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    California orders ITT to stop accepting new students

    The action follows the feds' decision to shut off the flow of federal funds to ITT

    California has ordered ITT to stop enrolling new students. The order came Friday, just one day after the U.S. Department of Education banned ITT from enrolling new students using federal financial aid funds in certain locations. It also vowed to increase its financial oversight of the chain of for-profit schools.

    “The federal action raises grave concerns about the continued financial viability of ITT,” said Joanne Wenzel, chief of the state Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau for Private Postsecond Education (BPPE). “We took today’s action in the interest of protecting potential students who are considering enrolling in ITT.”

    The order becomes effective Sept. 1 and affects all 15 ITT locations in California.

    BPPE said it will file an accusation on the charges and allegations set forth in the emergency order within 10 days. The accusation will seek to revoke ITT’s approval to operate in California.

    Students who have questions or need additional information can call BPPE toll-free at (888) 370-7589 or visit the bureau’s website.

    The U.S. Department of Education said it took the action after ITT's accrediting agency found that the institution was not in compliance with accrediting criteria and was unlikely to be able to correct its deficiencies.

    “Our responsibility is first and foremost to protect students and taxpayers,” said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. in a statement. “Looking at all of the risk factors, it’s clear that we need increased financial protection and that it simply would not be responsible or in the best interest of students to allow ITT to continue enrolling new students who rely on federal student aid funds.”

    California has ordered ITT to stop enrolling new students. The order came Friday, just one day after the U.S. Department of Education banned ITT from enrol...
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    New drone rules in effect for commercial flights

    Commercial and government drones can now operate with a certified remote pilot

    New rules for commercial and government drone flights go into effect today (Monday), setting the stage for what's expected to be rapid deployment of unmanned flights operated by certified "remote pilots."

    The new rules, which were adopted earlier this year, apply to drones under 55 pounds that are being operated for non-hobbyist purposes. Previous rules allow hobbyists to operate drones, but under tighter restrictions.

    “We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

    According to industry estimates, the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

    “Monday is a big day. I’ve consistently urged the FAA to move forward with regulations to make safe operation of unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace a reality, and implementation of this new rule is a major step forward," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). "This will allow many small businesses ... to more cheaply, safely and efficiently harness some of the enormous potential promised by this technology.”

    Commercial drones are currently being used in industries as diverse as real estate, agriculture, insurance, energy, and cinematography. The new drone rule makes it less onerous for companies to use drones to advance their business, as they will no longer need to be granted an exemption from the FAA in order to operate a UAS (unmanned aircraft system) lawfully under federal guidelines.

    What to do

    Want to be a commercial drone pilot?

    You will need a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate.

    To qualify for the certificate, you must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate.

    The Transportation Security Administration will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuing a certificate.

    More information is available on the FAA website.

    New rules for commercial and government drone flights go into effect today (Monday), setting the stage for what's expected to be rapid deployment of unmann...
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    Personal income and spending continue their rise in July

    Consumers were also able to fatten their savings accounts

    Following increases the previous month, both personal income and spending were higher in July.

    Incomes jumped 0.4%, or $71.6 billion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), with disposable personal income (DPI) -- what's left after Uncle Sam takes his cut -- up $60.1 billion, or 0.4%.

    The increase in personal income last month came largely from advances in wages and salaries and personal current transfer receipts.

    Spending and saving head higher

    Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or consumer spending, rose 0.3% or $42.0 billion, reflecting increases in spending for new cars and services that were partially offset by a dip in spending for nondurable goods.

    Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.1% in July.

    Personal saving totaled $794.7 billion in July, pushing the personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- up 0.3% from June to 5.7%.

    The complete report is available on the BEA website.

    Following increases the previous month, both personal income and spending were higher in July.Incomes jumped 0.4%, or $71.6 billion, according to the B...
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      Toyota recalls RAV4 and Lexus HS250h vehicles

      The rear tie rod could fail and cause a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 337,449 model year 2006-2011 Toyota RAV4 vehicles manufactured October 31, 2005, to September 7, 2010, and 2010 Lexus HS250h vehicles manufactured July 6, 2009, to August 26, 2010.

      The vehicles have rear suspension arms (rear tie rods) with adjusting lock nuts that may have been improperly tightened after servicing. As a result of being loose, the arm may have thread damage and may rust, possibly leading to the failure of the arm and an abrupt change in the vehicle's alignment.

      Failure of the rear tie rod could cause a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota will notify owners and dealers will replace both rear suspension arms and encapsulate the locknuts, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 30, 2016.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. Toyota's numbers for this recall are G0V for Toyota vehicles and GLK for Lexus vehicles.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 337,449 model year 2006-2011 Toyota RAV4 vehicles manufactured October 31, 2005, to September 7, 2010...
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      Bots roam the internet, threatening businesses and consumers

      These machines are making dating scams even more dangerous

      You're expecting a package from Amazon, or from one of the package delivery services. An email pops into your inbox about a problem, and there's a link where you can get more information.

      Only the email is not from any legitimate company. It's a scammer posing as the legitimate company.

      While it's a big problem for consumers, it's a huge problem for the companies that are being impersonated. Their brand can suffer as a result.

      MarkMonitor is in the brand protection business, on the lookout for cases where a client's brand has been misappropriated, for any reason.

      “We are basically monitoring across multiple digital channels – websites, marketplaces, social media, mobile apps and emails,” Akino Chikada, MarkMonitor's Senior Brand Protection Manager, told ConsumerAffairs. “We're scanning through the entire internet looking for any potential online abuse of that brand.”

      It's a never-ending job because scammers keep getting more technologically powerful. The latest wrinkle is the deployment of bots – web robots – to seek out and engage victims, meaning one scammer can become a million times more effective.

      “As we know there is a significant number of bots driving internet traffic,” Chikada said. “A recent report found humans account for about 51% of traffic. The rest is driven by bots.”

      Whole new dating game

      And these bots have added a whole new dimension to the online dating scam. A decade ago, this scam consisted of an individual scammer seeking out and engaging a potential victim, building trust, then swindling him or her out of thousands of dollars. It was a labor-intensive and time-consuming enterprise.

      Today, bots do the work, engaging males on Tinder, pretending to be females. Chikada says it's easy to program these bots to engage in dialog.

      “They can remember user details like names, age, location, so it's easy to start engaging a victim,” she said. “They're definitely a lot smarter and more sophisticated.”

      Tinder's popularity makes it a target-rich environment. Scammers are using bots to persuade victims to send them money, and also download malware.

      How to spot a bot

      How can you tell if the “person” you are engaging with on Tinder is actually a machine? If you pay close attention, you can do it.

      Bots tend to type faster than the average human and yet they don't make as many typos. Also, responses can be generic and not always specific to what you have said.

      The big tip off? Chikada says they will eventually ask you to do something for them, and it either requires clicking on a link or giving them your credit card information.

      And finally, if the “person” is really attractive, you just might be conversing with a machine.

      You're expecting a package from Amazon, or from one of the package delivery services. An email pops into your inbox about a problem, and there's a link whe...
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      Second quarter economic growth remains sluggish

      Corporate profits took a hit

      The U.S. economy continued to plod along in the second quarter.

      The Commerce Department's second look at real gross domestic product -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy -- put expansion at an annual rate of 1.1%. While that's down 0.1% from the “advance” estimate released last month, it is a bit of an improvement from the first-quarter growth rate of 0.8%.

      This latest economic snapshot is based on more complete source data than were available earlier, the general picture of growth remains the same.

      The changes

      What growth there was came from contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or consumer spending, and exports. These were partly offset by drops in private inventory investment, residential fixed investment, state and local government spending and nonresidential fixed investment. Imports -- a subtraction in the calculation of GDP -- increased

      The PCE price index increased 2.0%, compared with an increase of 0.3% in the first three months of the year. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the “core” PCE price index was up 1.8%, versus an of 2.1% in the previous quarter.

      Corporate profits

      Profits from current production plunged $24.1 billion in the second quarter, after rising $66.0 billion in the first quarter.

      Profits of domestic financial corporations rose $7.2 billion in the second quarter, while profits of domestic nonfinancial corporations fell $58.2 billion.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      The U.S. economy continued to plod along in the second quarter.The Commerce Department's second look at real gross domestic product -- the value of the...
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      Mars Retail Group recalls M&M’S-branded jewelry

      The jewelry can contain high levels of lead.

      Mars Retail Group of Mount Arlington, N.J., is recalling about 52,400 pieces of M&M’S®-branded jewelry.

      The jewelry can contain high levels of lead, which is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health issues.

      No injuries or incidents have been reported in connection with these products.

      This recall involves all M&M-branded jewelry, including some children’s jewelry. Recalled items include earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces sold between May 2015, and July 2016. Jewelry items included in the recall have the M&M’S logo “M” as a charm or other feature.

      The jewelry, manufactured in China and Vietnam, was sold at M&M’S® World Stores in New York; Orlando, Fla.; Las Vegas; and Henderson, Nev., from May 2015, to June 2016, for between $6 and $18.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled jewelry, place the items out of the reach of children, and contact M&M’S World or visit an M&M’S World store to return the jewelry for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact M&M’S World at 866-915-5058 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.mmsworld.com and click on the “Product Safety & Recalls” link at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Mars Retail Group of Mount Arlington, N.J., is recalling about 52,400 pieces of M&M;’S®-branded jewelry. The jewelry can contain high levels of lea...
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      Model year 2015 RAM 2500 and 5500 trucks and cab chassis recalled

      The vehicles may have a reduced response to steering input

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 64 model year 2015 RAM 2500 trucks, and RAM 3500 trucks and cab chassis.

      The vehicles may have inadequate welds securing the front track bar frame brackets, possibly resulting in the bracket components separating from the frame.

      If the bracket components separate from the frame, the vehicle may have a reduced response to steering input, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will weld on a new track bar frame bracket or replace the frame of the vehicle, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S58.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 64 model year 2015 RAM 2500 trucks, and RAM 3500 trucks and cab chassis. The vehicles may have inadequate welds ...
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      J.D. North America recalls All Power portable generators

      The fuel tank can leak, posing explosion, fire and burn hazards

      J.D. North America Corp., of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 12,300 All Power portable gasoline generators sold in the U.S. and Mexico.

      The fuel tank can leak, posing explosion, fire and burn hazards.

      The firm has received 21 reports of fuel leakage. No injuries or property damage have been reported.

      This recall involves All Power portable gasoline generators with model numbers APGG6000 and APGG7500. The black and red generators have a black fuel tank on top of the units.

      Model APGG6000 generators are rated at 6,000 watts and have UPC code 8 4676600055 3 and serial number JD29014S18035 through JD29014U020742. Model APGG7500 generators are rated at 7,500 watts and have UPC code 8 4676600056 0 and serial number JD42014S16027 through JD42014T210606.

      The model number is located on both sides of the unit. The UPC code and serial number can be found on a silver plate on the upper right hand-side of the back side panel.

      The generators, manufactured in China, were sold at Big Sandy Superstores, Family Farm & Home, Inc., Home Owners Bargain Outlet, Mills Fleet Farm Corp., Nexcom West Coast and other stores nationwide and online at Bluestem.com, BrandsmartUSA.com, HomeDepot.com, hoboonline.com, jbtoolsales.com and other online retailers from March 2014, through May 2016, for between $510 and $725.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled generators and contact J.D. North America to schedule a free replacement fuel tank, including installation.

      Consumers may contact J.D. North America toll-free at (844) 287-4655 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, by email at apggrecall@jdna.com, or online at www.allpoweramerica.com and click on the APGG Recall link for more information.

      J.D. North America Corp., of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 12,300 All Power portable gasoline generators sold in the U.S. and Mexico. The fue...
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      Why the workforce is likely to get older

      Two thirds of Baby Boomers don't plan to retire

      There are several take-aways from the latest Transamerica Center for Retirement Study (TCRS), including the fact that Baby Boomer workers aren't going anywhere.

      If you're a Gen-Xer waiting for your Baby Boomer boss to retire so you can move up, you might have a long wait.

      “Baby Boomers are the generation that has re-written societal rules at every stage of their life,” said Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS. “Now, Baby Boomer workers are redefining retirement by planning to work until an older age than [the] previous two generations.”

      Collinson cites numbers which show that 66% of Boomers are either already working past age 65, or plan to. And it's not entirely because their work is their life. Most who plan to keep working indefinitely say they need the income or the health benefits.

      Counting on Social Security

      Many Boomers – 34% in fact – are counting on Social Security to be their primary source of income once they do retire – hence the large number who plan to keep working. Eighty-seven percent expect Social Security to at least be a part of their income once they stop working.

      But at this point, Boomers may be better off financially than the two younger generations in the work force. One-third say they expect to get income from a traditional pension plan while 78% say they have retirement accounts they can draw on. Even so, there are still plenty of Boomers who haven't saved enough for a comfortable retirement.

      Collinson says she is actually encouraged by Boomers' plans to keep working, calling it a common sense solution. That said, she encourages older workers to be proactive about staying employable and keeping current with industry standards and technology. They should also understand that the decision to work or not may not be up to them in all cases.

      Better have a Plan B

      “As part of their retirement planning, Baby Boomers should create a Plan B if retirement happens unexpectedly due to job loss, health issues, or other intervening circumstances,” she advises.

      It could turn out that Gex X takes a similar approach to retirement when the future rolls around. The study has found that, while Gex X workers started saving for retirement around age 28, many have already taken loans or early withdrawals to pay debts or meet unexpected expenses.

      The estimated median household retirement savings for Gen X employees is $69,000, a little over half the total for Boomers. Just 12% of Gen X workers said they are very confident they will be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

      There are several take-aways from the latest Transamerica Center for Retirement Study (TCRS), including the fact that Baby Boomer workers aren't going anyw...
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      Preparing the family dog for the kids' return to school

      How to keep your dog from engaging in unwanted behaviors when home alone

      The summer months are often held in high regard by dogs who live in households with children. Having the kids home means more time to play outside, more family vacations, and more household activity in general.

      Active dogs, especially, may relish summer days spent keeping up with the kids. Whether they’re helping the kids man a lemonade stand or supervising a sleepover, the family dog has a lot to do during the summer.

      That’s why it can sometimes come as a shock to dogs when the kids return to school. When active summer days are replaced by days spent home alone, dogs may begin to engage in unwanted behaviors such as chewing, excessive barking, or soiling in the house.

      But pet parents can keep back-to-school blues at bay by introducing a new routine to a dog’s life prior to the start of the new school year.

      Tips for keeping dogs happy

      "Dogs are happiest when they have a routine, so the change from summer to school-year schedule can be hard on them," says Traci Simo of Canine Company. "Not only are the kids gone all day for school and afternoon activities, but when they come home, they're too busy with homework to spend time with the family pet."

      To prepare your dog for the kids’ return to school, Simo recommends reintroducing alone time. Leaving dogs home alone for short periods of time before the first day of school can help dogs gear up for a slightly less active Fall and Winter.

      Additionally, pet owners can take the following steps to ensure that dogs don't wreak havoc on the house while the family is away. 

      • Exercise dogs thoroughly. Adequate amounts of exercise can often be the difference between a happy dog or a dog who gets into trouble. Hitting dogs’ exercise quota for the day can often be as simple as a walk in the morning or an active round of fetch when the kids get home. Families can also enlist the help of a pet sitter who can come by and give the dog some midday exercise.
      • Use treat-dispensing balls. Mentally stimulating toys, such as treat-dispensing balls, can help keep your dog occupied for hours during the school day.
      • Brush up on obedience. Just as kids may have enjoyed a summer without homework, dogs may also have enjoyed a more unstructured summer. But training is an important part of keeping a dog’s behavior from getting out of hand. For this reason, pet owners should consider taking a training refresher.
      The summer months are often held in high regard by dogs who live in households with children. Having the kids home means more time to play outside, more fa...
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      Dorel Juvenile recalls Safety 1st strollers

      The stroller tray folding mechanism can partially disengage on one side

      Dorel Juvenile of Columbus, Ind., is recalling about 25,800 Step and Go Travel Systems sold under the Safety 1st brand in the U.S. and Canada.

      The stroller tray folding mechanism can partially disengage on one side when used with an infant car seat attached to the stroller, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received 30 reports of the front stroller tray that supports the infant car seat disengaging on one side. No injuries are reported.

      This recall involves Step and Go Travel Systems sold under the Safety 1st brand and manufactured by Dorel Juvenile. The stroller has a step-to-open design that opens by stepping on the pedal. It was sold in a variety of colors along with the OnBoard 35 infant car seat.

      Safety 1st is imprinted on the front of the stroller tray. Model number TR314 is printed on a white label on the back of the stroller seat.

      The strollers, manufactured in China, were sold at Babies R Us and other retailers nationwide and online at amazon.com, babiesrus.com and Walmart.com from May 2015, through, June 2016 for between $250 and $300.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers with the infant car seat and contact Safety 1st for a free repair kit.

      Consumers may contact Safety 1st toll-free at 866-762-3036 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at stepandgo@djgusa.com or online at www.safety1st.com and click on “Safety Notices” for more information.

      Dorel Juvenile of Columbus, Ind., is recalling about 25,800 Step and Go Travel Systems sold under the Safety 1st brand in the U.S. and Canada. The ...
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      Hillary Clinton calls for EpiPen price cuts

      "No apparent justification" for 400% price hike for life-saving auto-injector

      Hillary Clinton has joined the chorus calling on Mylan Pharmaceutical NV to reduce the price of the EpiPen, the epinephrine auto-injector used by those with severe allergies to counter attacks of anaphylactic shock.

      “Millions of Americans with severe allergies rely on their EpiPens.  When an allergic reaction leads to anaphylactic shock, a shot of epinephrine can literally be the difference between life and death," Clinton said in an emailed statement. "But now, just as parents are about to send kids with severe food and insect allergies back to school, the EpiPen's manufacturer is hiking its price to an all-time high."

      There was no immediate response from the Trump campaign.  

      Clinton's statement follows the disclosure that the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceutical NV, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who already has a shaky relationship with Clinton. 

      Noting that Mylan has raised the cost of EpiPens from $57 in 2007 to about $600 today, Clinton called the increases "outrageous."

      Profits ahead of patients

      "[I]t's just the latest troubling example of a company taking advantage of its consumers. I believe that our pharmaceutical and biotech industries can be an incredible source of American innovation, giving us revolutionary treatments for debilitating diseases. But it's wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them," she said.

      Clinton said she has proposed a plan to reduce exorbitant drug price hikes. She said the plan would require drug companies "to explain significant price increases, and prove that any additional costs are linked to additional patient benefits and better value."

      "Since there is no apparent justification in this case, I am calling on Mylan to immediately reduce the price of EpiPens," she added.

      GOP candidate Trump's Healthcare Reform Plan does not directly address the cost of pharmaceutical products.

      Clinton's plan to rollback drug price increases calls for:

      • Elimination of tax deductions for direct-to-consumer drug advertising;
      • Requiring drug companies that benefit from taxpayer-funded research to invest significant amounts of their profits in research;
      • Capping monthly and annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for patients with chronic or serious health conditions;
      • Increasing competition for prescription drugs and restricting "pay for delay" tactics that reduce competition for generics;
      • Demand higher rebates for prescription drugs in Medicare; and
      • Allow medicare to negotiate drug and biologic prices. 

      The complete Clinton plan for lower prescription drug costs is available online

      Hillary Clinton has joined the chorus calling on Mylan Pharmaceutical NV to reduce the price of the EpiPen, the epinephrine auto-injector used by those wit...
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