Current Events in May 2016

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2016

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    Report finds Android devices have higher failure rate than Apple

    Researchers cite a "glaring disparity in failure rates"

    No doubt many smartphone owners will take issue, but a new report by a technology company maintains that Android devices are no match for Apple's iOS when it comes to technical performance.

    In its Q1 “2016 State of Mobile Device Performance and Health,” Blancco Technology Group, an international data security firm, cites a series of diagnostics tests performed on a wide variety of iOS and Android devices using the SmartChk platform.

    The results, the company says, show a “glaring disparity in failure rates” for Android devices when compared to Apple. It says Android devices failed 44% of the time in the tests, compared to just 25% for Apple's operating system.

    The report said some of the most popular Android devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Lenovo K3 Note, logged the highest failure rates.

    Older iPhones performed better

    Older iPhones performed better than newer ones. The company said the iPhone 6 and 5s had the highest failure rates among iOS devices – 25% and 17%, respectively.

    The tests found crashing apps on 74% of Android devices. Open/cached apps were detected on 44% of the devices. There were many more failures on both platforms in Asia than in North America.

    Android still leads in sales

    The report's authors note that sales figures confirm that consumers buy more Android phones than iPhones. In fact, the latest numbers show Android increased its marketshare in the latest monitoring period, which ended in February. Android enjoyed strong growth in the U.S., Europe, China, Japan, and Australia.

    "Android devices seem to be a contradiction in terms," said Pat Clawson, CEO, Blancco Technology Group. "On the one hand, Android is the number one operating system in terms of global market share. But despite this advantage, Android device performance still lags behind iOS and tends to be plagued by high rates of crashing apps and app cache.”

    Of course, late 2016 could witness a shift, when there may be new products on the market for both platforms. Industry reports suggest Samsung could launch the S7 and LG G5 on the Android platform, while Apple is said to be preparing the launch of the iPhone 7.

    For more information on the best available phones, providers, and consumer reviews, check out ConsumerAffairs cell phone guide.

    No doubt many smartphone owners will take issue, but a new report by a technology company maintains that Android devices are no match for Apple's iOS when...

    Passengers give airlines higher marks

    J.D. Power's satisfaction index hits highest level in 10 years

    Despite complaints about the unpleasantness of air travel, and the addition of fees in recent years, airline passengers are giving carriers their best ratings in 10 years.

    The J.D. Power and Associates 2016 North America Airline Satisfaction Study credits lower fares, better on-time arrivals, and a reduction in lost luggage for winning over the flying public. It says investments in improved in-flight services, such as Wi-Fi, hasn't hurt either.

    “While the perception of the airline experience still has a lot of room for improvement, there is notable progress in terms of satisfaction among the highest-ranked airlines in the study due to their keen focus on meeting or exceeding passenger needs,” said J.D. Power's Rick Garlick.

    He says airlines are paying attention and taking action when customers complain or make suggestions. He credits that responsiveness for increasing satisfaction across all touch points of the passenger experience.

    Better reviews

    The improvement can even be seen in ConsumerAffairs reviews, which tend to often focus solely on an airline's shortcoming. But Mark, who took a Delta flight from Austin to Atlanta, was mostly complementary.

    “My experience with Delta over the years has been mixed at best,” Mark wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “They did very well this time. The MD-90 outbound to ATL was a bit cramped and noisy, but the flight was on time. No luggage problems. The B757 back to AUS was very comfortable. Ground and cabin crews were friendly and attentive. A good experience, I am pleased today.”

    “Airlines are making positive strides by adding value to its products and services with newer and cleaner planes, better in-flight services, improving on-time arrivals and bumping fewer passengers from their flights,” Garlick said.

    For airlines seeking to improve their standing, he says investing in product and service improvements now may reap big rewards in the future.

    More tolerant of fees

    J.D. Power's metric for measuring air travel satisfaction is an index that improved significantly over 2015, hitting its highest point in a decade. It found passengers were more tolerant of fees, perhaps because fares have moderated a bit in recent months.

    In-flight service is the area where airlines scored lowest, although it was up 12 points over last year. The airlines that invested in in-flight entertainment upgrades, including more screens, Wi-Fi, and power outlets at seats, benefited most in this area.

    Individual winners include Alaska Airlines, which placed first in the traditional carrier segment. Delta was second.

    JetBlue took the honors for the highest rated low-cost carrier, edging out Southwest by a single point.

    Despite complaints about the unpleasantness of air travel, and the addition of fees in recent years, airline passengers are giving carriers their best rati...

    Housing affordability up for the second straight quarter

    Jobless claims shot higher last week

    Lower mortgage interest rates and favorable prices translated into a slight increase in housing affordability in the first quarter.

    According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), 65% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of January and end of March were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $65,700. In the fourth quarter, 63.3% of homes sold were affordable to median-income earners.

    The national median home price fell from $226,000 in the fourth quarter to $223,000 in the first three months of 2016. The median is the point at which half the prices were higher and half were lower. At the same time, average mortgage rates edged lower -- from 4.09% to 4.05%.

    “With interest rates near historic lows and attractive home prices, this is a great time to buy a home,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady.

    Most affordable

    Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., was rated the nation’s most affordable major housing market for the second consecutive quarter. More than 93% of all new and existing homes sold there in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $53,900.

    Rounding out the top five affordable major housing markets in respective order were Syracuse, N.Y.; Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind.; Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, Pa.; and Toledo, Ohio.

    Cumberland, Md.-W.Va., claimed the title of most affordable small housing market in the first quarter of 2016. There, 98% of homes sold during the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $55,100.

    Smaller markets joining Cumberland at the top of the list included Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio; Fairbanks, Alaska; Binghamton, N.Y.; and Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.

    Nearly out of reach

    For the 14th consecutive quarter, San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif., was the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 10.4% of homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $96,800.

    Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were located in California. In descending order, they included Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale; Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara; and San Diego-Carlsbad.

    Four of the five least affordable small housing markets were also in California. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif., where 16.1% of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $85,100.

    Other small markets at the lowest end of the affordability scale included Salinas, Calif.; Napa, Calif; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.; and Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii.

    “This is the second consecutive quarter that we’ve seen a nationwide improvement in affordability due to favorable home prices and mortgage rates,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “These factors, along with rising employment, a growing economy and pent-up demand will provide a boost for home sales in the second half of 2016.”

    Jobless claims

    Initial applications for state unemployment benefits were on the rise last week.

    The Department of Labor (DOL) reports first-time jobless claims jumped by 20,000 in the week ending May 7 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000, an increase of 20,000. While that's the highest level since February 28, 2015, the claims level has been under 300,000 for 62 weeks in a row, the longest streak since 1973.

    The four-week moving average, considered a more active gauge of the labor market because of its low volatility, came in at 268,250, up 10,250 from the week before.

    The full report may be found on the DOL website

    Lower mortgage interest rates and favorable prices translated into a slight increase in housing affordability in the firs...

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      Various Millville Protein Chewy Bars recalled

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Schulze and Burch Biscuit Co., of Chicago, Ill., is recalling a variety of Millville Protein Chewy Bars products.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      The following products, sold nationally at Aldi stores, are being recalled:

      UPCProduct DescriptionBest By / Code Date
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)DEC 04 16 1T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)DEC 04 16 2T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)DEC 18 16 1T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)DEC 18 16 2T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)DEC 31 16 2T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 01 17 1T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 01 17 2T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 14 17 1T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 14 17 2T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 15 17 1T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 20 17 2T1
      041498195601Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut, Dark Chocolate & Almond)JAN 21 17 1T1
      041498195151Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate)JAN 01 17 2T1
      041498195151Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate)JAN 02 17 1T1
      041498195151Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate)JAN 15 17 1T1
      041498195151Millville Protein Chewy Bars (Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate)JAN 15 17 2T1

      UPC codes and Best By/Date Codes are on each package.

      What to do

      Consumers who purchased the recalled products should dispose of or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with any questions may call the firm's consumer contact at (888) 886-3879.

      Schulze and Burch Biscuit Co., of Chicago, Ill., is recalling a variety of Millville Protein Chewy Bars products. The products may be contaminated ...

      Ford recalls model year 2014-2015 Ford Explorers

      Improperly welded rear suspension toe links may fracture

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 75,364 model year 2014-2015 Ford Explorers manufactured January 17, 2014 to May 31, 2014.

      The recalled vehicles may have improperly welded rear suspension toe links that may fracture.

      A fracture of the rear suspension toe link may result in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replaced the rear suspension toe links, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in May 2016.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 16S18.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 75,364 model year 2014-2015 Ford Explorers manufactured January 17, 2014 to May 31, 2014. The recalled vehicles may...

      Google banning ads for payday loans

      The short-term, high-interest loans trap many consumers in a spiral of debt and bank overdraft fees

      Google is banning all ads for payday loans, the short-term high-interest loans that trap many consumers in a cycle of debt they can't escape. Many payday lenders have used the internet to get around state laws restricting the loans.

      “I think this action is as unprecedented as it is significant” said Keith Corbett, Center for Responsible Lending Executive Vice President. “By example, Google is demonstrating how profitable enterprises can also be ethical and supportive of financial fairness. There is nothing fair about triple-digit interest rates being charged on loans to working families. Payday loan stores reap billions of dollars in interest and fees on a product designed to force borrowers into repeat loans.”

      "Our hope is that fewer people will be exposed to misleading or harmful products," Google global product policy director David Graff said in a blog post about the change.

      Graff said the ban will become effective July 13. It specifically affects ads for loans that require repayment within 60 days and ads for loans with an annual percentage rate (APR) of 36% or higher. 

      Facebook already has a ban on payday loan ads, but Yahoo and others still accept them. Consumers will still be able to find payday loans by conducting a Google search.

      It's thought to be the first time Google has banned specific types of financial products. It has previously banned ads for illegal activities and sexually explicit material.

      Praised and pilloried

      Google's action was praised by consumer and civil rights activists but blasted by financial service interests.

      "This new policy addresses many of the longstanding concerns shared by the entire civil rights community about predatory payday lending," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "These companies have long used slick advertising and aggressive marketing to trap consumers into outrageously high interest loans - often those least able to afford it."

      Americans for Financial Reform said the action "closes off an important avenue of customer recruitment for an industry that is doing more and more of its business online."

      "Payday loans, whether made through physical or virtual storefronts, are engineered to suck people into long-term triple-digit-interest debt, making their financial problems worse, not better," the group said.

      “Facebook and others are making a blanket assessment about the payday lending industry rather than discerning the good actors from the bad actors,” the Community Financial Services Association of America said. The trade group said the action was "unfair towards those that are legal, licensed lenders.”

      Google's action is not the only cloud on the horizon for payday lenders, though. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is working on a rule that would rein in some of the worst offenses. That rule is expected to be unveiled later this spring.

      A CFPB analysis earlier found that half of borrowers who took out online payday loans were hit with an average of $185 worth of bank fees and penalities when the lenders submitted automatic repayment vouchers that overdrew consumers' bank accounts.

      Google is banning all ads for payday loans, the short-term high-interest loans that trap many consumers in a cycle of debt they can't escape. Many payday l...

      Mortgage rates still at rock bottom levels

      Economist says low rates don't help all borrowers

      Back in December, when the Federal Reserve boosted its Federal Funds Rate off 0% for the first time in six years, it was believed to signal the end of cheap money.

      It hasn't quite worked out that way in 2016.

      The Fed has not chosen to raise that interest rate again, but more importantly, the interest rates the Fed doesn't control have been going lower, and that includes mortgage rates.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association reports the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate last week fell to 3.74%. The average 30-year FHA mortgage rate also went down, to 3.64%.

      Not surprisingly, MBA reported mortgage applications increased nearly half a percent from the previous week. The increase for refinancings was slightly less than for purchases.

      Rates at three year low

      By realtor.com's measure, rates were even lower. The real estate marketplace reports the average 30-year conforming rate nationally was 3.60%, a three-year low.

      But realtor.com's chief economist, Jonathan Smoke, predicts mortgage rates will become more volatile as the home buying season picks up its pace. He also says low interest rates can present a downside to some borrowers.

      “One disadvantage is that credit availability declines marginally as the rates decline” Smoke said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “With little margin, lenders become more risk averse, so indicators of credit tightness like the average FICO score have ticked up as rates have gone down.”

      More affordable house payments

      Still, for consumers with a good credit score, a strong employment situation, and a significant down payment, mortgage rates under 4% make for more affordable monthly payments. Smoke sees rates no higher than 4.12% by the end of the year.

      With home prices steadily rising, the interest rate on a mortgage carries added importance. On a $200,000 mortgage, the difference between a rate of 3.62% and 4.62% is $116 a month.

      “In this type of environment, it will be crucial for would-be buyers or refinancers to stay on top of rates, work closely with mortgage brokers or lenders, and learn about options like locks and float-downs,” Smoke said.

      If rates remain volatile, a borrower could see either higher or lower rates while the mortgage process is taking place. Smoke says rate options can be attractive, but can come at a price.

      Back in December, when the Federal Reserve boosted its Federal Funds Rate off 0% for the first time in six years, it was believed to signal the end of chea...

      Walmart sues Visa to require PIN use with chip credit cards

      Retailers continue to insist the new cards aren't as fraud-proof as they could be

      Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, has filed a lawsuit in New York against Visa, charging that the payments network had blocked implementation of a PIN system, favored by retailers, to make the new chip credit cards more secure.

      The suit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court, alleges the current system, in which a chip card user authenticates the purchase with a signature, is “fraud prone.”

      Fortune quotes a Walmart spokesperson as saying Visa's influence in the adoption of the signature authentication system creates “unacceptable risk.”

      Unhappy retailers

      On October 1, 2015, when the new system took effect, liability for fraudulent credit card purchases flipped from credit card companies to merchants.

      Walmart's position appears to represent that of retailers in general, who have not been happy with the newly implemented chip card system. Many have been slow to install the new readers that extract information from a chip embedded in the plastic, rather than from a magnetic strip on the back.

      Just days after the new chip cards, known as EMV cards, went into use, the National Retail Federation (NRF) took its case to Congress, arguing that the new chip-and-signature credit cards that do not also require a PIN won't stop fraud. It said small businesses should not be pressured to install the new equipment.

      “The new EMV equipment does not stop breaches,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said in October 2015 testimony before the House Small Business Subcommittee. “Indeed, in many cases it provides no significant benefits either to the business or to the business’ regular customers. It is merely an additional expense small businesses are being told to bear.”

      FBI also supports a PIN

      The retailers weren't alone in their early concerns about the new cards. The FBI issued a statement within days of the new cards becoming active, warning law enforcement officers, merchants, and consumers to be aware that the EMV cards, while perhaps more secure than the cards they replaced, were still vulnerable to fraud.

      The FBI noted that the chip allows a merchant to verify that the card is authentic and not one made by a fraudster with stolen credit card data. But the agency pointed out that wouldn't stop someone from using a chip card they had stolen. All they had to do was sign the name that was on the card. Requiring the user to provide a PIN, the FBI argued, would be more secure.

      The following month, several state attorneys general echoed the FBI's concerns about the lack of a PIN. Attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia signed a letter to the nation’s top credit card companies and banks, calling for the use of PINs rather than signatures to approve purchases made with new chip-based credit cards.

      So why don't the new chip cards require PINs? In its suit, Walmart says credit card companies balked at imposing the requirement, believing consumers would rebel at having to remember another password.

      Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, has filed a lawsuit in New York against Visa, charging that the payments network had blocked implementation of a PI...

      Mortgage applications inch upward

      Contract interest rates were on the way down

      It wasn't by much, but mortgage applications rose last week.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports mortgage applications were up 0.4% in the week ending May 6 -- the first increase in three weeks.

      Refinance applications rose 0.5% from the previous week, but the refinance share of mortgage activity slipped to 52.8% of total applications from 52.9% a week earlier.

      The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 5.7% of total applications, the FHA share dropped to 13.0% from 13.5%, the VA share of total applications edged up to 11.7% from 11.5%, 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) fell to its lowest level since April 2016 -- 3.82%, from 3.87%, with points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) was down five basis points -- from 3.79% to 3.74%, with points unchanged at 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 dropped to 3.64% from 3.69%, with points decreasing to 0.25 from 0.33 (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 seven basis points to 3.06%, with points decreasing to 0.33 from 0.36 (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 from 2.91% to 2.93%, with points decreasing to 0.22 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

      The survey covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.

      It wasn't by much, but mortgage applications rose last week.The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports mortgage applications were up 0.4% in the we...

      Completed foreclosures decline in March

      The foreclosure inventory was lower as well

      The number of completed foreclosures and the foreclosure inventory were lower in March from the same month in 2015.

      Property information, analytics and data-enabled services provider CoreLogic reports completed foreclosures fell 14.9% from March 2015, and are down 69.7% from the peak in September 2010.

      The foreclosure inventory, which represents the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process, dropped 23.2% from the same time a year ago.

      On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures rose 9.3% from February, while inventories were down 2.2%.

      Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.2 million completed foreclosures nationally; and since home-ownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.2 million homes lost to foreclosure.

      Report highlights

      • The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in March 2016 were Florida (69,000), Michigan (48,000), Texas (28,000), Georgia (23,000), and California (23,000). These five states accounted for about 41% of all completed foreclosures nationally.
      • Four states and the District of Columbia had the lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in March 2016: The District of Columbia (114), North Dakota (311), West Virginia (541), Wyoming (634), and Alaska (644).
      • Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes in March 2016: New Jersey (4.0%), New York (3.3%, Hawaii (2.3%), the District of Columbia (2.2%), and Florida (2.1%).
      • The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory rate in March 2016 were Alaska (0.3%), Minnesota (0.4%), Arizona (0.4%), Colorado (0.4%), and Utah (0.4%).

      The number of completed foreclosures and the foreclosure inventory were lower in March from the same month in 2015.Property information, analytics and ...

      Publix Super Markets recalls Wheatberry Salad

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Publix Super Markets is recalling Wheatberry Salad sold in plastic containers in the Publix Delis.

      The product contains sunflower kernels that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product was sold in all Publix retail stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product may return it to their local store for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may call our the firm's customer care center at 1-800-242-1227 or visit the company's website at www.publix.com.

      Publix Super Markets is recalling Wheatberry Salad sold in plastic containers in the Publix Delis.   The product contains sunflower kernels that may ...

      Creative Snacks recalls sunflower seeds and trail mixes including sunflower seeds

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Creative Snacks of Greensboro, N.C., is recalling specific lot codes of bulk and packaged sunflower seed products.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following products, distributed to retailers nationwide and sold in a variety of formats including plastic rigid containers, small re-sealable bags and in bulk, are being recalled:

      Item DescriptionUPCLot NumberBest Before Date
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Brain Food – 3.5 oz Snack Bag
      8165120151246625030816
      6641031516
      6659032416
      6680033116
      6698040516
      1/2/2017
      1/9/2017
      1/18/2017
      1/25/2017
      1/30/2017
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Brain Food - 10 lb. Bulk
      8165120130211180031016
      4870032116
      4895033016
      4910040416
      The Fresh Market 
      Brain Food – 25 lb bulk
      n/a1180031016
      1205032216
      1242033116
      The Fresh Market
      Brain Food – 9.5 oz cup
      737094218270306703091611/4/2016
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Brain Food – 9.5 oz cup
      8559830020732675030316
      2704031016
      2711031416
      2766032416
      2816040416
      10/29/2016
      11/5/2016
      11/9/2016
      11/19/2016
      11/30/2016
      The Fresh Market
      Healthy Snackin’ – 25 lb bulk
      1203032216
      1224032916
      Plentiful Planet
      Heart Smart Mix– 25 lb bulk
      0306847102851224032916
      1156030316
      1204032216
      Publishers Clearing House
      Heart Smart Mix – 8 oz bag
      n/a671004121612/8/2016
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Heart Smart – 3.5 oz Snack Bags
      8165120121306620030316
      6627030916
      6640031516
      6656032416
      6673033016
      6697040516
      12/28/2016
      1/3/2017
      1/9/2017
      1/18/2017
      1/24/2017
      1/30/2017
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Heart Smart – 9.5 oz cup
      8559830020662674030316
      2764032416
      2819040516
      10/29/2016
      11/19/2016
      12/1/2016
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Heart Smart Mix – 10 lb bulk
      8165120130141183031416
      4869032116
      4894033016
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Roasted, No Salt Sunflower Seeds – 9 oz cup
      8165120112942741032216
      2818040516
      11/17/2016
      12/1/2016
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Roasted, No Salt Sunflower Seeds – 10 lb bulk
      8165120114234900033116
      Plentiful Planet
      Roasted, No Salt Sunflower Seeds – 25 lb bulk
      0774204177944891032916
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Sunny Day Splendor – 10 lb bulk
      8165120146531192031716
      Creative Snacks Co. 
      Roasted, Salted Sunflower Seeds – 10 lb bulk
      8165120138924861031816
      4881032916
      4903033116
      Plentiful Planet
      Roasted, Salted Sunflower Seeds – 10 lb bulk
      0774200008734869031816
      Creative Snacks Co.
      Roasted, Salted Sunflower Seeds – 9 oz cup
      8165120112182684030716
      2742032216
      2801033116
      11/2/2016
      11/17/2016
      11/26/2016

      Best before dates can be found on bottom lower right corner of rigid containers and the back lower right corner of resealable snack bags.

      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 336-668-4151 Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (EST).

      Creative Snacks of Greensboro, N.C., is recalling specific lot codes of bulk and packaged sunflower seed products. The products may be contaminated...

      Scientists hope to use a disease's own genetic makeup to fight against it

      A drug designed to fight triple negative breast cancer already shows promising results

      A new development in drug design could pave the way for a new generation of drugs that could be used to treat a range of diseases. By precisely targeting genes and sequences that allow diseases to proliferate, the researchers believe that they can stop or slow their progression to make them more manageable.

      While the development has only been tested in rat models, researchers have been able to design a drug that decreases the growth of tumor cells in triple negative breast cancer, one of the most difficult forms of the disease to treat.

      “The study represents a clear breakthrough in precision medicine, as this molecule only kills cancer cells that express the cancer-causing gene – not healthy cells,” said Prof. Matthew Disney, a researcher at The Scripps Research Institute where the drug was designed. “These studies may transform the way the lead drugs are identified – by using the genetic makeup of a disease.”

      Targeting the disease structure

      This method for fighting disease involves inserting certain compounds or molecules into the disease’s structure to disrupt harmful activity. For example, the drug created to fight triple negative breast cancer, called Targaprimir-96, causes breast cancer cells to kill themselves by targeting a specific RNA.

      The researchers have named this sort of approach Informa; by creating compounds that specifically attach onto RNA folds – usually specific ones called microRNAs – the activity of dangerous genes can be suppressed. MicronRNAs can be thought of as a sort of dimmer switch for certain genes, and they are not always helpful.

      For example, the MicroRNA that was targeted for triple negative breast cancer actually promoted cancer by discouraging cell death, which invariably allowed cells to grow out of control and form tumors. By attaching a compound to this microRNA, scientists are able to allow cell death to happen so that tumor formation decreased.

      Opening the door for new treatments

      The researchers believe that this new method of developing precise drug candidates can be a huge improvement over existing therapies, which can kill cells indiscriminately or cause harmful side effects. It may also open the door to treating diseases that were considered untreatable up until this point.

      “In the future we hope to apply this strategy to target other disease-causing RNAs, which range from incurable cancers to important viral pathogens such as Zika and Ebola,” said Sai Pradeep Velagapudi, first author of the study.

      The full study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      A new development in drug design could pave the way for a new generation of drugs that could be used to treat a range of diseases. By precisely targeting g...

      On heels of Zika, yellow fever may be the new health threat

      The long-dormant disease is coming to life in Africa

      U.S. health officials are still ramping up their efforts to combat an expected Zika virus outbreak this summer, but maybe there's another potential threat that should be on their radar screens as well.

      Two Georgetown University professors say the outbreak of yellow fever around the world, which so far has spread without much notice, is becoming the world's newest health emergency.

      Daniel Lucey and Lawrence O. Gostin, of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown, say the World Health Organization (WHO) needs to act quickly. In fact, the doctor and lawyer team argue that the WHO needs a standing committee to deal with emerging health emergencies.

      Destructive history

      You'll be forgiven if you aren't that familiar with yellow fever. But people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries certainly were. Like Zika, yellow fever is spread by infected mosquitoes.

      Thought to have originated in Africa, yellow fever, an influenza-like desease, was common in tropical areas for years. In the U.S., the city of New Orleans was devastated by yellow fever epidemics in the 19th century. It famously killed many workers constructing the Panama Canal in the early 20th century.

      After a vaccine was developed in the 1930s, yellow fever was mostly eliminated throughout the world. Now, however, it's back.

      Angola hard hit

      In a JAMA article published this week, Lucey and Gostin say the latest outbreak first surfaced in early January and is spreading quickly in Angola. They say as of April, Angola had documented over 2,000 cases that had caused 258 deaths.

      The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) brought attention to the epidemic by issuing an alert in Latin America, which is still battling the Aedes aegypti mosquito vector, still busy transmitting Zika and dengue viruses.

      The professors say vaccines remain in short supply, which could aggravate the crisis. Vaccine demands are escalating everywhere in Africa. In Kenya, there are plans to vaccinate two million people.

      “The complexities and apparent increased frequency of emerging infectious disease threats, and the catastrophic consequences of delays in the international response, make it no longer tenable to place sole responsibility and authority with the Director-General to convene currently ad hoc emergency committees,” Lucey and Gostin write.

      According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), yellow fever is “a very rare cause of illness” in U.S. travelers. The CDC notes there is no specific treatment for yellow fever. For those at risk, it urges the use of insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and getting vaccinated.

      U.S. health officials are still ramping up their efforts to combat an expected Zika virus outbreak this summer, but maybe there's another potential threat ...

      JC Penney will soon begin selling appliances

      The company hopes to breathe new life into business by incorporating more home products

      JC Penney has been struggling as of late. Fresh on the heels of its attempted recovery, the New York Post reported that the company eliminated jobs and froze overtime due to “unexpected light sales” in April.

      Now, perhaps in another attempt at reinvigoration, Penney’s is getting into the business of selling appliances. This July, the company will begin rolling out appliance showrooms at nearly 500 locations.

      The showrooms (as well as jcp.com) will include kitchen and laundry appliances from Samsung, LG, GE Appliances, and Hotpoint.

      Aligns with consumer spending

      The decision to incorporate home products and an appliance showroom was a strategic one. According to JC Penney’s chief executive officer, Marvin R. Ellison, the decision was based largely on opportunities afforded by the current housing market.

      "The current housing market presents a lucrative opportunity to diversify our Home assortment and strategically align with consumer spending patterns,” Ellison said in a statement. By ramping up its Home department, the company hopes to connect with families and become a destination for home products.

      Ellison also hopes this move will help “weather-proof” the company during seasonal periods of the year and increase its revenue per customer.

      Partnerships with other companies, such as Empire Today and Ashley Furniture, will be tested to determine whether they warrant inclusion in more stores and markets. By the end of 2017, the company hopes to achieve $1.2 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

      This isn't the company's first foray into the world of home furnishings. At one point in time, the company was credited with covering one-third of the windows in America.

      JC Penney has been struggling as of late. Fresh on the heels of its attempted recovery, the New York Post reported that the company eliminated jobs and fro...

      Summer gasoline demand could reach record levels

      But AAA says ample supply should keep prices in check

      With gasoline prices leveling off after climbing over the late winter and early spring – and supplies getting even larger – look for more crowded highways this summer.

      While noting that prices at the pump had unexpectedly moderated in the last week, AAA reported this week that the demand for gasoline reached its fourth-highest weekly estimate for 2016, weeks before the Memorial Day weekend and the official start of the summer driving season.

      “Refineries nationwide are ramping up production, which should help increase supplies in regional markets,” AAA said in its weekly report. “This is good news for the average driver, because if supply can keep pace with demand, averages should remain relatively low and drivers should continue to benefit from comparative savings at the pump.”

      Normally, gasoline prices rise over the early spring because refineries are both performing annual maintenance and switching over to production of summer blend fuel. Both tasks tend to reduce output and put a crimp in supply. In a normal year, prices start to slowly fall after Memorial Day.

      Unusual and hopeful sign

      The fact that prices have already started to moderate is unusual and may be a hopeful sign for consumers, especially since demand for gasoline has been increasing. It suggests that, even with a significant uptick in gasoline demand during the summer months, it should not result in price spikes, as long as refineries keep operating at near capacity. So far, AAA says that appears to be happening.

      “According to the latest data from the U.S. EIA, total U.S. gasoline supplies are at their highest levels to start May on record,” the AAA report said.

      With low gasoline prices, AAA said it expects drivers to take to the road this summer in record numbers. It compares the outlook for this summer to the summer of 2007, just before the Great Recession, when demand for motor fuel hit an all time high.

      What happened next, however, was not pleasant. Oil prices – along with gasoline prices – rose sharply over the winter of 2008. In July, the national average gasoline price was over $4 a gallon and oil was selling at $122 a barrel.

      With gasoline prices leveling off after climbing over the late winter and early spring – and supplies getting even larger – look for more crowded highways ...