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News in July 2016

Mercedes scraps Drive Pilot ad after safety advocates object

Advocates assail feds for 'rushing full speed ahead' to promote autonomous cars without safeguards

Mercedes-Benz has agreed to pull a TV commercial for the "Drive Pilot" feature on its redesigned 2017 E-class cars after safety advocates said the ad could mislead consumers into thinking the feature was a fully autonomous driving system. The advocates also assailed federal safety regulators for "rushing full speed ahead" to put self-driving cars on the road without adequate safeguards. 

The optional drive-assist feature includes advanced adaptive cruise control and automated steering that allows the sedan to follow traffic and stay in its lane at speeds of up to 130 mph.

Mercedes said late Thursday that it would take the ad out of rotation, saying it did "not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety the 2017 E class represents.”

The Mercedes decision followed a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez from safety advocates who said the sedan did not meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s definition of a fully or partially self-driving car.

Yet the E-class is “marketed in a way that a reasonable consumer would believe it does,” the advocates said, adding the commercial could give “a false sense of security in the ability of the car to operate autonomously,” said the letter from officials of Consumer Reports, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and by former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook.

Tesla drops camera supplier

Automated driving systems have been under scrutiny in recent weeks after a series of accidents blamed at least partly on the systems. In the most serious, the driver of a Tesla was killed when his car, while operating on Autopilot, crashed into the side of a tractor trailer truck on May 7.

Tesla now says it will stop using cameras manufactured by Mobileye, the company that made the camera used in the fatal Tesla crash. Both companies acknowledged the split and each gave the impression it had made the decision. Mobileye implied it had not had any input into how Tesla was using the camera.

“I think in a partnership, we need to be there on all aspects of how the technology is being used, and not simply providing technology and not being in control of how it is being used,” Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua said in an earnings call with investment analysts, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

What's the rush?

The auto safety advocates also berated National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind in a letter, saying he was "inexcusably ... rushing full speed ahead" to promote the deployment of self-driving robot car technology instead of developing adequate safety standards "crucial to ensuring imperfect technologies do not kill people by being introduced into vehicles before the technology matures."

The letter was in response to Rosekind's recent assertion that NHTSA cannot "stand idly by while we wait for the perfect" before self-driving robot car technologies are deployed.

"This is a false dichotomy," the advocates wrote. "The question is not whether autonomous technology must be perfect before it hits the road, but whether safety regulators should allow demonstrably dangerous technology with no minimum safety performance standards in place, to be deployed on American highways."

The letter charged that Tesla’s Autopilot "could not tell the difference between a white truck and a bright sky or between a big truck and a high mounted road sign." It said Tesla "apparently knew of the defect, yet still released autopilot in beta mode and turned its customers into human guinea pigs."

The safety advocates charged that Rosekind and his colleagues at NHTSA "have become giddy advocates of selfdriving cars, instead of sober safety regulators tasked with ensuring that new systems don’t kill people. Instead of seeking a recall of Tesla’s flawed technology, you inexcusably are rushing full speed ahead."

Mercedes-Benz has agreed to pull a TV commercial for the "Drive Pilot" feature on its redesigned 2017 E-class cars after safety advocates said the ad could...

Access to drugs and alcohol in adolescence leads to continued abuse

Study shows white men are particularly susceptible

It’s no secret that children often form habits that they observe in their parents. Whether it’s a certain way of talking, how they express their emotions, or cleanliness habits, you can usually draw some parallels between generations.

Now, a new study suggests that habits aren’t the only things that young people can pick up from their parents. Researchers have found that children living in households with quick access to drugs and alcohol are more likely to abuse those same substances later in life, regardless of whether or not their parents abused them.

“While there have been many studies linking alcohol and drug use by parents to substance use among youths, there is limited research on how the availability of alcohol and drugs in the home may influence patterns of use among offspring in the future,” said Cliff Broman, leader of the study and professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

“These findings provide evidence that the availability of illegal drugs and alcohol in the home while growing up is a critical factor in the later use of substances.”

Pattern of abuse

Broman came to his conclusions after analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The report followed roughly 15,000 adolescents over the course of 13 years. Data was collected in three different waves during the course of the study – when the average age of participants was 16, 22, and 29, respectively.

The data showed that participants who had access to drugs and alcohol in their youth were much more likely to start using those same substances at an early age. For those same individuals, drug and alcohol use was also higher at age 22 and 29.

The data showed that men were more likely to engage in substance abuse behavior if drugs and alcohol were available in adolescence. As a result, more men than women engaged in those same behaviors at age 22 and 29.

The findings also showed the race and ethnicity were a factor for the study; whites were much more likely to use drugs and alcohol when compared to black, Hispanic, or Asian participants, although the latter groups generally had more access to these substances during adolescence.

The full study has been published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse.

It’s no secret that children often form habits that they observe in their parents. Whether it’s a certain way of talking, how they express their emotions, ...

Equal division of labor may be the key to a lasting marriage, study suggests

Could this spell trouble for stay-at-home dads?

In the healthiest, longest-lasting marriages, research shows that partners tend to have two traits in common: kindness and generosity.

But what factors predict divorce? Money might come to mind first, but a new study finds that cash isn’t the culprit at all. Rather, it’s a couple’s division of labor that may increase the risk of divorce.

For couples who tied the knot prior to 1975, the study showed that the share of housework done by the wife affected the risk of divorce. But for couples who wed more recently (between 1975 and 2011), the divorce risk was affected by whether or not husbands worked full-time outside the home.  

Simply put, the stability of a marriage can be affected by an unequal division of labor. And changing gender roles may be at the heart of the shift in partners' expectations of one another.

Spouse’s expectations

The expectations with which an individual enters into a marriage may impact their level of satisfaction within the partnership, according to study author Alexandra Killewald, a professor of sociology at Harvard University.

And as times have changed, so have expectations. Compared to 1975, couples have different ideas of what employment status and division of household labor should look like within a marriage.

“For contemporary couples, wives can combine paid and unpaid labor in various ways without threatening the stability of their marriage,” Killewald said in a statement, adding that women are now finding it easier to step into traditionally male-dominated roles.

Men as breadwinners

But men’s roles and responsibilities haven’t diversified quite as much since 1975, she explained. Although the amount of money men bring home doesn’t affect divorce risk, men are still expected to be employed full-time. 

“While contemporary wives need not embrace the traditional female homemaker role to stay married, contemporary husbands face higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfill the stereotypical breadwinner role by being employed full-time,” Killewald said.

Research showed that in marriages where men were not employed full-time, whether due to being laid off or only being able to procure part time work, there was a 3.3% risk of divorce the next year. After husbands obtained full-time employment, the risk dropped to 2.5 percent. 

The full study will appear in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

In the healthiest, longest-lasting marriages, research shows that partners tend to have two traits in common: kindness and generosity. But what factors...

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    Zipcar settles damage charge policy with New York

    Members complained they were charged before being informed of damage

    Zipcar, one of the larger car-sharing membership companies, has settled charges with the state of New York after consumers complained about its damage responsibility.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged Zipcar routinely hit members' credit cards for minor damage before notifying the consumers or giving them an opportunity to dispute it. Schneiderman says such a policy runs afoul of New York law.

    “Consumers should never learn that they have been accused of damaging a rental car when they see a surprise charge on their credit card statement,” Schneiderman said.

    Under law, Schneiderman says New Yorkers can dispute damage fees before any penalties are assessed.

    Like any car rental operation, Zipcar’s membership contracts provide that consumers are responsible for any damage while the car is in their possession. But unlike a traditional car rental agency, Zipcar vehicles are not stored in a central location when not in use. In fact, they are parked in public areas – on the street or in a parking garage, where nicks and scratches can occur when no one is using the vehicle.

    Failed to inform consumers

    Schneiderman charged that Zipcar failed to inform consumers about car damages and the amount of their liability before placing a charge on their credit cards. Instead, he said Zipcar investigated to determine which Zipcar member had reserved the car at the time of the damage. When it determined the member it felt was responsible, it charged the consumer's credit card before he or she had a right to dispute it.

    The state said its investigation showed that 5,000 New Yorkers received these surprise charges. In one case, it said Zipcar placed a charge of $750 for scratches on one member's card before notifying the consumer of the damage.

    In a settlement with the attorney general's office, Zipcar has agreed to refund the damage charges for consumers who said they were not responsible. The company has also agreed to change its policy to comply with New York law.

    Common issue

    Extra charges for minor scrapes are very common in the rental car industry, providing companies with an additional revenue stream. As we noted back in 2011, rental car companies have become more aggressive in pursuing damage claims.

    Not only do they charge the consumer for the cost of the repair, but also for the loss-of-use while the repair is being made.

    To counter this, photograph the car for all four sides when you pick it up and time-stamp the photo. Then pay for the rental with a credit card that provides rental car damage coverage. You can find which card offers the best coverage here.

    Zipcar, one of the larger car-sharing membership companies, has settled charges with the state of New York after consumers complained about its damage resp...

    How to protect yourself when traveling abroad

    The strong dollar makes travel cheap, but terrorism makes it scary

    Can you protect yourself while traveling abroad? The strength of our dollar makes travel appealing, but the terrorist attacks abroad are terrifying. Do you stay home in fear for your safety or proceed with your travel plans? It’s a tough choice to make, but it is yours alone.

    The State Department provides guidelines for those who choose to travel abroad. Here are their suggestions:

    As you begin your vacation planning, research the visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical care for each country in your itinerary.

    Allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport or renew an old one. Passports must be valid for at least six months after you return home, and must have two or more blank pages (if not, some countries may not allow entry). Check the passports of all your traveling partners; adult passports are valid for ten years, but children are valid for only five years.

    Check out the State Department’s Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts, as well as the websites for the U.S. embassy or consulate for countries you plan to visit for the latest security risks/issues.

    Use the State Department’s link Learn About Your Destination for a wealth of information about the countries in your itinerary, along with all the contact information U.S. citizens might need for assistance.

    Print out the details for the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in countries you plan to visit and carry this with you.

    Emergency help

    The State Department provides help (sometimes limited) for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444). Keep these numbers handy and pass them on to family and friends should anyone need to locate you in case of an emergency.

    Learn the vaccine recommendations and health concerns/precautions for your trip by looking at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

    Be savvy in handling your money. Alert your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans and check ahead for exchange rates.  

    Pack your medications in their original prescription containers. Either bring copies of your prescriptions or ask your doctor for a letter detailing the medications you are taking. Read about your destination, as some countries have strict laws when it comes to medications, even those that are over-the-counter.  

    Keep copies

    Photocopy all of your travel documents in case of emergency, loss, or theft. Give one set of documents to a relative or trusted friend at home and store another set separately from your original documents.

    Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service that allows U.S. citizens to enroll their trip. Once registered, the Embassy can communicate information about safety concerns, contact you in case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, or family), as well as help family and friends reach you in an emergency.

    Check your U.S. health coverage to verify whether you have coverage for overseas. Social Security and Medicare do not provide coverage outside of the United States. The State Department warns that foreign hospitals and doctors often require payment in cash, and emergency medical evacuation can cost up to $100,000. If your U.S. health care plan does not cover you overseas, consider buying supplemental insurance to cover medical costs and emergency evacuation. You can learn more at Your Health Abroad.

    Can you protect yourself while traveling abroad? The strength of our dollar makes travel appealing, but the terrorist attacks abroad are terrifying. Do you...

    Exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke could have long-term health consequences

    Blood vessels exposed to marijuana smoke are impaired three times longer when compared to tobacco

    For a while now, one of the main arguments behind the marijuana legalization movement has been that marijuana isn’t really that bad for you – especially when compared to cigarette smoking. However, a new study has called that supposition into question.

    Researchers working with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have found that secondhand smoke from marijuana may actually be worse than secondhand tobacco smoke in some respects.

    In a study involving mice, they found that blood vessels exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke for one minute took three times longer to recover function than those exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

    Long-term health consequences

    The findings showed that this short-term exposure led to arteries carrying blood less efficiently for at least 90 minutes, compared to only 30 minutes for tobacco smoke. While these effects only lasted temporarily, the researchers say that it could negatively affect health over time.

    “These temporary problems can turn into long-term problems if exposures occur often enough and may increase the chances of developing hardened and clogged arteries,” said senior author Dr. Matthew Springer.

    The researchers also ruled out that third-party substances, like nicotine, THC, or specific rolling papers, caused the loss of blood vessel function. When tested, the burning of marijuana plant material was enough to cause the effect to occur.

    First form of evidence

    The researchers hope that their work will help unify medical approaches relating to secondhand smoke, regardless of the source it comes from.

    “There is widespread belief that, unlike tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is benign. We in public health have been telling the public to avoid secondhand tobacco smoke for years, but we don’t tell them to avoid secondhand marijuana smoke, because until now we haven’t had evidence that it can be harmful,” said Springer.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

    For a while now, one of the main arguments behind the marijuana legalization movement has been that marijuana isn’t really that bad for you – especially wh...

    Lawsuit seeks damages for rollaway problems in Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler models

    Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was crushed to death when his Jeep rolled into him

    A class action lawsuit seeks compensation for owners of the Jeep Grand Cherokee model that crushed Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin to death, as well as for owners of Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300 sedans built with the same gearshift that is blamed for Yelchin's death.

    Investigators said Yelchin had gotten out of his car to check his mailbox, apparently thinking he had put it in park. Instead the Jeep rolled forward and crushed the 27-year-old actor against a concrete post, one of hundreds of accidents involving FCA US products with an e-shift system. 

    "This case concerns the simple task of shifting a vehicle into park," the lawsuit states, according to Courthouse News Service. "FCA has taken the simple process, traditionally straightforward and free from confusion, and implemented a defective and dangerous gear-shifting mechanism."

    "In short, FCA replaced the traditional gearshift with a joystick and failed to consider the implications to consumer safety," the complaint alleges.

    In a statement, FCA said the lawsuit was unnecessary. 

    "This lawsuit is moot as FCA US has already implemented the remedy it seeks.  Moreover, the vehicles addressed in this action are among the most valued and sought after vehicles on the road today. Allegations that their resale value is somehow diminished by a recall are completely unsubstantiated," FCA US said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.

    Recall issued

    Chrysler issued a recall on April 22, 2016, for 2014-2015 Grand Cherokees, as well as 2012-14 Chrysler 300s and Dodge Chargers, in order to add an additional part to enhance the Jeeps’ monostable gear selector.  

    When it announced the recall, Chrysler sent a letter to owners promising to find a fix to the problem by the fourth quarter of 2016. However, it didn't say when that fix would actually become available.

    "Given Chrysler’s recent recall efforts in fire-prone Jeeps, owners would be potentially subject to lengthy delays when seeking a remedy," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. He called on Chrysler to provide free loaners until the problem can be fixed.

    In the lawsuit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, Grand Cherokee owners Janella Mack and Michael Cruz ask that Chrysler be ordered to advise owners to stop driving the vehicles until they are fixed and they ask that owners be awarded financial compensation.

    The lawsuit argues that the e-shift system never truly shifts or locks into a gear position when the car is turned off, putting nearly a million drivers at risk of property damage and personal injury.

    A class action lawsuit seeks compensation for owners of the Jeep Grand Cherokee model that crushed Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin to death, as well as for o...

    What can parents do to prepare kids for school?

    Six tips for phasing out the summer sleep schedule

    If preparation is the key to success, kids who gradually transition from their summer sleep schedule may be setting themselves up for a string of good report cards.

    Late bedtimes and lazy days are part of summer’s charm, but having either come to a screeching halt the night before the first day of school may be the recipe for a sleepy first day.

    Gradually implementing schedule changes ahead of time may help kids and adolescents start school off on the right foot, says Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences.

    In light of the fact that research shows a link between varied schedules and decreased quality of cognition, Scullin suggests parents begin making children’s sleep schedules more school-friendly ahead of time.

    Making the shift

    What can parents do to help kids get a better night's sleep? Scullin says it’s all about creating the right atmosphere.

    • Start the transition early. Burning the midnight oil may be okay during summer vacation, but continuing to stay up late during the nights leading up to the first day of school may not be ideal. To help ensure kids are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on their first day of school, parents should start imposing schedule changes a few days early.
    • Keep bedrooms dark. There's a time and a place for kids’ phones, tablets, and laptops, but the bedroom isn’t one of them. In addition to not allowing kids to crawl into bed with their devices, Scullin recommends investing in blackout curtains to keep bright lights outside from disturbing kids’ slumber.
    • Keep rooms quiet. Street noise, a snoring sibling, or even a particularly loud flock of birds may get in the way of an uninterrupted night’s sleep. To keep out external noise, parents may want to purchase earplugs for their kids.
    • Banish pets. They may be adorable partners in crime during the day, but at night, kids and pets should be separated. Whether they’re bed hogs or noisy dreamers, pets that sleep in a child’s bed may be to blame for disturbing kids’ rest. Scullin suggests setting pets up with a bed of their own and allowing kids to sleep solo.
    • Cut caffeine and reduce late night snacking. Parents of Starbucks-addicted teens may want to consider putting an end to caffeine consumption by late afternoon. Additionally, parents should avoid letting kids eat a heavy meal late in the day. Close to bedtime, Scullin recommends opting for foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats.
    • Sort out anxiety through writing. Kicking off a new school year may be exciting for some but a nightmare for others. If your child is grappling with school-related anxiety, consider having them keep a journal. Listing out worries is a great way to help kids work through their fears -- and a mind at peace is a mind that will be able to fall asleep easily and sleep soundly.
    If preparation is the key to success, kids who gradually transition from their summer sleep schedule may be setting themselves up for a string of good repo...

    Miami Zika outbreak blamed on mosquitoes

    It's the first time in the U.S. that the disease has likely been spread by mosquitoes

    Health officials say a localized Zika outbreak appears to have been caused by mosquitoes. If so, they would be the first cases of mosquito-to-human transmission in the continental United States.

    Health officials believe that four people in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties were likely infected with Zika after being bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus. 

    Investigators say the three women and a man hadn’t traveled to areas affected by Zika and had not had sex with someone infected with Zika. So, being bitten by an infected mosquito seems the only possible explanation for their illness.

    The Florida Health Department believes that active transmission of the Zika virus is occurring in one small area just north of downtown Miami and about one square mile in size. Health officials say that while no mosquitoes trapped in that area have tested positive for the Zika virus, they think that the four sick people probably were bitten there.

    Health investigators are going door-to-door in the area collecting urine samples to determine if others have been infected.

    Blood donations halted

    Blood donations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have been halted until donation centers are able to test each unit of donated blood for Zika. 

    Health officials have also recommended that counties that are close to Miami-Dade and Broward do the same. Additionally, blood donation centers just outside of that region of Florida are being asked to not accept blood from people who have been in Miami-Dade or Broward Counties in the past month. 

    Miami-Dade County includes the city of Miami. Broward is just north of Miami and includes Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, and Pompano Beach

    Causes birth defects

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which an infant is born with an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain.

    Pregnant women and their partners are being urged to take steps to avoid the Zika virus, which is spread both by mosquitoes and sexual transmission.

    Health officials say a localized Zika outbreak appears to have been caused by mosquitoes. If so, they would be the first cases of mosquito-to-human transmi...

    Gas prices falling farther, faster than in typical summers

    Refineries are increasing supplies while oil prices fall

    Heading into August, motorists will enjoy prices at the pump that are, on average, about 55 cents a gallon cheaper than a year ago. It should make that trip to the beach a little less expensive.

    According to AAA, abundant fuel supplies across the U.S., coupled with falling crude oil prices, caused prices to fall in 47 states last week, led by big declines in the Midwest. However, Gasbuddy senior analyst Patrick DeHaan tweeted today that prices appear to be rising in Ohio and Michigan.

    And while California's gasoline prices remain among the most expensive in the nation, motorists there are paying $1 a gallon less than they were a year ago.

    The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey puts the national average price of self-serve regular at $2.19 a gallon, down four cents from a week ago. The national average price of diesel fuel is $2.32 a gallon, down two cents in the last week.

    Hawaii most expensive, South Carolina cheapest

    The most expensive gasoline is now found in Hawaii, with a statewide average price of $2.78 a gallon. California is next, at $2.75 and then Washington and Alaska, in a tie at $2.63.

    The cheapest place to fill-up is South Carolina, where the statewide average has plunged to $1.84 a gallon. It's $1.90 in Alabama and $1.92 in Tennessee.

    According to AAA, more than one-third of gas stations in the U.S. have gasoline priced at $2 a gallon or less. Last month at this time, only 7% of stations had dropped their prices to that level.

    The AAA analysis predicts fuel prices will remain low for the rest of the summer. In the fall, when refineries switch back to winter grade gasoline, prices normally head even lower. There is nothing on the horizon that would alter that pattern.

    Swimming in crude oil

    Normally, the summer months are marked by a huge uptick in demand. But U.S. stockpiles of crude oil are at their highest level for this time of year in 86 years. The U.S. may be producing less oil, but refineries have been busy converting the surplus stockpiles into gasoline.

    The American Petroleum Institute last week reported June fuel deliveries for June were up 3% over 2015, reaching the highest level in nine years.

    Heading into August, motorists will enjoy prices at the pump that are, on average, about 55 cents a gallon cheaper than a year ago. It should make that tri...

    Homeownership hits 50-year low

    Rising rents and tighter inventory are big factors

    Since the housing bubble burst, fewer Americans have been buying homes.

    First it was because it was so much harder to qualify for a mortgage and so many people were out of work. Then it was because there were fewer homes for sale.

    Now, the U.S. Census Bureau reports homeownership in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 1965, when the median priced U.S. home was $21,000.

    The Census Bureau tracks the percentage, not the actual number. In the second quarter of this year, the ownership rate dropped to 62.9%, the same rate as 51 years ago when the government started keeping records.

    Millennials continue to rent

    Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at real estate site Trulia, told CNBC the steady decline in homeownership is primarily due to Millennials continuing to rent, either by choice or inability to buy.

    "Certainly low inventory and affordability isn't helping their efforts to own, but moving out of their parents' basement and into a rental unit is also a good sign for the housing market," he told the business news channel.

    The census figures also show a tighter rental housing market as people who either can't buy a home or don't want to, compete for apartments and rental property. That competition has driven rents higher in the last seven years, making it even harder for some renters to save for a down payment.

    Rapidly rising rents

    In a separate report, real estate marketplace Zillow reports rents are rising fastest for the least expensive rental housing. That's due in large part to a growing shortage of cheaper housing as developers focus more on luxury apartments that command higher rents.

    Zillow said it looked at median rents in 15 large metros in the U.S. and found the median rent for the least expensive third of apartments was growing faster than the market as a whole. California is a good example, with the rent for the cheapest rental properties in Sacramento rising 33% in the last year, while the national median rent rose 7%.

    Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell sees a growing divide in the U.S. rental market.

    “Very high demand at the low end of the market is being met with more supply at the high end, an imbalance that will only contribute to growing affordability concerns for all renters,” Gudell said. “We're simply not building enough at the bottom and middle of the rental market to keep up with demand.”

    It all creates a housing conundrum. Not only is it getting more expensive to rent an apartment, those who are paying those high rents are finding it hard to save for a down payment. And even with a down payment, would-be homeowners are finding fewer homes on the market, meaning the homeownership rate may stay low for years to come.

    Since the housing bubble burst, fewer Americans have been buying homes.First it was because it was so much harder to qualify for a mortgage and so many...

    Economy continues to limp along

    Growth in the second three months of the year picked up from the first-quarter

    An advance look at how the economy was doing in the second quarter shows improvement over the first three months of the year -- but not much.

    The Commerce Department reports real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 1.2% after expanding at an anemic rate of 0.8% from January through March. This “advance” reading is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision. A second estimate will be released in about a month.

    The second-quarter increase in real GDP in the second quarter is the result of growth in personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or consumer spending, and exports. They were partly offset by declines in private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, were lower.

    The acceleration in real GDP growth in the second quarter from the first comes from a pickup in PCE, an upturn in exports, and smaller drops in nonresidential fixed investment and in federal government spending. A larger decrease in private inventory investment, and downturns in residential fixed investment and in state and local government spending, offset that acceleration.

    GDP inflation, income and savings

    The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 2.0% in the second quarter, after edging 0.2% higher in the first three months of the year. The PCE price index increased 1.9%, compared with an increase of 0.3%. Excluding food and energy prices, the core PCE price index was up 1.7% versus an increase of 2.1% in the previous quarter.

    Disposable personal income -- what you have left after taxes -- rose 3.1% in the second quarter, up 0.6% from the first quarter. Real disposable personal income (adjusted for inflation) rose 1.2%.

    Personal saving totaled $763.1 billion in the second quarter for a personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- of 5.5%, compared with 6.1% in the first quarter.

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

    Jobless claims

    The number of people filing applications for first-time state unemployment benefits shot higher last week.

    According to the Department of Labor, (DOL) initial jobless applications jumped by 14,000 in the week ending July 23 to a seasonally adjusted level of 266,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000.

    Even with the increase, the initial claims level has been below 300,000 for a 73rd consecutive week, the longest streak in some 43 years.

    The four-week moving, which lacks the weekly tally's volatility and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, was down 1,000 to 256,500.

    The complete report is available on the DOL website.

    An advance look at how the economy was doing in the second quarter shows improvement over the first three months of t...

    Model year 2016 Cruze vehicles

    The headlights may be improperly aimed during service

    General Motors is recalling 32,913 model year 2016 Cruze vehicles manufactured November 5, 2015, to May 26, 2016.

     

    The headlight assemblies are not marked with a three-digit identifier code used to properly aim the headlights. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, "Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Assoc. Equipment."

     

    Without the identification code, the headlights may be improperly aimed during service, reducing nighttime visibility and increasing the risk of a crash.

     

    What to do

     

    GM will mail owners instructions and adhesive labels, with the correct code, to install on their headlight assemblies. Owners may also bring the vehicle to a GM dealership for any assistance with applying the label, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

     

    Owners may contact Chevrolet Customer Service Department at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 50190.

     

     

    General Motors is recalling 32,913 model year 2016 Cruze vehicles manufactured November 5, 2015, to May 26, 2016. The headlight assemblies are not ...

    Integrated Food Service expands sandwich recall

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Integrated Food Service (IFS) is expanding the scope of its earlier recall of certain ready-to-eat sandwiches that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

     

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

     

    The expanded recall includes products produced between May 18 and June 16, 2016. The products were distributed to foodservice distributors and schools in California, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

     

    No retail products are affected by this recall..

     

    What to do

     

    Any school district that believes it may have recalled products in frozen storage should contact the IFS recall coordinator at (800) 560-9999 between 8AM – 5PM (PT) Monday through Friday, or by email at recall@integratedfoodservice.com.

     

     

    Integrated Food Service (IFS) is expanding the scope of its earlier recall of certain ready-to-eat sandwiches that may be contaminated with Listeria monocy...

    Combi recalls Coccoro Convertible Child Restraints

    Improper installation may increase the risk of injury

    Combi USA is recalling 39,395 Coccoro Convertible Child Restraints, model number 8220, manufactured January 1, 2009, to June 29, 2016.

     

    When the car seat is installed in a forward facing position and secured with only the vehicle’s lap belt, excessive force may be transmitted to the seat occupant in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury. As such, these child seats fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 213, "Child Restraint Systems."

     

    In the event of a crash, the seat occupant is at an increased risk of injury.

     

    This recall does not affect the use of the Coccoro child restraint when it is installed in a rearward-facing position.

     

    What to do

     

    Combi will notify owners, and provide them with a cover to be added to the bottom of the seat, free of charge. The recall was expected to begin in July 2016.

     

    Owners may contact Combi customer service at 1-888-232-3294, or by going to http://registration.combiusa.com/recall. Combi's number for this recall is 610.  

     

     

    Combi USA is recalling 39,395 Coccoro Convertible Child Restraints, model number 8220, manufactured January 1, 2009, to June 29, 2016. When the car...

    Debt collectors face tighter regulation by feds

    Rules would shift burden of proof from consumer to collector

    There are an estimated 6,000 debt collection firms in the U.S., making it a huge industry. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it affects around 70 million consumers who have some debt in collection.

    Some of this debt is legitimate, some is not. Currently the burden of proof to show which is which falls on the consumers. Under proposals outlined by the CFPB, much of the burden would shift to the debt collection industry.

    “Today we are considering proposals that would drastically overhaul the debt collection market,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This is about bringing better accuracy and accountability to a market that desperately needs it.”

    Under the proposed rules, debt collectors would be required to limit their communications, clearly disclose the details of the debt, and make it easier for consumers to dispute the debt. When a consumer disputes a debt, a debt collector would not be able to continue collection efforts without providing sufficient evidence that the debt is real.

    Sea change for the industry

    If enacted, these proposals could bring about a sea change in the industry. Some of the biggest problems occur when a debt collector purchases an old debt from a bank or credit card company. Because the debt is old and has changed hands, the paper trail may be thin or missing.

    Nonetheless, there have been instances where debt collectors have hammered away at consumers, even hauling them to court, over debts they insist are not legitimate. A case in point occurred in May 2015, when Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC, one of the largest buyers of written-off debt in the U.S., tried to collect a $1,000 credit card debt from Maria Guadalupe Mejia, who insisted the debt wasn’t hers.

    The jury decided the evidence showing the debt was not hers was so clear and overwhelming, it not only dismissed the case but awarded Mejia an $83 million judgment. In its blog, the CFPB says debt collection complaints outnumber all other types it receives.

    250,000 debt collection complaints

    “We have handled about 250,000 debt collection complaints since 2011 and have handled about 85,000 in 2015 alone,” the agency said. “We have ordered creditors and debt collectors to refund hundreds of millions of dollars through our enforcement actions against unlawful debt collection practices since 2011.”

    Among complaints about debt collection, CFPB says the majority concern continued attempts to collect a debt that the consumer said was not owed, either because it wasn't their debt or had already been repaid or discharged in bankruptcy.

    CFPB says consumers sometimes pay a debt that isn't theirs just to get rid of the debt collector. Other times, consumers spend time and money to dispute the debt. The proposed CFPB rules would shift the burden of proof from the consumer to the debt collector.

    In the meantime, CFPB says that if you're having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB online or call (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

    There are an estimated 6,000 debt collection firms in the U.S., making it a huge industry. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it...

    Chipotle hopes burgers will help revive its business

    The chain hopes to move past problems it had with last year's E. coli outbreak

    It wasn’t too long ago that Chipotle was facing backlash from consumers over its connection to E. coli. The company even went so far as to launch a rewards program to win customers back to the brand. Now, after a few months of recovery, the chain has announced that it will be opening up a new burger restaurant chain.

    The first of the chain, which will bear the name “Tasty Made,” is set to open in the fall in Lancaster, Ohio. Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells hopes that the new establishment will hearken back to the original burger joints that flourished in the U.S.

    “Early fast food burger restaurants generally had focused menus. We think there’s great strength in that original fast food model and wanted to create a restaurant built around that. Making only burgers, fries and shakes with really great ingredients, we think we can appeal to peoples’ timeless love of burgers, but in a way that is consistent with our long-term vision,” he said.

    Ells goes on to say that that long-term vision is to bring quality ingredients back to the fore. “Chipotle has been focused on a long-term vision to change the way people think about and eat fast food. At the heart of that is our commitment to great quality ingredients and classic cooking techniques – traits that are absolutely necessary to make the best tasting food, and that can be applied to a number of kinds of cuisine,” he said.

    From an economics perspective, Chipotle’s new venture into the burger business may be an attempt to recover from the losses it suffered due to its connection with E. coli outbreaks in 14 states. Share prices of the company have dropped significantly over the last year. 

    It wasn’t too long ago that Chipotle was facing backlash from consumers over its connection to E. coli. The company even went so far as to launch a rewards...

    Lawsuit says United baggage policies put passengers at risk

    Unaccompanied luggage heightens the risk of terrorist bombings, the suit alleges

    A class action lawsuit charges that United Airlines often sends passengers' baggage on alternative flights to leave room for profitable last-minute express cargo. It alleges that the practice puts passengers and crew at risk of terrorist bombings.

    The suit cites the 1988 downing of a Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as an example of how a bomb in unaccompanied luggage can bring down an airplane.

    Plaintiff Kathleen Watson says she became aware of the practice when her luggage did not show up in Honolulu after she and her husband flew from Seattle, Courthouse News Service reported. It turned out the bags were on another flight that arrived a short time later.

    Watson says a baggage supervisor said that that United Airlines has a policy of placing passenger bags on the next available flight so as to leave space for air cargo. The flight with the Watsons' bags had been scheduled to leave before the Watsons' flight did but was delayed.

    "Everybody does it"

    The supervisor insisted the practice is not illegal and gestured toward the Delta and American baggage carousels — where people were waiting for bags on similarly delayed flights — saying, "Everyone does it," the Watsons say in their complaint. 

    After the Lockerbie bombing, restrictions were put in place that prevent loading unaccompanied luggage, but no such restrictions apply to domestic flights.

    The suit alleges the practice shows a "wanton disregard" for passenger safety.

    A class action lawsuit charges that United Airlines often sends passengers' baggage on alternative flights to leave room for profitable last-minute express...

    Health insurance coverage may predict smoking and drinking habits for women, study finds

    Researchers say prenatal visits should address smoking and drinking habits for pregnant women

    Having health insurance coverage makes good sense from an economic and medical standpoint, but can it be a predictor of how much you smoke or drink? A new study conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shows that it can.

    Researchers at the school have found an association between trends in alcohol and tobacco consumption and health insurance coverage for women at reproductive age. The research may be especially important because it reveals serious implications for pregnant women.

    “Prenatal substance use is a major public health concern, and poses significant threats to maternal and child health. The widespread availability of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act may serve as a universal prevention intervention to help reduce prenatal substance abuse,” said lead author Dr. Qiana L. Brown.

    Health insurance predictor

    The study analyzed nearly 100,000 women between the ages of 12 and 44 who participated in the U.S. National Survey of Drug Use and Health between 2010 and 2014. Out of all the participants, 3% were pregnant when they took the survey.

    After controlling for a variety of factors, including race, age, income, and education, the researchers found that health insurance coverage often predicted which substances women tended to use. The findings showed that 22% of all participants with health insurance coverage had reported tobacco use in the past 30 days. That number jumped to 33% for women who did not have insurance.

    In a contrasting trend, the researchers found that 50% of insured women had reported alcohol use in the past 39 days, but that number was slightly lower for uninsured women – at 47%.

    Troubling trends

    When analyzing data for pregnant women, the findings revealed more troubling trends. The researchers found that alcohol and tobacco use were most pervasive during the first trimester of pregnancy, regardless of insurance status – at 19% and 22%, respectively.

    The researchers point out that abusing these substances during the first trimester can have a serious impact on the development of a growing fetus. They believe that prenatal visits could be the best way to curb these unhealthy behaviors.

    “Prenatal visits may present a good opportunity for screening and brief intervention regarding tobacco and particularly alcohol use,” said Dr. Deborah Hasin. “Particularly for alcohol, evidence indicates that screening and brief advice can be surprisingly effective for medical patients whose drinking is greater than advisable levels but who are not alcohol dependent.”

    And, like a study we reported on recently, the researchers say that smoking habits in pregnant women are alarmingly high. “There is the need for greater health provider attention to smoking among pregnant women. Our results suggest missed opportunities for tobacco prevention in prenatal visits,” said Dr. Silvia Martins.

    The full study has been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

    Having health insurance coverage makes good sense from an economic and medical standpoint, but can it be a predictor of how much you smoke or drink? A new ...

    Feds seek help to reduce fatal accidents at railroad crossings

    Accidents often involve parents and children, nearly all are preventable

    In theory, trains and cars should never collide. Railroad crossings are well-marked and nearly all crossings in populous areas are equipped with flashing lights, bells, and crossing gates that give drivers plenty of warning that a train is approaching.

    But it doesn't always work out that way, and Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg is asking for help from railroads, drivers, Congress, and the high-tech companies that provide GPS and other real-time navigation information.

    “Over the last six weeks, there have been three significant, tragic railroad crossing incidents. Each took the lives of parents and young children," Feinberg said in a prepared statement yesterday. "In San Leandro, California, a mother and her 3-year-old child were killed. In Colorado, a mother, a father and three of their four young children were killed on the way to church. And just this weekend in Arkansas, a mother, her son and two other children were killed."

    “These heartbreaking events are in addition to the other 87 people killed and 236 people injured this year at railroad crossings," Feinberg said.

    Google has already committed to include audio and visual alerts in its navigation programs to alert drivers to upcoming crossings. It has not said when the process will be complete.

    Feinberg said in June that she has also talked with Apple, TomTom, and MapQuest about integrating warnings into navigation apps, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    “Google was the first to say that they would go ahead and integrate the data. But we have had great conversations with other companies,” Feinberg said, according to the Times. “No one has told us that they are uninterested.”

    It's not expected that the navigation apps will be able to warn that a train is actually approaching, only to caution drivers that they are nearing a crossing.

    In some accidents, drivers get caught in back-ups after driving onto the tracks and are trapped when a train approaches, a vexing situation that experts have said calls for better driver education and perhaps signals that would give more warning when a train is in the area.

    In theory, trains and cars should never collide. Railroad crossings are well-marked and nearly all crossings in populous areas are equipped with flashing l...

    New app interrupts unproductive screen time with learning moments

    Finny may help parents stave off device addiction in kids

    Parents of kids who are constantly glued to devices may desire a way to surreptitiously incorporate a few learning experiences into their screen time.

    Now, a new app called Finny may be able to help parents make device time productive.

    The average kid now spends more than seven hours a day on media and devices, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And more often than not, it’s games and social media apps that capture a child’s attention.

    By enabling parents to transform an unproductive app into an occasionally educational experience, Finny sees itself as a platform that can help end device addiction.

    Monitors device usage

    “Their games, your rules,” is the motto behind the app, which is free for Android and iOS. A hybrid of parental control and education, the app works by monitoring device usage.

    Not only does Finny give parents an idea of how their 7 to 14 year olds are spending their time on mobile devices, it can keep kids from wasting time on unproductive apps.

    Before a child can become too consumed by an unproductive game or app, Finny will interrupt with a learning moment. Educational interruptions could be anything from the introduction of new academic content, reinforcement of old academic content, or the promotion of physical activity.

    Promotes balance

    "We love the idea of taking an everyday occurrence, like a child playing on a smartphone, and turning it into a learning opportunity," Liza McFadden, president of the Barbara Bush Foundation, said in a statement.

    "Innovation in the EdTech arena -- like the work that Finny is doing -- has the potential to make a positive impact on families,” McFadden adds.

    And Finny seems to have already had a positive impact on many families. In a study, over 90% of users reported improvement in their child’s device habits.

    For kids, the platform may offer another benefit: a more peaceful household.

    “I don’t have to argue with my parents over screen time anymore,” says the child of a Finny user, adding the app helps him balance his device time.

    Parents of kids who are constantly glued to devices may desire a way to surreptitiously incorporate a few learning experiences into their screen time. ...

    Paleo diet protects against cancer? South African find raises questions

    Scientists have found a cancerous foot bone dated at about 1.7 million years

    Think the paleo diet protects you from cancer? It might, but researchers in South Africa say they have found a cancerous foot bone that's about 1.7 million years old.

    Although the exact species could not be determined, scientists say the bone was from a hominin -- a bipedal human relative -- who presumably ate a diet that could be described as paleo, consisting mostly of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, or whatever else could be chased down or plucked from the ground.

    The discovery is said to be the most ancient evidence of cancer yet found and pushes the oldest known incidence back from modern times into deep prehistory. The oldest previously demonstrated possible hominin tumor was found in the rib of a Neanderthal and dated to around 120,000 years old.

    "Modern medicine tends to assume that cancers and tumors in humans are diseases caused by modern lifestyles and environments. Our studies show the origins of these diseases occurred in our ancient relatives millions of years before modern industrial societies existed," said Edward Odes, a doctoral candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand's Evolutionary Studies Institute.

    Would have been painful

    The cancer in a foot bone, a metatarsal, was identified as an osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer which usually affects younger individuals in modern humans, and, if untreated typically results in early death.

    "Due to its preservation, we don't know whether the single cancerous foot bone belongs to an adult or child, nor whether the cancer caused the death of this individual, but we can tell this would have affected the individuals' ability to walk or run," says Dr. Bernhard Zipfel, a Wits scientist and an expert on the foot and locomotion of early human relatives. "In short, it would have been painful."

    The findings were published in the South African Journal of Science.

    Think the paleo diet protects you from cancer? It might, but researchers in South Africa say they have found a cancerous foot bone that's about 1.7 million...

    Fertility tracking wearable may succeed where apps don't

    Wearing the device at night lets women know their five most fertile days

    While trying to conceive, many women prefer not to leave timing up to chance alone. That’s where fertility apps and websites come in.

    However, a recent study found that many websites and apps do not accurately predict a woman’s fertile window. Of 53 fertility calculators tested, only four were able to pinpoint a woman’s “precise fertile days.”

    Now, wearable tech may be stepping in to provide women with a new way to increase their odds of becoming pregnant.

    Five fertile days

    Ovulation predictor kits can get expensive and temperature charting can be tedious -- but with the Ava bracelet, women only need to wear the device at night.

    Throughout the night, sensors on the wearable measure three million data points that help predict the rise in reproductive hormones, including breathing rate, heart rate, sleep quality, and temperature.

    After syncing the wearable to the Ava app in the morning, the device gives women a real-time update on their fertility. In a recent study, the bracelet was found to detect an average of 5.3 fertile days per cycle with 89% accuracy.

    First-of-its-kind device

    The Ava bracelet can significantly decrease the time it takes to get pregnant, says Ava Science CEO and co-founder Lea von Bidder.

    "Even if you're tracking your periods to try to optimize your timing for conception, only about 30 percent of women have fertile windows that fall entirely within the time that clinical guidelines predict," von Bidder said in a statement. "That's why an accurate, reliable way to detect the full fertile window is such a breakthrough.

    Adds von Bidder, “Ava can cut the time it takes to get pregnant in half."

    The product, which retails for $199, is now available on the company’s website.

    While trying to conceive, many women prefer not to leave timing up to chance alone. That’s where fertility apps and websites come in. However, a recent...

    Consumers encountering fewer credit card fees

    However, choosing the wrong prepaid card can be costly

    Oil prices aren't the only thing going down. A new report from CreditCards.com found fewer credit cards are charging foreign transaction fees – a significant cost savings for consumers who travel outside the U.S.

    According to the report, 77 credit cards levied the fee last year but this year only 61 do.

    When you add up all the fees charged by the 100 credit cards, the report says the total number is 593, down from 613 a year ago.

    "Many card issuers are eliminating foreign transaction fees in an effort to win business from high-spending international travelers," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst.

    $3 for every $100 spent

    The typical foreign transaction fee is 3%, adding $3 to every $100 charge. Schultz says getting rid of the fee is a smart way for credit card companies to become the go-to card in travelers' wallets.

    The report also looked at the credit cards with the most and fewest potential fees. In the most category, First Premier Bank Credit Card and First Premier Bank Secured MasterCard top the list at 12 each.

    Close behind are Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa and Credit One Visa Platinum with 11 each.

    On the other hand, Pentagon Federal Credit Union Promise Visa Card has no fees and seven cards have only two. The report says the average credit card has six different fees, with the late fee and cash advance fee being the most common.

    "The trend toward fewer credit card fees is a great thing for consumers," Schulz said. "It's such a crazy-competitive time in the credit card business and lower fees are just another way that Americans are reaping the benefits."

    Prepaid card fees

    Prepaid cards, while technically not credit cards, also carry a lot of fees. A new report by CardHub.com finds selecting the wrong card can cost consumers more than $300 a year.

    Among the report's findings, prepaid cards offered by big national banks tend to be 82% less expensive to use than those issued by smaller banks. The report also found that nearly half of prepaid cards lack the necessary features to make them suitable for the average consumer.

    “Perhaps surprisingly, prepaid cards charge far fewer fees than their first cousin, checking accounts,” the authors write.

    The report found the best prepaid card to use as an alternative to a checking account is American Express Serve, followed by Bluebird and the Green Dot Gold Card.

    Oil prices aren't the only thing going down. A new report from CreditCards.com found fewer credit cards are charging foreign transaction fees – a significa...

    Job site now gives applicants a peek at the competition

    CareerBuilder offers tool showing how you stack up

    It's one thing to know about a job opening. It's quite another to know if you have real shot at it.

    Employment site CareerBuilder.com has made a tweak to its job listings, giving job applicants insight into how they stack up against other applicants. From now on, applicants will be able to see the qualifications other applicants possess – experience, education, and accomplishments.

    It's called the Job Competition Snapshot, and it's now available to all job seekers at no charge. It's designed to help applicants understand why they might not have gotten a response to their application.

    “Our Job Competition Snapshot provides more transparency into the likelihood of being called by an employer based on how you stack up against other candidates,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO for CareerBuilder.

    Should you apply or not?

    Ferguson says the tool can help job seekers determine whether they should apply for a particular job, or instead focus their efforts on positions where they have a better chance. On the other hand, he says it may also make some applicants feel like they have a better chance because of how they will stand up to the competition.

    The Snapshot protects the privacy of all applicants but aggregates information they provide. When you apply for a position, you will be able to see:

    • The number of candidates who have applied
    • The average years of experience of the applicants
    • The average level of education they have

    If, after viewing that information, you decide you have a good chance, you will be able to access more in-depth insights from a hiring status report, called Hire Insider.

    That report will tell you how many applications have been reviewed so far, the number of applicants who currently have jobs, the top college majors of applicants, the states where they live, and their current salaries.

    Information stays current

    “The information is automatically updated as other candidates apply, so job seekers can continually assess the competitive landscape in real time,” Ferguson said.

    In its advice to job seekers, competing online employment site Monster.com says it is important to research the company before submitting an application for a position.

    “Whether you know anything about the business will come through in your cover letter and interview, so do your homework and find out what you can,” it advises.

    It's also important to have a well-written, compelling resume that is relevant to the position being offered. These days, having a strong online presence is important, with prospective employers searching for reasons for both hiring and passing on an applicant.

    It's one thing to know about a job opening. It's quite another to know if you have real shot at it.Employment site CareerBuilder.com has made a tweak t...

    Porsche takes top spot in J.D. Power APEAL study for 12th year

    Driver-assist technology increasingly important on consumers' wish lists

    Consumers are looking for driver-assist technologies like blind spot monitoring and low-speed collision avoidance, but power, speed, and sex appeal still play a role as well, which may be why, for the 12th straight year, Porsche ranks No. 1 in the J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, released yesterday.

    Porsche ranks highest overall with a score of 877 index points. BMW ranks second with 859, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz rank third in a tie at 852, and Land Rover, Lexus, and Lincoln rank fifth in a tie at 843. Volkswagen (809) ranks highest among non-premium brands, followed by MINI (808), Kia (807), Ford (803), Ram (803), and GMC (802).

    Overall APEAL scores are higher among the 41% of owners whose vehicles have blind spot monitoring than among those whose vehicles do not have this technology (821 vs. 787, respectively). Similarly, APEAL scores are higher among the 30% of owners whose vehicles have collision avoidance technology than among those whose vehicles do not have this technology (828 vs. 790, respectively).

    Comfortable and confident

    “Technology-enabled safety features help drivers feel more comfortable and confident while driving their vehicles,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. “These features are also ‘gateway technologies’ to autonomous driving capabilities, so the continued level of consumer interest in them will be a critical metric to watch as the industry evolves toward including more automation  in new vehicles.”

    “The key to successful models is to launch with very high appeal and limit the decline that often comes in subsequent years,” said Stephens. “As automakers continue to add more content, including advanced technologies, to their vehicles, one key way to maintain appeal is to design technology that is easily upgradable and intuitive. Intuitive designs never go out of style."

    About the study

    The industry benchmark study, now in its 21st year, measures owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement across 77 attributes, ranging from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat.

    Consumers are looking for driver-assist technologies like blind spot monitoring and low-speed collision avoidance, but power, speed, and sex appeal still p...

    Meijer recalls fresh salad and sandwich products

    The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

    Meijer is recalling select fresh salad and sandwich products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

     

    The company says no illnesses have been reported

     

    The following Markets of Meijer Salads and Sandwiches, sold in Meijer stores from July 20 – 25, 2016, are being recalled:

    UPCUPC Description
    0-41250-16058-8MEIJER MACARONI SALAD 1 LB.
    0-41250-16060-1MEIJER MACARONI SALAD 3 LB.
    0-41250-16074-8MEIJER POTATO SALAD AMISH 1 LB
    0-41250-16076-2MEIJER POTATO SALAD AMISH 3 LB
    2-17306-00000-3MARKETS OF MEIJER SALAD SEASHELL MACARONI
    7-08820-52935-9MARKETS OF MEIJER SANDWICH TUNA SALAD WEDGE CK 7 OZ EA
    7-08820-54345-4MARKETS OF MEIJER SANDWICH EGG SALAD 8 OZ EA
    7-08820-62022-3MEIJER EGG SALAD SPREAD 12 OZ
    7-08820-62033-9MEIJER CHICKEN SALAD SPREAD 12 OZ.
     

     

    What to do

     

    Customers should stop using the product and either dispose of it or return it to the customer service desk at any Meijer store for a full refund.

     

    Consumers with questions may contact Meijer at (800) 543-3704.

     

     

    Meijer is recalling select fresh salad and sandwich products that may be contaminated with Salmonella. The company says no illnesses have been repo...

    Robocall strike force seeks solution to pesky calls and texts

    At FCC's urging, AT&T agrees to lead industry effort to block automated calls

    Considering all of its blather about customer service, the telecommunications industry has been rather reluctant to do anything about robocalls, perhaps the most hated of modern annoyances.

    But after prodding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), AT&T has agreed to lead an effort to limit the calls using technology that will use a "Do Not Originate" list identifying suspicious calls originated outside the United States.

    AT&T had been arguing that it didn't have the legal authority to block robocalls, even though the FCC last year had clearly said the industry had its permission to do just that.

    Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler decided to try again, writing to AT&T and other major carriers urging them to "offer call-blocking services to their customers now -- at no cost."

    Task force

    A few days later, AT&T said in a blog post that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson would head up an industry task force to "accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions to abate the proliferation of robocalls and to make recommendations to the FCC on the role government can play in this battle."

    In other words, don't look for anything to happen right away. Wheeler, however, took it as a sign that things may at last be starting to move.

    “I applaud AT&T for committing to make robocall-blocking technology available to its customers, as I requested in a letter to the company last week," Wheeler said in a statement and said he hoped to see recommendations in 60 days.

    "Since giving consumers meaningful control over the calls and texts they receive will require collective action by the industry, I am gratified that AT&T will lead an industry strike force to develop an action plan for providing consumers with robust robocall-blocking solutions. ... I strongly urge industry participants to join the effort and to produce conclusions within 60 days.”

    Wheeler also wrote to "intermediary carriers," the companies that connect robocallers to the consumer's phone company, reminding them of their responsibility to help facilitate the offering of blocking technologies.

    Last summer, the FCC made clear that there are no legal obstacles to carriers offering consumers robocall-blocking services, the agency noted, adding that some IP and mobile phone networks are already doing just that. 

    "The Commission is committed to doing everything it can to further empower consumers to control unwanted calls and texts," the FCC said.

    Considering all of its blather about customer service, the telecommunications industry has been rather reluctant to do anything about robocalls, perhaps th...

    Why homebuyers have to act quickly

    Zillow reports inventory of available homes is down 38% from 2011

    The couple had looked at five houses for sale and really liked one. But they told their real estate agent they would like to keep looking.

    “If there's a house you really like, you should put in an offer today,” the agent advises. “Otherwise, you'll miss your opportunity.”

    The agent isn't just blowing smoke. In today's real estate market, the low inventory of available homes has made it a seller's market, and desirable homes are selling quickly.

    “Days on market” can be a strong indicator of the housing market, and when that number goes down it tips the balance in favor of sellers. This month real estate marketplace Zillow reported time on the market before selling has been steadily falling since 2010, when homes took an average of five months to sell. The national average is now 78 days from listing to close.

    Big cities are booming

    The market has picked up the most in large metros, with the average selling time falling by at least two weeks in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. The fastest-moving homes, according to Zillow, are in the entry-level price range.

    "Homes are selling faster than ever as the home shopping season hits its peak," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "If you're looking for a home, be prepared to move quickly.”

    There's no question the low inventory of available homes has added to the fast moving market. And the situation doesn't appear to be getting any better. New home construction remains historically low while potential move-up buyers aren't selling their homes because they aren't confident they can find something they like better.

    Inventory down 38% from peak

    Zillow reports the inventory of available homes is down nearly 5% from a year ago and is 38% lower than it was in 2011, at the depths of the housing recession. That means someone shopping for a home will need to be able to make a decision quickly.

    To get a leg up in today's market, Zillow says buyers should have met with a lender and secured preapproval for a loan, even before looking at a property. The preapproval will tell you how much mortgage you can obtain and will help narrow the price range of houses in the search.

    Buyers should also strongly consider working with a real estate agent, preferably one well-acquainted with the area.

    Normally, an offer is submitted with a contingency for a home inspection. Zillow suggests asking to make an inspection before you make an offer. You could lose $400 or so if you decide not to buy the house, but if you are then able to make an offer with no contingencies, you stand a better chance of getting the house in case there are competing offers.

    If you are buying in a competitive market, don't expect a lot of wiggle room in the negotiation. The combination of tight inventory and strong demand is driving prices higher. If it is a house you really want, you may need to meet the asking price – and in the case of a competitive bidding situation, offer above the asking price.

    The couple had looked at five houses for sale and really liked one. But they told their real estate agent they would like to keep looking.“If there's a...

    The biggest threat facing retirees

    It isn't having insufficient savings -- it's having too much debt.

    Retirement is a huge adjustment in life, but surveys have shown that many Americans are entering that phase of life with a significant amount of debt.

    While retirement planners usually focus on how much someone has saved for retirement, some aging experts worry more about how much debt retirees have accumulated

    The Washington Post recently reported that consumers carrying mortgage debt into retirement amounts to a ticking time bomb, with the percentage of people carrying a mortgage into retirement rising from 22% in 2001 to 30% in 2011.

    But data shows retirees are also burdened with other kinds of debt, in particular credit card debt. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) recently surveyed aging network professionals on their clients’ debt, with 72 professionals taking part in the survey.

    Medical debt is the biggest worry

    According to the survey, these professionals most frequently encounter clients struggling with unmanageable medical, credit card, mortgage, and utility debt or missed payments. More than half said medical debt was the biggest impediment to financial security.

    “Household borrowing in the United States has increased exponentially in the past few decades, while real compensation has remained stagnant, the report's authors wrote. “Senior households have been far from immune to this alarming trend.”

    Goverment statistics show that the share of senior households with any debt rose from 44.4% in 1989 to 61.3% in 2013.

    Increasingly, senior households are carrying a lot more credit card debt than in the past. The NCOA report shows balances have risen since 1981. The median credit card balance in a household headed by someone age 60 or older hit $3,000 in 2007, at the start of the Great Recession.

    Credit card debt

    Credit card debt is now the second largest financial concern for seniors, right behind medical bills and just ahead of paying the utility bill.

    According to New Retirement, people nearing retirement should make it a priority to pay off credit card debt before they stop working. It even suggests tapping into savings to pay off debt, the rationale being that the interest on the debt far outweighs anything the savings can earn.

    Perhaps the fastest way to pay down credit card debt is to roll the high interest balance onto a card that offers a lengthy introductory period of 0% interest. We recently reviewed two cards – Citi Simplicity and Citi Diamond Preferred – that are good choices.

    Retirement is a huge adjustment in life, but surveys have shown that many Americans are entering that phase of life with a significant amount of debt.W...

    Airline baggage fees must be refunded if bags are delayed, according to new law

    Consumers will receive the refund if their baggage does not arrive within 12 hours of the intended arrival time

    It’s not an uncommon story – your flight touches down at its final destination, but your baggage didn’t make it in time for the connecting flight. It’s a major source of frustration for frequent fliers, who pay good money to make sure their belongings arrive in a timely fashion.

    In order to address this problem -- at least partially -- a new law has been passed this month that requires airlines to refund baggage fees if bags are delayed, according to an Atlanta Journal Constitution report. The law is intended to make getting a refund easier for consumers, who otherwise may need to jump through hoops for remuneration.

    U.S. Senator John Thune remarked that “passengers won’t have to spend a ton of time tracking down a refund when the airline doesn’t deliver.”

    Consumers should be especially happy about this law considering the amount of money they spend to check their bags. U.S. airlines made a combined $900 million off of baggage fees in the first quarter of 2016; American Airlines led the way with $262.5 million in baggage fees, with Delta in second place at $197.7 million.

    The new regulation stipulates that airlines “promptly provide to a passenger an automated refund for any ancillary fees paid by the passenger for checked baggage” if it doesn’t arrive within 12 hours of its intended arrival time. International flights will have slightly more leeway with a 15-hour timeframe.

    Passengers looking to take advantage of the new rule will only need to notify the airline of any lost or delayed baggage, a change from having to fill out online rebate forms that may only give a travel voucher. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has been asked to officially issue the new regulation within a year.

    The refund requirement is part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016.

    It’s not an uncommon story – your flight touches down at its final destination, but your baggage didn’t make it in time for the connecting flight. It’s a m...

    Smell test may reveal early Alzheimer's disease

    Could be used to identify patients who need advanced testing

    Researchers have stumbled across a simple, low-tech way to alert health care professionals that someone may be on the road to Alzheimer's disease.

    They say a test in which the subject sniffs different odors and aromas, and tries to identify them, can provide clues to their cognitive ability. An inability in detecting and identifying these smells, they say, may predict a cognitive decline and an early stage of Alzheimer's.

    Two studies, conducted at Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian, utilized the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT). The test utilizes a series of scratch-and-sniff tests, with a wide range of smells, including coffee and chocolate.

    “Our research showed that odor identification impairment, and to a lesser degree, entorhinal cortical thickness, were predictors of the transition to dementia,” said Seonjoo Lee, presenting author.

    Lee says the findings are sufficient enough to support odor identification as an early predictor of cognitive decline. Currently, physicians are only able to detect Alzheimer's in its later stages, after significant brain damage has occurred.

    People who later develop Alzheimer's often complain early on that food doesn't taste as good. Scientists say that is because the sense of taste is heavily dependent on a sense of smell. The circuits connecting the ability to smell to the brain are often interrupted in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

    Patients who do poorly on the smell test may be recommended for further testing, with sophisticated and expensive procedures that are normally not used as a matter of course. In other words, an inexpensive screening test like UPSIT may identify higher-risk patients in need of the advanced testing.

    Researchers have stumbled across a simple, low-tech way to alert health care professionals that someone may be on the road to Alzheimer's disease.They ...

    Cats take the blame but windows the real villains in bird deaths

    A continent full of suburban homes creates a lot of bird-window collisions

    Cats are frequently vilified as ruthless mass murderers who prey on the bird population. While it's true that most cats harbor the desire for an occasional free-range feast, a new study finds that millions of suburban homes across North America snuff out hundreds of millions of birds per year.

    More specifically, it's the windows in those suburban homes, especially those that have backyard bird feeders and lots of foliage and trees for birds to roost in and rest on.

    Some homeowners may protest that skyscrapers are the real threat, but a new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications finds that because there are so many more homes than high-rise buildings, they're the cause of most fatal bird-window collisions, confirming an earlier landmark study conducted by Scott Loss of Oklahoma State University in 2014. 

    "Although each typical residential dwelling only causes one or a few bird-window collisions per year, the enormous number of these buildings means we are killing far more birds in our collective backyards than are dying at large office buildings and skyscrapers," Loss found. 

    Collision data

    In the latest study, Justine Kummer of the University of Alberta worked with homeowners who collected and contributed more than 34,000 days' worth of collision data. They found that a bird feeder, the home's location (urban or rural), and the height of the yard's vegetation were the most important predictors of collisions.

    Homeowners participating in the study agreed to walk the perimeters of their houses daily and report evidence of bird-window collisions.

    "Conducting a citizen science project had a number of challenges," says Kummer. "Unlike some other projects, I didn't spend my time collecting data; I spent it trying to recruit homeowners and educate the public about the issue."

    What to do

    So what's a bird-loving homeowner to do?

    You probably don't want to remove your bird feeder or cut down the trees and shrubs around your house. Instead, Kummer suggests simple solutions like applying highly visible tape or film to your windows. 

    You might also want to take down that bird feeder.

    Cats are frequently vilified as ruthless mass murderers who prey on the bird population. While it's true that most cats harbor the desire for an occasional...

    Subscription box service changing the way parents shop for kids

    Rockets of Awesome caters to kids' clothing needs and style whims

    There's a subscription box service for every need, it seems. From food and wine to beauty products and pet supplies, consumers can choose from a variety of items to have shipped to their door each month.

    Subscription box services like StitchFix and Warby Parker -- which offer shoppers the luxury of being able to try on a selection of clothing or eyewear right at home -- have been highly successful in recent years.

    It’s clear to see that adult consumers would rather spend their time elsewhere rather than roaming the halls of a crowded shopping mall, and the same most definitely holds true for kids.

    Now, a new subscription box service may take some of the fuss out of shopping with kids. 

    Caters to kids' style

    Rockets of Awesome is a kids clothing subscription service that promises a painless shopping experience. Instead of dressing rooms and shopping mall heel-dragging, kids can simply try on 11 items of clothing and one fun accessory right at home.

    One box, filled with items ranging in price from $12 to $36, is sent to parents’ homes four times a year (one box per season). Any items of clothing that aren’t quite right can be sent back for free.

    Increasing the probability that the items in the box will suit a kid’s style preferences can be accomplished in just a few keystrokes. An online questionairre has parents answer questions about their children’s style preferences, including likes and dislikes and favorite colors.

    Comfortable and cool

    After Rockets of Awesome gets a feel for a kid's style, needs, and preferences, a personal shopper selects items from the company's own apparel selection (all items are designed and produced by the company, which keeps costs low).

    "All the clothes are super stylish," founder Rachel Blumenthal tells TechCrunch. "But they're also super comfy. The pants are lined with a t-shirt material to make them soft, and the sweatshirts are extra cozy and stretchy."

    Comfort is key when it comes to kids clothing, she notes -- but clothing that is both comfortable and put-together looking is the sweet spot. Blumenthal believes Rockets of Awesome has perfected the happy, wearable medium. 

    The site is now live and ready to accomodate back-to-school shopping needs. It offers boys and girls clothing in sizes 2 through 14.

    There's a subscription box service for every need, it seems. From food and wine to beauty products and pet supplies, consumers can choose from a variety of...

    Why it pays to regularly check your credit score

    Survey finds the more you check your score, the higher it is

    You probably know why you should check your credit report once a year. Doing so alerts you to any negative information in it, including whether someone has stolen your identity and opened credit in your name.

    You are entitled to a free download of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies once a year. You can access them by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.

    But it also turns out that checking your credit score on a regular basis can pay off – but for different reasons.

    A survey by Discover found that checking your credit score regularly is associated with good credit behavior. In other words, checking your credit score tends to result in a higher credit score.

    FICO Score

    When people talk about a credit score, they usually refer to the FICO score maintained by Fair Isaac. That's the score most lenders use to judge a consumer's creditworthiness.

    Accessing your FICO score usually carries a fee. However, a number of financial organizations and websites offer free credit scores that are based on the same financial information used to calculate the FICO score. It isn't your FICO credit score, but it's probably pretty close.

    The Discover survey found that 73% of consumers who checked their credit score at least seven times in a year said that practice improved their credit behavior. They paid their bills on time, paid down debt, and maintained low credit card balances.

    Of the consumers who checked their score just a single time in a year, only 44% felt like they were taking the right steps to improve their credit.

    Checking leads to rising score

    That result was borne out in the data. Those who checked their score on a regular basis actually saw their scores rise. The more a consumer checked his or her score, the more that score improved.

    “Checking your credit score is one of the simplest things that anyone can do to get on the path to understanding their credit health,” said Julie Loeger, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Discover. “But checking is just the first step.”

    Discover offers free access to consumers' FICO score, as well as a personalized scorecard to help stay on top of the factors influencing scores. Even non-Discover customers can check their score by going to www.Discover.com/creditscorecard.

    Why is a credit score so important? If you plan to buy a car, purchase a home, or just apply for a credit card, you need a credit score that is as high as possible. But the survey found that many consumers don't have a good grasp on how a credit score impacts their lives.

    Millennials in the survey suggested having a more personal connection to their credit, compared to other generational groups. Forty-six percent of millennials connect their credit standing with their self-worth, more than any other age demographic.

    You probably know why you should check your credit report once a year. Doing so alerts you to any negative information in it, including whether someone has...

    Pending home sales up modestly in June

    Supply and affordability held the market back

    Falling supplies and higher prices put a lid on pending home sales in June.

    According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), it's Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) barely budged, but did creep up 0.2% from May to 110.8. That puts the index 1.0% higher than it was a year ago and at its second highest reading over the past 12 months. Nonetheless, the PHSI is down considerably from this year's peak level of 115.0 in April.

    "With only the Northeast region having an adequate supply of homes for sale, the reoccurring dilemma of strained supply causing a run-up in home prices continues to play out in several markets, leading to the last two months reflecting a slight, early summer cool-down after a very active spring," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

    "Unfortunately for prospective buyers trying to take advantage of exceptionally low mortgage rates, housing inventory at the end of last month was down almost 6% percent from a year ago, and home prices are showing little evidence of slowing to a healthier pace that more closely mirrors wage and income growth."

    Yun said until inventory conditions markedly improve, far too many prospective buyers are likely to run into situations of either being priced out of the market or outbid on the very few properties available for sale.

    Sales by region

    • In the Northeast, the PHSI rose 3.2% to 96.0, and is now 1.7% higher than it was a year go
    • The index inched up 0.8% in the Midwest to 108.9, and is up 1.6% from June 2015.
    • Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.6% to an index reading of 125.9 in June but show a year-over-year gain of 1.8%.
    • In the West, the index dropped 1.3% to 101.3, and is now 1.8% below a year ago.
    Falling supplies and higher prices put a lid on pending home sales in June.According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), it's Pending Home S...

    Mortgage applications drop for a second straight week

    Contract interest rates continued their upward spiral

    Mortgage applications plunged 11.2% in the week ending July 22, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.

    It was even worse for the Refinance Index, which was down 15% from the previous week, taking the refinance share of mortgage activity to 61.1% of total applications from 64.2% a week earlier.

    The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity fell to 4.7% of total applications, the FHA share moved to 10.1% from 9.9%, the VA share was 11.9%, and the USDA share of total applications rose to 0.6% from 0.5% the week prior.

    Contract interest rates

    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose four basis points -- from 3.65% to 3.69% -- with points unchanged at 0.36 (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) inched up to 3.67% from 3.66%, with points unchanged at 0.32 (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 moved to 3.56% from 3.53%, with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs was to 2.94% a gain of four basis points, with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.31 (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 from 2.86% to 2.96%, with points increasing to 0.30 from 0.29 (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.

    Mortgage applications plunged 11.2% in the week ending July 22, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.It ...

    Improved small overlap rating earns Hyundai Elantra IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+

    The rating applies only to vehicles built after March

    Across-the-board good ratings for crashworthiness -- including in the challenging small overlap test -- have earned the redesigned Hyundai Elantra the top award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    The redesigned 2017 Elantra also has an available front crash prevention system that earned a superior rating.

    The small vehicle's good small overlap rating is an improvement over the previous generation, which rated acceptable. The earlier model's structure did not fare well in the test. Maximum intrusion into the occupant space was nine inches. In the new Elantra, it's only 2 inches.

    The good rating applies only to 2017 Elantras built after March, when additional modifications were made. Those changes included strengthening the junction between the door sill and the hinge pillar and modifying the frontal airbag.

    The Elantra's optional front crash prevention system avoided a collision in the Institute's 12 mph track test. In the 25 mph test, the car's impact speed was cut by an average of 22 mph. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

    To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

    Across-the-board good ratings for crashworthiness -- including in the challenging small overlap test -- have earned the redesigned Hyundai Elantra the top ...

    Consumer confidence shows little change in July

    Cautious optimism is the watchword this election year

    Not much movement during July in the way consumers see the economy.

    According to The Conference Board, its Consumer Confidence Index was relatively unchanged this month after increasing in June. The Index now stands at 97.3, virtually the same as the 97.4 it registered the month before.

    The Present Situation Index rose to 118.3, and the Expectations Index dipped to 83.3 from 84.6.

    “Consumers were slightly more positive about current business and labor market conditions, suggesting the economy will continue to expand at a moderate pace,” said Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco. “Expectations regarding business and labor market conditions, as well as personal income prospects, declined slightly as consumers remain cautiously optimistic about growth in the near-term.”

    How they see it

    Consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions improved slightly during the month, with those who see business conditions as “good” increasing from 26.8% to 28.1%. At the same time, though, those who said conditions are “bad” also rose, from 18.3% to 19.0%.

    There wasn't much change in the way that consumers looked at the labor market. Those who think jobs are “plentiful” slipped from 23.2% to 23.0%, while those who believe they're hard “hard to get” also dropped -- from 23.7% to 22.3%.

    The view of the short-term outlook was slightly less favorable in July. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months fell from 16.6% to 15.9%; those who say business conditions will get worse rose to 12.3% from 11.2% in June.

    Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was a touch more favorable than last month. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead was virtually unchanged at 14.0%, while those anticipating fewer jobs fell 0.7% -- to 17.0%.

    The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to rise fell from 18.2% to 16.6%; however the proportion expecting to earn less also declined -- from 11.3% to 10.8%.

    The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was July 14.

    Not much movement during July in the way consumers see the economy.According to The Conference Board, its Consumer Confidence Index was relatively unch...

    House of Smoke recalls Wild Boar Brotwurst products

    The products' nitrite levels exceed the regulatory limit

    House of Smoke of Ft. Lupton, Colo., is recalling approximately 4,692 pounds of Wild Boar Brotwurst products.

     

    The products' nitrite levels exceed the regulatory limit.

     

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

     

    The recalled items, produced and packed from April 27, 2015, to July 12, 2016, have the following lot numbers: 517240, 515160, 517160, 518070, 514080, 511380, 518090, 517001, 513211, 512221, 614110, 616210, 614050, 618150, 616060, 613160, 617070, and 612170, and bear establishment number “EST. 6273” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

     

    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 about the recall may contact James Barsness at (303) 857-2750.

     

     

    House of Smoke of Ft. Lupton, Colo., is recalling approximately 4,692 pounds of Wild Boar Brotwurst products. The products' nitrite levels exceed t...

    Unrepaired auto recalls a major threat, report warns

    J.D. Power counts millions of unrepaired vehicles on U.S. highways

    Not a week goes by, it seems, without a couple of auto recalls. According to government data analyzed by J.D. Power, 437 million vehicles were subject to a recall in the last 20 years, with a record 51 million recalled in 2015 alone.

    That can create a safety problem if those issues aren't addressed, and the J.D. Power analysis suggests many are not. It says there are 45 million vehicles on the road that were subject to recall between 2013 and 2015 that still have not been repaired.

    The report's authors say this creates major challenges for everyone – carmakers, dealers, and consumers.

    "The steady surge in recalls, combined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) stated goal of 100% recall completion rates have made the number of un-remedied recalls still on the road a critical statistic for automakers and dealers," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power.

    Stephens suggests the industry needs to better understand how to communicate with vehicle owners to improve recall completion rates.

    Significant findings

    A few facts stand out in the research. Unrepaired recall issues are more common in older cars. The recall repair rate in 2013 to 2017 models is 73%. For 2003 to 2007 models it's just 44%.

    Work vans have the highest recall completion rate, at 86%. Full-size SUVs have the worst, at 33%.

    The size of the recall also seems to make a difference. If the recall affected one million or more vehicles, the repair rate was only 49%. If fewer than 10,000 vehicles were in the recall, the completion rate is much higher – 67%.

    Issues affecting the powertrain, electrical and braking systems get the most attention from owners. Alarmingly, recalls concerning airbags have only a 47% repair rate.

    Airbags most ignored

    In the last two years millions of vehicles have been recalled because the Takata airbags in them have a defect, causing them to spray metal shrapnel through the cabin when the airbags deploy. There have been at least 10 known fatalities caused by this issue, some of which occurred in vehicles that had been recalled but not repaired.

    "By better understanding the specific factors driving recall compliance among vehicle owners, manufacturers and dealers can better tailor their communications and manage the recall process much more efficiently," said Stephens.

    Stephens says improving recall compliance is a major need for the auto industry, saying it will ultimately help reduce the number of un-remedied vehicles still on the road.

    Last year Carfax issued a similar report, noting that the number of unrepaired recalls surged 10-fold from 2013 to 2015.

    Manufacturers generally notify owners of record by mail when a vehicle is recalled, Consumers should remain alert for letters from a carmaker and not automatically assume it is junk mail. It could well contain life-saving informtion.

    Not a week goes by, it seems, without a couple of auto recalls. According to government data analyzed by J.D. Power, 437 million vehicles were subject to a...

    Would you drive less if it lowered your car insurance?

    Metromile pioneers pay by the mile auto insurance

    When gasoline price go up, consumers tend to drive less. It just makes economic sense.

    But if your car insurance premium went down when you drove fewer miles, would you also drive less? Metromile, a car insurance start-up, is betting you would.

    When you apply for a traditional car insurance policy, you are asked to estimate how many miles a year you drive. If you happen to drive fewer miles than your estimate, your rate doesn't go down.

    That's not how it works at Metromile, a company dead set on disrupting the car insurance business the way Amazon has disrupted retail. According to Metromile, customers pay a base rate for insurance, then an additional charge for each mile.

    A tracker that plugs into the vehicle's diagnostic port tracks the mileage for Metromile. The company said it only tracks miles and does not look at speed or other driving behaviors.

    Road test

    In a report last year, Metromile said it analyzed trips made by motorists who started a free test drive program and then later became pay-per-mile insurance customers. It found that, on average, these motorists drove 16.4 miles per day before paying by the mile. After switching, they drove on average 15.5 miles per day, 6% less.

    The company says paying for insurance by the mile completely changes the equation.

    “Drivers with below average mileage start to save money, whereas drivers with above average mileage pay more,” the company said in a release. “The less you drive, the lower your premium, so there’s a clear incentive to reduce your miles driven.”

    Currently Metromile insurance is only available in seven states – California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia. However, the company said it is committed to expanding its product to other states.

    In a review, NerdWallet says Metromile's advantages are that it does not measure driving habits other than mileage and that motorists who don't drive that much can save hundreds of dollars a year. However, there is no savings for those who regularly drive more than 10,000 miles a year.

    Metromile says it provides other benefits besides reduced insurance costs. It says when motorists drive fewer miles, they are also less likely to have accidents. For individual drivers, putting fewer miles on their vehicles reduces wear and tear and slows the rate of depreciation.

    When gasoline price go up, consumers tend to drive less. It just makes economic sense.But if your car insurance premium went down when you drove fewer...

    Survey: housing market still suffers from 2008 hangover

    Economic worries now 'the new normal'

    The housing market appears healthy. Despite tight inventories, sales keep rising and so do prices. The market appears to have come a long way since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, when homes prices imploded.

    But a new survey suggests the market is still suffering a hangover. The ValueInsured Modern Homebuyer Survey found there is still some nervousness influencing home buying decisions today, a condition it declares as “the new normal.” In particular, it affects Millennials.

    When faced with a decision whether to buy or upgrade a home, 63% of consumers and 72% of Millennials say that the 2008 financial crisis has been a source or worry and affected their decision. From now on, the survey authors wrote, this is likely to be a consistent concern.

    Here are some of the sources of concern:

    • Nearly 59% of consumers as a whole, and 68% of Millennials, say global economic events, such as the Brexit, worry them.
    • About 63% of Americans and 70% of Millennials say the U.S. economy is worrisome.
    • Nearly half of Americans and 61% of Millennials says concern about national security is causing them to think twice before buying a home.
    • More than half of Americans and 71% of Millennials say worries about job security, or the difficulty in getting a new one, could make them hesitate.

    Roots of concerns

    For those who may have forgotten, the housing boom sent home sales surging and prices skyrocketing in the early 2000s. To make it possible for more people to purchase a home, lenders didn't always ask a lot of questions.

    Buyers with little or no credit were offered subprime loans that began with low “teaser” rates that adjusted to much higher rates later on. Because the interest rates on subprime loans were much higher than prime loans, subprime mortgages were “securitized” and sold on Wall Street.

    When these loans began charging higher rates, many subprime borrowers were forced into foreclosure. That set off a collapse in the market for subprime mortgage securities, a crisis that nearly brought down the financial system.

    All of that pulled the rug out from under home prices, and as prices fell, more people ended up in foreclosure. That, the survey concludes, is the cause of “the new normal” in housing.

    Bright spots

    That said, the survey did find a few bright spots. The housing recovery to date has been real. Beyond that, it found that confidence in the market, while not robust, is trending higher.

    The ValueInsured Housing Confidence Index measure was 68.7 points in June, up 1.7 points from March.

     

    The housing market appears healthy. Despite tight inventories, sales keep rising and so do prices. The market appears to have come a long way since the dep...

    What millennials are doing to prepare for homeownership

    Thoughtful preparation is keeping the dream of homeownership alive

    Homeownership may be somewhat more elusive to millennials than members of previous generations. Delayed marriage and the crushing weight of debt has made the dangling carrot of homeownership a bit more difficult to attain.

    But millennials aren’t resigning themselves to a lifetime of renting. Rather, they’re chasing the dream of homeownership with intention and devotion -- and it’s paying off. Millennials are now the largest generation in the housing market.

    According to new research from TD Bank, nearly two-thirds of the generation are being conservative with their cash in order to come up with the money for a down payment (which, for 74% of millennials, is still the biggest hurdle to owning a home).

    In addition to cash savings, low-down payment mortgage programs and well laid-out priorities are opening doors for the 63% of millennials who plan to purchase their first home in the next two years. 

    From dream to reality

    Millennials are getting their financial ducks in a row in an effort to achieve the American dream of homeownership. Their top three priorities: saving for a down payment, paying off debt, and having a steady job.

    Once these goals are accomplished, 65% say they will have a partner or spouse as a co-signer. Additionally, 33% say they would like to pay off their mortgages sooner rather than later. One-third (33%) are planning on paying off their loan over a 15-year period.

    "It's encouraging to see millennials thoughtfully prepare to enter the housing market," Scott Haymore, Head of Pricing and Secondary Markets at TD Bank, said in a statement. “With today's affordability programs, owning a home doesn't have to be a dream, it can be a reality."

    But while the dream of homeownership may be crystallizing, the reality of what happens once you’re a homeowner may not be as clear to millennials.

    Saving for repairs

    Repairs and unexpected costs crop up regularly for homeowners, but many millennials aren’t budgeting for these expenses. Haymore says this could be why many millennials have difficulty coming up with a realistic monthly mortgage payment.

    "The costs of running a household can be a shock to new home owners," Haymore said. "Monthly expenses for utilities, homeowner's association fees, cable and internet, can add up quickly.”

    Nearly half of millennials racked up close to $5,000 in unexpected costs during the mortgage process, according to TD’s survey. But careful budgeting can help mitigate the risk of facing savings-annihilating expenses.

    Haymore recommends factoring in the cost of utilities, HOA fees and other expenses at the very beginning of the mortgage process. Doing so can give borrowers a clearer picture of their overall budget and help them determine a realistic monthly mortgage payment.

    Homeownership may be somewhat more elusive to millennials than members of previous generations. Delayed marriage and the crushing weight of debt has made t...

    JetBlue orders new airplanes, looks at trans-Atlantic routes

    The discount carrier also plans to expand its transcontinental Mint service

    Is JetBlue gearing up to enter the trans-Atlantic market? That's the speculation today, after the discount carrier ordered 30 additional Airbus A321 aircraft that can be configured with its premium Mint service, now being used on transcontinental flights.

    The additional aircraft can also be configured with an extended-range option that would enable them to fly from the East Coast to Europe. Trans-Atlantic routes are already under increasing competitive pressure from Norwegian Air Shuttle, Canada's WestJet Airlines, and Iceland’s WOW Air.

    JetBlue was stung last year when it lost the bidding for Virgin Airlines to Alaska Airlines. Virgin flies mostly cross-country routes in the U.S. and has acquired a reputation for upscale service but New York-based JetBlue has its eye on that market as well and has used Mint to skim off high-margin first-class fares from traditional carriers.

    Premium travel

    “Mint has surpassed our expectations on every customer and financial measure,” said Robin Hayes, president and CEO, JetBlue. “Mint won over customers in a big way and has transformed the performance of our transcontinental franchise. We have only scratched the surface on what Mint can do to disrupt the valuable coast-to-coast market.”

    With lie-flat seats, upgraded meals and other amenities, JetBlue says Mint has "made premium travel more accessible and opened a new market untapped by other carriers."

    In a news release, JetBlue makes clear it intends to expand Mint service beyond the NY-LA/SF routes.

    "Transcontinental markets outside of New York and Los Angeles are prime for similar disruption. For example, only five percent of transcontinental flights over 1,800 miles consistently offer regularly scheduled lie-flat seats.

     

    Is JetBlue gearing up to enter the trans-Atlantic market? That's the speculation today, after the discount carrier ordered 30 additional Airbus A321 aircra...

    New clothing contains technology that protects wearers from bugs

    Nobitech's athletic wear may ease bug-related worries

    With Zika concerns, the act of stepping outside may not be as carefree as it once was. Whether you’re walking the dog or enjoying time on the patio, staying off mosquitoes’ radar is important.

    Bug repellent may do its best to thwart harmful insects, but its pungent aroma is often hard to bear. For those who find strong sprays offputting, there’s a new bug-deterring game in town.

    Nobitech has created a first-of-its-kind line of athletic apparel that uses Skintex technology to ward off mosquitos, ticks, fleas, chiggers, ants, and flies.

    Sporting a tee shirt, jacket or pair of pants by the company can help prevent an afternoon outdoors from resulting in bug bites -- or worse, a potentially dangerous disease such as west nile, zika, or lyme disease.

    Slow release repellent 

    The insect-repelling duds are made from fabric that uses Skintex MRIII technology -- an EPA-approved apparel treatment designed to protect wearers from mosquitoes via microencapsulation technology.

    Inside the capsules is a slow release synthetic repellent that is non-toxic to humans but quite the opposite to bugs.

    Nobitech says its line of defense against crawling and flying insects is as comfortable as it is effective. In addition to keeping insect-borne diseases and bothersome bites at bay, the clothing may offer an alternative to the hassle of reapplying bug spray.

    The clothing, which hit the market July 2016, ranges in price from $25 to $65. It retains its bug repelling properties for 25 washings. 

    With Zika concerns, the act of stepping outside may not be as carefree as it once was. Whether you’re walking the dog or enjoying time on the patio, stayin...

    The pace of home price increases slows in May

    Portland, Seattle and Denver led the way

    Home prices rose in May, but not at the clip we saw the month before.

     

    The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, was up 5.0% in May from the same month a year earlier. Within that measure, the 10-City Composite rose 4.4%% increase, down 0.3% from the gain posted the previous month, and the 20-City Composite reported a year-over-year gain of 5.2%, down from 5.4% in April.

     

    The highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities over each of the last four months were recorded in Portland, Seattle and Denver. In May, Portland led the way with a 12.5% year-over-year price increase, followed by Seattle at 10.7%, and Denver with a 9.5% increase. Eight cities reported greater price increases in the year ending May 2016 versus the year ending April 2016.

     

    “Home prices continue to appreciate across the country,” said David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Overall, housing is doing quite well. In addition to strong prices, sales of existing homes reached the highest monthly level since

    2007 as construction of new homes showed continuing gains.

    Month-over-month

     

    The National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.2% in May, with the 10-City Composite down 0.8%, and the 20-City Composite posting a 0.1% decline in May. Twelve cities saw prices rise, two cities were unchanged, and six cities saw prices fall.

     

    Regional patterns seen in home prices are shifting. Blitzer notes that over the last year, the Pacific Northwest has been quite strong while prices in the previously strong spots of San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles saw more modest increases.

     

    “The two hottest areas during the housing boom were Florida and the Southwest,” he said, adding that Miami and Tampa have recovered in the last few months while Las Vegas and Phoenix remain weak. “When home prices began to recover,” Blitzer added, “New York and Washington saw steady price growth; now both are among the weakest areas in the country.”

     

     

    Home prices rose in May, but not at the clip we saw the month before. The S&P; CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which cov...

    Why the future of car-sharing may be limited

    Researchers say tax policies will discourage the concept

    Car-sharing was supposed to be one of those disruptive trends that turned the auto industry upside down, while ushering in other, more positive societal changes. However, new research from DePaul University sees trouble on the horizon for the concept.

    Researchers say the taxes imposed on rental car transactions may force ride-sharing into the slow lane. They point to steep rental car taxes that were originally aimed at out-of-town tourists and business travelers as stopping some local drivers from sharing a vehicle.

    Their study documents the taxes and their effects across the U.S. In nearly every municipality, individual consumers who want to share a car are faced with steep taxes.

    Unintended consequences

    “The tax burden facing people who car share is a case of unintended consequences," said Joseph Schwieterman, lead researcher and director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. “No one expected that these taxes, which were added years ago to car rentals, would suddenly apply to thousands of people who merely want to use a car for a quick neighborhood trip."

    When municipalities impose taxes on rental cars, they do so with the understanding their constituents won't pay them. It's almost always paid by out of towners, or business executives with expense accounts. It's similar to placing a tax on hotel rooms. The local governments get money without taxing the local citizens.

    The study also found the average tax rates on car rentals rose from 15.6% in 2011 to 17% in 2016, making the burden higher than those on hotel rooms and airline tickets. Ironically, ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber aren't taxed as rental cars and thus face a much lower retail tax.

    Each use is taxed

    The tax is especially onerous for car sharing because it is imposed every time one of the individual consumers uses the car. The DuPaul researchers calculate that rental car taxation policies can add several dollars to even a short trip. This, they say, is bound to slow the growth of a trend that many believed would bring significant benefits to communities.

    The study concludes the way around this unintended roadblock is for municipalities to address their rental car taxes, to create a more level playing field for car-sharing. As an example, they suggest a dramatic reduction in the tax on using a shared vehicles fewer than eight hours.

    Zipcar's D.C. locationsCar-sharing was supposed to be one of those disruptive trends that turned the auto industry upside down, while ushering in oth...

    New home sales rebound in June

    Home prices were higher as well

    Following a slump in May, sales of new single-family houses shot higher in June.

     

    Figures released by the Commerce Department show sales came in at an annual rate of 592,000 last month, 3.5% above the revised May rate of 572,000. It's also 25.4% higher than the same month a year earlier.

    Prices and inventory

     

    The median sales price of a new house sold in June 2016 was $306,700 -- up $17,900 from May and $17,500 from the year before. The median is the point at which half the houses sold for more and half for less.

     

    The average sales price was $358,200, a month-over-month gain of $6,800 and $28,900 above June 2015.

     

    The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of June was 244,000, representing a 4.9-months supply at the current sales rate.

     

    The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

    Following a slump in May, sales of new single-family houses shot higher in June. Figures released by the Commerce Department show sales came in at ...

    Volkswagen recalls CC, Golf R, Tiguan and e-Golf vehicles

    The rear child door locks may disengage, allowing a child to open a rear door

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,658 2016 CC vehicles manufactured January 12, 2016, to February 3, 2016; Golf R and Tiguan vehicles manufactured November 25, 2015, to January 28, 2016; and e-Golf vehicles manufactured November 25, 2015, to January 11, 2016.

     

    Vibrations, such as those created by opening and closing a vehicle door, may cause the rear child door locks to disengage, allowing a child to open a rear door while inside the vehicle.

     

    An unrestrained child who unexpectedly opens a door may fall from the vehicle increasing the risk of injury.

     

    What to do

     

    Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect, and if necessary, replace the child lock(s), free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

     

    Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 58C9.

     

     

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,658 2016 CC vehicles manufactured January 12, 2016, to February 3, 2016; Golf R and Tiguan vehicles manufactured...

    Tomorrow is here -- 7-Eleven delivers donuts by drone to Reno customer

    Coffee and a Slurpee were also included in the first-ever fast-food drone delivery

    "Firsts" aren't usually very significant aside from being, well, first. Alexander Graham Bell merely asked Watson to come and give him a hand. Orville and Wilbur didn't get very far. The first email, sent by Ray Tomlinson to himself in 1971, was just random letters.

    So perhaps it's fitting that the first retail delivery by drone to a customer's home consisted of coffee, donuts, a chicken sandwich, candy, and a Slurpee. Yep, that's right -- 7-Eleven got the jump on Amazon, Google, and other high-tech giants to become the first to deliver an order to a customer.

    While it may sound like a small thing, or even a publicity stunt, it actually amounted to a lot more than a quick trip to the corner store. 

    “This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis, and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” said Chris Walach, Director of Operations for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), which worked with Flirtey, the technology and packaging provider that developed key elements of the system.

    Flying chicken

    Nor was it a small thing to a Reno resident identified only as Michael, who received the shipment. 

    “My wife and I both work and have three small children ages 7, 6 and 1. The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless,” said Michael in a prepared statement. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”

    In fact, said Flirtey CEO Mat Sweeny, the whole affair was nothing less than a giant leap forward.

    "Flirtey’s historic drone deliveries to date have been stepping stones to store-to-home drone delivery, and today is a giant leap toward a not-too-distant future where we are delivering you convenience on demand,” Sweeny said.

    Even Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval got in on the action.

    “I congratulate Nevada-based company Flirtey on making history yet again – this time by collaborating with the world’s largest convenience retailer to complete the first store-to-home drone delivery in Reno, Nevada," said Sandoval.

    "Firsts" aren't usually very significant aside from being, well, first. Alexander Graham Bell merely asked Watson to come and give him a hand. Orville and ...

    Businesses warned about Pokemon Go security risk

    Security expert calls it a 'nightmare' for corporate networks

    Sometimes it can be risky mixing business and pleasure. The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) is warning businesses such a risk could occur if employees download the insanely popular Pokemon Go app on company-owned devices.

    The association has recommended corporations prohibit the installation and use of Pokemon Go on any devices used for business purposes. The group says that includes "bring your own device" (BYOD) phones/tablets with direct access to sensitive corporate information and accounts.

    AITAM CEO Dr. Barbara Rembiesa goes so far as to call the new augmented reality game a “nightmare” for firms trying to keep their email and cloud-based information secure.

    “Even with the enormous popularity of this gaming app, there are just too many questions and too many risks involved for responsible corporations to allow the game to be used on corporate-owned or BYOD devices,” Rembiesa said. “We already have real security concerns and expect them to become much more severe in the coming weeks.”

    She said to be safe, organizations must keep the app off any device the connects to the organization's network. Here are her concerns:

    Data breaches

    Rembiesa says the original user agreements for the game allowed Niantic to access each user's entire Google profile, including his or her history, past searches, and anything else associated with a Google Login ID.

    That is no longer the case in current versions, but Rembiesa says this meets the definition of a data breach for corporate-owned devices. It's also not clear to what extent data breaches took place before the change and what happened to the accessed information.

    Risky knockoffs

    Rembiesa says she has seen reports that some versions of the app that are on non-official download sites may include malware. The illicit software may allow cyber-criminals to take control of an infected phone or tablet.

    Rembiesa worries that unsophisticated users might not be aware of the risks inherent in downloading from any third party provider, especially if the device is used on a corporate network. She says Proofpoint, an online security provider, has already reported knockoff Android copies of Pokémon Go in the wild containing a remote controlled tool (RAT) called DroidJack.

    Encouraging bad behavior

    Making an exception and allowing the use of a game app on a corporate-owned device sets a bad precedent, Rembiesa argues. She says employees need to understand the importance of sticking with approved software.

    Despite its popularity, she says Pokemon Go must be considered a "rogue download," which is “any software program downloaded onto a device that circumvents the typical purchasing and installation channels of the organization.”

    Sometimes it can be risky mixing business and pleasure. The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) is warning business...

    Verizon acquiring Yahoo business assets for $4.8 billion

    Yahoo content will be added to AOL's

    In the late 1990s, when few internet users had even heard of Google, Yahoo was the search engine of choice. Since then it has positioned itself more as a content provider and struggled to remain relevant.

    Its long expected acquisition by another company is finally taking place, as Verizon announced over the weekend it will purchase Yahoo's operating business for $4.83 billion. The purchase will give Verizon access to more than one billion users for its mobile platform.

    For Yahoo, it's the end of a long search for a suitor. For Verizon, it's part of a strategy to combine the company's mobile platform with a steady stream of content.

    Linking Yahoo and AOL

    “Just over a year ago we acquired AOL to enhance our strategy of providing a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers,”said Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam. “The acquisition of Yahoo will put Verizon in a highly competitive position as a top global mobile media company, and help accelerate our revenue stream in digital advertising.”

    Verizon said Yahoo will be integrated with AOL and both units will operate under a Verizon executive. Yahoo's core Asian assets – primarily its huge stake in Chinese online retailer Alibaba – are not included in the sale. Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer said the decoupling will create value for Yahoo shareholders.

    “This transaction also sets up a great opportunity for Yahoo to build further distribution and accelerate our work in mobile, video, native advertising and social,” Meyer said.

    Verizon says the addition of Yahoo to AOL creates a powerful combination of content and distribution. Combined, the company will have more than 25 brands under one corporate roof. Yahoo will add information content in finance, news, and sports, as well as an email platform with 225 million active users.

    Verizon said it expects the deal to close in early 2017, pending approval by regulatory agencies and Yahoo's board of directors.

    In the late 1990s, when few internet users had even heard of Google, Yahoo was the search engine of choice. Since then it has positioned itself more as a c...

    Private airport security program promises to cut airport clutter

    For $179 a year, a biometric scan takes you directly to the security checkpoint

    An expedited security program called Clear promises to cut waiting times at some airports and sports stadiums, assuming you're willing to spend $179 annually. 

    Clear has been around since 2010 but has lately been adding major airports to its list of venues and says it will be at 14 by the end of July. It is rolling out in the Washington, D.C., area at Dulles and National and also at Seattle-Tacoma this week. 

    The company's website is long on superlatives but a bit short on nitty-gritty details, but it basically eliminates the long lines travelers face before they even get to security. You know, the line that leads up to the point where someone looks at your ID and boarding pass and directs you to the line that leads to the security checkpoint.

    "Seamless experience"

    Clear's promotional material describes the process as using a "biometric secure identity platform that strengthens security and redefines the consumer experience. ... This platform uses biometric information and data analytics to identify individuals, allowing a seamless experience anywhere secure transactions are required."

    In other words, it uses an iris and fingerprint scan to verify your identity. You show your boarding pass -- no ID required -- and go directly to the security checkpoint.

    "What Clear has done is not different from what ATMs have done or what E-ZPass has done," Clear CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker said in a recent CBS News story

    Critics say the company is making money off the need for security and adding another layer of elitism to travel. Frequent business travelers, however, say it's a godsend when meetings run long or plans change at the last minute.

    Most frequent travelers probably have already enrolled in TSA PreCheck, which costs $85 for five years. To get the full benefit of Clear, you'll want to hang onto PreCheck as well to avoid reverting to the tiresome shoes-off, laptops-out routine.  

    An expedited security program called Clear promises to cut waiting times at some airports and sports stadiums, assuming you're willing to spend $179 annual...

    Lack of sleep in childhood could take a toll on emotions in adulthood

    Sleep shortage could increase risk of depression and anxiety later in life, study finds

    Adequate amounts of slumber can keep kids feeling chipper throughout the day and aid in the healthy development of their minds and bodies. Good sleep habits may even fight against emotional problems in adulthood, researchers say.

    Kids who regularly miss out on a good night’s sleep may be more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, or other types or emotional disorders as adults, a new study from the University of Houston suggests.

    Lead author Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston, calls healthy sleep “critical for children’s psychological well-being” and says continued inadequate sleep during childhood may have repercussions later in life.

    More negative emotions

    To study the effects of sleep deprivation on children's emotional state, Alfano and her team temporarily restricted sleep in 50 children.

    Kids who didn’t clock the requisite forty winks experienced more negative emotions. What’s more, sleep deprived kids found less enjoyment in things that would normally be considered positive.

    Childhood, researchers say, is the golden window of time when sleep and emotion regulatory systems are developing. It's a critical window of opportunity for sleep interventions, says Alfano.

    "Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene and physical activity," Albano told the Daily Mail, adding that parents should watch for signs of inadequate sleep, which may include trouble waking up in the morning or sleepiness during the day.

    How much sleep?

    Exactly how much sleep should your child be getting? As we've reported, it depends on his or her age.

    New sleep guidelines backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that kids should be getting the following amount of sleep in each age bracket:

    • Infants 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
    • Children 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
    • Children 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
    • Children 6 to 12 years:  9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
    • Teens 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
    Adequate amounts of slumber can keep kids feeling chipper throughout the day and aid in the healthy development of their minds and bodies. Good sleep habit...

    Why even new cars might not be trouble-free on the road

    AAA reports roadside service calls surged in 2015

    Cars and trucks are getting better. Automakers have invested mightily in improving vehicle quality, so that most new cars on the road today are very reliable. With minimal maintenance, they are practically trouble-free.

    So it might come as a surprise that AAA reports it answered a record 32 million roadside assistance calls last year.

    A closer examination of the data, however, reveals the distress calls were not always related to vehicle performance. Instead, AAA says it addressed more battery, tire, and key-related issues than ever before.

    More problems with newer cars

    Oddly, cars and trucks fewer than five years old seemed to have a higher proportion of tire and key-related issues than older vehicles. The takeaway, says AAA, is that the recent trend of eliminating the spare tire and moving to electronic keyless ignitions may have unintended consequences.

    “Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Solutions.

    He said the new tires, with sleek, low profiles, are highly vulnerable to damage. The problem with electronic keyless ignitions, he says, is they can drain battery life.

    Out of gas

    Even with warning lights and alarms, he says a half million motorists ran out of gas last year.

    AAA cautions that owners of newer cars may be vulnerable in the event of a flat tire. To reduce weight, automakers have begun to eliminate spare tires and replace them with tire inflator kits. But Ruud says these kits won't fix all flats.

    AAA says it has also documented cases where keyless ignition systems have drained batteries or resulted in the driver locking himself out of the vehicle while the engine is running.

    When AAA is summoned to assist the driver of an older car, many times it's the case of a dead battery. Often times the motorist has never replaced the battery, driving it beyond its normal three-to-five-year lifespan.

    So despite all the high-tech improvements in cars in recent years, AAA recommends drivers check to make sure they have a spare tire, take extra care of smart keys and key fobs, and keep up with the age of the car's battery. After three years, the battery should get regular testing and be replaced if it is still being used long after its lifespan.

    Cars and trucks are getting better. Automakers have invested mightily in improving vehicle quality, so that most new cars on the road today are very reliab...

    Southwest Airlines hoping for a better week

    Airline said things are returning to normal after its computer glitch

    After computer outages caused cascading problems, cancelling hundreds of flights late last week, Southwest Airlines reports things got back to normal over the weekend -- at least, close to normal.

    In a notice to consumers posted on social media Saturday, the airline noted that “things are getting better and our cautious optimism is starting to become tangible as the operation stabilizes.”

    The computer glitch which occurred last Wednesday resulted in a backlog of flights that stranded Southwest passengers all over the country. It took a while for the schedule to get back to normal because flight crews had to be rearranged and rested, according to federal safety regulations. By Sunday, Southwest was still cancelling flights, but not as many.

    Keith, of Littleton, Colo., posted a review on ConsumerAffairs, saying he understands that computer problems can happen. But he said he was disappointed that Southwest couldn't get his wife back home after her flight was cancelled.

    Stranded passengers had few options

    “When she reached the head of the line at SAN, the SWA agent told her her only options were to fly standby until a seat became available,” Keith wrote. “All SWA flights back to Denver are sold out through tomorrow, so her chances are slim and none to get home. Asked what her options were, the agent said SWA would refund her ticket.”

    In a sign that the computer issues were fading as a problem, the airline said the biggest concern over the weekend was weather, and how it might affect schedules.

    Southwest once again apologized to customers and thanked employees for their extra work. The company said it was impressed with how customers and employees were able to cooperate to resolve issues.

    “The last four days have tested patience and heightened emotions,” the airline said. “Through it all, we have seen remarkable examples of people banding together to help each other. Our customers need to be commended for keeping as positive an attitude as could be expected during such an unprecedented event at Southwest Airlines.”

    The problem

    The computer crash meant passengers weren't able to check in for flights and gate agents had to manually issue boarding passes. That process delayed departures and caused flights to be cancelled.

    On Wednesday alone, nearly 700 flights were cancelled and many more were delayed. Southwest personnel utilized back-up procedures to get passengers and checked luggage on board their flights.

    “Make no mistake, Southwest created this problem,” the airline said in a statement. “We own that, and there is no victory lap to be had for a situation that has bred disappointment and shaken the trust customers have in Southwest Airlines.”

    After computer outages caused cascading problems, cancelling hundreds of flights late last week, Southwest Airlines reports things got back to normal over...

    Teen summer employment roars back

    Hiring in June was the strongest in three years

    Teens looking for work in June found it.

    Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which tracks employment, reports employment among 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 691,000 last month -- up 13% an from last year and the biggest surge in teen job gains since 2014.

    The fast food industry appears to be a major factor.

    “Unlike traditional retailers, which appear to be closing locations as more people shop online, food establishments are expanding. The Sonic drive-in chain added 16 new locations in the quarter that ended May 31,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “Moreover, there has been an explosion of new restaurants offering healthier alternatives to traditional fast food fare.”

    The June surge followed weak hiring among teens in May, which saw the fewest employment gains for 16- to 19-year-olds (156,000) since 2011. However, summer hiring this year is now outpacing 2015.

    Through the first two months of the three-month summer hiring period, employers have hired 847,000 teenagers, up 7.1% from a year ago, when teen job gains in May and June totaled 791,000.

    Overall teen employment reached a non-seasonally adjusted 5,548,000 in June -- up 4.0% from a year ago, and the highest June employment level for this age group since 2009, when 5,608,000 teenagers were employed.

    Teens looking for work in June found it.Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which tracks employment, reports employment among 16- to...

    Kapowsin Meats recalls whole hogs for barbeque

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

    Kapowsin Meats of Graham, Wash, is recalling approximately 11,658 pounds of varying weights of boxed/bagged whole hogs for barbeque

     

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

     

    Three Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- case-patients have been identified with illness onset dates ranging from July 5 – 7, 2016.

     

    The whole roaster hogs, produced between June 13, 2016, and July 15, 2016, bear establishment number “EST. 1628M” inside the USDA mark of inspection. They were shipped to various individuals, retail locations, institutions and distributors in Washington.

     

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

     

     

    Kapowsin Meats of Graham, Wash, is recalling approximately 11,658 pounds of varying weights of boxed/bagged whole hogs for barbeque The product may...

    General Motors recalls vehicles with defective electronic park lock levers

    The electronic park lock lever may allow the ignition key to be removed without the transmission being in PARK

    General Motors is recalling model year 2016-2017 Buick Veranos and 2016 Chevrolet Malibus whose electronic park lock lever may allow the ignition key to be removed without the transmission being in PARK.

     

    Additionally, 2013 Buick Encores, 2011 Buick Regals, 2013-2014 Buick Veranos, 2011-2016 Chevrolet Cruzes, 2010-2013 Chevrolet Equinoxs 2013-2015 Chevrolet Malibus, and 2011-2013 GMC Terrain vehicles may have been serviced with similar defective replacement electronic park lock levers. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 114, "Theft Protection and Rollaway Prevention."

     

    If the key is removed without the transmission in PARK, the vehicle may roll away as occupants are exiting, increasing the risk of injury.

     

    What to do

     

    GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and if necessary replace the key cylinder lock housing, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

     

    Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020, Buiick 1-800-521-7300, and GMC 1-800-462-8782. GM's numbers for this recall are 50490 and 50491.

     

     

    General Motors is recalling model year 2016-2017 Buick Veranos and 2016 Chevrolet Malibus whose electronic park lock lever may allow the ignition key to be...

    Your priest is in prison in the Philippines? Don't send money just yet

    The latest variation of the Grandmother Scam targets religious congregants

    Not too long ago, the "Grandmother Scam" was all the rage. Seniors would get an email or a telephone call, supposedly from a grandchild, stating that the grandchild was in jail in a foreign country on a trumped-up charge and needed a few thousand dollars to buy his or her freedom.

    Old scams, of course, never die. They just change their skin slightly, and the latest version of this one involves the clergy. We had heard about this latest version but had not seen it in the wild until a few days ago when this popped up in the inbox, complete with a very explicit warning from Google:

    "Those poor saps. Haven't they heard that everybody knows about this scam already?" I remarked to a co-worker.

    But there's always someone who didn't get the word. Sure enough. Today we checked with the Msgr. Jim whose email had been hijacked and he reported ruefully that one of his parishoners had called him a few days ago, wanting to know if he had escaped from his Filipino captors.

    The parishoner had fallen for the appeal and, wanting to help his favorite priest, had responded to the email and, assured by the scammer that it was for real, had wired several thousand dollars as instructed.

    The money, of course, is gone and cannot be recovered. 

    Tip-offs to watch for

    While the parishoner's generosity and willingness to help are commendable, there were several tip-offs that the email was perhaps not what it seemed:

    • Most obviously, Msgr. Jim had not said in any of his recent homilies that he was preparing to fly halfway around the world. This is something most people would mention, at least in passing. 
    • A Roman Catholic priest is never far from a colleague. Msgr. Jim could have called or emailed the nearest RC church for help.
    • Equally likely, Msgr. Jim could and probably would have called or emailed the office at his large East Coast parish for help.
    • The email opens with a generic "Good morning" greeting. Normally, when asking someone for a loan, you'd address them by name.
    • Most telling of all, the email came from an AOL.com address but hit the return button and the return address is at Hotmail.com. Does Msgr. Jim have nearly identical email addresses at different carriers? Not likely.  
    • And finally, for anyone using Gmail, the big red warning is pretty conspicuous. Anyone who doesn't use Gmail probably should as it has the tightest security and best spam filters available in a free account. 

    Generosity and a willingness to help are admirable traits, but it's wise to be a little cautious. It was Ronald Reagan who frequently quoted the Russian proverb, "Trust but verify." Good advice for anyone in any sphere.

    Not too long ago, the "Grandmother Scam" was all the rage. Seniors would get an email or a telephone call, supposedl...

    Dog sledding in Alaska – a real-life musher experience

    It's the official state sport and there are numerous options for visitors

    Alaska is a fabulous vacation destination. Snow-capped mountains, unspoiled forests as far as the eye can see, and the purest air you can breathe.While there are many outdoor activities to pursue, my all-time favorite is an authentic Alaskan tradition and the state sport, a dog mushing excursion.  

    The Iditarod Race

    Known as "The Last Great Race on Earth,” the Iditarod is a 1,150-mile dog sled race held each March from Anchorage to Nome. The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, began as a mail and supply route. Mail was delivered and gold was brought out via dog sleds over the roughest terrain from Seward to Nome.

    You can get a taste of the Iditarod by meeting mushers and champions, hearing about their personal experiences, learning how they train their Alaskan huskies, visiting the kennels, and participating in a training run with a professional team of sled dogs. The highlight of any musher experience is meeting and holding the adorable husky puppies.  

    What can you expect?

    Tours are available in summer and winter, primarily in Seward, Juneau, Skagway, Fairbanks, Denali, and Anchorage. Most Alaska cruises offer musher experiences in their excursion offerings, but you don’t have to take a cruise to enjoy a tour. All types of tours are available at diverse price points; you can visit an Iditarod champion’s homestead for $59, take a helicopter ride to a dog camp and sit in a dog sled basket, or drive a team yourself for $519.

    Two tour experiences

    I visited Jeff King’s homestead at Goose Lake Kennel and fell in love. As I exited the van someone handed me a husky puppy. The pups, all different colors, were sweet balls of fluff and delightful to hold. The visitors passed them around and we took photos.

    We learned from Jeff, who holds four championship titles for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2006, how the pups were birthed, bred, and raised. Jeff also explained the history of the Iditarod and how he personally works it. This Husky Homestead Tour, offered mid-May to mid-September from Denali, is $59 for adults and $39 for children 12 and under (not recommended for children under 3 years of age).

    The Skagway Sled Dog and Musher’s Camp excursion I took was a more hands-on experience. On this tour we were picked up in Skagway and our driver shared a wealth of information on the 11-mile drive to the camp in Dyea. The tour began with a ride through the Tsongas National Rainforest that took us up about 800 feet to reach the husky teams.

    Three of us participated in a one-mile training run with a musher and his team of huskies on a wheeled sled through the rainforest. Our musher shared his experience and we got to meet and pet the dogs. We were taken back to the main camp and we did get to hold the husky puppies. They were precious, but this camp did not have as many puppies, and as we needed to share, our puppy time was limited. This dogsled tour, offered May to September from Skagway, is $135 for adults and $99 for children.

    There are even more expansive and expensive musher experiences. Just search online for “Alaskan musher tours.” Whether or not you like dogs, this is a not to be missed Alaskan experience.

    Alaska is a fabulous vacation destination. Snow-capped mountains, unspoiled forests as far as the eye can see, and the purest air you can breathe.While the...

    Study finds that giving up on smoking doesn't necessarily lead to drinking more

    The findings go against commonly-held beliefs about smokers trying to quit

    There is a commonly held belief which states that giving up one vice leads to indulging more in the others. For example, one might believe that someone who is trying to quit smoking is likely to drink more to compensate. However, new research shows that this may not necessarily be the case.

    In fact, a new study conducted at University College London shows that the exact opposite may be true. When analyzing the drinking habits of participants who were trying to quit smoking, the researchers actually reported lower levels of alcohol consumption.

    “These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate. It’s possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse,” said lead author Jamie Brown.

    Light drinkers

    The study utilized nearly 6,300 participants who had reported smoking between March 2014 and September 2015 in the UK. Of those participants, 144 additionally reported that they had begun an attempt to quit smoking in the week leading up to the survey.

    Participants completed a questionnaire called the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, which was then cross-checked by researchers across all adults in England. The drinking habits of participants were scored as either “light” or “heavy” based on the answers they gave.

    The researchers found that participants who were attempting to quit smoking were more likely to be classified as “light drinkers” compared to other participants who were not attempting to quit. While the findings will need to be confirmed by future research, it does provide some evidence that those looking to quit smoking may not necessarily face increased risk of alcohol abuse.

    The full study has been published in the journal BMC Public Health

    There is a commonly held belief which states that giving up one vice leads to indulging more in the others. For example, one might believe that someone who...

    Women with ADHD more likely to have physical and mental problems, study finds

    The high rates may be attributable to financial stress

    Having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can come with many inherent obstacles. The inability to focus on tasks, impulsivity, and restlessness are hallmarks of the condition, but are there other health consequences that fly under the radar?

    According to a recent study, ADHD can be especially dangerous to women because it usually indicates a greater risk of mental illness and other physical health problems. The statistics that the researchers found indicate that the disorder could be much more serious than previously thought.

    "[The] rates are much higher than among women without ADHD, ranging from more than four times the odds of suicidal thoughts and generalized anxiety disorders to more than twice the odds of major depressive disorder and substance abuse,” said Esme Fuller-Thomson, chair of the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social work.

    Higher rates

    The researchers came to their conclusions after examining data on nearly 4,000 Canadian women between the ages of 20 and 39. Of the sample, 107 women had been diagnosed with ADHD. After conducting their analysis, the researchers found that factors for mental and physical illness were much higher for this subset of women.

    “The prevalence of mental illness among women with ADHD was disturbingly high with 46% having considered suicide, 36% having generalized anxiety disorder, 31% having major depressive disorder and 39% having substance abuse problems at some point in their life,” said Fuller-Thomson.

    Additionally, the findings showed that 28% of women diagnosed with ADHD had restrictions to their physical activity, a sharp contrast to the 9% of women without ADHD who reported the same thing. Other disorders, such as insomnia, were also more common in women diagnosed with ADHD.

    “We were surprised at the high levels of physical health problems that the women were experiencing,” admitted Danielle A. Lewis, co-author of the study.

    Financial stress

    Despite the statistical findings, the researchers do not yet understand why women with ADHD are so much more susceptible to mental and physical problems, though they do point out that financial stress could play a factor.

    The study found that 37% of the women who were diagnosed with ADHD in the sample had trouble meeting basic expenses, compared to 13% of women without ADHD.

    Fuller-Thomson and her colleagues hope that their findings will make healthcare providers more conscientious when treating female patients with ADHD.

    “Many people think of ADHD as primarily a boys’ disorder which has little relevance for girls and women. Our findings suggest, to the contrary, that a large portion of women with ADHD are struggling with mental illness, physical health concerns and poverty,” said Fuller-Thomson.

    The full study has been published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development.

    Having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can come with many inherent obstacles. The inability to focus on tasks, impulsivity, and restlessnes...

    Runners may experience a boost in brain power, study finds

    Why treadmill enthusiasts might have extra neurons in their brains

    Lacing up your running shoes to hit the trails or treadmill may have benefits beyond the physical, scientists say. Running could actually make you smarter.

    This finding comes by way of a new study from the National Institute of Health (NIH), which proved that runners’ bodies create a protein which can help create extra neurons in the brain.

    To examine the effects of aerobic exercise on the brain, N.I.H. researchers first studied mice, then monkeys and people. If you’ve ever noticed that you feel sharper after a run, this study’s finding might explain why.

    Improved mental performance

    The researchers isolated mice’s muscle cells and covered them in a peptide that caused their cell metabolism to believe that aerobic exercise was taking place. After their “workout,” the researchers noticed that a protein called Cathepsin B (CTSB) showed up in their blood.

    Previous studies have not found a link between CTSB (the protein that helps sore muscles recover) and increased brain activity, the New York Times notes. However, upon adding CTSB to other living neurons in petri dishes, researchers found that “those brain cells started making more proteins related to neurogenesis” (a phenomenon that could make you smarter).

    The team followed up its study of mice with a trial on human volunteers and monkeys. As was the case with mice, Cathepsin B appeared in the bloodstreams of participants post-exercise.

    More exercise, more CTSB

    Tests designed to study runners’ memory and thinking revealed an undeniable link between CTSB and running. Volunteers showed increased mental performance after their run -- and the more often they hit the treadmill, the higher their test scores soared.

    At the end of four months, participants who exercised intensely on a treadmill for an hour or more each day, three times a week, had the highest levels of Cathepsin B in their bloodstreams.

    “In humans, changes in CTSB levels correlated with fitness and hippocampus-dependent memory function,” the study’s authors said in a paper. “Our findings suggest CTSB as a mediator of effects of exercise on cognition.”

    The study has been published in Cell Metabolism.

    Lacing up your running shoes to hit the trails or treadmill may have benefits beyond the physical, scientists say. Running could actually make you smarter....

    Verizon reportedly monitoring unlimited data plans

    Excessive users run the risk of being disconnected

    Remember the early days of smartphones, when cellular providers competed for customers with “unlimited” data plans?

    Who knew that everyone in the world would soon be watching movies and listening to hours of music on their phones? Most of those providers dropped those pure unlimited data plans like they were on fire. However, Verizon Wireless grandfathered some out of contract users who continue to enjoy unlimited data, in one form or another.

    Now, an industry publication reports Verizon Wireless has served notice that it will take steps to limit “unlimited” data that it finds to be excessive. Droid Life quotes unnamed sources as saying accounts found using “an extraordinary amount of data” each month are at risk of being disconnected.

    The publication says it has learned the carrier is currently preparing a new plan for these high data users, who are reportedly being informed they will have to consider other plan options in order to remain with the carrier. It will almost certainly mean giving up their month-to-month status and enrolling in a new plan.

    In a statement to Droid Life, Verizon defined excessive data users as using more data each month than allowed in Verizon's top tier data plan – 100 gigabytes (GB).

    “While the 100 GB plan is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device,” the statement said.

    Unlimited data, sort of

    There are still unlimited data plans, but most come with some sort of qualifier. According to NerdWallet, all of them cap high speed data usage at around 23 GB a month.

    “If you hit that threshold, your connection might be 'deprioritized,' that is, slowed considerably,” the publication advises. “Even if you buy an unlimited plan, you should still connect to wi-fi when you can to conserve your data.”

    That said, NerdWallet rates Sprint's Unlimited Data Plan has the best, saying it costs less than buying a little extra data from other carriers. It says AT&T and T-Mobile also offer unlimited plans, but they cost more.

    Remember the early days of smartphones, when cellular providers competed for customers with “unlimited” data plans?Who knew that everyone in the world ...

    FAA finds 'minor' issues in review of Allegiant Air

    The deficiencies were not 'systemic,' the agency said after its periodic audit of the carrier

    Allegiant Air says a Federal Aviation Administration audit of its operations has turned up several "minor" issues. The findings were "minor with non-regulatory issues observed, or with non-systemic regulatory issues observed,” the airline said.

    Allegiant said it has already taken steps to address each issue as soon as possible.

    “Our aim is to ensure the highest operational standards across every area of our system,” said Jude Bricker, Allegiant chief operating officer. “Maintaining those high standards involves continuous evaluation of the programs and processes we have in place, as well as ensuring consistency in our procedures to make operations ever stronger. We welcome the FAA’s review ... as an opportunity to further enhance our safety and operational reliability for the future.”

    The FAA said its audit discovered "several element design" and "element performance deficiencies." The audit, called a Certificate Holder Evaluation Process, is conducted regularly for all commercial carriers. 

    Teamsters Local 1224 president Daniel Wells said the issues may not be all that minor. 

    “The safety issues that Allegiant Air pilots and passengers experience are well-documented. The full FAA report hasn’t been released, but even the redacted summary that Allegiant Air released indicates that the FAA found several problems with Allegiant’s maintenance operation," Wells said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. "We have to wonder what kind of findings it would take for the FAA to take strong enforcement action. On the surface it appears that Allegiant passengers and crews deserve better from the FAA." 

    Local 1224 represents Allegiant pilots. 

    Will "closely monitor"

    The FAA said that none of the issues were "systemic regulatory problems," which it said are the most serious category of deficiencies and said it will "closely monitor" Allegiant's efforts to clear up the problems.

    Las Vegas-based Allegiant operates 82 aircraft and flies mostly from smaller airports to vacation destinations in Florida and the Southwest. 

    Allegiant went through a contentious labor negotiation with its pilots last year. At one point, the pilots threatened to strike and alleged that the airline was cutting corners at the expense of safety.

    In November 2015, a pilot said Allegiant fired him for returning to the St. Petersburg, Fla., airport when the airplane filled with smoke and an engine caught fire

    In a subsequent lawsuit, pilot Jason Kinzer said Allegiant Air fired him for "not placing company profits above safety."

    Allegiant Air says a Federal Aviation Administration audit of its operations has turned up several "minor" issues. The findings were "minor with non-regula...

    How to choose a pregnancy-safe sunscreen

    What to look for and which harmful ingredients to avoid

    The dog days of summer might have been uncomfortable prior to having baby on board, but now your swollen feet and higher-than-normal body temperature may be making matters even worse.

    Your skin may also be feeling some sun-related woes. Higher estrogen levels can cause skin to become more susceptible to wrinkles, spots, and sunburns. The increase in melanin can also cause existing freckles and moles to darken.

    Staying out of the sun can help, but it isn’t always an option. Whether you’re on a babymoon or at the beach, it’s important to protect your skin with the right sunscreen.

    Pregnancy-safe sunscreens

    Protecting your skin is important, but protecting the health of the little life inside you is even more important. To keep chemicals and additives from entering into your bloodstream and affecting the health of your baby, the Huffington Post recommends choosing a natural sunscreen.

    In addition, pregnant women should make sure their sunscreen checks all of the following boxes.

    • Mineral or physical sunscreen. Avoid chemical sunscreens, which may contain ingredients such as oxybenzone. Not only has oxybenzone been linked to low birth weight, any chemical ending in “-benzone” can interfere with your natural hormones.
    • Does it have non-nano particles? Allowing nanoparticles to seep into your skin may cause cell damage, experts say. Stay on the safe side by looking for non-nano particles.
    • Avoid vitamin A. Vitamin A (also known as retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, or retinyl linoleate) may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.
    • Lotion, not a spray-on sunscreen. You’re more likely to breathe in spray-on sunscreen, and in doing so, you may inhale small particles of potentially carcinogenic ingredients such as titanium dioxide.
    • Avoid sunscreen containing bug repellent. Slathering on safe, natural sunscreen every few hours is good for your skin and your baby, but frequently reapplying bug repellent isn't. 

    Mamas-to-be will also want to make sure they stay well hydrated and out of the sun during peak hours (10 am to 2 pm). 

    The dog days of summer might have been uncomfortable prior to having baby on board, but now your swollen feet and higher-than-normal body temperature may b...

    Scientists explain why Alzheimer's disease always gets worse

    The damaging protein hops from neuron to neuron, researchers say

    Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have identified a way they say Alzheimer's disease can spread through the brain.

    Their study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, says the toxic protein tau jumps from one neuron to another. They say their discovery helps explain why just one area of the brain is affected when Alzheimer's begins, but that much of the brain is damaged in the disease's later stages.

    They say it also explains why Alzheimer's always gets progressively worse, never better. Significantly, however, that could change.

    “By learning how tau spreads, we may be able to stop it from jumping from neuron to neuron,” said Karen Duff, professor in the department of pathology and cell biology.

    Limiting the damage

    If doctors were successful in doing so, she says they might be able to stop or limit the progression of the disease.

    This isn't the first time researchers have suggested that Alzheimer’s can spread through the brain. The idea first gained traction among medical scientists earlier in the decade when it was found tau moved from neuron to neuron through the brains of mice.

    The latest study found that tau travels within the brain, moving from neuron to neuron. That allows it to affect other parts of the brain. Duff says that has important clinical implications.

    Important implications

    “When tau is released into the extracellular space, it would be much easier to target the protein with therapeutic agents, such as antibodies, than if it had remained in the neuron,” she said.

    The new study is just the latest in an area that is receiving intense focus as the large Baby Boom generation enters old age. Health policymakers are concerned about the huge toll on the healthcare system if Alzheimer's cases multiply as predicted.

    In one of the most promising recent developments, scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and UCLA found they could reverse memory loss.

    It was an extremely small study, but the researchers say they are excited because it could hold significant potential. The therapy uses existing drugs, along with a strict program of dietary changes, brain stimulation, physical exercise, and sleep optimization.

    Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have identified a way they say Alzheimer's disease can spread through the brain.Their study, publishe...

    The 1980s are officially over: VCR production has ended

    The last hold out manufacturer has thrown in the towel

    In the era of digital video streaming, the news that the last company to make video cassette recorders (VCR) will no longer do so might might come as a surprise. But the surprise is that these machines were still being made at all.

    Japanese electronics maker Funai, the last manufacturer to make and sell VCRs, has announced it's just too much trouble to keep making the machines. The company told the Japanese news agency Nikkei that it has experienced difficulty in locating and acquiring parts.

    The fact that almost no one was buying these machines undoubtedly had something to do with the decision as well.

    Exciting early days

    Those old enough to remember early VCRs can recall an exciting era when it was suddenly possible to watch a fairly recent movie at home, at a time of the viewer's choosing. It required a VCR and a trip to a nearby retail store where the movies were rented.

    Early video stores usually had movies along two opposing walls. On one wall were movies in the Sony Betamax format. On the other were movies in the RCA VHS format.

    Consumers were either Beta or VHS. But because Sony did not license its technology to other manufacturers and RCA did, it wasn't long before the sheer size of the VHS community overwhelmed Beta, and by the end of the 1980s it was hard to find movies in that format.

    Just last year, Sony announced it had ended production of Beta video cassettes for the few consumers still using Beta video cameras and VCRs. Funai's announcement that it is ending VCR production pretty much draws the curtain on a technology revolution that began in the late 1970s and became a market force the following decade.

    Computer revolution

    What followed was the computer revolution, as consumers began to buy “home computers,” even though there were few uses for them beyond games. Every manufacturer used a different, proprietary platform, so most computers were not compatible with one another.

    Then the internet came along and consumers and businesses suddenly found new uses for computers. As bandwidth increased, the internet became a way to watch video. When smartphones appeared, consumers found they could watch movies wirelessly, no matter where they were.

    In that short span of technology history, the VCR went from exciting, cutting edge technology to something collecting dust in the back of the closet.

    Will the VCR be missed? Probably not. It's hard to imagine that video on analog tape will ever gain a throwback following the way vinyl records have. From now on, the only VCRs will be found on eBay and at yard sales, and quite possibly someday, a museum.

    In the era of digital video streaming, the news that the last company to make video cassette recorders (VCR) will no longer do so might might come as a sur...

    Consumers deeper in debt despite efforts to avoid it

    Research shows Great Recession affected consumers' attitudes about money

    The Great Depression had a huge impact on the generation that came of age in the 1930s and fought World War II.

    They were careful with their money and saved for the future. They ended up raising their children, the Baby Boomers, in an era of prosperity.

    In some respects, the Great Recession, accented by the financial crisis of 2008, has had a similar effect on today's young consumers. A report by the market research firm Packaged Facts finds today's consumers are frugal and cautious with money, usually out of necessity.

    The authors conclude that the recession reshaped how consumers approach money, and in particular, debt. They don't take on debt unless they have to. At least, that's what they told the researchers.

    The report found that 72% of consumers describe themselves as more conservative when it comes to debt, and attribute that trait to the recession that ended seven years ago. Remarkably, that feeling was expressed in large numbers across all demographic segments.

    "What we are seeing is that most consumers view their financial situation with uncertainty, a perception that likely affects how they plan for and execute financial decisions,” said David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts.

    Conflicting data

    That could explain why the economy has limped along with anemic growth since the recovery began. Yet there are a few things it doesn't explain.

    Consumers don't seem to be reluctant to go into debt to purchase a new car. Month after month, new car sales have set records, with transaction prices averaging just under $34,000.

    Credit card debt has also surged. In a recent report, the credit card comparison site CardHub warned that in the second half of last year, consumers went on the biggest credit card binge in the history of its annual review. It said total credit card debt rose by $71 billion in 2015.

    There was one fact that was particularly worrying. In the last three months of the year, consumers charged more on their plastic than in all of 2014.

    If Packaged Facts is correct that consumers are trying to avoid debt in the post-recession era, the numbers suggest that they are having difficulty doing so.

    The Great Depression had a huge impact on the generation that came of age in the 1930s and fought World War II.They were careful with their money and s...

    Leading Economic Index rebounds in June

    The expansion was the second in three months

    Following a slight (-0.2%) decline in May, The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.3% in June. The index was up 0.5% in April.

    “Improvements in initial claims for unemployment insurance, building permits, and financial indicators were the primary drivers,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board. “While the LEI continues to point to moderating economic growth in the U.S. through the end of 2016, the expansion still appears resilient enough to weather volatility in financial markets and a moderating outlook in labor markets.”

    The LEI is essentially a composite average of several individual leading indicators. It's constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component – primarily because it smooths out some of the volatility of individual components.

    The ten components of the LEI include:

    1. Average weekly hours, manufacturing
    2. Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
    3. Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
    4. ISM® Index of New Orders
    5. Manufacturers' new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
    6. Building permits, new private housing units
    7. Stock prices, 500 common stocks
    8. Leading Credit Index
    9. Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
    10. Average consumer expectations for business conditions
    Following a slight (-0.2%) decline in May, The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index® (LEI) rose 0.3% in June. The index was up 0.5% in April.“Impr...

    Cycling Sports Group recalls commuter bicycles

    The bicycle’s fork axle can crack, posing a fall hazard

    Cycling Sports Group of Wilton, Conn., is recalling about 3,500 Cannondale commuter bicycles in the U.S. and Canada.

     

    The bicycle’s fork axle can crack, posing a fall hazard.

     

    The firm has received 30 reports of the bicycle’s fork axle cracking, including one fall that resulted in a concussion and bruising.

     

    This recall involves 2010-2012 Cannondale Bad Boy and Bad Girl commuter bicycles. They were sold in black. Only bicycles with date codes beginning with P, Q and RB through RL are included in this recall. The date code is located on the bottom of the bicycle fork.

     

    The frame is matte black. A Cannondale decal can be found on the downtube.

     

    The bicycles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Cannondale dealers nationwide from June 2010, through December 2014, for between $1,000 and $1,800.

     

    What to do

     

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and take them to the nearest authorized Cannondale dealer for a free repair. Cannondale dealers will replace the fork free of charge.

     

    Consumers may contact Cannondale at 800-726-2453 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at custserve@cyclingsportsgroup.com or online at www.cannondale.com and click on Safety Notices and Recalls at the bottom right-hand corner of the main page for more information.

    Cycling Sports Group of Wilton, Conn., is recalling about 3,500 Cannondale commuter bicycles in the U.S. and Canada. The bicycle’s fork axle can cr...

    Agave Dream recalls cappuccino ice cream

    The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Agave Dream of Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif., is recalling 389 cases of cappuccino ice cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

     

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

     

    The recalled product, packed in a brown paper pint-size container with “Agave Dream” printed on the front of the carton with a Best By date of 07/04/17 and UPC 899349002048, was distributed through retail stores across the U.S.

     

    What to do

     

    Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

     

    Consumers with questions may contact the company at 866-993-4438 Monday – Saturday, 9am – 5pm (PST) or by email at agavedream@sbcglobal.net.

     

     

    Agave Dream of Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif., is recalling 389 cases of cappuccino ice cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. ...

    Mazda recalls B-Series trucks

    The airbag inflators may rupture due to propellant degradation

    Mazda North American Operations (Mazda) is recalling 3,734 model year 2007-2009 B-Series trucks manufactured June 6, 2006, to January 22, 2009, originally sold, or ever 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, Mazda is recalling certain model year 2007-2008 B-Series trucks manufactured February 21, 2006, to April 28, 2008, originally sold, or ever 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."

     

    The vehicles are equipped with certain airbag 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

     

    Mazda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger frontal air bag inflator, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 16, 2016.

     

    Owners may contact Mazda customer service at 1-800-222-5500. Mazda's number for this recall is 9616F.

    Mazda North American Operations (Mazda) is recalling 3,734 model year 2007-2009 B-Series trucks manufactured June 6, 2006, to January 22, 2009, originally...

    Class action says Anthem refuses to cover brand-name medication

    Patients are forced to use substitute drugs that are not identical and not effective, suit charges

    A class action lawsuit charges that Anthem Blue Cross refuses to cover name-brand medication, even when there is no equivalent generic or the generic is ineffective.

    In the suit, K.F. Petty says that in 2007, her doctor prescribed a medication described in the suit as "Drug X" to protect her privacy. There was no generic equivalent for the drug at that time, yet just a few months later, Anthem changed her prescription to a substitute generic that was not pharmaceutically equivalent, Courthouse News Service reports.

    Petty says her doctor then began specifying that she should receive the name-brand Drug X but Anthem continued to refuse to cover it.

    The suit alleges that Petty's experience is typical and says she is representative of a class of Anthem clients who had to use non-equivalent generics "even when the original prescribed drugs are different and medically necessary for proper treatment."

    She charges that Anthem's practice violates California law and has harmed her and thousands of others.

    The U.S. Justice Department has gone to court to block Anthem's $54 billion merger with Cigna, charging it would reduce competition and harm consumers. It is also challenging the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana.

    Not alone

    Consumers rate Anthem

    Petty is not alone in complaining of Anthem's drug coverage. In a recent ConsumerAffairs review, Janet of Santa Monica said that after switching to Anthem in January, she "quickly discovered that Anthem Blue Cross has by far the most restrictive drug formulary that I have ever encountered."

    "I have discovered that five of my medications (three are generics) are considered to be Non-Formulary," Janet said. "Furthermore, my internist went through the Prior Authorization Process for three of my medications and all three requests were denied by Anthem. Now, I have filed three grievances and that process takes at least 30 days. Customer Service has not proven to be helpful in any meaningful way."

    Leah of Santa Monica reported a similar experience, saying that "nearly every prescription issued by one of our doctors is rejected, whether brand or generic." She charged that Anthem "makes doctors spend hours fighting with them so their patients can be approved for basic medical care. Usually to no avail."

    Rate hikes

    Anthem has also come under fire for rate hikes and plan changes that critics say are a disservice to consumers. Legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to modify or block premium insurance increases that are considered unreasonable in states, like California, where insurance regulators do not have the power to do so. The bill is in committee.

    "Insurance companies answer to Wall Street, not consumers demanding quality healthcare at an affordable price," said Edward Barrera of Consumer Watchdog, a frequent Anthem critic. "Lawmakers need to give regulators a shield to protect consumers, and we believe Sen. Feinstein’s bill will do exactly that.”

    A class action lawsuit charges that Anthem Blue Cross refuses to cover name-brand medication, even when there is no equivalent generic or the generic is in...

    Southwest cancels hundreds of flights after computer glitch

    Delays and cancellations began Wednesday and stretched into early Thursday

    Sometimes computer problems are pretty simple, like when the dog steps on your power strip and turns it off. But no matter what the cause may be, technology glitches can take a heavy toll, as Southwest Airlines passengers were reminded Wednesday when unexplained problems hit the discount carrier's network.

    Customers were unable to check in for flights and gate agents had to manually issue boarding passes while the system was offline, causing many flights to be delayed and, in many cases, canceled.

    "As a result of the technical issues we canceled nearly 700 flights Wednesday and hundreds more were delayed. Employees worked around issues with primary systems and utilized back-up procedures to get as many customers and checked luggage to their intended destinations as we worked to fix the system," Southwest said in a statement late Wednesday.

    Not all consumers were satisfied with the airline's efforts. "Rather than offer all delayed travelers the usual compensation, they are in fact offering flights that later get canceled as well (bogus flights). Computer glitch or not, what they are doing is wrong. You don't promise to rebook and than cancel that flight as well," Michael of Midvale, Utah, said in a ConsumerAffairs review.

    "A simple one-hour flight turned into delays due to their systems failing, a 40-minute wait sitting on the flight line and another hour wait for bags," said Joshua of Cameron, N.C. 

    220 Thursday flights

    The carrier said that most systems were back online Thursday morning, but at least 220 Thursday flights were canceled and delays continued to ripple through the system.

    "We are focused on getting customers and their luggage safely to their travel destinations and apologize to our customers whose travel plans are impacted," Southwest said. It advised consumers who are booked to travel to check flight status information on Southwest.com and plan to arrive to the airport early, as long lines may occur. It said flexible rebooking accommodation will be available through Sunday. 

    "It's never too early to say thank you and to extend our apologies and we want to share those sentiments both with our hard-working employees and our loyal and understanding customers," Southwest concluded.

    Sometimes computer problems are pretty simple, like when the dog steps on your power strip and turns it off. But no matter what the cause may be, technolog...

    Healthy fats and brisk walking can slash diabetes risk, researchers say

    How moderate-intensity exercise and polyunsaturated fats are helping pre-diabetic patients

    Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise in the U.S., but researchers may have uncovered a new way to keep the disease at bay.

    According to the results of a large study, published recently in PLOS Medicine, healthy fats may be the key to lowered blood sugar levels and increased insulin resistance.

    Substituting as few as 100 calories worth of carbohydrates for 100 calories worth of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil, can help cut the risk of type 2 diabetes by an estimated 20 percent, the researchers claim.

    The study’s co-leader, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, says the message is simple: “Don’t fear the healthy fats.”

    “Our findings support preventing and treating these diseases by eating more fat-rich foods like walnuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans, flaxseed, fish and other vegetable oils and spreads, in place of refined grains, starches, sugars and animal fats,” Mozaffarian said in a release.

    But diet changes aren't the only way to combat type 2 diabetes. When it comes to keeping glucose levels under control, a little moderate exercise may have a big impact. 

    Brisk walking

    New research from Duke Health has revealed that it’s moderate, not high intensity, exercise that is most effective at controlling metabolism in people at risk for diabetes.

    In the study, individuals with pre-diabetes were randomly placed into groups and tracked over six months. Some participants adopted diet and exercise changes while others made changes only to their exercise regime.

    In the exercise-only group, it was discovered that moderate-intensity exercise (where participants walked briskly 11.5 miles each week) produced a 7 percent improvement in glucose tolerance on average.

    In contrast, participants who walked vigorously for the same amount each week had only a 2 percent average improvement.

    One lifestyle change

    While high intensity exercise may burn more glucose, moderate-intensity exercise helps burn fat in the muscles (where glucose is stored after a meal). The researchers explain that this can help block glucose uptake by the muscles.

    Lead author, Dr. William Kraus -- professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Duke University School of Medicine, says this new finding could benefit pre-diabetic patients who may have a hard time comitting to more than one lifestyle change.

    “When faced with the decision of trying to do weight loss, diet, and exercise versus exercise alone, the study indicates you can achieve nearly 80 percent of the effect of doing all three with just a high amount of moderate-intensity exercise,” Kraus said.

    “I was heartened by the fact that I found out that I can give patients one message and they can get nearly the same effect as when required to exercise, diet and lose weight all at the same time.”

    Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise in the U.S., but researchers may have uncovered a new way to keep the disease at bay. According ...

    Gasoline prices at 12-year low for July

    Plentiful supplies and low oil prices giving motorists a windfall

    July is dead center in the summer driving season. Whether it's a quick trip to the beach or an extended road trip, it's when many families pack up and hit the road.

    As such, gasoline demand normally rises in July, and so do gasoline prices. But this is not a normal July.

    Even though prices have risen off their early-winter lows, they are well below seasonal norms and are headed still lower, at a time they usually peak. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is $2.18 a gallon, its lowest level in July since 2004 and 55 cents less than a year ago.

    Falling prices are attributed to abundant supplies in most areas of the country and soft crude oil costs.

    Prices lowest in South Carolina

    In areas of the southeast and southwest, gasoline prices are well below the $2 a gallon mark. In South Carolina, the state-wide average price is $1.86 a gallon. Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri have an average price of $1.95 a gallon.

    The western states remain the most expensive for gasoline, with California leading the way at an average pump price of $2.83. But there's a silver lining; last year, western gasoline prices were a lot higher.

    California drivers are saving more than $1 per gallon on average compared to a year ago. Gasoline in Alaska is 82 cents cheaper. In Nevada, it costs 71 cents a gallon less to fill up.

    Low prices for a while longer

    Refineries are running more smoothly this summer, which has helped prices remain cheaper than a year ago. If those conditions remain, AAA predicts gasoline prices will stay relatively low for the rest of the summer.

    The price of oil helps. Right now U.S. oil stockpiles are up about 13% year-over-year, while supplies of gasoline have increased to 240 million barrels, despite increased driving. The Department of Energy says that's the largest gasoline supply ever recorded in July.

    July is dead center in the summer driving season. Whether it's a quick trip to the beach or an extended road trip, it's when many families pack up and hit ...

    Reach and maintain your optimal hydration level with this smart water bottle

    You might not know how much water you actually need, say the makers of Pryme Vessyl

    ‘Drink more water' is to the health world what ‘Try turning it off and on again’ is to the tech world -- a simple trick with a high rate of success.

    We all know that supplying the body with enough water can help keep it functioning as it should. However, not everyone knows the specific amount of water their body requires.

    The makers of a new smart water bottle called Pryme Vessyl are hoping to open consumers’ eyes to the fact that the old '6 to 8 glasses of water a day' recommendation may not cut it for everyone.

    “Each of us have unique needs that change moment by moment depending on who we are, what we do, the time of day, and more,” says Dr. Hanson Lenyoun in a video for the Pryme Vessyl, a new smart cup that uses an algorithm paired with personal information to determine a person’s hydration needs.

    App connectivity

    The sleek looking 16-ounce smart cup, created by Mark One, automatically records how much you drink. Upon reaching your ideal hydration level (your “Pryme”), you’ll see a glowing blue light.

    Hydration and activity data is also sent to a companion app, where consumers can see their information and needs laid out in log form.

    Since its release, reviews of the smart cup have been generally favorable. Many say the Vessyl’s hydration help did, indeed, help improve their energy and alertness.

    Others, however, had some qualms with the design of the product. Specifically, the complicated nature and tightness of the lid. The makers claim to have resolved lid tightness issues in the second edition of the cup.

    Improvements have also been made to the Pryme Vessyl app. Now, users can see even more personalized insights into their lifestyle and daily activity in order to determine how various factors might impact their hydration needs.

    ‘Drink more water' is to the health world what ‘Try turning it off and on again’ is to the tech world -- a simple trick with a high rate of success. We...

    Feds sue to block healthcare mergers

    Justice Department says deals could hurt consumers

    The U.S. Justice Department has announced it has gone to court to block two proposed health insurance mega-mergers.

    The suits seeks to stop the proposed merger of Anthem and Cigna, and of Aetna and Humana, arguing that the consolidations of the four giant health insurance providers into just two would upset the marketplace and harm consumers.

    “Anthem’s purchase of Cigna likely would lead to higher prices and reduced benefits, and would deprive consumers and healthcare providers of the innovation and collaboration necessary to improve care outcomes,” the Justice Department said in its complaint.

    The Anthem-Cigna merger was proposed last year with the expectation that it would close by the end of this year. In a statement, Cigna concedes that outcome now appears doubtful. It said the merger would be delayed until at least 2017 and raised the possibility it might not happen at all. In fact, its statement reads like one from a company that expects to remain independent.

    "Since announcing the transaction, Cigna has remained focused on delivering value to our clients and customers, building on our track record of strong financial results and growing our businesses in the U.S. and abroad,” the company said.

    The company also said it is currently evaluating its options consistent with its obligations under the agreement.

    “Unfortunate and misguided”

    Anthem was a bit more combative in its reaction, calling the government's suit “an unfortunate and misguided step backward for access to affordable healthcare for America.”

    “Anthem is fully committed to challenging the DOJ’s decision in court but will remain receptive to any efforts to reach a settlement with the DOJ that will allow us to complete the transaction and deliver its benefits at a critical time when American consumers are seeking high quality healthcare services with greater value at less cost,” the company said in a statement.

    The Justice Department also sued to stop the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana, pointing to the same issues that have troubled the government about the Cigna Anthem merger. Critics have pointed out that the deals would reduce the number of major U.S. health insurance providers from five to three.

    The U.S. Justice Department has announced it has gone to court to block the proposed merger of Anthem and Cigna, arguing that combining the two giant healt...

    Amazon, Wells Fargo offering discounted student loans

    It's Amazon's first entry into the student loan business

    Amazon and Wells Fargo are offering interest rate discounts to Amazon Prime Student customers who apply for private student loans from Wells Fargo. It's Amazon's first entry into the student loan business. Wells Fargo is the largest student lender among commercial banks.

    The discount will be offered both to students looking for loans to attend college and those who want to refinance existing loans.

    The 0.50 percent interest rate discount can be added to a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction for enrolling in an automatic monthly loan repayment plan from Wells Fargo and any interest rate discount tied to a Wells Fargo global promotion.

    Amazon Prime Student, offered since 2010, sells for $49 per year and gives college students unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 30 million items, special offers, and promotions created just for students. It also includes unlimited streaming of tens of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Video.

    Private lending growing again

    “We are focused on innovation and meeting our customers where they are – and increasingly that is in the digital space,” said John Rasmussen, Wells Fargo’s head of Personal Lending Group. “This is a tremendous opportunity to bring together two great brands."

    The companies said neither is compensating the other during the multi-year agreement.

    Private student lending has been growing recently, after falling off sharply during the recession. Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, and Discover wrote $6.46 billion in student loans between July 2015 and March 2016, up 7% from the same period a year earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    For more information on Prime student loans, see www.wellsfargo.com/amazon

    Amazon and Wells Fargo are offering interest rate discounts to Amazon Prime Student customers who apply for private student loans from Wells Fargo. It's Am...

    How to lose weight eating what you want

    “Mindful eating” emerges as alternative to dieting

    Helping people try to lose weight is big business. Americans spend close to $60 billion a year on weight loss products, according to the Bharat Book Bureau, a business data firm. That includes everything from diet soda to special meal plans.

    While obesity statistics show that a lot of us really need to shed some pounds, there's a growing belief in diet circles that it's not so much what you eat, but how you eat it.

    “You can eat anything you want, as long as you do it mindfully,” said Lynn Rossy, a health psychologist for the Total Rewards Program at the University of Missouri system.

    Mindfulness

    The key word there is “mindfully.” Mindfulness, which has its roots in Buddhist teachings, is a philosophy that has taken hold in many areas of life, so it isn't surprising that it's being harnessed to help people lose or control weight.

    Mindfulness is based on living in the moment, being totally aware of your experience. It is being used to help people reduce stress and and focus on what they are doing, to make them happier and more productive. So, how does that translate to eating?

    “Mindful eating means choosing food that will satisfy you and nourish your body as well as being aware of physical hunger and satiety cues,” Rossy said. “Food should be pleasurable to your taste buds and to your body.”

    It's an abrupt departure from restricting calories by eating foods you might not particularly like but that are low in calories. Rossy says the mindfulness-based eating solution teaches people how to use their own internal signals to guide how, when, what, and why they eat. More importantly, she says you should eat food you like, just not as much of it.

    Key elements

    That's easier to do, she says, when you are slowly savoring each bite and enjoying it. As a result, she says people are more satisfied and less likely to overeat. Here are the key elements:

    • Do a breathing exercise and decide if you are really hungry
    • Assess your food and decide if you really want to eat it
    • Eat slowly and be aware of signals your body might send suggesting you are full
    • Chew thoroughly
    • Savor what you are eating

    “Diets do not work in the long term because they do not help people access their own internal wisdom about how to eat,” Rossy said. “Taking a mindful approach to eating also helps people discover desires that can be ignored through eating for emotional reasons—desires for creativity, movement, connection, meaningful work and spirituality.”

    It may be no coincidence that Fortune Magazine reports the diet industry is losing ground, even as the obesity rate rises. It conducted a survey last year that found many more consumers say they are trying to eat healthier than say they are on a diet.

    Helping people try to lose weight is big business. Americans spend close to $60 billion a year on weight loss products, according to the Bharat Book Bureau...

    Three straight gains for the government's house price tracker

    Jobless claims edge lower in mid-July

    Another rise, albeit a small one, for the price of housing in May.

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House Price Index (HPI) rose 0.2%, marking the third consecutive monthly advance. At the same time, the April increase was revised higher -- from 0.2% to 0.3%.

    On a year-over-year basis, prices were up 5.6% from May 2015.

    For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly price changes from April to May ranged from -1.3% in the New England division to +1.2% in the Mountain division. The 12-month changes were all positive -- ranging from +3.4% in the Middle Atlantic division to +8.5% in the Mountain division.

    The monthly HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    The complete report is available on the FHFA website.

    Jobless claims

    Also from the government, word that first-time applications for state unemployment benefits remained below 300,000 for a 72nd consecutive week, the longest streak since 1973.

    The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims were down by 1,000 in the week ending July 16, to a seasonally-adjusted 253,000 -- down from the previous week's unrevised level.

    The four-week moving average, considered by many economists to be a more accurate gauge of the labor market, fell by 1,250 from the previous week's unrevised figure to 257,750.

    The full report may be found on the DOL website.

    Photo (c) fiore26 - FotoliaAnother rise, albeit a small one, for the price of housing in May.The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports it...

    Sales of existing homes up again in June

    First-time buyers hit the market in a big way

    Consumers looking to buy their first homes helped lift sales of previously-owned houses for the fourth straight month in June.

    The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- rose 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million.

    Last month's gain put sales 3.0% ahead of the June 2015 rate, and keeps them at their highest annual pace since February 2007.

    The share of first-time buyers was 33% in June, up 3.0% from May and a year ago, and is the highest since July 2012. Through the first six months of the year, first-time buyers have represented an average of 31% of buyers; they represented 30% of buyers in all of 2015.

    "Existing sales rose again last month as more traditional buyers and fewer investors were able to close on a home despite many competitive areas with unrelenting supply and demand imbalances," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Sustained job growth as well as this year's descent in mortgage rates is undoubtedly driving the appetite for home purchases."

    Prices and inventory

    The median existing-home price for all housing types was $247,700 last month -- up 4.8% from June 2015. That marks the 52nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains and surpasses May's peak median sales price of $238,900.

    Total housing inventory was down 0.9% at the end of the month to 2.12 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 5.8% lower than a year ago (2.25 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace.

    "Looking ahead, it's unclear if this current sales pace can further accelerate as record high stock prices, near-record low mortgage rates and solid job gains face off against a dearth of homes available for sale and lofty home prices that keep advancing," Yun cautioned.

    Sales regionally

    • Existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3% in June to an annual rate of 760,000, but are 5.6% above a year ago. The median price was up 1.4% from June, 2015 at $284,800.
    • In the Midwest, sales jumped 3.8% to an annual rate of 1.35 million, and are up 4.7% on a year-over-year basis. The median price was $199,900 -- up 5.7% from a year ago.
    • Sales in the South were unchanged from May at an annual rate of 2.26 million, and are 3.2% higher than they were at the same time last year. The median prices rose 5.5% to $217,400.
    • The West saw sales move up 1.7% to an annual rate of 1.20 million in June; however, they're down 0.8% from June of last year. The median price shot up 7.2% -- to $350,800.
    Consumers looking to buy their first homes helped lift sales of previously-owned houses for the fourth straight month in June.The National Association ...

    Bar-S Foods recalls chicken and pork hot dog and corn dog products

    The products may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Bar-S Foods Company of Altus, Okla., is recalling approximately 372,684 pounds of chicken and pork hot dog and corn dog products.

     

    The products may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

     

    There have been no confirmed reports of illnesses or adverse reactions.

     

    The following ready-to-eat, chicken and pork hot dog and corn dog items, produced July10 – 13, 2016, are being recalled:

    • 16-oz/1-lb. packages of “BAR-S Classic BUN LENGTH Franks MADE WITH CHICKEN, PORK ADDED” with “Use By” date of 10/11/2016 and case code 209.
    • 12-oz. packages of “BAR-S CLASSIC Franks MADE WITH CHICKEN, PORK ADDED” with package code 6338, “Use By” date of 10/10/2016 and case code 6405.
    • 24-oz./1.5-lb. cartons of “SIGNATURE Pick 5 CORNDOGS – 8 Honey Batter Dipped Franks On A Stick” with a “Use By” date of 4/6/2017 and case code 6071.
    • 42.72-oz./2.67-lb. cartons of “BAR-S CLASSIC CORN DOGS – 16 Honey Batter Dipped Franks On A Stick” with “Use By” dates of 4/7/2017 and 4/8/2017 and case code 6396.
    • 48-oz./3-lb. cartons of “BAR-S CLASSIC CORN DOGS – 16 Honey Batter Dipped Franks On A Stick” with package code 14054, “Use By” dates of 4/6/2017 and 4/9/2017, and case code 14038.

    The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. P-81A” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations 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 regarding the recall may call the Bar-S Foods consumer hotline at 1-888-965-6134.

     

     

    Bar-S Foods Company of Altus, Okla., is recalling approximately 372,684 pounds of chicken and pork hot dog and corn dog products. The products may ...

    Model year 2009-2010 Chevrolet Impalas recalled

    A failure to recognize that the passenger seat is occupied may disable the air bag

    General Motors is recalling 289,254 model year 2009-2010 Chevrolet Impalas manufactured April 25, 2008 through February 16, 2010.

     

    The front passenger seat frame may contact and damage the wires of the passenger presence sensor module.

     

    If the wires are damaged, the passenger presence sensory system may fail to recognize that the passenger seat is occupied, disabling the air bag. Damage may also cause the air bag fuse to short resulting in a loss of all air bags and seat belt pretensions. Both conditions increase the risk of injury during a crash.

     

    What to do

     

    GM will notify owners, and dealers will double wrap the wires with anti-abrasion tape and replace damaged wires as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

     

    Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-521-7300. GM's recall campaign number is 36110.

     

     

    General Motors is recalling 289,254 model year 2009-2010 Chevrolet Impalas manufactured April 25, 2008 through February 16, 2010. The front passeng...

    Automated technologies make cars safer and save drivers money, study shows

    Research shows that automated technologies can save drivers billions every year

    Recently, there has been some pushback by consumer advocacy groups that say self-driving cars aren’t ready to hit the open road. After several accidents, one of which took the life of a passenger in Florida, it would make sense if U.S. drivers are hesitant when it comes to the new technology.

    However, a new study shows that other automated vehicle technologies are not only saving consumers money in the long run, they’re making roads safer. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering believe that continuing to implement these devices is a step in the right direction.

    “While there is much discussion about driverless vehicles, we have demonstrated that even with partial automation there are financial and safety benefits,” said Chris T. Hendrickson, director of the Carnegie Mellon Traffic21 Institute.

    Avoiding accidents

    Hendrickson and his colleagues came to their conclusion after analyzing data on crash-avoidance for light-duty U.S. vehicles.

    They found that automated vehicle technologies, like forward crash prevention systems, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warnings, would be relevant in 24% of all crashes in the U.S.

    With these statistics, the researchers posit that these technologies could help reduce the severity of 1.3 million crashes per year, as well as over 10,000 accidents that would otherwise be fatal.

    Cost-efficient

    But while the safety benefits may be indisputable, are the systems cost effective enough to be worth it? To find out, the researchers contrasted the cost of implementing the technologies against the potential cost of the accidents that would occur without them.

    After creating different scenarios that measured crash avoidance, the researchers found that implementing the technologies was much more cost-effective. In the first scenario, assuming a perfect world where the technologies helped avoid all accidents, the amount saved by consumers totaled $202 billion, or around $861 per car.

    In the second, more conservative scenario -- where the number of accidents was reduced only if they correlated with forward collisions, blind spot accidents, and crashes caused by lane departures – consumers still came out ahead. The researchers estimated an annual savings of $4 billion, or $20 per car.

    Advancing technology

    While the researchers admit that $20 doesn’t seem like a lot, they believe that advancements in technology will only allow cars to become safer and earn more savings as time passes.

    “If you bought a car right now with these safety systems at the current prices offered by auto manufacturers, both you and society would have a positive economic benefit. We are seeing that partial automation is accomplishing crash and crash severity reductions, and we expect to improve. This study creates a framework for regulatory action encouraging early deployment of partial automation technologies,” said Hendrickson.

    The full study has been published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention

    Recently, there has been some pushback by consumer advocacy groups that say self-driving cars aren’t ready to hit the open road. After several accidents, o...

    Audit suggests Takata will face more scrutiny

    Investigators find evidence company engineers engaged in "selective editing"

    Volkswagen is not the only automotive company dealing with a scandal. Takata Corp., a Japanese maker of airbags, has been dealing with dangerous defects in its product, and the way it has handled it, for years now.

    To make matters worse, there is a growing belief that the company was not as forthcoming about the problem as it should have been.

    The Washington Post reports an audit commissioned by the company and Honda, its biggest customer, found Takata personnel manipulated results of the air-bag inflator tests it passed along to Honda. Engineers allegedly removed some of the test results to make performance appear in-line with standards.

    One of the auditors is Brian O'Neill, former president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). O'Neill is quoted by the Post as saying he and fellow investigators found evidence of “selective editing,” to make the overall presentation appear better.

    'Prettier, shortened version'

    “We found evidence that the report that went to Honda was a shorter version of the original version, and it was a prettier shortened version,” O'Neill told the Post.

    The latest revelation fits with a U.S. Senate investigation into defective Takata airbags, reported in February, that found what investigators said was widespread manipulation of airbag inflator test data by Takata employees, with some occurring after the recalls began.

    A defect in the inflator made some Takata air-bags lethal. When deployed, defective inflators sent metal debris flying through the vehicle's cabin with deadly force.

    Fender-bender fatality

    In April, a Houston teenager became the tenth U.S. fatality from a defective Takata airbag. The airbag deployed in the Honda Civic driven by 17-year old Huma Hanif when she rear-ended the car in front of her, a mishap that should have been no more than a fender-bender.

    “She wasn’t speeding. The car had only moderate damage,” Sheriff's Office Danny Beckworth told The New York Times after the accident. “It’s a crash that we work with every day that everybody walks away from.”

    The Honda had been subject to a recall to repair the airbag, but the teen's family said they had not seen a recall notice. Honda said it had mailed a notice to the car's original owner, a member of the girl's extended family.

    In May, Takata recalled another 35 to 40 million airbags, on the top of 28.8 million already recalled, in a process expected to last well into 2019. The recalled units were made with ammonium nitrate propellant but without a chemical drying agent. That allows moisture to, over time, degrade and become prone to explode.

    Volkswagen is not the only automotive company dealing with a scandal. Takata Corp., a Japanese maker of airbags, has been dealing with dangerous defects in...

    In the wake of the VW scandal, diesel may be finished

    Embattled company plans to speed up transition to electric cars

    There's an old saying, “when they run you out of town, make it look like you're leading a parade.”

    That comes to mind with the news that Volkswagen, still struggling to get beyond its diesel cheating scandal, is looking beyond diesel engines as its future. Then again, it pretty much has to at this point.

    “Volkswagen killed diesel in the U.S. for the entire industry due to its cheating on emissions,” said Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs, in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “It now has to find a new direction, which will be a challenge since there are few white spaces left to fill.”

    Turning to electric vehicles

    It's becoming more clear that new direction is electric vehicles. Just last month, the German automaker unveiled “Together – Strategy 2025,” a plan to introduce more than 30 purely electric vehicle models over the next 10 years. Eventually, it expects electric vehicles to account for around 25% of its global market.

    More recently, Volkswagen has announced it will not relaunch its “clean diesel” line in the U.S. The label has been badly damaged by events and the technology itself has been called into question.

    This week VW told The Wall Street Journal that it plans to begin building electric powered cars in North America by 2020 – four scant years from now.

    “We believe that this country, especially in urban mobility, will have a very strong shift from petrol engines into hybridization and electric cars,” Hinrich Woebcken, VW's U.S. division chief, told the Journal. “We are heavily investing in this one — including production in this North American region.”

    Dramatic shift

    “This is a dramatic shift in VW’s drivetrain strategy but not unexpected after the past year’s negative headlines directed at diesel technology,” said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.

    But it is a huge shift for European carmakers. While Japan has led the way in electric and hybrid technology, European automakers have been skeptical, or even dismissive, of hybrid and electric powertrains. But Brauer says the last year or two has made a difference.

    “The reduced cost and improved performance of battery technology is making them a viable alternative to diesel,” Brauer said. “Even before the diesel backlash, VW was giving greater consideration to electric cars. The company's latest position on powertrain technology reflects an updated, and arguably more progressive, product plan.”

    Will it work? There are plenty of examples of enterprises rising from the ashes after embracing a bold, even radical departure from its business plan. It seems clear Volkswagen is banking on uncoupling its brand from diesel and hitching it to green transportation technology.

    There's an old saying, “when they run you out of town, make it look like you're leading a parade.”That comes to mind with the news that Volkswagen, sti...

    Survey shows half of U.S. physicians ration certain treatments

    In many cases, treatments are rationed regardless of whether or not they would be beneficial to the patient

    Many of us trust that our doctor has our best interests in mind when advising treatments, but are they leaving certain options off the table?

    A national survey has found that more than half of U.S. physicians withhold medical interventions from patients due to cost implications – even if the intervention would have benefitted the patient. This included practices like prescribing certain types of medication, ordering certain tests or scans, or repeating a lab test.

    Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that this “rationing behavior” is particularly prevalent among physicians with a solo practice – perhaps because they may not be equipped with the necessary resources to follow through with certain medical interventions.

    “Solo practitioners have fewer resources to deal with the paperwork and other barriers; it may be easier not to make the effort in the first place when they know that their efforts will likely be in vain or will not be compensated,” said study leader Robert Sheeler.

    Rationing treatments

    The study sheds some light on the difficulties faced by doctors who have to be careful about how they manage and utilize resources. The initial survey was sent out to doctors in 2012; it asked them to self-rate their own rationing behavior and to clarify which factors contribute to that behavior.

    When the results came back, the researchers found that 53.1% of all respondents said they engaged in some sort of rationing behavior in the previous six months. Out of all the rationed interventions, magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) were rationed the most often, with 48.3% of doctors admitting to doing so.

    Additionally, the researchers found that coming from a certain background or having a certain political stance affected physician behavior. Doctors who were described as more “liberal” were less likely to ration treatments. Surgical and procedural specialists were also less likely to ration treatments when compared to primary care physicians.

    Understanding rationing behaviors

    Sheeler and his colleagues believe that rationing treatments in solo practices can be explained by what he calls “rationing by proxy,” wherein doctors act as representatives for insurance companies.

    “Physicians become rationing agents of insurance companies because of the paperwork burden and excessive hoops of prior authorizations or excessive out-of-pocket costs that are set up by payers and pharmacy benefit managers,” he says.

    Further, he says that understanding why doctors choose to ration treatments is an important first step towards addressing the topic as a whole.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine

    Many of us trust that our doctor has our best interests in mind when advising treatments, but are they leaving certain options off the table?A national...

    Genie Bra, Total Pillow marketers fined, ordered to clean up their sales practices

    "Buy One, Get One" offers weren't what they seemed, New York charged

    Ordering products advertised on late-night TV and cable can be tricky. Take Total Pillow. For awhile, it was offering a "Buy One, Get One" offer that seemed to say the customer would get two pillows for the price of one.

    But it didn't always turn out that way.

    One customer responded to a “Buy One, Get One” ad for Total Pillow, advertised for $19.99, plus shipping and handling, but was charged $91.73 after placing an order online. Another customer responded to a $19.99 “Buy 3, get 3” Genie Bra advertisement and ended up being charged $101.83, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman charged.

    Schneiderman today announced settlements with Tristar Products, Inc., a firm headquartered in Fairfield, New Jersey, and Product Trend, LLC , headquartered in Williston, Vermont.  The agreements require the direct marketers to make significant reforms to their advertising, ordering processes and customer service practices. 

    Bras & blenders

    The marketers sell their products directly to consumers, typically through television and online advertising. Tristar’s products include Genie Bra; blenders and juicers, as well as a variety of exercise equipment, such as the Ab Coaster and Cardio Twister. Product Trend’s products include Total Pillow, Wonderhanger, and Furniture Fix. 

    “These agreements insure that consumers will not be hit with charges they did not authorize and will not be frustrated with long hold times or unresponsive customer service when they seek assistance,” Schneiderman said. “The settlements also bring much needed reforms to two major players in the direct marketing industry and insure that consumers will have a clear understanding of the charges before they place an order.”

    Tristar will pay a penalty of $700,000 and Product Trend $175,000.

    The Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds Bureau launched a probe into the industry after receiving complaints from consumers.

    Ordering products advertised on late-night TV and cable can be tricky. Take Total Pillow. For awhile, it was offering a "Buy One, Get One" offer that seeme...

    New luxury cars not immune from the Takata airbag curse

    Senate report finds the bags in Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari cars

    When you think of Takata airbags, you may think they're mostly found in older, cheaper cars. That's not necessarily true, according to new findings released today by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. 

    Nelson said the non-desiccated ammonium-nitrate inflators that have been linked to at least 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries in the U.S. can also be found in some Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari cars as well as Daimler vans.

    “New vehicles with defective airbags cover pretty much the whole spectrum, from low-priced cars to the highest-end models,” said Nelson. “They also underscore the failure of certain automakers and regulators to level with people about the true extent of the problem and to have the cars fixed before they’re sold.”

    New but recalled

    The new findings update a report Nelson released last month that found Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen are selling new vehicles subject to the future recall.  

    To date, seven out of 17 automakers Nelson contacted have admitted to equipping new vehicles with defective Takata airbags.  Tesla remains the only automaker that has not provided a written response.

    While the automakers are legally allowed to sell the defective new vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ordered all of them to be recalled by the end of 2018.

    The specific models identified today that contain defective inflators are:

    Daimler Vans

    • 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

    Ferrari

    • 2016 Ferrari FF
    • 2016 Ferrari California T
    • 2017 Ferrari California T
    • 2016 Ferrari 488 GTB/488 Spider
    • 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB/488 Spider
    • 2016 Ferrari F12/F12tdf
    • 2017 Ferrari F12/F12tdf
    • 2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso

    Mercedes-Benz

    • 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe/Convertible
    • 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe/Convertible
    When you think of Takata airbags, you may think they're mostly found in older, cheaper cars. That's not necessarily true, according to new findings release...

    In households with autistic children, the whole family benefits from having a dog

    And Fido doesn't have to be a trained assistance dog to reduce stress levels

    Being a parent to a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents a unique -- and often stressful -- set of challenges.

    But researchers have discovered that having a four-legged family member may help offset some of this anxiety and stress.

    The results of a long-term study by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) showed that pet dogs can be invaluable sources of stress reduction in homes with children on the Autism spectrum.

    Previous studies have found that animal-assisted therapy can positively impact the lives of children with autism. But upon honing in on the effects of dogs on families with children on the autism spectrum, this study found that a dog doesn’t have to be specially trained in order to helpful.

    Improved family function

    The whole family unit can experience improved function as a result of having a dog, says lead researcher Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.

    “We found a significant, positive relationship between parenting stress of the child’s main caregiver and their attachment to the family dog,” Mills said in a statement. “This highlights the importance of the bond between the carer and their dog in the benefits they gain.”

    Compared to households without dogs, researchers noticed a reduction in dysfunctional parent-child interactions in households with a dog. And the stress-shrinking effects of a dog seem to stand the test of time.

    When researchers checked in with families two and a half years later, they found that stress levels continued to decline steadily, years after the dog was first acquired. The same reductions were not seen in households without dogs.

    The study was published in the American Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

    Being a parent to a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents a unique -- and often stressful -- set of challenges. But researchers have disco...

    Five fun apps for runners seeking motivation

    Why not run from zombies, explore new trails, or donate to charity on your next run?

    From exercise and endorphins to the ever-coveted runner’s high, there is a lot to be gained from running.

    But while running has been called the most accessible sport, the road to becoming a runner isn’t always easy. Novice runners and seasoned pros alike may face progress-hampering challenges along the way. Fortunately, technology is here to lend a hand.

    Fun and helpful running apps

    Whether it's fitness, fun, or the ability to conquer longer distances you're after, these apps may provide the motivation you need to achieve your running goals.

    • RunGo (Android / iOS). Running a new trail is exercise and an adventure rolled into one. Getting lost, however, might just sap the fun out of the experience. With RunGo, you can hear turn-by-turn directions as you go. Choose from featured routes (around a scenic or historic location, for instance) or create your own. Runners can even choose a path that will create a fun shape on the map, such as a Darth Vader head.
    • Couch-to-5K (iOS / Android). As its name suggests, this popular app helps gradually prepare you to run a longer distance than you might be used to. Couch-to-5K has aspiring distance runners jog three times a week for 30 minutes each session. Just 9 weeks later (and with the help of a virtual coach), you’ll be ready to run your first 3.1 mile race.
    • Runtastic Story Running (Android / iOS / Windows phone). For those who prefer to listen to podcast or books while running, Story Running (which is downloaded within your Runtastic app) may be the perfect digital companion. Story Running is designed to give you a jolt of adrenaline through stories that create a sense of urgency. If exercise alone isn’t motivation enough, perhaps being tasked with rescuing hostages from aliens or escaping from Alcatraz will help you reach the finish line.
    • Charity Miles (Android / iOS). Let the spirit of giving motivate you to go a few extra miles on your next run. Charity Miles allows users to pre-select a participating charity. For every mile run, the app automatically donates 25 cents.
    • Zombies, Run! (iOS / Android). Similar to Story Running, this app aims to light an adrenaline-fueled fire under you as you complete your workout. You’ll be dropped into a zombie apocalypse, which will have you so busy running for your life and protecting your base that you’ll be done with your run before you know it.
    From exercise and endorphins to the ever-coveted runner’s high, there is a lot to be gained from running. But while running has been called the most ac...

    Twitter adds verification option to more accounts

    Until now, verification has been limited mostly to celebrities and other big names

    Back in the day, it was considered clever to say that on the internet no one knows you're a dog. Sadly, it's still true that just about anyone can impersonate just about anyone else and get by with it. This has enabled thousands of successful scams, crimes, and outright tragedies.

    There's still no universal solution, but Twitter is now offering to verify your identity so that everyone will know you're who you say you are. It has always done this for certain celebrities and public figures, placing a blue check mark next to their name, but it is now opening it up to others.

    Details are available on Twitter's site. Among other things, you'll need to provide your birth date, phone number, a headshot, and a scan of your driver's license or other photo ID.

    Note that Twitter isn't promising to verify everyone who applies. You'll need to have a good reason, and you may need to provide quite a bit more information than the scant details mentioned above. But aside from celebrities, it's easy to see why financial advisors, journalists, government officials, and healthcare providers -- among others -- might want to add a layer of credibility to their tweets.

    For now at least, having that little blue check mark next to your name is a little like having a vanity license plate or phone number. With more than 310 million Twitter users, only 187,000 or so are verified.

    Back in the day, it was considered clever to say that on the internet no one knows you're a dog. Sadly, it's still true that just about anyone can imperson...

    Dollar Shave Club to become part of Unilever

    Acquisition could give company a weapon against rival Procter and Gamble

    Doubt that there is big money in razors? Don't tell Unilever. The multi-national personal care products giant is writing a check for $1 billion to acquire Dollar Shave Club.

    Dollar Shave Club was founded just four years ago, but since then has become a disruptive force in male grooming. It currently has 3.2 million members who receive new blades, delivered to their door, each month.

    In 2015, the company produced $152 million in revenue, and Unilever says it is on track to exceed $200 million in 2016.

    Target Gillette

    Why would Unilever pay $1 billion for a privately held company with just $152 million in revenue? It's a question being posed on Wall Street. Some analysts point out that the acquisition gives Unilever a powerful weapon against rival Procter and Gamble, which owns Gillette.

    CNBC also reports that Dollar Shave Club has collected data on more than 10 million U.S. consumers, and that alone might have made it an attractive acquisition target.

    From its launch in 2012, Dollar Shave Club has tried to differentiate itself from Gillette on price. Members can get a fresh blades shipped to their home each month for between $1 and $9.

    Innovative and disruptive

    “Dollar Shave Club is an innovative and disruptive male grooming brand with incredibly deep connections to its diverse and highly engaged consumers,” said Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever North America. “In addition to its unique consumer and data insights, Dollar Shave Club is the category leader in its direct-to-consumer space.”

    He said the company plans to maximize its global scale to support Dollar Shave Club make even deeper inroads in the shaving space.

    “Dollar Shave Club couldn’t be happier to have the world’s most innovative and progressive consumer-product company in our corner,” said Michael Dubin, founder and CEO of Dollar Shave Club. Unilever says Dubin will continue in his present capacity.

    Assuming the proposed deal gets over all its regulatory hurdles, Unilever says it should close in the third quarter.

    Doubt that there is big money in razors? Don't tell Unilever. The multi-national personal care products giant is writing a check for $1 billion to acquire ...

    What your browser “fingerprints” say about you

    Australian researcher warns that they can lead to significant privacy breaches

    At a crime scene, detectives are able to lift fingerprints that are not visible to the naked eye. But those fingerprints tell a lot about who was at the scene.

    It's a very similar situation when you visit a website. You can't see it, but your web browser may leave unique fingerprints everywhere you go, revealing who you are and what you're doing.

    Security experts warn that these fingerprints can be monitored, tracked, and identified by companies that want to sell you something and hackers who want to steal from you.

    "Fingerprinting on computers is invisible to most people but there are companies out there who are already using these techniques to learn more information about individuals, about their interests and their habits," said Lachlan Kang, an Australian computer science doctoral student at the University of Adelaide.

    So what?

    So what, you ask? Kang answers that in its most benign form, it might mean you get a barrage of ads, based on the sites you visit.

    You might already have noticed that. If you search for a particular item on Amazon.com, for example, you may see adds for that item pop up on every website you visit after that.

    At worst, though, Kang says this cyber sleuthing could be used to spy on you.

    "Computer users generally are growing in awareness of privacy issues, but currently there's little that can be done to counter fingerprinting,” Kang said. “This is because fingerprints build up in between the websites you're visiting – your browsing history and personal information can be pooled in the gaps between those websites. Simply clearing your browsing history won't make any difference to this, because the information is already out there."

    Working on a defense

    Kang's goal is to build a defense against third parties that are following your fingerprint trail. He hopes to develop a software that acts in a similar way to anti-virus, allowing users who have installed it to block outsiders from seeing their browser fingerprints without their consent.

    Kang is currently enlisting volunteers who would agree to allow him to analyze their digital fingerprints. He says he has about 25% of the number he needs.

    In the meantime, if you'd like to get more information, or view your own browserprint, check this out.

    At a crime scene, detectives are able to lift fingerprints that are not visible to the naked eye. But those fingerprints tell a lot about who was at the sc...

    Mortgage applications post first decline in three weeks

    Contract interest rates were on the rise

    After advancing for two straight weeks, mortgage applications have taken a step back.

    The Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey shows applications dipped 1.3% in the week ending July 15, 2016. The Refinance Index was also lower -- down 1% -- as the refinance share of mortgage activity rose to 64.2% of total applications from 64.0% the previous week.

    The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity fell to 5.1% of total applications, the FHA share slipped to 9.9% from 10.0% the week before, the VA share was 11.2%, and the USDA share of total applications dropped to 0.5% from 0.6% a week earlier.

    Contract interest rates

    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose five basis points -- to 3.65% from 3.60%, with points unchanged at 0.36 (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) moved from 3.61% to 3.66%, with points unchanged at 0.32 (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 unchanged at 3.53%, with points decreasing to 0.30 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages inched up two basis points to 2.90%, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs jumped to 2.86% from 2.7%, with points increasing to 0.29 from 0.25 (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.

    After advancing for two straight weeks, mortgage applications have taken a step back.The Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Su...

    ConAgra Foods expands recall of frozen chicken and beef products

    The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

    ConAgra Foods of Russellville, Ark., is expanding its earlier recall of frozen chicken and beef entrée products by 191,791 pounds for a total of approximately 195,597 pounds.

     

    The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically curled, malleable and shiny metal fragments ranging in size between 2 and 9 millimeters (mm) in diameter. The fragments may be embedded in the sauce contained within the frozen entrée products.

     

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

     

    The following items, produced between May 31, 2016, and June 22, 2016, are being recalled:

    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Signature Spicy Chicken” with “Use By” date of 6/08/17 and case code 5006616500.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Mongolian Style Beef” with “Use By” date of 6/17/17 and case code 5006617400.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Mongolian Style Beef” with “Use By” date of 6/1/17 and case code 5006615800.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Beef with Broccoli” with “Use By” date of 6/4/17 and case code 5006616100.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Sweet & Sour Chicken” with “Use By” date of 6/3/17 and case code 5006616000.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu General Chang’s Chicken” with “Use By” date of 6/3/17 and case code 5006616000.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Garlic Chicken with Dan Dan Noodles” with “Use By” date of 6/8/17 and case code 5006616500.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Grilled Chicken Teriyaki with Lo Mein Noodles” with “Use By” date of 6/10/17 and case code 5006616700.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Signature Spicy Chicken” with “Use By” date of 5/26/17 and case code 5006615200.

    The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. 233” or “EST. P-115” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to distributors and retail locations 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 about the recall may call 1-800-252-0634.  

     

     

    ConAgra Foods of Russellville, Ark., is expanding its earlier recall of frozen chicken and beef entrée products by 191,791 pounds for a total of approximat...

    Bridgestone recalls Firestone and Champion Fuel Fighter tires

    The tires may have inconsistent rubber coverage over the steel plies

    Bridgestone/Firestone North America Tire is recalling eight Firestone FR710 tires, size 205/65R16, and Champion Fuel Fighter tires, sizes 205/65R15 and 205/70R15, manufactured March 27, 2016, to April 9, 2016.

     

    These replacement passenger car tires may have been manufactured with inconsistent rubber coverage over the steel plies. As a result, the tread may separate, increasing the risk of a crash.

     

    What to do

     

    All the affected tires have been contained and destroyed, therefore, an owner notification letter will not be issued for this campaign. All affected tires were returned to Bridgestone on May 5, 2016.

     

    Owners may contact Bridgestone customer service at 1-800-847-3272.

     

     

    Bridgestone/Firestone North America Tire is recalling eight Firestone FR710 tires, size 205/65R16, and Champion Fuel Fighter tires, sizes 205/65R15 and 205...

    Three states sue VW for environmental damages from diesel exhaust

    Clean air groups irate that even after being "fixed," the diesels still won't meet clean air regs

    Volkswagen may never emerge from the lingering cloud of fumes created by its use of deceptive devices that made its TDI "clean diesels" appear to be operating within clean air limits when in fact they normally emitted up to 40 times as much pollution as U.S. law allows.

    Clean-air groups say that even after they are "fixed," many of the VW diesels will still not meet emission requirements. 

    “For reasons they didn’t state, they’re allowing fixed vehicles to not be fixed, but to allow vehicles to emit twice as much pollution as they otherwise would allow,” said Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, Bloomberg reported.

    VW recently agreed to a $15.3 billion settlement with regulators and consumers in June, but now New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland have filed new lawsuits seeking compensation for the environmental damage caused by the diesel engines.

    “The allegations against Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche reveal a culture of deeply-rooted corporate arrogance, combined with a conscious disregard for the rule of law and the protection of public health and the environment,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “These suits should serve as a siren in every corporate board room, that if any company engages in this type of calculated and systematic illegality, we will bring the full force of the law — and seek the stiffest possible sanctions — to protect our citizens.”

    Destroyed evidence, lied about it

    The states' suits allege that VW employees destroyed incriminating evidence after they were tipped off to the U.S. investigation and then repeatedly lied about it.

    The cover-up followed a study by researchers at West Virginia University that alerted authorities in this country that the diesel cars emitted much more nitrogen oxides (NOx) when driven on the road than they did when undergoing emissions testing on test equipment.

    VW tried to cover up the problem through sham recalls that the company knew wouldn’t meet the required standards and then only confessed to the defeat devices “when they knew the regulators had the goods on them,” according to Schneiderman’s statement.

    Won't meet standards

    While some of the oldest and dirtiest VWs will be bought back from their owners and destroyed, others will be modified to run cleaner, although under the terms of the $15 billion settlement, they still won't fully meet U.S. emission standards.

    VW is paying millons of dollars into an environmental fund as partial payment for environmental damage, amounting to a tacit admission that many of the cars will still be polluting the air.

    The California Air Resources Board estimates that the "fixed" VW diesels will have their emissions cut by as much as 90 percent. But since the cars now emit as much as 40 times the permitted amounts of NOx, even a 90 percent reduction won't bring them into compliance.

    California will allow many of the cars to remain on the road, however, recognizing that the owners aren't be blame. 

    “Volkswagen knowingly broke the law and lied about it, not the vehicle owners,” said David Clegern, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board, according to Bloomberg. “Therefore, owners are being given as much flexibility as possible in how they choose to handle their individual vehicles.”

    There is, however, still no approved plan to retrofit the cars with improved emission systems. VW and the various federal and state agencies are still negotiating what form that final solution will take.

    Volkswagen may never emerge from the lingering cloud of fumes created by its use of deceptive devices that made its TDI "clean diesels" appear to be operat...

    Why you should avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks

    Study shows it can increase desire for more alcohol

    In the dog days of summer, it is important to stay hydrated. But what you drink is important. Replenishing your bodily fluids with water is best.

    The American Heart Association notes that sources of water also include foods, such as fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water. Sports drinks with electrolytes may help with high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in added sugars and calories.

    In hot weather, or after strenuous exercise, sugary drinks, alcohol, and energy drinks are not recommended.

    The energy drinks now available for purchase no longer contain alcohol, but they were popular items before 2010. Even though these beverages are off the market, health officials worry that consumers are making their own, combining alcohol with the energy drinks that are currently available.

    Reduce feeling of intoxication

    Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say this practice can lead to problems. They say energy drinks will reduce the feeling of intoxication, meaning people drinking the beverages are prone to drinking too much.

    To test this theory, researchers for the Research Society on Alcoholism selected 26 adults to participate in six double-blind sessions that involved drinking alcohol and energy drinks, alone and in combinations.

    Over the course of the study, the subjects received one of six possible combinations:

    • Vodka mixed with a decaffeinated soft drink
    • Vodka mixed into a medium energy drink
    • Vodka mixed into a large energy drink
    • A decaffeinated soft drink
    • A medium energy drink
    • A large energy drink.

    The findings

    After consuming the beverages, each participant was checked for the concentration of alcohol in their breath and their desire to consume more alcohol.

    Those who just drank alcohol wanted more alcohol, which was expected. But those who drank the alcohol-energy drink combination expressed an even greater desire for more alcohol.

    The study provides laboratory evidence that mixing alcohol with energy drinks could lead someone to consume more alcohol than they would ordinarily.

    The Mayo doctors say that for most people, an occasional energy drink is fine, but consumers should avoid spiking it with alcohol.

    The Heart Association suggests avoiding energy drinks or beverages with caffeine during hot weather or exercise, noting that caffeine acts as a diuretic and causes you to lose more fluids.  

    In the dog days of summer, it is important to stay hydrated. But what you drink is important. Replenishing your bodily fluids with water is best.The Am...

    California Obamacare premiums increasing 13.2% next year

    The rate hike is three times bigger than increases over the last two years

    California's health exchange has been one of the biggest and most successful state Obamacare programs. But today, Covered California, as it's known, announced an average statewide premium increase of 13.2 percent for 2017, setting off a round of criticism and defensive responses.

    “These outrageous premium hikes are the consequence of California’s failure to adopt health insurance premium regulation like the majority of the states and the disappearance of federal subsidies for insurance companies to even out bumps in the road ,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, which sponsored an unusccessful rate regulation initiative in 2014.

    Insurance companies said the rate hikes -- more than three times the increases of the last two years -- were the result of factors beyond their control. 

    “In 2017, Covered California prices are influenced by higher spending on medical care, particularly skyrocketing prices on specialty drugs, and the sunset of two federal programs," said California Association of Health Plans President & CEO Charles Bacchi.

    “California’s health exchange opened up access to health care for millions, with 11 health plans in Covered California competing over price and quality and in most of the regions of the state," Bacchi said.

    “Some rate increases are necessary to cover the cost of care as more and more Californians use medical services that have become increasingly expensive each year. As prices for hospitals, doctors, specialty drugs and other services keep climbing, we cannot lose focus on our goal of affordability,” he said.

    "Regulation is the hammer"

    But Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit based in Santa Monica, said the increases could have been avoided if the rate regulation initiative had passed.

    “When three health insurance companies control 90% of the market there is no bargaining with them absent a hammer. Rate regulation is the hammer," Court said. "California consumers cannot continue to pay more for very limited doctors and hospital networks. Rate regulation needs to move to the top of the legislature’s list.”

    The ballot initiative failed to pass in a record-low turnout election, but it garnered 41% of the vote despite a $57 million insurance company campaign against it, Court noted.

    The federal programs that are being phased out were intended to help stabilize the market during the first few years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    How much more individual consumers will have to pay depends on whether they are eligible for taxpayer-supported subsidies and whether they choose to switch to lower-cost plans that may have higher deductibles and co-pays.  

    California's health exchange has been one of the biggest and most successful state Obamacare programs. But today, Covered California, as it's known, announ...

    Researchers develop first widely protective vaccine for chlamydia

    The treatment could help millions of people worldwide

    A study conducted at McMaster University may prove to be the first step towards effectively preventing chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects more than 100 million people around the world.

    Researchers at the university have produced the very first widely protective vaccine against the most common strain of the infection, called Chlamydia trachomatis. Those who have the infection are known to suffer from upper genital tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility. If proven to be effective, the vaccine could prevent all of these issues, in addition to Trachoma, an eye infection that is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world.

    “Vaccination would be the best way to prevent a chlamydia infection, and this study has identified important new antigens which could be used as part of a vaccine to prevent or eliminate the damaging reproductive consequences of untreated infections,” said Dr. David Bulir, co-author of the study.

    Improving vaccine efforts

    The researchers began working towards a vaccine by studying a chlamydial antigen called BD584. They observed that this particular antigen worked amazingly well at counteracting C. trachomatis.

    Under laboratory settings, they found that BD584 was able to prevent chlamydial shedding – a symptom of chlamydia -- 95% of the time. Additionally, it was able to prevent hydrosalpinx – another symptom which involves the fallopian tubes being blocked by fluids – 87.5% of the time.

    These results could not have come at a better time, since the scientific community had struggled with vaccine efforts in recent years. “Vaccine development efforts in the past three decades have been unproductive and there is no vaccine approved for humans,” said Bulir.

    Worldwide solution

    In addition to preventing strains of C. trachomatis, the researchers say that their new vaccine could be integral to preventing trachoma – the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. This is especially important for resource-poor nations that would otherwise have no answer to this health crisis.

    “The vaccine would be administered through the nose. This is easy and painless and does not require trained health professionals to administer, and that makes it an inexpensive solution for developing nations,” said Steven Liang, co-author and PhD student at McMaster.

    The researchers plan to keep working with their vaccine to see if its effectiveness can be extended to other strains of chlamydia.

    A study conducted at McMaster University may prove to be the first step towards effectively preventing chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) th...

    Refund checks going to consumers hoodwinked by bogus auto warranties

    My Car Solutions claimed to be affiliated with manufacturers and dealers

    Checks totaling more than $4 million are being mailed to nearly 6,000 consumers who were bombarded with illegal robocalls and tricked into paying thousands of dollars for "extended auto warranties" that turned out to be bogus.

    The Federal Trade Commission’s June 2010 complaint alleged that the defendants, doing business under the name My Car Solutions, conned people into paying thousands of dollars by leading them to believe that the company was affiliated with auto dealers and manufacturers, when in fact it was not.

    Rust Consulting, Inc., the refund administrator, began mailing refund checks today. The checks must be cashed within 60 days or they will become void. The checks are going to everyone who was listed as a customer of My Car Solutions. No one will have to pay any money or provide any additional information to receive the refund -- and there will not be any telephone calls being made to recipients.

    If you have questions, call 1-877-703-3427.

    After extensive legal efforts, the FTC recovered the entire $4,255,209 judgment entered against the defendants, Fereidoun “Fred” Khalilian and his company, The Dolce Group Worldwide, LLC.

    The final court order bans the defendants from telemarketing or helping others to telemarket. It also prohibits them from making any misrepresentations or omissions when selling any goods or services.

    Checks totaling more than $4 million are being mailed to nearly 6,000 consumers who were bombarded with illegal robocalls and tricked into paying thousands...

    New study increases understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome

    Researchers find that even minor physical strain can lead to symptom flares

    After a long day, it’s common for many people to arrive at home feeling completely exhausted. But while most of us are able to shake these feelings with a little rest, there are some people out there who aren’t so fortunate.

    Those who have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) regularly suffer from extreme fatigue that is not alleviated by rest. This type of exhaustion can last for a long time, and it can be compounded by muscle pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and memory problems – issues that make it extremely difficult to go about everyday activities.

    Symptoms of CFS can flare up at seemingly random times, and medical experts have yet to figure out the underlying reasons. However, researchers have conducted a study that suggests that the issue originates in the muscles and nerves after experiencing some sort of physical strain.

    Symptom flares

    Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine set out to see if CFS symptoms truly were worse after some sort of physical exercise or strain. They utilized 80 participants -- 60 of them had been diagnosed with CFS and 20 did not have it.

    Participants were asked to undergo 15 minutes of either a passive supine straight leg raise, which consists of an individual lifting their legs up into the air while lying down flat, or a sham leg raise, which mimics this motion but does not cause any body strain.

    During this process, participants were asked to report levels of fatigue, body pain, lightheadedness, and other CFS symptoms every five minutes. After this first session, participants were asked to come back 24 hours later and report on these same factors.

    Extending understanding of CFS

    The results of the study showed that all participants who took part in the “true strain” exercise reported greater levels of lightheadedness and higher overall combined scores for all factors than those who took part in the sham exercise. Additionally, participants who had CFS reported greater severity of symptoms 24 hours after the first session.

    While the results may seem understandable, or even obvious, the researchers say that their results shed light on how everyday body strain might induce feelings of fatigue in those with CFS.

    “These findings have practical implications for understanding why exercise and the activities of daily living might be capable of provoking CFS symptoms. If simply holding up the leg of someone with CFS to a degree that produces a mild to moderate strain is capable of provoking their symptoms, prolonged or excessive muscle strain beyond the usual range of motion that occurs during daily activities might also produce symptom flares,” said Dr. Kevin Fontaine, co-author of the study’s paper.

    Dr. Peter Rowe, lead author of the study and director of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Chronic Fatigue Clinic, agrees with the assessment and further states that the findings indicate “that increased mechanical sensitivity may be a contributor to the provocation of symptoms in [CFS].”

    The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE

    After a long day, it’s common for many people to arrive at home feeling completely exhausted. But while most of us are able to shake these feelings with a ...

    Online obituary sites collected unauthorized charitable donations

    Legacy.com and Tributes settle Vermont charges, agree to reform their practices

    It's not just undertakers and florists who profit from death. Local newspapers and online sites have found a steady stream of revenue in the obituary business and now routinely gouge families to run even the simplest death announcement.

    Finding a profitable business model frequently results in looking for ways to milk more revenue out of each transaction, and that's what Vermont says online obit sites have been up to lately. 

    Legacy.com and Tributes have agreed to pay more than $30,000 to settle charges by Vermont that they ran a scheme to solicit unauthorized donations to nonprofits in lieu of flowers.

    “We are pleased to end this practice, which has cost Vermonters unnecessary fees at a time of vulnerability. This is a good outcome for Vermont donors and nonprofits alike.” Attorney General William H. Sorrell said.

    According to Sorrell, the sites directed mourners wanting to donate to nonprofits like the American Cancer Society to Givalike, a third-party website that collected the money, deducted its cut, and sent the remainder to the charity.

    Didn't get consent

    The problem with this is that, in Vermont and many other states, it is illegal to solicit donations for a charity without first getting the charity's consent. Additionally, the state charged that in some instances, neither the deceased nor the immediate family had asked for donations to be solicited for a charity.

    The sites also failed to register as paid fundraisers in Vermont and failed to follow the state's laws regarding charitable solicitations.

    Under the terms of the settlement, Legacy.com and Tributes agreed not to allow software in the obituary of any Vermonter, or in any obituary where a Vermont nonprofit is listed without disclosing that a third-party’s website will be used and disclosing all fees. 

    As part of the settlement, both Legacy.com and Tributes will pay the state for penalties and attorneys’ costs and fees totaling more than $30,000.

    Sorrell's office is still investigating the three California-based principals of Givalike, which is no longer in business.

    It's not just undertakers and florists who profit from death. Local newspapers and online sites have found a steady stream of revenue in the obituary busin...

    Chick-fil-A feels push-back over menu change

    Die hard customers unhappy about disappearance of Spicy Chicken Biscuit

    Chick-fil-A has a devoted, some might say fanatical, following. The fast food chain has won praise from consumers in recent years due to both its service and the quality of its menu.

    But consumer passion for your product can be a double-edged sword, as the company found out this week when it confirmed a change to its breakfast menu. The Spicy Chicken Biscuit has been replaced with the Egg White Grill.

    OMG! Social media erupted.

    “The spicy chicken biscuit is the only reason I would eat breakfast at your restaurant,” one consumer posted on Twitter.

    “Please,” another wrote. “How could anyone ever think someone would rather have an Egg White Grill, in place of THE SPICY CHICKEN BISCUIT??”

    “Seriously, fire your market research team,” another advised.

    Almost any restaurant will experience consumer push-back when a major change is made to the menu. Usually it blows over in a week or two.

    The dust-up is often magnified, however, if the company has a huge footprint in the marketplace or has achieved iconic status.

    Remember New Coke?

    Both were the case 31 years ago when Coca-Cola shocked consumers by announcing it had changed the formula of Coke, rebranding it as “New Coke.” Coke had been losing market share to Pepsi, which had a sweeter taste, and Coke's top-secret blind taste tests confirmed consumers preferred it.

    But consumers universally were outraged that Coke would tamper with a soft drink institution and within three months, it had put the original back on the market as “Coca-Cola Classic.” It wasn't long before New Coke disappeared from shelves and Coke Classic became just plain old Coke again.

    It's not clear whether Chick-fil-A has stepped into a similar malstrom. But getting rid of the spicy biscuit for a sandwich made up of chicken, egg whites, and American cheese is not going over well, to say the least.

    Will it lead to a retreat of Coca-Cola proportions? Customers posting on Twitter hope so.

    Chick-fil-A has a devoted, some might say fanatical, following. The fast food chain has won praise from consumers in recent years due to both its service a...

    Mixed results for new home construction in June

    The same holds true for building permits

    It's truly a good-news-bad news situation for the home construction industry.

    The Commerce Department reports builders broke ground on privately-owned homes in June at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,189,000. While that's 4.8% above the May figure, it's down 2.0% from the same period a year earlier.

    Construction of single-family houses rose 4.4% from May to a rate of 778,000 and 13.4% from June 2015. The rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 392,000, up 1.6% for the month, but suffered a year-over-year plunge of 23.6%.

    Building permits

    Building permits, an indicator of what developers are planning in the months ahead, were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,153,000 -- up 1.5% from May, but down 13.6% on a year-over-year basis.

    Authorizations for future construction of single-family homes were at a rate of 738,000 in June, a gain of 1.0% from May and 5.1% from a year earlier.

    Permits for units in buildings with five units or more posted a month-over-month advance of 1.9% to 384,000, but plunged 35.8% from June 2015.

    The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

    It's truly a good-news-bad news situation for the home construction industry.The Commerce Department reports builders broke ground on privately-owned h...

    Mercedes-Benz recalls vehicles with seat belt issue

    The right rear seatbelt anchor bolt may be incorrectly installed

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 423 model year 2015 ML250, ML350, ML350 4Matic, ML400 4Matic, ML63 AMG; and 2016 GLE450 AMG 4Matic vehicles manufactured from April 27, 2015, through May 19, 2015.

     

    The recalled vehicles may have had the right rear seatbelt anchor bolt incorrectly installed.

     

    In the event of a vehicle crash, the right rear seatbelt anchor bolt could fail to secure the passenger, increasing their risk of injury.

     

    What to do

     

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, if necessary, correct the installation of the right rear seat belt anchor bolt, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in July 2016.

     

    Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

     

     

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 423 model year 2015 ML250, ML350, ML350 4Matic, ML400 4Matic, ML63 AMG; and 2016 GLE450 AMG 4Matic vehicles manufact...

    White House funds 5G effort despite health advocates' objections

    The ultra-high-speed broadband technology poses unknown risks, critics say

    The White House is throwing $400 million into an effort that's supposed to speed development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G wireless technology, a move some health advocates say is premature and unwise.

    The federal dollars will be flowing into something called the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, which is supposed to test and ultimately implement new 5G wireless networking and IoT technologies in the U.S.

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week voted to adopt new rules that open up the 24 GHz spectrum for so-called 5G (5th generation) high-speed broadband. When fully deployed, 5G will make the internet about 100 times faster and supposedly enable widespread development of "connected" cars and appliances.

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler calls U.S. leadership in 5G "a national priority."

    "High-speed, high-capacity, low-latency wireless networks will define our future," Wheeler said at Friday's announcement of the funding for the initiative. 

    More towers

    Because of the extremely high 24 GHz frequencies, the waves emitted by transponders are extremely short and don't travel very far, meaning that there will need to be many more -- though smaller -- cell towers than today.  

    Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Richard H. Conrad, a biochemist and consultant, says the White House and FCC are putting the cart before the horse -- deploying new technology without first ensuring that it is safe.

    "I am a biochemist with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and know without a doubt, from the findings of thousands of research papers published by scientists with independent research funding, that there are many harmful biological effects of non-thermal levels of EMF that are relevant to humans," Conrad said in an open letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

    Conrad contends that boosters of wireless technology have argued, in effect, that critics must prove the technology is unsafe by showing exactly how it causes harm.

    "This is a myth; no one yet knows how smoking causes cancer, or the actual mechanism behind gravity," Conrad said. "Honest and independent research into health effects of 5G is absolutely necessary before actual deployment, and is therefore desirable before 5G system designs and standards have progressed very far."

    "Increased productivity"

    In a statement, The White House compares the IoT effort to historic breakthroughs achieved by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, and Samuel Morse.

    "This effort will help spur innovation in many ways, from pushing the frontiers of tele-medicine through robot-assisted remote surgeries, to testing of autonomous vehicles that talk to each other to keep us safe, to the roll-out of smart manufacturing equipment in factories, to providing more connectivity for more people," administration officials Jason Furman and R. David Edelman said in a blog posting.

    "Each one of these innovations has the potential to support increased productivity growth that can put more money in the pocket of American families," said Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, and Edelman, Special Assistant to the President for Economic and Technology Policy.

    Like the FCC's Wheeler, Furman and Edelman have no training in biological sciences, a sticking point for Conrad.

    "Wheeler is a businessman, lobbyist and politician with no training in biological or medical sciences, no understanding of biochemistry or biophysics, no biological research experience, and he listens to advice on biological safety only from scientists who have been bought by industry and tell him what he wants to hear," Conrad said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.

    "Wheeler is relying on myths and 'tobacco science' to sweep real science under the carpet, the enormous body of science that shows harmful effects of even low levels of pulsed microwave, yes, non-ionizing, radiation," Conrad said.

    The White House is throwing $400 million into an effort that's supposed to speed development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G wireless technology, a ...

    Obama administration lets automakers off the 54.5 mpg hook

    Low gas prices encourage consumers to buy more trucks and SUVs, feds lament

    U.S. regulators are backing off their 54.5 mile per gallon fuel economy target for the 2025 model year. It's not that car manufacturers can't hit the target but rather that consumers keep buying SUVs and pick-up trucks that pull down the average fuel economy figures.

    In a joint report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Highway Traffic Safety Adminitration (NHTSA), and California Air Resources Board (CARB) said automakers are adopting new technology "at unprecedented rates." But, unfortunately, at the rate consumers keep buying bigger vehicles, manufacturers likely won't be able to reach the "corporate average fuel economy" -- or CAFE -- targets by 2025. 

    Some consumer advocates say the feds are letting automakers off the hook too easily. After all, who is it that advertises all those big tough trucks and hulking SUVs?

    “The question remains as to what vehicles automakers are heavily promoting.  Many of the high profit trucks and SUVs happen to get lower MPG ratings than less profitable smaller vehicles," said Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America. 

    "We are calling upon the EPA and NHTSA to ask the automakers about their promotion efforts and compare the fuel efficiency ratings of heavily promoted vs. less promoted vehicles. The industry spends about $15 billion on advertising which has a great deal of influence on what consumers actually buy,” Gillis said.

    Mark Cooper, director of research for CFA, said the organization's most recent survey finds that more than four out of five consumers said gas mileage will be an important consideration the next time they shop for a vehicle.

    “Staying the course on fuel economy standards is what American drivers want -- whether it’s a pick-up, SUV or hybrid, they want vehicles that go farther on a gallon of gas," Cooper said. "Even in a year when gas prices are low, consumers understand that buying a fuel-efficient vehicle saves money and, most importantly, protects them from inevitable gas price spikes.”

    Stay the course

    Consumers Union also said automakers have shown they can meet the tougher mileage standards. 

    “Car technologies improve every year. Robust fuel economy standards help to ensure that advances also are deployed to improve fuel economy and help consumers keep transportation costs down.” said Shannon Baker–Branstetter, energy policy counsel for ConsumersUnion.

    “[T]he federal government should stay the course on improving fuel economy standards for model years 2022-2025. The data show that improving fuel economy puts money in the pockets of consumers even in times of low gas prices,” said Baker-Branstetter.

    Could be, but government officials say the 54.5 mpg goal is off the table. They put most of the blame on lower gas prices, which have kept demand SUVs and pickups higher than expected.

    On a conference call with reporters, senior Obama administration officials said the 54.5 mpg goal was never a mandate but more of an estimate of where the industry could be by the 2025 model year -- based on an assumption that 67 percent of hte market would be cars and 33 percent would be SUVs and trucks.

    U.S. regulators are backing off their 54.5 mile per gallon fuel economy target for the 2025 model year. It's not that car manufacturers can't hit the targe...

    Study shows many community-dwelling seniors use prescriptions improperly

    Over half of all seniors misuse or underuse their medications

    As we age, the number of medical issues that we become susceptible to tends to increase. As a result, seniors often have to take several prescription medications in order to stay healthy – but are those medications being taken properly?

    Maybe not, one study proposes. New research suggests that the majority of seniors who live independently do not take their prescriptions properly. The findings show that this can go both ways: some seniors take too many prescriptions at once, while still more underuse their prescriptions, which can put them at serious risk.

    “Taking too many medications or unsafe medications are known to cause adverse health outcomes; however, we have shown that not taking essential, beneficial medications is more frequent and can be strongly associated with negative outcomes,” said researcher Maarten Wauters.

    Misuse and underuse

    The study analyzed 503 community-dwelling seniors over the age of 80 for a period of 18 months. Over that time period, researchers monitored prescription drug habits, including the number of medications taken and any incidents of misuse.

    After 18 months, Wauters and his colleagues found that 58% of the participants took five or more chronic medications on a daily basis. They note that taking this number of medications, without careful and proper administration, could be dangerous since seniors are more sensitive to prescriptions than younger people.

    “Prescribing medications to older persons should be done after careful thought, balancing the benefits and risk of every medication at regular intervals,” said Wauters.

    Additionally, the researchers found that 56% of patients misused their prescription medications, while 67% underused them. When all was said and done, only 17% of participants were not affected by any kind of misuse or underuse.

    Expert opinions

    The researchers point out that having a dedicated clinical pharmacologist for senior communities could go a long way towards curbing abuse and improving health outcomes.

    “Clinical pharmacologists can help prescribers to clearly assess misuse and underuse of medications in full knowledge of the patient, their comorbidities, and their medications. They can help to build electronic systems for constant monitoring of the quality of prescribing, using evidence-based criteria of potentially inappropriate prescribing,” said Wauters.

    The full study has been published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

    As we age, the number of medical issues that we become susceptible to tends to increase. As a result, seniors often have to take several prescription medic...

    Food dye pops up where you least expect it, like in 'chocolate' snacks

    Little Debbie Swiss Rolls use food dyes to make up for the lack of chocolate, critics say

    Little Debbie isn't what she seems. That's the message from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which says Little Debbie Swiss Rolls are short on chocolate but long on food coloring.

    CSPI says the popular treats have a combined 32 milligrams of Yellow 5, Red 40, and Blue 1 per serving. That level of artificial food dye is troubling, according to the group, since clinical trials have shown that modest percentages of children experience adverse behavioral reactions after consuming about that much.

    All that dye makes up for the absence of cocoa, according to CSPI. It says the primary ingredients in Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, manufactured by McKee Foods, are sugar, water, flour, and oil. Less than two percent of the product is cocoa, which means that much of the dark, chocolatey brown color of the product comes from yellow, red, and blue dye. 

    “Keeping dyed foods away from children is not easy,” said CSPI deputy director of nutrition policy Jessica Almy.  “The FDA could make an enormous difference for hundreds of thousands of children and their families by eliminating dyes altogether, or at least requiring a warning label.”

    A bad crowd

    Little Debbie isn't alone, and, in fact, some foods have even more dye per serving. Betty Crocker’s Black Decorating Cake Icing has 80 mg of dyes per serving, Pillsbury Supreme Collection Red Velvet Mix has 66 mg, and Blue Bunny Red Carpet Red Velvet Premium Ice Cream has 49 mg of dye per serving, CSPI said.

    In a letter to McKee Foods president and CEO Mike McKee, CSPI urged the company to make a public commitment to eliminate the use of dyes by the end of 2017. CSPI also pointed out that at least one of Little Debbie’s competitors, Hostess, is making a chocolate snack cake that doesn’t contain synthetic dyes.

    “As many parents have told us, behaviors triggered by the dyes in foods impair the health and wellbeing of the child and the entire family,” CSPI wrote. 

    Little Debbie isn't what she seems. That's the message from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which says Little Debbie Swiss Rolls a...

    Red meat linked to kidney failure

    A study shows that eating too much red meat can lead to chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal failure

    The medical community has been warning the public about the dangers of red meat for some time now. Over the past few years, studies have linked its consumption to higher risk of cancer and diabetes, but now a new study shows that it can negatively impact the kidneys as well.

    Specifically, the researchers believe that red meat consumption is leading to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Both diseases are extremely serious and require either dialysis or kidney transplant in order to be treated.

    Increased risk

    In their study, researchers analyzed data on over 63,000 Chinese adults living in Singapore to see what impact red meat had on their kidney function. The majority of red meat consumed by participants was pork, but other sources of protein like poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, soy, and legumes were included in the analysis.

    After an average follow-up time of 15.5 years, the researchers examined health outcomes and found an association between red meat consumption and kidney problems. Those who consumed the highest amount of red meat (top 25%) had a 40% increased risk of developing ESRD compared to those who consumed the lowest amount (bottom 25%).

    However, the researchers found that there was no association between kidney disease and other forms of protein like poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy products. In fact, they found that products like soy and legumes were slightly beneficial in terms of kidney health.

    Healthy substitutions

    In order to combat problems like CKD and ESRD, the researchers suggest substituting one serving of red meat with another form of protein from time to time. Doing so, they say, could reduce the risk of developing ESRD by as much as 62%.

    “We embarked on our study to see what advice should be given to CKD patients or to the general population about their kidney health regarding types or sources of protein intake. Our findings suggest that these individuals can maintain protein intake but consider switching to plant-based sources; however, if they still choose to eat meat, fish/shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat,” said lead researcher Dr. Woon-Puay Koh.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

    The medical community has been warning the public about the dangers of red meat for some time now. Over the past few years, studies have linked its consump...

    Four ways to save on back to school shopping

    Where to find cheap (or even free) clothing in your area

    The swimming pools are still crowded and school buses are still dormant, but back to school shopping has already begun.

    As retailers roll out their back to school merchandise, many shoppers may be thinking about how to save on this big annual expenditure.

    Fortunately, a few clever savings tricks can help parents keep back to school costs down. With these earth-friendly savings tips, even parents of fashionistas can emerge from back to school shopping with their budget unscathed.

    Consignment sales

    Last year, the National Retail Federation reported that parents planned to spend over $350 on clothing and shoes. Given the rate at which kids grow and discard old trends, spending this much isn’t exactly practical.

    But stocking kids’ closets with fresh new looks doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Consignment stores offer gently used clothing from an array of designers at a fraction of the price.

    For the best deals on clothing and sporting equipment, look for group consignment sales in your area. A national directory of consignment sales can be found here.

    To reward kids for their wallet and earth-friendly apparel choices, some parents choose to allow their kids to pick out one or two must-have pieces throughout the school year.

    Reusable bags

    Purchasing a supply of washable, reusable lunch containers may be more of an investment up front, but it’ll save you money in the long run.

    Washable sandwich bags, such as those from Lunchskins, are a more planet-friendly option than plastic bags. Parents can also buy bento-box inspired lunch containers, such as these, which often make the perfect vehicle for a healthy, home-packed lunch.

    Clothing swap party

    Are there other moms in your area who are up against the task of back-to-school shopping on a budget? If so, why not organize a clothing swap party where items can be exchanged for free?

    Once a time, date, and venue are agreed upon, participants simply show up with their children’s clean, gently used garments. To keep things even, decide ahead of time how many articles of clothing swappers should show up with and leave with.

    Spread out purchases

    If you have lots of kids, it may be smart to buy a few things over a period of time rather than knocking out the entire shopping list at once. Slow and steady may win the race, in this case.

    Tossing a few back-to-school related items into your cart each time you’re at the grocery store, for instance, may leave you in a much more financially comfortable place come September.

    The swimming pools are still crowded and school buses are still dormant, but back to school shopping has already begun.As retailers roll out their back...

    The most affordable weekends for summer travel

    When to take that end-of-summer trip and which ten cities have the cheapest lodging

    Looking to cash in those unused vacation days for one last summer trip with the family? If so, chances are you’d like to get the most bang for your buck.

    To help you on your quest for the ultimate summer getaway, the experts at Hotwire have hunted down cities with the most affordable lodging in the U.S.

    Hotwire’s Travel Inspiration Indicator finds that the last two weeks of August are the best time to travel. During this time, frugal-yet-fun-loving families can keep costs low while reaping all the benefits of a great summer vacation.

    Less than $67/night

    Near the end of August, vacationers can find the best rates on rooms at 3-5 star hotels. Settling in for the night in one of these ten major cities during this time will set travelers back less than $67 per night, according to Hotwire.

    • Las Vegas
    • Houston
    • Atlanta
    • Orlando
    • Dallas
    • San Diego
    • Minneapolis
    • New Orleans
    • San Antonio
    • Saint Louis

    Four cities for families

    Hotwire’s analysis also revealed that some cities are more family friendly than others. If family bonding and learning experiences are what you're after, try visiting the following budget-friendly U.S. cities this summer:

    • Oakland, California
    • Washington D.C.
    • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    • San Diego, California

    Best for friends

    Seizing the opportunity to enjoy an end-of-summer getaway isn’t reserved for families only. If your summer vacation will be spent in the company of friends, try visiting one of the following adventure-packed locales:

    • New Orleans, Louisiana
    • Chicago, Illinois
    • Miami, Florida
    • Seattle, Washington
    • Boston, Massachusetts
    Looking to cash in those unused vacation days for one last summer trip with the family? If so, chances are you’d like to get the most bang for your buck. ...

    Why more consumers are struggling financially

    Study shows level of financial literacy is in decline

    The economy is doing a little better over the last year or two, but millions of consumers haven't noticed. They still struggle to make ends meet, according to the 2016 study of financial capability by the FINRA Foundation.

    The study found women, Millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics, and those without a high school education are falling behind the most. The research also found that medical costs are a major source of debt.

    Slightly more than one in five consumers have medical bills they can't pay and women are more likely than men to postpone seeking medical attention because of costs.

    Less education equals less money

    Education is a big factor determining basic economic security. Nearly half of consumers with a high school diploma or less could not come up with $2,000 in 30 days to meet an emergency expense. Only 18% of those with a college degree are in the same situation.

    Age comes into play as well, as 29% percent of Millennials with a mortgage have been late with a mortgage payment, compared with only 7% for those 55 and older.

    The study also found Hispanics and African-Americans are the mostly likely to turn to high-cost forms of borrowing, like pawn shops and payday loans, compared to whites -- 39% for African-Americans, 34% for Hispanics, and 21% for whites.

    Decreasing financial literacy

    But perhaps most distressing, the study found that American consumers' knowledge of financial matters is getting worse. Just 37% of the consumers in the survey were considered to have a high level of financial literacy. To achieve that status, they had to answer four or more questions on a five-question quiz correctly. In 2012, 39% could do it and in 2009, 42% were able to.

    On a positive note, those saying they could make it through the month meeting all their expenses jumped from 36%, in the wake of the financial crisis, to 46% last year.

    “This research underscores the critical need for innovative strategies to equip consumers with the tools and education required to effectively manage their financial lives,” said FINRA Foundation Chairman Richard Ketchum.

    Where will these strategies come from? Ketchum says he hopes policymakers, researchers, and advocates will use the data in the study to improve efforts towards helping those populations that are struggling most.

    The economy is doing a little better over the last year or two, but millions of consumers haven't noticed. They still struggle to make ends meet, according...

    Car loan terms continue to get longer

    But consumers appear to be getting out of them sooner

    As new car prices have risen, consumers have used longer payment periods to keep their monthly payments manageable. But that doesn't mean that they are keeping their loans – or their vehicles – longer.

    TransUnion, the credit reporting agency, has completed a study that found the average term for new car loans rose from 62 months to 67 months from 2010 to 2015. But that's just the average.

    Auto lenders now routinely make loans for six and seven years. After all, today's vehicles are better than they were a decade ago and studies have shown consumers drive their cars longer.

    Yet the TransUnion study found that as loan terms got longer, the length of time a consumer continues to pay on the loan has gotten shorter. There could be several reasons for that.

    Trading in before it's paid off

    It's possible some consumers simply refinanced their auto loans at lower rates. But they could also have sold, or traded-in their vehicle before they finished paying for it. It is also possible that some vehicles were repossessed after the consumer defaulted on the loan.

    TransUnion’s study found that car loan terms extending from 73 to 84 months have more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. In fact, 25% of all car loans in the third quarter of last year were for six to seven years, compared to just 10% five years earlier.

    The danger of a long loan term is the slower pace at which the consumer gains equity. Vehicles lose value over time, meaning the consumer could be halfway through a seven year loan term and owe significantly more than the vehicle is worth.

    Bad risk

    “Consumers who cannot afford the monthly payment on a shorter term for the same loan are riskier, and we see this manifested in the higher delinquency rates for 72- and 84-month loans,” said Jason Laky, senior vice president and automotive business leader for TransUnion.

    Even with smaller monthly payments, TransUnion found that consumers with longer loans are more likely to be 60 days or more delinquent on their car payments than consumers with shorter term loans.

    While the 60 month, or five-year loan term has become something of an industry standard recently, personal finance experts still recommend a four year, or 48-month loan term.

    They recommend the 20-4-10 rule to determine whether a new vehicle is affordable. If a consumer cannot make a 20% down payment, finance the vehicle for four years, and have the monthly payment not to exceed 10% of monthly income, then the vehicle is not affordable.

    As new car prices have risen, consumers have used longer payment periods to keep their monthly payments manageable. But that doesn't mean that they are kee...

    A slip in builder confidence

    Shortages of lots and labor may be factors

    Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes stayed positive in July, even though there was a bit of slippage.

    The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) edged down one point during the month -- to a reading of 60.

    “The economic fundamentals are in place for continued slow, steady growth in the housing market,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Job creation is solid, mortgage rates are at historic lows and household formations are rising. These factors should help to bring more buyers into the market as the year progresses.”

    The HMI

    The HMI, which is derived from a monthly survey, gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” The survey also 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 where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

    All three HMI components edged lower in July. The components measuring current sales expectations and buyer traffic each fell one point to 63 and 45, respectively. The index measuring sales expectations in the next six months dipped three-points to 66.

    The three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores held steady. The Northeast, Midwest, and South were unchanged at 39, 57, and 61, respectively. The West edged one point higher to 69.

    “For the past six months, builder confidence has remained in a relatively narrow positive range that is consistent with the ongoing gradual housing recovery that is underway,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady. “However, we are still hearing reports from our members of scattered softness in some markets, due largely to regulatory constraints and shortages of lots and labor.”

    Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes stayed positive in July, even though there was a bit of slippage.The National Ass...

    Airline complaints post sharp year-over-year decline in May

    However, it was not a good month for tarmac delays

    Complaints about airline service were waaaay down in May from the same month a year earlier.

    The Department of Transportation (DOT) says it received just 1,134 complaints from consumers, a drop of 24.0% from May 2015, but up just 1.07% from April 2016.

    That's not the only good news. The carriers canceled a minuscule 0.5% of their scheduled domestic flights during the month, the third lowest on record. In May 2015, the cancellation rate was 1.1%, and in April 2016, it was 0.9 percent rate in April 2016.

    Airlines posted an on-time arrival rate of 83.4% a year-over-year increase of 2.9%, but down 1.1% from from the April 2016 mark.

    Where the industry really fell down was in getting planes off the ground on time. The carriers reported nine tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and four tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights. All are being investigated by the DOT.

    The monthly report also includes data on chronically delayed flights, including their causes, mishandled baggage reports, data on oversales, and information about the total number of animals that died, were injured, or lost during air transport.

    The complete report is available on the DOT website.

    Complaints about airline service were waaaay down in May from the same month a year earlier.The Department of Transportation (DOT) says it received jus...

    Mercedes-Benz recalls GLE450 AMG 4Matic Coupes

    The engine may shut-down while the vehicle is braking

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 5,826 model year 2016 GLE450 AMG 4Matic Coupes manufactured December 10, 2014, to June 6, 2016.

     

    An error within the engine control unit (ECU) software may allow the engine to shut-down while the vehicle is braking, possibly confusing the driver into thinking the shut-down was planned due to the ECO start/stop function.

     

    If the engine shuts down unintentionally, there may be an increased risk of a crash.

     

    What to do

     

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the ECU software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in July 2016.

     

    Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

     

     

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 5,826 model year 2016 GLE450 AMG 4Matic Coupes manufactured December 10, 2014, to June 6, 2016. An error wit...

    Nissan recalls model year 2016 Sentras

    The vehicle may not start or the engine may stall

    Nissan North America is recalling 1,522 model year 2016 Sentras manufactured April 11, 2016, through April 26, 2016.

     

    The engine room harness may have a terminal pin too large to maintain a connection with the Engine Control Unit (ECU).

     

    If the engine room harness loses connection to the ECU, the vehicle may not start or the engine may stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

     

    What to do

     

    Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the terminal pin on the engine room harness, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin by August 26, 2016.

     

    Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.

     

     

    Nissan North America is recalling 1,522 model year 2016 Sentras manufactured April 11, 2016, through April 26, 2016. The engine room harness may ha...

    Consumer groups try to put the brakes on self-driving cars

    'Consumers should never be guinea pigs for beta programs'

    Consumer organizations are trying to rein in what they see as premature attempts to put self-driving cars on the nation's highways. Consumer Reports magazine, a part of nonprofit Consumers Union, wants Tesla to disable its Autopilot feature, and a coalition of consumer groups wants President Obama to put the brakes on his administration's "undue haste" to put self-driving cars on the road.

    Consumer Reports says the Autopilot driving-assist system should be turned off until Tesla updates it to confirm that the driver's hands remain on the steering wheel at all times. 

    Tesla should also change the name of the Autopilot feature because it promotes a potentially dangerous assumption that the Model S is capable of driving on its own, Consumer Reports said. The auto company is under intense scrutiny for how it deployed and marketed the Autopilot system after a series of crashes, including a fatal crash involving a Tesla and a tractor-trailer in Florida.

    “By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security,” said Laura MacCleery, Vice President of Consumer Policy and Mobilization for Consumer Reports. “In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. But today, we’re deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology."

    "‘Autopilot’ can't actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are kept on the wheel,” MacCleery said in a prepared statement.

    "Victim to hype"

    Meanwhile, Consumer Watchdog and other consumer groups think the Obama administration is just a little bit too eager to let self-driving cars loose on the nation's roads.

    “The error in rushing autonomous vehicle technology into cars and onto public highways without enforceable safety rules was underscored by the recent tragic fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in Florida while autopilot was engaged,” the coalition said in a letter to Obama

    The letter to Obama was signed by Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus of Public Citizen and Former NHTSA Administrator; Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety; Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Safety and Reliability; and John M. Simpson, Privacy Project Director for Consumer Watchdog.

    The letter said safety officials in the administration "have apparently fallen victim to the hype of the developers of self-driving cars at the expense of public safety” and said self-driving technology should be parked "until adequate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous technologies are implemented through a public rulemaking process.”

    Instead, the letter said, the administration’s policies on automated technologies have been “developed in the shadows.”

    It noted that, without any public notice, “NHTSA granted Google the right to consider the robot the ‘driver’ in its autonomous vehicles" and also "announced an agreement with 20 automakers on voluntary standards for automatic emergency braking that were substantially lower than the findings of NHTSA’s own scientists."

    "The rules of the road for automated technologies that would dramatically alter transportation in this country should be developed thoughtfully, in the light of day and with the highest level of transparency and public participation," the letter argued.

    "Speculation by media"

    Consumer Reports contacted Tesla about its concerns, and the company sent this response via email:

    “Tesla is constantly introducing enhancements, proven over millions of miles of internal testing, to ensure that drivers supported by Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance. We will continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows. While we appreciate well-meaning advice from any individual or group, we make our decisions on the basis of real-world data, not speculation by media.”

    Tesla also defended the safety record of the system, writing that “130 million miles have been driven on Autopilot, with one confirmed fatality.”

    MacCleery said automakers must commit immediately to name automated features with descriptive, not exaggerated, titles, noting that these companies should roll out new features only when they are certain they are safe.

    “Consumers should never be guinea pigs for vehicle safety ‘beta’ programs,” she said.

    Consumer organizations are trying to rein in what they see as premature attempts to put self-driving cars on the nation's highways. Consumer Reports magazi...

    Restaurant and hotel reviews – are they believable?

    Online reviews can help you find new spots and keep you up to date on old favorites

    How do you choose a restaurant or hotel? Many of us rely on our prior experience or those of friends and family; if a restaurant or hotel met expectations before, shouldn’t they again?

    Even so, it still pays to check out every restaurant and hotel, as ownership and management changes can impact quality and service. That’s what happened to me when booking a dinner reservation at a five-star restaurant where I had had wonderful dining experiences. I was surprised that the quality was no longer the same and learned belatedly that the restaurant had changed hands.

    Since that experience, I do a better job in evaluating and choosing restaurants and hotels. Even so, I recently dined at a restaurant that did not live up to its reviews. The restaurant was ranked No. 1 out of 141 restaurants with over 200 reviews. It was also on a list of five recommended restaurants by our tour guide.

    The “best hamburger in town” was so-so and the “amazing fries” were so over-salted I couldn’t eat them. When we received our check it arrived with five of the most professionally produced business cards citing all the social media and review sites and a request to “like” the restaurant. Clearly, this restaurant had loyal fans, but No. 1? Not in my book.

    How to check for reviews

    A good place to start is the restaurant and hotel website. Look at photos, peruse menus, assess their online reviews, and then search several of the websites that rank and review restaurants and hotels. Here are three credible websites to use; all include reviews, contact information, and websites.

    TripAdvisor

    TripAdvisor, an online site and an app, boasts over 200 million unbiased traveler reviews. It allows you to search for restaurants and hotels by location or use the “near me” function, ranking the top restaurants and hotels as well as those who achieve a “Certificate of Excellence,” a citation from TripAdvisor for accommodations, attractions, and restaurants that consistently earn great reviews from travelers.

    You can make reservations for restaurants that use OpenTable and book hotel rooms in partnership with Bookings.com. Both OpenTable and Bookings.com are owned by Priceline.com.

    OpenTable

    OpenTable, an online site and an app, enables users to book reservations at over 31,000 restaurants worldwide (not every restaurant uses OpenTable). The site posts reviews from diners, and its website states that it gets 750,000 restaurant reviews each month.

    To search, just add the date, a time, and a location, restaurant, or cuisine. You’ll generate a list of possible restaurants; anything appealing, just click on the reviews and start reading. Restaurant information and menus are accessible.

    Yelp

    Yelp, an online site and app, is a review site for all local businesses, including restaurants. It draws a monthly average of over 90 million unique visitors for the online site and the app with “yelpers” (Yelp users) writing over 102 million reviews.

    Just indicate what you would like the site to find (restaurant, bar, coffee, type of food, or hotel) and what it is near and start searching. The site allows a number of filters, such as price, Wi-Fi, outdoor seating, and open now, to help narrow your restaurant search. You can make restaurant reservations.

    It’s very easy to get hung up and lost reading online reviews. And, who do you believe? Realize that no restaurant or hotel can please everyone and some reviewers consistently find fault. You’ll need to weed through the commentary and ultimately, make your own informed decision.   

    How do you choose a restaurant or hotel? Many of us rely on our prior experience or those of friends and family; if a...

    Prevalence of sleep disorders high among U.S. veterans, study finds

    Sleep apnea and insomnia were the most prevalent disorders

    One thing that many Americans take pride in is our collective appreciation of our servicemen and servicewomen. But when their duty has come to an end, are things going well at home? Maybe not as far as sleep goes, a new study suggests.

    Researchers surveyed nearly 10 million U.S. veterans and, after adjusting for age, found that the prevalence of sleeping disorders have risen dramatically since the turn of the century. While only 1% of respondents reported sleeping problems in 2000, that number rose to 6% by 2010. Findings indicate that outcomes were even worse for veterans with PTSD.

    “Veterans with PTSD had a very high sleep disorder prevalence of 16 percent, the highest among the various health conditions or other population characteristics that we examined,” said Dr. James Burch, senior author and principal investigator of the study.

    High incidence rates

    Out of all the sleeping disorders considered, the researchers found that sleep apnea was the most common among U.S. veterans at 47%. Sleep apnea is characterized by breathing abnormalities while sleeping. Most commonly, it results in some kind of obstruction in the upper airway that causes poorer sleep quality.

    The next worse ailment was insomnia, which affected 26% of those surveyed who had a sleeping disorder. It is characterized by difficulty or inability to fall asleep or maintain sleep, and can cause poor sleep satisfaction and daytime impairment.

    The researchers note that other chronic illnesses or disease increased the likelihood of having a sleeping disorder.

    PTSD connection

    While the study does seem to indicate that there is a growing problem with sleep-related disorders amongst veterans, the researchers say that it does not necessarily prove a correlation with PTSD. Other studies have begun to show a connection, though.

    “Because of the way this study was designed, this does not prove that PTSD caused the increase in sleep disorder diagnoses. However, we recently completed a follow-up study, soon to be submitted for publication, that examined the issue in detail. In that study, a pre-existing history of PTSD was associated with an increased odds of sleep disorder onset,” said Burch.

    The full study has been published in the journal Sleep

    One thing that many Americans take pride in is our collective appreciation of our servicemen and servicewomen. But when their duty has come to an end, are ...

    Sweepstakes scammers cheated consumers out of $9 million

    Elderly victims were told they had to send a "refundable insurance fee" to collect their winnings

    The calls to elderly consumers seemed almost too good to be true. They sounded official and the Caller ID said they came from the 202 area code -- Washington, D.C. Best of all, they said the consumers had won it big in an international sweepstakes and could collect their winnings as soon as they sent a "refundable insurance fee."

    Of course, it was a scam. The calls actually came from a call center in Costa Rica and there were no sweepstakes winnings.

    Though crude and obvious, the scheme paid off for its perpetrators from 2007 through 2012. They collected an estimated $9 million from hundreds of U.S. citizens.

    But the scammers' luck finally ran out and the three alleged masterminds of the plot pleaded guilty this week to various counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and international money laundering.

    Guilty pleas

    Entering guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler of the Western District of North Carolina were Jeffrey Robert Bonner, 37, of Sacramento, California; Cody Trevor Burgsteiner, 33, of Houston; and Darra Lee Shephard, 57, of Calgary, Alberta. Sentencing dates have not yet been set.

    The three admitted before Judge Keesler that once they had received the "insurance fee," they contacted the victims again to tell them that their prize amount had increased, due to either a clerical error or because other winners had been disqualified. The victims were then told to send additional money to pay for new purported fees, duties, and insurance to receive the larger sweepstakes prize.

    They continued their attempts to collect additional money from the victims until their victim either ran out of money or wised up to the scheme.

    The scammers often claimed that they were calling on behalf of a U.S. federal agency to lure victims into a false sense of security, they also admitted.

    The calls to elderly consumers seemed almost too good to be true. They sounded official and the Caller ID said they came from the 202 area code -- Washingt...

    New maternity wear may protect fetuses from EM radiation

    Startup creates comfortable and affordable electromagnetic radiation screening fabric

    On the heels of the FCC’s decision to approve new “5G” broadband rules, concerns over electromagnetic radiation may be even more heightened.

    As we reported, at least 10% of the population has already developed “electro-sensitivity." Those who suffer from the condition have an intolerance to wireless transmissions which may be marked by symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and dizziness.

    Keeping the effects of radiation emitted by cell phones and other wireless technology at bay has become increasingly important to consumers -- especially those with a bun in the oven.

    But soon, it may not take banishing wireless technology altogether to keep out the effects of EM radiation. Pregnant women who want to protect their fragile, growing babies from the effects of radiation may be able to do so simply by purchasing a new kind of fabric.

    Flexible fabric

    The innovators at Tiny Tech, a startup that began in the Virginia Commonwealth School of Engineering, believe that clothing made of electromagnetic shielding technology could be an answer to growing concerns over radiation.

    In a statement, Erdem Topsakal, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, explained that fetuses and infants have thinner skills, which could make them even more vulnerable to the effects of radio waves. 

    Tiny Tech protected clothing would selectively screen out EM radiation, says Topsakal, who developed the clothing with Umar Hasni, a Ph.D candidate in electrical engineering and Margaret Karles, a student in the Brandcenter’s Experience Design Program.

    Screens out 99.9%

    Why selectively? In short, other types of EM shielding clothing are stiff, uncomfortable, and expensive, says Topsakal. In addition, 100% reflective clothing tends to have openings around the arms and neck which allow radio waves in.

    Tiny Tech’s patent-pending flexible fabric, on the other hand, would contour to an expectant mother's baby bump while screening out 99.9 percent of EM radiation waves. The clothing would also be affordable and durable.

    “We will wash the garments a hundred times to make sure they are still effective,” Topsakal said. “We will also have people trying them on to make sure the clothes are comfortable.”

    Prototypes are being released to pregnant women this summer. In the next year, the team hopes to see a soft launch as well as the beginning of online sales. Eventually, they would like to see their brand become as trusted as cotton.

    “People will see our logo and know, ‘Oh, Tiny Tech is protecting these clothes,’” Karles said.

    On the heels of the FTC’s decision to approve new “5G” broadband rules, concerns over electromagnetic radiation may be even more heightened. As we repo...

    First case of female-to-male Zika transmission reported

    The CDC says all previous sexual transmission had been from men to their partners

    For the first time, public health officials have confirmed that the Zika virus has been sexually transmitted from a woman to a man. All previous cases of sexual transmission had been from men to their sexual partners.

    The case involved a woman who had visited an area witih active Zika outbreaks. She felt ill in the airport on the way home to New York City but, upon her return, had condomless sex with a male partner.

    Seven days later, the male began displaying symptoms of Zika infection, which was later confirmed by lab tests.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women should avoid sex during pregnancy if they have a sex partner who has traveled to or resides in an area with active Zika infections. That recommendation also applies to female sex partners of pregnant women.

    Updating recommendations

    CDC said it is currently updating recommendations for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex.

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) yesterday urged Congress to accept the warnings of public health officials who have called for immediate action to mitigate the mosquito-borne disease that thrives in tropical climates. Rubio is concerned about the influx of foreign travelers into Brazil later this summer for the Olympics, and how people who get infected could spread the disease when they return home.

    “For those of us who live in South Florida and travel through Miami International Airport, we know very well that what happens in Brazil impacts us in the U.S., especially in Florida,” said Rubio.

    For the first time, public health officials have confirmed that the Zika virus has been sexually transmitted from a woman to a man. All previous cases of s...

    The latest option in low-cost college education

    University offers $3,000 a year tuition for employees of partner companies

    With the cost of higher education still a hot-button issue, it pays to reconsider options for obtaining a college degree.

    Getting the full “college experience,” living in a dorm, strolling an ivy-covered campus, and being in a fraternity or sorority is still going to cost you. Just ask the millions of graduates and drop outs still paying off student loans.

    As we have previously observed, there are some low-cost options if you are willing to work while getting an education and enroll in an online degree program. There is no college social life to go with it, but there is no huge student loan bill at the end either. Hundreds of companies pay all or part of their employees' tuition.

    Now, there is yet another option. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has announced a partnership with College for America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), a private non-profit university that has moved into the online education space in the last decade.

    Tuition is $3,000 a year

    Under the partnership, owners and employees of NFIB member businesses may enroll at College for America and work toward a degree online at a tuition cost of $3,000 per year – making it one of the lowest tuitions for a four-year institution in the country.

    "With College for America, our members can work full time and still obtain fully accredited college degrees to help them better operate and grow their small businesses," said NFIB Sr. Vice President of Marketing Mark Garzone.

    College for America was set up specifically to educate students who are already in the workforce. Its degree programs focus on skills needed in the workforce. Students work at their own pace and can earn an associate's or bachelor's degree without having to schedule class time.

    A boost to small business

    "Small businesses often lack the resources to offer tuition assistance programs and other education benefits that larger companies are able to offer their employees," said Kris Clerkin, executive director of College for America at Southern New Hampshire University. "This partnership with NFIB will provide thousands of small businesses, which are so critical to our country's economy, with the same opportunities to build a stronger, loyal, and more talented workforce."

    SNHU was founded in 1932 as a business and accounting school. Its campus is located between Manchester and Hooksett, N.H. It moved heavily into online education programs shortly after changing its name to Southern New Hampshire University in 2001.

    SNHU says 70% of College for America students are earning their degree without any debt, and 21% graduate with less than $5,000 in debt.

    With the cost of higher education still a hot-button issue, it pays to reconsider options for obtaining a college degree.Getting the full “college expe...

    Additional research shows that overeating leads to more eating

    High-fat diets can be especially bad for gut-to-brain communication, researchers say

    Last month, we reported on a study which showed that overeating leads to even more eating. The premise of the research was that eating too much in one sitting suppresses a hormone that tells your brain that you’re full.

    Now, a new study conducted by the University of Georgia, Binghamton University, and Pennsylvania State University have reached similar conclusions. Researchers found that foods that are high in fat disturb neural messages to the brain that allow you to feel full. However, they believe that manipulating microbes in the stomach may reverse the effect.

    Stifled communication

    The study involved examining the “gut-to-brain” neural pathways in mice, who were sustained on a high-fat diet. The researchers found that regions of the brain responsible for processing feeding behavior became inflamed when high amounts of fat were introduced.

    In order to determine the cause, they began examining microbiota in the stomach to see if the diet influenced composition. After finding a connection, lead researcher Dr. Claire de La Serre and her colleagues began injecting mice with low doses of a spectrum antibiotic that was able to reverse the negative effects.

    Potential impact

    There is potential for the impact of this study to be great. It precisely demonstrates to what extent stomach microbiota are affected by a high-fat diet. Information gleaned from the research could allow the medical community to come up with new therapies and medications that counter trends in overeating and obesity, two major health concerns.

    One additional study has already made some progress by showing that eating certain types of foods can benefit microbiota composition in the stomach. Researchers found that eating blueberries, which have high levels of anthocyanin, can help lessen inflammation and lead to more stable blood sugar levels. Additional research into other bioactive foods will almost certainly follow.

    Research conducted by De la Serre et al is scheduled to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), which takes place from July 12-16.  

    Last month, we reported on a study which showed that overeating leads to even more eating. The premise of the research was that eating too much in one sitt...

    The biggest problem facing consumers buying a home

    It isn't coming up with the down payment

    Two numbers go a long way toward explaining the U.S. housing market this summer.

    The first number is 13, as in an additional 13% of consumers were actively shopping for a new home last month. The second number is five – there are 5% fewer homes available for sale.

    The result of those two numbers, says realtor.com's chief economist Jonathan Smoke, is an ever-tighter housing market that is pushing up home prices. Prices are rising, he says, because demand far outpaces supply.

    Writing on the real estate website, Smoke says this is the most active real estate market since 2007, just before the crash. In a survey on realtor.com, 40% of would-be buyers said the biggest obstacle they faced was finding a house that fit their needs.

    But is it really a seller's market?

    That would seem to make it a seller's market, and indeed if you are trying to sell a house, you are likely to be in a strong position. If you own a highly desirable property, you could even find yourself choosing from multiple offers.

    But Smoke says this market also presents problems for sellers. That's because sellers usually turn around and become buyers, facing the same problems other buyers encounter.

    “We estimate that currently 90% of sellers also intend to buy, so clearly whether the purchase needs to come before or simply close to the current home’s sale, not being able to find a home is limiting both demand and supply,” he writes.

    Sales total should be higher

    Smoke believes home sales would be even higher this summer if there were more homes for sale. That view is borne out in the most recent pending home sales numbers, which came in lower than expected in May.

    The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index plunged 3.7% to 110.8 in May from a downwardly revised 115.0 in April and is now slightly lower than May 2015. It was the first year-over-year decline since August 2014.

    NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun says demand was firm and homes sold at a faster rate, but there just weren't enough of them. He says a big increase in closings in the early spring put a sizable dent in the inventory, ultimately dragging down contract activity.

    Two numbers go a long way toward explaining the U.S. housing market this summer.The first number is 13, as in an additional 13% of consumers were activ...

    Feds require Herbalife to restructure business in $200 million settlement

    Hedge fund manager still attacking the business

    The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Herbalife, requiring it to restructure its business so that participants are rewarded more for the product they sell and not as much for recruiting new members.

    It will also pay $200 million to compensate consumers. In its complaint, the FTC charged Herbalife's compensation structure was unfair because it rewarded distributors who recruited other distributors over selling product.

    Some consumer advocates have been critical of the direct marketing firm Herbalife over the years, claiming the same thing. For the last couple of years, a major player on Wall Street has joined them.

    Bill Ackman, head of Pershing Square Capital, has waged a relentless campaign against the company, claiming it is nothing more than a pyramid scheme.

    In an email to ConsumerAffairs, Herbalife dismissed Ackman's activities as those of a short seller "hell bent on a misinformation campaign designed to destroy our company." It said the agreement with the FTC does not change the company's direct selling method.

    But the billionaire hedge fund manager hasn't let up. He was interviewed by CNBC Thursday after producing and releasing 18 videos purportedly showing Herbalife distributors using aggressive tactics to recruit new distributors and making promises concerning income potential.

    Herbalife is similar to other multi-level marketing companies. Instead of selling its products through a retail network of stores, it recruits individuals to sell product directly to other consumers.

    Distributors can make money on the sale of products, but critics have charged the emphasis is on recruiting, since a distributor gets a small cut of whatever his or her recruited members sell.

    FTC investigation

    Ackman predicted Thursday that the FTC was near a settlement with Herbalife after its investigation of the company's business practices. He predicted it would not end well for the company.

    "The only way this thing gets resolved in my opinion is if Herbalife makes material changes to their incentive structure to stop the incentives to recruit," Ackman said in the interview. "My guess is that is what the government is pushing for."

    Once again, Herbalife said Ackman's interest in its business practices is purely financial. In advance of Ackman's appearance on the network, Herbalife issued a statement to CNBC claiming Ackman had lost hundreds of millions of dollars so far betting against the company.

    “When is it time to just say he gave it a valiant try but like Borders, JC Penney, Target, he was just misinformed?" the statement asked.

    A review of the ConsumerAffairs database shows 31 reviews/complaints about Herbalife so far in 2016. However, only one is a complaint about the company's business model. The other thirty are comments, both positive and negative, about Herbalife products.

    Some consumer advocates have been critical of the direct marketing firm Herbalife over the years, claiming it puts all its efforts in signing up distributo...

    Researchers determine best smoking cessation tool for women

    The best method for men is still up in the air, though

    Working up the initiative to quit a habit like smoking can be difficult, and symptoms of withdrawal can make it hard to stay committed. That’s why many smokers turn to smoking cessation tools to give them an extra edge.

    While picking between the different treatments can be hit or miss, a new study suggests that one particular method works best – at least for women. Researchers say that varenicline, a product produced by Pfizer and sold as Chantix, had the best results when they tested various smoking cessation tools. Its effectiveness for men was less certain, though.

    “Before our study, research had shown that among the choices for medications for smokers who wanted to quit, varenicline was the clear winner when it came to promoting quitting. Our study shows this is clearly the case for women. The story seems less clear among men, who showed less of a difference when taking any of the three medications,” said Philip Smith, leader of the study.

    Better outcomes

    Those three medications that were tested included varenicline, the nicotine patch, and bupropion, which is made by GlaxoSmithKline and sold as Wellbutrin and Zyban.

    In order to come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed data on over 14,000 smokers who had taken part in 28 clinical trials. Each trial had smokers test one of the three methods to see how effective it was as a smoking cessation tool.

    After receiving the results, the researchers found that women were much more likely to quit if they took varenicline. Men, on the other hand, showed no particular affinity for one product over another. Additionally, the researchers found that all three cessation methods performed better than groups who took a placebo.

    While the researchers may have found that varenicline is the best product for helping consumers to quit smoking, be sure to check with your doctor before using it. The drug does have side effects that should be carefully considered.

    The full study has been published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research

    Working up the initiative to quit a habit like smoking can be difficult, and symptoms of withdrawal can make it hard to stay committed. That’s why many smo...

    Retail sales post third consecutive monthly advance

    However, the May increase was revised downward

    Increases in nearly every category pushed retail sales up 0.6% in June to $457.0 billion -- the third straight monthly increase -- and 2.7% above the same month a year ago.

    At the same time, though, the Census Bureau revised its May figures to show an advance of 0.2% instead of the 0.5% initially reported.

    Sales at building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers led last months advance, rising 3.9%. Also on the increase were sales at gas stations (+1.2%), nonstore retailers (+1.1%), and miscellaneous store retailers (+0.9%). Sales at auto and parts dealers inched up 0.1%.

    Sales fell at clothing & clothing accessories stores (-1.0%) and restaurants (-0.3%)

    The complete June retail sales report is available on the Census Bureau website.

    Increases in nearly every category pushed retail sales up 0.6% in June to $457.0 billion -- the third straight monthly increase -- and 2.7% above the same ...

    Consumer prices creep higher

    An increase in energy costs offset falling food prices

    The cost of living rose in June for a fourth consecutive month.

    According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2% largely on the strength of a jump in gasoline prices. For the last 12 months, prices are up 1.0%.

    Energy prices were up 1.3% -- the fourth straight increase, although they're down 9.4% over the past year.

    The big factor in the June increase was a surge of 3.3% in the cost of both gasoline and fuel oil. Meanwhile, electricity prices fell 0.5% and natural gas dipped 0.4%.

    Food prices fall

    The cost of food slipped 0.1% on top of a decline of 0.2% in May. Four of the six major grocery store food groups were lower: meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (-0.7%), nonalcoholic beverages (-0.7%) -- its largest decline since May 2013 -- dairy and related products (-0.3%), and fruits and vegetables (-0.1%) percent.

    Over the past year, what's known as the food at home category is off 1.3%, its largest 12-month decline since February 2010.

    Core inflation

    The “core rate” of inflation, which strips out the volatile food and energy sectors, was up 0.2% in June. The cost of shelter led the way with a gain of 0.3%, with medical care, education, airline fares, motor vehicle insurance, and recreation also rising. On the other hand, prices for used cars and trucks, apparel, communication, and household furnishings and operations were lower.

    For the 12 months ending in June, the core rate of inflation was up 1.0% -- the same increase as for the 12 months ending in May, but well below the 1.7% average annual increase over the past 10 years.

    The complete June CPI report is available on the DOL website.

    The cost of living rose in June for a fourth consecutive month.According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased at ...

    FCC approves 5G broadband rules, promising faster wireless services

    Some consumer groups say the commission has not adequately studied the health risks

    As expected, the Federal Communications Commission today voted to adopt new wireless broadband rules that will open up so-called "5G" networks that will move more data faster than ever before.

    The vote opens frequencies above 24 GHz, a move the FCC says makes the United States "the first country in the world to make this spectrum available for next generation wireless services," but the decision is causing static among health advocates who say it disregards a growing body of evidence that wireless communications is to blame for a supposed epidemic of brain cancers.

    Because the frequencies are so high, the signals don't travel as far as lower frequencies do and therefore will require many times more cell towers than current technologies. As Wheeler put it in a June 20 speech at the National Press Club: “5G build out is going to be very infrastructure intensive, requiring a massive deployment of small cells.”

    Engineers say that nearly every home and lampost will be outfitted with a small "tower" -- a tiny antenna that transmits and receives signals for nearby residents and acts as a relay station for other wireless traffic.

    "An epidemic"

    This is alarming to some health advocates, who say that at least 10% of the population has already developed "electro-sensitivity" -- heightened sensitivity to wireless transmissions, similar to allergies. 

    “We are currently in the midst of an epidemic,” said Dafne Tachover, CEO of "We Are The Evidence," an advocacy group representing people who say they have been injured by wireless radiation.

    Representatives of various activist groups descended on Washington this week to lobby Congress and regulators about the potential dangers of wireless radiation and to "convey the views of a growing number of people who would choose health over an 'Internet of Everything,'" as the California Brain Tumor Association and other groups said in a news release.

    More tasks, faster

    The wireless industry says 5G is safe and will make it possible for wireless devices to perform more tasks and to do so more quickly and efficiently than is now possible.

    Industry trade group CTIA lists these benefits of 5G

    1. 5G will be at least 10 times faster than 4G.

    2. 5G will allow for more than 100 times the devices for everything from cars to homes to health monitors.

    3. 5G will be five times more responsive so that there’s very little delay time.

    4. If you stopped a car in 4G, it would take 4.6 feet to apply its brakes while a 5G car would start braking in 1 inch.

    As expected, the Federal Communications Commission today voted to adopt new wireless broadband rules that will open up...

    Congress rouses itself, outlaws easily read GMO food labels

    The industry-backed bill overrides Vermont's law and substitutes barcodes for English sentences

    Congress normally dawdles around all session, doing next to nothing. Now and then, someone tries to do something and those on the other side of the aisle move quickly to block it.

    But now and then, Congress can really get its act together and go to work for the people who pay the bills. Taxpayers? Don't be silly. We're talking about campaign contributors.

    The House today voted 306-117 -- after virtually none of the usual time-filling blather disguised as debate -- to rubber-stamp a Senate measure that overturns that pesky Vermont law that requires food manufacturers to label products that have been genetically engineered.

    President Obama is expected to sign the measure, Bloomberg quoted White House spokeswoman Katie Hill as saying. 

    "While there is broad consensus that foods from genetically engineered crops are safe, we appreciate the bipartisan effort to address consumers' interest in knowing more about their food, including whether it includes ingredients from genetically engineered crops," Hill said.

    The bill, of course, helps consumers know "more about their food" only if they have a smartphone and access to the internet. Having them will allow them to read the bar codes that will replace the plain English labels required by the Vermont law.

    $2.1 million

    The industry-engineered bill -- S. 764 -- was cobbled together by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) — who have received a total of more than $2.1 million in campaign contributions this cycle from agribusiness donors. It passed the Senate 63-30 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked it to avoid hearings, committee mark-ups, and so forth, simply copying and pasting the measure into another bill.

    Roberts and Stabenow call it a "compromise" measure. It eliminates the Vermont requirement that genetically engineered or modified foods have English-language labels identifying them as such and instead requires the information to be included in a bar code or other electronic or digital medium when it finally takes effect, some years from now.

    The party line -- adopted by both parties -- is that the bill creates a "national labeling standard," another way of saying that it prohibits states from adopting their own standards. 

    Farmers first

    “I’m pleased that Members of the House today sided with sound science and the American farmer,” said Sen. Roberts. “I am proud this work brought together the largest coalition of agriculture and food groups ever. Over 1,000 organizations joined me in putting the farmer and rancher first."

    It was actually companies like Monsanto and Wal-Mart that provided most of the fuel that lit a fire under Roberts and his colleagues, although farm groups like the National Corn Growers Association were along for the ride.

    Consumer groups denounced the measure, but with little effect.

    “This bill is a travesty, an undemocratic and discriminatory bill which preempts state laws, while offering no meaningful labeling for GMOs,” said Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said the measure makes it virtually impossible for ordinary consumers to access information about genetically modified ingredients in their food.

    “How can you have a so-called ‘mandatory GMO labeling bill’ that doesn’t require on-package labels, doesn’t cover the most common GMO products, and doesn’t mandate a single consequence for companies that don’t comply? The answer is you can’t," Merkley said. "It is a special-interest assault that takes away consumers’ right to know about GMO ingredients in their food."

    Congress normally dawdles around all session, doing next to nothing. Now and then, someone tries to do something and those on the other side of the aisle m...

    What doctors love about Pokemon Go

    The app's mental and physical health benefits have physicians singing its praises

    The quest to catch ‘em all has Pokemon Go users upping their activity level, and doctors are a-okay with that.

    Group Health physicians say the app is helping users stay fit by taking boredom out of the exercise equation. This unexpected effect could be of particular benefit to kids who are prone to sedentary lifestyles, experts say.

    “The ability to search and find as many as 150 exotic and powerful monsters is having a great appeal," said Dr. Jessie Fudge, a Group Health physician and specialist in Activity, Sports, and Exercise Medicine.

    But in our device saturated world, kids aren’t the only ones who could use a little motivation to step outside. The augmented reality app is giving users of all ages the motivation they need to engage in some light outdoor activity.

    Activity disguised as a game

    "With obesity and inactivity growing epidemics with significant consequences, the need to find ways to get off the couch and away from the computer to exercise is critical,” Fudge said in a statement. “If you or your kids like video or cell phone games and are looking for walking motivation, this just might be it."

    The subtle nudge to go out has positively impacted users’ mental health, as well. Pokemon Go players who suffer from depression or anxiety are getting a healthy dose of happiness as a result of getting outside and getting active.

    The game is no substitute for professional treatment, of course -- but it can help. Dr. John Grohol, an expert on technology's impact on human behavior and mental health, tells Engadget the game is “a great adjunct to other kinds of treatment, such as psychotherapy and medication.”

    Safety tips for players

    For all its benefits, the game still has risks. The task of hunting for Pokemon in the real world carries with it the risk of distraction-related accidents and injuries.

    To help you stay safe, Fudge recommends the following Pokemon Go safety tips:

    • Follow real world rules and focus on your surroundings to prevent incidents like this from happening. 

    • Never play the game while driving or on a moving vehicle, such as a bike or skateboard; walking or running is the best way to play.

    • Start slowly. If you’re not usually very active, limit your playing time for the first few days and gradually increase your distance/time with each session.
    The quest to catch ‘em all has Pokemon Go users upping their activity level, and doctors are a-okay with that. Group Health physicians say the app is h...

    Florida senator raises alarm over spreading Zika virus

    Sen. Marco Rubio says there were 13 new cases in Florida in a single day this week

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee normally deals with matters of diplomacy, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who chairs one of its subcommittees, used a hearing to explore the threat posed by the Zika virus, particularly in his home state.

    Rubio urged Congress to accept the warnings of public health officials who have called for immediate action to mitigate the mosquito-borne disease that thrives in tropical climates. Rubio is concerned about the influx of foreign travelers into Brazil later this summer for the Olympics, and how people who get infected could spread the disease when they return home.

    “For those of us who live in South Florida and travel through Miami International Airport, we know very well that what happens in Brazil impacts us in the U.S., especially in Florida,” said Rubio.

    Zika-related birth defect

    Rubio noted that the first baby born in Florida with microcephaly, the Zika-related birth defect, was a mother who came from Haiti.

    “Although the mainland of the United States may not be worried about Zika right now, there are already 1,133 cases, and they are found in 45 out of 50 states,” Rubio said.

    Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says his agency is monitoring more than 300 cases of Zika among pregnant women. He's called the virus “a silent epidemic.”

    “We have made difficult decisions and redirected resources from other important public health activities to support our most critical needs,” Frieden testified at the hearing. “These redirected funds, however, are not enough to support a comprehensive Zika response, and they divert funding from other critically important public health activities.”

    Funding bill stalled

    Rubio joined Frieden in supporting a measure in Congress to allocate $1.1 billion to fight the virus, but the measure has become something of a political football. Though Republicans and the White House are not that far apart on the amount of spending, House Republicans have tacked on a few provisions, unrelated to Zika, that the Democrats oppose.

    “This is no way to fight an epidemic,” Frieden said at the hearing.

    Rubio said he is concerned at how fast the virus is spreading in Florida. He said at the beginning of the week, 13 new cases of the Zika virus were confirmed in Florida in one day, raising the total to more than 280. Rubio decried the lack of action on both sides of the aisle.

    “The problem is only getting worse,” he said. “It is our duty to act now, while we can still get ahead of this disease, and before it is simply too late.”  

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee normally deals with matters of diplomacy, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who chairs one of its subcommittees, used a h...

    Santa Monica cracks down on Airbnb rentals

    An outspoken Airbnb host pays up, plans to move to Denver

    Santa Monica is one of those places that sees itself as just about perfect, and it takes a dim view of any deviation from ideal behavior, like renting out your apartment on Airbnb.

    The city council in May 2015 made it illegal to rent a home for less than 30 days, hoping to squelch the fast-spreading growth of Airbnb rentals in the idyllic beach town adjacent to Los Angeles. (You can rent a spot on your couch or spare bedroom but only if you remain in residence).

    This didn't sit well with Scott Shatford, a successful Airbnb host who has said his five rental properties bring in thousands of dollars a month. Like a smalltime Donald Trump, he has shared the secrets of his success -- well, some of them anyway -- in a free e-book he distributes through his website Airdna.co, which claims to help hosts price their units "like a pro."

    No deviation

    But Santa Monica takes its pristine quality of life seriously and now has a full-time task force dedicated to stamping out Airbnb rentals, and it didn't take long for Shatford to fall under its steely gaze.

    Shatford soon found himself charged with eight misdemeanor counts of operating a business without a license and violating the anti-Airbnb ordinance, and yesterday Deputy City Attorney Yibin Shen said Shatford had pleaded no contest in a plea deal and had agreed to pay $3,500 and to stop renting his properties. He was also placed on two years' probation. 

    Shatford, 36, thinks it's all a waste of taxpayers' money. “The city came after me, to make me their little poster child and be able to promote me as their first victory. … It’s pretty silly,” he told the Los Angeles Times

    The city says it hopes the Shatford case will make it clear to other Airbnb hosts that it's serious about enforcing the new law.

    As for Shatford, he says he's moving to Denver, where he hopes to find a more tolerant and accepting attitudes.

    Santa Monica is one of those places that sees itself as just about perfect, and it takes a dim view of any deviation from ideal behavior, like renting out...

    Nintendo to release mini version of classic NES console

    The system will come with 30 classic games

    Young children and teens of the 80s and 90s may remember spending many a day balled up on the couch playing classic video games. Whether it was with siblings, friends, or even by yourself, the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was a must-have system.

    Now, gamers will have a chance to relive those nostalgic days alongside Mario and Donkey Kong with the release of the NES Classic Edition. This new take on an old system looks like a mini version of the classic console, but it comes prepackaged with 30 classic titles for fans to enjoy.

    New and improved

    While the new product is based on an old design, some functional updates have been given to the NES Classic Edition to make it more accessible. Consumers will be able to connect the mini-device to their TV’s via an HDMI cable instead of the old power cables.

    The controllers for the console have also seen a bit of an update. While they look and function like the classic NES controllers, they can also be connected to a Wii Remote for use with Virtual Console games on the Wii and Wii U.

    The system also no longer uses cartridges, so fans will no longer have to relive the memories of blowing into the bottom port to get a stubborn game to work; all 30 of the games come pre-downloaded on the device.

    Bring on the nostalgia

    Nintendo’s announcement of the system has been met with enthusiasm by the gaming community, who are chomping at the bit to buy one for themselves. They’ll have to wait a little while though – release of the device isn’t scheduled until November 11. It will retail for $59.99, with additional controllers available at $9.99 each.

    A complete list of the available games follows:

    • Balloon Fight
    • Bubble Bobble
    • Castlevania
    • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
    • Donkey Kong
    • Donkey Kong Jr.
    • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
    • Dr. Mario
    • Excitebike
    • Final Fantasy
    • Galaga
    • Ghosts ’N Goblins
    • Gradius
    • Ice Climber
    • Kid Icarus
    • Kirby’s Adventure
    • Mario Bros.
    • Mega Man 2
    • Metroid
    • Ninja Gaiden
    • Pac-Man
    • Punch-Out! Featuring Mr. Dream
    • StarTropics
    • Super C
    • Super Mario Bros.
    • Super Mario Bros. 2
    • Super Mario Bros. 3
    • Tecmo Bowl
    • The Legend of Zelda
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
    Young children and teens of the 80s and 90s may remember spending many a day balled up on the couch playing classic video games. Whether it was with siblin...

    President and Vice President Barbie created to help girls 'Imagine the Possibilities'

    The first all-female ticket is a product of Mattel's continuing brand evolution

    Earlier this year, the Barbie mold was broken when Mattel added three new body shapes and seven skin tones to its doll lineup. Now, Mattel is taking their push for diversity and female empowerment a step further.

    In an effort to drive home the fact that girls can be leaders, Mattel has joined forces with She Should Run to create President and Vice President Barbie.

    While Barbie has aspired to step into the Oval Office in the past, this is the first time the doll will be accompanied by a female vice president. The brand’s first all-female ticket was created in the hope of enabling girls to use Barbie to imagine themselves in leadership roles. 

    Encouraging dreams of leadership

    Prior to developing the dolls, Mattel sought to understand how girls view leadership and their potential to take on empowered roles. They tapped into the findings of the Girl Scout Institute, who discovered that just 39% of girls say they want to be a leader.

    The political Barbies -- and a companion video, which shows what happens when girls use Barbie to play out their dreams of leadership -- are a bid to motivate girls to explore career opportunities in fields that are traditionally male dominated. 

    Imagining possibilities 

    With its "You Can Be Anything" campaign, Mattel hopes to inspire girls to use Barbie to imagine everything they can become. 

    "The President and Vice President dolls continue our efforts to expose girls to inspiring careers that are underrepresented by women," said Lisa McKnight, general manager and vice president of Barbie, adding that she sees the doll as a "timely and topical platform" for discussing female leadership.

    President and Vice President Barbie were sent to all the women in congress, several of whom praised the “inspiring and powerful” toy running mates on Twitter.  

    The dolls -- which will be available in a variety of hair colors, skin tones and facial shapes -- will be sold as a set for $24.99.

    Earlier this year, the Barbie mold was broken when Mattel added three new body shapes and seven skin tones to its doll lineup. Now, Mattel is taking their ...

    Groups want funeral homes to post prices online

    FTC urged to update its Funeral Rule for the digital age

    When a family is confronted with the loss of a loved one, whether suddenly or after a lingering illness, it must make final arrangements, either for burial or cremation. Often it's a big expense.

    The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) say funeral homes, by and large, do not provide enough pricing information online. The two groups this week called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to amend its Funeral Rule to require important funeral price information to be posted on funeral home websites.

    In issuing a joint statement, the two groups noted that this week's Prime Day allowed millions of consumers to compare prices for a huge range of products and save a lot of money.

    “However, the most vulnerable consumers in the marketplace must spend thousands of dollars on a funeral and still cannot compare prices online,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Today, the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America urged the FTC to change the Funeral Rule so consumers can make an informed decision on one of the largest purchases they will ever make.”

    30 year-old rule

    The Funeral rule has been in place for over 30 years and was enacted to give basic price information to consumers planning a funeral. Under the rule, consumers have a right to a general price list when they inquire about funeral arrangements.

    The rule specifically gives consumers the right to choose only the goods and services they want. If state law requires the purchase of a particular item, the price list must state that. A funeral home may not refuse, or charge extra, to handle a casket purchased elsewhere.

    But the groups say consumers still need the ability to price shop when planning a funeral, and they maintain under current practice that that is often hard to do. While it is true that funeral homes are required to provide price information, it usually requires a face-to-face or telephone conversation.

    Antiquated disclosure rules

    “The Federal Trade Commission should update antiquated disclosure rules developed in the pre-Internet 1980s,” said Josh Slocum, Executive Director of Funeral Consumers Alliance. “Almost all funeral home websites feature stories on how the funeral home has been providing caring, compassionate service since the days of the horse and buggy but nothing about how much it actually costs.”

    Today, Slocum says consumers shop for everything online. The fact that consumers are often emotionally vulnerable when they go through the process of shopping for funeral services makes it even more important for price information to be easily accessible.  

    When a family is confronted with the loss of a loved one, whether suddenly or after a lingering illness, it must make final arrangements, either for burial...

    Retailers blame credit card companies for delay in chip roll-out

    Claim industry has been too slow to certify the new card readers

    Why are there so few chip-enabled card readers at retailers around the country? It depends on who you ask. The nation's retailers say they've done their jobs – it's the credit card companies that have dropped the ball.

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) points to a survey that found 48% of retailers have implemented the new EMV chip card system, or are expected to within weeks. A total of 86% said they expected to be EMV compliant by the end of 2016.

    But the NRF said the survey also found that 57% of the retailers who had not yet implemented the new system had installed the card readers, but were waiting for certification by the credit card industry. About 60% said they had been waiting for six months or longer.

    NRF says those numbers are in sharp contract to the statistics issued by the banking industry, which it says has tried to shift blame for the slow start to retailers. The survey, NRF says, found retailers are eager to begin using the chip card system since it protects them from liability connected to fraud.

    Certification process

    The certification process for the chip card system checks out a number of important functions to ensure the new technology is working properly. It can be a complicated process because the system must check out across multiple card platforms, including MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover.

    The size of the retailer can also complicate things. Big retailers with more point of sale positions take a lot more time.

    Hundreds of tests may be required and the process might take two weeks or eight months. The cost to the retailer might be as little as a few hundred dollars or could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

    Visa says it's helping

    Visa, meanwhile, recently announced steps it said could help speed up the implementation of the chip card technology. It said it has streamlined testing requirements, made the certification process simpler, and made commitments to improve the technology. It also said it is changing its policy to help limit exposure to counterfeit fraud liability for merchants who are not yet chip-ready.

    While retailers might feel frustration at the pace, Visa maintains that progress has been “significant,” with over 300 million chip cards in the hands of consumers and 1.2 million retail locations now equipped to accept them.

    But the NRF said it is disappointed the credit card industry has not provided enough personnel to make sure certification happens in a timely manner. In the meantime, it says consumers are confused as to whether they continue to swipe their cards or begin “dipping.”

    Why are there so few chip-enabled card readers at retailers around the country? It depends on who you ask. The nation's retailers say they've done their jo...

    Senator joins financial reform advocates on payday loan regulation

    Urge citizens to use comment period to lobby for loophole-free rule

    A U.S. Senator this week threw his support behind efforts to place new controls on payday lenders, which financial reform groups have called “legalized loan sharks.”

    Americans for Financial Reform American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, Democracy for America, and the Center for American Progress were joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in backing stronger provisions of a proposed rule by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

    The rule, requiring payday lenders to determine that a borrowers can actually repay the loan, is aimed at ending what the groups call an endless cycle of debt. In many cases, the borrower is unable to repay the loan two weeks later, when it is due, and must take out another loan – then another.

    Vicious cycle of debt

    “Americans deserve protection from predatory payday lenders that have trapped many low income families in a vicious cycle of debt,” Brown said. “But the payday loan industry and its lobbyists will spend millions of dollars to try and roll back these protections.”

    Brown joined the groups in urging consumers to take advantage of CFPB's comment period on the proposed rule to urge the strongest possible regulations with no loopholes.

    At a news conference at the Capitol, Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, said low income consumers need some kind of access to credit, but said common sense should prevail. If someone is in need of a loan to meet an emergency expense, how are they expected to have the money to repay the loan two weeks later?

    300% or more interest

    Payday loans normally carry a flat cost per $100 borrowed, with the money due in two weeks – usually when the borrower gets another paycheck. The fee might sound small, but since it is the cost of a loan for two weeks and not one year, the annual percentage rate (APR) is often well over 300%.

    Hilary Shelton, Washington Bureau Director & Senior Vice President for Advocacy at the NAACP, says payday loan storefronts tend to be clustered in low income neighborhoods and areas where ethnic minorities live. She said payday lenders target those who can least afford a predatory loan.

    The CFPB rule would place tighter federal controls on payday lenders, but many consumer advocates have argued the rules should be even tighter. After CFPB unveiled the proposal last month, the Pew Charitable Trust said it needed a tweak.

    Nick Bourke, director of Pew’s small-dollar loans project, said additional provisions should include lower prices, manageable installment payments, and quick loan approval.  

    A U.S. Senator this week threw his support behind efforts to place new controls on payday lenders, which financial reform groups have called “legalized loa...

    Wholesale prices post third straight monthly gain

    Energy costs -- primarily gasoline -- were a major factor

    A nearly 10% surge in the wholesale price of gasoline sent the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand higher in June for the third month in a row.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the advance of 0.5% followed increases of 0.4% in May and 0.2% in April.

    Goods and services on the rise

    Prices for goods one step shy of the retail level shot up 0.8% last month, the largest increase since a surge of 1.2% in May 2015. Over three-quarters of June's increase was due to energy cost, which surged 4.1%. Within that category, gasoline was up 9.9%.

    Prices for meats, jet fuel, electric power, home heating oil, and cigarettes also moved higher, while the cost of chicken eggs plunged 29.9%. Prices for carbon steel scrap and residential natural gas also fell.

    The cost of services rose 0.4% in June, in large part due to a 7.7% hike in prices for services related to securities brokerage and dealing. Also on the rise were prices for automotive fuels and lubricants retailing; machinery, equipment, parts, and supplies wholesaling; traveler accommodation services; airline passenger services; and health, beauty, and optical goods retailing.

    In contrast, the cost of apparel, footwear, and accessories retailing, long-distance motor carrying and residential real estate loans (partial) fell.

    Prices excluding the volatile foods, energy, and trade services categories rose 0.3% after a dip of 0.1% in May. For the 12 months ended in June, this “core rate” is up 0.9%.

    The complete report is available on the BLS website.

    Jobless claims

    It was steady as she goes for initial jobless claims last week, with the Department of Labor (DOL) reporting that first-time applications for state jobless benefits were unchanged in the week ending July 9, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 254,000.

    That makes 71 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000 -- the longest streak since 1973.

    The four-week moving average dropped 5,570 from a week earlier to 259,000. This measure is consider a better gauge of the labor market as it lacks the volatility of the weekly headcount.

    The full report may be found on the DOL website.  

    A nearly 10% surge in the wholesale price of gasoline sent the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand higher in Ju...

    Simmons Prepared Foods recalls chicken products

    The products may be contaminated with E. coli O121

    Simmons Prepared Foods of Van Buren, Ark., is recalling approximately 5,850 pounds of frozen, heat treated, not ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken products.

     

    The products may be contaminated with E. coli O121.

     

    There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions or illnesses.

     

    The following frozen, heat treated, not ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken tenderloin items, produced on January 25, 2016, are being recalled:

    • 30-lb. net-weight case containing six, 5-lb. bags in clear film of “Simmons UNCOOKED CHICKEN TENDERLOIN FRITTERS,” with a case code 31473, packaging date code of 6025, and a Use-By date of 01/25/17.
    • 30-lb. net-weight case containing six, 5-lb. bags in clear film of “Simmons UNCOOKED CHICKEN BREAST TENDERLOIN FRITTERS,” with a case code 62331 and a packaging date of 6025.

    The recalled products bear establishment number “P-5837” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were distributed in Arkansas for institutional use.

     

    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 regarding the recall may contact Vicky Goodman at (479) 215-2296.

     

     

     

    Simmons Prepared Foods of Van Buren, Ark., is recalling approximately 5,850 pounds of frozen, heat treated, not ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken products. ...

    Kroger Recalls Deluxe S'mores Ice Cream

    The product may contain peanuts, an allergen not listed on the label

    The Kroger Co. is recalling its store brand of Deluxe S’mores Ice Cream.

     

    The product may contain peanuts, an allergen not listed on the label. There is no safety issue for those who are not allergic to peanuts.

     

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

     

    The product foll wing product, sold at Kroger, Dillons, Baker’s, Gerbes, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, JayC, King Soopers, City Market, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s names, stores in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming, is being recalled:

    ProductUPCCodesSize
    Kroger Deluxe S’mores Ice Cream0001111001399Sell By May 20, 2017
    Sell By: May 23, 2017
    48 oz

     

    What to do

    Customers allergic to peanuts 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.

     

     

    The Kroger Co. is recalling its store brand of Deluxe S’mores Ice Cream. The product may contain peanuts, an allergen not listed on the label. Ther...

    Evie's Cheddar Potato Salad recalled

    The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Hearn Kirkwood is recalling Evie’s Cheddar Potato Salad.

     

    The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

     

    There are no reported illnesses attributed to the recalled items to date.

     

    The recalled product is packaged in 6.0-oz. clear plastic containers with the name “Evie’s Cheddar Potato Macaroni Salad,” UPC code 6637511772” and “use by” dates of 04/15/16 to 06/20/16.

     

    It was sold through Amazon Fresh in the locations Bellevue, Wash., area between April 8 and June 13, 2016.

     

    What to do

     

    Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it and contact Amazon Fresh at (866) 380-0525 from 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM (EST) for a full refund.

     

    Consumers with questions may call Hearn Kirkwood at 410-799-4444, Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (EST).

     

     

    Hearn Kirkwood is recalling Evie’s Cheddar Potato Salad. The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. There are no reported...

    Kabob's Acquisition recalls not ready-to-eat meat and poultry products

    The products may be adulterated with E. coli O121

    Kabob's Acquisition of Lake City, Ga., is recalling approximately 44,850 pounds of raw intact and heat treated, not ready-to-eat (NRTE) meat and poultry products that may be adulterated with E. coli O121.

     

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

     

    The following items, produced between December 8, 2015, and January 15, 2016, are being recalled:

    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Uncooked Chicken Breast Strip Fritter with Pecan Coating” with case code 2005 and packaging date code PM16A14.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Chicken Gyoza Potstickers” with case code 3625 and packaging date code PM16A13.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Chicken Wonton” with case code 370 and packaging date code PM15M23.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Cuban Style Frank in a Blanket” with case code 179037 and packaging date code PM15M22.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Beef and Vegetables Topped with Mashed Potatoes” with case code 7055 and packaging date code PM15M16.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Uncooked Mini Chicken Breast Meat and Ham Fritter with Cheese” with case code 713 and packaging date code PM15M18 or PM15M11.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Beef Pastelitos” with case code 7159 and packaging date code PM16A12 or PM16A14.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Beef, Cheese and Vegetables in Pastry” with case code 715 and packaging date code PM15M17 or PM15M11.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Latin Inspired Chicken and Cheese in Pastry” with case code 7172 and packaging date code PM16A15.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Latin-Style Chicken & Cheese Turnover” with case code 717 and packaging date code PM15M12, PM15M17, PM15M23, PM16A13, PM15M09, PM15M21or PM16A14.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Beef Tenderloin, Mushroom Duxelle, and Sherry in Puff Pastry” with case code 725 and packaging date code PM15M15 or PM15M16.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Beef Tenderloin, Mushroom Duxelle, and Sherry in Puff Pastry” with case code 725 and packaging date code PM15M08 or PM15M09.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Petite Beef Tenderloin, Mushroom Duxelle, and Sherry in Puff Pastry” with case code 7261 and packaging date code PM15M15.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Chicken Quesadilla” with case code 765 and packaging date code PM15M11.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Southwest Style Burrito” with case code 784 and packaging date code PM15M09.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Chicken Marsala Mushroom Tart” with case code 7273 and packaging date code PM16A14.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Petite Uncooked White Chicken Meat & Mushroom Duxelle In Puff Pastry” with case code 7279 and packaging date code PM16A13.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Uncooked White Chicken Meat and Mushroom Duxelle In Puff Pastry” with case code 727 and packaging date code PM16A14.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Eggs, Cheese and Bacon Crescent” with case code 7893 and packaging date code PM15M17.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Mini Tart with Pizza Sauce, Cheese and Sausage” with case code 7951 and packaging date code PM15M09.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Uncooked Coconut Chicken” with case code 805 and packaging date code PM16A14.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Uncooked Sesame Chicken” with case code 810 and packaging date code PM16A15.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Pad Thai Style Springroll” with case code 8630 and packaging date code PM15M10 or PM15M11.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Buffalo Style White Chicken Springroll” with case code 8639 and packaging date code PM15M10, PM15M16, PM15M18 or PM15M22.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Cashew Chicken Springroll” with case code 863 and packaging date code PM15M22.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Pepperoni, Cheese and Vegetables In Dough” with case code 885 and packaging date code PM16A15.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 100 pieces of “Chorizo, Cheese and Beans Wrapped In Dough” with case code 886 and packaging date code PM15M11 or PM16A15.
    • Boxed plastic tray packages containing 200 pieces of “Philly Brand Cheese Steak Springroll” with case code 7280 and packaging date code PM15M09.

    The recalled products bear establishment number “Est. 6640” or “P-6640” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to hotel, restaurant, and institutional locations nationwide.

     

    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 regarding the recall may contact Jonathan Herrera at (404) 361-6283 ext. 1245.

     

     

    Kabob's Acquisition of Lake City, Ga., is recalling approximately 44,850 pounds of raw intact and heat treated, not ready-to-eat (NRTE) meat and poultry pr...

    Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain vehicles recalled

    The certification labels may have incorrect tire/rim size and cold tire pressure information

    General Motors is recalling 17 model year 2016 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain vehicles manufactured October 16, 2015.

     

    The certification labels may have incorrect tire/rim size and cold tire pressure information. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, "Tire Selection and Rims."

     

    If the information on the certification labels is incorrect, the operator may install incorrectly sized tires or rims or may improperly inflate the tires, increasing the risk of a crash.

     

    What to do

     

    GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the certification label, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

     

    Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1050, or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM's number for this recall is 46600.

     

     

    General Motors is recalling 17 model year 2016 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain vehicles manufactured October 16, 2015. The certification labels m...

    Wearable tech customers most satisfied with Apple, Samsung

    J.D. Power finds comfort and reliability score the most points with consumers

    As predicted, wearable tech has been a big trend so far in 2016. At the halfway point in the the year, J.D. Power has found consumers with smartwatches are happiest with the Apple product while fitness tracker wearers give Samsung the highest marks.

    The parallel reports measured the overall satisfaction with smartwatches among consumers who bought one within the last 12 months, as well as those who purchased a fitness tracker within the same time frame.

    Both reports probed consumers on 11 factors. For smartwatches, consumers were asked about the ease of use, comfort, battery life, phone features, price, durability, display size, appearance, reliability, apps available, and customer service.

    Consumers who owned fitness band trackers were quizzed on reliability, durability, ease of use, battery life, price, variety of features, comfort, styling and appearance, display size, apps available, and customer service.

    The order of the categories match the priorities listed by the two groups of consumers. Their satisfaction was calculated on a scale with 1,000 points being the maximum.

    Getting competitive

    Kirk Parsons, senior director and telecom, media & technology practice leader at J.D. Power, says both fitness tracking and smartwatches are becoming more competitive, with more choices for consumers.

    “It is important that device manufacturers focus on offering a product that is reliable at a price that is perceived as good value based on its features,” he said. “Those that do so early in the game may improve their opportunity to increase satisfaction, customer loyalty and repurchase intention."

    In the smartwatch competition, Apple scored 852, earning points for comfort, appearance, and ease of use. Samsung was not far behind, with a score of 842. It scored points for customer service, display size, and features.

    Overall, customer satisfaction with smartwatches was in the middle, with a score of 847. The biggest complaint? Battery life isn't long enough.

    Samsung satisfies

    Among fitness trackers, Samsung led the field with a score of 859, earning points for comfort, reliability, and ease of use. Garmin was second with a score of 836, with owners praising its customer service, ease of use, durability, and reliability.

    Overall, fitness trackers scored 829 on the customer satisfaction scale. Consumers who purchased them said they most often relied on online shopping websites and recommendations from family and friends in deciding which one to buy.

    Consumers buy smartwatches primarily to be able to instantly access features on their smartphone by touching their wrist. Fitness trackers provide wearers with information about physical activity.

    Forbes reports both categories of wearable tech represented some of the best deals during Amazon.com's second annual Prime Day sale this week, with a $219 smartwatch marked down to $159.

    As predicted, wearable tech has been a big trend so far in 2016. At the halfway point in the the year, J.D. Power has found consumers with smartwatches are...

    The reason why your diet may not be working out

    Focus on the foods you enjoy when making your plan, researchers say

    What is the most important aspect of making a successful diet plan? Many people might say that it has to do with avoiding unhealthy foods and substituting them with well-known, healthy options. However, new research shows that this line of thinking may actually lead to failure more often than not.

    Instead, researchers from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business say that consumers should focus on adding healthy foods that they actually enjoy to their diet.

    “Our research shows that instead of creating rules to avoid one’s favorite treats, dieters should focus on eating healthy foods that they enjoy. . . Dieters who restrict themselves from consuming foods they love most may be setting themselves up for future failure,” said Dr. Meredith David, assistant professor at Baylor and lead author of a study on the subject.

    Approach dieting differently

    The study analyzed data on 542 participants who answered questions related to creating a successful diet plan. The focus of the study was to gauge participants’ level of self-control and see how that affected their choices.

    When asked about diet rules that they would create, a majority of respondents said that they would add in provisions that restricted or avoided certain foods. This was especially the case amongst individuals who were considered to have low levels of self-control and low levels of success with dieting.

    Additionally, low self-control individuals were more likely to think of foods that they really enjoyed when listing unhealthy foods that they should avoid. On the other hand, high self-control individuals were more likely to list foods that they liked, but ones that they could reasonably give up.

    Low self-control participants were also most likely to think of foods they didn’t like when trying to create a list of healthy foods that they should eat, like Brussels sprouts. High self-control individuals were more likely to think of healthy foods that they also enjoyed eating, such as fruits like strawberries.

    Focus on foods you enjoy

    These findings show that consumers who have low self-control may be approaching dieting in the wrong way.

    “In coming up with plans to enhance one’s health and well-being, low self-control individuals tend to set themselves up for a harder pathway to success by focusing on avoiding the very goods they find most tempting. . . Our data reveals that individuals who are generally more successful at reaching their goals tend to develop more motivating plans regarding the inclusion of healthy, well-liked items and the exclusion of unhealthy items that are not one’s favorites,” said David.

    The researchers believe that more success could be achieved by dieters if they adopt plans that focus more on foods that they enjoy instead of focusing on what they will be missing out on.

    “The next time you decide to go on a diet or seek to improve your health by altering your food consumption, opt for strategies that focus on including healthy foods in your diet, and focus specifically on those healthy foods that you really enjoy eating,” said David.

    The full study has been published in the journal Psychology & Marketing.

    What is the most important aspect of making a successful diet plan? Many people might say that it has to do with avoiding unhealthy foods and substituting ...

    Ignition switch cases resurface to vex General Motors

    Cases that had been ruled out of bounds are reinstated on appeal

    Like a drunken uncle who hangs around after the party is over, Old GM continues to cause trouble for New GM. A U.S. appeals court has ruled that General Motors must face claims stemming from its ignition-switch defect that had previously been declared out of bounds, Reuters reported.

    Back in 2014, GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles to fix ignition switches that could turn off without warning. But it had earlier won a bankruptcy court ruling that protected it from some lawsuits involving cars made before "Old GM" declared bankruptcy in 2009 and was succeeded by "New GM."

    The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan today reversed part of the bankruptcy court's ruling, meaning that GM may have to face some lawsuits it thought it had evaded. The court said that denying consumers the right to sue deprived them of their constitutional right to due process, since they had not known of the defect prior to GM's bankruptcy.

    The ruling affects an unknown number of cases seeking compensation for deaths and injuries as well as lost vehicle value.

    GM had argued it should not be held liable since it had not known of the defect prior to 2009, but the court said if the company had been "reasonably diligent," it would have known of the problem.

    GM has already paid $2 billion in penalties and settlements in cases involving the switch, which has been linked to 124 deaths and 275 injuries.

    Like a drunken uncle who hangs around after the party is over, Old GM continues to cause trouble for New GM. A U.S. appeals court has ruled that General Mo...

    Suddenly, banks want you and are willing to pay

    Banks in largest U.S. cities are paying cash bonus to open checking account

    In the past few years, consumers could be forgiven if they got the impression that banks didn't want them as customers. It seems like it's been one new fee after another.

    But lately, banks seem to be putting out the welcome mat, offering more rewards and incentives. New research from Bankrate.com found that banks in the 10 biggest markets in the U.S. are actually paying consumers to open a checking account.

    The researchers found that banks are now paying between $10 and $400 as sign-up bonuses to open new accounts. But the offers might have a short lifespan.

    "Consumers can certainly benefit from taking advantage of a sign-up bonus," said Claes Bell, data analyst at Bankrate.com. "However, promotions come and go, so it's important for consumers to act quickly if they see an offer that's desirable."

    A few strings attached

    But in its report, Bankrate notes there are often conditions consumers must meet to collect the bonus, and it may or may not be worth it. The requirements vary from bank to bank. Among the most common are paying bills online, using direct deposit, and even minimum deposits.

    "Although these offers are tempting, consumers need to be mindful of the fine print,” Bell said.

    It wasn't too long ago that banks were actually closing accounts of customers it no longer wanted. That was in the wake of the financial crisis, when financial institutions were under more stress. For consumers still using banking services, many faced higher maintenance fees.

    Paying interest on checking

    Now, banks are not only offering cash bonuses to customers, but are providing plenty of other incentives as well. Credit unions and small banks have introduced rewards checking account products, paying depositors interest on their balances.

    The Kasasa Checking account, offered by hundreds of community banks nationwide, is not only a free account but pays an above-market interest rate on balances up to $15,000. As another bonus, customers who meet the minimum requirements get their out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed.

    Requirements include a minimum number of debit card transactions each month, at least one online payment, and at least one direct deposit every billing cycle.

    Bankrate has found that today, even large national banks are competing in the nation's largest metros with the cash offers. It says big banks have found giving consumers cash to open an account is actually more cost effective than spending millions on advertising – the way banks typically recruit new customers.

    In the past few years, consumers could be forgiven if they got the impression that banks didn't want them as customers. It seems like it's been one new fee...

    Five jobs that will let you earn over $100,000 per year

    Having the right credentials can put you on the fast track to living comfortably

    Whether you spend your days sitting at a desk or outside on your feet, you may have dreamed of having job that allows you to rake in six figures. While professions like doctor and lawyer may jump to your mind first, have you ever wondered what other jobs would allow you to reach that goal?

    The team at Glassdoor, a job-recruiting and analytics company, has the answer for you. They’ve compiled a list of 11 professions that make $100,000 or more per year, on average -- as well as the requirements you’ll need in order to get hired. Here, we’ll discuss the top five earning positions.

    Jobs earning over $100,000

    Reservoir Engineer: With a total median pay of $143,000, reservoir engineers top Glassdoor’s earnings list. Consumers who want to get in on this profession will need to have top-notch credentials, including a degree in chemical engineering and field experience. Even those who fit that bill may have trouble landing the job though; Glassdoor calculates that there are only 23 positions available on their site.

    Software Architect: With the growing emergence of online technologies, it makes sense that a software engineer would rank high on the list. These professionals earn a total median pay of $139,000, but you’ll more than likely need a bachelor’s in math, software engineering, or an associated field.

    Airline Pilot: You may not have realized it, but the person in the cockpit of that plane you’re seated in is being compensated pretty well. Pilots earn a total median pay of $134,000 per year, but job seekers should keep in mind that the position demands a high time commitment. Most airlines require you to have a bachelor’s degree in aviation, physics, or an associated field – though military experience can go a long way.

    Dentist: Dentists earn a pretty good living, coming in at $129,968 in total median pay – but the requirements for landing the job are fairly extensive. Job seekers will need to have a four-year degree in pre-dentistry or a related scientific field. That’s just the beginning, though. Prospective candidates also need to score well on the Dental Acceptance Test given by the American Dental Association and earn a doctoral degree in dental surgery or dental medicine before they can receive their license.

    Special Agent: Coming in at number five on the list, special agents make $125,000 in total median pay. The job description across the field can be a little murky, with some agents working with law enforcement to build criminal cases and others being employed by private companies. Job seekers will usually need a background in law enforcement, though a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice combined with military experience may also do the trick.

    Whether you spend your days sitting at a desk or outside on your feet, you may have dreamed of having job that allows you to rake in six figures. While pro...

    Amazon reports record orders on Prime Day

    Consumers snapped up two million toys and a million pairs of shoes

    Amazon.com says Tuesday's second annual Prime Day was bigger than last year and set a record for orders worldwide.

    The online retailer says global orders were 60% higher than last year while U.S. orders rose 50%. Amazon says it also set a record for orders for Amazon devices, including Fire TV, Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers and Alexa-enabled devices. The company did not release any sales or revenue figures.

    Amazon launched the promotion for the first time in 2015, picking a day in July to serve as sort of a precursor to Black Friday. The purpose is to capture consumer holiday shopping dollars before they are spent anywhere else.

    It also serves to promote Amazon Prime, since shoppers had to be members to take advantage of the deals.

    Devices big sellers

    The company said it sold over two and a half times more Amazon Fire TV devices Tuesday than it did on last year's Prime Day. It said the Fire TV Stick was the best-selling Amazon device.

    It said Prime customers bought more than two million toys and more than a million pairs of shoes. It took orders for 90,000 TV sets and hundreds of thousands of e-readers.

    In the U.S., it was also the biggest single day for sales of Amazon Echo, the retailer's voice-controlled audio system.

    How good were the deals?

    The holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com live blogged Prime Day as it unfolded, comparing the deals to the savings consumers can get on Black Friday itself. Here is some of what it found:

    By selling the Kitchen Aid 6-quarter mixer for $248.99, it beat Black Friday by $151. By selling the Kindle Paperwhite for $89.99, it beat Black Friday by $10.

    It sold the XBox – One 1TB Console with The Division Bundle, a $50 Amazon Gift Card, Rainbow Six Siege, the Xbox One Special Edition Dusk Shadow Wireless Controller, and Forza Horizon 2 for $299, beating Black Friday by $50.

    But there were a few items where Prime Day prices were not lower. The TCL 32D2700 32-Inch 720p LED TV went for $99.99 on Prime Day, $25 more than Black Friday. It sold the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W for $69.99, $20 more than JC Penney's Black Friday last year.

    Amazon.com says Tuesday's second annual Prime Day was bigger than last year and set a record for orders worldwide.The online retailer says global order...

    Beer labels to add calorie, nutritional information

    Beer Institute adopts Voluntary Disclosure Initiative

    When you pick up a can of peas in the supermarket, you can check the label for nutritional information and calories. Soon you will be able to do the same with a can of beer.

    The Beer Institute has unveiled a Voluntary Disclosure Initiative that will give consumers a serving facts statement. The label will also list ingredients on either the label or secondary packaging with a reference to a website where the information can be found, or through a QR code.

    Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries, and Craft Brew Alliance have already agreed to adopt the voluntary standards. Together, they produce more than 81% of the beer sold in the U.S.

    Step in the right direction

    Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute, says it's a step in the right direction and demonstrates the industry's commitment to transparency.

    “Beer is the most popular alcohol beverage in the United States, and I look forward to brewers and importers including a serving facts statement along with disclosing all ingredients in their products,” he said.

    With the serving information, McGreevy says consumers can make better decisions when selecting beer.

    The Beer Institute was swayed, in part, by a recent Harris Poll that found 72% of beer drinkers think it is important to read nutritional labels when buying food and beverages.

    What's on the label

    According to the labeling guidelines, brewers who adopt the voluntary label will provide the following:

    • Calories
    • Carbohydrates
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • List of ingredients
    • Freshness data
    • Serving size
    • Alcohol content

    The Beer Institute says the labeling information will also be helpful to restaurants as they comply with menu labeling requirements that go into effect in May 2017.

    When you pick up a can of peas in the supermarket, you can check the label for nutritional information and calories. Soon you will be able to do the same w...

    Mortgage applications post second consecutive weekly gain

    Interest rates moved lower once again

    Mortgage applications rose for a second straight week, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The survey for the week ending July 8, which included an adjustment for the Fourth of July holiday shows applications jumped 7.2% from the previous week.

    The Refinance Index shot up 11%, with the refinance share of mortgage activity increasing to 64.0% of total applications from 61.6% the week before.

    The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity slipped to 5.2% of total applications, the FHA share was 10.0%, the VA share of total applications dropped to 12.1% from 12.8% the previous week, and the USDA share was unchanged at 0.6%.

    Contract interest rates

    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) fell six basis points to 3.60% -- its lowest level since May 2013 -- from 3.66%, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.32 (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) dropped from 3.67% to 3.61%, with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.24 (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 was down three basis points to 3.53%, with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.31 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs dipped to 2.88% from 2.96%, with points increasing to 0.34 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs fell seven basis points to 2.78%, with points decreasing to 0.25 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

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

    Mortgage applications rose for a second straight week, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The survey for the week ending July 8, whic...

    Foreclosure inventories plunge in May

    Completed foreclosures were lower as well

    The inventory of foreclosed homes fell sharply during May according to the CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report.

    The property information provider says the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process was down 24.5% from the same month a year ago, while completed foreclosures fell by 6.9% year-over-year.

    The decline in completed foreclosures nationwide works out to 38,000 last May from 41,000 in May 2015. That represents a drop of 67.9% from the peak of 117,813 in September 2010.

    Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.3 million completed foreclosures nationally, and since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.3 million homes lost to foreclosure.

    "The foreclosure rate fell to 1% in May, which is twice the long-term average of 0.5%. However, this masks the underlying progress at the state level," said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Twenty-nine states had foreclosure rates below the national average, and all but North Dakota experienced declines in their foreclosure rate compared to the prior year."

    Mortgage delinquencies

    CoreLogic also reports the number of mortgages in serious delinquency (defined as 90 days or more past due including loans in foreclosure or Real Estate Owned) declined by 21.6% from May 2015 to May 2016, with 1.1 million mortgages, or 2.8%, in this category. The May 2016 serious delinquency rate is the lowest since October 2007.

    "Delinquency and foreclosure rates continue to drop as we experience the benefits of a combination of tight underwriting, job and income growth and a steady rise in home prices,” said CoreLogic President and CEO Anand Nallathambi. “We expect these factors to remain in place for the remainder of this year and for delinquency and foreclosure rates to decline even further."

    Report highlights

    • On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures increased by 5.5% to 38,000 in May 2016 from April. As a basis of comparison, before the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.
    • On a month-over-month basis, the foreclosure inventory was down 3.0%.
    • The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures were Florida (63,000), Michigan (45,000), Texas (27,000), Ohio (23,000), and California (23,000).These five states account for almost half of all completed foreclosures nationally.
    • Four states and the District of Columbia had the lowest number of completed foreclosures: the District of Columbia (139), North Dakota (323), West Virginia (494), Alaska (648) and Montana (690).
    • Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest foreclosure inventory rate: New Jersey (3.6%), New York (3.2%), Hawaii (2.1%), the District of Columbia (2.0%), and Maine (1.9%).
    • The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory rate were Alaska (0.3%), Arizona (0.3%), Colorado (0.3%), Minnesota (0.3%), and Utah (0.3%).
    The inventory of foreclosed homes fell sharply during May according to the CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report.The property information provider says...

    ConAgra Foods recalls frozen chicken and beef products

    The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

    ConAgra Foods of Russellville, Ark., is recalling approximately 3,806 pounds of frozen chicken and beef entrée products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically metal.

     

    The metal fragments range in size between 2 and 9 millimeters (mm) in diameter, are curled, malleable and shiny, and may be embedded in the sauce contained within the frozen entrée products.

     

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

     

    The following frozen chicken and beef entrée items, produced on June 13, 2016, and June 22, 2016, are being recalled:

    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Brand Signature Spicy Chicken.” with “Use By” date of 6/08/17 and case code 5006616500.
    • 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Brand Mongolian Style Beef.” with “Use By” date of 6/17/17 and case code 5006617400.

    The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. 233” or “EST. P-115” inside the USDA mark of inspection and were shipped to distributors and retail locations in Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin.

     

    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 about the recall may call 1-800-252-0634.  

     

    ConAgra Foods of Russellville, Ark., is recalling approximately 3,806 pounds of frozen chicken and beef entrée products that may be contaminated with extra...

    Nissan recalls model year 2016 LEAF and Sentra vehicles

    The wiring harness connector may disconnect from the dual-stage passenger air bag

    Nissan North America is recalling 4,355 model year 2016 LEAF vehicles manufactured February 24, 2016, to March 23, 2016, and Sentras manufactured February 9, 2016, to March 4, 2016.

     

    The wiring harness connector may disconnect from the dual-stage passenger air bag. As a result, the passenger air bag may not to deploy during a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

     

    What to do

     

    Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the wiring harness connector for proper engagement and, if necessary, replace the passenger air bag module and main body harness, free of charge.

     

    The recall is expected to begin in late July 2016. Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.

     

     

     

    Nissan North America is recalling 4,355 model year 2016 LEAF vehicles manufactured February 24, 2016, to March 23, 2016, and Sentras manufactured February ...

    Kawasaki USA recalls recreational off-highway vehicles

    The front floor cover can be punctured by a foreign object

    Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. of Foothill Ranch, Calif., is recalling about 28,000 Mule Pro side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles.

     

    The front floor cover can be punctured by a foreign object, posing an injury hazard to riders.

     

    The company has received two reports of debris coming up from the floor cover, including one report of debris striking an operator’s leg.

     

    The recall involves 2015, 2016 and 2017 model year side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles. The recalled models are 4-wheel side-by-side seating for three to six people and automotive style controls. The vehicles come in various colors. The model name is printed on the right and left front fender. The vehicle identification number (VIN) is located on the steel frame between the right front lower A-arm mounts.

     

    The following vehicles are being recalled:

     

    2015

    2016

    2017

    Model Name

    Model Code

    Model Name

    Model Code

    Model Name

    Model Code

    MULE PRO-FXT™

    KAF820AFF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™

    KAF820AGF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™

    KAF820AHF/L

    MULE PRO-FX™EPS

    KAF820BFF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ EPS

    KAF820BGF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ EPS

    KAF820BHF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™EPS LE

    KAF820CFF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ EPS LE

    KAF820CGF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ EPS LE

    KAF820CHF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™EPS Camo

    KAF820DFF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ EPS Camo

    KAF820DGF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ EPS Camo

    KAF820DHF/L

     

     

    MULE PRO-FXT™ Ranch Edition

    KAF820JGF/L

    MULE PRO-FXT™ Ranch Edition

    KAF820JHF/L

     

     

    MULE PRO-FX™

    KAF820EGF/L

    MULE PRO-FX™

    KAF820EHF/L

     

     

    MULE PRO-FX™ EPS

    KAF820FGF/L

    MULE PRO-FX™ EPS

    KAF820FHF/L

     

     

    MULE PRO-FX™EPS LE

    KAF820GGF/L

    MULE PRO-FX™EPS LE

    KAF820GHF/L