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    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...
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    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...
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    FDA-approved drug alleviates nausea and vomiting symptoms from chemotherapy

    Researchers hope the discovery will improve quality of life for cancer patients

    Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy treatments make many sacrifices for the sake of their health. In addition to the aesthetic changes, like loss of hair, feelings of nausea and sickness will naturally occur because of the chemicals being introduced into their bodies.

    However, a discovery made by researchers at Sanford Health may make it possible to block feelings of nausea and vomiting, giving patients a boost to their quality of life.

    “We’ve long known the nausea and vomiting that come along with chemotherapy are a major problem and affect the quality of life of our patients. The findings of this study, fortunately, provide physicians with a tool to better address the needs of those they are treating for cancer,” said Dr. Steven Powell.

    Effective first trial

    The drug that was tested, called olanzapine, is an FDA-approved medication that has traditionally been used to treat antipsychotic symptoms. However, researchers found that it was also useful for blocking neurotransmitters in the body related to nausea and vomiting.

    After discovering this function, Powell and his colleagues tested the drug’s effectiveness on participants undergoing chemotherapy. After the first day of treatment, they observed that 74% of all patients who paired olanzapine with their chemotherapy experienced no feelings of nausea or vomiting.

    This contrasted greatly with a control group who took a placebo – only 45% of participants in this group experienced no feelings of nausea or vomiting. Researchers continued to test the drug over the course of five days, with many participants continuing to reap the same benefits.

    Further testing of the drug will be required before it can be adopted for all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, but these initial results point to positive progress. The full study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy treatments make many sacrifices for the sake of their health. In addition to the aesthetic changes, like loss of h...
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      The difference between men and women when it comes to online dating

      Men are more aggressive, while women are more selective

      Online dating can be a great way to meet new, like-minded people, but do men and women have inherent differences when it comes to using these sites?

      According to researchers from Binghamton University, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Their study found that, in general, men tend to be much more aggressive on dating sites, sending multitudes of messages to different potential partners, whereas women take a more pragmatic approach to messaging.

      Gender differences

      The study used data from Baihe, a prevalent dating website used in China. While writing a reciprocal recommendation system based on the site’s data, the researchers found certain trends that seemed to persist across gender lines, especially when it came to contacting potential partners.

      Men, for example, tended to be much more aggressive in sending out messages. They tended to focus on their own interests, disregarding how attractive they might be to the person receiving the messages. Unfortunately, it’s not a tactic that seems to work out too well for them.

      “We found that males like to send a lot of messages to attractive female users, but they don’t get a lot of responses,” said Shuangfei Zhai, co-author of the study.

      Women, on the other hand, tended to gauge their own attractiveness and the chances of a successful match before sending a message. This kind of self-conscious behavior inevitably leads to more matches.

      “For females, they’re self-conscious because they tend to evaluate the likelihood of getting a response to the user that they’re sending messages to. In terms of the data, it shows that women have a much larger chance of getting responses from users that they send messages to,” said Shuangfei Zhai, co-author of the study.

      The full study has been published in the journal Social Network Analysis and Mining.

      Online dating can be a great way to meet new, like-minded people, but do men and women have inherent differences when it comes to using these sites?Acc...
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      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 ...
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      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 ...
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      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...
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      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 ...
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      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...
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      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...
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      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...
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      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...
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      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...
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      How do you know if you have the Zika virus?

      Symptoms are mild or non-existent, but it is dangerous nonetheless

      Summer is here, and so are the mosquitoes. How many of them are carrying the Zika virus?

      That's hard to tell. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are most likely to carry the virus. But first, those mosquitoes in the United States must bite someone who has the virus. After that, they can spread the virus among the people they bite.

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both mosquitoes are found in the southern U.S., but the Aedes albopictus' range extends as far north as southern Minnesota. Of the two breeds of mosquitoes, the CDC says the Aedes aegypti is more likely to spread the virus.

      Back in February, Richard Duhrkopf, associate professor of biology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, and considered a national expert on mosquitoes, warned that the virus was certain to appear in the U.S. in greater numbers over the summer. For most people, he said, its effects are not serious. They are very serious, however, for pregnant women since the virus is linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect.

      Symptoms are mild or non-existent

      Because the effects are not serious for most people, it's hard to even know that you have it. The CDC says sometimes there are not any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they are usually mild.

      Symptoms may include fever, a rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Some people will experience muscle pain and headaches.

      The symptoms don't usually last very long – a few days to a week. The symptoms, in fact, are very similar to other diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue and chikungunya.

      The only way to be really sure is to be tested. A blood or urine test can confirm whether someone has the virus.

      The biggest danger

      The biggest danger of someone getting the Zika virus is the possibility of them spreading it. They can spread the virus through a mosquito bite, but also through sexual contact.

      The CDC suggests people who have been exposed to Zika, either through sexual contact or travel to a Latin American country where the disease is prevalent, see a medical provider for testing. A pregnant woman who may have been exposed to the virus should be tested if either she or her male partner develops symptoms.

      But the health agency cautions that the tests that are currently available are not completely reliable in determining a man's risk of passing Zika to a sexual partner.

      Summer is here, and so are the mosquitoes. How many of them are carrying the Zika virus?That's hard to tell. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mos...
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      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...
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      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...
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      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 ...
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