials carried out a number of operations in which people purposefully tried to get prohibited items through the security lines.
Officials were chagrined to find that it was relatively easy to do. Early this year TSA screeners expanded their screening duties to ensure no banned items made it onto the aircraft.
Ad-blockers are now used by 22% of the world's smartphone users, report says
Marketers continue to scramble for ways to advertise on the 'blocked web'05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
According to a new report, 419 million people (22% of the world’s smartphone users) are now using mobile ad-blocking technology.PageFair's numbers also...
According to a new report, 419 million people (22% of the world’s smartphone users) are now using mobile ad-blocking technology.
PageFair's numbers also indicate that 408 million people are using mobile browsers that block ads by default.
Smartphone users in China account for 159 million instances of mobile ad-blocking, while India is home to 122 million people using browsers that block ads.
Mobile ad-blocking isn’t as quite as prevalent in Europe and here in North America, where there were 14 million monthly active users of mobile ad-blocking browsers as of March 2016.
Finding new approaches
Nancy Hill, CEO of 4A’s, says these numbers validate a long-standing concern in the digital media industry. The report also highlights a need for advertisers to rethink their marketing strategies.
“Consumers are pushing back on mobile and online ads,” said Hill in a statement. “Now is the time for advertising professionals and marketers to take a hard look at ourselves to understand why consumers are not responding to these types of ads, and figure out how we can correct the issue to better engage with the consumers we’re trying to reach.”
An earlier discussion, which sought the opinions of global stakeholders, delved into topic of sustainable advertising on the 'blocked web'. A report on the outcome of the discussion can be viewed here.
GM pulls the plug on Buick Verano
Could the venerable sedan be on the road to extinction?05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Introduced for the 2012 model year, the Buick Verano sedan is now cruising toward the off-ramp.General Motors has announced it will end production of t...
Introduced for the 2012 model year, the Buick Verano sedan is now cruising toward the off-ramp.
General Motors has announced it will end production of the vehicle later this year, after an abbreviated 2017 production run.
The reason appears to be self-evident. The Verano never lived up to expected sales. It's timing was also bad. Falling gasoline prices in late 2014 reignited consumers' love affair with the SUV. Buick has spent more of its resources promoting its Encore and Enclave SUV models.
“When we’re thinking about where we’re investing for the future, with the whole market moving toward SUVs, that’s where we want to put our investment,” Buick spokesman Stuart Fowle told the Detroit News.
Big shift in the market
Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, says the cancellation of the Verano coincides with the elimination of the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. He says all three moves point to a big shift in the U.S. auto market.
“The growing popularity of SUVs, along with the introduction of so many smaller utilities offering low MSRPs and high fuel efficiency, is making midsize and small sedans appear redundant in the minds of many consumers,” Brauer said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.
“When faced with a choice between an SUV and sedan that both cost about the same and offer roughly the same fuel efficiency, consumers overwhelmingly choose the SUV.”
Getting harder to justify
Could the sedan disappear from American highways? Brauer says the current trend will make it harder for car companies to justify them within a given brand’s model range.
“Expect a continued drop-off in sedan nameplates over the next five years,” he said.
Ironically, the Verano performed well with automotive experts, even if it failed to get consumers' attention. In late February, the Verano came in third in J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study, outperforming other models in its class.
But Buick also had another model that did well in the rankings. The Buick Encore, a small SUV, ranked highest for dependability in its class. It also happens to be Buick's best-selling car.
Tip to Senate hotline nabs alleged IRS scam artists
The IRS scam has netted more than $15 million in two years05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
When you think of catching scam artists, you may think of the Federal Trade Commission, FBI, or some other law enforcement agency. But a recent arrest of f...
When you think of catching scam artists, you may think of the Federal Trade Commission, FBI, or some other law enforcement agency. But a recent arrest of five accused scammers came about after a tip to the U.S. Senate Aging Committee's fraud hotline.
At a hearing last year, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) had called for increased law enforcement action to combat an emerging scam in which individuals impersonate IRS agents. After the tip, five individuals were arrested.
“These predators make people afraid to answer their own phones and prey on people’s sense of responsibility—they deserve to go to prison,” said McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor, speaking of con artists in general. “We need more aggressive action taken against scam artists like this, and I hope this is the start of many arrests for perpetuating this scam.”
According to the court documents, the suspects are responsible for nearly $2 million in schemes that defrauded more than 1,500 victims.
Victims often elderly
Thousands of Americans, many of them elderly, have been victims of the scam in which criminals claim to be IRS officials and threaten victims with legal action or arrest unless immediate payment is made.
According to government figures, at least 400,000 Americans have been targeted, with several thousand having been defrauded out of a total of nearly $15 million dollars. The IRS impersonation scam has been called the “largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of the IRS.”
At that hearing, McCaskill said, “If you get a call from the IRS out of the blue, don’t answer it — let it go to voicemail.” The IRS has dispensed the same advice.
However, Congress last winter muddied the waters, passing two measures that would require the IRS to use private debt collectors and to allow them to use robocalls, making it much harder for citizens to defend themselves.
Pending legislation would repeal that measure.
Meanwhile, no one does anything about TEACH Grant's wrongful conversions of grants to loans05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The epidemic of student debt has led to any number of bogus debt relief schemes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the state of Florida last week took...
Consumer confidence down in May for second straight month
Personal incomes and spending were on the rise05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Another drop -- the second in as many months -- for consumer confidence.The Conference Board reports its Consu...
Another drop -- the second in as many months -- for consumer confidence.
The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index, fell to 92.6 in May from 94.7 a month earlier.
Both the Present Situation Index and the Expectations Index were lower, dropping from 117.1 to 112.9, and 79.7 to 79.0, respectively.
A large part of the decline was due to consumers rating current conditions less favorably than in April. In addition, “Expectations declined further,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, “as consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and labor market conditions. Thus, they continue to expect little change in economic activity in the months ahead.”
How they see it
Consumers’ assessment of current conditions weakened in May, with the percentage seeing business conditions as “good” improving from 24.2% to 25.9%, but those saying business conditions are “bad” also increasing -- from 18.2% to 21.6%.
Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was less favorable. The proportion who think jobs are “plentiful” was virtually unchanged at 24.3%; however, those who say they are “hard to get” rose from 22.8% to 24.4%.
Consumers were less optimistic about the short-term outlook than last month. Those who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose from 13.8% to 15.1%, while those expecting them to worsen also rose -- from 10.8% to 11.6%.
The outlook for the labor market also was less favorable. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead was roughly the same at 12.8%; those anticipating fewer jobs jumped from 16.7% to 18.1%.
The proportion of consumers who see their incomes rising improved from 15.8% to 16.2%, while those expecting a reduction held at 12.4%.
The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was May 19.
Personal income, spending
The Commerce Department reports that personal income increased $69.8 billion, or 0.4% in April, while disposable personal income (DPI) -- what's left after personal current taxes -- rose $63.5 billion, or 0.5%.
Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), meanwhile, increased $119.2 billion, or 1.0%.
Wages and salaries were up $38.6 billion, after rising $30.7 billion in March. With that, private wages and salaries increased $37.2 billion, and government wages and salaries increased $1.4 billion.
Personal outlays and saving
Personal outlays -- PCE, personal interest payments, and personal current transfer payments -- soared to $121.7 billion in April, compared with an increase of just $1.8 billion in March.
Personal saving -- DPI less personal outlays -- was down to $751.1 billion in April from $809.4 billion the month before. As a result, the personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- dropped to 5.4%, from 5.9%.
The full report is on the Commerce Department website.
Steady gains continue for home prices
Values were up in March on both an annual and monthly basis05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
A leading measure of U.S. home prices shows increases in value continued during March.On a year-over-year basis, the S&P;/Case-Shiller U.S. National Ho...
A leading measure of U.S. home prices shows increases in value continued during March.
On a year-over-year basis, the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, posted a 5.2% gain with the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composites’ year-over-year gains unchanged at 4.7% and 5.4%, respectively, from the previous month.
The highest gains among the 20 cities with another month of annual price increases came in Portland, Seattle, and Denver. Portland led the way with a 12.3% surge, followed by Seattle at 10.8%, and Denver with an increase of 10.0%. Ten cities reported greater price increases in the year ending March 2016 versus the year ending February 2016.
“The economy is supporting the price increases with improving labor markets, falling unemployment rates and extremely low mortgage rates,” said David M. Blitzer, managing director & chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
“Another factor behind rising home prices is the limited supply of homes on the market. The number of homes currently on the market is less than 2% of the number of households in the U.S. -- the lowest percentage seen since the mid-1980s.”
The National Index was up 0.7% in March, with the 10-City Composite recording a 0.8% month-over-month increase while the 20-City Composite rose 0.9%. Six cities saw prices rise, one city was unchanged, and prices dropped in 13 cities.
Noble House recalls counter stools
The kick plates of the counter stools can have a sharp edge05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Noble House Home Furnishings of Chatsworth, Calif., is recalling about 2,000 counter stools. The kick plates of the counter stools can have a sharp...
Noble House Home Furnishings of Chatsworth, Calif., is recalling about 2,000 counter stools.
The kick plates of the counter stools can have a sharp edge, posing a laceration hazard to consumers.
The firm has received six reports of the stools injuring consumers, including scratches and cuts.
This recall involves Noble House’s Louigi and Tate counter stools with solid wood legs and a metallic kick pate.
The Louigi black leather counter stool has a backrest and measures about 18 inches wide by 26 inches deep by 41 inches tall. The backless Tate counter stools were sold in white or brown and measure about 16.5 inches wide by 16.5 inches deep by 27 inches tall.
“MADE BY: PERMAISURI CO., LTD: No. 30 YUANCUO ROAD HONGSHANQIAO, FUZHOU, FUJIAN 350002 CHINA” is stamped on a tag on the underside of the stool’s seat.
The stools, manufactured in China and Vietnam, were sold online at Amazon.com, ATC.com, eBay.com, Greatdealfurniture.com, Groupon.com, Houzz.com, Overstock.com and Wayfair.com from October 2013, through March 2015, for about $120.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled stools and remove the kick plates from the stools and contact Noble House for free replacement kick plates, including shipping.
Consumers may contact Noble House toll-free at 888-600-6376 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online at www.noblehousefurniture.com and click on the Safety Recall link at the bottom of the page.
Honda recalls more than 1.7 million vehicles
Airbag inflators may rupture resulting in serious injury or death to vehicle occupants05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 1,786,115 model year 2003-2006 Acura MDX; 2005-2011 Acura RL; 2005-2006 Honda CR-V; 2003-2011 Element; 2007-2008 Fit;...
American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 1,786,115 model year 2003-2006 Acura MDX; 2005-2011 Acura RL; 2005-2006 Honda CR-V; 2003-2011 Element; 2007-2008 Fit; 2003-2008 Pilot; 2002-2004 Odyssey; and 2006-2011 Ridgeline vehicles.
These vehicles were sold or were once registered, in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S. Virgin Islands, or "Zone A."
Additionally, unless included in "Zone A" above, Honda is recalling certain model year 2003-2006 Acura MDX; 2005-2008 Acura RL; 2005-2006 Honda CR-V; 2003-2008 Element; 2007-2008 Fit; 2003-2008 Pilot; 2002-2004 Odyssey; and 2006-2008 Ridgeline vehicles originally sold, or that have ever been registered, in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, or "Zone B."
Lastly, unless included in "Zone A" or "Zone B" above, Honda is recalling model year 2002-2004 Odyssey and model year 2003-2004 Acura MDX, Honda Element, and Honda Pilot vehicles originally sold, or registered, in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
These vehicles are equipped with certain air bag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules, and used as original equipment or replacement equipment. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the front airbags, these inflators may rupture due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to absolute humidity and temperature cycling.
An inflator rupture may result in metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants resulting in serious injury or death.
What to do
Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger frontal air bag inflator, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 27, 2016.
Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's numbers for this recall are KA0, KA1, KA2, and KA3.
Mitsubishi recalls Lancers and Lancer Evolutions
Airbag inflators may rupture resulting in serious injury or death to vehicle occupants05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) is recalling 38,628 model year 2006-2007 Lancers and Lancer Evolutions manufactured June 29, 2005, to June 19, 2007,...
Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) is recalling 38,628 model year 2006-2007 Lancers and Lancer Evolutions manufactured June 29, 2005, to June 19, 2007, equipped with certain airbag inflators.
In the event of a crash necessitating airbag deployment, these inflators may rupture due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to absolute humidity and temperature cycling.
An inflator rupture may result in metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants resulting in serious injury or death.
What to do
MMNA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger front airbag inflator, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.
Owners may contact MMNA customer service at 1-888-648-7820. MMNA's number for this recall is SR-16-002.
Model year 2012-2016 Fiat 500s recalled
The driver may not be able to shift gears05/31/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 39,217 model year 2012-2016 Fiat 500s equipped with a manual transmission, manufactured June 21, 2010, through January 1...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 39,217 model year 2012-2016 Fiat 500s equipped with a manual transmission, manufactured June 21, 2010, through January 12, 2016.
The clutch diaphragm spring may fracture and fail, causing an inability to switch gears and increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
The remedy for this recall will include the installation of a clutch pedal limiter and a clutch pedal switch. Interim notices will be mailed to owners in June 2016. Owners will receive a second notice when remedy parts become available.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S34.
Drug resistant “super bug” found in U.S.
The bacteria was discovered in a patient in Pennsylvania05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The worst fears of U.S. health officials appear to have been realized.A Department of Defense document reveals that bacteria that cannot be killed by e...
The worst fears of U.S. health officials appear to have been realized.
A Department of Defense document reveals that bacteria that cannot be killed by existing antibiotics has shown up in the U.S. for the first time. The patient is a 49-year old woman in Pennsylvania.
The woman, treated at a military installation for a urinary tract infection, was infected with a strain of E. coli that has been shown to be resistant to nearly all drugs. What makes the strain so scary is that it includes the so-called “super bug,” something called mcr-1.
In addition, the bacteria has a total of 15 genes that provide antibiotic resistance and can move easily from one germ to another.
Not sure where it came from
The authors of the report said the patient reported no travel outside the U.S. in the past five months. They write that it is unclear where the mcr-1 got here. Researchers have done extensive testing of all other E. coli samples they have encountered but have not found any traces. However, they concede they have only been testing for three weeks.
In a statement, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said the state health department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track down the source.
“We are taking the emergence of this resistance gene very seriously and we will take necessary actions to prevent mcr-1 from becoming a widespread problem with potentially serious consequences,” Wolf said. "The safety of Pennsylvanians is our utmost priority.”
The emergence of a super bug resistant to all drugs may have its roots in an over abundance of antibiotics. Health officials have warned for years that doctors were prescribing too many of the drugs, which allows the germs they fight to gradually build up an immunity.
Even before the confirmed arrival of the mcr-1, a report by the CDC found at least 2 million people in the U.S. become infected each year with bacteria that are increasingly harder to contain with antibiotics. The report said at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Scientists say drug resistance is not limited to changes inside a person taking antibiotics. They say the resistance also takes place in the environment.
Olya Keen, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UNC Charlotte, completed research last year that pointed a finger at treatments used to clean wastewater that she says may actually be making the problem worse.
Major U.S. government study finds cell phone-cancer link
'Could have broad implications for public health,' scientists say05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A $25 million U.S. government study has found a link between cellphones and cancer. The National Toxicology Program's multiyear study found links to two ty...
A $25 million U.S. government study has found a link between cell phones and cancer. The National Toxicology Program's multiyear study found links to two types of brain and heart tumors in rats exposed to the radio frequencies commonly used by cell phones.
In the brain, gliomas affect the gluey tissue that holds the neurons in place. Schwannomas generally affect hearing-related nerves when they occur in the brain. In the heart, they affect neurons and are generally benign but malignant heart schwannomas were found among the rats in the study.
While the number of tumors was small, scientists said any incidence was worrying, given the massive number of people who use cell phones regularly worldwide.
“Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to [radio-frequency radiation] could have broad implications for public health,” an early version of the study said.
The NTP's report said the types of tumors found in the rats "are of a type similar to tumors observed in some epidemiology studies of cell phone use." It said the findings "appear to support" the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conclusions regarding the possible carcinogenic effects of cell phone radiation.
The NTP undertook the study at the direction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) helped to oversee it and earlier this week noted that there was "limited evidence of an increased risk for developing cancer from cell phone use."
While rats and humans are not identical, rats are commonly used in cancer studies because their reactions to various carcinogens are similar to humans. The report released today covers only findings affecting the brain and heart. Additional findings will be released later, the NTP said.
A wake-up call
The test was constructed so that the radiation level the rats received was "not very different" from what humans are exposed to when they use cell phones, said Chris Portier, former associate director of the NTP, Mother Jones reported.
Portier said the findings should be a wake-up call for the scientific establishment. "I think this is a game changer," he said. "We seriously have to look at this issue again in considerable detail," according to the Mother Jones report.
"The NTP does the best animal bioassays in the word," Portier added, the Mother Jones article said. "Their reputation is stellar. So if they are telling us this was positive in this study, that's a concern."
The wireless industry in the U.S. has long proclaimed, without any definitive evidence, that cell phones are harmless. CTIA, the wireless industry's trade group, no longer lists cancer as a topic on its website's Policy & Initiatives page.
About the study
Cell phones emit what is called non-ionizing radio-frequency radiation (RFR). Ionizing radiation is a well-accepted human carcinogen, but the wireless industry and others have argued that there is no evidence that non-ionizing radiation could induce tumors.
For the study, rats were housed in custom-designed reverberation chambers and exposed to cell phone 900 MHz RFR, using both GSM and CDMA modulation, the two types that are in general use worldwide.
Exposures began in utero and continued over a period of approximately 18 hours using a continuous cycle of 10 minutes on (exposed) and 10 minutes off (not exposed), for a total daily exposure time of approximately 9 hours a day for 7 days per week.
A control group was housed in identical containers and not exposed to the radiations.
A low incidence of malignant gliomas and glial cell hyperplasia was observed in all groups of male rats exposed to GSM-modulated RFR. In males exposed to CDMA-modulated RFR, a low incidence of malignant gliomas occurred. No malignant gliomas or glial cell hyperplasias were observed in specimens of the control group, the NTP report said.
In females exposed to GSM-modulated RFR, a malignant glioma was observed in a single rat. Glial cell hyperplasia was also observed in a single rat. In females exposed to CDMA-modulated RFR, malignant gliomas were observed in two rats. Glial cell hyperplasia was observed in one female in each of the CDMA-modulation exposure groups. There was no glial cell hyperplasia or any of the seven malignant glioma observed in females of the control group.
Cardiac schwannomas were observed in male rats in all exposed groups of both GSM- and CDMA-modulated RFR, while none were observed in the control groups. For both the GSM and CDMA modulations, there was a "significant positive trend" in the incidence of schwannomas of the heart, according to the NTP report.
Researchers caution that alcohol-related content could negatively affect younger users05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Have you ever seen a commercial that made a product look so appealing that you wanted to go out and buy it right away? Marketers hope the answer to that qu...
Researchers say penalizing electric cars is counter-productive
Some states have slapped special fees on electric cars to replace lost gas tax revenue05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Fuel-efficient cars are great, but they're not doing much for highway construction and maintenance. Since they burn less -- or, in the case of electric car...
Fuel-efficient cars are great, but they're not doing much for highway construction and maintenance. Since they burn less -- or, in the case of electric cars, no -- fuel, they're paying less in gas tax at the pump, which is putting a dent in states' highway funds.
Some states have been thinking about charging a surtax for plug-in vehicles, but in a paper to be published in the August issue of Energy Policy, researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis say that approach is misguided.
At least eight states have imposed a vehicle registration fee, ranging from $50 to $200, for alternative-fuel vehicles: Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
Virginia also penalizes purchasers of new vehicles with an extremely high property tax rate that can cost $1,000 or more per year. This discourages consumers from buying newer, fuel-efficient cars, but counties have grown accustomed to the money and don't want to give it up.
Despite the discriminatory penalties, researchers say that plug-in cars are responsible for only 1.6 percent of the erosion in gas tax revenues.
Other factors identified by Jerome Dumortier and Seth Payton, assistant professors in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Matthew Kent, a former graduate student, are the increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles in general and the failure to adjust the gas tax for inflation.
"The lesson for policymakers is that plug-in vehicles do not contribute significantly to the funding shortfall in the short- and medium run, and a supplemental tax on plug-in vehicles would generate only a small percentage of additional revenue," Dumortier said. "We show that the majority of the funding shortfall is due to the non-adjustment of fuel taxes and the increase in fuel efficiency. Thus a registration fee would not alleviate the funding shortfall."
Besides, penalizing owners of plug-in vehicles flies in the face of policies intended to promote their use due to concerns about energy independence, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions, Dumortier said, and doesn't take into account the extremely small number of electric cars on the road.
In the long run, the United States should shift its road infrastructure funding away from gasoline taxes to an alternative system that should be, as most research suggests, based on vehicle miles traveled, according to the paper.
Weekend air travelers face uncertain wait times
American Airlines says 77,000 of its passengers missed their flights so far this year05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Here's an unpleasant thought as you head to the airport for a quick Memorial Day weekend excursion: the security checkpoints are a mess and won't get bette...
Here's an unpleasant thought as you head to the airport for a quick Memorial Day weekend excursion: the security checkpoints are a mess and won't get better anytime soon.
That was the assessment this week from both airline executives and officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has already made major leadership changes.
TSA administrator Peter Neffenger told a Congressional committee this week that the agency has done what it can to shorten lines, promoting some part-time screeners to full-time and making other adjustments, but said it still lacks staffing to handle this summer's peak travel.
The summer has not yet begun and already video of nightmarish lines at Chicago's O'Hare Airport have gone viral on YouTube. The result has been turmoil, according to American Airlines executive Kerry Philipovitch.
70,000 missed flights
Philipovitch told the committee that more than 70,000 American Airlines passengers have missed their flights because they could not get through the security checkpoints in time. In addition, he said 40,000 checked bags failed to get loaded.
If Congress is looking for the culprit, David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, says lawmakers should look in the mirror. In an op-ed, Cox charges lawmakers with trying to have it both ways.
“Transportation Security Officers have asked for more staffing resources for years, but our call has fallen on deaf ears in an austerity-obsessed Congress,” Cox wrote. “After years of neglect, it's no wonder the situation has gotten as dire as it is today. And if something isn't done soon, the waits will only get longer and longer.”
Cox says the TSA officer force has dropped from 47,000 in 2013 to 42,000 today. All the while, he notes air travel has increased. He says passenger volume at U.S. airports has jumped 15 percent to 740 million a year.
“So long as Congress sits on its hands, that gap is only expected to widen,” Cox said.
Improvement in Chicago
But TSA officials themselves conceded to Congress this week that some organizational reforms might also go a long way toward addressing the problem, at least in the short run. And there is evidence that it has.
The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that a management shake-up at the Chicago TSA office coincided with a dramatic drop in wait times to get through security. It said average wait times dropped to eight minutes at O'Hare and nine minutes at Midway.
TSA is still advising travelers to get to the airport two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
Then again, you could drive. Gasoline is 42 cents a gallon cheaper than it was last year.
Some moms crave Facebook 'likes' more, study finds
New moms who seek validation on social media may find themselves disappointed05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
For many moms, Facebook is a stage on which to showcase their picture-perfect parenting. But are some moms more likely to seek validation through ‘likes’ a...
For many moms, Facebook is a stage on which to showcase their picture-perfect parenting. But are some moms more likely to seek validation through ‘likes’ and comments than others?
According to a new study, the answer is yes. Researchers from Ohio State University found that moms in two camps tend to post more frequently than others to Facebook: those who feel societal pressure to be perfect moms, and those who identify very strongly with their motherhood role.
The same mothers also reported feeling bad if, for instance, a photo they posted of their new baby didn’t get enough positive comments. This disappointment could result in a mixed bag of emotions for new moms, researchers say.
Lead author of the study and professor of human sciences at Ohio State University, Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, says the results suggest that some mothers may gravitate toward Facebook for the wrong reason. Namely, to be assured that they are a good mother.
“If a mother is posting on Facebook to get affirmation that she’s doing a good job and doesn’t get all the ‘likes’ and positive comments she expects, that could be a problem. She may end up feeling worse,” Schoppe-Sullivan said in a statement.
Indeed, Schoppe-Sullivan and her team found that moms who posted more on Facebook reported more depressive symptoms after nine months of parenthood.
Central to identity
Women who uploaded their child’s photo as their profile picture were found to identify more strongly with their role as a mother than those who didn't.
“What these mothers are saying is that my child is central to my identity, at least right now. That’s really telling,” Schoppe-Sullivan said.
She adds that these types of mothers are also more likely to pay close attention to -- and be more emotionally affected by -- the comments rolling in beneath a photo of their baby. Either the outpouring of likes and comments would leave them feeling validated, or the lack thereof would cause them to feel disappointed.
Jill Yavorsky, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, wasn't surprised by these results given the fact that, "the easiest way for women in our society to get validation is still through being a mother because other roles that women take on are still not as valued.”
The full study is published in the online journal Sex Roles.
New app shows kids how their meal will affect the environment
Encourages kids to think about the impact of their dietary choices05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Kids rarely regard food as anything more than fuel. And the rare meal that isn’t mom-curated is usually selected by a child’s taste buds.Pondering how ...
Kids rarely regard food as anything more than fuel. And the rare meal that isn’t mom-curated is usually selected by a child’s taste buds.
Pondering how food choices affect the planet generally isn't on the menu among middle school-aged children -- but soon, a new app may change that.
The University of Illinois has begun developing a new educational software application that will introduce middle school students to the topic of climate change and show them how the food they eat affects the environment.
Students who use the Food for Thought computer app can drag food selections to a virtual plate on the screen. The app will then tally the nutritional data and carbon footprint associated with each item and reveal just how much Mother Earth will be sacrificing to produce the meal.
Curriculum and instruction professor, Emma Mercier, says the app focuses on two main learning goals: to make kids aware of the causes and impacts of climate change and help them become “data literate” -- which is to say, she adds, “knowledgeable consumers of the media.”
Small choices matter
At the end of a nine-day curriculum on the topic of climate change, Mercier and her research team gathered together the children in their test group. Then, on a big computer screen, kids could enter the information they recorded in their food diaries over the weekend.
After kids looked at the carbon footprints associated with their meals, they were challenged to put together a calorie-sufficient meal that had the least impact on the planet.
The researchers were surprised to discover that children were highly engaged in the activity.
"The excitement level -- and noise -- in this room was astounding," Mercier said in a statement. "The teachers who observed their students' work in the lab said that even the kids who are usually difficult to engage were very engaged with this activity.”
One student even said she was inspired to eat something other than a steak while out to dinner with her parents -- a true testament to the idea that kids are very much on board with the idea that small choices do matter.
Americans increasingly pessimistic about retirement
But despite concerns, survey finds they aren't doing much about it05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Americans are living longer. That's the good news.The bad news is, longer life could mean you live your last years in poverty, if you end up outliving ...
Americans are living longer. That's the good news.
The bad news is, longer life could mean you live your last years in poverty, if you end up outliving your money.
As you might expect, this is a growing fear among the aging population. Northwestern Mutual has released its 2016 Planning & Progress Study, showing two thirds of Americans think there is some chance that they will outlive their savings.
Drilling down in the numbers, the survey found that just over one third believe there is a better than 50% chance of that happening. Notably, 14% are convinced that will be their fate.
Despite this prevailing belief, the survey found that Americans aren't doing much about it. Just 21% reported increasing their savings while more than four in 10 say they have taken no steps at all.
Social Security skepticism
Not only are Americans doubtful about their ability to save enough for retirement, they also express strong doubts about the government's minimal safety net – Social Security. Just 25% of those polled are very confident that Social Security will be there when they retire.
About 28%, in fact, mentioned uncertainty about Social Security as one of the main obstacles to having a financially secure retirement.
The survey found just 35% of Americans who have yet to retire expect that Social Security will be the major part of their retirement income compared to 49% of current retirees.
Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning for Northwestern Mutual, says the survey should serve as an incentive for Americans to get serious about their non-working years.
"The prospect of an extended retirement in an environment of diminishing safety nets makes it even more essential that your financial plan is flexible enough to stretch as long as needed," she said.
What to do
While money for retirement doesn't have to be contained in an account designated for that purpose, there are tax advantages to using a retirement account, like a 401(k) offered through your employer or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The advantage is that money grows without being taxed, until it is withdrawn.
Many people don't have access to retirement plans through their employers. To address that need, the government last year introduce MYra, a basic IRA that has no fees. It carries no risk of loss but returns only a small amount of interest.
Surveys have shown the biggest impediment to retirement savings is most people think they have enough trouble just paying the bills each month. Talking to a non-profit credit counselor or financial advisor may help you establish a savings plan, even if it is a very small amount each month.
Personal finance experts say that once a savings plan is in place, it will be easier to build on it over time.
Consumers buying fewer new cars in May
But industry experts say 2016 could still see record sales05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's true that dealers have a big weekend of Memorial Day sales ahead, but it appears the string of record new car sales will end in May.Both Edmunds.c...
It's true that dealers have a big weekend of Memorial Day sales ahead, but it appears the string of record new car sales will end in May.
Both Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book (KBB) are projecting lower car sales this month, with an estimated year-over-year decline of around 6%.
Edmunds estimates that 1,537,436 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in May for an estimated Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of 17.5 million. That would be a 2.3% gain over April's sales but a 5.8% decline from May 2015.
It would be no surprise for sales to slow this month, as industry analysts have predicted a peak for the last few months. Even though it sees a slowdown, Edmunds says that 2016 should still be a record, breaking last year's mark of 17.47 million new car sales.
"It's easy to look at May's sales and conclude that the retail car market is losing steam, but it's too soon to say for sure that auto sales are leveling off," said Edmunds.com Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell.
Look for more incentives this summer
She says carmakers still have plenty of incentives in their promotional arsenals and will likely bring them out during the summer months, attracting consumers to new car showrooms. How consumers respond, she says, will tell the industry how the market is trending.
KBB is projecting a 6% year-over-year sales decline to a total of 1.53 million units, resulting in a SAAR of 17.4 million vehicles. KBB analysts Tim Fleming notes May has two fewer selling days and cautions not to read too much into May's final sales numbers.
"While this year may not bring the growth the industry has become accustomed to, it is important to remember that sales are still at record levels and economic factors point to continued strength in the near future," he said.
Fleming also believes the 2016 sales tally could end up being another record, with total sales approaching 18 million vehicles.
Big decline for GM
KBB projects General Motors (GM) will see the largest decline, mainly due to its shift away from emphasizing rental sales, selling fewer Chevrolet Cruze, Impala, and Equinox.
“GM is keeping the end-game in mind here; by reducing the volume of GM vehicles in rental fleets, the company will eventually see strengthened residual values," Fleming said.
Nissan could be May's big winner, benefiting from the redesigned Maxima. Fleming says the Maxima has proved an outlier to the overall decline in full-size car sales. Nissan should also get a boost from the Murano crossover, with projected sales growth of around 10%.
U.S. economy picks up (a little) steam, but remains sluggish
Consumer spending was among the factors05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
A second look at how the nation's economy was doing in the first quarter shows the growth rate was a bit stronger.The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)...
A second look at how the nation's economy was doing in the first quarter shows the growth rate was a bit stronger.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) 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 0.8%.
While that's a bit better than the 0.5% reported in the advance estimate released a month ago, it pales in comparison to the 1.4% growth rate chalked up in the final three months of 2015.
Consumer spending picks up
The increase in real GDP results from increases in personal consumption expenditures (PCE), residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending.
Those advances were partly offset by declines in nonresidential fixed investment, exports, private inventory investment, and federal government spending. Imports -- a subtraction in the calculation of GDP -- decreased.
The overall slowdown from the fourth quarter of last year reflects a larger decrease in nonresidential fixed investment, a deceleration in PCE, and a downturn in federal government spending. Those were offset -- in part -- by an upturn in state and local government spending, and a speedup in residential fixed investment.
Inflation and corporate profits
The price index for gross domestic purchases -- GDP inflation -- increased 0.2% in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” GDP rate increased 1.4%, compared with a 1.0% advance in the final three months of last year.
Corporate profits were finally in the black. Following a plunge of $159.6 billion in the fourth quarter, they increased $6.5 billion in the first three months of this year.
The complete report is available on the BEA website.
Redesigned BMW X1 earns top IIHS award
The vehicle also offers an optional front crash prevention system05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
BMW tweaked its 2016 X1 model and walked away with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top award for safety.The key was earning a good ...
BMW tweaked its 2016 X1 model and walked away with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top award for safety.
The key was earning a good small overlap rating. The driver's space was maintained reasonably well in the test, with maximum intrusion of about 4 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and at the instrument panel.
In the test of the previous version, intrusion reached 16 inches at the footwell, trapping the dummy's right foot.
Like its predecessor, the new X1 earns good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.
Optional front crash prevention system
The X1's newly available front crash prevention system earns an advanced rating from IIHS. In track tests at 12 mph, impact speed was reduced by an average of 10 mph.
In the 25 mph tests, impact speed was reduced by 7 mph. The system includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.
To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.
Chrysler recalls aftermarket Mopar Canvas Seat Covers
The seat covers can impede the deployment of the seat thorax airbags05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 487 aftermarket Mopar Canvas Seat Covers for certain 2012-2016 RAM 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks. These seat cover...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 487 aftermarket Mopar Canvas Seat Covers for certain 2012-2016 RAM 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks.
These seat covers, sold through Chrysler dealerships beginning October 15, 2015, can impede the deployment of the seat thorax airbags.
If the seat cover impedes the air bag deployment, the seat thorax air bags may not provide adequate protection in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of a injury.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners to remove the front seat covers and return them for a full refund. The recall is expected to begin June 30, 2016.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S30.
Dakota Style Foods recalls sunflower kernels
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Dakota Style Foods of Clark, S.D., has expanded its product recall to include 15,158 cases of sunflower kernels. The product may be contaminated wi...
Dakota Style Foods of Clark, S.D., has expanded its product recall to include 15,158 cases of sunflower kernels.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been confirmed to date.
The sunflower kernels were distributed to 34 customers nation-wide, and are sold through retail outlets.
The products involved are:
- Dakota Style 16 ounce;
- Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels, 3.5 ounce;
- Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels, 32 ounce;
- Roasted and Salted Sunflower Kernels, 4 ounce;
- Savory Bacon Sunflower Kernels, 8 ounce;
- Savory Bacon Sunflower Kernels; and
- 4 ounce Salted Caramel Sunflower Kernels.
The products were shipped by Dakota Style Foods between February 15, 2016, and May 17, 2016.
The affected lots are identified by lot codes 8B6M02, 8B6M09, 8B6M17, 8B6M18, 8B6M24, 8B6M25, 8C6M02, 8C6M08, 8C6M10, 8C6M28, 8C6M31 and 8D6M01.
The product comes in plastic packages bearing the company logo and product name, with the lot code located on the back right hand panel.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-446-2779 between 8:30 am and 5 pm (CST) Monday through Friday.
Right Hand Drive Jeep Wranglers recalled
The driver's front air bag may not deploy in the event of a crash05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 7,180 model year 2011-2016 Right Hand Drive Jeep Wranglers manufactured February 16, 2010, to May 2, 2016. The c...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 7,180 model year 2011-2016 Right Hand Drive Jeep Wranglers manufactured February 16, 2010, to May 2, 2016.
The clockspring assembly may become contaminated with dust and cause the air bag circuit to fail.
Failure of the air bag circuit may prevent the driver's front air bag from deploying in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the clockspring, wheel back cover, and column shroud, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S40.
General Motors recalls model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus
The vehicles could lose electronically controlled brake systems05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
General Motors is recalling 66 model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured March 7, 2016, through March 12, 2016. The memory chip in the electro...
General Motors is recalling 66 model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured March 7, 2016, through March 12, 2016.
The memory chip in the electronic brake control module (EBCM) may fail and cause the loss of electronically controlled brake systems including anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC). As such, these vehicles fail to conform to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 126, "Electronic Stability Control Systems."
If the EBCM fails the primary braking system will still function, however, the loss of ABS and ESC increase the risk of a crash.
What to do
GM will notify owners, and dealers will install a replacement EBCM, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on June 10, 2016.
Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020). GM's number for this recall is 39440.
Hy-Vee recalls six trail mix products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hy-Vee, Inc., of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling six trail mix products across its eight-state region. The products may be contaminated with Li...
Hy-Vee, Inc., of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling six trail mix products across its eight-state region.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with these products.
The following products are being recalled:
- Hy-Vee Caramel Cashew Honey Crunch Trail Mix — sold in 24 oz. bags with the UPC number 75450040586 and with a “best by” date of April 5, 2017
- Hy-Vee Dark Chocolate Cranberry Trail Mix — sold in 24 oz. bags with the UPC number 75450041354 and with a “best by” date of April 14, 2017
- Hy-Vee Mountain Trail Mix — sold in 26 oz. bags with the UPC number 75450016796 and with a “best by” date of April 5, 2017, and April 15, 2017
- Hy-Vee Mountain Trail Mix To Go — sold in 1.75 oz. bags with the UPC number 75450040739 and with a “best by” date of March 23, 2017
- Hy-Vee Berry Trail Mix — sold in 7 oz. bags with the UPC number 75450040593 and with a “best by” date of March 19, 2017
- Hy-Vee Santa Fe Trail Mix — sold in 6.5 oz. bags with the UPC number 75450041101 and with a “best by” date of March 31, 2017
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should discard or return them to their local Hy-Vee store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Hy-Vee customer care representatives 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-772-4098.
Dodge Journeys recalled
The power steering return hose may rupture at engine start-up in cold weather05/27/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 10,944 model year 2009-2016 Dodge Journeys manufactured July 31, 2007, to November 12, 2016. After exposure to c...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 10,944 model year 2009-2016 Dodge Journeys manufactured July 31, 2007, to November 12, 2016.
After exposure to cold temperatures, the power steering return hose may rupture at engine start-up causing a loss of power steering assist.
A loss of power steering assist may require extra steering effort, especially at lower speeds, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the power steering return hoses, steel tubes, and power steering oil cooler, free of charge. The recall began on May 24, 2016.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S08.
E-cigarettes blamed for blowing up in smokers' faces
Serious injuries occurred in some cases; one man lost an eye05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Traditional cigarettes are really bad for you, but at least they don't blow up in your face, as e-cigarettes have been doing lately. In one of the most rec...
Traditional cigarettes are really bad for you, but at least they don't blow up in your face, as e-cigarettes have been doing lately. In one of the most recent cases, an Albany, N.Y., man said his e-cig blew up and knocked him to the ground.
“Like a M80 bomb went off in my mouth,” Kenneth Barbaro said. “When I hit the button, I saw a huge yellow light. The next thing I know, I’m on the floor and my arms are paralyzed.”
Barbaro was hospitalized with burns to his hands, knocked-out teeth, and a splt tongue, he said in a televised report.
“When it blows up in your face, you’re not having a good time,” he said in a televised news report.
In an even more serious case, an e-cig exploded on April 15, tearing through a man's eye, smashing two cheekbones, and starting a fire. Joseph Cavins, now blind in one eye, has filed a lawsuit against vaping retailers and distributors, Courthouse News Service reported.
He said he was working at his computer when his vaping device exploded, hitting him in the eye, then hitting the ceiling, and finally landing on top of the computer, where it started a fire.
Cavins, a public school counselor, underwent seven hours of surgery. Doctors removed his left eye and performed surgery to fix broken bones in his face and to repair his sinus cavity.
The problem, according to Cavins' lawsuit, is that the batteries in vaping devices have "an inherent risk of fire and explosion," exacerbated by what it says is the cheap construction and poor design of many of the devices.
If the temperature inside the lithium-ion battery builds up high enough, it can cause an explosion that propels the battery "like a bullet or rocket," Cavins' suit says.
Several similar cases have been reported in recent months.
Uber sees opportunity in DC Metro's safety shutdowns
The dangerous, broken-down, expensive subway is everything Uber isn't05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The trouble with mass transit, of course, is that it is run by the government. What's wrong with that? You need only look at the Washington D.C. Metro syst...
The trouble with mass transit, of course, is that it is run by the government. What's wrong with that? You need only look at the Washington D.C. Metro system. Just a few decades ago, it was a bright and shining multi-billion-dollar symbol of what a subway system could be.
Now it's a dangerous, broken-down, unreliable symbol of what a subway system becomes when it's not properly maintained. A new general manager and federal safety officials are planning a yearlong series of sweeping shutdowns to do emergency repairs, threatening to paralyze a region that already has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country.
There is much hand-wringing throughout the D.C. region, which includes parts of Virginia and Maryland as well as the District of Columbia, as commuters ponder life without Metro.
The system is more than just an urban subway. As it rattles into the suburbs, it emerges above-ground and becomes a commuter railway -- offering expensive rides on crowded trains to the legions of federal workers and contractors who are the region's lifeblood and who persist in living in far-flung neighborhoods that put them at the mercy of the transit and highway bureaucrats.
It's a disaster in the making, but it's also an opportunity for Uber and other disruptive innovators to show what they can do -- at no cost to taxpayers. Uber is announcing today a $10 million initiative to promote its carpooling service and to expand service into all areas covered by Metrorail.
Of course, $10 million probably wouldn't be enough to fix one of Metro's chronically broken escalators, but Uber says it will be enough to put lots more Uber cars on the road, incentivize more drivers to work longer hours, and steer riders towards UberPool, its car-pool option.
Government types, like Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who represents parts of Northern Virginia, are skeptical.
"Candidly, I don't know that the existing infrastructure -- Uber and private taxicab companies and so forth -- frankly have the capacity that's going to be required," Connolly said, according to Politico. He didn't mention, of course, that nobody thought about how they would maintain the Metro system before spending billions of dollars to build it in the first place.
If Uber has an Achilles' heel, other than having to share the region's miserable street system with everyone else, it is its propensity to slap riders with surcharges when demand is high.
Some riders paid 3.9 times the usual rate for an UberX ride during a March 16 emergency Metro shutdown. Uber isn't saying that won't happen again, but it is saying it is planning to "play it by ear" as the region adjusts to a "new normal."
The Washington area has always had a high percentage of carpoolers, thanks to high-occupancy (HOV) lanes on many of its freeways. The system is somewhat haphazard. Would-be riders, called "slugs," gather at informal but well-known pick-up spots and passing drivers, looking to zip along in the HOV lanes, pick them up.
It sounds scary, but it actually works quite well, except when government interferes with it and tries to restrict pick-ups in selected locations. Most slugs say they get a faster and much more comfortable ride in someone's back seat than they would crammed into a jolting, lurching Metro train. Not to mention that most such slug rides are free.
If Uber's slick software can put riders together with empty seats in UberX cars, it could help Uber rise above some of the bad press it has received in places like Austin, Texas, where it recently had a much-publicized spat with local officials.
It would be especially sweet for Uber if it could demonstrate -- directly under the nose of the federal government -- that it and other ride-hailing/sharing services can provide adequate transit without investing billions of taxpayer dollars and setting up bloated, slow-moving bureacracies to mismanage it.
Portion control: is it the key to weight loss?
California researchers say this simple concept seems to work05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Amid all the fad diets and weight control programs, there is one very simple way to lose weight: eat less.Easier said than done, however. Over the year...
Amid all the fad diets and weight control programs, there is one very simple way to lose weight: eat less.
Easier said than done, however. Over the years, the portion sizes consumers expect – and get – have gotten significantly larger. That might be fine for a portion of steamed broccoli, less fine for a portion of meatloaf.
When you look on a food nutrition label, it will tell you how many servings the product contains. But once on a plate, chances are the serving will look pretty small to some consumers who are accustomed to larger portions. Sticking to the serving size, however, could make it easier to lose or maintain weight.
New research published in the scientific journal Obesity has confirmed what diet product companies have long known – when you package food in small, controllable portions, it is easier to lose weight.
“Participants who were prescribed twice-daily prepackaged meals lost about 8% of their initial weight, compared to participants in the control group – who could select their own diets – who only lost about 6%,” said lead researcher Cheryl Rock, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
The real key, she says, is removing the guesswork involved in planning and preparing low-calorie meals.
It all sounds simple enough, but Martin Binks, a spokesperson for The Obesity Society, says it may be hard for someone who is overweight or obese to put it into practice. He notes that it is important to reduce the body's energy intake for weight loss, but a body accustomed to large amounts of energy will crave it when it's denied. Still, he notes this strategy is a step toward reducing obesity.
According to research published in Food Technologists magazine, consumers may be slowly moving away from giant-sized portions. Among the trends uncovered by the research, there was a conscious shift to smaller portion sizes reported by one-third of the consumers in the survey.
Many restaurants, however, still serve up huge portions – more than a human being should eat in a day, in some cases. The reason is competition. Restaurants know consumers can choose to dine out anywhere. They conclude that their chances are better of attracting consumers if they provide a generous spread – and in many cases, they are correct.
Food products that come in prepackaged portions are an easy way to both control portion size and keep track of calories. The downside is these meals often contain large amounts of sodium. A steady diet might expose you to excessive amounts of salt.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers a number of tips for controlling portions when cooking from scratch, including using smaller plates and cups and sticking to suggested serving sizes. If you're still hungry, eat more vegetables but skip dessert.
Aims to help low-to-moderate income consumers become homebuyers05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Today, Wells Fargo launched yourFirstMortgage: a new home loan program that will offer first-time home buyers a down payment of as little as 3% for fixed-r...
Cry-it-out method did not cause babies any stress in the short or long term05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
The “cry it out” method of sleep training babies is a controversial one, as it goes against the maternal instinct that powers every new mom. But a new stud...
CreditCards.com finds only three cards fully comply05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
For consumers without a checking account, a prepaid, reloadable debit card can be a handy thing. But be careful. New research found seven out of 10 of thes...
Getting the best airfare for international travel
Cheapair's analysis found timing is everything05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
With recent bottlenecks at security checkpoints at some busy airports, consumers may be thinking twice about flying anywhere.But for those who are plan...
With recent bottlenecks at security checkpoints at some busy airports, consumers may be thinking twice about flying anywhere.
But for those who are planning a trip outside the U.S., there are definitely advantages to booking at the right time.
Cheapair recently examined fares for over a million international flights and found these fares behave very differently than for domestic flights. Here's what it found:
If you are traveling to Central and South America, the best time to book is 70 days out from travel dates. That's the closest match to domestic travel, which shows the best fares are available around 54 days from departure.
Canada and Mexico are also similar to flying to U.S. destinations. Buying your ticket 75 days out should get you the lowest fare.
You need to give yourself a lot more time when traveling to Europe or Asia. The best fares to European destinations are available about 120 days in advance. Booking flights to Asia requires even more advance time – 160 days.
Nearly a year in advance
But that's far from the most lead time needed to secure the best fare. If you are flying to the Middle East or Africa, try to book 215 days in advance.
To get the best fares to the Caribbean or the South Pacific, you need almost a year – 320 days.
Cheapair says there are some other things to consider with international travel that don't necessarily apply when flying within the U.S. If you are traveling to a tourist destination, going during the off-season can help reduce the airfare.
For example, peak season for Europe is summer. But winter is the busy tourist season for sunny spots in the Caribbean and Latin America.
If you are traveling with a group of people and need to sit together, consider booking early. If you are going alone, you might get a very good deal by waiting until just days before departure.
Just keep in mind there are no hard-and-fast rules. There can be extenuating circumstances.
This year, one might expect flights to Brazil during the Olympic games would be expensive and hard to get. However, Brazil is battling the Zika virus, and it remains to be seen how and if that affects Americans' desire to go there.
The recent political turmoil in Turkey has reduced tourist travel there. That popular destination has become something of a bargain, as a result.
First 365 by Whole Foods Market opens in LA
It's a smaller version of the parent, but with lower prices05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Whole Foods Market has taken the first step toward countering the complaint that its prices are too high, opening a 365 by Whole Foods Market in the Silver...
Whole Foods Market has taken the first step toward countering the complaint that its prices are too high, opening a 365 by Whole Foods Market in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.
The store, named for Whole Foods' store brand, is designed to appeal to the Whole Foods customer, but it is smaller, has fewer employees, and has lower prices than Whole Foods Market stores.
The store promotes organic products and food without artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives.
“Whether you’re looking for a quick in-and-out shop for a few items, stocking up for the week, or having a sit down dinner at by CHLOE, with a beer from Allegro’s craft brew bar, you’ll find a blend of innovation and convenience,” said Jeff Turnas, president, 365 by Whole Foods Market.
Turnas says the store is built on the same foundation as its parent, but offers more value. In addition to lower prices, it will also be easier to navigate.
A large grab-and-go section offers prepared food options. Consumers can order a hot dog, bowls made with quinoa, rice and vegetables, and pizza from self-serve kiosks.
The hot dogs, of course, are a little different than you might find elsewhere. They include the vegan “carrot dog” made with a braised carrot, tamarind chutney slaw, cilantro, and avocado.
Pizza products include a vegan veggie, featuring Kite Hill ricotta and chicken bulgogi with sauce made from Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes.
The LA stores also feature a vegan restaurant and a coffee bar.
Whole Foods Market won an early following among food purists, who favor organic produce and food without artificial ingredients. As prices for those products rose over the years, so did the the complaints, with the store earning the moniker “Whole Paycheck.”
It didn't help when New York City consumer authorities accused Whole Foods of systematically overcharging customers. The grocery chain eventually agreed to a $500,000 settlement.
There has also been some friction with food activists, who claim the chain has been cutting back on its organic selections. Just days after Whole Foods announced the launch of 365, the Cornucopia Institute, which advocates organic growing, took the popular brand to task for its “Responsibly Grown” marketing plan.
The group charged that the label had devalued the Certified Organic label while promoting conventionally grown food products.
While devising a new labeling program that identifies fruits and vegetables as “Good,” “Better,” and “Best,” Cornucopia says Whole Foods is asking the growers to pay for participating in the retailer’s verification program.
The 365 spin-off is designed to be something of a fresh start. In addition to lower prices across the board, the company says these stores will be designed with convenience and efficiency in mind, “to create an easy flow and streamlined customer experience.”
Pending home sales hit 10-year high
April's increase is the third in a row05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Pending home sales advanced in April for the third time in as many months and are now at their highest level since Febr...
Pending home sales advanced in April for the third time in as many months and are now at their highest level since February 2006.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), which is based on contract signings, jumped 5.1% last month and is 4.6% higher than it was in April 2015. The PHSI has now increased year-over-year for 20 consecutive months.
"The ability to sign a contract on a home is slightly exceeding expectations this spring even with the affordability stresses and inventory squeezes affecting buyers in a number of markets," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "The building momentum from the over 14 million jobs created since 2010 and the prospect of facing higher rents and mortgage rates down the road appear to be bringing more interested buyers into the market."
Regarding mortgage rates, which have been below 4% in 16 of the past 17 months, Yun says it remains to be seen how long they will stay this low. For now, he foresees rates continuing to hover around 4% in coming months, but inflation could potentially surprise the market and cause rates to increase suddenly.
Even if rates rise soon, added Yun, “sales have legs for further expansion this summer if housing supply increases enough to give buyers an adequate number of affordable choices during their search."
Gains in the South and West helped fuel the advance.
- The PHSI in the West soared 11.4% in April to 106.2, and is now 2.8% above a year ago.
- Pending home sales in the South jumped 6.8% to an index of 133.9 and is up 5.1% from April 2015.
- The index in the Northeast climbed 1.2% to 98.2, and is now up 10.1% year-over-year.
- In the Midwest the index dipped 0.6% to 112.9, but is still 2.0% higher than it was at the same time last year.
From the government this morning, we have word of another sizable decline in the number of people filing first-time applications for state unemployment benefits.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims fell by 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level to a seasonally 268,000 in the week ending May 21. This marks 64 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.
The four-week moving average, which lacks the weekly tally's volatility and is seen as a more accurate gauge of the labor market, was up 2,750 to 278,500.
The full report is available on the DOL website.
House prices up for 19th consecutive quarter
The year-over-year gain was more than 5%05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Prices for houses across the U.S. were up during the first three months of the year, marking the 19th consecutive quarterly increase.According to the F...
Prices for houses across the U.S. were up during the first three months of the year, marking the 19th consecutive quarterly increase.
According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI), prices rose 1.3% in the first quarter of 2016 and were up 5.7% from the period a year earlier.
The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"While the overall appreciation rate was robust in the first quarter, home price appreciation was somewhat less widespread than in recent quarters," said FHFA Supervisory Economist Andrew Leventis. "Twelve states and the District of Columbia saw price declines in the quarter -- the most areas to see price depreciation since the fourth quarter of 2013. Although most declines were modest, such declines are notable given the pervasive and extraordinary appreciation we have been observing for many years."
- Home prices rose in every state between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. The top five states in annual appreciation were Oregon (11.8%), Florida (11.2%), Washington (10.9%), Nevada (9.4%), and Colorado (9.0%).
- Among the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., annual price increases were greatest in the West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, Fla., where prices increased by 16.7%. Prices were weakest in El Paso, Texas, where they fell 2.8%.
- Of the nine census divisions, the Pacific division experienced the strongest increase in the first quarter, posting a 1.9% quarterly increase and an 8.1% increase since the first quarter of last year. House price appreciation was weakest in the Middle Atlantic division, where prices rose 0.6% from the last quarter.
The complete report is available on the FHFA website.
Papa John’s recalls ready-to-eat salad with chicken products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Papa John’s Salads and Produce of Tolleson, Ariz., is recalling approximately 373 pounds of ready-to-eat salad with chicken products. The products ...
Papa John’s Salads and Produce of Tolleson, Ariz., is recalling approximately 373 pounds of ready-to-eat salad with chicken products.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.
The following item, produced from May 10 – 17, 2016, is being recalled:
- 7.5-oz. plastic packages of “Signature Café Citrus Kale Salad with Chicken – Dress with Lemon, Salt and Pepper” with “Use By” dates of May 17 through May 24, 2016. The packages will have the following UPC code of 2113008148.
The recalled products bear establishment number “P-40280” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to retail locations in Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but thrown them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Brandy Rousselle at (480) 894-6885 ext. 125.
TreeHouse Foods expands recall of foods containing sunflower kernels
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
TreeHouse Foods is expanding its earlier recall of products containing sunflower kernels following word that it's supplier has expanded its recall of sunfl...
TreeHouse Foods is expanding its earlier recall of products containing sunflower kernels following word that it's supplier has expanded its recall of sunflower kernels.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The following products, distributed nationwide through retail stores, have been added to the recall:
Consumers can find UPC codes and Best By/Date Codes on each package.
What to do
Customers who purchased any of the recalled products should dispose of or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may call 1-800-756-5781, Monday - Friday, 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (CST).
The air bag circuit may fail05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 394,258 model year 2007-2010 Jeep Wrangler JK vehicles manufactured March 2, 2006, to August 13, 2010. The clock...
Toyota recalls model year 2015 Yaris vehicles
A front upper shock assembly bearing could be damaged05/26/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Toyota Motor Sales, USA is recalling approximately 3,100 model year 2015 Yaris hatch back vehicles. There is a possibility that a front upper shock...
Toyota Motor Sales, USA is recalling approximately 3,100 model year 2015 Yaris hatch back vehicles.
There is a possibility that a front upper shock assembly bearing could be damaged. If this occurs, the driver may experience an abnormal noises while driving on rough road surfaces or when turning the steering wheel.
If the vehicle continues to be operated in this condition, a front shock absorber piston rod could separate, causing a loss of vehicle stability and increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Owners of the affected vehicles will be notified by first class mail and Toyota dealers will replace the strut mounting bearings with improved ones. If a strut mounting bearing is found to be damaged, the dealer will replace the strut and front suspension support sub-assembly with a new one.
Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331 and Lexus customer experience at 1-800-255-3987.
Even an unhappy marriage may be healthful for husbands
Study finds wives' nagging helps delay onset of diabetes, improves monitoring one it develops05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Listen, gentlemen -- even an unhappy marriage may be good for you. Researchers say a wife's nagging may annoy her husband, but it may also slow the onset o...
Listen, gentlemen -- even an unhappy marriage may be good for you. Researchers say a wife's nagging may annoy her husband, but it may also slow the onset of diabetes and promote successful treatment once the disease develops.
Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu led the study, which found that an increase in marital unhappiness actually lowered the risk of developing diabetes.
"The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health," said Liu. "It also encourages family scholars to distinguish different sources and types of marital quality. Sometimes, nagging is caring."
Diabetes requires frequent monitoring and it could be that while wives' prodding may be annoying, it may also be beneficial to the husbands' health.
The benefits of marriage don't all flow in one direction, though.
The study found that, for women, a good marriage was related to a lower risk of being diabetic five years later. Women may be more sensitive than men to the quality of a relationship and thus more likely to experience a health boost from a good-quality relationship, Liu said.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. More than 29 million Americans had diabetes in 2012, or 9.3 percent of the population.
Since diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in the United States, implementation of public policies and programs designed to promote marital quality should also reduce the risk of diabetes and promote health and longevity, especially for women at older ages," the study says.
Liu and her team used data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. They analyzed survey results from 1,228 married respondents over five years.
At the onset of the study, the respondents were 57 to 85 years old; 389 had diabetes at the end of the study.
Millions of consumers have opted-in to still get hit with the high fees05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A new federal law implemented six years ago was supposed to resolve the issue of bank overdraft fees, which often blindsided consumers with unexpected expe...
Researchers believe they can harness the body's natural defenses to fight the disease05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
It’s a fact that not too many people realize, but the ability to fight and beat diseases like cancer is already inside of us. In fact, under normal circums...
Office-sharing company, WeWork, gets in on the co-living trend
WeLive takes a dorm-style approach to apartment dwelling05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
WeWork, an early purveyor of the co-working space movement, is taking the concept of shared office space and applying it to apartments. In April, the o...
WeWork, an early purveyor of the co-working space movement, is taking the concept of shared office space and applying it to apartments.
In April, the office-sharing company launched WeLive: an apartment complex with an abundance of shared, open spaces. Renters can have their own private space, as well -- but the draw of WeLive is the sense of community.
Founding partner, Rebecca Newman, explains that WeLive is centered on community and “the belief that we’re basically as good as the people we surround ourselves with.”
The fully-furnished apartments are part of a concierge-staffed complex -- one that boasts free coffee and beer, events, and hotel-like bonuses such as free housekeeping. Young urban dwellers might also appreciate the lack of commitment required to set up home base at WeLive.
Furnished and flexible
The units aren’t cheap; shared spaces start at $1,375 while private units begin at $2,250. But for those looking to skip the long-term apartment commitment, WeLive may be just right. Renters can live month-to-month in the shared space, which teems with opportunities to be social.
The dorm-style residences might also appeal to those who lack the time or motivation to go out and decorate their apartment, especially if they will only be there for a short time. Each residence comes decked out in the type of decor you might find at a trendy hostel.
"Simply show up and begin your life without the hassle,” says a statement from WeLive.
The first WeLive location was recently unveiled on Wall Street in New York. Others are slated to pop up soon near Washington, D.C., and in Arlington, Va.
Microsoft exits consumer smartphone market
$7 billion Nokia investment didn't produce much return05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Microsoft is giving up on the consumer phone business, shuttering what little is left of its Finland-based hardware business, which it acquired in its disa...
Microsoft is giving up on the consumer phone business, shuttering what little is left of its Finland-based hardware business, which it acquired in its disastrous $7 billion acquisition of Nokia's phone unit.
It's the second shoe to drop. Last week, Microsoft said it was selling off the remains of its "feature phone" business.
But CEO Satya Nadella says the company isn't completely abandoning the phone business. Instead, it is working to adapt its software and services to the Android and iOS platforms, rather than trying to get consumers to buy Windows phones.
“We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same,” Nadella said. “We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms.”
Nadella also says Microsoft will continue to support its phones aimed at the business market and license Windows 10 to any hardware maker who wants to use it.
The "streamlining" -- as Nadella called it -- will eliminate about 1,850 jobs, mostly in Finland.
Study: artificial sweeteners may have negative health effect for obese consumers
Researchers suggest some can interfere with glucose management05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Artificial sweeteners have come a long way over the years, now closely mimicking natural sweeteners but without the calories.The sweeteners are effecti...
Artificial sweeteners have come a long way over the years, now closely mimicking natural sweeteners but without the calories.
The sweeteners are effective tools to help obese consumers reduce calorie consumption, but researchers at York University's Faculty of Health say that weight management may come at a price.
"Our study shows that individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don't take sugar substitutes," Professor Jennifer Kuk, obesity researcher in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science, said in a release.
Artificial sweeteners lack caloric content because they are not digested by the body. If they can make food taste better without adding calories, it can help consumers manage their weight. But the York University study found that in some cases, bacteria in the stomach may be able to break down the artificial sweetener. When that happens, researchers say there can be negative effects on health.
No adverse effect from saccharin
Kuk said the research team didn't find this adverse effect in people consuming saccharin – an early artificial sweetener – or natural sugars. The findings, however, left them with more questions than answers.
"We will need to do future studies to determine whether any potentially negative health effects of artificial sweeteners outweigh the benefits for obesity reduction," Luk said.
This is hardly the first research to suggest there could be some downside to using food and beverage products containing artificial sweeteners. A 2008 study by psychologists at Purdue University found that compared with rats that ate yogurt sweetened with sugar, rats given yogurt sweetened with zero-calorie saccharin later consumed more calories, gained more weight, put on more body fat, and didn't make up for it by cutting back later.
Later that same year a Duke University study that focused on the artificial sweetener Splenda concluded the product contributes to obesity, destroys beneficial intestinal bacteria, and could even interfere with absorption of prescription drugs.
Pepsi dumps aspartame
Last year Pepsi announced it would remove aspartame from its beverages sold in the U.S., reacting to research that suggests the artificial sweetener – while not imparting calories – might creating sugar cravings among people who consume too much, thus negating the benefits of a no-calorie beverage.
Today, food manufacturers have many options when it comes to new sugar substitutes. The York researchers says more investigation should be carried out to determine if there are any health effects of using these sweeteners.
Millennials are choosing life with parents over other living arrangements
Delayed marriage may be fueling the change05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Millennials aren’t anxious to leave the nest. In fact, a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that more millennials are currently living at home than...
Millennials aren’t anxious to leave the nest. In fact, a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that more millennials are currently living at home than in any other living arrangement.
Pew’s analysis concludes that this is the first time in American history that such a large percentage (32.1%) of young adults are living with mom and dad, rather than with a partner or roommates.
The force behind the change? According to Richard Fry at Pew, it’s primarily the fact that more millennials (defined as ages 18 to 34) are waiting to settle down romantically.
Since the 1880s, living with a romantic partner has been the most common living arrangement among young people. But with more millennials choosing to delay their walk down the aisle (often until closer to age 35), life with parents may be a more practical living arrangement.
Men more than women
Millennial men were found to be more likely to live with their parents than with a spouse or partner. About 35% are opting to stay with parents, while 28% are living with a romantic partner.
The scales tip the other way for young women, albeit only slightly. Thirty-five percent of millennial women live with a significant other and 29% live with their parents.
Fry notes that changes in economic status may be partially responsible for the difference between men and women. While the percentage of young men employed in the workforce has decreased since the 1960s, the opposite is true for young women.
As job prospects for women improve, more young women are choosing to put off setting up a household with a romantic partner in favor of following a career path.
Other economic factors -- including student debt, the high cost of first-time homes, and slow wage growth in recent years -- may also be contributing to the cohort’s desire not to leave the nest as early as older generations.
Feds swat Mosquito Shield Band claims
There's no evidence the mint-soaked bands will protect you, FTC charges05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Worried about getting the Zika virus? Don't count on the Viatek Mosquito Shield Band to keep you safe. Viatek has agreed to settle federal charges that it ...
Worried about getting the Zika virus? Don't count on the Viatek Mosquito Shield Band to keep you safe. Viatek has agreed to settle federal charges that it made deceptive claims for the wrist bands, which supposedly create a "vapor barrier" to keep mosquitoes at bay.
“With Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the news, consumers might be looking for products that protect them from mosquitos,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The defendants took advantage of those concerns, and peddled a product without having scientific support that it effectively prevented mosquito bites.”
Viatek took exception to Rich's comment. "Viatek sold this product in 2010-12, prior to the declaration of a global health emergency due to the Zika virus," the company noted in an email to ConsumerAffairs.
Viatek also denied that it could not support its claims for the wrist bands, saying it "stands behind the empirical scientific evidence that resulted from multiple tests performed as to the efficacy of their mosquito bands."
It said the tests "were conducted by a leading American university and a distinguished professor of entomology, who provided competent and reliable evidence for the claims."
Besides the deceptives claims alegation, the FTC also charged Viatek and company owner Lou Lentine with violating a 2003 administrative order prohibiting Lentine from making product claims without competent and reliable evidence to back them up.
According to the FTC’s February 2015 complaint, Lentine and Viatek marketed Mosquito Shield Bands, wristbands containing mint oil, directly to consumers and through retailers, including the home shopping channel HSN. Viatek claimed the wristbands would protect users from being bitten by mosquitos.
They claimed the wristbands create a “vapor barrier” that shields people within five feet of the product from being bitten and provides users with 96-120 hours of protection. The FTC alleged that the defendants did not have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up the claims.
The settlement requires the defendants to have competent and reliable scientific evidence for future claims, prohibits the defendants from violating the 2003 FTC order, and requires them to pay $300,000 to the Commission.
Viatek said it settled the case to save the expense of further litigation.
"Recent history demonstrates that the FTC will appeal any case it loses, needlessly costing substantial amounts of time and money to all involved," the company said. "Fighting a government entity with unlimited resources that allows themselves to carry an 18 trillion-dollar debt is a losing battle for any company. Viatek’s management team decided it was a good business decision to cut their losses and focus on their extremely successful products and business."
Memorial Day weekend gas prices well below last year
AAA reports the national average price is down 44 cents from last Memorial Day05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Gasoline prices are rising and have reached their highest level so far in 2016. But despite that, motorists hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend will...
Gasoline prices are rising and have reached their highest level so far in 2016. But despite that, motorists hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend will encounter pump prices well below last year.
The national average price of self-serve regular is $2.30 a gallon, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey. But at this time last year, it was 44 cents higher – $2.74 a gallon.
Gasoline prices have risen over the course of the late winter and early spring as they have each year, as refineries perform routine maintenance and switch over to production of summer gasoline blends. The rise has been slower this year, thanks to soft oil prices.
Oil prices have spiked a bit in recent weeks, due to production slowdowns in some oil producing nations. But industry analysts say any increase will likely be temporary since the world remains oversupplied with oil.
Peaking around Memorial Day
Prices normally peak around Memorial Day, the start of the summer driving season. AAA says drivers are likely to pay the least amount for gasoline since 2005 this year.
An estimated 38 million Americans will travel over the holiday weekend, which would be an increase of 700,000 compared to a year ago. Even more consumers are likely to travel by car, since long lines at the nation's busiest airports have discouraged air travel.
Here are the states where motorists will find the cheapest gasoline:
- Mississippi ($2.06)
- Texas ($2.07)
- South Carolina ($2.08)
- Arkansas ($2.08)
- Missouri ($2.08)
- Louisiana ($2.08)
- Oklahoma ($2.10)
- Alabama ($2.10)
- New Jersey ($2.14)
- Kansas ($2.15)
Here are the states where motorists will pay the most for gasoline:
- California ($2.80)
- Hawaii ($2.66)
- Washington ($2.59)
- Alaska ($2.58)
- Michigan ($2.51)
- Ohio ($2.51)
- Nevada ($2.49)
- Idaho ($2.45)
- Illinois ($2.44)
- New York ($2.43)
AAA reports this is the first time since last August that drivers in every state and Washington, D.C. are paying averages above $2 per gallon.
Smucker cutting price of packaged coffee
Folgers and Dunkin' Donut brands will be about 6% cheaper05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A stronger dollar and increasing supply are sending the price of coffee lower. To underscore that fact, Smucker cut the list price of its packaged coffee p...
A stronger dollar and increasing supply are sending the price of coffee lower. To underscore that fact, Smucker cut the list price of its packaged coffee products this week.
In the U.S., Smucker sells primarily under the Folgers and Dunkin' Donuts brands. Prices have fallen an average of 6% for the two brands' packaged coffee. The K-Cup pods are unaffected by the price cuts.
"For the last several quarters, lower green coffee costs were reflected in promotional pricing for the majority of our packaged coffee products, and we do not anticipate those prices changing significantly," said Steve Oakland, Vice Chair and President, U.S. Food and Beverage.
Oakland says the company move will allow consumers to benefit from lower prices on an everyday basis.
9% price fluctuation
According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the composite price of green coffee has fluctuated 9%, from high to low, so far in May.
The price declines will only apply to the coffee your brew at home. Typically, stores and restaurants that serve coffee don't pass along the savings to customers.
CNN Money noted back in January that when coffee prices plunged around 33%, coffee shops like Starbucks did not adjust their prices. It quoted an industry analyst as pointing out retail establishments are facing increased wage costs, which off-set the lower cost of the raw product.
The trend of lower packaged prices, however, could linger for a while. Good weather during the growing season in Latin America has resulted in a bumper crop, which has softened the market.
Should the Federal Reserve hike interest rates in June, as expected, it should result in a further strengthening of the U.S. dollar. That will generally lower the price of imported commodities like coffee.
Mortgage applications reverse course, move higher
Contract interest rates were on the rise05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Mortgage applications are rising again following a decline the previous week.According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications were up 2.6% d...
Mortgage applications are rising again following a decline the previous week.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications were up 2.6% during the week ending May 20, with the average loan size hitting a survey high of $307,700.
The Refinance Index inched ahead 0.4%, with the refinance share of mortgage activity slipping to 53.7% of total applications from 54.6% the previous week.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity came in at 5.7% of total applications, the FHA share rose to 12.7% from 12.5%, the VA share slipped to 11.5% from 12.1%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.7%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose three basis points -- from 3.82% to 3.85%, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) jumped to 3.82% from 3.74%, with points decreasing to 0.27 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA was up seven basis points to 3.70%, with points decreasing to 0.27 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs inched up to 3.06% from 3.02%, with points increasing to 0.40 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs shot up 15 basis points to 3.09%, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
SunOpta expands sunflower kernel products recall
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
SunOpta is expanding its recall sunflower kernel products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been confirmed re...
SunOpta is expanding its recall sunflower kernel products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been confirmed related to the consumption of this product.
The initial recall was limited to sunflower kernel products produced at SunOpta’s Crookston, Minn., facility between February 1 – 19, 2016.
The expanded recall includes products produced February 20 – April 21, 2016, the date on which the facility ceased production of the products.
The following items, sold in clear printed plastic packages and marked with Best By Dates located on the front or back of the packages, have been added to the recall:
The recalled products were sent to distribution centers during March and April 2016, in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas, and may have been be redistributed to other states nationwide.
What to do
Customers should not consume these products, but return them to the store where purchased for a refund, or simply discard them.
Consumers with questions may call 1-888-886-4428 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CDT), or email the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conagra recalls two beef products
The product may contain anchovies, an allergen not listed on the label05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
ConAgra Foods Packaged Foods of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is recalling approximately 84,340 pounds of two beef products. The products were inadvertentl...
ConAgra Foods Packaged Foods of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is recalling approximately 84,340 pounds of two beef products.
The products were inadvertently formulated with Worcestershire sauce and may contain anchovies, an allergen not listed on the label.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.
The following frozen beef items, produced April 13 – 14, 2016, are being recalled:
- 14-oz. box of “Marie Callender’s Salisbury Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Home-Style Gravy served with Cheesy Broccoli & Cauliflower” with package code of 5014610500 and packaging date of April 14, 2016.
- 76-oz. package of “Molly’s Kitchen Macaroni & Beef with Tomato Sauce” with package code of 5014610400 and packaging date of April 13, 2016.
The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. 1058” inside the USDA mark of inspection.
The Marie Callender’s item was shipped to retail distribution centers nationwide; the Molly’s Kitchen item was shipped to an institutional customer nationwide.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions may contact the company's consumer affairs hotline at (800) 921-7404.
Ford recalls Flex, Taurus, Taurus X, Mercury Sable and Lincoln MKS vehicles
The driver front air bag may inflate improperly during second-stage deployment05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling certain model year 2009-2012 Flex; 2008 and 2010-2012 Taurus; 2008-2009 Taurus X; 2008 Mercury Sable; and 2009 & 2011 Linco...
Ford Motor Company is recalling certain model year 2009-2012 Flex; 2008 and 2010-2012 Taurus; 2008-2009 Taurus X; 2008 Mercury Sable; and 2009 & 2011 Lincoln MKS vehicles.
The driver front air bag may inflate improperly during second-stage deployment in the event of a high speed crash. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, "Occupant Crash Protection."
An improperly inflated air bag increases the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
What to do
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the driver's front air bag module, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on June 13, 2016.
Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 16C06.
Various Dr. Praeger's and Ungar's products recalled
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/25/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods is recalling various not-ready-to-eat frozen food items. The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....
Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods is recalling various not-ready-to-eat frozen food items.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The company says no illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products, distributed throughout the U.S. in both retail and foodservice packaging, are being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled items should not eat them , but dispose of them or return them to the place of purchase for a refund or exchange.
Consumers with questions may call the firm's consumer affairs hotline at (877) 772-3437 from 8 am – 5 pm (ET), Monday through Friday, or email the company at email@example.com.
Johnson & Johnson hid risks of pelvic mesh, suit alleges
Tens of thousands of women affected in Washington State alone, lawsuit charges05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
A lawsuit by the State of Washington accuses Johnson & Johnson of knowingly hiding the risks of surgical mesh used to treat pelvic floor conditions in wome...
A lawsuit by the State of Washington accuses Johnson & Johnson of knowingly hiding the risks of surgical mesh used to treat pelvic floor conditions in women.
Complications from insertion of the mesh left women permanently disabled and in chronic pain, the lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson charges.
“It’s difficult to put into words the horrific injuries and pain many women are still suffering as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s deception,” Ferguson said. “They believed they were making informed medical decisions, but that was impossible when Johnson & Johnson was spreading inaccurate information about its products’ risks, essentially duping doctors into using their own patients as clinical trials. This is an unacceptable way of doing business, and I will hold the company accountable.”
The complications include urinary and defecatory dysfunction, loss of sexual function, chronic inflammation, chronic pain, and risk of chronic infection. The complications can crop up years after the surgery, and are in many cases irreversible, Ferguson said. Removal of the mesh is nearly impossible.
One patient quoted in the lawsuit described her experience this way:
“I experienced excruciating pain from day one. I felt as though my urethra was being strangled, I couldn’t pee, walking was out of the question, sitting was agony, & I couldn’t lie on my left side due to severe pain and numbness at my left groin area. Over the course of the next 14 weeks I visited/was admitted to the [hospital] 10 times. … I had no quality of life. My consultant likened the mesh removal as to ‘trying to remove chewing gum from hair.’ … I still suffer left side groin pain and numbness, buttock pain, sharp pains in my lower stomach and I am less continent now than I was pre-op.”
Tens of thousands
The lawsuit alleges tens of thousands of violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, due to deceptive informational and marketing materials distributed to consumers and doctors. Ferguson is seeking a fine of $2,000 for each violation plus costs, fees, and restitution.
Johnson & Johnson is the largest manufacturer and seller of the mesh devices in the U.S. The mesh is made of woven polypropylene threads, and is marketed to doctors and patients as a way to treat pelvic organ prolapse, or when organs shift from their normal position, and various bladder issues.
The lawsuit alleges that the company never told consumers that the mesh can cause, and consumers are likely to experience, chronic foreign body reaction and chronic inflammation as the body constantly fights to rid itself of this foreign material.
Flame retardants may increase thyroid problems in women
Risk is significantly higher among post-menopausal women, Harvard study finds05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Flame retardant chemicals have penetrated just about every corner of the Earth, and now a Harvard study finds they may be implicated in thyroid diseases in...
Flame retardant chemicals have penetrated just about every corner of the Earth, and now a Harvard study finds they may be implicated in thyroid diseases in women, with a significantly higher risk among post-menopausal women.
“These chemicals are just about everywhere, from the blood in polar bears to eagles to humans on every continent,” said Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “This near ubiquitous exposure means we are all part of a global experiment on the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals on our bodies.”
Common types of thyroid disease include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and Hashimoto’s disease.
The new paper, published online today in the journal Environmental Health, found that women with elevated blood levels of certain types of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are at higher risk. It is the first to suggest a link between PBDEs and thyroid disease.
Used in furniture
PBDEs have been used as flame retardants for decades, largely in furniture, in quantities up to 20% of the weight of the product. Over time, they migrate out of the furniture into the air, settle into dust in homes, schools, offices, and the outdoors, and accumulate in people’s bodies.
Previous research has shown that these chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue and interfere with hormonal functions, including interference with thyroid hormones. Because it’s known that estrogen levels regulate thyroid hormones, researchers theorized that post-menopausal women may be particularly vulnerable to PBDE-induced thyroid effects.
For the study, researchers looked at a nationally representative sample of women and compared the levels of four common PBDEs with their history of thyroid problems. They found that, overall, women were about five times more likely than men to have a thyroid problem. The percentage ranged from 13-16% among women, compared with 2-3% among men.
Women with the highest flame retardant concentrations in their blood were significantly more likely than those with lower concentrations to have a thyroid problem. The effect size was doubled in post-menopausal women.
“To our bodies, these flame retardant chemicals look and function exactly like endogenous hormones our bodies produce. Should we be surprised that we see downstream health effects for women with higher body burdens of these chemicals? I think no. This is all too predictable and preventable,” said Allen.
One limitation of the study is that it couldn’t determine effects from newer flame retardant chemicals because they are not currently reported in medical research databases.
E-cigarette advertising linked to use by teens
Teens who had used the products were more likely to have seen an ad for the products first05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Recent reports have indicated that e-cigarette use amongst teens is rising, but how much of it is attributed to the way these products are advertised? Acco...
Recent reports have indicated that e-cigarette use amongst teens is rising, but how much of it is attributed to the way these products are advertised? According to a study from The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, quite a lot.
Researchers have found a significant association between marketing for e-cigarettes and product use among middle and high school students. The teens report seeing advertisements for these products in many different places – a marketing tactic that closely resembles those used by the tobacco industry.
“E-cigarette companies are following what cigarette companies did. There are no restrictions on the messaging they can use, and health warnings do not appear on e-cigarettes like they do on cigarette packages. Flavored e-cigarettes are widely available and appeal to youth,” said Dr. Maria Cooper, co-author of the study.
The study utilized data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which asked young people about their exposure to tobacco products. The researchers found that out of over 22,000 middle and high school students, 20% had tried e-cigarettes before and 9% were currently using them.
The researchers found that those who had tried e-cigarettes before were 16% more likely than their peers to have seen an advertisement for the products in print, online, in a retail setting, or in a movie or television show. Current users were 22% more likely to have seen these ads.
While teens reported seeing ads the most in retail settings or online, the researchers point out that the products are becoming more and more widespread.
“You go to a convenience store and the entire wall behind the cashier is tobacco advertising. We’re seeing e-cigarettes are following that trend. The internet and social media are also a concern because e-cigarette companies have a big online presence,” said Dale Mantey, lead author of the study.
The increase in advertising is no accident either. The researchers state in their paper that marketing for e-cigarette products nearly tripled from 2011 to 2012 – from $6.4 million to $18.3 million.
That trend would continue into subsequent years; expenditures for e-cigarette ads in the second quarter of 2013 eclipsed all of the spending for 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that spending increased to $115 million in 2014.
While more research must be done to prove a definitive link between e-cigarette advertising and its use, the researchers believe that their study has laid some of the groundwork for future studies.
Study: low salt diets not beneficial
Salt reduction only important in some people with high blood pressure05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Health activists have waged a decade-long war on sodium, citing its role in high blood pressure and cardiovascular risks. They've urged consumers to avoid ...
Health activists have waged a decade-long war on sodium, citing its role in high blood pressure and cardiovascular risks. They've urged consumers to avoid foods that have high sodium content.
International researchers have produced a study that takes a contrary view. Yes, too much sodium is harmful to people with high blood pressure, but they maintain that a low-sodium diet for everyone else is not only not beneficial, but may be harmful, increasing cardiovascular risk and even death.
The study, which may prove to be controversial, included more than 130,000 people from 49 countries. It was led by researchers at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, in Canada. The researchers focused on the relationship between sodium consumption and death, heart disease, and stroke.
What made the study different was the separation of the subjects into those with high blood pressure and those with a normal blood pressure reading.
The results found that subjects who had a reduced sodium consumption level were more likely to have suffered a heart attack, stroke, or death.
“These are extremely important findings for those who are suffering from high blood pressure,” said lead author Andrew Mente. “While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels.”
The take-away from the study, Mente says, is a low-sodium diet is best used for people with high blood pressure, but not the public in general. This conflicts with current medical conventional wisdom.
The Mayo Clinic staff notes that Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. But the staff says “less is usually better,” especially for consumers who are have a sodium sensitivity.
“If you aren't sure how much sodium your diet should include, talk to your doctor or dietitian,” the staff says on the Mayo Clinic website.
Without mentioning the Canadian study, the American Heart Association (AMA) has underscored its belief that all people should reduce sodium consumption. It says its lifestyle guidelines on sodium reduction were based on more than 30 scientific studies.
The organization stands behind a 2014 consensus statement among scientists that concluded “population-wide reduction of sodium intake is an integral approach to reducing cardiovascular disease events and mortality in the United States.”
But the Canadian researchers say their findings are conclusive, showing that risks associated with low-sodium intake, which they define as less than three grams per day, are consistent whether or not someone has high blood pressure.
They state that there is a limit below which sodium intake may be unsafe and the risk associated with high sodium consumption appears to only affect those with hypertension.
Dog walking may boost health in older adults
The special bond you share with your dog can improve overall health, studies show05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Leashing up your labrador and going for a walk can help your physical health, yes. But the benefits of dog walking don’t end there. Studies show that, ...
Leashing up your labrador and going for a walk can help your physical health, yes. But the benefits of dog walking don’t end there.
Studies show that, for older adults, walking the dog may also come with some social and emotional benefits. And it’s the special bond between man and dog that may be to thank for this unintentional byproduct of walking.
Increased feeling of connection
Walking the dog may be good exercise, but it can also help establish a deeper connection with one’s community, explains Dr. Alice Pomidor, a geriatrics professor at Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee.
“Pet ownership can lead to increased physical activity, as well as a greater sense of feeling connected to your community and to other pet owners,” she told HealthNews.
Dog walking may also help reduce stress levels and overall health. How? While the act of walking itself may have something to do with it, experts say the bond you share with Fido may amplify the effects of walking.
One study found that individuals who reported a strong bond with their dog were likely to spend more time walking it, therefore leading to less isolation and better overall health.
Setting out for a quick spin around the neighborhood with your loyal companion may also help your body stave off stress and illness.
Daniel Promislow, an American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) spokesperson, and director of the Canine Longevity Consortium at the University of Washington in Seattle, explains how dog ownership can positively impact one’s health:
“On average, dog owners walk more and score better on stress tests and other measures of psychological well-being,” Promislow said, adding that there is even some evidence that dog owners may be better at staving off disease.
“There is some suggestion in scientific literature that owning a dog is associated with a lower risk of various diseases [perhaps from that extra exercise], and faster recovery times when disease does occur,” he explains.
Health boons such as these may be especially beneficial to older adults, notes Promislow. Indeed, as we've reported, owning a dog has been proven to be highly beneficial to the health of the elderly.
Majority of public pools fail at least one safety test, CDC finds
Some cases warranted immediate closure05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
As warmer weather approaches, public swimming pools will inevitably begin to repopulate. But while taking a dip may be a fun way to beat the heat, the acti...
As warmer weather approaches, public swimming pools will inevitably begin to repopulate. But while taking a dip may be a fun way to beat the heat, the activity may not be as sanitary as you might hope.
A three-year CDC investigation found that 78.9% of swimming pools failed at least one safety test. The study, which began in 2013, inspected swimming pools in five states including Arizona, California, New York, Florida, and Texas.
pH levels and safety equipment
The results of 12.3% of these examinations -- which also included spas and hot tubs -- led to the immediate closure of the area.
Women’s Health reports that in 14.9% of cases, irritating pH levels were cause for concern; another 12.7% of pools had safety equipment violations that could increase the risk of drowning.
Pool chemical-associated health events land many swimmers in the emergency room each year, while drowning remains the second-leading cause of injury deaths in children aged 1 to 4.
The CDC notes that approximately half of fatal drownings in this age group happen in swimming pools. Pools with fences can help reduce the risk of a child drowning, as can teaching children how to swim before the age of 5.
Additionally, there are a few steps adults can take to ensure that the pool water itself is safe.
What to do
The report notes that “only 68% of U.S. local public health agencies regulate, inspect, or license public aquatic facilities,” so consumers may want to take pool safety into their own hands.
One way to reduce the risk of a pH level-related health issue is to test the water yourself. Bring pH strips to see if the water’s pH is between 6 and 8. Other ways to protect yourself from pool irritants include wearing goggles while swimming, never drinking the water, and showering afterward.
Consumers can also ask pool staff when the pool was last inspected.
Twitter expands what users can do with Tweets
But the 140 character limit remains in place05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Twitter, whose stock has been battered on Wall Street in recent weeks, has announced some changes that it says will allow users to do more with their Tweet...
Twitter, whose stock has been battered on Wall Street in recent weeks, has announced some changes that it says will allow users to do more with their Tweets.
What isn't changing is the 140 character limit on messages. However, the company said it plans to change what counts as characters. For example, it says @names in replies and attachments, such as photos, videos, and polls, will no longer count as characters.
That, Twitter says, will make Twitter conversations easier and more straightforward. The company also said it will enable the Retweet button on users' own Tweets, making it easy for users to Retweet or Quote Tweet themselves.
The changes will simplify rules for Tweets that begin with a username. Those Tweets will reach all followers. It allows user to drop the “@” at the beginning.
“If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly,” the company said in the company blog.
The changes have not yet taken effect. Twitter says it will take a few months to roll them out gradually. It says its developer partners need the time to make needed adjustments.
The company perhaps hoped the announcement would help lift its sagging stock price, but the timing was unfortunate. Just before the announcement, investment research firm MoffettNathanson downgraded Twitter's stock from neutral to sell. It also cut its price target from $15 to $12.
To make matters worse, MoffettNathanson wasn't alone. Monnes Crespi Hardt maintained its buy rating on the stock but slashed its price target.
As a result, Twitter shares sank further in heavy trading Tuesday, reaching a new low of $13.73 a share.
Facebook hopes more live video will encourage personal posts
Facebookers are online longer but are posting fewer personal stories05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Facebook is inviting publishers to start streaming live video feeds. You won't be able to save them for future viewing, so you'll need to keep your eyeball...
Facebook is inviting publishers to start streaming live video feeds. You won't be able to save them for future viewing, so you'll need to keep your eyeballs pinned to the screen.
The idea is not necessarily to build traffic. Facebook has plenty of traffic already, but it wants its users to share more personal fare -- you know, cute kittens, spring graduates, and so forth.
A recent survey found that users shared 21% fewer personal stories last year, while posting more news stories and other posts from professional outlets. That stuff's OK, but it doesn't build the user loyalty and engagement that Facebook is counting on.
It's hoping that live, high-quality video will excite users and cause them to post more of their stuff. Just how that's supposed to work isn't quite clear, but Facebook seems to think it's a logical progression.
The live video will be accessibe through a tab in the Messenger app. It was one of many initiatives announced at Facebook's F8 Conference, which featured a "10-year roadmap to connect everyone and to give people new ways to share using artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
NY sues Domino's for 'systemic wage theft'
"Rampant wage violations" found in years-long probe, the state charges05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
New York has sued Domino's Pizza and ten of its stores, charging that they underpaid workers by at least $565,000. It's the first time New York has charged...
New York has sued Domino's Pizza and ten of its stores, charging that they underpaid workers by at least $565,000. It's the first time New York has charged a fast food corporation along with its franchisees, treating them as a joint employer.
“At some point, a company has to take responsibility for its actions and for its workers’ well-being. We’ve found rampant wage violations at Domino’s franchise stores. And, as our suit alleges, we’ve discovered that Domino’s headquarters was intensely involved in store operations, and even caused many of these violations,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
“Under these circumstances, New York law – as well as basic human decency – holds Domino’s responsible for the alleged mistreatment of the workers who make and deliver the company’s pizza. Domino’s can, and must, fix this problem,” Schneiderman said.
The lawsuit alleges that Domino’s urged franchisees to use payroll reports from the company’s computer system (called “PULSE”), even though Domino’s knew for years that PULSE under-calculated gross wages.
Domino’s typically made multiple updates to PULSE each year, but decided not to fix the flaws that caused underpayments to workers, deeming it a “low priority,” the lawsuit charges.
The lawsuit also alleges that Domino’s is a joint employer because, it says, the company micromanaged employee relations at its franchisee stores. A years-long investigation by the AG's office found the company played a role in the hiring, firing, and discipline of workers; pushed an anti-union position on franchisees; and closely monitored employee job performance through onsite and electronic reviews, the suit alleges.
The investigation uncovered internal documents showing that over a two-year period, 78% of New York franchisees listed rates for at least some employees below the required minimum wage, and 86% listed rates below the required overtime rate, according to the suit.
The Attorney General’s Office has already settled cases with 12 Domino’s franchisees, who collectively own 61 stores and who have agreed to pay approximately $1.5 million to date.
Domino’s is the world’s second largest pizza restaurant chain, and is the largest pizza delivery chain in the U.S. The company has 136 franchisee-owned stores in New York, along with 54 owned by Domino’s itself.
McDonald's and Burger King finish last in annual consumer survey05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
When consumers want to eat fast food, they would prefer to find a Chick-fil-A or a Subway. The two restaurant chains emerged as favorites in the 2016 Temki...
Study: most retirees falling behind financially
Seniors in only three states earning 70% of pre-retirement income05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers approaching retirement are no doubt confused at all the conflicting advice they receive about how much income they will need for a “comfortable” ...
Consumers approaching retirement are no doubt confused at all the conflicting advice they receive about how much income they will need for a “comfortable” retirement.
Financial advisors generally suggest that most retirees will need at least 70% of the annual income they earned before retirement. By that metric, a new study from personal finance site Bankrate shows seniors in all but three states – Alaska, Hawaii, and South Carolina – are coming up short.
"Americans are facing a shortfall of retirement income because their saved assets are not enough to fund their desired or even current lifestyle," James Carlson, chief investment officer at Questis, a financial services firm based in Charleston, South Carolina, told Bankrate.
The study authors looked at the incomes in each state, broken down by age. The median household income in South Carolina for people age 45 to 64 is $52,289. The median income for those 65 and up is $36,694, which is just over 70% of the younger group.
The biggest shortfall is found in Massachusetts, where those 65 and older earn just 48% of what those age 45 to 64 earn.
Reasons for discrepancies
What causes the discrepancies between states? For one thing, Alaska has very generous retirement benefits for state employees who remain in the state after they retire. Hawaii, another state with a high cost of living, is generous to seniors when it comes to tax breaks. Seniors in Hawaii also tend to spend less on health care.
South Carolina has become a major retirement destination, and many of the people moving to the state have significant investment and pension income, which boosts the average.
In today's low-interest environment, savings will yield almost no income. Retirees living off savings will need to consider investments that have potential to either grow the value through capital appreciation or generate income through dividends.
Those who have a defined benefit pension are fortunate, but since pensions have been phased out over the last couple of decades, fewer workers have access to that kind of steady income.
Social Security is another defined benefit, but in most cases doesn't go far enough to be a sole source of income.
What to do
One of the best ways to generate income in retirement is by working. Someone who has worked for nearly 50 years might not want to contemplate that, but a part-time job in retirement that coincides with the retiree's interest or passions might not seem like work at all.
If you love animals, for example, you can make pretty good money, with flexible hours, as a pet sitter.
Along with adding to income, look for ways to cut expenses. Relocating to a state with a low cost of living, for example, might allow you to live on less money.
New home sales surge in April
Sales are at their highest level in eight years05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Sales of new single-family houses have made up for their March decline -- and then some.The Commerce Department reports that sales shot up 16.6% in Apr...
Sales of new single-family houses have made up for their March decline -- and then some.
The Commerce Department reports that sales shot up 16.6% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 619,000. That's the highest level since January 2008 and 23.8% higher than they were a year ago. The increase was the sharpest since January 1992.
The advance came, according to Stifel Fixed Income Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza, on “continued positive gains in employment, low energy costs, favorable lending conditions, and a relatively stable confidence level, housing activity accelerated in April.”
Despite earlier signs of stagnant momentum, she said, “the spring selling season appears to be kicking off with a more than decent level of consumer activity.”
Pricing and inventory
The median sales price of new houses was a record $321,100 -- up $28,400 from a year earlier, while the average sales price rose $45,100 to $379,800. The median is the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less.
The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of April was 243,000, representing a supply of 4.7 months at the current sales rate.
Sales by region
- It was a good month for new-home sales in the Northeast, where they soared 323.1% from March and posted a year-over-year gain of 52.8%.
- Sales in the West jumped 18.8% from the previous month and were up 23.6% from the same month last year.
- In the South, sales enjoyed a monthly advance of 15.8% and rose 18.1% from April 2015.
- The only decline came in the Midwest, where sales were down 4.8% from a month earlier and 9.1% from a year ago.
The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.
Muscle cars come up short in IIHS safety tests
None qualify for a TOP SAFETY PICK award05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The term “muscle car” conjures up images of performance, speed, and power. Safety? You would think these behemoths would offer all the protections you need...
The term “muscle car” conjures up images of performance, speed, and power. Safety? You would think these behemoths would offer all the protections you need. But, as the song goes, “it ain't necessarily so.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently ran three top sports coupes through their tests and found that none of them racked up the scores necessary for a TOP SAFETY PICK award.
The Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang took part in the full battery of crashworthiness evaluations, with the Mustang coming closest to earning TOP SAFETY PICK. The Camaro missed the mark in one category and lacks an available front crash prevention system. The Challenger is most in need of improvement.
To qualify for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK, vehicles must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations and have a basic-rated front crash prevention system.
How they stack up
The Camaro, Challenger and Mustang earn good ratings for occupant protection in a moderate overlap front crash, as well as a side impact.
In the small overlap front test -- the newest and toughest IIHS crashworthiness evaluation -- the Camaro earns a good rating, the Mustang earns an acceptable rating, and the Challenger is rated as marginal.
"The Mustang is just one good rating away from earning TOP SAFETY PICK," IIHS President Adrian Lund pointed out. "Its small overlap rating holds it back."
The small overlap test replicates what happens when a vehicle runs off the road and hits a tree or pole or clips another vehicle that has crossed the center line. It is an especially challenging test because it involves a vehicle's outer edges, which aren't well-protected by the crush-zone structures.
The Challenger wasn't up to the challenge of the small overlap test. Extensive intrusion into the lower occupant compartment limited the driver's survival space and resulted in a poor rating for structure and for leg/foot protection. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a high likelihood of serious lower leg injuries.
In contrast, survival space for the driver in the Camaro was well-maintained, and the risk of injuries to the dummy's legs and feet was low. The Camaro was redesigned for the 2016 model year.
"The Camaro's safety cage is built to resist intrusion in a small overlap crash, and that's good news for Camaro drivers," Lund says.
The Camaro and Mustang earn good ratings for head restraints and seats to protect against neck injuries in rear crashes. The Challenger's head restraints are rated as acceptable.
The Mustang earns a good rating for roof strength, and the Camaro and Challenger earn acceptable ratings.
IIHS doesn't typically crash-test sports cars, as they make up a small share of the consumer market. However, IIHS engineers decided to evaluate these models with optional V-8 engines because they are big sellers in their class, and consumers often ask how they would perform in crash tests.
Insurance data points to high losses for sports cars. As a group, they have the highest losses among passenger vehicles for crash damage repairs under collision coverage, data from the Highway Loss Data Institute shows. Collision coverage insures against physical damage to the at-fault policyholder's vehicle in a crash.
"Given that sports cars have high crash rates, it's especially important that they offer the best occupant protection possible in a crash," Lund concluded.
Pacific Cycle recalls infant bicycle helmets
The magnetic buckle on the chin strap has small plastic covers and magnets that can come loose05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Pacific Cycle of Madison, Wis., is recalling about 129,000 infant bicycle helmets with magnetic no-pinch buckle chin straps. The magnetic buckle on...
Pacific Cycle of Madison, Wis., is recalling about 129,000 infant bicycle helmets with magnetic no-pinch buckle chin straps.
The magnetic buckle on the chin strap contains small plastic covers and magnets that can come loose, posing a risk of choking and magnet ingestion to young children.
The company has received three reports of the plastic cover coming loose. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves infant bicycle helmets made for infants ranging from one to three years old. The helmet and its straps come in various colors and design patterns. The buckles have small plastic covers and enclosed magnets. “SCHWINN” is printed on the front of the helmets. Only helmets with the magnetic no-pinch chin strap buckles are affected by this recall.
The helmets, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Target stores and online at www.target.com from January 2014, through April 2016, for between $18 and $25.
What to do
Consumers should immediately take the helmets away from children and contact Pacific Cycle for instructions on how to receive a free replacement helmet.
Consumers may contact Pacific Cycle toll-free at 877-564-2261 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.schwinnbikes.com and click on “Support” then “Safety & Recalls” or www.target.com and click on “Product Recall” for more information.
Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars recalled
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Quaker Oats Company is recalling a small quantity of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars. The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....
The Quaker Oats Company is recalling a small quantity of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no illnesses reported to date.
The following products, distributed nationwide, are being recalled:
- 6.1 ounce boxes of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars Chocolate Nut Medley with UPC code 30000 32241 and Best Before Dates of: 10/16/2016, 10/17/2016
- 6.1 ounce boxes of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars Yogurt, Fruit & Nut with UPC 30000 32243 and Best
- Before Dates of: 10/10/2016, 10/11/2016
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-856-5781, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (EST), or online at www.quakeroats.com.
The Farmers Market Chopped Asian Salad Kit recalled
The product contains soy, almonds and wheat, allergens not listed on the label05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Fresh Express and Giant Eagle are recalling three cases (containing six (6) salads each) of 6.25-oz. The Farmers Market Chopped Asian Salad Kit . T...
The product contains soy, almonds and wheat, allergens not listed on the label.
No illnesses are reported.
The following product is being recalled:
- The Farmers Market Chopped Asian Salad Kit, 6.25-oz. Bowl, Product Code G126B22 and Use-By Date of May 20 located on the bottom label of the package
Giant Eagle has already retrieved all but three individual salad kit bowls and prevented them from being sold.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it, or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Fresh Express toll-free at (800) 242-5472 from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (E) Time or Giant Eagle at (800) 553-2324 from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
Toyota expands Takata airbag recall
Another 1.5 million vehicles are added to the list05/24/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Toyota Motor Sales, USA is expanding its recalls involving Takata front passenger air bag inflators by approximately 1.584 million vehicles. A safe...
Toyota Motor Sales, USA is expanding its recalls involving Takata front passenger air bag inflators by approximately 1.584 million vehicles.
A safety defect may arise in front passenger air bag inflators in the involved vehicles due to inflator propellant degradation occurring after prolonged exposure to high absolute humidity, high temperatures and high temperature cycling.
This may result in an inflator rupture when the air bag deploys.
Approximately 1,584,000 additional vehicles in U.S. are being recalled. Among them:
- 2009 - 2011MY Corolla, Matrix
- 2006 - 2011MY Yaris
- 2010 - 2011MY 4Runner
- 2011MY Sienna
- 2008 - 2011MY Scion xB
- 2007 - 2011MY Lexus ES
- 2010 – 2011MY Lexus GX
- 2006 – 2011MY Lexus IS
What to do
Toyota, Scion and Lexus owners will be notified by first class mail. Depending on the vehicle model, dealers will replace the air bag inflator, or the air bag assembly, at no cost.
Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331, or Lexus customer service at 1-800-255-3987.
Actually, like other final arrangements, you need to do it before you die05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
Your will and other estate planning documents are completed, so you may think you have it covered. But what about your social media accounts? What will hap...
Apps, microblogs may contribute to eating disorders, compulsive exercise
Attempting to maintain a perfect body image may be doing more harm than good05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
A combination of dieting and exercise is important to staying healthy, but doing too much of either can be dangerous.A new study from Georgia College &...
A combination of dieting and exercise is important to staying healthy, but doing too much of either can be dangerous.
A new study from Georgia College & State University discusses how unrealistic expectations of beauty, coupled with using certain mobile applications and social media platforms, may be contributing to unhealthy eating disorders and compulsive exercise.
“The results of our study indicate that the use of mobile applications, such as Eating Thin, Lose It!, or Fasting Secret, is linked with reports of disordered eating and compulsive exercise,” the researchers said.
“In other words, those young people who use these digital applications on their mobile devices are more likely than other individuals to engage in anorexia- or bulimia-related behaviors, as well as to reveal that they have to exercise in order to feel good about themselves.
Eating disorders, compulsive exercise
The researchers want to be clear that sharing health/exercise progress or using certain apps is not an assurance of unhealthy behavior; however, someone who engages in this behavior is more likely to suffer from these problems.
“It seems from our study that ‘fitspiration’ content is specifically related to risky behaviors like compulsive exercise and eating disorder symptoms, especially among those young people who use mobile apps on a frequent basis,” said Veronica Hefner, co-author of the study.
The researchers came to their conclusions after administering several tests to 262 participants. These assessments consisted of surveys that gauged behaviors for compulsive exercise, eating disorders, social media use, blog use, microblog use (i.e. Twitter, Instagram), and use of mobile apps.
Maintaining body image
After collecting all of the data, the researchers concluded that using mobile apps and engaging with microblogs that feature “fitspiration” content had a strong association with compulsive exercise and symptoms of eating disorders.
Other forms of social media, such as traditional blogs, were less associated with these disorders; the findings indicated that this weakened connection may be due to a reduced level of interactivity and feedback that microblogs like Twitter and Instagram provide more of.
The researchers admit that future research must be done to verify their results, but they believe that the positive associations that they found speak to the dangers of negative health behaviors in an ever-evolving digital world.
“If an effort could be made to reduce the amount of time people spend using these types of social media, as well as the activities they perform on these platforms, we could potentially decrease the negative health effects du to these pervading fitspiration messages online, unattainable ideals of beauty, and the constant drive to create and maintain the perfect body,” they said.
Survey: military consumers among the most financially vulnerable
Those facing physical risk for their country also face more financial risk05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
U.S. military personnel sometimes face greater personal risk than the average American, especially when deployed to hostile regions.But a survey by the...
U.S. military personnel sometimes face greater personal risk than the average American, especially when deployed to hostile regions.
But a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) shows that they also face greater financial risk when they return home. The survey highlights a number of reasons.
With multiple deployments, military consumers are seldom in the same place for very long. With frequent rotation, it's hard for military spouses to maintain consistent employment. When their military careers are over, it can be expensive for military personnel to transition to civilian life.
NFCC says these are conditions that present challenges for financial stability and asset building.
More unsecured debt
The survey found military personnel tended to have more unsecured debt than the average consumer. Their real assets were about 84% of the average consumer in the survey.
Thirty-six percent of military personnel in the survey were also paying off student loan debt. While that was less than the general student-age population, the survey found they had more car loan debt, averaging nearly $14,000 per person, and more credit card debt, averaging $11,000 per person.
Former Marine Cory Hixson served in Iraq and now works as a financial adviser for Edward Jones in Marysville, Ohio. Hixson says he can relate to a lot of the experiences of the military personnel who participated in the survey.
“After serving in Falluja and returning home, I hit the fast forward button on life,” Hixson said. “I had seen how short life could be. I set out to have the house, the new cars in the driveway, the picket fence and a family. My savings quickly went to zero and I found myself in financial trouble.”
Too often, military personnel who face financial challenges turn to payday lenders, which usually makes the situation worse. Payday lenders, meanwhile, consider military personnel a lucrative market and often locate storefronts near military bases.
Congress passed the Military Lending Act to protect service personnel from abusive lending practices. Active duty members of the armed forces, and those on Guard or Reserve duty, cannot be charged more than 36% on payday loans, auto title loans, and tax refund anticipation loans. It also provides similar protections for spouses and some dependents.
NFCC says it has found more members of the military are taking advantage of its credit counseling resources and programs so far this year. The Foundation says, in particular, its Sharpen Your Financial Focus program serves more active duty, reserve, guard, retired, veterans, and family members. Military participation jumped from 13% of the total in 2013 to 26% this year.
NFCC represents non-profit credit counselors who provide free or low-cost financial literacy education.
Google challenges law regulating facial recognition software
The search giant says it should not have to comply with the Illinois law05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
An Illinois law regulating "faceprints" is unconstitutional, Google argues in a court filing. The law requires companies to obtain written releases from in...
An Illinois law regulating "faceprints" is unconstitutional, Google argues in a court filing. The law requires companies to obtain written releases from individuals before collecting their biometric data, including facial scans.
"Illinois legislators cannot decide policy for the rest of the world," Google says in a motion filed last week with U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang in Illinois. The search giant says it can't be expected to know which people in its database are from Illinois.
At issue is the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, passed in 2008. Besides requiring companies to get permission before making facial scans, it also requires them to notify people about the practice in advance and to publish a schedule for destroying the information if permission is not granted.
The filing came after Illinois resident Lindabeth Rivera filed a potential class action lawsuit charging that Google Photos unlawfully stores millions of faceprints of Illinoisians.
Facebook faces a similar lawsuit and experienced a legal setback earlier this month when U.S. District Court Judge James Donato cleared the suit to continue, saying that Illinois law would be "written out of existence" if companies did not have to comply with it.
In the Google case, Rivera, who does not have a Google Photos account, said someone else took photos of her and uploaded them. Google subsequently used the photos to create a template of Rivera's face, she charged.
A second person, Joseph Weiss, charged in a separate suit that he does have a Google Photos account and uploaded 21 photos of himself but didn't give permission for Google to use them to make a permanent record of his biometric data.
In its filing, Google says Donato's ruling in the Facebook case was incorrect, basically arguing it has no way of knowing which faces in its database belong to Illinois residents. Therefore, the law would "effectively regulate conduct having no connection to Illinois," the company argued.
How your phone can affect your sleep
Banishing technology from the bedroom may be the key to a good night's rest05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
The window of time right before sleep may seem like the perfect opportunity to catch up on your social media feeds or stream a video or two. But if you wan...
The window of time right before sleep may seem like the perfect opportunity to catch up on your social media feeds or stream a video or two. But if you want to feel well-rested the next day, experts say you might want to ditch the device before dozing off.
Sleep disorders are common, affecting roughly 80 million Americans. And nearly 90% of adults sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Think there may be a correlation there? You may be right. Studies have found that using electronic devices around bedtime can throw off your body’s 24-hour internal clock, which may lead to poor quality of sleep.
So what is it about electronics that doesn't bode well for sleep?
Blame the blue light
The blue light pouring out of your phone, TV, computer, or tablet can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime, thus suppressing the production of melatonin and delaying your normal sleep cycle. This can lead to a variety of sleep problems, ranging from moderate difficulty falling asleep to full-on sleep disorders like insomnia.
Getting a good night’s sleep can often be the difference between a productive day and one spent fighting the urge to fall asleep at your desk. So how can you prevent technology from robbing you of rest? These tips may be a good place to start.
Tips for better sleep
To get the 7-9 hours of quality sleep your body so desperately needs, experts recommend keeping electronics out of your bedtime routine.
Spending at least 30 minutes technology-free before you climb into bed.
Reading a book or magazine in bed instead of using an electronic device.
Making the bedroom a technology-free zone (no smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV, etc.).
Using your bed for sleep only -- this habit will create a connection in your mind between your bed and sleep.
For those whose smartphone is their alarm clock: try turning on your phone’s “do not disturb” function to keep texts and calls at bay while you sleep.
Using a program like f.lux, which changes the color of your computer's display to adapt to the time of day.
Survival Capsule offers safety from the storm
Why dig up your yard to build a shelter? This little red ball says it will keep you safe05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Worried about tsunamis? How about earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Storm surges? Riots, dam breaks, societal collapse?Well, the good news is you...
Worried about tsunamis? How about earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Storm surges? Riots, dam breaks, societal collapse?
Well, the good news is you don't need to dig up your back yard or construct a full-scale panic room. Instead, you can just get a Survival Capsule or two, depending on the size of your family. (The base model seats two; others go up to ten).
The Survival Capsule is, as its name implies, a capsule that you can curl up in when times get tough. Actually, you don't curl up, you're seated comfortably in a sort of bucket seat with four-point harness. That way, if the capsule is battered by the forces of destiny, you don't bounce off the walls and hurt yourself.
It might sound unlikely, but the manufacturer says the little red balls are just the thing to get you through the perils of modern life. They float, can withstand battering, and most models have their own water and air supply.
We're told the sphere will "withstand the initial impact of a natural disaster, as well as sharp object penetration, heat exposure, blunt object impact, and rapid deceleration."
The manufacturer says the capsules -- which are patented as a "personal safety system" -- are tailor-made for people who don't want to depend on the government to keep them safe.
"Using a PSS, as opposed to a municipal safety system like a safe house, allows individual groups and families to be more in control of their survival in an emergency situation," the company's website says. "The capsule is also a variable disaster solution, which means it can vary position according to the water depth, so it will never be inundated by water levels rising too high. It also provides warmth, safety, and shelter during the initial post-disaster period before rescue crews and relief workers have arrived on the scene."
The units are available for pre-order, but production hasn't quite ramped up yet, so you'll be on your own this tornado season.
Consumers increasing levels of credit card and auto debt
Open auto loans exceed $1 trillion for the first time05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers have been on a spending spree in the last few months. And since wages haven't grown much in the last eight years, they've gone deeper into debt t...
Consumers have been on a spending spree in the last few months. And since wages haven't grown much in the last eight years, they've gone deeper into debt to do it.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the total U.S. credit card debt will likely surpass $1 trillion before the end of the year. It would be close to a record level. The record is $1.02 trillion in July 2008, just before the financial crisis.
Consumers have also borrowed huge sums to buy cars and trucks. Experian Automotive reports open automotive loan balances rose 11.1% in the first quarter of the year, going over $1 trillion for the first time ever.
But balances on auto leases grew more than twice as much. Open leases hit an all-time high of $76.9 billion, up a staggering 27.55% from the first quarter last year.
Starting off with a bang
“Automotive financing certainly has started off the year with a bang, seeing steady growth in balances and loan volumes throughout the first quarter,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian.
Zabritski notes there is nothing inherently troubling about the rising financing totals. As long as consumers can make the payments and manage their debt, their spending can benefit the economy.
But, she says, with so much debt, lenders will need to keep a close eye on delinquency trends to make sure the market remains healthy. Consumers, she says, need to stay current on their obligations to keep their credit scores up.
No alarm bells
So far at least, there is nothing in the numbers to set off alarm bells. Experian reports that there were increases in both the 30 and 60 day delinquency rates for auto loans in the first quarter. However, they both remain relatively low when compared to the period just before the Great Recession.
There is one thing to keep an eye on, however. The report shows fairly significant increases in less-than-prime auto lending in the first three months of the year. Non-prime lending rose 9.5% while subprime loans increased by 10.9%. Both categories carry less-favorable lending terms, including higher interest rates.
Kohl's hits marketing home run by accident
Giggle-inducing video shows Dallas-area mom trying on a talking Chewbacca mask05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
One Texas mom found herself to be the star of a viral video over the weekend, and it all started with an impulse buy at Kohl’s. When Candace Payne reco...
One Texas mom found herself to be the star of a viral video over the weekend, and it all started with an impulse buy at Kohl’s.
When Candace Payne recorded a Facebook Live video of herself trying on a Chewbacca mask, the internet took notice. Payne’s infectious, childlike glee radiated from behind the Star Wars mask, turning the video into the hit it would soon become.
The four-minute video quickly amassed a record setting number of views. At 130 million views and counting, it is now the most watched Facebook Live video of all time.
Kohl’s representatives thanked their newest spokeswoman by showing up to her door with $2,500 in Kohl’s gift cards, several more Chewbacca masks, and a plethora of Star Wars merchandise.
"We don't want you to have to share your Chewbacca mask, so we 'confinsctated' masks for everybody," a Kohl's rep tells Candace Payne in a follow-up video posted to Facebook.
"We want to thank you for being a loyal Kohl's shopper," he says. "We can't tell you how much we appreciate that."
But while Payne and her family may be set on masks, Kohl’s has struggled to keep up with sudden demand. The Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens Chewbacca Mask by Hasbro is flying off the shelves at Kohl's and other retailers.
The now-famous electronic mask is currently sold out on Kohl’s.com, a Kohl’s spokesperson told CNBC.
“It’s the simple joys,” Payne giggles after taking off the mask. Clearly, the internet agrees.
Has been providing it free to customers since 201305/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
For years, consumers had to pay a fee – or apply for a loan – to see their proprietary FICO credit score. Increasingly, however, financial services firms a...
Celebrating 50 years of U.S. auto recalls
Washington conference seeks to build on auto safety activism05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
In November 1965 an obscure young lawyer named Ralph Nader published a book called “Unsafe At Any Speed.” Specifically, it focused on the Chevrolet Corvair...
In November 1965 an obscure young lawyer named Ralph Nader published a book called “Unsafe At Any Speed.” Specifically, it focused on the Chevrolet Corvair, but in general it was an indictment of the U.S. auto industry.
At the time, cost was the biggest factor guiding automotive design and production. Safety was not much of a concern. Cars were not even required to be equipped with seat belts.
But Nader's book struck a nerve with the public, and 10 months later President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act into law. It created an agency that would become the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and not long afterward came the first auto safety recall.
There were 803 vehicle recalls in 2014, involving 63.9 million vehicles, including two of the largest vehicle recalls in history.
Mobilizing citizen power
This week in Washington, consumer advocates will celebrate Nader's book and the safety changes it helped usher in. In addition to Nader, speakers at a four day conference will include Phil Donahue, Patti Smith, Jim Hightower, Chris Hedges, Winona LaDuke, and several other citizen activists.
“The theme of this citizen mobilization will be discovering ways to break through power to secure long-overdue democratic solutions made possible by a new muscular civic nexus between local communities and Washington, D.C.,” the Center for Study of Responsive Law, a sponsoring organization, said in a press release.
Over the four days at Constitution Hall, speakers will try to motivate existing civic groups to take steps that will make them more effective, using Nader's campaign for auto safety as inspiration.
When he signed the auto safety legislation nearly a half century ago, President Johnson noted that over the previous weekend, 29 American servicemen had died in Vietnam, while 614 Americans died on the nation's highways.
Deadlier than war
“In this century, more than 1.5 million of our fellow citizens have died on our streets and highways: nearly three times as many Americans as we have lost in all our wars,” Johnson said. “Auto accidents are the biggest cause of death and injury among Americans under 35. And if our accident rate continues, one out of every two Americans can look forward to being injured by a car during his lifetime--one out of every two!”
The bill Johnson signed into law that day required all vehicles on U.S. roads, starting with 1968 models, to meet improved safety standards. It also improved tire standards and set up research and testing centers to investigate the causes of traffic accidents.
And what became of the Chevrolet Corvair? The car was in its second generation in 1966 when Johnson signed the traffic safety bill. Plans for a third generation were dropped and the car went out of production in 1969.
HMSHost recalls multiple brands of Cape Cod cranberry trail mix
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
HMSHost of Bethesda, Md., is recalling multiple brands of trail mix that have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. There a...
HMSHost of Bethesda, Md., is recalling multiple brands of trail mix that have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There are no known illnesses to date.
The 7-oz. packages of trail mix were sold under the brand names Fresh Attractions, 1897, Ciao, Farmers Market, Grounded In, La Tapenade, Marche, MKT, Pronto, PZA, The Local, and Urban Market in stores in the following markets: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.
The recalled products have a UPC code of 2050000142000 and a use by date from 4/5/16 to 9/17/16.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but return it to the store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the firm at 1-877-672-7467 24/7 or by email at email@example.com.
Hy-Vee recalls frozen Vegetable Fried Rice and Chicken Fried Rice
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hy-Vee of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling its frozen Hy-Vee Vegetable Fried Rice and frozen Hy-Vee Chicken Fried Rice products across its eight-state r...
Hy-Vee of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling its frozen Hy-Vee Vegetable Fried Rice and frozen Hy-Vee Chicken Fried Rice products across its eight-state region.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this product.
The Vegetable Fried Rice was sold in 1-lb. bags with the UPC number 000007545012530 and a “use by” date of Nov. 5, 2017, or earlier.
The Chicken Fried Rice was sold in 20-oz. bags with the UPC number 0075450125290 and a “use by” date of Nov. 5, 2017, or earlier.
The recalled products were sold at Hy-Vee stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin between July 24, 2014, and May 12, 2016.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should discard them or return them to their local Hy-Vee store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Hy-Vee customer care 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-772-4098.
Piggly Wiggly brand Yellow Cut Corn recalled
The product may contain Listeria monocytogenes05/23/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
McCall Farms is recalling Piggly Wiggly brand frozen Yellow Cut Corn that may contain Listeria monocytogenes. The following product is being recall...
McCall Farms is recalling Piggly Wiggly brand frozen Yellow Cut Corn that may contain Listeria monocytogenes.
The following product is being recalled:
- Piggly Wiggly brand Frozen Yellow Cut Corn in a 2 lb bag, UPC number: 4129075181, Lot Code: CORN0J14FXA
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but dispose of it properly.
Consumers with questions may contact McCall Farms consumer affairs line at 1-800-277-2012 from 8am – 5pm (ET).
What to pack in your carry-on bag
There are certain essentials no matter where you're going or how you're getting there05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Robbie Miller Kaplan
No matter how you travel these days -- airplane, bus, or train -- one thing is certain, it will be crowded. It is helpful to pack a carry-on bag with all t...
No matter how you travel these days -- airplane, bus, or train -- one thing is certain, it will be crowded. It is helpful to pack a carry-on bag with all the essentials to keep you occupied and comfortable.
Choose a carry-on bag that is roomy and lightweight and can easily fit under a seat. If you prefer to store it in an overhead compartment, keep your frequently used travel essentials handy in a smaller zippered bag.
Here are twelve items to consider:
Your mobile phone, tablet device, and appropriate chargers.
If you wear glasses, you’ll be lost without them, so pack an extra pair. If the dry air bothers you, pack some eye drops along with eye glass wipes.
What will you need upon arrival or in case of an emergency? Your tickets, travel confirmations, itinerary, emergency contacts, and a list of medications. Bring photocopies of your passport, photo identification, health insurance cards, and your credit cards.
Always travel with your prescription medications. Never pack them in your luggage as they might get lost.
You never can tell what the temperature will be. While it is easy to shed layers, pack something for the cold. A fleece, sweater, large scarf, or a lightweight blanket will do.
Lightweight neck pillows provide needed support while traveling. Look for ones that attach right on your carry-on bag.
If traveling by airplane, bring an empty water bottle to fill after passing through security or purchase a bottle inside the terminal. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated on a flight so drink plenty of water.
E-readers or an app on your tablet device make it easy to carry several books. Paperback books, magazines, or work will also keep you occupied.
Pack of travel tissues
When you need a tissue, you need a tissue. In a pinch, tissues can also double for napkins.
Antibacterial cleansing wipes
Use these to sanitize your seating and eating area and even for cleaning your hands.
Tune out the noise with noise cancelled headphones or earbuds. It’s helpful to bring an extra pair of earbuds should you have a noisy seatmate.
Onboard food purchases are limited so it pays to pack your own snacks and food. Dried nuts and fruit, hard candies, gum, granola or granola bars, fresh fruit, and packs of crackers and cheese pack well. If it’s a long trip you can pick up a sandwich or yogurt from the terminal.
As you travel, pay attention to what makes you most comfortable and add that to your carry-on bag. It might be hand lotion or lip balm. After a long flight with a smelly seatmate I added an herbal balm to my carryon-on bag. It has the added benefit of helping me sleep.
The cut-rate carrier would "decimate" U.S. airlines and destroy jobs, they argue05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Hillary Clinton is urging the Obama Administration to withhold final approval of Norwegian Air Shuttle's application to launch low-fare flights between the...
The new labels include more information on added sugar, a prime culprit in obesity05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
New nutrition labels unveiled today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) take aim at sugar in packaged foods, a prime culprit in obesity, type 2 ...
New immunotherapy approach reprograms cells to fight cancer
Researchers use modified antibodies to reprogram immune cells and stop tumor growth05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
A new approach to immunotherapy has the potential to provide an improved diagnostic tool for treating breast cancer and malignant melanoma.In a study c...
A new approach to immunotherapy has the potential to provide an improved diagnostic tool for treating breast cancer and malignant melanoma.
In a study conducted at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, researchers were able to create a class of antibodies that are able to reprogram macrophage cells that are found in tumors. Reprogramming these cells allows a person’s immune system to better recognize tumor cells so that the body can kill them off and fight the disease.
This new approach has shown some promise in animal models, and researchers hope that it points to a possible way to combat the most dangerous diseases.
“We’ve found a new way of using antibodies for immunotherapy that activates immune cells, called macrophages, in the tumour. . . This makes it easier for the immune system to recognize the tumour and animal studies of three different cancers have given promising results,” said researcher Mikael Karlsson.
Boosting the immune system
Most consumers may recognize immunotherapy as the therapy that allowed Jimmy Carter to beat cancer. It works by pumping up a person’s immune system so that it can combat harmful tumor cells; this is different from other forms of therapies that seek to attack the tumors themselves.
For the purposes of this study, the researchers focused on macrophages – immune cells whose purpose is to fight infection. Macrophages that inhabit tumor cells don’t do much to fight the disease under normal circumstances – in fact, they can sometimes prevent other immune cells from doing their jobs.
However, the researchers were able to use a modified antibody to reprogram these macrophages so that they were able to stop the spread of tumors in mice models. They noted that these macrophages are also present in human breast cancer and malignant melanoma, so there is hope that this type of therapy could be used on people suffering from these diseases in the future.
“We now hope that this new therapy, which has so far been tested preclinically, will one day be used in combination with another immunotherapy to make it even more efficacious. . . We are also looking into whether the presence of this type of macrophage in human tumours can be used clinically for the diagnosis of cancer diseases,” said Karlsson.
Widows, widowers may be hardier in the face of adversity
Study finds that widowed patients have higher levels of psychological resilience05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Losing a spouse can leave a deep, lasting wound. But widows and widowers just might be emotionally hardier as a result of the loss, new research suggests....
Losing a spouse can leave a deep, lasting wound. But widows and widowers just might be emotionally hardier as a result of the loss, new research suggests.
A study led by Virginia Commonwealth University found that widowed patients suffering from a neurological illness were happier than married patients with a similar illness.
The study -- published recently in the journal Healthy Aging Research -- builds upon the findings of a 2013 study, in which VCU and Virginia Tech researchers examined post-traumatic growth following loss of a spouse in chronic pain suffers.
In both studies, widowed patients experienced less emotional suffering and greater psychological hardiness than those who were married, divorced, separated, or single.
Better coping strategies
According to researchers, the reason for the discrepancy may have something to do with a widowed individual's ability to cope.
“Humans are incredibly resilient,” said principal investigator James B. Wade, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the VCU School of Medicine.
“By being confronted by and forced to deal with challenge, we develop new strategies for coping that allow us to better deal with future lifestyle threats.”
In other words, having already coped with major lifestyle adversity can leave individuals better prepared to face adversity the next time it comes along.
Wade says the study's findings have important implications for all people, especially now that humans are living longer.
“Everybody is going to experience their own challenges, and this study shows that being confronted with adversity changes you,” Wade said.
He adds that people grow, adapt and develop new coping strategies following the death of a partner, ultimately leading to higher levels of psychological resilience.
Nicotine inhaler doubles chances of quitting smoking, study finds
Using the inhaler with a nicotine patch is optimal, New Zealand researchers say05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
A New Zealand study finds that smokers who used a nicotine inhaler were twice as likely to quit smoking as smokers using a placebo inhaler. The study also...
A New Zealand study finds that smokers who used a nicotine inhaler were twice as likely to quit smoking as smokers using a placebo inhaler. The study also found that adding a nicotine inhaler to a nicotine patch doubled the chances of quitting over using a nicotine patch alone.
"There is considerable debate about whether inhaled nicotine is helpful for people who wish to stop smoking," said Julian Crane, a professor at the University of Otago, Wellington. "This is the first study to show that inhaled nicotine from a metered dose inhaler in the context of a smoker wanting to stop doubles their chances of quitting."
Crane says the findings are the first evidence that inhaled nicotine from a simple inhaler is highly effective and substantially increases a smoker's chances of quitting compared to the best current nicotine replacement treatment.
"Currently most smokers use nicotine patches to help them stop smoking. This study shows that if you add a nicotine inhaler to a nicotine patch, it doubles the chances of quitting over a nicotine patch alone," Crane said.
Inappropriate use less likely
The results of the New Zealand study funded by the Health Research Council appear in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
Crane said an advantage of the nicotine inhaler is that, unlike electronic cigarettes, it has no physical associations with the act of smoking.
"It also has benefits in that it is much less likely to be used inappropriately to administer other drugs given that it is a completely sealed unit," notes Crane.
The researchers are currently looking at how to make the inhaler available to all smokers who would like to use it.
How to keep your dog safe at the dog park
Dog park injuries are common, but many can be avoided05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
All dogs need adequate amounts of physical exercise and mental stimulation, and dog parks can be a great place to accomplish both. City dogs, especially, m...
All dogs need adequate amounts of physical exercise and mental stimulation, and dog parks can be a great place to accomplish both. City dogs, especially, might benefit from a little off-leash time to socialize with other dogs.
However, dog parks can also be a dangerous place. It’s not uncommon to witness fights between dogs. Additionally, there is the possibility that your dog may come into contact with an ill (and potentially contagious) dog.
According to Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co, soft tissue injuries or sprains affected over 24,000 dogs last year, making it the most common medical condition to come out of dog parks. Head trauma takes the top spot for most expensive dog park injury, setting pet parents back roughly $591.
Other dog park related medical conditions include lacerations or bite wounds, kennel cough or upper respiratory infection, insect bites, and heat stroke.
So how can you keep your pup safe while he’s socializing?
Research the rules
Keeping your dog safe from dog park injuries doesn’t have to mean foregoing the fun altogether. Experts say many of the medical conditions that crop up as a result of dog parks can be avoided, simply by taking a few precautions.
"The dog park is a great place for dogs to socialize and exercise, but there are safety measures dog owners need to be aware of," said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide, in a statement.
Those measures are as follows:
Obey all posted rules and regulations.
Pay attention to your dog at all times. By keeping a close eye on your dog, you’ll be able to notice right away if playtime becomes too rough.
If a dog park has designated areas for large dogs and small dogs, keep your dog in the appropriate area.
Don't bring a puppy younger than four months old.
Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations.
Keep a collar on your dog with proper identification tags that include contact information. Microchipping your dog can also be beneficial.
On warm days, avoid the dog park during peak temperature hours. Treating heat stroke in dogs can cost pet owners up to $579.
Bring water and a bowl for your dog to drink out of.
Look for any signs of overheating. Signs might include profuse and rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick drooling saliva, glassy eyes, and lack of coordination. If this occurs, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
Zillow survey: Clinton would be better for housing market than Trump
Real estate experts favor centrist, predictable administration05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Real estate experts surveyed by Zillow believe the real estate market would perform better under Hillary Clinton as President, rather than Donald Trump, ev...
Real estate experts surveyed by Zillow believe the real estate market would perform better under Hillary Clinton as President, rather than Donald Trump, even though Trump has spent his career in real estate.
While the survey covered a wide range of economic topics, the real estate professionals and economists in the survey had fairly uniform views of how each presidential candidate might impact home values.
"As the presidential election nears, candidates' individual plans for the economy are increasingly under scrutiny," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Many of the candidates' proposals sounds [sic] appealing to voters, but a closer look through the panelists' economic lens reveals the potential impact of those proposed policies on our economy.”
Favor predictable, centrist candidate
Gudell says the results indicate a predictable, centrist candidate would be best for the economy as a whole and for the real estate market in particular. The panelists saw the more polarizing political leanings of Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, should he secure the Democratic nomination, as having a negative effect.
Should either man become President, the panelists said they would lower their projections for both home value appreciation and economic growth. Clinton, meanwhile, received mostly positive marks from the panelists for the market and the economy.
While home values have been increasing, at least half the panelists credit the price acceleration to tighter inventories of homes for sale, instead of more people being able to buy homes. While mortgage rates remain low, many people still cannot meet the new tighter mortgage qualification standards.
Home prices won't keep rising
As for prices, the experts don't expect the recent increases to continue, and predict they might even slowly start to decline in the years ahead.
After adjusting for expected inflation, the expert panel's forecast for national home value appreciation averages 1.7 percent annually through 2020.
Nordstrom adjusts to compete in shifting retail marketplace
For starters, it's making changes to its loyalty program05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Earnings season on Wall Street has been revealing when it comes to retail fortunes. Shifting loyalties, emerging priorities, and evolving ways of shopping ...
Earnings season on Wall Street has been revealing when it comes to retail fortunes. Shifting loyalties, emerging priorities, and evolving ways of shopping have been on display.
Amazon.com has been the major disruptive force, but traditional brick and mortar outlets like TJ Max and Ross have been big winners as well.
And there have been losers. Venerable retailer Nordstrom's earnings disappointed Wall Street and its stock price took a tumble. One major analyst downgraded the stock after Nordstrom reported a drop in comparable store sales in the first quarter and badly missed its projected earnings number.
Nordstrom has always enjoyed a sterling reputation among mid to high end consumers. It is valued for its quality merchandise and attentive service. Walk into a Nordstrom and you'll hear lovely music, played by a person sitting at a baby grand piano. That's Nordstrom.
But how does that play in today's mobile, Millennial-driven consumer culture? The retailer is making some adjustments.
Loyalty program changes
To compete for the value-oriented consumer, Nordstrom has announced changes in its loyalty program, making it easier for customers to earn $20 Nordstrom Notes. Customers can rack up benefits no matter how they pay for purchases, whether it's in a store or online.
"As customers' definition of service continues to evolve, we are focused on being responsive and delivering services and experiences that are important to them," said Erik Nordstrom, co-president, Nordstrom, Inc.
Nordstrom said the flexible rewards program is something customers specifically requested, so the company responded.
Under the adjustment, Nordstrom Rewards members earn one point per dollar when paying without a Nordstrom card. It's also easier to enroll. All you do is enter your name, mobile phone number, and email address.
Participation is easy too, the company says. Customers are not required to carry a card or remember an account number. The whole thing is keyed to the consumer's mobile phone number.
Nordstrom has also served notice that it is going after a younger clientèle. Bryan Galipeau, Nordstrom’s director of social media and display, told emarketer this week that the company is stepping up its use of Snapchat to reach college-age consumers.
Social media, he says, gives the 115-year old retailer a chance to translate the quality of the brick-and-mortar experience to a mobile, digital generation.
Public health officials step up pressure against distracted driving
Despite awareness campaigns, drivers still texting behind the wheel05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
All the public service announcements, all the lectures, and all the traffic tickets don't seem to have made a dent in texting-while-driving cases. At least...
All the public service announcements, all the lectures, and all the traffic tickets don't seem to have made a dent in texting-while-driving cases. At least, not yet.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 3,100 people died in traffic accidents in 2014 as the result of distracted driving, and Beverly Shirk, pediatric trauma coordinator at Penn State Children’s Hospital, says texting behind the wheel was undoubtedly a factor in most of those accidents.
“People sending or receiving a text have four seconds or more that their eyes are off the road,” Shirk said. “If you’re traveling 55 miles per hour, that’s the length of a football field. Your reaction time might not allow for you to stop.”
Shirk is well-acquainted with the problem because every year she works closely with teens in workshops on safe driving. She says it's a challenge to make teens understand the many distractions present in the car and why it calls for making good choices.
Besides talking or texting, she says teens tell her that today's sophisticated infotainment systems can be a distraction, as well as operating navigation systems. Eating behind the wheel is still a major distraction, she says.
Shirk says many teens feel compelled to respond to messages from their friends instantly, even if they are in heavy traffic. The way around that, she suggests, is setting a phone to silent and stowing it out of sight while the vehicle is moving.
To alleviate anxiety over not being able to respond instantly, she recommends downloading an app that automatically responds to incoming contacts with a message that the recipient is driving and will respond shortly.
With the tools available to reduce cellphone distractions, more and more safety advocates are pushing to hold drivers accountable when they don't take advantage of them and cause accidents. Deborah Becker, co-founder of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs), says accountability works.
Drunk driving is down, she says, because drunk drivers are facing much stiffer penalties. These days, she says a fatal car crash is most likely to be caused by someone looking at their cellphone.
"When people were held accountable for drunk driving, that's when positive change occurred,” she said. “It's time to recognize that distracted driving is a similar impairment, and should be dealt with in a similar fashion.”
Becker's group is backing proposed legislation that would have drivers submit their phone to roadside testing to see if it were in use at the time of an accident or traffic stop.
Shirk says it all comes down to making good decisions. If you are driving and you need to use your phone, load music into the infotainment system, or pull up a map, simply pull off the road while you are doing it.
You don't have to spend a fortune on a new ride05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers keep spending more money on new cars. The average transaction price on a new car these days is almost $34,000.That doesn't mean all new cars ...
Existing-home sales post second straight gain
Sales soared in the Midwest, but fell in the South05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Inventory shortages and faster price growth notwithstanding, sales of previously-owned homes rose for a second consecutive month in April.The National ...
Inventory shortages and faster price growth notwithstanding, sales of previously-owned homes rose for a second consecutive month in April.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, -- rose 1.7% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million. Sales are now up 6.0% from the same month a year ago.
“Primarily driven by a convincing jump in the Midwest, where home prices are most affordable, sales activity overall was at a healthy pace last month as very low mortgage rates and modest seasonal inventory gains encouraged more households to search for and close on a home,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Except for in the West -- where supply shortages and stark price growth are hampering buyers the most -- sales are meaningfully higher than a year ago in much of the country.”
Prices, inventory and mortgage rates
The median price for all types of existing homes last month was $232,500, up 6.3% from April 2015, marking the 50th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. The median is the point at which half the prices are higher and half are lower.
Total housing inventory at the end of April was up 9.2% to 2.14 million previously-owned homes available for sale, but it is still 3.6% lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace, versus 4.4 months in March.
“The temporary relief from mortgage rates currently near three-year lows has helped preserve housing affordability this spring,” Yun noted. However, he stated that “there's growing concern a number of buyers will be unable to find homes at affordable prices if wages don't rise and price growth doesn't slow.”
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell from 3.69% in March to 3.61% in April -- the lowest since May 2013, when it was 3.54%.
Sales by region
- Existing-home sales in the Northeast climbed 2.8% last month to an annual rate of 740,000, and are now 17.5% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $263,600, up 4.1% from April 2015.
- In the Midwest, sales shot up 12.1% to an annual rate of 1.39 million for a year-over-year gain of 12.1%. The median price was up 7.7% to $184,200.
- Sales in the South fell 2.7% to an annual rate of 2.19 million, but are still 4.3% above a year earlier. The median price was $202,800, up 6.5% from a year ago.
- Previously-owned home sales dipped 1.7% in the West to an annual rate of 1.13 million and are down 3.4% from a year ago. The median price rose 6.5% to $335,000.
Initial jobless claims were on the decline05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index (LEI) is picking up steam.After holding steady in March and inching up...
Rocky Mountain recalls bicycles with front disc brakes
The front wheel could come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Rocky Mountain Bicycles of Canada is recalling about 78,000 bicycles in the U.S. and Canada. An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front whe...
Rocky Mountain Bicycles of Canada is recalling about 78,000 bicycles in the U.S. and Canada.
An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle, posing a risk of injury to the rider.
No incidents or injuries are reported.
This recall involves all 2003 through 2016 models of Rocky Mountain bicycles equipped with front disc brakes and a black or silver quick-release (QR) lever on the front wheel hub. Bicycles that do not have disc brakes are not included in this recall.
When the front QR is fully opened, if there is less than 6 mm -- or the width of a #2 pencil -- between the QR and disk brake rotor on the wheel, the bicycle is included in this recall.
The bicycles, manufactured in Canada, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, were sold at Rocky Mountain bicycle dealers nationwide and online at www.Bikes.com (Rocky Mountain Bicycles), www.Ems.com (Eastern Mountain Sports), www.JensonUsa.com, www.MikesBikes.com and www.PerformanceBike.com from May 2002, through April 2016, from between $250 and $15,000.
What to do
Consumers should stop using the recalled bicycles immediately and contact an authorized Rocky Mountain retailer for free installation of a new quick release on the front wheel.
Consumers may contact Rocky Mountain toll-free at 800-663-2512 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.bikes.com and click on Safety/Recall at the bottom of the page.
Publix recalls cranberry nut and seed mix
The product may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Publix Super Markets is recalling cranberry nut and seed mix that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. There have been no reported cases...
Publix Super Markets is recalling cranberry nut and seed mix that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no reported cases of illness to date.
The 7.05-oz. plastic containers of prepackaged cranberry nut and seed mix with a UPC of 41415-34986 and with use by dates August 7, 2016, through August 30, 2016, were sold at Publix retail produce departments in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product may return it to their local store for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the firm's consumer relations department at 1-800-242-1227 or online at www.publix.com.
SCOTT recalls bicycles with SYNCROS seat posts
The seat post can break, posing a fall hazard05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
SCOTT USA of Salt Lake City, Utah, is recalling about 1,600 SCOTT bicycles with SYNCROS seat posts in the U.S. and Canada. The seat post can break,...
SCOTT USA of Salt Lake City, Utah, is recalling about 1,600 SCOTT bicycles with SYNCROS seat posts in the U.S. and Canada.
The seat post can break, posing a fall hazard to the rider.
The firm has received 11 reports of broken seat posts outside of the U.S. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves model year 2016 SCOTT men’s and women’s road bicycles with SYNCROS FL 0.1 seat posts. Bicycle models included in the recall are: Addict CX 10 disc, Addict SL, Addict Team Issue, Addict 10, Addict 15, Addict 20, Addict Gravel disc, Solace Premium disc, Solace 10 disc, Frame set Addict 10 (HMF), Frame set Addict CX 10 disc (HMX) mech / Di2 and Seatpost Syncros FL1.0 Carbon Offset 27.2mm. “SCOTT” is printed on the bicycle down tube and “SYNCROS” is printed on the seat post.
The bicycles were sold in black, grey and white with yellow, orange, green or blue decals. A complete list of serial numbers included in the recall can be found at http://www.scott-sports.com/global/en/company/safety-and-recalls. The serial number is printed on a white sticker and embossed on the underside of the bicycle frame near the pedals.
The bicycles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized SCOTT dealers nationwide and online from June 2015 through March 2016 for between $3,300 and $9,700.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop riding the recalled bicycles and return them to an authorized SCOTT dealer to have a free replacement seat post installed.
Consumers may contact Scott USA toll-free at 888-607-8365 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at email@example.com or online at www.SCOTT-Sports.com and click on “Safety” at the bottom of the page, then “Recalls” for more information.
Vending Nut Co. recalls sunflower kernel products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/20/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Vending Nut Company is recalling a limited number of sunflower kernel products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses h...
Vending Nut Company is recalling a limited number of sunflower kernel products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products, in clear printed plastic packages marked with pack dates on the front, are being recalled:
The recalled products were packaged and sold at Vending Nut Company’s Ft. Worth, Texas, facility between February 24 and March 9, 2016.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but bring them back to the store for a refund, or simply discard them.
Consumers with questions may email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-429-9260 Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (CT).
E-cigarettes permanently banned from airline luggage
Transportation Department finalizes interim rule issued in October05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
The Transportation Department has issued a final rule banning battery-powered electronic smoking devices – primarily e-cigarettes – from checked bags aboar...
The Transportation Department has issued a final rule banning battery-powered electronic smoking devices – primarily e-cigarettes – from checked bags aboard commercial aircraft.
The government said it is taking the action as a safety precaution.
“Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous, and a number of recent incidents have shown that e-cigarettes in checked bags can catch fire during transport,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who called the ban a “prudent and important safety measure.”
The move was not unexpected. Back in October the agency issued an interim rule to the same effect, opening it to an extended comment period.
The final rule does allow passengers to carry e-cigarettes in the cabin of the aircraft, but it does not allow them to charge the devices during a flight.
Lithium ion batteries
Batteries, as a rule, make aviation officials nervous. There have been instances of lithium ion batteries in laptop computers and smartphones overheating, with some catching fire. Officials have long worried what would happen if a computer, packed in a suitcase and stowed in the body of a jetliner, caught fire.
In 2014 a plane in Tel Aviv had to be evacuated after the lithium-ion battery powering a passenger's iPhone 5 caught on fire, filling the cabin with smoke. A decade earlier a California teenager suffered second-degree burns when her cell phone caught fire without warning, with investigators pinning the blame on the lithium ion battery.
Granted, the batteries powering e-cigarettes are much smaller, but officials say it only takes a tiny spark to create a catastrophe.
“This final rule is the next step in hazardous materials safety standards following our interim final rule issued last October,” Marie Therese Dominguez, a Transportation Department officials, said. “The rule addresses the risk of fire brought about by carrying these electronic devices in checked baggage or charging them on board aircraft.”
The rule, however, does not stop people from carrying other devices powered by lithium ion batteries -- like computers, phones, and cameras -- in checked bags. It also does not stop a passenger from carrying battery-powered devices in carry-on luggage.
FTC closes the case on the Staples and Office Depot merger
The agency has called off an administrative trial that would have addressed the merger05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Just last week, a merger between Staples and Office Depot was finally derailed after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction requested by the Fede...
Just last week, a merger between Staples and Office Depot was finally derailed after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction requested by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The deal would have officially bound the two biggest office supply retailers together.
Now, the FTC’s administrative trial has been called off, a move that effectively closes the case and signals the conclusion of a struggle that started back in December of 2015. In the end, the agency said that the amount of corporate business that would have been dominated by these merged companies would have been unfair to competitors and consumers.
“This outcome bodes well for business customers in the market for office supplies. These customers will continue to reap the benefits of the direct competition between Staples and Office Depot, which would have been eliminated if the top two suppliers had been allowed to merge,” said Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC.
Before calling off the merger, Staples and Office Depot had stated that the merger would not discourage competition due to the existence of local and regional office supply companies – and perhaps more importantly, Amazon Business. However, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan disagreed with this assessment.
“The evidence produced during the evidentiary hearing does not support the conclusion that Amazon Business will be in a position to restore competition lost by the proposed merger within three years,” he said.
So, for now, it seems that Staples and Office Depot will resume their rivalry in vying for consumers’ office supply needs.
Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers lacking in whole grain, suit charges
The crackers contain only one gram of fiber in a 30-gram serving, the lawsuit alleges05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers have only one gram of dietary fiber in a 30-gram serving, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York today alleges. ...
Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers have only one gram of dietary fiber in a 30-gram serving, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York today alleges.
“Consumers are seeking out whole grain foods, and expect that when they see the words ‘whole grain’ on the package that whole grain is the main ingredient,” said Maia Kats, litigation director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “Kellogg’s Whole Grain Cheez-Its have more white flour than whole grain. It’s effectively a junk food, and Kellogg is taking financial advantage of consumers who are trying to make better decisions for their health.”
Kellogg says the suit is nonsense.
"While we don’t normally comment on pending litigation, this suit is completely without merit. Our Cheez-It Whole Grain labels are accurate and in full compliance with FDA regulations. We stand behind our foods and our labels," Kris Charles, Kellogg Company spokesperson, said in an email.
The lawsuit says the “whole grain” crackers are nearly identical nutritionally to the original version of Cheez-Its, which contain "less than one gram" of fiber.
"The words “WHOLE GRAIN,” or in some cases, “MADE WITH WHOLE GRAIN” appear prominently on five of the six package panels, including the front of the box, known as the principal display panel. In small print on the front of the box, Kellogg states that the product has just 5 grams of whole grain per serving; some boxes state that the product has 8 grams. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of the grains people eat be whole grains. Less than half the grains in both versions of Whole Grain Cheez-Its are whole," CSPI said.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring Kellogg from "continuing to engage in deceptive marketing."
Earlier this year, CSPI sued General Mills over its marketing of Cheerios Protein, saying the cereal has only negligibly more protein than original Cheerios but has 17 times as much sugar. That case is pending.
Green light could help ease migraines, study finds
Helps reduce pain and light sensitivity05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Life is a little more difficult for the estimated 37 million Americans who suffer from migraines. In addition to being painful, migraine attacks can impact...
Life is a little more difficult for the estimated 37 million Americans who suffer from migraines. In addition to being painful, migraine attacks can impact relationships and cause productivity to come to a screeching halt.
Light sensitivity (photophobia) often accompanies throbbing pain as one of the main symptoms of a migraine. Now, experts say exposure to a certain kind of light could actually help ease migraine pain.
According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, “pure wavelength green light” helps reduce the intensity of headaches and ease migraine sufferers’ sensitivity to light.
Reduced pain by 20%
The study had patients with migraines report on how light of different colors and intensity affected their headache. Blue, amber, or red lights at the high-intensity light level of a typical office made headaches worse.
Green light, however, tended to reduce the intensity of patient’s pain by about 20%. The researchers say this might be because green light creates the least amount of electrical signals generated by the eye’s retina and brain’s cortex.
"My hope is that patients will be able to benefit directly from these findings one day very soon," said lead author Rami Burstein, professor of Anesthesia at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School, in a statement.
Further research needed
Burstein is currently trying to create sunglasses that block out all light but green, as well as a lightbulb that can emit pure green light at a low intensity. He notes that affordability will be a challenge, as the cost of one such lightbulb is currently "astronomical."
Dr. Noah Rosen, director of Northwell Health’s Headache Center in Great Neck, N.Y., says Burstein's findings are valuable. He calls the treatment “potentially beneficial,” but notes that further research is needed.
"In general, it seems a safe treatment but one that is limited by cost, access and whether its use on a regular basis would decrease disability," Rosen told HealthDay.
The full study is published in the journal Brain.
LinkedIn hack from 2012 resurfaces
Thieves offering to sell 117 million LinkedIn passwords on cybercrime forum05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Back in 2012, LinkedIn said a data breach had exposed about 6.5 million users' passwords. Now it says the number is more like 117 million and it's advising...
Back in 2012, LinkedIn said a data breach had exposed about 6.5 million users' passwords. Now it says the number is more like 117 million and it's advising users to change their passwords.
The latest discovery came about when cybersecurity types noticed a posting on a cybercrime forum offering to sell account information on 117 million LinkedIn users, according to the Krebs on Security blog.
Shortly after the 2012 breach, LinkedIn forced password resets on 6.5 million accounts, but this time around it's just advising users of the situation and suggesting they change their passwords to ensure they have "the best experience possible."
Users around the world found emails like this in their in boxes the last few days:
The predicament may not be all that dire for most users. LinkedIn is primarily a business-oriented network and users don't generally reveal too much actionable information. There's also the little matter of how many signed-up users ever bother to log in to their accounts.
LinkedIn claims it has more than 400 million users, but analysts say only about 25 percent of them sign in on a monthly basis.
The average toddler spends 25 days a year streaming TV, research finds05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Are we letting kids spend too much time in front of screens? It’s a question to which there is no real scientific answer, yet there is no shortage of opini...
But most travelers are expected to avoid the airports05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and with it the start of the summer travel season. Consumers typically choose that holiday weekend to take a shor...
Adhesive hoods might protect pedestrians
Google gets a patent on an eggshell-like hood that would glue pedestrians in place05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Cars have gotten safer for the people inside them, but that's not much consolation if one of them runs into you when you're crossing the street. Google has...
Cars have gotten safer for the people inside them, but that's not much consolation if one of them runs into you when you're crossing the street. Google has come up with an idea to improve the situation.
To put it simply, Google was granted a patent this week for an adhesive hood. It would have an egg-shell-like covering that would crack if struck with enough force, releasing a gooey substance that would basically glue the pedestrian to the hood.
You could call it human flypaper.
The idea is that this would limit the number of impacts suffered by the pedestrian. Currently, someone hit by a car often bounces off and slams into another surface -- the car's roof or windshield, the street, a tree or some other unyielding substance.
It would also discourage hit-and-run accidents, since the evidence would be glued to your hood in plain view of everybody. The drawback is that the pedestrian would be all sticky.
Rising death rate
Pedestrian accidents are far from a minor problem. Pedestrian deaths as a percentage of traffic fatalities have been rising sharply -- from 11% in 2005 to 15% in 2014. About 4,800 pedestrians die each year in the United States -- 13 every day.
Experts differ on whether the rising death toll is the result of the trend towards making cities and towns more "walkable" or whether drivers have become more careless than ever because of smartphones and other distractions.
In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced plans to expand its safety ratings to assess how well a vehicle protects pedestrians.
Much of the hype surrounding self-driving cars is that they will be much less likely to mow down humans, but until then, we soft-shell humans need some help.
A Google spokeswoman quoted by The Washington Post declined to say more about the company's plans but said a patent isn't the same thing as a product announcement.
How secure is the Internet of Things?
Experian says consumers should be concerned about the proliferation of connected products05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
No longer do we just have the internet, a way to connect computers, tablets, and smartphones.Now, all manner of devices – cars, home appliances, even h...
No longer do we just have the internet, a way to connect computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Now, all manner of devices – cars, home appliances, even heart monitors – are connected, in an environment that has come to be called the Internet of Things (IoT).
Security firms have a hard enough time keeping your PC secure, so the question may arise, just how secure is your thermostat, and all the other products that work in the IoT universe?
Not very, says Experian. The company notes too many of these connected products are vulnerable because of weak security and controls. That, it says, can create points of weakness in users' critical private networks, systems, and data that are ripe for exploitation.
Strong as the weakest link
"The Internet of Things is only as strong as its weakest link, and it is important to fully understand what an interconnected environment means," said Adam Fingersh, senior vice president and general manager of Experian's fraud and identity business.
Weak security controls on connected products dramatically increase the chances for cybercriminals to hack inside your connected products and gain entry into your broader systems.
"As more and more products are connected, a casual mindset about the security risks inherent in IoT can create significant risk,” Fingersh said.
What to do
Experian has developed some proactive steps for both consumers and businesses. The company first suggests that consumers only buy products that operate in the IoT environment from reputable sources. An unvetted source could sell you a product with malware preloaded.
Ask how access to these systems are controlled and guarded. If devices are enabled for downloading apps, exercise the same caution you would on your smartphone – download only from reputable providers.
Fingersh says the bar may be set higher for businesses. He says businesses tend to be bigger targets, and therefore should look at any IoT product it deploys within its system as a potential threat.
Why using your bank's ATM could be dangerous
Kaspersky Lab says cybercriminals can plant malware in ATMs05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Consumers have been warned that using debit cards is inherently more dangerous than credit cards. If thieves manage to steal your debit card information, t...
Consumers have been warned that using debit cards is inherently more dangerous than credit cards. If thieves manage to steal your debit card information, they can clean out your bank account.
There have been numerous accounts of identity thieves planting “skimmer” devices on ATMs and gasoline pumps. These fake keypads usually fit over the real key pad and record PINs as they steal account information.
But these skimmers are now old fashioned, and consumers have been cautioned to inspect key pads before they punch in their PINs. So some thieves have become more clever and diabolical. They hijack the ATM itself, turning it into one big skimmer.
Security company Kaspersky Lab says one of its teams recently made the discovery while investigating an incident report at an unnamed bank. The team found traces of Skimer malware on one of the bank's ATMs. The cybercriminals had planted it sometime earlier, but had not activated it.
The Kaspersky team believes the thieves gained access to the bank's ATM system, either physically or by hacking into the bank's network. After that, they installed Backdoor.Win32.Skimer, malware that infects the core of the ATM, which controls the ATM's interaction with the banking infrastructure, including cash processing and credit cards.
Even though the cybercriminals have full control over the compromised ATMs, Kaspersky says they move slowly and deliberately, not wanting to raise suspicions. They no longer need the fake card readers that are getting easier to spot. Instead, when they throw the switch, they turn the entire ATM into a skimmer.
The malware allows the thieves to withdraw all the money in the ATM, or to intercept data from all debit cards used at the machine, which will continue to work perfectly.
The problem is fairly obvious. There is no way for a consumer to tell whether the machine they're using to withdraw money is stealing their card's data.
The security firm says most cybercriminals successfully breaching an ATM won't steal money directly. Rather, they'll use the software to steal debit card data, because they can do it for months before their scheme is uncovered.
They make duplicate cards using the stolen data and use those cards in uninfected ATMs to withdraw large amounts of cash.
Countering the threat isn't easy, but Kaspersky recommends banks undertake regular AV scans and upgrade security systems and policies. The company said its investigation is ongoing, and that it is sharing intelligence with the banking industry.
Financial losses due to skimming continue to mount. A year ago FICO Card Alert Service reported a 173% year-over-year increase in card and PIN skimming points at bank-owned ATMs. At the same time, it said compromised merchant debit card transaction points had declined sharply.
An improvement in airline service
The number of consumer complaints was down in March05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Airline passengers didn't have as much to gripe about in March as they did a year earlier or even a month before.The Department of Transportation (DOT...
Airline passengers didn't have as much to gripe about in March as they did a year earlier or even a month before.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) says the number of consumer complaints it received that month was down 17.7% from March 2015 and down 5.0% from February 2016.
According to DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report, there were 1,429 complaints about service compared with 1,736 the year before and 1,504 in February. However, during the first three months of 2016, complaints are up 1.0% from the same period the previous year.
Carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 81.5% in March 2016, up from the 78.7% on-time rate in March 2015 but down from the 83.6% mark in February 2016.
In addition, airlines reported six tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and one tarmac delay of more than four hours on an international flight. Five of those domestic delays and the international delay were in Denver during a snowstorm on March 23.
The consumer report also includes data on chronically delayed flights and the causes of flight delays, along with problems regarding baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability, and discrimination.
There's a good chance all of this will change when the report for May is released, given the problems airports have been experiencing lately.
The complete report is available on the DOT website.
Ajinomoto Windsor recalls meat and poultry products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ajinomoto Windsor, with facilities in Fort Worth, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; Carthage, Mo.; and Portland, Ore., is recalling approximately 47,112,256 poun...
Ajinomoto Windsor, with facilities in Fort Worth, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; Carthage, Mo.; and Portland, Ore., is recalling approximately 47,112,256 pounds of not-ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions
The following heat-treated, not fully cooked, not shelf stable meat and poultry items, produced between May 1, 2014, and May 1, 2016, are being recalled:
- 14.2-oz packages containing “Tai Pei Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 01/02/2015 to 10/27/2017.
- 14.2-oz packages containing “Tai Pei Pepper Beef” with best-by dates ranging from 11/02/2015 to 10/19/2017.
- 12-oz packages containing “Tai Pei Combination Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 11/06/2015 to 10/27/2017.
- 12-lb cases containing 32-oz packages of “Fred’s Jalapeño, Corn & Bacon Cornbread Pop” with product code 0945137.
- 2-lb boxes containing “InnovASIAN Cuisine CHICKEN FRIED RICE” with best-by dates ranging from 5/15/2015 to 4/09/2017.
- 20-oz packages containing “Trader Joe’s Chicken Fried Rice” with case codes ranging from 261231 to 281211.
- 18-oz. bags containing “InnovASIAN Cuisine CHICKEN FRIED RICE” with best-by dates ranging from 05/01/2015 to 04/29/2017.
- 18-oz. and 24-oz. packages containing “Simmering Samurai Orange Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 5/12/2015 to 3/18/2017.
- 20-oz. packages containing “HyVee chicken fried rice” with best-by dates ranging from 7/11/2015 to 3/03/2017.
- 20-oz. packages containing “First Street Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 7/11/2015 to 3/15/2017.
- 54-oz. packages containing “Yakitori Chicken with Japanese-Style Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 6/28/2015 to 5/2/2017.
- 18-oz. packages containing “Simmering Samurai Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 8/11/2015 to 3/18/2017.
- 18-oz. packages containing “Simmering Samurai Hibachi Seasoned Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 8/11/2015 to 11/16/2016.
- 18-oz. packages containing “Simmering Samurai Spicy Hibachi Seasoned Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 8/13/2015 to 11/16/2016.
- 18 oz. and 24-oz. packages containing “Simmering Samurai General Tso’s Chicken Fried Rice” with best-by dates ranging from 8/18/2015 to 12/26/2016.
- 1.53-kg packages containing “Arroz Frito Estilo Japones Con Pollo Yakitori” with best-by dates ranging from 1/22/2016 to 1/03/2017, exported to Mexico.
- 1.53-kg packages containing “Yakitori Chicken with Japanese-Style Fried Rice (Poulet Yakitori Avec Riz Frit A La Japonaise)” with best-by dates ranging from 1/21/2016 to 3/7/2017, exported to Canada.
- 30-oz. packages containing “Daily Chef Chicken Poblano Firecrackers” with packaging dates between 8/10/2015 to 1/25/2016.
- 12.5-lbs packages containing “Golden Tiger SANTA FE BRAND CHICKEN EGG ROLLS” with packaging dates between 8/22/2014 to 11/6/2015.
- 6.25-lb packages cases containing “Jade Mountain SOUTHWEST CHICKEN EGG ROLL TWISTS” with packaging dates between 6/3/2014 to 3/23/2016.
- 30-oz packages containing 30 pieces of “Petite Cuisine CHICKEN POBLANO Hand Made Firecrackers” with packaging dates between 7/15/2014 to 1/15/2016.
- 6.25-lbs. cases containing “Golden Tiger Firecracker Southwest Brand Chicken” with packaging dates between 6/2/2014 to 3/23/2016.
- 7.5-lbs. packages containing “Posada Southwest Brand CHICKEN EMPANADA” with packaging dates between 5/12/2014 to 3/8/2016.
- 8-oz packages containing 8 pieces of “The Original Appetizer Company CHICKEN POBLANO Handmade Appetizers (Firecracker) with packaging date of 11/4/2014.
- 30-oz packages containing 30 pieces of “Petite Cuisine SOUTHWEST CHICKEN Handmade Firecrackers” with packaging dates between 10/9/2014 to 11/6/2014.
- 8-oz packages containing 8 pieces of “Taste of Inspirations Chicken Poblano Firecrackers” with packaging dates between 8/12/2015 to 2/26/2016.
- 6.89 kg. cases containing packages of “Golden Tiger SOUTHWEST SPICY CHICKEN SPRING ROLLS” with packaging dates between 5/7/2014 to 3/31/2016.
- 8-oz. packages containing “archer farms Chicken Poblano Firecrackers” with packaging dates between 7/15/2014 to 3/21/2016.
- 1.15-kg packages of “Molly's Kitchen Mini Chicken Pot Pie Empanadas” with packaging dates between 6/4/2014 to 1/7/2015.
- 7.5-lb packages of “CASA SOLANA SOUTHWEST BRAND CHICKEN EMPANADA MADE IN CALIFORNIA” with packaging dates between 11/4/2014 to 2/16/2016.
- 15-lbs packages of “Perkins SOUTHWEST STYLE CRISPY ROLL” with a packaging date of 3/11/2015 and date code 5255070.
The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 21225,” “EST. 9281,” “EST. 1623A” or “EST. 18356” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped nationwide and to Canada and Mexico.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not to consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions may contact the firm's consumer affairs office at (855) 742-5011.
phil&teds recalls dash strollers
The hinge used to fold the stroller can pose a pinch hazard to the consumer05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
phil&teds; of Fort Collins, Colo., is recalling about 870 phil&teds; dash strollers in the U.S. and Canada. The hinge used to fold the dash v5 stro...
phil&teds of Fort Collins, Colo., is recalling about 870 phil&teds dash strollers in the U.S. and Canada.
The hinge used to fold the dash v5 stroller can become damaged while opening and closing the stroller, posing a pinch hazard to the consumer.
The firm has received one report of the stroller hinge joint separating. No injuries have been reported.
This recall involves phil&teds dash v5 buggy-style strollers with serial numbers ranging between PTRV 0715/0746 and PTRV 0815/2525. The serial number is printed on the lower left rear cradle, next to the identification label.
Colors and models included in the recall are:
The strollers, manufactured in China, were sold at Baby Street, Dainty Baby, Mega Babies and other baby product and specialty stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, diapers.com and philandteds.com from August 2015, through April 2016, for about $550.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the dash v5 stroller and contact phil&teds to have the stroller frame replaced free of charge.
Consumers may contact phil&teds toll-free at 855-652-9019 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MT) Monday through Friday or online at www.philandteds.com and click on “Support,” then “Upgrades” and “Recalls” for more information.
Model year 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees recalled
The transmission may lock in the Park or Neutral position when the vehicle comes to a stop05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 32,267 model year 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured May 15, 2015 to February 19, 2016. The brake transmissi...
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 32,267 model year 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured May 15, 2015 to February 19, 2016.
The brake transmission shift interlock solenoid may have a loose electrical connection which could result in a loss of solenoid function.
If the solenoid loses function, the transmission may lock in the Park or Neutral position when the vehicle comes to a stop, possibly rendering the vehicle disabled in traffic, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the shifter assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on May 27, 2016.
Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S28.
Woodstock Farms recalls walnuts and walnut-containing products
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Woodstock Farms Manufacturing of Edison, N.J., is recalling a limited number of lots of conventional walnuts and walnut-containing products sold under the ...
Woodstock Farms Manufacturing of Edison, N.J., is recalling a limited number of lots of conventional walnuts and walnut-containing products sold under the Nature’s Promise, Woodstock, Market Basket, and Woodfield Farms brands.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported
The following products are being recalled:
The lot numbers are printed on the back of each retail bag. The walnut and walnut-containing products were shipped to retailers and distributors in limited quantities throughout the United States.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them, retaining their store receipts, packaging reflecting lot numbers or any other proof of purchase they may have.
Consumers with questions may call Melissa McCullough at customer service at 732-650-9905 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST) Monday – Friday.
Frontier Co-op recalls Organic Hojicha Tea
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Frontier Co-op is recalling its Organic Hojicha Tea which may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been associated with these product...
Frontier Co-op is recalling its Organic Hojicha Tea which may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been associated with these products to date.
The following product, sold nationwide from December 13, 2014 – April 21, 2016, is being recalled:
The four-digit lot code on the foil bulk packages follows the item number (#2920) on the front label directly above the UPC code.
What to do
Customers should not consume these products and either throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a refund.
Consumers with questions may contact Frontier Co-op at 1-800-669-3275 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CT).
Garland Ventures recalls poultry products
The products may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Garland Ventures of Garland, Texas, is recalling approximately 114,870 pounds of chicken fried rice products. The products may be adulterated with ...
Garland Ventures of Garland, Texas, is recalling approximately 114,870 pounds of chicken fried rice products.
The products may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions.
The following heat-treated, not fully cooked, not shelf stable chicken fried rice products, produced between September 24, 2015, and March 23, 2016, are being recalled:
- 20-oz. pail boxes containing AllFresh Foods “ANJOY Chicken Fried Rice.”
Case Codes associated with the “ANJOY Chicken Fried Rice” product are: 092415, 092915, 100215, 101325, 101615, 102015, 102715, 110315, 110615 and 032316.
The recalled products bear establishment number “P-31993” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to retail distributor locations in Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and Utah.
What to do
Customers who purchased these products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Consumers with questions may contact Robert Cocat at (972) 485-8878.
Kiddy recalls World Plus combination forward facing child restraints
The buckle/tongue on the affected booster seats may only partially engage05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Kiddy USA is recalling 1,429 World Plus combination forward facing child restraints that convert to a high back booster seat, model 51 100 WP, manufactured...
Kiddy USA is recalling 1,429 World Plus combination forward facing child restraints that convert to a high back booster seat, model 51 100 WP, manufactured from July 2, 2012, through October 5, 2013.
The buckle/tongue on the booster seats may only partially engage. As a result, the consumer may have a false impression that the buckle is fully latched when it is not. As such, these seats fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 213, "Child Restraint Systems."
A partially engaged buckle will not adequately restrain the child in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
The remedy for this recall is still under development. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.
Owners may contact Kiddy customer service at 1-855-92KIDDY (1-855-925-4339).
Kroger recalls Simple Truth Organic Frozen Mixed Vegetables
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/19/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Kroger Co. is recalling Simple Truth Organic Mixed Vegetables. The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No customer...
The Kroger Co. is recalling Simple Truth Organic Mixed Vegetables.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No customer illnesses have been reported to date.
The recall affects stores operating under the following names: Kroger, Jay-C, Dillons, Bakers, Gerbes, King Soopers, City Market, Fry’s, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, QFC and Smith’s.
The following product, sold in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming, is being recalled:
What to do
Customers who purchased the above product should not consume it, but return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.
Customers with questions may contact Kroger at 1-800-KROGERS, Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 12:00 am (EDT) and Saturday through Sunday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (EST).
CFPB: 1 in 5 car title loans end in seizure
Most borrowers are stuck in an inescapable debt cycle, agency finds05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is shining a harsh light on car title loans -- the high-cost, small-dollar loans consumers use to cover une...
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is shining a harsh light on car title loans -- the high-cost, small-dollar loans consumers use to cover unexpected expenses.
A CFPB study being released today finds that one in five borrowers who take out a title loan wind up having their car or truck seized by the lender. More than four in five of the loans are renewed on the day they're due and two-thirds of car title loans are made to borrowers who end up taking out seven or more consecutive loans.
“Our study delivers clear evidence of the dangers auto title loans pose for consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Instead of repaying their loan with a single payment when it is due, most borrowers wind up mired in debt for most of the year. The collateral damage can be especially severe for borrowers who have their car or truck seized, costing them ready access to their job or the doctor’s office.”
Car title loans are similar to payday loans except the borrower puts up their car, truck or motorcycle as collateral. The lender holds the title as security; if the loan is repaired then the title is returned, but if it isn't then the consumer loses his vehicle and all the money he has invested in it.
The typical loan is about $700 and the typical annual percentage rate is about 300 percent, far higher than most forms of credit, the study found. For the auto title loans covered in the CFPB report, a borrower agrees to pay the full amount owed in a lump sum plus interest and fees by a certain day. These single-payment auto title loans are available in 20 states; five other states allow only auto title loans repayable in installments.
Similar to payday loans
The study looked at nearly 3.5 million car title loans and found them presenting issues similar to payday loans, including high rates of consumer reborrowing, which can create long-term debt traps.
A borrower who cannot repay the initial loan by the due date must re-borrow or risk losing their vehicle. Such reborrowing can trigger high costs in fees and interest and other collateral damage to a consumer’s life and finances.
Today's report follows an earlier study on online payday loans which found that borrowers get hit with steep bank penalties and risk losing their checking account due to repeated attempts by their lender to debit payments. With auto title loans, consumers risk their car or truck and a resulting loss of mobility, or becoming swamped in a cycle of debt.
The CFPB says it is considering proposals to put an end to payday debt traps by requiring lenders to take steps to determine whether borrowers can repay their loan and still meet other financial obligations.
Does your doctor know how much those medical tests cost?
A survey found that little more than a third of physicians knew how much certain medical procedures and tests cost05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Rising drug costs have been a hot topic of debate recently, but a new study suggests that these are not the only medical costs that consumers have to worry...
Rising drug costs have been a hot topic of debate recently, but a new study suggests that these are not the only medical costs that consumers have to worry about.
Researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice surveyed a selection of doctors from Atrius Health – the largest ambulatory care provider in Massachusetts. The participants were asked questions related to the cost of medical tests and procedures; they were also asked about how much they believed they were responsible for controlling costs for patients.
The researchers found that while the vast majority of physicians believed they were responsible for controlling costs for their patients (92.2%), little more than a third of the respondents (36.9%) actually admitted to having an understanding of how much certain procedures and tests actually cost.
Care vs. costs
The researchers began their study in an effort to support a new initiative called “Choosing Wisely,” a campaign started in 2012 by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) that seeks to educate doctors on low-value health care services – tests and procedures that may be expensive or take a lot of time but don’t actually give much of a benefit to the patient.
A good portion of physicians in the study had strong feelings about doing their part to keep costs down. While they recognized that it actually was their responsibility to keep costs down, about one third of the respondents felt that it was unfair for doctors to have to be both concerned about costs and the welfare of their patients.
Another third of respondents said that they try not to think about costs at all while considering medical decisions, with roughly the same amount saying that they’re simply too busy to worry about costs on top of everything else.
However, the study also revealed that different types of doctors face different pressures when it comes to dealing with their patients and costs.
Primary care physicians, for example, reported feeling much more pressured by patients to order medical tests and screenings than medical or surgical specialists (68.3% vs. 58% and 55.8%, respectively.)
Despite these patient pressures, many of the participants stated that they were aware of the Choosing Wisely campaign. Nearly half of all physicians stated that they were aware of the program (47.2%), while medical and surgical specialists seemed less informed, with 37.4% and 27% being aware of it, respectively.
Responsibility for change
The researchers hope that extra support from the medical community can help keep medical costs low, but they also know that the responsibility for creating a tangible change is up to more than just the doctors.
“Our analysis points to the fact that there is willingness on the part of physicians to forgo low-value care services, if they have appropriate support that addresses patient demand, malpractice concerns, and other drivers of overuse,” said Dr. Carrier Colla, lead author of the study.
“But, it’s also clear that to get a meaningful reduction in the use of low-value services, we need to engage more than just physicians. The behavior and attitudes of patients, regulators and other stake holders all play a part in the consumption of these low-value services.”
New bill aims to combat food waste
Seeks to cut down on expiration date label confusion05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Forty percent of all food in America is wasted, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). When food goes to waste, so do our resources....
Forty percent of all food in America is wasted, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). When food goes to waste, so do our resources.
At some point or another, you’ve probably contributed to the issue of food waste -- but you might not have realized it. Experts say up to 90% of us misinterpret expiration date labels and throw food away prematurely.
Now, a new bill introduced today in the U.S. Senate and House aims to make expiration date labels a little clearer. The ultimate goal: to reduce food waste and save resources.
“Perfectly good food”
We’ve been taught to believe that a looming expiration date signals that food is about to become unsafe to eat. Often, however, that’s not the case.
“Contrary to popular belief, expiration date labels often don’t indicate whether food is still safe to eat,” said Dana Gunders, Senior Scientist at the NRDC in a statement. “As a result, we are tossing massive amounts of perfectly good food in the trash -- along with all of the water, climate pollution, and money it took to get it to our fridge.”
Gunders explains that the bill will help clarify the real meaning of the dates on food labels, while the companion bills would establish standard federal rules for the dates on food labels.
Save the Food campaign
The NRDC and Ad Council recently unveiled a new national public service campaign called Save The Food (video below). The campaign seeks to combat waste by showing consumers just how many resources go into a product before it reaches their home.
In a country where one in seven Americans is food insecure, we still tend to waste a substantial amount of food each year. It is estimated that we throw away $162 billion worth of food annually (about $1,500 worth per household).
Both the bill and the campaign seek to cut down on food waste by raising awareness of the issue and altering consumer's perceptions surrounding date labels.
While others falter, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods expand
The stores appeal to a wide array of customers and feature an ever-changing selection05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Sears and Kmart are slowly fading from the scene, Macy's is cutting back, and JC Penney is adding appliances to make up for slumping sales in other departm...
Sears and Kmart are slowly fading from the scene, Macy's is cutting back, and JC Penney is adding appliances to make up for slumping sales in other departments. Gap's sales are weak and Aeropostale has filed for bankruptcy.
Is any retailer (other than Amazon) doing well?
The answer, it turns out, is yes, and that retailer is TJX Companies, owner of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, among other brands. It is announcing plans to grow its number of stores by more than 50 percent, to a total of 5,600 when it is finished, up from the current total of nearly 3,700.
"We are confident that we can continue to open stores around the world," CEO Ernie Herrman told investors Tuesday.
The company opened 219 stores last year and said it is not planning on closing any of them this year. Sales have been strong, rising 7% in the first quarter. Nearly all of the sales are the brick-and-mortar stores, not online.
“We are particularly pleased with our very strong customer traffic, which drove the comp increases at every division. This tells us that our strategies to bring consumers exciting values on an eclectic and ever-changing mix of the right fashions and brands, sourced from across the globe, are working," Herrman said. "We are confident that we are growing our customer base and gaining market share."
What's the explanation?
How can this be?
One answer is fairly obvious: shoppers like the stores and feel that it's a small adventure to stop in for a quick browse. That's because the stores are, or at least present themselves as being, akin to outlets. No two stores have exactly the same items and the inventory changes constantly.
"I like to come here because you never know what you're going to find but you know there'll be something you just have to have," said a shopper outside a HomeGoods store in Palm Desert, Calif., recently.
This shopper was expensively dressed and drove off in a new Audi, headed for the expensive country club area of Palm Desert. Other shoppers arrived in old pickup trucks with children in tow, illustrating the rather unique appeal of the TJX stores -- they draw consumers from all ends of the socio-economic scale.
Some people shop there because their budget requires them to look for bargains while others who could afford to go to Neiman Marcus (and probably do, once in a while) go there often because they enjoy the eclectic selection.
It's a formula that few other national chains have managed to duplicate, and the jury is out on how long it will work for TJX.
Telephone service, wired and wireless, accounts for the lion's share of complaints05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Categories of complaints to the FCCPeople are mad about a lot of things, and now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping put some numb...
San Francisco to require warnings on sugary drink ads
The goal is to reduce obesity and the resulting health complications05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Just about everything in California has one of those little labels saying it may give you cancer, make you fat, or cause other difficulties. San Francisco ...
Just about everything in California has one of those little labels saying it may give you cancer, make you fat, or cause other difficulties. San Francisco is going one step further, requiring warnings on advertisements for sugary drinks.
“WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”
The idea, of course, is to slow the rise of obesity and related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The beverage industry objected and went to court to block the law, but it failed. Now the measure is set to go into effect July 25.
The soft drink makers argued that the law violates their free speech rights, but U.S. District Judge Edward Chen Tuesday denied a request for an injunction, saying the soda barons were unlikely to prevail in court.
The warnings won't appear on soda cans but must cover 20 percent of the area of any ad for sugary drinks that appear on billboards, posters, walls, bus shelters, and transit vehicles. Newspapers and magazines aren't included.
Other government agencies have tried to curb Americans' thirst for sugary drinks, most notably New York City which tried to outlaw the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. A state court struck down the law in 2014, saying the city had exceeded its authority.
Phildealphia is currently considering a tax of three cents per ounce on drinks with added sugar and several states are considering requiring warning labels, although none of the efforts appear likely to be implemented anytime soon.
Such draconian measures may not be necessary. It was reported in March that U.S. soda consumption was at its lowest level since 1985.
"Drinking nine or 10 teaspoons of sugar makes no sense, and most Americans have wised up to what’s really in a single soda,” said Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest when the figures were released.
It's not quite clear what Americans are drinking instead. Giant sugary coffee drinks maybe?
Best credit cards for a major purchase
These cards provide up to 21 months with no interest05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Personal finance experts are quick to tell you that the best way to stay out of financial trouble is to not carry a credit card balance. When the bill come...
Personal finance experts are quick to tell you that the best way to stay out of financial trouble is to not carry a credit card balance. When the bill comes in each month, pay the full amount.
But not everyone follows that advice. Statistics vary depending on the source, but the average U.S. household carries $5,000 to $6,600 in credit card debt at any given time. Making matters worse, they may be paying 20% or more in interest, depending on their credit ratings.
Most consumers who carry a balance probably didn't intend to do so – there was an unexpected dental bill or car repair here and there, and debt just started to pile up.
Credit card debt is very expensive. There are almost no interest rates in single digits. If you have excellent credit, maybe you'll pay 12% APR. If your credit is so-so, you can expect your rate to be significantly higher.
Low interest cards
So if you are thinking of applying for a credit card and using it to make a major purchase, you want a card that charges as little interest as possible. In that case, your best choice will probably be a card that charges no interest for an introductory period – and the period should be as long as possible.
These cards are mostly marketed for transferring balances from high interest cards, but fortunately they also extend the same 0% perk for purchases, at least for a limited time. If you need a few months to pay for a new refrigerator, for example, one of these cards might be worth considering.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card is a favorite of consumers who are transferring a balance, because it provides a 21-month 0% interest introductory period on balance transfers. Fortunately, it also offers a 21-month interest-free period on purchases.
Other benefits include no annual fee and 24/7 access to personalized concierge service, providing help in booking hotels and flights and finding entertainment. You'll need an excellent credit score to get it, however.
Citi Simplicity Card
The Citi Simplicity Card also offers 21 months with no interest on both balance transfers and purchases. Other perks include no late fees, no penalty rate, and no annual fee.
Both of the Citi Cards carry a 3% balance transfer fee, but if you only plan to use the card to make a purchase that you will pay off during the 21 month introductory period, you don't really care. This card also requires an excellent credit score.
If your credit score isn't excellent, but only good, you might consider the Chase Freedom Card. It has a 0% introductory period, but for only 15 months.
But since it's a rewards card, it offers some other benefits as well. For example, if you spend $500 during the first three months the account is open, it pays you a bonus of $150 cash back, which can go toward that new refrigerator. You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending in different rotating categories.
Just remember that after you've made your major purchase with any of these three cards and paid for it, interest-free over 15 to 21 months, regular interest rates will apply on any remaining balance. so you'll want to make sure the purchase is completely paid for by then.
From then on, use the card like any credit card – just pay the balance in full each month.
What to do before bringing home a new puppy
Your heart might be ready, but is your home?05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Looking into the eyes of an adorable puppy can cause serious side effects, including visions of puppy-filled days and a strong desire to bring it home. But...
Looking into the eyes of an adorable puppy can cause serious side effects, including visions of puppy-filled days and a strong desire to bring it home. But before signing those adoption papers, it’s important make sure you’re prepared.
It goes without saying that puppies are a big responsibility. And while they often atone for their misdeeds with cuddles and cuteness, it’s certainly not always easy to be a puppy parent. Accidents, chewed shoes, and lots of training are all part of the journey.
But with some reading and preparation, you might find it a little easier to transition into dog ownership. So how can you prepare yourself and your home for a new puppy?
If puppy season has you tempted to take home a furry friend, take a look at these tips for adopting a new puppy.
- Find the right puppy personality. First and foremost, prospective dog adopters should seek out a puppy with the right personality. Finding a puppy personality that works with you and your lifestyle can make all the difference, according to the pet experts at DogVacay. Some households might be better suited to a laid back, kid-friendly dog while others might enjoy a more active pup.
- Puppy-proof the house. You might be mentally prepared, but you’ll also need to make sure your home is ready for the new addition. Puppy-proofing your house will involve latching all the trash can lids, covering up wiring, ensuring all your houseplants are safe for dogs, and putting away hazardous chemicals. You’ll also want to set up areas for your new puppy to eat and sleep.
- Buy the essentials. Make a trip to the pet store to stock on the essentials. Your new puppy will need a leash, harness, collar, waste bags, dog food, and toys.
- Spend lots of time together. Once your new puppy is home, bonding time can commence. Be prepared to spend lots of time getting to know your pup. Walking your dog, providing frequent potty breaks, playing with him, and training him are also important at this stage.
- Consistency in training. Puppyhood is the ideal time to train your dog. The earlier and more consistent your training is, the more effective it will be in the long run. Get everyone in the household on the same page as far as discipline. If you don’t want a mealtime beggar on your hands, for example, be sure no one feeds him under the table. Mixed messages can be highly confusing to puppies.
- Socialization. During Fido’s first year, be sure to introduce him to as many types of people and animals as possible. Local dog parks or pet-friendly workplaces can be great places to spend time out of the house with your new puppy.
Adobe: prices are going down, not up
Company monitors online purchases and sees consumers paying less05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
This week the government reported the Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 0.4% in April compared to March, and was up 1.1% compared to last year. Economists ...
This week the government reported the Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 0.4% in April compared to March, and was up 1.1% compared to last year. Economists pounced on the news that inflation is picking up, justifying the Federal Reserve's policy of boosting interest rates.
But Adobe, which recently launched a price-measuring system of its own, says prices are actually falling, not rising. It says its Digital Price Index (DPI), which measures online transactions, points to a continuing deflationary trend.
It's possible, of course, that both are correct. Prices for some things are going up. The cost of other things are going down. As a consumer, it all depends whether prices are higher or lower for the things you consume.
What's going up
April's CPI shows the cost of gasoline went up, along with food prices, education, car insurance, housing costs, and recreation.
But Adobe’s April report for consumer goods prices found deflation between 0.2% and 2.4% for all the categories it tracks. The sole exception was hotel prices, which went up over the last 12 months.
Between March 2015 and March 2016 Adobe's DPI found that prices for TVs, computers, flights, appliances, toys, furniture, bedding, and sporting goods went down between 2.2% and 19.8%. In fairness, the government's CPI tracked similar price declines in those categories – they just had less impact in the overall CPI.
Monitors online purchases
Adobe gets its data by analyzing billions of digital transactions involving 2.2 million products sold online. It says it is able to provide a more accurate picture of what is happening with prices consumers pay.
“With brands rapidly innovating and introducing new products and consumers increasingly shopping online, it’s essential that we have a mechanism to identify digital pricing trends quickly and accurately,” said Mickey Mericle, Vice President, Marketing and Customer Insights at Adobe.
What causes prices to go down? In a word, competition. The money consumers spend on a particular thing gets spread around among a larger number of providers, who must then lower prices in order to win or keep customers.
When there are fewer providers of something, prices tend to go up, producing inflation.
While deflation might sound like a good thing for consumers, it usually isn't in the long run. Businesses that can't raise their prices over time don't grow, and might even close their doors, leading to higher unemployment.
Summer air travel projected to reach record level
Security checkpoints at busiest airports struggle with current traffic05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) struggles to screen passengers at the nation's busiest airports, its job may be about to get a lot hard...
As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) struggles to screen passengers at the nation's busiest airports, its job may be about to get a lot harder.
And for airline passengers passing through those busy airports, the nightmare may only be beginning.
Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade group for major U.S. airlines, has issued its summer air travel forecast, projecting this summer's passenger traffic to beat last year's by 4%. And last year was an all-time record.
“We saw airfares fall throughout 2015 and that trend continued in the first three months of 2016,” said John Heimlich, A4A Vice President and Chief Economist. “As airlines compete for passengers across an increasing portfolio of markets, air travel is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible.”
Not exactly good news
That might sound like good news, but it probably isn't. Already the bottlenecks at security check points have sent tempers boiling, as passengers can't get through the lines in time to make their flights.
As Chicago television station WLS reported over the weekend, 450 American Airlines passengers became stranded at O'Hare Airport Sunday when they couldn't get through security in time and the planes left without them.
Airline personnel rounded up hundreds of cots so the stranded passengers could spend the night in the terminal – a scene usually occurring only during a major weather emergency. It could well become a routine occurrence this summer at other busy airports.
A4A expects about 2.51 million passengers a day will book passage on U.S. airlines from June 1 through August 31 – 231 million over the course of the summer. To meet the record demand, it says airlines will offer 2.78 million seats per day.
Quickly optimize staffing
The airlines may be able to accommodate that number, but the real question is whether the TSA's security system can. A4A says TSA should move to “quickly optimize staffing” to reduce boarding wait times.
“Research shows that people who get through security more efficiently have a significantly better travel experience,” said Sharon Pinkerton, A4A Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs.
Pinkerton notes that spring travel has already proven to be a challenge, with some passengers waiting an hour and a half to get through lines. Some passengers at O'Hare told CNBC that they arrived three hours early, as instructed, only to find the security checkpoint was not staffed during the early morning hours.
TSA says it is working with fewer screeners and has tightened security procedures. Congress last week approved a measure that shifts $34 million in the TSA budget to the hiring and training of additional screeners.
What consumers know about their credit cards
They're largely in the dark about fees and rewards05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
If you ask most consumers about credit cards, they'll tell you they are handy ways to make a purchase online or in a store.Since millions of consumers ...
If you ask most consumers about credit cards, they'll tell you they are handy ways to make a purchase online or in a store.
Since millions of consumers carry credit card balances, they will also likely tell you that a credit card is an easy – albeit expensive – way to borrow money, since you could theoretically make payments on something forever.
Beyond that, consumers don't think much about the credit cards in their wallets. We know that because of a new study by NerdWallet, in which researchers asked consumers about their credit card knowledge.
Among the key takeaways is the fact that 41% of cardholders don't consider foreign transaction fees and fees for cash advances when they select a credit card. Nearly a third admitted to being confused by fees in general.
Confusion about rewards
About one-third of consumers with credit cards are also unsure how to rack up rewards. Although most – 73% – attach value to rewards, 19% said they don't really understand the dollar value attached to their card's rewards.
There also seems to be some confusion about what kind of points and rewards are most valuable.
“Most Americans would get more value from a general purpose, 3% cash-back card than a gas card issued by a national station chain,” the authors write. “Our analysis showed that gas prices would need to fall to $1.20 per gallon or lower for the typical gas card rewards to top a general purpose card that offers 3% cash back on gas purchases.”
Admittedly, if you aren't planning to travel outside the U.S., foreign transaction fees might not be a concern. However, NerdWallet reports that the foreign transaction fee on major credit cards can be as high as 3% on purchases.
Annual fee is most important to most
When it comes to fees, most consumers are focused on whether a card has an annual fee. Eighty-seven percent said they consider an annual fee when they decide to apply for a card.
It's probably not surprising that many consumers don't understand their card's rewards system, since systems and rules can differ card to card and be somewhat confusing. General rewards can come in the form of dollars, points, or miles. The value of each can vary, even within card types.
The NerdWallet study found in the case of airline cards that points or miles earned can be worth as much as three cents or less than a penny. The way the cardholder decides to redeem the reward can also affect its value.
A down week for mortgage applications
Contract interest rates were little-changed05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
After inching higher last week, mortgage applications are headed lower.According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications fell 1.6% in the wee...
After inching higher last week, mortgage applications are headed lower.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications fell 1.6% in the week ending May 13, while refinance applications rose 1%. That pushed the refinance share of mortgage activity to 54.7% of total applications from 52.8% the previous week.
The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity fell to 5.5% of total applications, the FHA share dipped to 12.6% from 13.0%, the VA share came in at 12.2%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.7%.
Contract interest rates
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) was unchanged at 3.82%, with points holding steady at 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate was unchanged from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) remained at 3.74%, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.31 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA slipped one basis point, to 3.63% from 3.64%, with points increasing to 0.28 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs fell from 3.06% to 3.02%, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
- The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs inched up one basis point to 2.94%, with points increasing to 0.30 from 0.22 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.
Trader Joe’s Kale Kale & Edamame Salad recalled
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
WCD Kitchen of Fontana, Calif., is recalling Trader Joe’s Kale & Edamame Salad. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illness...
WCD Kitchen of Fontana, Calif., is recalling Trader Joe’s Kale & Edamame Salad.
The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The 3,763 recalled salads (UPC 00967112), with a “USE BY May 05, 2016 through May 14, 2016,” were distributed to Trader Joe’s stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The salad is packaged in a 10-oz. plastic clamshell and the “Use By” Date is stickered on the front of the label.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product may return it to Trader Joe’s for a full refund.
Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-909-574-4140, 8 AM – 4:30 PM, (PST), Monday – Friday.
Ford recalls model year 2016 Fusions
The driver may not be adequately restrained in a crash05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ford Motor Company is recalling 39 model year 2016 Ford Fusions manufactured from March 10, 2016, through March 16, 2016Ford Motor Company. The fro...
Ford Motor Company is recalling 39 model year 2016 Ford Fusions manufactured from March 10, 2016, through March 16, 2016Ford Motor Company.
The front driver seat track assembly's rear riser may have been improperly welded to the seat track rail, and as a result, the driver may not be adequately restrained in a crash. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) numbers 207, "Seating Systems" and 210, "Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages."
An improperly welded driver seat riser may fail to adequately restrain the driver during crash, increasing the risk of injury.
What to do
Ford quarantined the affected vehicles at dealerships prior to their sale. Dealers will replace the front driver seat track rail, free of charge.
The recall began on April 26, 2016. Ford's number for this recall is 16C05.
Dollywood Sweet & Salty Trail Mix recalled
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Rucker’s Makin’ Batch Candies of Bridgeport, Ill., is recalling Dollywood Sweet & Salty Trail Mix. The product may be contaminated with Listeria mo...
Rucker’s Makin’ Batch Candies of Bridgeport, Ill., is recalling Dollywood Sweet & Salty Trail Mix.
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date.
The recalled product is packaged in an 11-oz. clear bag with “Dollywood Theme Park” label, UPC 490000503272, and best by codes 11-22-16 and 1-6-17, and was distributed at Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, TN.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consumer it.
Consumers desiring a refund or who have questions may contact Rucker’s at 618-945-7778 or 888-622-2639 Mon – Fri. 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (CST), or by email at
Pirelli recalls P Zero Trofeo tires
The tires may not be marked with a date code05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Pirelli Tire is recalling 42 P Zero Trofeo tires, size 225/50RR15 91Y, manufactured from April 1, 2015, through April 7, 2015. The tires may not be...
Pirelli Tire is recalling 42 P Zero Trofeo tires, size 225/50RR15 91Y, manufactured from April 1, 2015, through April 7, 2015.
The tires may not be marked with a date code and, as such, fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 139, "New Pneumatic Radial Tires for Light Vehicles."
A missing date code could render the tire difficult to identify in the event of a safety-related issue, possibly causing them not to be removed from service. This could increase the risk of crash.
What to do
Pirelli will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires missing the date code, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin during May 2016.
Owners may contact Pirelli customer service at 1-800-747-3554.
NORPAC Foods recalls Natural Directions organic mixed vegetables and green peas
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/18/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
NORPAC Foods of Salem, Ore., is recalling two (2) frozen private label vegetable items -- Natural Directions Organic Mixed Vegetables and Natural Direction...
NORPAC Foods of Salem, Ore., is recalling two (2) frozen private label vegetable items -- Natural Directions Organic Mixed Vegetables and Natural Directions Organic Green Peas.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses have been reported to date .
The following products are being recalled:
The recalled products may have been sold in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Guam.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled products may return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund, or discard them.
Consumers with questions may call the company at 888-641-9349, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (PDT).
Eating horseradish helps fight against cancer, researchers say
The potent condiment contains compounds that eliminate cancer-causing free radicals05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
Researchers are continuing to gather more evidence on the beneficial health effects of eating certain foods. As we reported recently, certain products like...
Researchers are continuing to gather more evidence on the beneficial health effects of eating certain foods. As we reported recently, certain products like onions, turmeric, and red grapes can go a long way towards protecting consumers from chronic inflammation; now, new research shows that eating horseradish can help protect against cancer.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, has documented how certain compounds found in horseradish, called glucosinolates, can help detoxify and eliminate free radicals in the body, chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
"We knew horseradish had health benefits, but in this study, we were able to link it to the activation of certain detoxifying enzymes for the first time,” said University of Illinois scientist Mosbah Kushad.
Rating different strains
Previous research done by Kushad and other researchers had identified that horseradish contained glucosinolates, noting that it contained levels that were up to ten times higher than those found in other foods like broccoli.
The new study, however, set out to see if different grades of horseradish were able to detoxify or eliminate free radicals and other cancer-causing agents to a greater degree.
“There was no information on whether the USDA grade of the horseradish root is associated with cancer preventive activity, so we wanted to test that,” said Kushad.
The team tested 11 horseradish strains that were graded by the USDA into three different categories: U.S. Fancy, U.S. No. 1, and U.S. No. 2. The findings suggest that strains rated as U.S. Fancy had significantly higher levels allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), a particular type of glucosinolate that is good at fighting cancer.
Only a teaspoon is needed
The researchers state that incorporating foods that have AITC into your diet can go a long way towards fighting cancer. In addition to being particularly strong at eliminating cancer-causing agents, it is very easily absorbed by the body; researchers estimate that up to 90 percent of it is absorbed when ingested.
Consumers who are worried about having to eat a ton of horseradish to gain these health benefits can also rest easy; the researchers say that consuming just a teaspoon of the potent condiment is necessary to reap the rewards.
Report finds no health problems in genetically engineered food
The National Research Council finds natural, GE foods "substantially equivalent"05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
It's currently popular to portray foods made from genetically engineered (GE) crops as hazardous to human health, but a report issued today by the National...
It's currently popular to portray foods made from genetically engineered (GE) crops as hazardous to human health, but a report issued today by the National Academy of Sciences finds no such risks.
While not declaring genetically engineered foods perfectly safe, the academy's National Research Council found they cause no more health problems than other foods, which aren't perfectly safe either.
The council said it found no evidence of cancer or other health problems caused by genetically engineered foods and said that "sweeping statements about GE crops are problematic because issues related to them are multidimensional."
The 407-page report examined in detail the evidence for and against GE crops and said it found no evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than "natural" foods, finding instead that the two are "substantially equivalent."
The report comes as controversy over GE foods seems to be reaching a climax. In July, Vermont will impose the country's first law requiring that GE foods be labeled and legislatures and activists in other states are pressing for similar measures.
The report was greeted warmly by food and scientific interests. The Center for Science in the Public Interest called it "a thorough and comprehensive evidence-based report."
"One of the report’s most significant findings is that there are no food safety or human health impacts from eating foods and ingredients made from currently engineered crops. That should give consumers confidence about the safety of eating foods that have those ingredients," said CSPI Biotechnology Director Gregory Jaffe.
However, Jaffe said it was "disappointing that the report does not recommend that FDA’s oversight change from a voluntary to a mandatory process." He said that "would have been consistent with the report’s acknowledgement that federal oversight is important to ensure both safety and public confidence."
Other groups weren't so kind. Some claimed the NAS panel was heavily influenced by industry interests.
"More than half of the invited authors of the new NRC study are involved in GMO development or promotion or have ties to the biotechnology industry," the group Food and Water Watch said.
No let up in persistent recession warnings
Black cloud seems to be hanging over Wall Street05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Since the beginning of the year, the financial community has been in a funk. One bank, analyst, economist, and major Wall Street player after another has w...
Since the beginning of the year, the financial community has been in a funk. One bank, analyst, economist, and major Wall Street player after another has worried out loud about a recession.
These worries are being expressed as the stock market has churned along near recent highs, employment has been rising, and workers' wages have begun to increase.
One of the latest to warn of a coming recession is hedge fund manager John H. Burbank III, of Passport Capital.
Yahoo Finance quotes Burbank in an investment letter as saying he believes that within the next year the world will experience a major Chinese currency devaluation and a U.S. recession.
U.S. election is a wild card
“It is for certain in seven months we will see a U.S. election whose outcome may provoke or have discounted one or both,” Burbank wrote. “China will enter their liquidity crisis with likely the largest amount of non-performing debt in the world; the U.S. will enter its recession with the smallest rate reduction potential in history. For both it will be a normal ending after decades of extending their booms with the first quarter’s flip-flops possibly being their final policy moves."
Investment bankers have also been wearing grim expressions lately. JP Morgan is predicting even lower bond rates on the belief that the economy is running out of gas. The New York Post reports that 2016 has so far been one of the most pessimistic on Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis.
“We’ve had crises in the past. What’s different about this is there’s not a crisis and we still feel pessimistic,” Paul Mortimer-Lee, chief economist at BNP Paribas, told The Post. “If something nasty comes around the corner, we’re in trouble.”
Then there are the nation's retailers, who have turned in disappointing earnings over the last couple of weeks. Both Kohl's and Macy's reported a drop in same store sales as consumers disappeared from sight.
If consumers are earning more and have a better chance of being employed, why aren't they spending? While some see that as a sign the economy is slowing, others see it as a sign the economy is shifting. Amazon.com, it turns out, is doing quite well. So are Home Depot and Lowes.
Where, then, is all the recession worry coming from? Perhaps it is coming from those segments that are losing business in the new environment. After all, when your sales go down and your costs go up, it's a recession for you.
The question, of course, is will it become a recession for everyone else? A growing number of people think so.
14 million more Takata airbags being recalled
No one yet knows which cars have the potentially defective airbags05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Takata Corporation is recalling nearly 14 million airbags in the latest of a massive series of recalls, although it is not yet known which cars have the po...
Takata Corporation is recalling nearly 14 million airbags in the latest of a massive series of recalls, although it is not yet known which cars have the potentially defective units.
The company is working with manufacturers to identify the affected vehicles.
Takata said it has determined that certain PSPI, PSPI-1.1, PSPI-2, PSPI 6, PSPI-L, and SPI airbag inflators assembled as part of the front airbag modules and used as original equipment or replacement equipment -- such as equipment installed after a vehicle crash necessitating replacement of the original airbags -- may rupture due to propellant degradation.
An inflator rupture may result in metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.
This issue is being handled in three separate categories:
- Takata says 250,000 units are affected by long-term exposure to lower absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling. This recall addresses vehicles that have been registered in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- Another 5.1 million units are affected by long-term exposure to moderate absolute humidity, temperatures, and temperature cycling. This recall addresses vehicles that have been registered in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- The final 8.5 million units are affected by long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, high temperatures, and high temperature cycling. This recall addresses vehicles that have been registered in the states of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What to do
Takata will be working with vehicle manufacturers to determine which vehicles the affected inflators were installed in, either as original equipment or as replacement equipment during service.
As this work progresses, numerous vehicle recalls will likely be announced by the affected vehicle manufacturers.
Owners may contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153).
Sugarless gum, candy, toothpaste may be deadly for dogs
They may contain xylitol, which can cause dogs' blood sugar to plummet05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Everybody knows that chocolate is bad for dogs. But the dangers of sugarless chewing gum aren't as well known, even though the consequences can be just as ...
Everybody knows that chocolate is bad for dogs. But the dangers of sugarless chewing gum aren't as well known, even though the consequences can be just as severe.
Sugarless gum often contains xylitol, a sweetener known as sugar alcohol. It's used in many products and foods for human use but can have devastating effects on your pet.
Over the past several years, the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received several reports—many of which pertained to chewing gum—of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, according to Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at FDA.
Not just gum
It's not just gum that often contains xylitol. You can also find it in sugar-free candy, including mints and chocolate bars. Other products that may contain xylitol include:
- breath mints;
- baked goods;
- cough syrup;
- children’s and adult chewable vitamins;
- mouthwash; and
Put simply, the problem with xylitol is that it can cause a rapid decrease in blood sugar. That's because -- unlike in humans -- xylitol causes a rapid increase of insulin from the dog's pancreas, which in turn can cause blood sugar levels to plunge to dangerous levels.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures.
If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately, Hartogensis advises. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be monitored.
The surest way to keep your dog from accidentally woofing down xylitol is to keep all human food, drugs, and cosmetics in a safe place, keeping in mind that many dogs are adept at counter-surfing.
And by the way, note that human toothpaste often contains xylitol and should never be used for dogs.
What about cats? Their tolerance for xylitol is uncertain, but since most cats hate sweets, it's not usually a problem.
Study identifies several foods that can help reduce chronic inflammation
Eating food products like onions, red grapes, and turmeric could be beneficial, researchers say05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Christopher Maynard
One of the body’s first lines of defense against injury, infection, or outside toxins is inflammation – the signature, and sometimes painful, swelling and...
One of the body’s first lines of defense against injury, infection, or outside toxins is inflammation – the signature, and sometimes painful, swelling and redness that you may have experienced after sustaining an injury.
But the effects of chronic inflammation can be especially painful, and it can be devastating to your health if left unchecked. In fact, chronic inflammation can often trigger the onset of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, and it is especially potent in individuals as they get older.
There are certain anti-inflammatory drugs that can reduce swelling and inflammation, but a new study from the University of Liverpool has identified several foods that can prevent inflammation as well, including products like onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea, and açai berries. The researchers say that the common trait that many of them share are the inclusion of certain chemicals called polyphenols.
Tied to fruit and vegetable intake
Polyphenols are classified as micronutrients, and the researchers say that they have already been proven to be beneficial at preventing degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
They help by contributing to the release of cytokines in the body – a type of molecule that helps cells communicate with each other. When cytokine is released, cells are able to mobilize more quickly to fight infection or trauma so that inflammation can be reduced.
Although the researchers admit that a lot of research must be done to fully understand the potencies of different polyphenols, they recognize that fruit and vegetable intake modulate cytokine, and that certain products have more of an impact than others.
“The results of our study suggest that (poly)phenols derived from onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea and açai berries may help reduce the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in people at risk of chronic inflammation,” said Sian Richardson, one of the senior researcher.
Regular grooming can alert pet owners of health problems
What groomers look for while they're brushing your dog05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Grooming is more than just a means of making your pooch the prettiest on the block. It's also important to your dog's health.The brushing, bathing, and...
Grooming is more than just a means of making your pooch the prettiest on the block. It's also important to your dog's health.
The brushing, bathing, and general once-over given by groomers can help alert owners that something is amiss in a dog’s physical health. Brushing may help remove dead hair, dirt, and dandruff, but checking a dog’s skin and coat can also reveal abnormalities that should be treated.
Regular grooming appointments can help pet parents stay on top of any health concerns that may arise. Groomers check for ticks, fleas, and dry patches on the skin, as well as issues with a dog's nails, teeth, ears, or eyes. Noticing health problems such as these early on enables pet parents to seek treatment early.
What do groomers look for when assessing a dog's physical health? Take a look at Petco’s 7-Point Pet Care Check list, which is designed to help identify possible issues.
- Eyes. Looking at your pup’s peepers can help pet stylists spot a health issue. Bright eyes are a sign of a healthy dog, but dull colored eyes (or eyes with a yellow or green discharge) may indicate that a dog is suffering from an allergy, infection, or something more serious.
- Ears. Most dogs’ ears don’t smell like roses, but very strong odors may be a sign of an issue. Ears that are swollen, tender, and have discharge also tell pet stylists that something is up.
- Nose. Dry, cracked noses -- especially those with loss of pigmentation, discharge, scabs, or sensitive open sores -- may hint at something bigger and serve as a sign that pet parents should seek professional medical help.
- Mouth and teeth. Decaying teeth and swollen gums may be signs of gum disease. But healthy teeth with puffy gums can also be a warning sign.
- Paw pads. Cracked pads can be caused by irritants, diet, or rough terrain. They’re not always a sign of a serious problem, but they could be depending on the history of a pet.
- Skin and coat. Pet stylists look for lumps, bumps, scrapes, hot spots, warts, and matting (any raised surface, essentially) when running their hands along the pet’s body.
- Underside. Odors, matting, or insects on a pet's underside can be cause for concern, as can red, swollen, or irritated skin. Pet stylists look for all of these symptoms and may recommend treatment by a veterinarian.
PetMD suggests starting dogs off with regular grooming appointments while they’re young (as early as three weeks old). Waiting too long to expose dogs to grooming practices like these (nail clipping and ear cleaning, especially) could make the experience more stressful and unfamiliar to them later.
Hawaii sues Takata and Honda over defective airbags
The state wants each company to pay $10,000 for each affected vehicle05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Hawaii is suing Takata and Honda, accusing them of covering up defects in Takata's airbags. It's the first state to take Takata to court over the massive r...
Hawaii is suing Takata and Honda, accusing them of covering up defects in Takata's airbags. It's the first state to take Takata to court over the massive recall of airbags, which have been linked to 13 deaths and hundreds of injuries worldwide.
Takata announced today that it is recalling 14 million more airbags, although it doesn't yet know which cars contain the potentially defective units.
Hawaii is seeking $10,000 for each affected vehicle in the state, estimated to be about 70,000.
“Companies that supply and market goods to Hawai’i consumers are obligated to deliver products that are safe and to provide consumers with full, accurate, and timely information when dangers become known," said Stephen Levins, Executive Director of the State Office of Consumer Protection. "Takata and Honda put their own profits and reputations ahead of honesty and their customers’ safety. We intend to hold them accountable for their conduct.”
Takata is also being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and faces an avalanche of lawsuits. Federal regulators earlier this month said an additional 40 million Takata airbags need to be replaced, in addition to 28.8 million already recalled.
Hawaii is one of the high-humidity states where the recall was initially focused. In its suit, the state says its tropical climate puts residents at a “significantly greater risk of overly aggressive combustion, rupture, and injury and/or death caused by Takata’s unsafe airbags.”
More new parents are hiring 'baby sleep consultants'
Coaches aim to educate parents on safe and consistent sleep practices05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
“Goodbye, sleep” tends to be the thought most closely associated with bringing home a baby. There is great joy in parenting a newborn, of course, but there...
“Goodbye, sleep” tends to be the thought most closely associated with bringing home a baby. There is great joy in parenting a newborn, of course, but there are also many sleepless nights.
Now, a new trend is here to help parents navigate the confusing world of infant sleep schedules. Instead of going it alone, more parents are hiring baby sleep coaches.
A CBS affiliate in San Francisco reports that more parents are tapping into the wisdom of baby sleep consultants, who come armed with such advice as, “No binkie. No swaddle, no bouncing, no rocking … calm before (the baby) goes down.”
Sleep consultants like Vivian Sonnenberg believe that, in addition to following the guidelines for safe sleep set forth by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, it’s important to keep sleep practices consistent.
Educating mom and dad
Crying babies may be the squeaky wheel in the equation, but it’s parents who often need the attention. Sleep consultants’ efforts are primarily geared toward teaching parents how to get their babies on good sleep schedules.
“She’s definitely training me,” Lisa, one of Sonnenberg’s clients, tells CBS. ”I think she is an important resource for me as a new mom. In our society nowadays, we don’t necessarily have the aunts and the grandmas and all of that support around us.”
The services of a sleep consultant don't come cheap; prices range from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000, depending on how much coaching a parent requests. Small amounts of coaching can be dished out via phone call, but some coaches also offer overnight stays.
Experience can vary
New mom Susan Sanders says her baby sleep consultant, Melissa Zdrodowski of Sleep Sisters, had her daughter sleeping through the night in just a few weeks.
But because baby sleep consultants are not currently required to have state licenses, training and experience can vary. Sanders suggests parents do a little research before hiring a sleep consultant.
“Like anything, you really want someone who is educated,” Sanders told CBS.” And as a doctor, I was drawn to someone who has an evidenced-based practice.”
Insurance company announces partnership with Openbay05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Insurance companies are there to write a check when someone runs into your car. But Allstate is expanding its role, teaming with a company to perform routi...
Survey finds U.S. homes have too many opioid drugs
Doctors say they should advise parents to dispose of leftover pills05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Doctors are taking a new look at how they prescribe pain medication for children, as rates of opioid drug abuse rise nationwide.While it may be helpful...
Doctors are taking a new look at how they prescribe pain medication for children, as rates of opioid drug abuse rise nationwide.
While it may be helpful that physicians reduce or eliminate these prescriptions for children, it doesn't address the issue of drugs that are still in the medicine cabinet. And a survey suggests there are a lot of them.
Researchers at the University of Michigan report nearly half of parents whose children received opioids after surgery or illness reported keeping the leftover drugs at home. In many cases, parents who had disposed of the leftover pills had been advised to do so by the child's healthcare provider.
“We found that the amount of pain medication prescribed for children is frequently greater than the amount used, and too few parents recall clear direction from their provider about what to do with leftover medication,” said Sarah Clark, associate research scientist in the department of pediatrics at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Clark calls it a “missed opportunity” to head off prescription drug misuse among children. The leftover pills, she says, provide easy access to narcotics for teens and their friends.
When parents admitted to keeping the pills, the survey shows about 60% were for narcotics, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone.
The Michigan doctors say leftover drugs should be returned to a hospital, doctor's office, or pharmacy. A number of counties, responding to what has become an epidemic of opioid abuse, stage periodic “take-back” events to collect unused painkillers.
Reducing the number of prescriptions
Many health officials believe one answer is for doctors to prescribe fewer opioid drugs, especially for children. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for prescribing opioids, noting that in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.
Opioid prescriptions per capita increased 7.3% from 2007 to 2012. Oddly, the CDC found that opioid prescribing rates increased more for family practice, general practice, and internal medicine compared with other specialties.
The Michigan researchers say healthcare providers should not assume that parents understand the risks of keeping leftover pain medication in the home. They say doctors need to explain the risks to parents, and offer guidance on appropriate options for disposing of the pills.
Applebee's gives itself a makeover
Restaurant chain hopes smokey flavor brings in more customers05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
Applebee's made a name for itself by providing predictable food in a predictable atmosphere. But maybe that was something of a problem.How do you set y...
Applebee's made a name for itself by providing predictable food in a predictable atmosphere. But maybe that was something of a problem.
How do you set yourself apart when you remind customers of another place they've been to? It might work for McDonald's, but maybe not for a casual dining restaurant that needs to attract food-obsessed Millennials.
So Applebee's has carried out something of a reboot, characterizing it as “taking back America's neighborhoods.” The centerpiece is wood-fired grills as the cooking medium of choice.
A new national advertising campaign invites guests to “follow the enticing aroma of American oak smoke” into their neighborhood Applebee's. The ad campaign is aimed at cutting through the clutter and letting consumers know that, when it comes to taste, something has fundamentally changed.
"We're in the midst of a transformation at Applebee's, and we are recommitting ourselves to every aspect of the guest experience," said Julia Stewart, chairman and CEO of Applebee's parent company DineEquity, Inc.
We are, after all, in a food-centric culture, when today's young consumers savor every flavor and demand something special and unique when they pick up a knife and fork. So Applebee's hopes to differentiate itself with terms like “hand-cut in-house,” and “wood-fired.”
"This goes far beyond a few new menu items or a limited-time offer,” Stewart said. “This is the biggest investment in culinary excellence in the company's history – transforming the menu, instilling pride in franchisee team members, delighting current guests and giving others a reason to come back."
The company expects the mainstays of its new menu to be certified USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks and Bone-In Pork Chops. It says both items are being hand-cut in Applebee's restaurants by trained meat cutters before they hit the grill.
Fortune magazine reports Applebee's move from gas-fired grills to wood smoke will cost $75 million, and represents a huge gamble for the restaurant chain. It notes the transformation will change the taste of 40% of the items on the menu.
Then again, the payoff could be significant. Amid rising competition in the casual dining sector, Applebee's has seen same store sales drop for three straight quarters.
That comes at a time when casual restaurant sales have been rising, so a bold change could be a positive catalyst to reignite profits. Applebee's obviously hopes that where there's smoke, there's fire.
However, year-over-year numbers are lower05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Housing construction in April regained some of the ground it lost a month earlier.The Commerce Department reports privately-owned housing starts came i...
Consumer prices surge in April
The increase was spurred by rising gasoline costs05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
A big jump in the cost of gasoline helped send the cost of living up in April at the fastest clip in three years.The Department of Labor (DOL) reports ...
A big jump in the cost of gasoline helped send the cost of living up in April at the fastest clip in three years.
The Department of Labor (DOL) reports its Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased a seasonally adjusted 0.4% last month and is up 1.1% over the last 12 months.
Energy and food costs on the rise
An 8.1% increase in the cost of gasoline helped push overall energy prices up 3.4% last month. Also on the rise were the cost of fuel oil (+1.9) and natural gas (+0.6). Electricity prices dipped 0.3%. Despite the big April increase, energy costs are down 8.9% over the past year, led by gasoline which has plunged 13.8%.
Food prices inched up 0.2% last month with the food at home category, a reflection of grocery store prices, advancing just 0.1%. The cost of dairy and related products rose 0.4%, while cereals & bakery products and nonalcoholic beverages both increased 0.3%. The largest of the increases came in the “other food at home” group, which jumped 0.5 percent. Fruits and vegetables were lower (-0.5%), as were meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (-0.1%). In the past 12 months, food prices are up 0.9%.
The core rate of inflation, which excludes the volatile energy and food categories, rose 0.2% in April, with prices for shelter, medical care, motor vehicle insurance, airline fares, recreation, and education up 0.3%. Costs for household furnishings and operations, apparel, new vehicles, used cars and trucks, and communication were lower. Over the last 12 months, the core rate is up 1.1%.
The complete April CPI report is available on the DOL website.
Uncle Bucks Sweet & Salty Trail Mix recalled
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Rucker’s Wholesale and Service Co. of Bridgeport, Ill., is recalling Uncle Bucks Sweet & Salty Trail Mix The product may be contaminated with Liste...
Rucker’s Wholesale and Service Co. of Bridgeport, Ill., is recalling Uncle Bucks Sweet & Salty Trail Mix
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No illnesses are reported to date.
The recalled product is packaged in a 3-oz, clear bag with Uncle Buck paper header card, UPC 752545073390, and the best by codes 031417 & 041817. It was distributed in Bass Pro Shops stores nationwide.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it.
Consumers wishing to receive a refund or who have questions may contact Rucker’s at 618-945-2411, or 800-663-1857 Monday – Friday, 7:30AM - 4:30PM (CST), or by email at email@example.com
Kroger Broccoli Raisin Salad recalled
The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Kroger Co. is recalling Kroger Broccoli Raisin Salad because sunflower kernels included in the package may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....
The Kroger Co. is recalling Kroger Broccoli Raisin Salad because sunflower kernels included in the package may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
No customer illnesses have been reported to date.
The following item is being recalled:
The recalled product was distributed to Kroger, Jay-C, Dillons, Bakers, Gerbes, and Food 4 Less (Mid-West only) stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
What to do
Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but return it to the store for a full refund or replacement.
Consumers with questions may contact Kroger at 1-800-KROGERS, Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 12:00 am (EDT) and Saturday through Sunday 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (EST).
Volkswagen recalls model year 2016 Touregs
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System may be improperly calibrated05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 366 model year 2016 Touregs manufactured July 7, 2015, to March 3, 2016. The Tire Pressure Monitoring Syst...
Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 366 model year 2016 Touregs manufactured July 7, 2015, to March 3, 2016.
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) may be improperly calibrated and, as a result, may fail to warn the driver that the tire pressure is low. Additionally, the tire pressures printed on the Safety Certification labels are incorrect. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 138, "Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems."
If the vehicle is driven on underinflated tires, the tires may fail suddenly, increasing the risk of a crash.
What to do
Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will correct the TPMS settings and replace the safety certification label, free of charge. The recall began on May 13, 2016. Volkwagen's number for this recall is 44M9.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
The Pictsweet Company is recalling certain frozen vegetable products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes The following products, w...
Hobby Lobby recalls infant rattles
The rattle seams can separate, exposing the fiber stuffing and bell rattle05/17/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Hobby Lobby Stores of Oklahoma City, Okla., is recalling about 14,400 Little Wishes Chenille Stuffed Rattles. The rattle seams can separate, exposi...
Hobby Lobby Stores of Oklahoma City, Okla., is recalling about 14,400 Little Wishes Chenille Stuffed Rattles.
The rattle seams can separate, exposing the fiber stuffing and bell rattle, posing a choking hazard.
No incidents or injuries have been reported.
This recall involves Little Wishes Chenille Stuffed Rattles, including the Pink & Green Fish rattles, item number 5141577, and the Blue & Yellow Fish rattles, item number 5127642. The rattles are made of a soft chenille fabric with a fiber stuffing, and are 8.5 inches by 7 inches and have a hole cut out in the middle.
The item number is printed on the top left corner of the product hang tag. Rattles have a sewn-in label with “Reg. No. PA-15130(CN)” and “Hobby Lobby 9123069” printed on the front of the label.
The rattles, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Hobby Lobby Stores nationwide from January 2016, through April 2016, for about $7.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled rattles and return them to the nearest Hobby Lobby store for a full refund or store credit.
Consumers may contact Hobby Lobby Stores at 800-326-7931from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.hobbylobby.com and click on the “Recall” tab at the bottom of the page for more information.
Springtime is prime time for car transport companies
Shipping a car can be easy and convenient, but make sure you have the right carrier05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
Spring is prime time for lots of things, including college graduations and snowbirds heading back home from sunny climes -- and both help to make May the s...
Spring is prime time for lots of things, including college graduations and snowbirds heading back home from sunny climes -- and both help to make May the second busiest time for car transport companies, second only to the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Let's face it -- shipping your car is a lot easier than driving it, but the auto transport business needs to be approached with caution. There are lots of careful, reliable, and reputable companies, but there are also lots of quick-buck artists who went into business yesterday and may disappear tomorrow.
Horror stories abound, but there are plenty of other consumers who have shipped cars numerous times with no complications. As with anything, it pays to be realistic; things can go wrong and perfection isn't always possible.
The most common problem is scheduling delays. Car carriers operate on public highways and are affected by weather and congestion, just like the rest of us. Also, drivers get sick or sometimes are called off the road for family emergencies. Things happen, in other words. If your car shows up a few days late, it may be an inconvenience, but it's not a disaster.
Also, don't expect your car to arrive in showroom condition. Unless you are willing to pay a premium price for an enclosed carrier, your car will be exposed to the elements while it's being transported. It may get dirty and may even pick up a few new chip marks from flying gravel or other road debris.
Brokers vs. carriers
Besides maintaining reasonable expectations, it's vital to pick the right company. There are basically two kinds of car transport companies out there -- brokers and the actual carriers.
Many of the companies that appear to be carriers are actually brokers. They advertise on the internet and elsewhere, but they don't own any trucks and can't move your car from Point A to Point B themselves. Instead, they line up business and farm it out to carriers, sort of the way Uber finds someone to take you to the airport on a minute's notice.
This isn't necessarily bad. The brokers make it possible for lots of small, mom-and-pop haulers to stay in business. The problem is that some brokers make promises they can't keep, quoting unrealistically low prices and delivery times.
The safest course of action is to avoid brokers and book your job with a carrier. How can you be sure? Ask the company for its seven-digit USDOT number, something that is issued only to carriers, not brokers.
Once you get that number, you can go to Protect Your Move, a U.S. Department of Transportation website where you can check out your carrier's record and find some helpful tips.
You can also check reviews for major carriers at the ConsumerAffairs Auto Transporters section.
Amazon launching its own perishable brands, reports say
Everything from soup to nuts may be included under the new house brands05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Truman Lewis
It would almost be easier to write a news story about what Amazon is not doing rather than trying to keep up with everything it is doing. In the latest dev...
It would almost be easier to write a news story about what Amazon is not doing rather than trying to keep up with everything it is doing. In the latest development, the Wall Street Journal says Amazon will soon roll out its own private-label perishable foods under a variety of brands.
The new house brands include Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime and Mama Bear, according to the Journal. They include everything from nuts to coffee to baby food to vitamins.
Private-label brands are nothing new, of course, but they are increasingly popular at supermarkets and specialty outlets. Trader Joe's, in particular, sells almost exclusively its own brands and has succeeded in positioning them as superior, or at least more economical, to competing national brands.
Houseful of house brands
Amazon, of course, already has a houseful of house brands, including Pinzon linens and Elements baby wipes. Its AmazonBasics line includes hundreds of gadgets and convenience items, including audio cables, computer mouse units, and even dumbbells. It recently introduced new fashion lines including Lark & Ro and North Eleven.
Retailers like store brands because they're more profitable. Consumers once regarded what were once called "generic" items as lower quality but now mostly accept the notion that they are backed by the retailer, whose brand is often better etched into customers' consciousness than national brands once were.
Amazon is itself one of the most powerful brands on earth today, ranking at number twelve on Forbes' listings of the world's most valuable brands. The Kindle line of e-readers and tablets is also a well-established brand these days.
Maybe someday Amazon will launch its own brand of car. It could call it the Kardle.
The gardening process is filled with learning opportunities05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
Gardening with kids is a great way to get them thinking about how food is grown. There are thrills to be found in the process of growing something edible, ...
Supreme Court casts doubt on privacy class-action cases
The issue boils down to the "concreteness" of the damage allegedly suffered by consumers05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
The U.S. Supreme Court today dealt a blow to privacy class-action cases that do not clearly establish that plaintiffs have been harmed, but it side-stepped...
The U.S. Supreme Court today dealt a blow to privacy class-action cases that do not clearly establish that plaintiffs have been harmed, but it side-stepped setting any major precedents. The case involved information published by Spokeo, a "white pages" website that claims to provide accurate information about individuals.
Plaintiff Thomas Robins charged in the suit that Spokeo's site contained information about him that was incorrect and said that this had resulted in damage to his reputation and job prospects. He alleged that this constituted a violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1970.
But in a 7-2 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the high court vacated a February 2014 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had held in Robins' favor.
The trial court had originally dismissed Robins' case, saying he had not proven injury, but the Ninth Circuit disagreed and reinstated the case. Spokeo subsequently appealed, leading to today's Supreme Court ruling which split various hairs having to do with Robins' injury. It stated that while the harm was "tangible," it may not have been sufficiently "concrete" to warrant a trial.
Legal experts said the issue remains far from settled.
Craig A. Newman, a partner with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and chair of its privacy group, called it "a bit of a lateral pass back to the appellate court."
"Not surprisingly, the Court was focused on whether there was a concrete enough injury to allow standing. It concluded that this issue wasn’t given proper attention by the appellate court, and sent it back on those grounds,” Newman said.
The suit alleged that by setting itself up as a "people search engine," Spokeo had fallen under the requirements of FCRA, which apply primarily to consumer credit reporting agencies.
FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to follow certain procedures to ensure the accuracy of their reports, limits the use of reports for employment purposes, and requires posting a toll-free number for consumers to request reports.
Robins, 29, alleged that his Spokeo profile "states that he is married, has children, is in his 50’s, has a job, is relatively affluent, and holds a graduate degree" yet, according to Robins’ complaint, all of this information is incorrect.
The high court did not definitively rule on whether Robins' injuries were sufficient to warrant legal action, merely returning the case to lower courts for adjudication.
It also dodged ruling on whether a mere statutory violation is sufficient grounds for consumers to bring suit.
Newman noted, however, that both Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor dissented from the ruling, saying they "concluded that misinformation about a consumer, such as educational information, family circumstances and economic status, was enough to satisfy the concreteness threshold that this sort of information – at the beginning of a lawsuit – could cause the plaintiff actual harm."
"So there are two votes in favor of allowing the case to move forward,” Newman said.
Enables users to share networks privately05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Sarah D. Young
JoikuSpot, an app that could once magically turn a humble Nokia phone into a free WiFi hotspot, is back with some new features.Finnish mobile software ...
Warren Buffett among the bidders for Yahoo, reports say
Verizon's AOL had previously been considered the leading bidder05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James R. Hood
Value investor Warren Buffett is said to be among a group of investors making a bid to acquire the core assets of Yahoo, the moribund internet portal that ...
Value investor Warren Buffett is said to be among a group of investors making a bid to acquire the core assets of Yahoo, the moribund internet portal that has been slowly sinking into obscurity.
Press reports, citing unnamed sources, say that Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has teamed with Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and other investors to make the bid. AOL parent Verizon had been seen as the leading contender to acquire Yahoo's assets.
Buffett is not a fan of high-tech investments and generally sticks to bread-and-butter companies like railroads and food processors, although his group has become a leading investor in community newspapers.
Yahoo and other websites are generally regarded as technology companies, as illustrated by the way their managers mangle their media components but underneath all the tech hype, a website like Yahoo is not fundamentally different from a TV network or newspaper.
All provide content that is primarily ad-supported but most tech ventures for some reason put editorial functions in the hands of engineers, often producing results that are similar to what would happen if newspapers turned over publishing duties to their pressmen.
Content still king
Through his investments in community newspapers, Buffett has been seen as voting for the concept that content is king, especially in smaller communities where a local newspaper has a virtual monopoly on local content.
Gilbert built Quicken Loans and went on to become a professional investor, taking chunks of numerous high-tech and traditional ventures. He also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Verizon's interest in Yahoo is thought to center on the added heft it would bring to AOL, which has emerged as the cornerstone of Verizon's attempt to become a major content player.
Others thought to be circling Yahoo include Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's former company, and other private equity firms.
Yahoo once ruled the internet roost with an elaborate catalog of online resources but was displaced by Google's keyword-driven cataloging strategy. It has suffered through an endless series of CEOs, including the incumbent, Marissa Mayer, who left Google to attempt a Yahoo turnaround that most analysts agree has fallen flat.
International roaming charges continue to fall
AT&T ups the ante with new plan for Canada and Mexico travel05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
A few years ago, U.S. consumers had to be extremely careful with their cellphones when they traveled outside the U.S.Reciprocal agreements among cellph...
A few years ago, U.S. consumers had to be extremely careful with their cellphones when they traveled outside the U.S.
Reciprocal agreements among cellphone carriers were nearly non-existent. When a U.S.-based cellphone landed in France, for example, the roaming charges quickly mounted up, even if it were turned on but not in use.
ConsumerAffairs routinely heard from consumers who were shocked when they opened their cellphone bills after a trip abroad and discovered they owed thousands of dollars in roaming charges.
We even heard from consumers who never left the U.S., but who traveled close to the borders of either Mexico or Canada, and found their phones had connected with a tower across the border.
Companies finally responded by developing international roaming packages that drastically lowered the cost of using a cellphone outside the U.S. And starting May 20, AT&T; will launch a new roaming feature for Mexico, providing service for no additional charge if they switch to the company's new Mobile Share Value 15GB and higher plans.
As a result, these customers will get unlimited calling, texting, and may access their data in and between Mexico and the U.S.
For customers on the AT&T; Unlimited Plan, there will be no roaming charges in both Mexico and Canada. They can talk, text and use data in Mexico and Canada for no roaming charge. These customers will need to separately add the AT&T; Roam North America apps to each phone and tablet to access the free service.
Same experience outside the U.S.
"We know our customers want the same experience abroad they're used to domestically,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T; Entertainment Group.
Christopher says about 20% of AT&T;'s postpaid base crosses a North American border at least once a year.
Rival T-Mobile has been among the most aggressive of the carriers to reduce the cost of using a cellphone while traveling. Last September it added 20 more nations and destinations to its international roaming package. Using the package, customers can get unlimited data and texting at no extra cost and calls for 20 cents a minute. The program also extends coverage and calling across the U.S., Mexico and Canada for all Simple Choice customers at no extra charge.
Verizon Wireless offers international roaming for $2 per day per device for travel in Mexico and Canada and $10 a day per device in 100 other countries.
Renters worry more about housing costs than owners
Renters see housing costs rising faster than homeowners05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
There are many ways to measure whether it makes more sense to rent than own. Many rental advocates correctly point out that you can't just compare mortgage...
There are many ways to measure whether it makes more sense to rent than own. Many rental advocates correctly point out that you can't just compare mortgage payments to rent. There are other costs associated with owning.
But it is also true that rents have been steadily rising, while fixed rate mortgage payments stay the same, with small increases in taxes and insurance from time to time.
Maybe for that reason, renters tend to worry more about housing costs than homeowners do, according to a Gallup Poll. When pollsters asked consumers if they were moderately to very worried about not being able to pay housing costs, 49% of renters admitted to being worried while only 25% of homeowners said the same.
The pollsters found the same level of worry at all income levels. However, as you might expect, lower-income consumers were more likely than those earning higher incomes to express worry about housing costs.
But Gallup also notes that homeowners might be less worried because their payments are more stable. Renters expect their payments to go up each month, and lately they've tended to go up a lot.
Gallup attributes much of that disparity to the declining percentage of homeowners in the wake of the housing crash. Fewer buyers – including homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure – swelled the ranks of renters. That competition for existing rental property escalated the price of rents.
“From 2001 through 2007, before the housing market crashed, an average 24% of Americans worried about paying their housing costs,” the pollsters write. “Since then, an average of 35% have. Although Americans' worry about a variety of financial matters is up since 2007, worries about making housing payments are up the most.”
The housing story of 2015 was rising rents. It could be much the same in 2016, according to research produced by The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Apartment construction increased at its fastest rate in decades, but it hardly put a dent in vacancy rates, which were the lowest last year since 1985.
The Harvard researchers found the number of renters spending more than 30% of their monthly incomes on rent at a record high. There is no evidence that has moderated so far in 2016.
Part of the problem may be a growing housing shortage. Inventories of homes for both sale and rent have gotten tighter over the last 12 months, and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says it may be due, in part, to the fact that not enough new homes are being built.
Here's an app to turn off all those auto renewal charges
Truebill says it can save consumers an average of $512 a year05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy Mark Huffman
It's a safe bet that millions of consumers subscribed to some service long ago are no longer using it. Yet, thanks to an auto renew feature, a charge for i...
It's a safe bet that millions of consumers subscribed to some service long ago are no longer using it. Yet, thanks to an auto renew feature, a charge for it shows up regularly on credit card bills.
Anti-virus software is a perfect example. You might have signed up long ago and no longer even have the computer the software was purchased to protect. In 2009 Dan, of Odessa, Tex., said he replaced his Windows based computer with an iMac .
“The old PC was off to the land fill,” Dan wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “I did not install Norton on my IMac. Since then Norton security has helped themselves to about $90 a year of my money even though I never approved this auto renewal.”
Dan probably did, but just wasn't aware of it. Auto renewal language is common in anti-virus user agreements and is often the default position unless the user opts out at the beginning.
Other consumers sign up for one of those free trials, then forget to cancel, or were unaware they were required to do so. Once the trail period ends, that $9.99 charge shows up on a credit card bill like clockwork.
Automatically terminate subscriptions
Enter Truebill, a free app that identifies and then takes action to terminate subscriptions consumers are paying for but no longer using.
When you sign up with Truebill, it connects with your bank and credit card statements. It scans each one looking for fees that show up on a regular basis.
After each scan, it sends the user a list of these charges for review. If the user looks at the list and finds one he or she no longer wants or needs, a simple click targets it for elimination.
Perhaps the most attractive part of the service is that Truebill handles the cancellation without the user's active participation.
“No more waiting on hold, our one-click cancellation system instantly saves you time and money,” the company promises on its website.
$513 a year average savings
Truebill says the average user saves $513 a year by cancelling unwanted subscriptions.
It says it uses extremely tight security protocols, along with a 256-bit SSL encryption to safeguard users' financial data. Its algorithms also identify and track your subscriptions, bills, and fees. It will then make suggestions to help users save money.
When subscribing to a new service or signing up for a free trial, consumers should be aware of auto renewal features and make sure they aren't checked – or reconsider the purchase if it isn't an option.
Builder confidence steady for fourth straight month
Low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand are big factors05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
If you build them, they will come.That seems to be the outlook of the nation's home builders, who remain confident in the market for newly-built single...
If you build them, they will come.
That seems to be the outlook of the nation's home builders, who remain confident in the market for newly-built single-family homes.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is unchanged in May at a level of 58. A reading above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
“Builder confidence has held steady at 58 for four straight months, which indicates that the single-family housing sector remains in positive territory,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady. “However, builders are facing an increasing number of regulations and lot supply constraints.”
The HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair," or "poor." The survey asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average," or "low to very low." Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index.
The HMI components measuring sales expectations in the next six months increased three points to 65, while the component charting current sales conditions and the index gauging buyer traffic both held steady at 63 and 44, respectively.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South and Midwest both registered one-point gains to 59 and 58, respectively. The West was unchanged at 67 and the Northeast fell three points to 41.
“The fact that future sales expectations rose slightly this month shows that builders are confident that the market will continue to strengthen,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Job creation, low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand will also spur growth in the single-family housing sector moving forward.”
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Certain Kroger brand frozen vegetables sold in Fry’s, King Soopers, City Market, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Smith’s, QFC, and Fred Meyer are being recalled. ...
Ajinomoto Windsor recalls not-ready-to eat frozen food items
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes05/16/2016ConsumerAffairsBy James Limbach
Ajinomoto Windsor is recalling various not-ready-to eat frozen food items. The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Th...
Ajinomoto Windsor is recalling various not-ready-to eat frozen food items.
The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The company says no illnesses have been reported to date.
The following products with a Use-By Date of November 5, 2017 or earlier are being recalled:
|Product #||Description:||Pack Size|
|82071||TAI PEI PDQ CHICKEN FRIED RICE||9/14.2 oz. pail|
|7007700807||TAI PEI CHICKEN FRIED RICE||8/14.2 oz. pail|
|7007700816||TAI PEI PEPPER BEEF||8/14.2 oz. pail|