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EPA sticks with tough 2025 fuel economy standards

Cheap gas has led consumers to buy more SUVs and trucks, thwarting clean-air goals

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sticking with its aggressive fuel-economy standards, though for how long no one knows. President-elect Trump's...

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New York law creates harsher penalties for users of ticket bots

Lawmakers hope that consumers will no longer have to compete with software when buying tickets

The holiday shopping season officially kicked off this past weekend with Black Friday, and consumers are scrambling to pick up the goods they want. One pop...

PhotoThe holiday shopping season officially kicked off this past weekend with Black Friday, and consumers are scrambling to pick up the goods they want. One popular kind of gift this year will be a gift of experience, like tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event.

Unfortunately, demand for tickets far outweighs supply most of the time, so it’s up to consumers to try and grab them as soon as they become available online. However, many buyers often walk away with nothing because the tickets seem to magically disappear within minutes or even seconds.

While slow internet speeds or bad luck can play a factor, one reason for the lack of available tickets has been the existence of ticket bots -- software used by scalpers that manipulates sales systems to buy up as many tickets as possible. Then, after all the available tickets are gone, they sell them at ridiculously inflated prices to desperate consumers.

However, the practice may become less common thanks to a new law signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Previously, state laws had banned the use of ticket bots and imposed civil penalties on violators, but now the use or control of ticket bots, or reselling tickets knowingly obtained by ticket bots, is a class A misdemeanor.

The classification change means harsher penalties for those who break the law. Violators can now expect exorbitant fines or even jail time if they’re caught using or knowingly benefitting from the software. The definition of a “ticket bot” has also been expanded under the new law to mean any system, whether autonomous or human-controlled, used to quickly buy up tickets before the general public has access to them.

Predatory and wrong

Ticket bots have long-been abhorred by performers in New York. Back in June, Lin-Manuel Miranda – creator and original lead of the Broadway hit Hamilton – railed against users of ticket bots and how the profited from his show; The New York Times reported that scalpers made around $15.5 million from reselling tickets to Miranda’s last 100 shows before stepping down from his role as the titular character.

“My concern is that our show is about the founding of our country and if bots are buying up all the tickets and charging this insane secondary market price, most of the country can’t see it,” he said.

Gov. Cuomo agreed with the sentiment in a recent statement, saying that “these unscrupulous speculators and their underhanded tactics have manipulated the marketplace and often leave New Yorkers and visitors alike with little choice but to buy tickets on the secondary market at an exorbitant mark-up.”

“It’s predatory, it’s wrong and, with this legislation, we are taking an important step towards restoring fairness and equity back to this multi-billion dollar industry.”

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What are Millennials looking for in a rental?

Property owners take note: ‘smart’ features are in amongst Millennials

Millennials who don’t have their hearts set on home ownership quite yet may be looking to rent for just a little while longer, and many may be settling int...

PhotoMillennials who don’t have their hearts set on home ownership quite yet may be looking to rent for just a little while longer, and many may be settling into a multi-family dwelling. So what are these consumers looking for in an apartment?

To find out, Schlage recently polled 1,000 U.S. renters in multi-family dwellings. Their findings revealed two key trends: a desire for tech upgrades and the integration of next-generation access control features.

“Smart” apartments tended to go over big with Millennial respondents. Schlage found that 86% of Millennial renters in multi-family dwellings are looking for automated or remotely controlled devices. Sixty-one percent said they would be more likely to rent an apartment specifically because they like its electronic access features, including keyless entry doors.

Willing to pay more

These findings are significant, considering nearly half of renters in multi-family dwellings are expected to rent an apartment for the next five or more years, Schlage noted.

Among the study’s additional findings:
  • 55% of Millennials are likely to pay more for an apartment that has high-tech door locks compared to ones that did not.
  • 20% of Millennials would pay more per month for a smart apartment. On average, they would be willing to pay about a fifth more for smart home features.
  • 44% of Millennials would give up a parking space to live in a “high tech” apartment.

Smart home trends

While smart home systems are currently highly sought after by Millennial renters, features such as keyless entry are likely to become commonplace in the not-too-distant future. 

Many of those surveyed believe that keys may soon become a thing of the past. Forty-five percent said they felt that physical door keys will be obsolete in the next 10 years.
 

Respondents also believe that smart apartment apps are on the horizon. Sixty-three percent agreed that in 10 years apartments will need to offer all renters smart apartment apps.

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OPEC deal sends oil prices soaring

Analysts says prices at the pump likely to rise in the short run

The OPEC oil cartel members, meeting in Vienna, have agreed to production limits in an effort to push the price of oil higher.The markets reacted immed...

PhotoThe OPEC oil cartel members, meeting in Vienna, have agreed to production limits in an effort to push the price of oil higher.

The markets reacted immediately, with the price of crude jumping more than 6.5% to $48.22 a barrel in early trading in New York.

Two years ago, OPEC member Saudi Arabia launched a huge increase in production in an effort to drive down the price of oil. It took that self-defeating action to try to drive American shale oil producers out of business and regain market share.

It was partly successful but caused major economic distress for many other oil producers, such as Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria. The Saudis, who are bearing the brunt of the production curbs, were forced to act as Iranian oil, blocked for years by sanctions, has begun flowing back onto the market.

It's been good for consumers

While U.S. oil producers have suffered over the last two years, consumers have enjoyed reasonable gasoline prices. Adjusted for inflation, today's national average price is less than it was 50 years ago.

The question consumers may be asking is what OPEC's agreement does to the price at the pump. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, says consumers should expect to see a jolt at the pump in the short term.

“There’s been a lot of hype about OPEC’s possible cut, and they had to act on their threats,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “Expect no sub-$2 a gallon national average if the deal holds.”

Currently, the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular has ticked up two cents from Tuesday, to $2.15 a gallon. That's more than 11 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.

Long-term outlook brighter

But long-term, DeHaan says the outlook for gasoline prices may be brighter for motorists. If the markets begin to doubt that OPEC members will abide by the agreement – and their history in that area is pretty checkered – then oil prices could begin to drift lower again.

“International Energy Agency (IEA) data will be paramount to see if OPEC is acting on the cut, which I suspect they will not,” DeHaan said. “Too much was on the line here, this agreement is held together by knock off scotch tape. Just one member ignoring quotas is enough to throw the integrity of it all away.”

DeHaan says he expects few OPEC members will actually abide by their quotas. If that's the case, consumers could see only moderate increases in fuel prices in the second half of next year, if they see them at all.

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Olive oil producers sue Dr. Oz

The complaint was filed in Georgia, using the state's food libel law

Popular TV host Dr. Oz is no stranger to controversy. His health claims and advice have often been challenged, especially when it advocates one particular...

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Employers expect to hire fewer people in 2017

But the reason for the lowered expectations isn't clear

Despite a steadily improving economy and a “Trump rally” that has sent Wall Street soaring, America's employers appear to be dialing back their hiring plan...

PhotoDespite a steadily improving economy and a “Trump rally” that has sent Wall Street soaring, America's employers appear to be dialing back their hiring plans.

A survey from DHI Group, Inc., a data analysis firm, found 56% of hiring managers expect increased hiring levels in the first half of 2017. While encouraging, it's a six-point drop from six months ago and a five point drop from when they were asked the same question a year ago.

Even 68% of employers who focus on hiring IT professionals have lowered their targets, even though technology jobs have been among the hardest to fill.

Taking longer to fill jobs

The survey also found that vacant staff positions are taking longer to fill. About half of hiring managers say the time it takes to fill open positions has lengthened since last year, which at the time was the longest since the survey began.

Again, the job openings in the tech sector appear to be the ones that take longest to fill. That suggests that the reason hiring managers are lowering their outlook for 2017 might have more to do with the competitive landscape than any expectations about the economy.

"Finding the right candidates for the right positions continues to be a challenge for America's hiring managers as demand for highly skilled professionals creates tension and competition among employers," said Michael Durney, President and CEO of DHI Group. "To combat the time a position remains unfilled, recruiters are turning to sourcing and services which speed efficiency. But, professionals remain ultimately in control and are asking for more money during the recruiting process."

New hires cost more

Rising wages could well be another reason that employers expect to scale back in the coming year. If they have to pay more to fill a position, they may try to consolidate resources or leave positions open for longer periods of time. The fact that 59% of hiring managers expect they'll have to pay more to hire new people in 2017 suggests the pay issue could be a key factor in a slowing labor market.

The U.S. economy added 161,000 new jobs to the economy in October – a slowing from earlier in the year – and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%. Last week Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer suggested the U.S. economy is very close to full employment, if not there already.

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Job creation rebounds in November

You can thank a surge in the services sector

More jobs in the goods-producing sector disappeared in November, but thanks to a big jump in the number of new positions in the services sector, it was a s...

PhotoMore jobs in the goods-producing sector disappeared in November, but thanks to a big jump in the number of new positions in the services sector, it was a strong month for job creation.

According to the ADP National Employment Report, private sector employment increased by 216,000 jobs from October to November.

Gainers and losers

Goods-producing firms took a huge hit during the month, losing 11,000 jobs. Manufacturing was the biggest contributor ( -10,000 jobs), along with Natural resources and mining (-4,000). Construction, however, added 2,000 payroll positions.

Those losses, though, were offset by creation of 228,000 jobs by service-providing companies. The gains were led by trade/transportation/utilities (+69,000), professional/business services (+68,000), and administrative/support services (+47,000). The information industry lost 10,000 workers.

"Businesses hired aggressively in November and there is little evidence that the uncertainty surrounding the presidential election dampened hiring,” said Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. “In addition, because of the tightening labor market, retailers may be accelerating seasonal hiring to secure an adequate workforce to meet holiday demand, although total expected seasonal hiring may be no higher than last year's."

Large businesses were the biggest job creators, adding 90,000 new payroll positions -- most of them (76,000) by companies with more than 1,000 employees. That was closely followed by medium-sized businesses, which added 89,000 workers and small businesses with 37,000 hires.

"This growth was seen in primarily consumer-driven industries like retail and leisure and hospitality -- across all company sizes,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and head of the ADP Research Institute. “Overall, consumers are feeling confident and are driving the strong performance we currently see in the job market."

The report, produced in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, is derived from ADP's actual payroll data and measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

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Overall mortgage applications drop during Thanksgiving week

However, applications for adjustable-rate mortgages were higher

After a strong increase a week earlier, mortgage applications were on the decline last week.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fell...

PhotoAfter a strong increase a week earlier, mortgage applications were on the decline last week.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fell 9.4% in the week ending November 25, which includes an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Refinance Index plunged 16% from the previous week, taking the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 55.1% of total applications -- the lowest level since June.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity, on the other hand, rose to 5.7% of total applications -- its highest level since June. The average loan size for purchase applications reached a survey high at $312,400.

The FHA share of total applications dipped to 10.4% from 11.7% a week earlier, the VA share dropped .8% to 11.7%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.8%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose seven basis points -- from 4.16% to 4.23%, its highest level since July of last year, with points increasing to 0.41 from 0.39 (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) shot up from 4.04% to 4.18%, its highest level since July 2015, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.37 (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 increased to its highest level since July 2015 with a ten basis point-increase to 4.00%, with points increasing to 0.44 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages jumped from 3.35% to 3.48% -- its highest level in 25 months, with points increasing to 0.33 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs slipped to 3.23% from 3.24%, with points increasing to 0.44 from 0.28 (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.

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Key gauge of home prices zooms to new high

Many cities hit post-recession peaks

Home prices in September continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months.According to the S&P; CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Hom...

PhotoHome prices in September continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months.

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, the National index was up 5.5% on a year-over-year basis.

The 10-City Composite jumped 4.3%, while the 20-City Composite was up 5.1%.

Seattle, Portland, and Denver enjoyed the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities over each of the last eight months. Seattle led the way with an 11.0% year-over-year increase, followed by Portland at 10.9% and Denver with an 8.7% advance.

In all, 12 cities reported greater price increases in the year ending September 2016 versus the year ending August 2016.

“The new peak set by the S&P Case-Shiller CoreLogic National Index will be seen as marking a shift from the housing recovery to the hoped-for start of a new advance” said David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “While seven of the 20 cities previously reached new post-recession peaks, those that experienced the biggest booms – Miami, Tampa, Phoenix, and Las Vegas -- remain well below their all-time highs.”

Month-over-month

Before seasonal adjustment, on a month-over-month basis, the National Index posted a September gain of 0.4%, with both the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite up 0.1%.

After seasonal adjustment, the National Index rose 0.8%, the 10-City Composite was up 0.2%, and the 20-City Composite advanced 0.4%.

Fifteen of 20 cities reported increases in September before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, all 20 cities saw prices rise.

Blitzer said the market is showing several positive signals, including a rise in sales of existing and new homes and new-home construction at a post-recession peak.

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Autopilot ads should be reined in, consumer group argues

Consumer Watchdog wants rules limiting hype about self-driving cars

Carmakers should be a bit more circumspect in their claims for self-driving cars, a California consumer group thinks. Consumer Watchdog wants the Californi...

PhotoCarmakers should be a bit more circumspect in their claims for self-driving cars, a California consumer group thinks. Consumer Watchdog wants the California Department of Motor Vehicles to ban misleading ads that leave the dangerous – and sometimes fatal – impression that a car is more capable of driving itself than is actually the case.

The nonprofit group referred the DMV to its new video documenting how Tesla hyped its vehicles’ “Autopilot” feature, clearly leaving the false impression the cars were self-driving.

In a letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson wrote:

“Tesla, with its promotion of its so-called ‘Autopilot’ feature, is a prime example of the deadly consequences of such unjustified hype. Chairman Elon Musk has repeatedly extolled the Tesla’s self-driving virtues to clearly leave the impression that the vehicle is autonomous."

“Two drivers who were misled by Tesla’s Autopilot hype, one in China and one in Florida, are dead after fatal crashes,” the letter continued. “Tesla’s response now, in direct contradiction to Musk’s ‘Look Mom, No Hands’ hype, has been that the drivers should have been paying attention and should have had their hands on the steering wheel.”

Too long to wait

DMV has a pending regulation that would provide that “a vehicle cannot be advertised as autonomous in California unless it meets the definition of ‘autonomous’ specified in Vehicle Code §38750 and the autonomous vehicle regulations,” but because the rule is part of a larger regulation package, it probably will not be enacted for at least a year.

Simpson's group says that's too long to wait. 

“Currently there is nothing to stop the sort of hype spouted by Elon Musk with its potentially deadly consequences,” Consumer Watchdog’s letter said. “DMV should extract the advertising regulatory language from the rest of the draft autonomous vehicle regulations and start a formal rule-making to enact that section immediately.”

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Most consumers say they do holiday shopping without a budget

But a holiday budget can help avoid unexpected debt

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, it's a safe bet most consumers have at least started their holiday shopping.But are they followin...

PhotoNow that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, it's a safe bet most consumers have at least started their holiday shopping.

But are they following a set spending budget? Personal finance experts are unanimous in their advice to do so, but evidence suggests many consumers don't.

Lending Tree's second annual holiday survey found that more than half the consumers it polled plan to shop without setting spending limits this holiday season. That, of course, usually means starting the new year with unexpected debt.

The survey also found that 43% of consumers admitting to at least some buyer's remorse after the holiday about how much money they spent.

Where the money goes

It isn't just gifts that cause people to get carried away with their credit cards. There are decorations, food, and beverages for parties, and even travel. The personal finance website Investopedia has some tips for avoiding overspending during the holiday season.

Among the decorating tips, organize a decorations swap with friends. You add new decorations without spending any money. If you have enough decorations to get by this year, wait until after Christmas and buy decorations on clearance.

If you're planning a holiday dinner party, don't feel like you have to invite everyone you know. Most people get more invitations than they can handle and won't mind attending one less holiday event.

If extended families are still exchanging gifts, suggest spending limits this year. Or even better, a secret Santa where everyone purchases just one gift.

As for travel, if you haven't already booked your flight, you're not going to save any more. However, if you're willing to fly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you might still find a bargain.

Budget worksheet

Sitting down and actually putting a budget down on paper is the best way to help you stay on track with your spending. Here's a budget worksheet that you can download.

Lending Tree found that nearly two-thirds of shoppers expect to spend $500 or less on gifts this year. That's up slightly from last year. More than 10% estimate they will spend more on gifts this year than last year.

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Insurance broker Zenefits gets its wings clipped

California regulators imposed a $7 million settlement for licensing violations

High-flying human resources and insurance start-up Zenefits has been hit with $7 million worth of penalties by California insurance regulators who accused...

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A big November bounce in consumer confidence

The results bode well for the holiday shopping season

After posting a modest decline a month earlier, consumer confidence is up strongly in November.According to The Conference Board, its Consumer Confiden...

PhotoAfter posting a modest decline a month earlier, consumer confidence is up strongly in November.

According to The Conference Board, its Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 107.1, a gain of 6.3 points from October.

The Present Situation Index jumped 7.2 points to 130.3, while the Expectations Index went from 86.0 last month to 91.7.

The increase puts consumer confidence at pre-recession levels. “A more favorable assessment of current conditions coupled with a more optimistic short-term outlook helped boost confidence,” said Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco.

“And while the majority of consumers were surveyed before the presidential election,” she points out, “it appears from the small sample of post-election responses that consumers’ optimism was not impacted by the outcome. With the holiday season upon us, a more confident consumer should be welcome news for retailers.”

How consumers see it

The assessment by consumers of current conditions improved in November. The percentage saying business conditions are “good” went from 26.5% to 29.2%, while those saying business conditions are “bad” fell from 17.3% to 14.8%.

Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was moderately more positive than last month. The percentage of consumers who think jobs are “plentiful” increased from 25.3% to 26.9%, while those who believe they’re “hard to get” was unchanged at 21.7%.

Consumers’ short-term outlook -- on balance -- was more optimistic in November. The percentage who look for business conditions to improve over the next six months fell from 16.4% to 15.3%; however, those expecting them to worsen also fell -- from 11.8% to 10.0%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was mixed as well. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead was virtually unchanged at 14.5%, but those anticipating fewer jobs fell from 16.6% to 13.8%.

When it comes to income, the percentage looking for an increase -- 17.5% -- was little changed from last month, while the proportion expecting a drop fell from 10.2% to 9.0%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is conducted by Nielsen, a provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was November 15.

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Improved economic performance for the third quarter

An uptick in consumer spending was a big factor

The government's second look at how the economy was doing in the third quarter is encouraging.According to the Commerce Department, real gross domestic...

PhotoThe government's second look at how the economy was doing in the third quarter is encouraging.

According to the Commerce Department, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 3.2% in the July-to-September period.

That's somewhat better than the rate of 2.9% reported in the “advance” estimate -- and a lot better than the 1.4% we saw in the second quarter of the year.

And it marks the first time the GDP growth rate has been above 3% since the third quarter of 2014.

Even with the increase, analysts say the general picture of economic growth remains the same. The advance was due to stronger consumption expenditures -- consumer spending -- than previously estimated.

The second estimate acceleration reflected an upturn in private inventory investment, an acceleration in exports, a pickup in federal government spending, and smaller decreases in state and local government spending and residential fixed investment.

An inflation measure tied to GDP -- the PCE price index -- was up 1.4%, compared with the previous 2.0% increase. When the volatile food and energy categories are removed, the gain is 1.7% versus an increase of 1.8%.

The increase in GDP gave a nice boost to corporate profits, which rose $133.8 billion in the third quarter, after falling $12.5 billion in the second.

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

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Human Touch recalls reclining chairs

The chair’s joystick reclining mechanism can malfunction

Human Touch of California is recalling about 1,100 Perfect Chairs, model PC-610.The chair’s joystick reclining mechanism can malfunction and allow the...

PhotoHuman Touch of California is recalling about 1,100 Perfect Chairs, model PC-610.

The chair’s joystick reclining mechanism can malfunction and allow the chair to continue moving, posing a fall hazard to consumers.

The firm has received one report of the chair’s joystick mechanism malfunctioning. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Human Touch’s Perfect Chair, model PC-610 with serial numbers between B613315034 and B614215154. The power reclining chair was sold in a walnut, dark walnut or chestnut wood finish base with a leather pad set that came in 33 different colors.

The chair measures about 43 inches long, 31 inches wide and 47 inches high and has a head pillow at the top and a joystick controller on the left armrest. The words “Human Touch” and “Perfect Chair” and the model and serial number can be found on the cross bar connecting the rear legs of the chair.

The chairs, manufactured in Thailand, were sold at furniture and specialty stores nationwide including Healthy Back, Human Touch, Relax in Comfort, Relax The Back and The Better Back Store and online at ebay.com and vitalityweb.com for between $3,000 and $3,500.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs, and take them to the store where purchased for a full refund or contact Human Touch to receive a free repair kit (including shipping) or to arrange for free repair.

Consumers may contact Human Touch at 800-355-2762 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at csadmin@humantouch.com or online at www.humantouch.com.

 

 

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National Steak and Poultry recalls food service ready-to-eat chicken

The products may be undercooked, resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens

National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, Okla., is recalling approximately 17,439 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.The products may be undercooked,...

PhotoNational Steak and Poultry of Owasso, Okla., is recalling approximately 17,439 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.

The products may be undercooked, resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens.

There are no confirmed reports of adverse health effects or illnesses due to consumption of these products.

The following items, produced October 4, 2016, and packaged October 4 – 5, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 5 lb. bags packed 2 bags per case; product labeled “Distributed by National Steak and Poultry, Owasso, OK Fully Cooked, Diced, Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast Meat with Rib Meat” with Lot code 100416, and Case Code: 70020.
  • 5 lb. bags packed 2 bags per case; product labeled “Hormel Natural Choice 100% Natural No Preservatives Fully Cooked Roasted Chicken Breast Strips with Rib Meat Natural Smoke Flavor Added” with Lot code 100416, and Case code 702113.

The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-6010T” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to food service locations nationwide and should not be in consumers’ possession.

What to do

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Mike Wilson at (918) 274-8787.

 

 

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Nick’s of Calvert recalls meatball product

The product contains eggs and milk

Nick’s of Calvert of Prince Frederick, Md., is recalling approximately 305 pounds of ready to eat meatball product.The product contains eggs and milk,...

PhotoNick’s of Calvert of Prince Frederick, Md., is recalling approximately 305 pounds of ready to eat meatball product.

The product contains eggs and milk, allergens not declared on the label.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

The following product is being recalled:

  • 5-lb. clear plastic packages containing “NICK’S Fully Cooked Italian Style Meatballs.”

The product subject to recall does not bear a USDA mark of inspection. Other typical identification markings, including best before or use by dates or processing or repackaging dates are also absent from the product labels.

The product was sold in retail locations in Maryland.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Nick Ferrante III at (410) 414-7105.

 

 

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Credit card late fees may rise in 2017

American Express has already announced it will take advantage of higher federal limits

If you're in the habit of being late with credit card payments, now's the time to resolve to do better in 2017. Starting in January, federal rules allow cr...

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A Visit to the White House - follow in the footsteps of our presidents

The occupants change but the White House endures

The most famous address in Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The White House, the iconic symbol of the presidency and part of th...

PhotoThe most famous address in Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The White House, the iconic symbol of the presidency and part of the National Park Service, is available for public tours, and it’s like taking a walk through our nation’s history. There’s something so special in passing through the very same portico where our president greets dignitaries and heads of state from all over the world.

The rooms that are available for public view are all located on the main floor. No peeking into the Oval Office. Some of the rooms you’ll walk through with the center roped off; others you glimpse through an open door. You’ll pass through corridors, halls, and the East Garden Room and along the way you’ll have a chance to view portraits, sculptures, and a cabinet that displays many of the presidents’ china patterns, including the new set from President Obama.

There are framed photos that showcase happy family moments during different presidencies, as well as noteworthy events, such as President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. behind him and Jimmy Carter with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signing the Camp David Accords.

What else will you see? Many portraits of our presidents and first ladies, including the famed Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington that Dolley Madison saved when the British burned the White House in 1814 and the pensive portrait of Abraham Lincoln that was bequeathed to the White House in 1939 by the widow of Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s oldest son.

Book lovers will wish they could curl up in the Library, which contains 2,700 works by American authors. The Vermeil Room, named for the large collection of vermeil (1,575 pieces of gilded silver) given to the White House by Margaret Thompson Biddle and used as a sitting room. The stunning Red Room, with its furniture upholstered in “Crimson Plush,” is a favorite spot for first ladies to entertain guests. You can also see the State Dining Room, just given a fresh update by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and the China Room which, no surprise, displays china and glass used by the presidents.   

Tour facts

White House tours are free.

Tours are self-guided and available Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays).

Tours can be canceled at the last minute.You will be provided with a phone number with your confirmation, and it’s wise to call close to the tour time to ensure it’s still on.

How to book a tour:

U.S. citizens should submit requests through the office of your member of Congress.

Citizens of a foreign country should contact your embassy in Washington, D.C. for assistance in submitting a tour request.

Tour requests should be submitted up to three months in advance, but no less than 21 days in advance. There are a limited number of spaces available for each tour, so submit your request early.

Visitor Information:

For information on White House tours and events go to: https://www.whitehouse.gov/participate/tours-and-events or call (202) 456-7041.

To get the most out of your White House visit check out the White House Visitor Center for additional exhibits, artifacts, and ranger-led talks. It’s located a block and half from the White House at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, open daily from 7:30 am to 4 p.m.

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How mouse allergens found in schools may worsen children's asthma symptoms

Researchers say that schools should focus on reduction strategies to improve health outcomes

If you’re someone who has struggled with asthma for most of your life, then you might remember what it was like having it as a child. Whether it was perfor...

PhotoIf you’re someone who has struggled with asthma for most of your life, then you might remember what it was like having it as a child. Whether it was performing physical activities in gym class or participating in athletic sports, the condition was likely one that slowed you down if it wasn’t managed constantly.

However, a recent study suggests that certain allergens found in schools may make asthma symptoms even worse. Researchers from Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found that air-borne allergens in schools, such as those that come from mice, may worsen asthma symptoms. They say that inner city children who are exposed to mouse allergens at school have worse overall medical outcomes connected with their asthma.

“In our study of inner-city school-aged children with asthma, exposure to higher levels of school mouse allergen was associated with a higher number of days with asthma symptoms and decreased lung function, independent of home environmental exposure,” the researchers said.

Worsened symptoms

The researchers analyzed the home and school environments of 284 students between the ages of 4 and 13 that were enrolled in inner-city schools in the northeastern United States. They found that schools with higher concentrations of mouse allergen yielded children with worse asthma symptoms and lower lung function.

While other allergens were found both at home and at school, the researchers say that negative health trends were most noticeable in children exposed to mouse allergens at school. They recommend that schools find ways to reduce the amount of these contaminants so that asthmatic children do not suffer as much from their condition.

“This [negative health trend] was seen in all children with asthma studied, regardless of whether they were sensitized to mouse allergen, and further underscores the public health relevance of school-associated allergen exposure as an important contributor to asthma morbidity in children,” they said.

“These findings suggest that exposure reduction strategies in the school setting may effectively and efficiently benefit all children with asthma. Future school-based environmental intervention studies may be warranted.”

The full study has been published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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How pediatricians can help when parents divorce

A new report addresses the pediatricians’ role in helping kids cope with the separation

The finalization of a divorce or separation often marks the beginning of a stressful and confusing time for affected children. The emotional impact of divo...

PhotoThe finalization of a divorce or separation often marks the beginning of a stressful and confusing time for affected children. The emotional impact of divorce is often felt to an even higher degree during the holiday season.

But pediatricians can help kids adjust to the changes divorce brings, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In a new report, the AAP says pediatricians can help parents understand what their children might be going through.
 

"The pediatrician can help parents understand their children's reactions to divorce or separation," which can vary depending on the child’s age, said report co-lead author Dr. Carol Weitzman, chairwoman of the AAP's Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Pediatricians remain neutral

The report states that it’s important for doctors to maintain neutral relationships with both parents. The best interests of the child should be kept at the heart of all conversations and decisions.
 

If the emotional repercussions of a divorce begin to affect a child’s school performance or friendships, the pediatrician can recommend developmentally appropriate ways for parents to talk with their children about the divorce.

"Parents should be encouraged to answer their children's questions honestly, and allow them to express their own feelings," Weitzman said in a news release.
 

If children seem to be in need of further support, pediatricians can refer families to child-oriented professionals who have experience in helping children affected by divorce.

Adjusting to change

The emotional trauma of divorce can often bring about behavior changes in children. These changes usually crop up during the beginning of the separation but tend to resolve within two to three years. The report goes on to state, however, that children may grapple with a sense of loss as they get older.
 
Kids’ adjustment to life after the split may depend on factors such as their temperament and the relationship they had with their parents before and after the separation. In the aftermath of a divorce, parents should strive to keep children’s routines as normal as possible.
 

“The children’s routines of school, extracurricular activities, contact with family and friends, discipline, and responsibilities ideally should remain as normal and unchanged as possible,” the authors said, adding that parents should also help kids understand that they did not cause the divorce.

If one parent cannot provide adequate support and reassurance, pediatricians can serve as a source of guidance for the other parent.

“It is hoped that they can be told that each parent will continue to love and care for them, but if they cannot be provided with this reassurance, pediatricians can help the involved parent develop strategies to help the child articulate feelings of loss and identify resources to assist the child."
 
The new report will be published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.
 
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Beware of promises of 'easy money' loans

They're really just repackaged payday loans

To hear all the commercials and spam telephone calls, you would think lenders couldn't wait to make loans to just about anyone, regardless of their credit....

PhotoTo hear all the commercials and spam telephone calls, you would think lenders couldn't wait to make loans to just about anyone, regardless of their credit. But that's hardly the case. In fact, lending standards in recent years have gotten tighter, not looser.

So what's with all the pitches for “easy money” loans? The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities says most of these pitches are coming from payday lenders operating in other states.

They might be called payday loans, or car title loans, or sometimes just “quick money loans.” Whatever they're called, Pennsylvania banking officials say they carry the same issues as your garden variety payday loans – the term is for just two weeks, meaning you almost certainly have to take out another loan to pay back the first. And when the fees are added up, it can amount to an annual interest rate of between 300% to 1,000%.

"The Internet contains a lot of 'guarantees' of easy, fast ways to get cash that too often lead to long-term financial problems," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann. "Too many people who take out 'easy money' loans end up paying shockingly high amounts of interest on these loans, losing their cars or motorcycles, or being hounded illegally by debt collectors."

Robocallers go to work

And now, the purveyors of these loans are using spam robocalls to push their products. Honolulu TV station KHON reports many consumers have received their calls, which originate outside the U.S., and thus outside the control of U.S. authorities. The recorded pitch says the consumer receiving the call has already been approved for a loan, even though they haven't applied for one.

“The robocall tells you that no credit check will be required when you go to the website to look it up it says no credit check is required then when you look at the fine print it says oh, a third-party will do a credit check on you,” Gregory Dunn, CEO of the Hawaii Better Business Bureau told the station.

Robocalls, which are illegal in nearly all instances, are increasingly used to market dubious products and services. It gives the telemarketer a lot more power.

Screening the first set of victims

“A robocall, as a technology, is used to screen out the first set of victims,” Jan Volzke, a vice president at Hiya, told ConsumerAffairs back in July.

Hiya is a free call-blocking app, available for the iPhone and Android platforms. It was recently spun off as an independent company by Whitepages.

As has been pointed out repeatedly by consumer advocates, consumers in need of quick money should not fall for a scam or resort to a payday loan. Wiessmann suggests looking into other alternatives, which include asking if your bank offers short-term loans. Also, check into short-term loans offered by credit unions.

If you need cash to pay an overdue bill, Wiessmann suggests asking your boss for an advance or negotiating with the creditor for more time. If all else fails, Wiessman says you'll be better off paying the late fees on the bill, which in the long run will be a lot less than the fees associated with one of those “easy money” loans.

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Wells Fargo seeking to use arbitration clause to block lawsuits

The bank claims customers gave up their right to sue when they opened accounts

Wells Fargo faces dozens of lawsuits from angry customers over its fake accounts scandal, but it is reportedly seeking to push those disputes into arbitrat...

PhotoWells Fargo faces dozens of lawsuits from angry customers over its fake accounts scandal, but it is reportedly seeking to push those disputes into arbitration.

Bloomberg News reports the bank has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to keep one particular lawsuit from getting to court. In the motion, Wells Fargo says customers agreed to resolve disputes out of court when they opened their accounts.

The lawsuits are the result of Wells Fargo's actions, opening millions of bank and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge or permission. At the time, the bank was engaged in a sales strategy known as “cross-marketing,” where customers with one type of account were encouraged to open another type, increasing the amount of fees flowing to the bank.

Went beyond convincing

The bank offered incentives to employees who were able to convince customers with bank accounts to open credit card accounts, and vice-versa. Federal regulators charged Wells Fargo went beyond trying to convince customers to open new accounts and simply opened the accounts for them without their knowledge. The bank fired 5,300 employees and paid $185 million in fines. It's CEO, John Stumpf, after being raked over the coals by Congressional committees, took early retirement.

Bloomberg reports the motion, filed in the lawsuit brought by 80 Wells Fargo customers, points out that the arbitration clause has already been validated in another lawsuit brought in California.

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution favored by large corporations with lots of customers. It keeps disputes out of court and, while saving in legal fees, often results in more favorable rulings. Besides banks, telecommunications companies usually require their customers to agree to arbitration.

Considering a ban

A year ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it was considering proposed rules that would ban consumer financial companies from using “free pass” arbitration clauses.

With this free pass, CFPB said companies can sidestep the legal system, avoid big refunds, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm countless consumers.

“Consumers should not be asked to sign away their legal rights when they open a bank account or credit card,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said at the time.

Cordray said corporations are using the arbitration clause as a free pass to sidestep the courts and his agency would consider banning arbitration clauses that block group lawsuits.

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Online sales power Black Friday

Overall sales surged, while in-store sales declined

Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black F...

PhotoEarly indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black Friday shopping weekend, with more purchases moving to online channels.

One of the first sales reports comes from Adobe, which tracked $5.2 billion in spending over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a 17.7% increase over last year. At the same time time, brick-and-mortar sales were down from last year.

Black Friday sales alone smashed the old record, logging $3.34 billion, beating last year's mark by 21.6%. Adobe reports Lego Creator Sets, electric scooters from Razor, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones, and Barbie Dreamhouses made up the five biggest sellers in the toy department on Black Friday. Apple iPads, Samsung 4k TVs, Apple MacBooks Air, LG TVs, and Microsoft Xboxes were the top sellers in the electronics department.

More mobile purchases

Adobe reported mobile platforms drove the majority of visits to retail websites on Black Friday and accounted for 35% of sales. It found large retailers experienced twice the growth in online sales as small retailers since the start of the holiday shopping season.

Rakuten Marketing reported similar findings. It said its data shows mobile sites got 56% of the traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Black Friday's online spending beat last year by 41%.

“Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director, Adobe Digital Insights. “With the full day total coming in at $3.34 billion, Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday's position as the largest online shopping day of the year.”

How big will Cyber Monday be?

Of course, that remains to be seen. Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com reported that many ecommerce sites started their Cyber Monday specials on Sunday evening, suggesting the sales total could surpass projections. It notes that Apple, Dell, Best Buy, and Target are offering free shipping with no minimum order size, which could spur sales.

Among the hottest Cyber Monday promotions, it has identified Target's 15% off nearly everything in-store and online during the day, as worthy of consumers' attention. It also calls attention to Walmart's over 50% discount on Samsung HDTVs.

Assuming Cyber Monday smashes estimates, the nation's retailers could be on pace for a record holiday sales period.

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Hale and Hearty Soups recalls ready-to-eat chicken chili soup

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Hale and Hearty Soups of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling approximately 455 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken chili soup product that may be adulterated with List...

PhotoHale and Hearty Soups of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling approximately 455 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken chili soup product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The following item, produced and packaged on November 9, 2016, is being recalled:

  • 6.9-lb. bags containing “CHICKEN CHILI SOUP” with an “Expires:12/09” date.

The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-34800” inside the USDA mark of inspection, as shipped to food service distributors in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions regarding this recall may contact Paul Schwartz at (212) 255-2400 Ext. 2025.

 

 

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General Motors recalls model year 2016 Buick Cascadas

The vehicles may have an incorrect convertible roof control module

General Motors is recalling four model year 2016 Buick Cascadas manufactured December 2, 2015, to February 24, 2016.The vehicles may have had the origi...

PhotoGeneral Motors is recalling four model year 2016 Buick Cascadas manufactured December 2, 2015, to February 24, 2016.

The vehicles may have had the original convertible roof control module (CRCM) replaced with an incorrect CRCM, that allows the windows to close automatically when the roof is closed and can allow the windows to be closed remotely using the key fob. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 118, "Power-Operated Window Systems."

If the windows close automatically or can be closed remotely, the unexpected closure can increase the risk of injury to the passengers.

What to do

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the CRCM with correct module, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 9, 2016.

Owners may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300. GM's number for this recall is 16126.

 

 

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Greencore, USA recalls Mediterranean Chicken Hummus” sandwiches made for 7-Eleven

The recall is tied to the Sabra Dipping Company recall

Greencore, USA is recalling Fresh to Go Mediterranean Chicken Hummus sandwiches (UPC 5254858888) manufactured solely for 7-Eleven.Sabra Dipping Company...

PhotoGreencore, USA is recalling Fresh to Go Mediterranean Chicken Hummus sandwiches (UPC 5254858888) manufactured solely for 7-Eleven.

Sabra Dipping Company has recalled the red pepper hummus ingredient used in this sandwich because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

There are no reports of illnesses associated with the recalled product.

Because of the two day shelf life of the product, Greencore is recalling only lots distributed since October 15, 2016. the recalled product was distributed to 7-Eleven stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.

Sandwiches with following Use By Dates, listed on the back panel of the sandwich, are being recalled:

Use By Date
10/17/2016
10/18/2016
10/19/2016
10/20/2016
10/21/2016
10/22/2016
10/23/2016
10/24/2016
10/25/2016
10/26/2016
10/27/2016
10/28/2016
10/29/2016
10/30/2016
10/31/2016
11/1/2016
11/2/2016
11/3/2016
11/4/2016
11/5/2016
11/6/2016
11/7/2016
11/8/2016
11/9/2016
11/10/2016
11/11/2016
11/12/2016
11/13/2016
11/14/2016
11/15/2016
11/16/2016
11/17/2016
11/18/2016
11/19/2016
11/20/2016
11/21/2016

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but dispose of it.

Consumers with questions may call Greencore at (978) 716-2530 between 9 am and 5 pm (EST).

 

 

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Deli sandwiches recalled in Northern California and Nevada

The recall is tied to the Sabra Dipping Company hummus recall

LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling for the Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches produced for 7-Eleven stores.The hummus sp...

PhotoLSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling for the Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches produced for 7-Eleven stores.

The hummus spread used in the sandwiches was recalled by Sabra Dipping Company due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

There are no reports of illnesses associated with the recalled product.

Approximately 241 sandwiches containing the Sabra Dipping Company hummus were produced and distributed from the LSG Sky Chefs facilities in San Jose, Calif. Approximately 72 sandwiches were produced from the firm's Las Vegas, Nevada, location.

What to do

Consumers who purchased the recalled product with a “best buy” date of November 19, 2016 through November 21, 2016, at 7-Eleven between November 18, 2016, and November 20, 2016 should dispose of it or return it to 7-Eleven for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call 214-368-0909 between 6:00am and 3:00pm (PST).

 

 

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Model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs recalled

The fuel tank may not have the proper ventilation

Nissan North America is recalling 12,112 model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs manufactured August 7, 2015, to September 1, 2016.The vehicles may not have h...

PhotoNissan North America is recalling 12,112 model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs manufactured August 7, 2015, to September 1, 2016.

The vehicles may not have had the temporary fuel tank breather tube cap removed during the vehicle's assembly and the fuel tank breather tube may not have been connected to the bed rail. As a result, the fuel tank may not have the proper ventilation, possibly causing the fuel gauge and the distance to empty meter to both display inaccurately.

If the fuel gauge reads incorrectly, the vehicle can run out of fuel without the driver being aware, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel tank breather tube, replacing the fuel tank, fuel sending unit, and/or fuel tank breather tube, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.

 

 

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7-Eleven deli sandwiches recalled in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo

The recall is prompted by the Sabra Dipping Company recall

LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling the 7-Eleven Chicken and Hummus sandwiches the company produces for 7-Eleven stores in the Pittsburgh, Pa...

PhotoLSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling the 7-Eleven Chicken and Hummus sandwiches the company produces for 7-Eleven stores in the Pittsburgh, Pa., Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo, N Y., markets.

The hummus spread used in the sandwiches is subject to a national recall issued by Sabra Dipping Company due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The company has received no reports of illnesses associated with the recalled product.

Approximately 389 7-Eleven Chicken and Hummus sandwiches, packaged in a plastic clam shell, net wt. 8-oz., UPC 0 52548 58888 5, and a “best buy” date of November 19, 2016, through November 21, 2016, located on the back of the package, were produced and distributed to 7-Eleven stores in the Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo areas.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product between November 18, 2016, and November 20, 2016, should dispose of it or return it to a 7-Eleven store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call 214-368-0909 between 9:00am and 6:00pm (EST).

 

 

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Chrysler recalls model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers

The fuel tank may have a cracked or broken control valve

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 359 model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers manufactured November 1, 2016, to November 3, 2016.The vehicles may have a fuel t...

PhotoChrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 359 model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers manufactured November 1, 2016, to November 3, 2016.

The vehicles may have a fuel tank that has a cracked or broken control valve, possibly resulting in a fuel leak in a rollover event, debris in the fuel tank and/or the potential of over fueling the vehicle.

A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

What to do

Chrysler will notify owners, and Jeep dealers will inspect the fuel tank and replace fuel tank and sending unit, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 2, 2017.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S90.

 

 

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Mediterranean Style Chicken With Hummus sandwiches recalled

The recall is prompted by the Sabra Dipping Company recall

LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling recall 103 units of Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches.The hummus spread used in the...

PhotoLSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions is recalling recall 103 units of Mediterranean Style Chicken with Hummus sandwiches.

The hummus spread used in the sandwiches was recalled by Sabra Dipping Company due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled products, packaged in the plastic clam shell, net wt. 8-oz., UPC 0 52548 58888 5 with a a “best buy” date of November 19, 2016 through November 21, 2016, located on the back of the package, were produced and distributed to 7-Eleven stores in Washington state.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product at 7-Eleven stores between November 18, 2016, and November 20, 2016, should dispose of them or return them to a 7-Eleven store for a full refund.  

 

 

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Canadian researchers test boots' traction

Only eight percent of 98 sets of footwear tested met minimum slip resistance standards

Ice is no joke in Canada. Hoping to provide Canadian consumers with a little more traction, researchers at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute have developed...

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Consumers appear to give Black Friday a strong start

Stores are crowded and online sales surge

It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, th...

PhotoIt appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, they took advantage of the stores that opened on Thanksgiving. Millions more shopped online.

Macy's said there were more than 16,000 shoppers lined up outside its New York flagship store in Harold Square as the doors opened Thanksgiving night. It reports that early sales receipts suggest a lot of people will be finding sweaters and other clothing under the tree this year.

Target also reports a strong start to the big shopping weekend. Not only were stores jammed with shoppers last night, the company says Target.com had it's biggest single sales day ever.

“Shopping at Target has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for millions of our guests, and we’re thrilled at the response we’ve seen this year,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell. “Based on early results, it’s clear that our deals are cutting through. We expect this momentum to continue throughout the weekend and into next week.”

Target says TV sets were among the most popular items, with consumers buying more than 3,200 sets every minute during the first hour that stores were open. Early indications also point to strong sales of Apple products, including the Apple Watch Series 1.

Hoverboards sold out in minutes

Among toys, Target says LEGO, NERF, and Our Generation were popular items. The Jetson V6 Hoverboard sold out within minutes, the company said.

Amazon, meanwhile, has already jumped ahead to Cyber Monday. The company has unveiled 75,000 deals it plans to offer next week.

The deals include the Amazon Echo for $139.99, a 50 inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $249.99, and 30% off on select clothing, shoes, jewelry, and watches for women, men, kids, and infants.

Last Cyber Monday, Amazon says customers ordered more than 54 million items worldwide, which set a record. It says based on early sales data, it expects that record to be shattered next week.

Did the large number of retailers who took a stand against opening on Thanksgiving miss the boat? Maybe not. CNBC reports the Mall of America, which this year remained closed on the holidays, had even bigger crowds lining up for its Black Friday opening than it did last year.

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How to stay secure while shopping online

Expert suggests thinking about where you shop and how you pay

Consumers are buying more of everything online, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they are doing more holiday shopping with their mobile devices and PCs....

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Researchers develop a potential therapy for concussions

An FDA-approved drug holds promise for reducing swelling and mitigating harmful effects

Concussions are one of the more common, but nevertheless most serious, injuries that consumers can face. This kind of mild traumatic brain injury can occur...

PhotoConcussions are one of the more common, but nevertheless most serious, injuries that consumers can face. This kind of mild traumatic brain injury can occur from a car accident, while playing a contact sport, or during any number of life’s accidental missteps.

But what really happens during a concussion that makes it so dangerous, and is there any way to avoid the negative effects of the injury? Researchers at the University of Arkansas think so. They explain that when a concussion occurs, a certain protein called aquaporin-4 is released during the swelling process.

"Our study found that mild traumatic brain injury resulted in increased expression of a protein called aquaporin-4, which caused a massive cellular influx of fluid, leading to increased astrocyte cell volume and injury," explains Kartik Balachandran, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

However, they believe that using an FDA-approved drug called Acetazolamide may help reduce swelling and the influx of aquaporin-4. “Our results showed that Acetazolamide minimized cell swelling and injury, suggesting a therapeutic role for this drug in reducing the detrimental effects of concussions," they said.

Reducing harmful effects

Acetazolamide is most commonly used to treat epilepsy and altitude sickness, but the researchers found that it also does a good job of reducing the expression of aquaporin-4. They came to this discovery after examining astrocyte cells in the brain.

Using a benchtop bioreactor that they engineered, the researchers observed how a mild traumatic brain injury like a concussion caused a large cellular influx of fluid. In turn, the fluid increased astrocyte cell volume, leading to more swelling. But when the researchers applied Acetazolamide, they found that swelling was not as prominent.

"This study demonstrates the collaborative neuro-engineering efforts that are contributing to both diagnostic and therapeutic methods for addressing traumatic brain injury," said Raj Rao, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arkansas.

The full study has been published in Scientific Reports

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Tests on promising Alzheimer's drug end in disappointment

Ely Lilly will not seek FDA approval for solanezumab

There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.T...

PhotoThere have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.

The flip side of that, of course, is when these hopeful promises just don't pan out. So it was with great disappointment that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced that its promising new drug solanezumab “did not meet the primary endpoint” in it's final, phase 3 testing. The company said it would not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the drug.

Lilly said patients in the trial who were treated with solanezumab did not experience a statistically significant slowing in cognitive decline compared to patients treated with placebo. It dashed the hope raised by previous research.

Solanezumab is a mono-clonal antibody targeting excess amyloid in the brain. It was designed for patients considered to be at risk of Alzheimer's but who had not displayed symptoms of the disease.

Slowing memory loss by 10 years

Researchers were hopeful that doctors might eventually use positron emission tomography (PET scans) to locate beta amyloid as it begins to form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease 10 to 20 years before they show any symptoms of the disease.

The drug would then be administered, removing the harmful protein from the brain before it could begin to build up. Researchers were hopeful it might slow memory loss by at least 10 years.

"The results of the solanezumab EXPEDITION3 trial were not what we had hoped for and we are disappointed for the millions of people waiting for a potential disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer's disease," said John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly, in a written statement. "We will evaluate the impact of these results on the development plans for solanezumab and our other Alzheimer's pipeline assets."

Lechleiter also issued a statement to the Alzheimer's community in the video below, vowing his company would continue pursuing effective treatments.

Lilly said it would present further findings from the study at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease meeting in early December.

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Thanksgiving motorists to find falling gas prices

But prices are still slightly higher than last year

According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. When they stop to fuel up, they'll find relatively cheap pric...

PhotoAccording to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. When they stop to fuel up, they'll find relatively cheap prices at the pump, and the prices could be even cheaper on the return trip.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price at $2.13 a gallon, nearly a dime cheaper than a month ago, but six cents more than last Thanksgiving weekend. The price of diesel fuel is actually down from last year.

Gas prices are higher than last year because oil prices rose in September and October on the expectation that OPEC would agree to curtail production when it meets next week. That expectation has grown weaker in recent weeks, so the price of oil has slipped lower on huge supplies and declining demand.

Oklahoma has the cheapest gasoline prices in the nation. The statewide average there is $1.88 a gallon. It's $1.89 in Missouri and $1.91 in Kansas and Texas.

The most expensive gasoline is found in Hawaii, at $2.85 a gallon, followed by California at $2.68, and Washington and Alaska at $2.61.

Trend moving in the right direction

For motorists, the trend is moving in the right direction. The average price of fuel has fallen steadily since November 6 and drivers in 45 states and the District of Columbia are now paying less than they were last week.

The price should continue to fall throughout the holidays, with AAA predicting a national average price of $2 by the end of the year. Even now, the average price is below the $2 threshold in 12 states.

For Thanksgiving travelers, the Central Plains states will be the most economical region to drive. The Western states remain the most expensive. The Southeastern states have seen prices rise slightly in recent weeks but remain a bargain, with five states – Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee – among the ten lowest-priced states in the U.S.

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Why this Black Friday will be different from all others

There are a lot more deals and more time to buy them

The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.At a Walmart store...

PhotoThe year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.

At a Walmart store on Long Island, a huge, restive crowd had gathered outside in the chilly, early morning hours waiting for the doors to open. As an employee began to unlock the doors, the New York Daily News reported that the crowd wouldn't wait any longer, took the doors off their hinges, and trampled the 34-year old man to death while injuring four shoppers, including a pregnant woman.

The incident caused a lot of people to step back and reassess the absurd craziness that characterized the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season. While there will undoubtedly be isolated, and widely reported, cases of consumer incivility toward one another in pursuit of a bargain on Friday, hopefully there will be no fatalities.

Money and bargains were scarce

After all, there is no need for that. In 2008, not only was money scarce, so were the bargains. Retailers promoted doorbuster deals to draw a crowd but only had a limited number of items at that price. So if you showed up at 4:00 a.m. to get the latest video game console for $99, the people who got in line at 3:00 a.m. got the five units that were available at that price.

In recent years, retailers stocked a lot more of their Black Friday bargains and they began spreading out the times at which they were available. Stores started opening on Thanksgiving, though this year a large number have reversed that policy.

Stores have also made more of their Black Friday deals available online. Instead of spending time driving to the mall and going from store to store, shoppers can look for deals online from the comfort of their homes.

The deals have already started

It's no longer necessary to wait until Black Friday to find bargains, either online or in stores. In fact, Amazon is currently offering numerous sale prices during its Black Friday Deals Week. Walmart has also gotten started with its Pre-Black Friday Deals promotion.

Consumers also have a lot more information about deals than ever before. Retailers have leaked their Black Friday newspaper ads well in advance, which have been collected online at sites like BestBlackFriday.com, making it easier for consumers to find what they want, and at the price they are willing to pay, well ahead of time.

After Black Friday, consumers know they will still be able to find plenty of deals. There's Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both with non-stop deals.

So in a way, Black Friday is becoming just another busy holiday shopping day. Consumers jamming the aisles are not quite as desperate to latch onto that doorbuster bargain because they know they can probably find it somewhere else.

And that's probably a good thing. Safer, at least.

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An October dip in new home sales

Sales prices were mixed while inventories rose

Single-family sales slipped last month after rebounding in September from their August decline.The Commerce Department reports sales were down 1.9% to...

PhotoSingle-family sales slipped last month after rebounding in September from their August decline.

The Commerce Department reports sales were down 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 563,000. Even with that decline, sales were 17.8% ahead of the October 2015 pace of 478,000.

Robert Denk, a senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders told ConsumerAffairs that despite the volatility this is a good report, which continues a “solidly upward trend” in new home sales.

Inventory and pricing

More homes were available for sale at the end of the month. The seasonally adjusted estimate came in at 246,000, representing a supply of 5.2 months at the current sales rate. In September, there were 235,000 homes available, which translates to a supply of 4.8 months.

The median sales price of new houses sold in October was $304,500 up $5,800. The median is the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less. The average sales price was down $12,000 to $354,900.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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House prices modest gain in third quarter

Jobless claims were on the rise last week

The price of houses across the U.S. continued to gain in value during the third quarter.The Federal Housing Finance Age...

Photo
Photo (c) 3ddock - Fotolia

The price of houses across the U.S. continued to gain in value during the third quarter.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House Price Index (HPI) was up 1.5% in the July-August quarter and 6.1% percent from the third quarter of 2015 following an advance of 1.2% in the second quarter.

On a month-over-month basis, the HPI rose 0.6% in September from August.

“Our data indicate that the deceleration in home price growth that we observed in late spring proved to be short-lived,” said FHFA Supervisory Economist Andrew Leventis. “While price growth in select markets has cooled somewhat for the U.S. as a whole, the third quarter showed no evidence of a widespread slowdown.”

While the HPI rose 6.1% during last year's third quarter, prices of other goods and services were nearly unchanged. The inflation-adjusted price of homes rose approximately 6.0% over the last year.

The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Report highlights

  • Home prices rose in 49 states between the third quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016; Delaware and the District of Columbia were the only areas not to see price increases. The top five states in annual appreciation were: 1) Florida 10.7%; 2) Oregon 10.4%; 3) Washington 10.4%; 4) Colorado 10.0%; and 5) Utah 9.5%.
  • Among the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., annual price increases were greatest in Tacoma-Lakewood, Wash. (MSAD), where prices increased by 12.9%. Prices were weakest in New Haven-Milford, Conn., where they fell 1.7%.
  • Of the nine census divisions, the South Atlantic division experienced the strongest increase in the third quarter, posting a 1.8% quarterly increase and a 7.1% increase since the third quarter of last year. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England division, where prices rose 0.8% from the previous quarter.

The full report may be found on the FHFA website.

Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

First-time applications for state unemployment benefits blipped higher in the week preceding Thanksgiving.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims rose 18,000 in the week ending November 19 to a seasonally adjusted 251,000.

Even with that increase, initial claims have been below 300,000 for 90 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1970.

The four-week moving average, which many economists believe is a more accurate gauge of the economy because of its lack of volatility, came in at 251,000 -- down 2,000 from the previous week.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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Mortgage applications rebound

Contract interest rates rose to their highest levels in nearly a year

Mortgage applications surged last week following a sharp decline the week before.According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), applications rose...

PhotoMortgage applications surged last week following a sharp decline the week before.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), applications rose 5.5% in the week ending November 18, driven largely by purchase applications, which were up 13%.

“The increase in purchase activity was driven by borrowers seeking larger loans and that drove up the average loan amount on home purchase applications to $310 thousand, the highest in the survey, which dates back to 1990,” said Michael Fratantoni, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research & Technology at the MBA.

The Refinance Index fell 3% to its lowest level since January, with the refinance share of mortgage activity dropping to 58.2% of total applications from 61.9% the previous week.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 5.2% of total applications, the FHA share dipped to 11.7% from 12.2% a week earlier, the VA share was 12.5%, and the USDA share of total applications increased to 0.8% from 0.6% the week before.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) shot up 21 basis points -- from 3.95% to 4.16% -- its highest level since January, with points unchanged at 0.39 (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) surged to its highest level since January -- 4.04%, from 3.89% -- with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.26 (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 rose 17 basis points to 3.90%, its highest level since January, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs moved to its highest level since January -- 3.35%, from 3.15% -- with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs rose 13 basis points to 3.24%, its highest level since last December, with points decreasing to 0.28 from 0.42 (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.

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Omni Custom Meats recalls roasted chicken quarters

The product contains soy, an allergen not declared on the label

Omni Custom Meats of Bowling Green, Ky., is recalling approximately 191,695 pounds of marinated roasted chicken quarters.The product contains soy, an a...

PhotoOmni Custom Meats of Bowling Green, Ky., is recalling approximately 191,695 pounds of marinated roasted chicken quarters.

The product contains soy, an allergen not declared on the label.

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

The following item, produced from January 12 through November 15, 2016, is being recalled:

  • 5,477 cases of 35-lb. heat sealed bags containing 52 pieces of “Roasted Chicken Quarters – Sea Salt, Cane Juice, Chicken Broth Powder, Canola Powder, Spices.”

The recalled product, bearing establishment number P-2199 inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to distributors in Georgia and Missouri.

What to do

Consumers with questions may contact Curt Sullivan, plant owner at (270) 796-666.

 

 

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Taylor Farms recalls vegetable products containing Sabra products

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

The recall by Sabra Dipping of select hummus products has prompted Taylor Farms to recall products containing Sabra's recalled products.There are conce...

PhotoThe recall by Sabra Dipping of select hummus products has prompted Taylor Farms to recall products containing Sabra's recalled products.

There are concerns the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The firm has not received any reports of illnesses associated with these recalled items.

The recalled products are labeled “Taylor Farms Veggie and Hummus Bistro Boxes” and “Schnucks Vegetable and Hummus Snack Trays” containing Sabra Hummus Classic 2-oz. dipping cups.

The following products are being recalled:

Product DescriptionUPCUse By Dates
Taylor Farms Veggie & Hummus Bistro Box0 30223 01037 111/11/16 – 12/1/16
Schnucks Vegetable and Hummus Snack Tray0 41318 09193 911/18/16 & 11/23/16

Individual Sabra items and lot codes/”Best Before” dates, located on the lid or bottom of the dipping cups, may be found in the original Sabra recall.

The recalled products were distributed in Arkansas, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but dispose of them immediately.

Consumers may call (855) 455-0098 between 9 am and 5 pm (PST) Monday through Friday for further information.

 

 

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BRP recalls side-by-side off-road vehicles

The vehicle can lose steering control, posing a crash hazard

BRP U.S. of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 2,380 side-by-side off-road vehicles.The steering rack and pinion assembly can have an improper amount...

PhotoBRP U.S. of Sturtevant, Wis., is recalling about 2,380 side-by-side off-road vehicles.

The steering rack and pinion assembly can have an improper amount of grease and result in a loss of steering control, posing a crash hazard.

The firm has received 33 incident reports, including reports of intermittent or complete steering lock. No injuries are reported.

This recall involves model year 2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 side-by-side vehicles. The vehicles came in various colors. The model name and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is printed on a label under the glove box.

To determine if your vehicle is included in the recall, have your VIN (Vehicle identification Number) ready and contact your authorized Can-Am side-by-side dealer or BRP.

Recalled models include:

 

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 STD

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 XDS

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 XRS

The vehicles, manufactured in Mexico, were sold at Can-Am dealers nationwide from August 2016, through November 2016, for between $23,000 and $27,000.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a BRP Can-Am side-by-side dealer to schedule an appointment for a free repair. BRP is notifying registered consumers directly about this recall.

Consumers may contact BRP toll-free at 888-272-9222 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Sunday or online at www.can-am.brp.com and click on “Owner Center” and then “Recall Information” for more information.

 

 

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Holiday food deals to take advantage of this season

Prices on many items will hit rock bottom during November and December

Black Friday isn’t the only day consumers can snag a bargain. During the months of November and December, grocery stores lower the prices on items that are...

PhotoBlack Friday isn’t the only day consumers can snag a bargain. During the months of November and December, grocery stores lower the prices on items that are frequently used in holiday recipes.

Ingredients such as flour, chocolate chips, and condensed milk don’t have to be used in holiday cooking, of course; they can be used all year. So why not seize the opportunity to stock your pantry while holiday staples are available at a fraction of their regular price?

Items to stockpile

There are many items that are commonly reduced during the holiday season. Not all stores offer the same deals, but most stores tend to drop the prices on these items through December. For an even deeper discount, consider clipping coupons or using rebate apps
 
If you’re not sure you’ll be able to find a use for an item before it goes bad, blogger Missy Rakes points out that many items can be frozen and stored for later use. “Things like butter, chocolate chips, turkey and even diced onions can be frozen and kept for months,” Rakes wrote. Here are some items to look out for:
  • Flour ($1.25 per 5lb bag or .25 per lb)
  • Sugar ($1.50 per 4lb bag or less)
  • Baking Powder (.99 or less)
  • Chocolate Chips ($1.50 or less per 12 oz.)
  • Evaporated Milk (.60 or less)
  • Condensed Milk ($1.00 or less)
  • Baking Mixes ($1.00 or less)
  • Marshmallows ($1.00 or less)
  • Powdered Sugar (.99 or less)
  • Brown Sugar (.99 or less)
  • Nuts ($6.00 per lb or less)
  • Cocoa Powder ($2.00 per 8 oz or less)
  • Holiday Candy (varies)
  • Canned Vegetables (.50 or less)
  • Condensed Soups (.50 or less)
  • Canned Pumpkin ($1.00 or less)
  • Butter ($2.00 per lb or less)
  • Ham ($1.00 per lb or less)
  • Turkey ($1.00 per lb or less)
  • Sweet Potatoes (.33 per lb or less)
  • Baking Potatoes (.15 per lb or less)
  • Onions (.69 per lb or less)
  • Carrots ($1.00 per lb or less)
  • Stuffing Mix (.75 or less)
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Facebook Internet drone had a rough landing

The test flight of Aquila was hailed as a success despite 'substantial' damage

Facebook and the Wright Brothers have a lot in common: their initial flights didn't end too well."A sudden dart when out about 100 feet from the end of...

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What you should and shouldn't buy on Black Friday

Not everything is cheaper on the big day

The big day is almost here. Friday is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.But it's almost anti-climactic since retailers have been...

PhotoThe big day is almost here. Friday is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.

But it's almost anti-climactic since retailers have been rolling out Black Friday bargains since Halloween. Still, millions of consumers will crowd stores and go online over the long holiday weekend because there will, in fact, be some pretty spectacular deals.

But be warned. Not everything you can buy on Black Friday is going to be the best price. Personal finance site WalletHub has studied retail prices and found that 78% of items will have a lower price on Black Friday. But 17.3% will actually be more expensive on that day.

If you know what categories are likely to have the most deals you will be less likely to make a costly error. According to WalletHub, you'll do best shopping for video games, appliances, furniture, and computers on Black Friday. You are less likely to save if you buy jewelry, clothing, and consumer electronics.

Retailers with the best deals

When it comes to retailers, Ace Hardware, Big Lots, BJ's, Harbor Freight, and True Value have the largest percentage of low prices, when compared to the same item priced on Amazon prior to Black Friday.

William Joyce, a marketing professor at the Stern School of Business, told WalletHub that consumers should be sure to read the fine print on Black Friday deals, to make sure they understand what they're buying.

Among the best Black Friday deals it's seen so far, WalletHub suggests these may be worth checking out:

  • Samsung refrigerator, 24.5 cubic feet, $899, marked down from $1,347, at AAFES
  • Denon Soundbar with wireless subwoofer; $350, marked down from $557, at Best Buy
  • 15 foot arena trampoline, with basketball hoop, football game, basketball, and football; $250, marked down from $500, at BJ's
  • Kirkland Signature 42-inch mobile 16 drawer tool chest; $499, marked down from $900, at Costco.

A survey by Deloitte shows 79% of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, but an increasing number plan to do their shopping online. In fact, shoppers this year said they plan to spend 51% of the holiday budget online.

Consumers estimate they will spend $400 during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, up from $369 last year.

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Existing-home sales rise to highest level in nearly a decade

Prices were higher as well

Sales of previously-owned homes rose in October for the second month in a row and are now at their highest level since February 2007.The National Assoc...

PhotoSales of previously-owned homes rose in October for the second month in a row and are now at their highest level since February 2007.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- were up 2.0% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million.

Sales were higher in all major regions saw monthly.

A convincing autumn revival

"October's strong sales gain was widespread throughout the country and can be attributed to the release of the unrealized pent-up demand that held back many would-be buyers over the summer because of tight supply," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Buyers are having more success lately despite low inventory and prices that continue to swiftly rise above incomes."

The median existing-home price for all housing types was $232,200, up 6.0% from a year earlier, marking the 56th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Sales by region

  • Existing-home sales in the Northeast climbed 1.4% in October to an annual rate of 750,000 and are now 1.4% above a year ago. The median price was up 2.9% from a year earlier to $255,500.
  • In the Midwest, sales grew to an annual rate of 1.6 million, up 2.3 %, and are now 6.3% above a year ago. The median price of $181,500 is a gain of 5.8% from October 2015.
  • Sales in the South jumped 2.8% to an annual rate of 2.22 million, a year-over-year advance of 4.7%. The median price was $202,300, up 7.4% from a year ago.
  • Previously-owned homes in the West sold at an annual rate of 1.27 million, up 0.8% from September and 10.4% higher than the same time a year previous. The median price rose 7.8% from October 2015 to $345,800.
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Wayne Farms recalls ready-to-eat chicken breast products

Due to undercooking, bacterial pathogens may survive in the products

Wayne Farms of Oakwood, Ga., is recalling approximately 4,059 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.Due to undercooking, bacterial pathogens may surv...

PhotoWayne Farms of Oakwood, Ga., is recalling approximately 4,059 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.

Due to undercooking, bacterial pathogens may survives in the products.

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

The following ready-to-eat grilled chicken breast items, produced on August 1, 2016, and August 29, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 9-lb. foodservice bulk cases of “Fully Cooked Grilled Chicken Breast Fillets” with case code 22121.
  • 22.5-lb. foodservice bulk cases of “Fully Cooked Flame Grilled Chicken Breast Fillets” with case code 22423.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 45411” or “P-45411” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail stores in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions may contact Wayne Farms at 1-800-241-3110. 

 

 

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Stop! Don't wash your turkey!

You're going to cook it, so it's not necessary to give it a bath first

If you take a good look at the living conditions of the average American turkey, chances are you'll want to grab your Thanksgiving bird and give it a good...

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Strikes at O'Hare and other airports postponed until after the holidays

Workers didn't want to complicate fliers' travel plans

Last week, we reported that hundreds of low-wage workers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago were poised to go on strike this week. Nearly 2,000 emp...

PhotoLast week, we reported that hundreds of low-wage workers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago were poised to go on strike this week. Nearly 2,000 employees – ranging from baggage handlers to security guards and cleaning staff – had voted on a walk-out over low wages, unpaid overtime, and retaliation against union organizers.

Many worried that the strike would affect consumers looking to fly for Thanksgiving, but now it seems that holiday air travelers won’t have to worry. ABC7 in Chicago reports that workers have decided to begin their protest the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, November 29.

Workers stated that they didn’t want to complicate plans for the nearly 22 million fliers looking to travel for the holidays. However, when the strike does finally start, they say that O’Hare won’t be the only airport affected. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has now said that almost 20 other airports will be joining in the strike, including big hubs like Newark International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.

“Workers will send a message to the major airlines that it’s time they take responsibility for their standards of service and care for the nearly two million passengers who travel through those major airports each day and for the workers whose dedication and hard work help to generate $36 billion in profits for the aviation industry,” SEIU officials said. 

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Safety tips to consider before buying holiday gifts for children

How to tell if the toy you're considering purchasing is right for the little one on your list

Will you be shopping for children this holiday season? If so, it’s important to make sure that the gifts you purchase are both safe and appropriate for the...

PhotoWill you be shopping for children this holiday season? If so, it’s important to make sure that the gifts you purchase are both safe and appropriate for the children to whom they’ll be given.

In their annual report of the year’s most dangerous toys, the child safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) recently noted that toy labels don’t always state whether the product has small pieces, pointed parts, or other dangers that may pose a risk to children of a certain age.
 

It’s critical for gift-givers with kids on their holiday shopping list to scrutinize toy labels, use common sense, and make sure that gifts are age-appropriate. Before purchasing a toy, Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program manager at Children’s Hospital, recommends first doing some research. 

Safety tips

“When shopping for children, it’s important to do your research on the safest toy options,” Unni said. “All toys should have an age recommendation on the packaging, and it’s important to read labels carefully, especially for children under age 3.”
 

In addition to making sure the child’s age falls within the product’s suggested ages, adults should look for quality construction and make sure labels on art supplies specify that the product is non-toxic.

To help those shopping for children this holiday season, the experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt released a few safety tips. Here’s what to do if you’ll be buying any of the following items for a child on your list.

  • Bike. If you’ll be buying a new bike for a child, don’t forget the helmet. A helmet should also accompany other riding toys, such as scooters or skateboards.
  • Electronics. Electronics often require button batteries, which are swallowed by more than 2,800 children every year. Keep lithium battery-controlled devices, such as remote controls, musical greeting cards, flashing holiday jewelry, and watches out of reach of children.
  • Television. Buying a new TV? Don’t forget the wall mount. TV tip-over fatalities happen more often than they should. Every three weeks, a child dies from an accident involving a tipped-over television. Keep kids safe by mounting heavy TVs.
  • Magnets. Avoid giving a child under 6 a building set with small magnets. If the child were to swallow these small magnets, serious injury or death could occur.
  • Marbles and balls. Avoid marbles and balls with a diameter of less than 1.75 inches. 
  • Projectile toys. Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and slingshots aren’t recommended for any age. But if you do choose to purchase them, they should be given to older children only.
  • BB guns. BB guns shouldn’t be considered toys. Children require proper training and supervision while using a BB gun.
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Exploding turkeys a seasonal hazard

Frozen turkeys and hot oil don't mix very well

We associate some holidays with certain risks -- fireworks on the 4th of July, heavy traffic on Memorial Day, and so forth. And now Thanksgiving has its ve...

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Deck the halls -- and all that jazz

Companies say they plan to spend more on holiday parties this year

Is the company you work throwing a holiday party this year? If so, chances are it'll be better than last year's.Challenger, Gray & Christmas says its a...

PhotoIs the company you work throwing a holiday party this year? If so, chances are it'll be better than last year's.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas says its annual survey finds that 80% of companies are planning parties this year, and that just over 21% will be spending more for them.

Chalk it up to a stable economy and rising corporate profits.

After dipping in the last of half of 2015, corporate profits are back above $1.6 trillion, according to government data. “Our survey suggests that employers are ready to spend some of those profits on their workers,” said John A. Challenger, the outplacement consultancy's CEO.

The Challenger survey was conducted in October among a small sampling of approximately 100 human resources executives, representing a variety of industries across the country.

More than 66% of those who responded said they'll be hiring caterers or event planners -- up 4% from last year. Firms are also allowing more guests at their parties: 42.9% will include spouses or family; just 31% did in 2015.

“Company holiday parties are a great way for employers to thank workers for a successful year,” said Challenger. “For employees, it’s a great way to meet and interact with co-workers and managers who are not part of one’s daily routine. If you happen to be attending the holiday party of a spouse or friend, it could be a great opportunity to network.”

Better behave

“In addition to the benefits, however, holiday parties can be fraught with risks, for both employers, employees, and guests,” Challenger warned. “The biggest risk, of course, is related to alcohol consumption.”

In fact, almost 62% of those responding to the survey said their holiday parties would include alcohol, versus 54% who said they would open the bar last year.

“Serving alcohol can make for a more celebratory mood, but it also has pitfalls, especially for employees and their guests. Company parties are not necessarily a time to let loose,” Challenger cautioned.

Just 20% of respondents said that their companies won't be having a party this year, 16% of which said they never do. The percentage of companies not having parties is on par with the percentage of companies not having parties a year ago.

Tips for partiers

OK party animals, here are some guidelines from Challenger for getting the most out of your attendance:

  • Arrive early -- This might be your best opportunity to talk with senior executives while things are still relatively quiet.
  • Work the room -- It's easy to simply socialize with the members of your department, with whom you work with day in and day out. However, you gain if you use this occasion to meet people in other departments. You never know who can help your career.
  • Do NOT over-indulge -- Free booze can quickly lead to excessive drinking. Stay in control. You do not want to do anything that will embarrass you or your employer. Even if your alcohol-induced actions don't get you fired, they could hurt your chances for advancement.
  • Be friendly, but not too friendly -- The company party is not the place to try out your latest pick-up lines. The risk of such behavior being seen as sexual harassment is high.
  • Avoid talking business -- This isn't the time to approach your boss with a new business idea. Save that for Monday morning. Instead, find out about his or her interests outside of the office. Find a connection on a personal level. That connection may help you on Monday when you bring up the new idea and it could help when it comes time for salary reviews.
  • Attend other companies’ parties -- Fifty-two percent of company parties are employees only. If a friend invites you to his or her company party, you should go. It's an opportunity to expand your professional network, which is critical in this era of downsizing and job switching.
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Feds reverse course, increase oversight of Wells Fargo

Office of Comptroller of the Currency must approve any senior leadership changes

A federal regulator has revoked its earlier position and will increase its oversight of Wells Fargo, adding to the fallout from the bank's fake accounts sc...

PhotoA federal regulator has revoked its earlier position and will increase its oversight of Wells Fargo, adding to the fallout from the bank's fake accounts scandal.

The Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a brief statement, saying the bank must now get OCC approval for any changes to its board of directors and senior leadership. Specifically, the OCC said it must approve any senior executive severance packages, known in the business as “golden parachutes.”

In early September, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $100 million fine for secretly opening checking and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge. Federal regulators who brought the enforcement action claimed the bank did that so it could meet its sales quota for new accounts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said the bank employees, under pressure to meet targets and earn sales incentives, opened more than two million unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.

Largest CFPB fine ever

“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said at the time. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed.”

The bank responded by firing 5,300 employees it said were responsible for the fake accounts, but lawmakers and regulators began looking more closely at the executive suite.

The heat fell squarely on Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who was hauled before several Congressional committees to endure tongue lashings from a number of outraged lawmakers. Stumpf eventually announced his early retirement in an effort to quell the furor. The OCC announcement suggests the furor still has room to run.

Meanwhile, business at Wells Fargo has fallen dramatically. Fortune reported late last week that new accounting openings “fell off a cliff” in October. Checking account openings were down 44% from October 2015. New credit card accounts were down 50%. New CEO Tim Sloan said the decline in new accounts was expected.

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Countdown to Black Friday is underway

Here are some last minute tips for finding bargains

Coming up at the end of the week is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. But chances are consumers have already done some of their sho...

PhotoComing up at the end of the week is the official kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. But chances are consumers have already done some of their shopping. And even for those who plan to shop the day after Thanksgiving, there's less and less need to get up early and wait for a store to open.

Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer (CMO) at Eyeview, calls Black Friday “buy nothing day,” saying doorbuster deals are no longer grabbing consumers' attention. He suggests consumers should stay home Friday morning.

Phil Dengler, principal at shopping site BestBlackFriday.com, agrees that there are plenty of deals available right now, saying consumers need to stay alert. He notes that Amazon, Kohl's, Toys R Us, and other retailers have already started their online sales, so the deals are available right now.

But Dengler says consumers will have to wait until Wednesday night or Thanksgiving to find the biggest bargains.

“One thing we highly recommend is for everyone to download the apps for their favorite store,” Dengler told ConsumerAffairs. “While this was important last year, its value is growing even more for 2016. In addition to early access for some stores, the apps are a great way to get alerted when deals go live. Since online doorbusters are so competitive, time is of the essence for every online Black Friday deal. We recommend the apps from Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.”

For shoppers going the brick-and-mortar route, Dengler says Thanksgiving will be the biggest day for deals. He says Walmart and other retailers will hand out wristbands for some of their top doorbusters, which will encourage consumers to arrive at stores before the doors open. Here's the site's pick for the top 25 Black Friday deals.

Not everything's cheap on Black Friday

It's long been known that, while there are some pretty good deals on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is not the best day to shop for everything. For example, if the item isn't included in the advertised specials, it's probably selling at its regular retail price on Black Friday.

The Washington Post reports an analysis of price data shows the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is the best time to shop for clothes and the best deals on electronics will be found on Thanksgiving, either at stores that are open or online. Shopping for toys? You might be better off waiting until Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday, after all, is threatening to eclipse Black Friday as a shopping day. In the days of dial-up internet service, many consumers would wait until they returned to work on Monday to make purchases, using their employers' broadband connections. As more holiday spending has moved online, retailers have used Cyber Monday as a time to roll out some of their best promotions.

Not deterred by cyber threats

Even people who have had a bad experience with cyber thieves will not be deterred from shopping online, according to a survey by TransUnion. The survey found 76% of shoppers who were victims of a holiday season hack might be fearful of the risks, but 94% said they still plan to shop for Cyber Monday deals.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) projects more than 137 million consumers will shop in one way or the other during the long Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday weekend. No doubt more sales will come online this year than last, driven largely by young people.

“For many millennials, every Thanksgiving weekend they can remember has involved hopping online to find the best deals,” said Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “For this group, it’s more than just a weekend of good deals, it’s a holiday tradition.”

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Three good hotel rewards credit cards

The Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express tops the list

Not all travel rewards credit cards are alike. In addition to the variety of perks they offer, they tend to also reward different kinds of travel.An ai...

PhotoNot all travel rewards credit cards are alike. In addition to the variety of perks they offer, they tend to also reward different kinds of travel.

An airline card rewards frequent flying. A gasoline card provides extra cash back when you fill up. And a hotel credit card can give you a free night's stay here and there. Sometimes, it can give you a lot more.

When it comes to hotel credit cards, the card comparison site CreditCards.com singles out the Starwood Preferred Guest card as number one in its class. It sets itself apart with its flexibility.

It not only provides hotel perks, its points can be transferred to more than 30 airline loyalty programs, usually without any loss of points. And because Starwood points are generally worth more than other card points, cardholders usually get more bang for their buck.

All about flexibility

"To me, a good rewards card is all about flexibility," says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. "While the Starwood card doesn't have the flashiest sign-up bonus in the bunch, it does give cardholders plenty of options beyond just free hotel nights."

Starwood Hotels is owned by Marriott and operates more than 1,200 hotels under 11 brands, including Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis.

New cardholders earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 during the first three months the account is active. There's a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.

Other options

CreditCards.com also likes the Hilton HHonors Reserve credit card from Citi. New cardholders get rewarded with two free weekend nights at a Hilton hotel after spending $2,500 in the card's first four months.

Cardholders also receive an extra weekend night certificate every year when they spend at least $10,000. Other perks include trip cancellation and interruption protection, lost baggage insurance, and other extra insurance benefits.

“The only downside is Hilton points tend to be worth significantly less than the average card rewards point,” CreditCards.com says.

A third alternative is the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature card. CreditCards.com is impressed with its initial sign-up bonus – 50,000 points with the first purchase and 35,000 more after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days.

Cardholders can also earn 40,000 points and a free night every year if they spend $10,000 or more. But just like the Hilton HHonors Reserve card, the points provided by the Club Carlson card tend to be valued less than the industry average.

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Symantec acquiring LifeLock for $2.3 billion

Deal helps Symantec expand beyond computer software products

A major software security firm is buying a leading identify theft prevention service. Symantec, which produces Norton anti-virus software, is acquiring Lif...

A major software security firm is buying a leading identify theft prevention service. Symantec, which produces Norton anti-virus software, is acquiring LifeLock in a deal valued at $2.3 billion.

The boards of directors of both companies have already signed off but LifeLock shareholders will have the final say. Assuming they approve and other customary closing conditions are met, the deal should close in the first quarter of next year.

The acquisition marks the continued expansion of Symantec beyond the traditional anti-virus software products that fueled its initial growth. In an interview with Reuters, Symantec CEO Greg Clark said sales of Norton products have faced headwinds in recent years because of a decline in the number of personal computers in homes and offices.

Symantec said its acquisition of LifeLock will combine a leader in consumer security with a leading provider of identity protection and remediation services. It says the result will be the world’s largest consumer security business, providing a wide ranges of services and earning over $2.3 billion a year in estimated revenue.

New dimension to protection

“People’s identity and data are prime targets of cybercrime. The security industry must step up and defend through innovation and vigilance,” said Dan Schulman, Symantec Chairman. “With the acquisition of LifeLock, Symantec adds a new dimension to its protection capabilities to address the expanding needs of the consumer marketplace.”

There's little question that protecting against cyber crime is a growth industry. An estimated one-third of U.S. consumer have been victims of some sort of hack. As consumer concern about the threat grows, the industry has expanded its services.

LifeLock offers identify theft services, checking clients' credit for new account openings and credit applications. It also offers services to help consumers recover from an identity theft.

In the previous decade some of its marketing practices ran afoul of federal regulators. As recently as last year the Federal Trade Commission charged that Lifelock violated a 2010 settlement in which it agreed to stop making deceptive claims about its identity theft protection service.

For its part, LifeLock sees a merger with one of the largest computer security firms as a win-win for both companies. LifeLock CEO Hilary Schneider says the combined companies can deploy enhanced technology and analytics to improve services to consumers.

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La Quercia recalls dried pork products

The products are insufficiently dehydrated, which could lead to an outgrowth of harmful bacteria

La Quercia of Norwalk, Iowa, is recalling approximately 932 pounds of cured, dried pork loin products.The products are insufficiently dehydrated, which...

PhotoLa Quercia of Norwalk, Iowa, is recalling approximately 932 pounds of cured, dried pork loin products.

The products are insufficiently dehydrated, which could lead to an outgrowth of harmful bacteria.

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

The following whole and sliced pork loin items, produced between June 3, 2016, and Nov. 2, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 2.65-lb. vacuum-sealed package containing one piece of “LOMO AMERICANO” with a best by date of 11/08/17 and lot #Z16D04V115516.
  • 2.65-lb. vacuum-sealed package containing one piece of “LOMO AMERICANO” with a best by date of 10/31/17 and lot #Z16D04V116016.
  • 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/07/17 and lot #P17B07C128416.
  • 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/21/17 and lot #P17B21C129816.
  • 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/18/17 and lot #P17B18C129516.
  • 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 03/02/17 and lot # P17C02C130716.
  • 1.5-lb. package containing 20 slices of “SLICED LOMO AMERICANO. 2oz” with a best by date of 02/28/17 and lot #P17B28C130516.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 31797” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors and retail locations in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.

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 Stephanie Bates at (515) 981-1625. 

 

 

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Morty Pride Meats recalls pork barbeque products

The products contain soy, an allergen not declared on the label

Morty Pride Meats of Fayetteville, N.C., is recalling approximately 237,891 pounds of pork barbeque products.The products were produced with Worcesters...

PhotoMorty Pride Meats of Fayetteville, N.C., is recalling approximately 237,891 pounds of pork barbeque products.

The products were produced with Worcestershire containing soy, an allergen not declared on the finished product label.

There have been no confirmed reports of illness, injury, or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

The recalled items, produced and packaged from November 15, 2014, through November 11, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 5-lb. of vacuum sealed bags of “Morty Pride Pork Barbeque, Electronically Cooked.”
  • 12-oz of plastic cups of “Morty Pride Premium Pork Barbeque, Electronically Cooked.”

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 6668” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to institutions and retail locations in North Carolina and South Carolina.

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 Mickey Hudson at (910) 483-6004.

 

 

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Model year 2016 Dodge Darts recalled

The windshield wiper circuit may fail

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 53,155 model year 2016 Dodge Darts manufactured April 13, 2015, to June 7, 2016.Due to voltage spikes caused by a pr...

PhotoChrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 53,155 model year 2016 Dodge Darts manufactured April 13, 2015, to June 7, 2016.

Due to voltage spikes caused by a problem within the windshield washer pump, the windshield wiper circuit may fail.

Without functioning windshield wipers, the driver's visibility may be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the windshield washer pumps, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 19, 2016.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S83.

 

 

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Sabra recalls various hummus products

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Sabra Dipping Co. is recalling numerous hummus products made prior to November 8, 2016.There are concerns over Listeria monocytogenes, which was identi...

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Postcard from the Amalfi Coast

The scenery and culture can take your breath away, but you might want to hold it while traveling

What’s it like to travel the beautiful Amalfi Coast? Exhilarating and thrilling are words that come to mind.Located along the southern coast of Italy,...

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DraftKings and FanDuel agree to merge

Companies say it will save money, better serve players

The two largest daily fantasy sports (DFS) enterprises, DraftKings and FanDuel, have agreed to merge. The transaction is expected to close next year, the c...

PhotoThe two largest daily fantasy sports (DFS) enterprises, DraftKings and FanDuel, have agreed to merge. The transaction is expected to close next year, the companies said in a release.

The merger was not unexpected. Both companies have spent the last 18 months in the crosshairs of various state attorneys general, most notably Eric Schneiderman of New York, who sued the companies for violating the state's gambling laws.

The companies said the merger will enable them to better serve customers, who pay money to enter a team of actual sports players, winning points based on how those players perform in actual games. Winners can receive large cash prizes.

But the merger undoubtedly will help both enterprises control costs, which rose when they were forced to mount legal defenses in a number of states and later on to lobby various state legislatures for legal exemptions from gambling laws.

The companies from the beginning maintained they were exempt from gambling laws because their games were classified as games of skill, not chance. Many states took issue with that interpretation.

“We have always been passionate about providing the best possible experience for our customers and this merger will help advance our goal of building a transformational global sports entertainment platform,” said DraftKings CEO Jason Robins. “Joining forces will allow us to truly realize the potential of our vision, and as a combined company we will be able to accelerate the pace of innovation and bring a richer experience to our customers than we ever could have done separately.”

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Rating retailers on eliminating chemicals

Walmart rated highest, Amazon rated lowest

A report by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, an advocacy group, rates major retailers on steps they have taken to eliminate toxic chemicals from the produ...

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NFL agrees to stop setting ticket price floors

Settlement with New York ends a practice that had driven up ticket prices

The National Football League has agreed to end a mandatory ticket price floor policy that had driven up ticket prices for fans. The agreement is the result...

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Survey: One in 25 motorists drive while drowsy

Highways in the cental U.S. see the most sleep-related fatalities

“Asleep at the wheel” is an old expression to suggest that someone isn't paying attention. But all too often it literally happens on the nation's highways,...

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Study raises new health questions about teen use of e-cigarettes

Researchers link e-cigarettes to persistent cough

Health officials have always been worried about teen smoking. Getting hooked on nicotine early in life makes it harder to quit later on and can lead to hea...

PhotoHealth officials have always been worried about teen smoking. Getting hooked on nicotine early in life makes it harder to quit later on and can lead to health problems down the road.

When e-cigarettes were introduced to the marketplace, they drew the same kind of concern, as statistics showed teens were among the early adopters. While there is no tobacco in an e-cigarette, there is nicotine, and health activists worried that teens who used the devices would gravitate to cigarettes later on.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently reported that teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than smoke tobacco. By eighth grade, it says only 3.6% had started smoking but 9.5% were using e-cigarettes. By 12th grade, it found more than 16% were using e-cigarettes.

But being a gateway to tobacco is not the only concern about these nicotine delivery systems. New research suggests even those who don't later start lighting up can be damaging their health by inhaling the nicotine-laden vapor.

Persistent cough and bronchitis

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) say they have found an association between e-cigarettes and development of a persistent cough, bronchitis, and congestion or phlegm in the young people who use them.

“E-cigarettes are known to deliver chemicals toxic to the lungs, including oxidant metals, glycerol vapor, diketone flavoring compounds and nicotine,” said lead author Dr. Rob McConnell. “However, there has been little study of the chronic health effects of e-cigarettes.”

The study compared kids who had used e-cigarettes to those who had never tried “vaping.” It found that young people who had used e-cigarettes in the past were 85% more likely to exhibit respiratory symptoms. Current users were twice as likely.

“The Food and Drug Administration recently banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 years of age, and California just prohibited sale to young adults under 21,” McConnell said. “Our results suggest that these regulations and an environment that discourages the initiation of any tobacco product may reduce the burden of chronic respiratory symptoms in youth.

But because e-cigarettes are relatively new, McConnell said he believes they need additional study so doctors can better understand their long-term effects.

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McDonald's outlines plans to modernize

Ordering kiosks, mobile payments, and table service part of the future

McDonald's executives have outlined sweeping changes planned for the fast food franchise, designed to reduce staffing needs while streamlining and moderniz...

PhotoMcDonald's executives have outlined sweeping changes planned for the fast food franchise, designed to reduce staffing needs while streamlining and modernizing the operation.

At press briefings in New York and Los Angeles, McDonald's said it is adding ordering kiosks to restaurants, installing “smart” menu boards, implementing mobile payments capabilities to its app, and will begin offering custom sandwiches and table service.

The moves are designed to update McDonald's business model, along the lines of Panera Bread and Chick-Fil-A, both of which now bring food to customers' tables after they order.

Reuters reports that about 500 of McDonald's 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. have already made some of the changes – notably stores in New York, Florida, and California. The company stopped short of giving a time frame for the changes to be implemented, but said outlets in Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco are next on the list.

Mobile roll-out in 2017

Mobile ordering will be a pilot project in the first half of next year in select markets, with a full national roll-out anticipated in the second half of 2017.

The ordering kiosks, which are estimated to cost franchisees as much as $60,000, will likely reduce the number of employees a McDonald's restaurant will need to operate. The company has borne the brunt of labor pressure to increase the hourly wage of fast-food workers.

As we reported earlier this year, McDonald's franchises have been experimenting with changes that the company may or may not have been considering for incorporation into its system. A Missouri franchise owner built a 6,500 square foot store and outfitted it with upholstered furniture. Interestingly, he also experimented with all-you-can-eat French fries. At the time, it suggested the 61-year old company is open to new ideas.

Not a new idea

As for ordering kiosks, this is hardly a new idea for the golden arches. In early 2015, McDonald's told financial analysts that ordering kiosks were on the way. Other quick serve restaurants have successfully used these kiosks, and McDonald's may be looking at them as a way to deal with the pressure to increase employee wages.

Part of the pressure to raise wages likely stems from recent structural changes in the economy. Many fast food restaurants created jobs designed to be filled by teenagers living at home.

But because so many jobs have recently disappeared from the economy, that's not always who's standing behind the counter these days.

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This year, Amazon introduces 'voice shopping'

With Black Friday a week away, Amazon looks for a new wrinkle

With Black Friday just a week away, retailers are beginning to add to the build-up. After rolling out a number of pre-Black Friday deals, Amazon is introdu...

PhotoWith Black Friday just a week away, retailers are beginning to add to the build-up. After rolling out a number of pre-Black Friday deals, Amazon is introducing bargains that are only available if you order on it's voice interactive technology, Alexa.

Today through Monday, consumers who ask “Alexa, what are your deals?” will get access to an exclusive set of discounts on popular gift items. Consumers may order with voice commands on Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire HD tablet, or Amazon Fire TV.

“This is the first holiday that Prime members will be able to use their voice to shop and we’re excited to offer exclusive deals they won’t find anywhere else,” said Assaf Ronen, Amazon's vice-president for Voice Shopping. “Voice shopping with Alexa takes the hassle out of the holidays, giving customers the ability to order from millions of items simply by saying the word.”

New deals each day

Ronen says the voice-only deals will be updated each day during the promotion.

Amazon says the Alexa-only deals will include $80 off a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV; $30 off on a Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App controlled robot; $80 off on Beyerdynamic Limited Edition headphones; and $130 off on a 10-piece All-Clad stainless steel cookware set.

Similar to Apple's Siri, Alexa is the voice service that powers Echo, providing capabilities that allow users to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice commands.

While consumers no doubt will take part in Black Friday sales in great numbers this year, the numbers may continue to diminish as more sales move online and retailers spread their bargains over a wider timeframe.

Black Friday shopping tips

Whenever consumers do their shopping, Ash Exantus, Financial Empowerment Coach at BankMobile, suggests shoppers make a list and holiday budget to avoid overspending. He also suggests leaving your plastic at home and using cash instead. He says that will ensure you stick to your budget and avoid getting caught up in Black Friday's emotional appeal.

“Shopping, especially on Black Friday, is psychological warfare,” Exantus said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “You are literally in a battle between you and your pockets vs. retailers and marketers.”

It's called Black Friday for a reason, Exantus says. It's the day when retailers get into the black for the year, often at consumers' expense.

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Spoiler Alert aims to reduce food waste by recycling surplus food

The startup finds uses for leftover food by facilitating connections between companies

Here in the U.S., an estimated 40% of food goes uneaten. Now, a new startup called Spoiler Alert is making strides toward mitigating the problem of food wa...

PhotoHere in the U.S., an estimated 40% of food goes uneaten. Now, a new startup called Spoiler Alert is making strides toward mitigating the problem of food waste and hunger in America. Aiding its efforts: a partnership with Sysco corporation and $2.5 million in funding.

The Boston-based company is seeking to reduce waste by helping food and beverage companies make use of their leftovers. Making mutually beneficial connections -- for instance, by helping a food producer coordinate with a food bank -- is one way Spoiler Alert prevents food from going to waste.
 

It coordinates these connections using cloud-based software, CEO Ricky Ashenfelter recently told TechCrunch. “We offer the relevant accounting and reporting systems to capture tax benefits and document important financial, environmental, and social metrics,” Spoiler Alert explained on its website.

Selling imperfect produce  

The platform also aims to keeps cosmetically imperfect, but otherwise good, produce from ending up in landfills. Consumers might not naturally reach for “ugly” produce, but some companies (such as juice or soup makers) don’t need perfect-looking fruits and vegetables in order to make their product.
 
Spoiler Alert is essentially a “secondary marketplace for wholesale food,” Ashenfelter said, adding that the company will use its recently-raised funding to put its services on the radars of food producers and nonprofits in every major, metropolitan area in the U.S.
 

The CEO said he hopes Spoiler Alert will eventually help food and beverage companies get rid of organic waste in every sustainable way possible. He also hopes to obtain the resources to allow prepared food from restaurants and catering services to be donated instead of thrown out. 

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Seasonal jobs are still available

We have some tips to aid you in your job search

With Black Friday just a week away, you might think it's too late to look for a seasonal job. However, Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&C;) says you'd be w...

PhotoWith Black Friday just a week away, you might think it's too late to look for a seasonal job. However, Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&C;) says you'd be wrong.

While it's true that most retailers have completed their hiring of temporary workers, you shouldn't throw in the towel, just yet.

“It is never too late to find holiday jobs,” said CG&G; chief executive officer John A. Challenger. “There is a lot of churn in the sectors that typically hire seasonal workers and because employers are often hiring a lot workers in a short amount of time, there is a strong chance that many of those new workers will not pan out.”

The hiring continues

In its September forecast, the global outplacement firm predicted holiday hiring will remain flat from a year ago. Should that be on the money, about 740,000 seasonal workers will be added to retail payrolls in the final three months of the year.

The bulk of this hiring typically occurs in late October and early November, and is usually reflected in the government's December employment report.

“That being said, we continue to see hiring in late November and into early December,” said Challenger. “On average, retail employment has grown by an average of 145,000 over the last five years. It is important to remember that these figures don’t include seasonal job gains outside of the retail sector. Job seekers can also be looking for holiday jobs in hotels, restaurants, catering companies, and warehouse and shipping facilities.”

The primary reason to not give up on the holiday job search is that the sectors that have the strongest need for seasonal workers are also those that typically see the highest turnover.

A 2014 report from the Hay Group, a management consulting firm, indicated that the turnover rate in the retail industry averaged 66% for part-time hourly sales associates.

Last year in the hospitality industry -- another major employer of seasonal workers -- the turnover rate averaged 72%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“These high turnover rates, which are likely to be even higher among seasonal workers, mean that job seekers pursuing holiday employment should not hesitate to return to employers where they previously failed to get a job offer. The situation can change overnight,” said Challenger.

What to do

Challenger offers the following tips for holiday job-seekers:

  • Visit employers in person. It is tempting to conduct a job search from behind the computer screen. However, many retailers will not post their seasonal jobs online -- particularly smaller mom and pop stores.
  • Return to previous attempts. Don’t hesitate to go back to employers where you might have failed to get a job. Staffing needs may have changed or they may have lost one or more seasonal workers.
  • Think outside the (big) box. Retailers undoubtedly have the strongest need for seasonal workers, but don’t overlook entertainment venues, restaurants, caterers, and other businesses that are busy during the holidays. And, since more shoppers buy online, shipping companies like UPS and FedEx have enormous demand for seasonal workers.
  • Be flexible. The most challenging jobs to fill are those with overnight or early morning positions dedicated to receiving new shipments and restocking floors. If you're willing to work any hours thrown your way you'll have a leg up on the competition.
  • Start with places you shop/visit. If you're a frequent customer at a particular store or restaurant, start your job search there. Even if you don't have a “relationship” with the manager or staff, they are likely to recognize you as a regular, which may give you an advantage.
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Model year 2016 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees recalled

The vehicles may leak fuel

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 30,183 model year 2016 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured February 10, 2016, to April 28, 2016 and equ...

PhotoChrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 30,183 model year 2016 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured February 10, 2016, to April 28, 2016 and equipped with a 3.6L engine built at the Saltillo engine plant.

During assembly of the engine, the fuel rail crossover tube may have been damaged, which, over time, may result in a fuel leak.

A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source, can increase the risk of a fire.

What to do

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the engine assembly for damage to the fuel rail crossover tube, replacing it as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 19, 2016.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S85.

 

 

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Skidders Footwear recalls children’s shoes

Rivets on the shoes have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard

Skidders Footwear of New York is recalling about 5,500 pairs of children’s shoes.The rivets on the shoes have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard....

PhotoSkidders Footwear of New York is recalling about 5,500 pairs of children’s shoes.

The rivets on the shoes have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard.

The firm has received three reports of the rivets scratching the feet of the wearer. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Skidders Footwear children’s canvas tennis shoes sold in three sizes: 12M, 18M and 24M.

The shoes have white rubber bottoms and come in three different colors: navy blue fabric with orange rivets and laces, gray fabric with green rivets and laces, and denim colored fabric with pink rivets and laces.

The shoes, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Meijer stores located in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin from August 2016, through October 2016, for about $10.

What to do

Consumers should immediately take the recalled shoes away from children and contact Skidders Footwear to receive a full refund.

Consumers may contact Skidders at 866-636-1221, Monday-Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (EST), by email at sales@skidders.com or online at http://skidders.com/ and click on “recall notice at the bottom of the page.

 

 

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Marine Agrifuture recalls Kahuku Ogo, Robusta Ogo and Kahuku Sea Asparagus

The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

Marine Agrifuture of Kahuku, Hawaii, is recalling its Kahuku Ogo, “Robusta Ogo” and "Kahuku Sea Asparagus.The products may be contaminated with Salmone...

PhotoMarine Agrifuture of Kahuku, Hawaii, is recalling its Kahuku Ogo, “Robusta Ogo” and "Kahuku Sea Asparagus.

The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Fourteen cases of Salmonella on Oahu have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The recalled products were distributed mainly in Hawaii to Seafood and Produce Distributors through direct delivery, but also to some customers in California, Washington, Nevada, and Tokyo, Japan, and were sold at local Farmers Markets in Hawaii.

The Ogo products come in plastic bags of various weights from 0.5 lb., to 35 lb., which were sold from November 2, 2016, and prior.

The Sea Asparagus, in 4-oz, 1-lb. clear plastic clamshell or in a 5-lb. plastic bag marked with a tracking number stamped on the lids or bags, were sold from November 8, 2016 and prior. The corresponding UPC numbers for 4-oz., 1-lb., and 5-lb., of sea asparagus are 897680001010, 897680001027 and 897680001041, respectively.

What to do

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

 

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 808-779-2885, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday – Friday (Hawaiian time).

 

 

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General Motors recalls Cadillac XT5s and GMC Acadias

The vehicles may leak brake fluid

General Motors is recalling 1,844 model year 2017 Cadillac XT5s manufactured April 16, 2016, to May 9, 2016, and 2017 GMC Acadias manufactured April 19, 20...

PhotoGeneral Motors is recalling 1,844 model year 2017 Cadillac XT5s manufactured April 16, 2016, to May 9, 2016, and 2017 GMC Acadias manufactured April 19, 2016, to April 22, 2016.

The front brake calipers may have a torn or misaligned caliper piston seal which may allow brake fluid to leak.

A brake fluid leak could reduce braking performance, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front brake calipers, replacing the brake caliper assemblies, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact GM customer service at 1-800-458-8006 (Cadillac), or 1-800-462-8782 (GMC). GM's number for this recall is 16096.

 

 

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Pipeline magnate has close ties with Texas institutions

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, wields an outsized influence in local and national politics

Earlier this month, nearly 100 people gathered in Texas’ state capital to demand that a billionaire oil pipeline operator resign from his post on the Texas...

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GOP to FCC: Take the rest of the term off

Do nothing complex or controversial, the agency is told

It's not Jan. 20, 2017 yet and Barack Obama is still president of the United States, but Republican senators want the Federal Communications Commission to...

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The 10 most dangerous toys of 2016

Child safety group WATCH says there are hidden dangers in some of the year's most popular toys

In an effort to keep parents from unknowingly purchasing a toy that could harm their child, the child safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH)...

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What's your automotive IQ?

Unless you're a Baby Boomer living in the south, it might not be that high

In your father's or grandfather's generation, consumers prided themselves on being able to perform simple – and not so simple – maintenance on their cars....

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Retailer group rebels against Visa network

Claims new EMV terminals steer debit purchases to more expensive network

The nation's retailers appear to be renewing their feud with credit card companies over the fees they charge for processing credit and debit purchases....

PhotoThe nation's retailers appear to be renewing their feud with credit card companies over the fees they charge for processing credit and debit purchases.

Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Justice Department motion that the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals hear its case against American Express. The government maintains American Express is still blocking retailers from suggesting customers use a different card, in violation of the law.

Now, the NRF has sent a letter to Visa, asking that it stop using new EMV terminals to steer debit card transactions to its own processing network, which NRF says is more expensive for retailers to use.

In a letter to Visa CEO Charles W. Scharf, NRF points out the Federal Reserve has said Visa's action run counter to the law.

More expensive choice

NRF complains that many credit/debit card readers installed since the card industry began implementing new EMV chip card technology present debit card users with a screen that asks them to choose between “Visa Debit” and “U.S. Debit.”

Though they don't know it, when consumers choose Visa Debit, their transaction is routed over Visa's more expensive network. Instead of a PIN, the consumer is usually required to use only a signature to approve the transaction.

On the other hand, when a consumer chooses the U.S. Debit option, NRF says the transaction goes over the retailer’s choice from about a dozen competing networks that charge merchants less but provide more protection by allowing the use of a secret, secure PIN.

“Visa charges more and offers less security while the competition charges less and does a better job of keeping consumers’ debit cards safe,” NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan wrote.

Retailers say they should choose

Duncan says retailers should be allowed to choose the processor that provides the best value and offers their customers the best protection. He says that's what the law requires.

Why should consumers care? NRF says when costs rise for retailers, those costs get passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.

NRF claims Visa is steering transactions toward the Visa network, and that the higher fees charged by Visa must be built into the cost of merchandise, ultimately contributing to higher prices paid by consumers.

The organization says the Fed ruled in early November that Visa's actions violate a 2010 debit card reform law that says retailers must be allowed to choose between at least two unaffiliated networks to process debit transactions.

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A home-building explosion in October

The future also shows promise

It's almost as if you could hear the hammering and earth-moving without let-up last month.Figures released by the Commerce Department show construction...

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Rising gasoline prices push October consumer prices higher

Initial jobless claims fall to lowest level since '73

Gasoline prices shot higher last month, bringing with them the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI).The  Department of La...

Photo
Photo (c) zimmytws - Fotolia
Gasoline prices shot higher last month, bringing with them the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The  Department of Labor (DOL) reports prices were up a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in October and have jumped 1.6% over the last 12 months.

As was the case in September, rising gasoline and housing costs were behind the increase in the CPI. The 7.0% surge in the cost of gas accounted for more than half of the increase. Housing prices rose 0.4% for a second straight month.

Energy prices post significant gain

The cost of energy, due largely to the aforementioned increase in gas prices, was up 3.5% last month -- the sharpest advance since February 2013. Fuel oil costs rose 5.9%, while electricity and natural gas prices rose 0.4% and 0.9%, respectively.

Over the last 12 months, energy prices are up just 0.1%, the first 12-month increase since August 2014.

Food prices hold steady

The cost of food was unchanged in October for the fourth straight month. The food away from home category (restaurant costs ) inched up 0.1%, while food at home (groceries) fell 0.2%, the sixth decline in as many months

The prices of nonalcoholic beverages fell 0.4%, meats, poultry, fish, and eggs were down 0.7% -- the 14th consecutive monthly decline, and miscellaneous grocery prices were off 0.1%. Costs for cereals and bakery products were unchanged, while fruit and vegetable prices inched up 0.2%, and dairy and related products increased 0.3 %.

Grocery prices over the last 12 months are down 2.3%, the largest 12-month decline since December 2009. The cost of eating out, on the other hand, is up 2.4% over the last 12 months.

Core inflation

The cost of all items, excluding the volatile food and energy categories -- the “core rate” of inflation -- rose 0.1% for the second straight month.

Along with housing, prices for apparel, new vehicles, and motor vehicle insurance rose in October, along with education, household furnishings and operations, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco. Personal care, communication, used cars and trucks, recreation, and airfare costs all declined. Medical care prices were unchanged.

The core rate of inflation rose 2.1% for the 12 months ending in October and has remained in the narrow range of 2.1% to 2.3% since December 2015.

The complete report may be found on the DOL website.

Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

Also from DOL, word that filings of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits plunged by 19,000 in the week ending November 12 to a seasonally adjusted total of 235,000.

That's the lowest level in 46 years. It also marks 89 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000 -- the longest streak since 1970.

The four-week moving average, a more reliable gauge of the labor market because of its lack of volatility, came in at 253,500 -- a decline of 6,500 from the previous week.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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No change in builder confidence in November

Future sales expectations are lower, though

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes remained at its second highest level of the year in November. The National Associa...

PhotoBuilder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes remained at its second highest level of the year in November.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) held steady with a reading of 63, exactly where it was last month after a decline of two points from September.

“Ongoing job creation, rising incomes and attractive mortgage rates are supporting demand in the single-family housing sector,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “This will help keep housing on a steady, upward glide path in the months ahead.”

Builder perceptions

The NAHB gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair," or "poor." The survey, which has been conducted for 30 years, 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.

The HMI components measuring buyer traffic rose one point to 47, while the index gauging current sales conditions held steady at 69. However, the component charting sales expectations in the next six months fell two points to 69.

“With most of our members responding before the November elections, confidence levels remained unchanged as they awaited the results,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady. “Still, builder sentiment has held well above 60 for the past three months, indicating that the single-family housing sector continues to show slow, gradual growth.”

A look at at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores shows that the Northeast, Midwest, and West each posted two-point gains to 45, 58, and 77, respectively. The South was unchanged at 66. 

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IIHS: Most child booster seats do a fine job

That doesn't mean there aren't problems, though

Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 ear...

PhotoChild seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.

Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 earn the top rating of BEST BET. That means they're likely to provide good belt fit for a 4 to 8 year-old in almost any car, minivan, or SUV.

By comparison, when the IIHS first started rating boosters in 2008, only a quarter of those evaluated earned the BEST BET designation.

Problems persist

However, several seats that don’t do their job and are rated Not Recommended can still be found on store shelves. Among them are two brand new models from Dorel Juvenile.

“Parents looking for a safe option for kids who have outgrown seats with built-in harnesses have more choices than ever,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian. “Unfortunately, we can’t declare total victory because manufacturers continue to sell subpar boosters.”

Of the 53 new seats, the Cosco Easy Elite and the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX -- both made by Dorel -- are rated Not Recommended. Three others, the Britax Parkway SGL in backless mode, the Lil Fan Club Seat 2-in-1 in highback mode, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 are rated Check Fit, meaning they may work for some children in some vehicles. The remaining new seats are BEST BETs.

All told, there are 118 BEST BETs among currently available boosters, including old models. Additionally, there are nine GOOD BETs (seats that provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles), 27 Check Fit, and five Not Recommended.

A range of prices

Top-rated boosters are available in all different price ranges. Of the boosters introduced this year, the most affordable is the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe, available at Walmart for less than $25.

The most expensive is the $330 Graco 4Ever All-in-1 with Safety Surround, a rear-facing infant seat that converts first to a forward-facing child restraint and then to a booster as the child grows.

Complete ratings may be found at www.iihs.org/.

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4C Foods recalls grated cheese products

The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

4C Foods Corp. is recalling 4C Grated Cheese, Homestyle Grated Cheese and Cento Grated Cheese brands due to possible Salmonella contamination.No illnes...

Photo4C Foods Corp. is recalling 4C Grated Cheese, Homestyle Grated Cheese and Cento Grated Cheese brands due to possible Salmonella contamination.

No illnesses have been reported.

The following products, packed in 6-oz. vacuum-sealed glass jars of either 6 or 12 jars per case with BEST BY dates between November 12, 2016, and November 12, 2018, are being recalled:

  • 4C All Natural Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-33126)
  • 4C All Natural Parmesan/Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-37126)
  • 4C All Natural 100% Imported Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese (UPC 41387-77126)
  • 4C HomeStyle All Natural Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-32790)
  • 4C HomeStyle All Natural Parmesan/Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 41387-11627)
  • 4C HomeStyle All Natural 100% Imported Italian Pecorino Romano Cheese (UPC 41387-12302)
  • Cento Parmesan Grated Cheese (UPC 70796-90502)
  • Cento Romano Grated Cheese (UPC 70796-90501)

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact 4C Foods at 866-969-1920 Monday- Friday, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM (ET). 

 

 

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Is ALDI about to take on Whole Foods?

The chain's anti-pesticide move in Europe increases speculation

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How to protect your devices from hackers

In the age of the 'Internet of Things,' security is a top priority

Late last month, a massive denial-of-service (DoS) attack shut down access to many popular sites like Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter. The way that hackers ma...

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Why you should consider giving experiences instead of stuff this holiday season

Experiences spark gratitude in a way that possessions don't, research shows

Gratitude is a powerful feeling that has the ability to shift your entire perspective. Research has found that gratitude can increase well-being and bring...

PhotoGratitude is a powerful feeling that has the ability to shift your entire perspective. Research has found that gratitude can increase well-being and bring about higher life satisfaction, perhaps due to its ability to push out feelings of envy and depression.

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be wondering how to impart this positive feeling to the ones you love. As it turns out, you may be able spread gratitude simply by choosing to gift an experience instead of a material item.
 

Researchers from Cornell University recently delved into consumer behavior to find out which gifts trigger the highest levels of gratitude. What they found was that things often pale in comparison to experiences.

Doing Vs. Having

The emotional benefits of receiving an experience are plentiful and lasting, according to new research. Our feelings of gratitude soar when thinking about what we’ve done, but thinking about what we have doesn’t lead to the same cascade of positive emotions.
 

“Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new,” explained Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University and co-author of the study.

“You might say, ‘this new couch is cool,’ but you’re less likely to say ‘I’m so grateful for that set of shelves.’ But when you come home from a vacation, you are likely to say, ‘I feel so blessed I got to go.’ People say positive things ab­­­­out the stuff they bought, but they don’t usually express gratitude for it — or they don’t express it as often as they do for their experiences.”

Gratitude causes generosity

What's more, the researchers found that experiences can have a snowball effect. In a study involving an economic game, they found that participants who thought about an experiential purchase behaved more altruistically toward others. The same behavior didn’t occur when participants thought about a possession.
 

The link between gratitude and altruistic behavior “suggests that the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well,” said Amit Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago and co-author of the paper.

The study has been published online in the journal Emotion.
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How multitasking can make you a worse shopper

Researchers find that certain kinds of multitasking make consumers less able to complete a shopping task

It’s not uncommon to see shoppers at a grocery store or mall on their phones, either trying to stay connected or complete some other errand. But can this k...

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Amazon says its offering '35 days of deals'

Releases free app to help keep track of them

Increasingly, consumers are able to find attractive deals on holiday gift items without fighting the crowds on Black FridayThen again, the way things a...

PhotoIncreasingly, consumers are able to find attractive deals on holiday gift items without fighting the crowds on Black Friday

Then again, the way things are going, the stores might not be all that crowded on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Amazon says it isn't waiting any longer. Starting Friday, and for the next 35 days, it says it will offer “Black Friday prices” as often as every five minutes, with deals heating up on Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Amazon is even launching a special app that can be downloaded for free to track the deals.

And customers with an iPhone can use something called Package X-Ray to see what is inside a box without opening it.

“Customers want to shop anywhere, any time, and any way, especially during the five super popular days for online shopping running from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday,” said Steve Shure, Vice President, Amazon.

Some of the deals

Among the daily deals, Amazon says it will mark down select Disney toys and apparel by 60%; Barbi, Hot Wheels, and Fisher-Price toys will be half off.

In Electronics, it will offer a Samsung 32 inch 720p HDTV for $69.99; Sennheiser HD 598 Cs Closed Back Headphones for $99.95; and a 60-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $599.

Among Amazon's own devices, the Amazon Echo will sell for a $40 discount; the Kindle For Kids bundle will go for $69.99; and the Amazon Fire TV will be on sale for $74.99.

In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a spokeswoman for Amazon says the company has observed that customers are shopping on mobile devices at record-levels. She says mobile use should easily exceed last season's 70% rate.

Meanwhile, a new report from Vivint Smart Home, which surveyed 2,000 consumers, found there is widespread concern about “porch pirates” swiping package deliveries, but most consumers have been slow to take action to improve security.

Millennials expressed the most concern and appear to be the most vigilant generation when it comes to package theft. The report found nearly 40% of Millennials have had success in recovering stolen packages.

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New United fare limits carry-on bags

Passengers flying Basic Economy won't have access to the overhead bins

Since airlines began tacking on fees for checked bags, airline passengers have tried to carry as much of their luggage as possible into the cabin of the ai...

PhotoSince airlines began tacking on fees for checked bags, airline passengers have tried to carry as much of their luggage as possible into the cabin of the aircraft, cramming it into the overhead bins.

A new fare from United Airlines aims to free up some space in the overhead compartments.

United has introduced what it calls its Basic Economy fare, which has a number of features. But the one getting the most attention is what passengers can and cannot carry on.

According to the airline, carry-on bags will be limited to one personal item, unless the customer is a MileagePlus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.

And notably, that one carry-on item has to be small enough to fit under the seat. It's not going in the overhead bin. If the carry-on item doesn't fit under the seat, it will have to be checked and the passenger will be charged the applicable fee.

Other features

Other features of the Basic Economy fare include automatic seat assignments in which a party traveling together may not sit together and will be in the last boarding group. Basic Economy passengers will not be eligible for Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades. There will also be no voluntary ticket changes except as stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy.

United says Basic Economy fares won't be offered in all markets, and the selection of flights where they are available will be subject to change. Consumers will know when it is available as an option because it will be displayed along with the rest of the flight's seating options.

“You'll be able to book Basic Economy tickets the same ways that you book other United flights, including through united.com, the United app, the United Customer Contact Center, a travel agency or other online booking tools,” the airline said.

Despite all the limitations, United is quick to point out that consumers flying Basic Economy will get many of the other amenities other coach passengers enjoy, including food and beverage service, in-flight entertainment, and Wi-Fi.

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Inflation on the wholesale level unchanged in October

While goods prices were on the rise, the cost of services declined

Wholesale prices, or what the Labor Department calls the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand, held steady in October for the second time in three m...

PhotoWholesale prices, or what the Labor Department calls the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand, held steady in October for the second time in three months.

The PPI rose 0.3% in September and, for the 12 months ended in October, was up 0.8%, the largest such increase since a 0.9% advance in December 2014.

Within final demand in October, a 0.4% increase in the index for final demand goods offset a 0.3% decline in prices for final demand services.

Goods prices head higher

A surge in energy costs (+2.5%), the result of a jump of 9.7% in the cost of gasoline, led the cost of goods higher. Also contributing to the increase were higher prices for light motor trucks, beef and veal, industrial chemicals, jet fuel, and liquefied petroleum gas. 

Prices for fresh and dry vegetables, electric power and for iron and steel scrap were lower

The cost of services falls

A decline of 0.3% in the cost of services following a 0.1% rise in both August and September helped keep wholesale inflation in check The drop was led by prices for securities brokerage, dealing, investment advice, and related services (-5.7%), along with declines in the costs of food and alcohol retailing; fuels and lubricants retailing; apparel, jewelry, footwear, and accessories retailing; consumer loans (partial); and hospital outpatient care.

Prices for truck transportation of freight, machinery, equipment, parts, and supplies wholesaling and guestroom rental were higher.

Core inflation

The “core rate” of wholesale inflation, which excludes the volatile foods energy, and trade services categories, dipped 0.1% last month after rising 0.3% in both August and September.

For the 12 months ended in October, the core was up 1.6%, the sharpest increase since it climbed 1.7% for the 12 months ended September 2014.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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Mortgage applications plunge as contact interest rates soar

Some rates are at their highest level since early 2016

Applications for mortgages have now fallen for a fourth consecutive week.Data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) show applications were...

PhotoApplications for mortgages have now fallen for a fourth consecutive week.

Data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) show applications were down 9.2% in the week ending November 11, as contract interest rates rose to levels unseen -- in some cases -- since early this year

The Refinance Index plummeted 11% from the previous week to its lowest level since March 2016, with refinance share of mortgage activity dipping to 61.9% of total applications from 62.3% the week before.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 4.7% of total applications, the FHA share increased to 12.2% from 11.6% a week earlier, the VA share was 12.6%, and the USDA share of total applications slipped to 0.6% from 0.7% 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 18 basis points -- from 3.77% to 3.95% -- its highest level since January, with points increasing to 0.39 from 0.38 (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) increased to its highest level since January -- 3.89%, from 3.75% -- with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.27 (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 shot up 12 basis points to 3.73%, its highest level since April, with points decreasing to 0.28 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs rose to its highest level since March -- 3.15% from 3.03% -- with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs surged 19 points to 3.11%, its highest level since March, with points decreasing to 0.42 from 0.47 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

"Following the election, mortgage rates saw their biggest week-over-week increase since the taper tantrum in June 2013, and reached their highest level since January of this year,” said MBA President and CEO David H. Stevens. “Investor expectations of faster growth and higher inflation are driving the jump up in rates, and rates have now increased for five of the past six weeks, spurring a commensurate drop in refinance activity."

The "taper tantrum," according to Investopedia, is the term used to refer to the surge in U.S. Treasury yields, which resulted from the Federal Reserve's use of tapering to gradually reduce the amount of money it was feeding into the economy.

It began when investors panicked in reaction to news of this tapering and drew their money rapidly out of the bond market, which increased bond yields The "taper tantrum," according to Investopedia, is the term used to refer to the surge in U.S. Treasury yields, which resulted from the Federal Reserve's use of tapering to gradually reduce the amount of money it was feeding into the economy.

It began when investors panicked in reaction to news of this tapering and drew their money rapidly out of the bond market, which increased bond yields drastically.

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

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Flight cancellations hit all-time low in September

No tarmac delays were reported during the month

Airlines canceled a miniscule 0.3% of their scheduled domestic flights in September.According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), that's the low...

PhotoAirlines canceled a miniscule 0.3% of their scheduled domestic flights in September.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), that's the lowest level for any of the 261 months with comparable records since January 1995. The previous low point had been 0.4% a year earlier.

In more good news for the flying public, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.

Discrimination complaints

As it released its report, the government made information about discrimination complaints it's received public for the first time. The data covers the number of complaints received in each of the protected classes of race, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, and sex.

From January to September 2016, 67 complaints were filed by consumers claiming discrimination by airlines: 52 regarding race, eight regarding national origin, one regarding color, two regarding religion, and four regarding sex.

This is an increase from the 49 complaints alleging discrimination received during the first nine months of last year. In September 2016 alone, there were six complaints alleging discrimination -- three regarding race, two regarding national origin, and one regarding religion. This compared with the total of eight recorded in September 2015 and the 15 recorded in August 2016. All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated.

The consumer report also includes data related to on-time performance, chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays, along with a range of issues such as flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, and disability.

The complete report is available on the DOT website.

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Ashby's Sterling Peanut Butter Landslide Ice Cream recalled

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

House of Flavors of Ludington, Mich., is recalling its Ashby’s Sterling Peanut Butter Landslide Ice Cream.The product may be contaminated with Listeria...

PhotoHouse of Flavors of Ludington, Mich., is recalling its Ashby’s Sterling Peanut Butter Landslide Ice Cream.

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

There are no reports of illness attributed to this product.

The recalled product, packaged in a three-gallon container with item number 7305 and lot number #16195, was sold to distributors and ice cream shops nationally.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product should dispose of it and contact their distributor for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact House of Flavors consumer affairs at 1-800-930-7740, extension 2229, Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. (EST).

 

 

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Wind developers expect more of the same under President Trump

The renewable industry isn't expecting more tax breaks, but they are optimistic that they will keep what exists.

The mainstream media conveniently ignores that President-elect Donald Trump cares about birds. “The [Obama] administration fast-tracked wind projects that...

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Post-election uproar seems to be dampening holiday shopping spirit

About the only businesses reporting an upsurge are food delivery

For months, we couldn't wait for the presidential campaign to be over. Now it's over and the country seems to be coming apart at the seams. Angry Democrats...

PhotoFor months, we couldn't wait for the presidential campaign to be over. Now it's over and the country seems to be coming apart at the seams. Angry Democrats have taken to the streets to vent their anger while Republicans are outraged at the Democrats' reaction.

The many millions who don't hold strong opinions are stuck in the middle, and many of them also appear to be stuck in their homes. Food delivery businesses report that more people are ordering in, staying inside rather than facing possible confrontation in the streets. Or maybe they're just so fed up they don't want to see anyone else.

It's not just food delivery that's affected. Robert Passikoff, founder and president of research firm Brand Keys, says consumers aren't thinking of sugarplums or shopping lists, likely meaning reduced holiday spending and a lack of, shall we say, holiday cheer.

It's Brand Keys' 22nd annual holiday shopping survey and Passikoff says it's atypical of other presidential election years. Consumers are making shopping decisions later than usual, planning to shop later than in previous years, and also planning to spend lesss, an average of $900 per household.

"This year a good deal of consumer emotion and attention were spent on the election,"” noted Passikoff. "And it’'s clear that consumers were waiting for some resolution and calm before they spent a lot of energy thinking about the holidays."

Passikoff says consumers "seem to be seeking comfort, balance, and gratification in a stress-free period of time" and are likely to spend about the same as last year while taking the time to find the perfect gifts.

Where they'’ll shop

Virtually all consumers interviewed (98%) are buying online again this year  --– the default venue for browsing for gifts, promotions, price checking, and buying. That noted, brick-and-mortar retailers still rank high on consumers’' list of places they intend to shop, with consumers, again this year, using multiple venues, Passikoff said.

Store type2016 %Chg from 2015
Discount store95%+5%
Department store83%-2%
Specialty & apparel stores45%-
Electronics stores25%-1%
Price clubs20%-2%
Sports goods20%-
Outlets10%-
Catalogues10%-6%


 

Catalogues are down again, with consumers seeming to feel that if they can pull up the same content on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, the hard-copy catalog is redundant.

Just as in holiday seasons past, value is paramount for all platforms. Consumer expectations regarding outreach and convenience, particularly for mobile, are up again. Shopping experience for brick-and-mortar retailers are all up too,” said Passikoff. “This year, in particular, retailers that can provide a sense of consumer comfort will see better bottom lines.”

Free shipping and returns, order online-pick up in store, or ship-to-store options will have holiday shoppers'’ attentions this year too.

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Tips on soothing teething pain without pain relievers

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How many web pages are there? Google estimates 130 trillion

To avoid being swallowed up, sites are developing more personalized advertising

There used to be an awful lot of fish in the sea. There aren't so many anymore but, if it's any comfort, there are about 130 trillion web pages, according...

PhotoThere used to be an awful lot of fish in the sea. There aren't so many anymore but, if it's any comfort, there are about 130 trillion web pages, according to Google's latest estimate.

That's up from about 30 trillion in March 2013 and, while the acquatic environment may not be what it used to be, the virtual environment is doing just fine, assuming you're not trying to draw attention to your website.

Google and the other search engines do a pretty amazing job of finding pages that match consumers' search requests, but the companies, organizations, and individuals who are trying to attract eyeballs to their pages have a task that grows ever more difficult.

It's not unusual these days for new sites -- professionally produced, packed with useful or entertaining information, and organized for maximum search engine exposure -- to get literally no viewers without resorting to increasingly expensive paid advertising.

There are just about as many theories on how to improve websites' performance as there are stars in the sky, and finding a successful strategy is like looking for that always elusive needle in the haystack.

Not getting easier

But don't delay. It won't be getting easier. Cisco Systems recently estimated that global internet traffic in 2020 will be 95 times the volume of the entire global internet in 2005. It's Moore's Law on steroids. 

What's all this mean for consumers? Hard to say, but it's likely to mean more advertising as sites struggle to get your attention. Fortunately, marketers are working to tailor their ads to individual preferences, meaning that in theory you should see only ads about goods and services that you use regularly or may soon need or want.

Several recent studies have found that consumers don't mind ads so much when they're seen as relevant, so perhaps the internet will manage to get not just bigger but better.

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Start of new TSA Pre-Check program hits a bump in the road

The agency will postpone hiring private vendors that perform background checks

Back in May, we reported how consumers were becoming increasingly frustrated with airport security delays. Lines in some of the nation’s prominent hubs see...

PhotoBack in May, we reported how consumers were becoming increasingly frustrated with airport security delays. Lines in some of the nation’s prominent hubs seemed to be endless, but TSA stated that it was understaffed and unable to deal with the volume of travelers.

One solution that the agency suggested for passengers was enrolling in its PreCheck program, which makes the screening process much quicker. Officials hoped to enroll 25 million U.S. travelers in the program, but those numbers haven’t materialized – and now there appears to be another bump in the road.

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, TSA has put the brakes on hiring private vendors that could help register fliers for TSA Pre-Check. The reason? The agency feels that using new vendors would be unwise “in light of the increased and evolving cybersecurity risks over the past year.”

Cybersecurity concerns

TSA officials say they are concerned that cyber criminals could target new vendors that perform background checks on passengers to steal private information.

While the move may be welcomed by privacy and consumer advocacy groups, it certainly won’t win many points with frustrated travelers who want to sign up for the program. Sources report that only 4 million people have been signed up for the TSA Pre-Check program thus far, well below their stated goal.

Critics say that the blame for future long lines may land squarely on TSA. For those who don’t remember how bad things got this past summer, here’s a video taken from a traveler at Chicago’s Midway airport. Please note that the footage does contain strong language.

Some hope

However, there is some hope that things will run more smoothly going forward. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger has said that a plan approved by Congress – which created 13,068 new positions and converted 2,000 part-time screeners to full-time employees – could make a big difference in expediting the security check process.

Additionally, Neffenger stated that the agency has put together a “deployment force” made up of 1,000 screeners that can be sent to any airport that is expected to see an influx of air travelers. This mobile force could help alleviate the stress of many holiday travelers that are expected to surge in the coming months.

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Why your spouse's stress could make you gain weight

Older adults gain weight when their partner is stressed, study finds

Having the ability to read your spouse’s mood can be a good thing. When partners can sense that something is weighing on the mind of their loved one, they...

PhotoHaving the ability to read your spouse’s mood can be a good thing. When partners can sense that something is weighing on the mind of their loved one, they can spring into action with efforts to help ease their mental burden.

But while connectedness can help keep partners stable and emotionally afloat, having a stressed-out spouse may contribute to weight gain in older adults. University of Michigan researchers found that older adults gain weight when their spouse is experiencing long-term stress.
 

"We found that your partner's stress, and not your own, predicted an increased waist circumference over time," said Kira Birditt, a research associate professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Quality of marriage

Couples who participated in the study had been married an average of 34 years. The results of the four-year study suggested that couples 50 and older put on weight in response to chronic stress.
 

Birditt and her colleagues found that when a stressful circumstance occurred for more than a year, it could lead to a negative quality of marriage -- and, in turn, weight gain. The results also appeared to vary by gender.

Husbands usually experience lower negative marital quality. As a result, they may be more shocked and affected by negative feelings when they do arise, Birditt explained. And stressed-out men can be bad for wives’ waistlines, the study found.
 

"Wives were 1.6 times more likely to have an increase in waist circumference when their husbands reported greater stress and greater negative marriage quality," Birditt said.

Interestingly, husbands were more than twice as likely to have a 10% increase in waist size when their wives were stressed but weren’t complaining about marriage quality. Birditt said she couldn't explain that difference.

Coping together

The findings show that "marriage has powerful influences on health," the authors said. Birditt pointed out that the effect of marriage quality on older couples’ weight could be explained by the use of one particular coping strategy: eating. 

"Research shows that people who are more distressed in their marriage do eat more as a way to feel connected to each other to reduce their feeling of stress," Birditt told HealthDay.
 
To minimize weight gain during stressful times, partners can set healthy goals together rather than separately. Saying 'Let's go out and walk together after dinner every night' is better than one partner saying 'I'm going to go exercise,' she said.
 

The study is published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

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Retailers press court challenge to American Express rules

Want freedom to steer consumers to card with lower fees

The Retail Litigation Center and the National Retail Federation say stores that accept American Express cards must abide by the American Express' rules....

PhotoThe Retail Litigation Center and the National Retail Federation say stores that accept American Express cards must abide by the American Express' rules.

One of those rules, they say, is retailers are barred from doing anything to encourage consumers from using a different credit card, with a lower processing fee. Retailers, quite naturally, would prefer not to have to pay American Express' higher swipe fee.

The two organizations have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to hear retailers' challenge to the American Express rules, charging they are a violation of antitrust laws.

“While intense competition is a hallmark of the retail industry, it is largely absent from the credit card market where fees continue to skyrocket,” said RLC President Deborah White.

'Stifling competition'

White accuses American Express of stifling competition by imposing rules that don't allow retailers to offer consumers discounts or other incentives to use a lower-cost credit card. That, she says, ends up costing consumers money. She says the policy also prevents consumers from fully understanding their cost of using a credit card.

NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan says the swipe fees retailers have to pay eventually get passed on to consumers.

“All swipe fees are too high, but American Express fees are among the highest,” Duncan said. “That’s their choice, but they should not be allowed to stand in the way of retailers simply asking their customers if they have another card.”

Government's position

Government regulators have weighed in on this issue in the past. Visa and MasterCard no longer impose a policy banning card steering after a 2010 settlement with the Justice Department. The Justice Department sued American Express over its rules and won in Federal Court in February.

But American Express appealed and a three judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled in its favor in September. The Justice Department is now asking for a full court review of the case.

The case appears to be a continuation of the long-running conflict between retailers and card issuers over swipe fees.

After years of retailers complaining about swipe fees charged by credit card companies, the Federal Reserve moved in 2011 to cap the fees at a lower rate. But since Congress said the fees should reflect bank's actual costs, retailers maintain the fees are still too high.

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Green coffee pitchman faces $30 million judgment

The FTC said fake news sites were used to promote the supposed weight loss supplement

Fake news websites have been getting a lot of attention following the no-holds-barred presidential campaign, but they have a long history of being used to...

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Some Black Friday deals may look familiar

If you think you've seen these doorbusters before, maybe you have

With Black Friday just days away, shoppers may get a sense of deja vu as they scan the ad slicks for bargains. They may see some of the same deals they saw...

PhotoWith Black Friday just days away, shoppers may get a sense of deja vu as they scan the ad slicks for bargains. They may see some of the same deals they saw last year.

Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com analyzed every advertised deal from 25 stores, checking this year's ad against last year's. It found lots of re-runs.

“It is no big deal when stores are repeating a general 50% off all clothing deal, but it is concerning when stores are offering last year's electronics for more money,” said Best Black Friday principal Phil Dengler.

The analysis shows nearly all – 24 out of 25 stores – are repeating at least one deal from last year. Best Black Friday found three repeated deals at 22 stores and five repeated deals at 20 stores. More than half the stores had at least one repeated sales item they were charging more for this year.

Dengler says re-running a Black Friday deal from last year is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something consumers should know about.

Imports are up

Meanwhile, retailers appear to be restocking their holiday shelves this year with more imported items. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports imports at the nation’s major retail container ports should rise 4.4% this month, with a slightly bigger increase expected next month.

“Most of the holiday merchandise is already here, but retailers are still restocking to be sure shoppers will have a broad and deep selection as they hit the stores over the next several weeks,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.

Economists often watch retail imports for clues about the direction of the economy. Gold says the rise in end of the year imports suggests retailers expect to sell more this year than last year.

Private label credit cards

Consumers may be paying for their holiday purchases with more private label credit cards. A report from TransUnion shows the number of these accounts usually surges during December.

Consumers are getting increased access to retail cards during the holidays, mainly because stores offer discounts and other incentives for opening account while making a purchase. As we recently reported, consumers should use caution and carefully weigh any benefits before accepting these offers.

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Gas prices drop, but are just getting back to normal

Speculators' hopes that OPEC can reduce the oil glut are fading

Consumers have seen gasoline prices drop sharply in the last week, falling more in some states than in others. But in point of fact, prices are just gettin...

PhotoConsumers have seen gasoline prices drop sharply in the last week, falling more in some states than in others. But in point of fact, prices are just getting back to normal after speculation in the futures market added upward pressure in the two previous months.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of gasoline is $2.16 a gallon after falling over the last 10 days. That's down a nickel from a week ago and nearly a dime lower than a month ago. But it is exactly in line with last year's national average.

“The abundance of crude oil in the global market is contributing to lower prices, and as a result, retail averages are the same price as compared to one year ago,” AAA said on its website.

Stong dollar helping motorists

Another factor is at play here as well. The U.S. dollar has strengthened significantly since Donald Trump's election a week ago and, since oil is priced in dollars, oil prices have begun to fall even more.

They were moving in the other direction in September and October as speculators bet that OPEC members, which are scheduled to meet at the end of this month, would agree to cap production, to drive up oil prices. Wall Street optimism for such an agreement is fading, and the latest data shows OPEC has increased production in recent weeks.

Less demand

There also tends to be less demand for gasoline during the month of November, and with refinery maintenance mostly completed, the outlook is brightening for falling fuel prices into the end of the year.

In some states, the price at the pump is absolutely in a free-fall. In the last week, Indiana saw its statewide average plunge 14 cents a gallon. It's down 12 cents in Ohio, 11 cents in Michigan, eight cents in Kentucky and Illinois, and seven cents in Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The statewide average is below $2 in nine states, with the lowest prices in Missouri and Oklahoma, both of which are reporting an average price of $1.88 a gallon.

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Gas station traffic paces October advance in retail sales

In fact, the increase was fairly broad-based

Retailers enjoyed a good October following an even better September. The Commerce Department reports retail sales last month were up 0.8%, or $465.9 bil...

PhotoRetailers enjoyed a good October following an even better September.

The Commerce Department reports retail sales last month were up 0.8%, or $465.9 billion, and were 4.3% above the same month a year earlier.

In addition, the government revised it's September estimate to show a gain of 1.0% instead of the 0.6% advance initially reported.

Winners and losers

Most businesses saw sales increases last month, including gas stations (+2.2%), sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores (+1.3%), motor vehicle & parts dealers (+1.1%), and grocery stores (+0.7%).

Sales declines were suffered by furniture & home furnishing stores (-0.9%), department stores (-0.7%), and restaurants & bars (-0.7%).

Analysts at Briefing.com say the strong report indicates consumers are willing to spend more freely on discretionary items and that both the October and September numbers should help bolster fourth quarter GDP forecasts.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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Weight Watchers recalls Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Weight Watchers is recalling approximately 100,000 cases of Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae frozen desserts.The products...

PhotoWeight Watchers is recalling approximately 100,000 cases of Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae frozen desserts.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

There have been no consumer complaints or reports of illness to date.

The following products are being recalled:

Product SizeName of ProductIndividual Package  Lot Code
Best When Used By Code Date
Individual Package UPC
4 PackWeight Watchers Smart One's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae

 

Best if Used by 12/28/2016   MS5M01A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 12/28/2016   MS5M02A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 12/28/2016    MS5M07A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 12/28/2016    MS5M08A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 01/28/2017    MS6A18A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 01/28/2017   MS6A19A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 01/28/2017   MS6A20A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 02/28/17    MS6B15A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 02/28/17    MS6B16A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 02/28/17   MS6B17A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 03/28/2017  &MS6C28A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 03/28/2017    MS6C29A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 03/28/2017   MS6C30A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 05/28/2017    MS6E10A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 06/28/2017    MS6F27A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 06/28/2017    MS6F28A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 06/28/2017    MS6F29A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used by 07/28/2017    MS6G28A0 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 07/28/2017  MS6G250 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 07/28/2017    MS6G260 2580002329 5
  Best if Used By 07/28/2017    MS6G270 2580002329 5

 

The products were distributed to retailers throughout the U.S.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not eat them, but return them to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund.

Consumers with questions may call 1-866-572-3805,. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET).

 

 

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Cedar Crest Specialties recalls various ice cream flavors

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Cedar Crest Specialties is recalling the following Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Monster Cookie and Pirate's Bounty ice cream flavors: Prod...

PhotoCedar Crest Specialties is recalling the following Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Monster Cookie and Pirate's Bounty ice cream flavors:

Product NameProduct Code DateContainer Size
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough3826, 3846, 4346, and 4326Pints, 48 oz., 3 gallon
Monster Cookie38263 gallon
Pirate's Bounty434648 oz.

 

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date related to this recall.

The recalled products were distributed in retail stores throughout the Midwest.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may call 1-888-628-0730, Monday-Friday between 8AM and 4PM (CT).

 

 

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Hammerhead Off-Road recalls fun-karts

The fuel tank can crack and cause the fuel to leak out

Hammerhead Off-Road of Flower Mound, Texas, is recalling about 9,900 fun-karts.The fuel tank can crack and cause the fuel to leak out, posing a fire ha...

PhotoHammerhead Off-Road of Flower Mound, Texas, is recalling about 9,900 fun-karts.

The fuel tank can crack and cause the fuel to leak out, posing a fire hazard.

No incidents or injuries are reported.

This recall involves model year 2009 through 2015 Hammerhead Off-Road GL 150, GTS 150 and GTS Platinum fun-karts.

The recalled fun-karts have two seats and a rear cargo rack and were sold in red, black, white, orange, blue and green. “GTS” is printed on the side cage and the hood of the GTS models and “Hammerhead” is printed on the hood of the GL models.

Serial numbers are printed on the cross bar behind the seats.

 

Model Year

Model

2009

GTS 150

2010

GTS 150

2011

GTS 150

2011

GL 150

2012

GTS 150

2012

GL 150

2013

GTS 150

2013

GL 150

2014

GTS 150

2014

GL 150

2014

GTS Platinum

2015

GTS 150

2015

GL 150

2015

GTS Platinum

 

The fun-karts, manufactured in China, were sold at Hammerhead Off-Road dealers nationwide from August 2009, through July 2016, for between $2,100 and $2,900.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled fun-karts and contact Hammerhead Off-Road to schedule a free replacement of the fuel tank. The firm is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Consumers may contact Hammerhead Off-Road toll-free at 844-298-6528 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at mail@hammerheadoffroad.com or online at www.hammerheadoffroad.com and click on “Latest News” for more information.

 

 

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Schnuck Markets recalls ready-to-eat chicken breast products

The products may be undercooked resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens

Schnuck Markets of O’Fallon, Mo., is recalling approximately 62 pounds of ready-to-eat grilled chicken products.The products may be undercooked resulti...

PhotoSchnuck Markets of O’Fallon, Mo., is recalling approximately 62 pounds of ready-to-eat grilled chicken products.

The products may be undercooked resulting in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens.

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

The following items, produced and packaged on November 8, 2016, are being recalled:

  • Ready-to-eat grilled chicken containing the label of “Butter Garlic Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast” with a sell date of November 13, 2016.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 13562” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to 26 Schnuck retail locations in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not to consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Schnuck Consumer Affairs Hotline, at (314) 994-4400. 

 

 

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American Apparel bankrupt, again

It is selling most of its assets to Gildan Activewear

American Apparel is bankrupt again, less than a year after it emerged from an earlier bankruptcy...

Photo
American Apparel employees (Photo: American Apparel)

American Apparel is bankrupt again, less than a year after it emerged from an earlier bankruptcy filing. Ths Los Angeles clothing manufacturer says it is selling $66 million worth of intellectual property and other assets to Gildan Activewear.

Gildan owns and operates vertically-integrated, large-scale manufacturing facilities which are primarily located in Central America, the Caribbean Basin, North America, and Bangladesh.

The company has been trying to deal with shrinking sales and other issues since Dov Charney, the company’s founder and former CEO, was ousted in December 2014 over allegations of misconduct, including sexual harrassment.

American Apparel has promoted itself as an example of a successful manufacturing operation in an era when most manufacturing has moved overseas. It has been a heavy supporter of immigration, noting that many of its California employees are immigrants.

Strategic move

“We are confident that this decision is the best strategic move forward, in order to preserve the legacy of the American Apparel brand,” Bradley Scher, chairman of American Apparel’s board of directors, said in a letter to employees, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

For over a decade, American Apparel was strictly a wholesaler, providing blank T-shirts to retailers across the country. The company went retail in 2003, and opened a jaw-dropping 260 locations worldwide, a decision that has contributed to its financial woes ever since.

Tasteful design and eye-catching ads that played up the "Made in USA" angle, made AA an attractive alternative to big-name retailers like the Gap and Banana Republic, especially for young shoppers. 

But restive investors and sluggish sales, combined with Charney's issues, combined to drag down the company's stock price and hamper its future prospects. 

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When your offer should be precise, and when it shouldn't

Knowing when to use the right negotiating tactic pays off, researcher says

When David Loschelder was a graduate student in Germany, he needed to rent a bicycle for a month and thus, had to negotiate with the bicycle's owner.He...

PhotoWhen David Loschelder was a graduate student in Germany, he needed to rent a bicycle for a month and thus, had to negotiate with the bicycle's owner.

He was surprised when the owner said the cost of the four weeks would be a very precise number of euros – 34.50. Not 30, and not 35.

"As a consequence of this precision, I felt my counterpart was overly competent and I didn't even negotiate for a single cent," Loschelder said.

After that, Loschelder said he became interested in the effects of very precise prices when it came to negotiations. Was it always effective to be precise, as the bicycle owner was? That was the beginning of a research project to find out.

Doesn't always work

"Our research shows that more precise opening prices can yield you a significant negotiation advantage, but you have to know whom you're negotiating with," Loschelder said. "With amateurs, this number should be very precise; with experts, however, negotiators should either choose a moderate level of precision or back up their highly precise number with a compelling reason."

In other words, making an extremely precise offer for a car or a house may hurt your chances of success if you're negotiating with a pro – a car dealer or a real estate agent.

But Loschelder says his research shows that a precise offer – for example, $9,572.36 or $384,961.42 - are more effective with novice negotiators. These people, he says, are more likely to view a very precise bid as a sign of competence.

Seeing through the tactic

Experts, he says, tend to see through this tactic. However, Loschelder says he found experts are more likely to be persuaded by what he called a “moderately precise bid – $9,500 for example.

"Interestingly, amateurs seem to think: 'Oh, this number is so precise, my opponent must have thought quite a bit about a fair price. He or she must be really competent,'" Loschelder said. "In contrast, experts perceive this as too-precise a price and denigrate their opponent's competence."

You also have to understand what's negotiable. The supermarket check out clerk isn't going to negotiate the price of a dozen eggs. But a car dealer and real estate broker will definitely deal on the price of a car or home. When dealing with these professionals, Loschelder suggests being only moderately precise.

However, when buying something at a yard sale or on eBay, being extremely precise just might work in your favor.

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Samsung moves into automotive technology with purchase of Harman

The $8 billion cash purchase makes Samsung a major player in automotive electronics

Samsung, badly burned by a rash of fires in its smartphones and appliances, is buying audio equipment manufacturer Harman International, a major supplier t...

PhotoSamsung, badly burned by a rash of fires in its smartphones and appliances, is buying audio equipment manufacturer Harman International, a major supplier to carmakers.

The $8 billion cash deal is Samsung's biggest acquisition ever and makes it a major player in the fast-growing world of automotive technoogy.

Harman, founded in 1953, made its name manufacturing high-end Harman Kardon hi-fi gear, as it was then known. It has steadily expanded into audio equipment and other technology for cars and now has major contracts with General Motors and FCA.

Not long ago, cars had little more than a radio while today they are morphing into rolling computer labs, with high-end audio, GPS, smartphones, and built-in Wi-Fi. As cars become increasingly autonomous, the role of electronics will only increase, and Samsung is obviously determined to get a big part of that market.

Connectivity potential

Harman last year shelled out $780 million to buy Symphony Teleca, a Silicon Valley company that makes software and components for connected cars. 

“The vehicle of tomorrow will be transformed by smart technology and connectivity in the same way that simple feature phones have become sophisticated smart devices over the past decade,” said Young Sohn, President and Chief Strategy Officer of Samsung Electronics. “We see substantial long-term growth opportunities in the auto technology market as demand for Samsung’s specialized electronic components and solutions continues to grow."

HARMAN’s leading brands include JBL, Harman Kardon, Mark Levinson, AKG, Lexicon, Infinity, and Revel. It licenses the Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen brands for automotive products.

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Why many home buyers regret their choice of lender

In a J.D. Power survey, 21% expressed buyer's remorse

Getting through the home mortgage approval process is a lot trickier than it once was, and it turns out a large number of homebuyers who successfully make...

PhotoGetting through the home mortgage approval process is a lot trickier than it once was, and it turns out a large number of homebuyers who successfully make it end up with a case of buyer's remorse.

They don't regret the home purchase so much as the selection of the mortgage to pay for it.

That's the chief takeaway from the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study, which found 21% of customers who bought a home regret their choice of lender, and 27% of first-time home buyers regret their choice.

There appear to be two reasons. For many consumers, the regret stems from a poor experience with the lender. This can be caused by more problems than expected, broken promises, and poor communication.

Felt lender pressure

The second reason for dissatisfaction has to do with price. Even though they got multiple quotes and appeared to do their homework, this group of new homeowners regrets picking their lender. Of the largest complaints, 72% of those regretting their lender choice said they felt pressured to pick a particular mortgage product that, in hindsight, was not a good fit.

They said in many cases they went with a particular lender because it had the lowest rates, or they had done business with it in the past.

“This ‘happy buyer’s remorse’ is in part due to customers feeling that circumstances out of their control drove them to a particular choice and that options weren’t totally clear,” said Craig Martin, director of the mortgage practice at J.D. Power.

Had to jump through hoops

The problem, says Martin, is many of these consumers are happy with their interest rate, but feel like they had to jump through a long series of hoops to finally get the loan approved. In the end, these consumers might not fully understand exactly what they got. What lenders have to worry about, he says, is these consumers may be happy when they sign the loan papers, but not later on.

Lenders, of course, are under new pressure since the financial crisis, having to implement tougher underwriting requirements. These requirements have had the effect of prolonging the process, no doubt creating negative feelings along the way.

Quicken Loans ranked highest

The J.D. Power survey found Quicken Loans ranked highest in customer satisfaction in the loan approval process. It's followed by CitiMortgage and Ditech Financial.

The report's authors say consumers can improve their chances of being happy with their loan by selecting a lender and a mortgage product before they decide on a home. The researchers found consumers who did that were significantly more satisfied with the result.

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Chocolate Shoppe expands ice cream recall

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company of Madison, Wis, is expanding it's earlier recall of select ice cream products.The products were made with a chocola...

PhotoChocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company of Madison, Wis, is expanding it's earlier recall of select ice cream products.

The products were made with a chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The following products are being recalled:

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. – 3-Gallon Cartons

  • Cookie Dough (code date 10/15/17, 10/21/17, 11/1/17 & 11/8/17),
  • Heaps of Love (code date 10/20/17, 10/28/17 & 11/8/17),
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Dough (code date 10/9/17, 10/18/17 & 11/1/17),
  • Sticks & Stones (code date 10/26/17).

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. – Pints

  • Cookie Dough (code date 10/21/17).

The Baked Bear brand – 3-Gallon Cartons

  • The Baked Bear brand Cookie Dough (code date 10/13/17, 10/15/17, 10/21/17).

The recalled products were distributed to various ice cream shops, online outlets and limited grocery stores in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-466-8043 or by email at info@chocolateshoppeicecream.com.

 

 

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Auto safety crusader Clarence Ditlow dies

For decades, he fought for safer cars and tighter regulation

Auto safety crusader Clarence Ditlow has died. For decades, he headed the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, a group that exposed some of the most da...

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Don't miss the charm of local markets

Exploring local markets can be one of the most rewarding parts of travel

Cours Saleya Market, Nice, FranceOn my first visit to Amsterdam, I took the train to Haarlem to see the Frans Hals Museum. As I exited the station, I...

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Consumers battered by financial crisis getting their credit back

It's been seven years since many of these people lost their homes to foreclosure

It takes seven years for a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy to come off a consumer's credit report.Since the height of the foreclosure tsunami wa...

PhotoIt takes seven years for a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy to come off a consumer's credit report.

Since the height of the foreclosure tsunami was 2009, a lot of former homeowners, whose credit has been practically non-existent since then, are getting back on their financial feet.

According to an analysis by Experian, one of the three credit agencies, 2.5 million consumers will see their credit standing improve sharply between last June and next June. Of these, the credit agency says 68% are scoring at near-prime or higher credit levels.

Back in the credit market

It means that millions of consumers, largely shut out of the credit market since 2009, will be able to take out loans again. Those who want to buy a home again will most likely qualify for a mortgage, putting even more pressure on extremely tight inventory levels around the country.

Experian also reports that formerly foreclosed or bankrupt borrowers who have already shed those events from the credit reports have returned to the credit markets in large numbers and, by and large, are showing good financial behavior.

The Experian analysis shows 29% of consumers who sold short between 2007 and 2010 have opened a new mortgage, with a delinquency rate that is a full percentage point below the national average.

Win-win

"With millions of borrowers potentially coming back into the housing market, the trends that we're seeing are promising for both the mortgage seeker and the lender," said Michele Raneri, vice president of analytics and new business development at Experian.

Raneri predicts that in the years ahead, these so-called “boomerang borrowers” will be a critical segment of the real-estate market, and perhaps could propel prices still higher.

The Experian report shows that homeowners who had a foreclosure in the past but now have qualified for a mortgage have an average credit score of 680, more than 20% higher than their score at the time of foreclosure.

The record is even better for consumers who sold short. Those who have now qualified for a new mortgage have an average credit score of 706, up 16.5% from when they were forced to sell.

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Smoking linked to 40% of U.S. cancer diagnoses

Meanwhile, the number of smokers continues to fall

Since the 1964 Surgeon General's report that linked cigarette smoking to cancer, we have known of tobacco's corrosive effects on health.But just how co...

PhotoSince the 1964 Surgeon General's report that linked cigarette smoking to cancer, we have known of tobacco's corrosive effects on health.

But just how corrosive is it? A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests as many as 40% of all cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. may have a tobacco link.

While tobacco use is most closely associated with lung cancer, the reports cites evidence that it also causes cancers of the mouth and throat, voice box, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder, cervix, colon, and rectum, and a type of leukemia, known as acute myeloid leukemia.

In short, the report's authors conclude that avoiding tobacco use is the best way to prevent the disease, which affected about 660,000 people in the U.S. from 2009 to 2013, killing more than half.

Another way of looking at it, since 1990 about 1.3 million cancer deaths linked to tobacco have been avoided because either people quit smoking or never started in the first place. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says that should just be a start.

Preventable deaths

"There are more than 36 million smokers in the U.S.," Frieden said. "Sadly, nearly half could die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses, including six million from cancer, unless we implement the programs that will help smokers quit."

But progress has been coming faster in recent years. In a separate CDC report, health officials note that cigarette smoking among U.S. adults has dropped more than 20% from 2005. From 2014 to 2015, there was a 1.7% drop, resulting in the lowest number of adult smokers since the government began collecting data in 1965.

Cigarette smoking surged in the years after World War II, some say encouraged by the fact that every GI's rations included a pack of cigarettes. As viewers of the hit series “Mad Men” saw, cigarettes were a ubiquitous part of American life in the 1960s. In 1965, the CDC estimates more than 42% of Americans were smoking.

Currently, the CDC estimates 16.8% of U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes, leading to more than $300 billion in annual health care costs.

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Agave Dream recalls several flavors of ice creams

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Agave Dream is recalling all vanilla, chocolate, cappuccino, chocolate chip and lavender ice creams packaged in pint-sized containers.The products may...

PhotoAgave Dream is recalling all vanilla, chocolate, cappuccino, chocolate chip and lavender ice creams packaged in pint-sized containers.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The following products, manufactured and packaged in a facility owned by a contract manufacturer, Dr. Bob’s of Upland, LLC, are being recalled:

FlavorUPCDates
Vanilla8 9934900201 77/4/17, 9/9/17,10/9/17, 12/12/17, 7/14/18

 

Chocolate8 9934900202 47/4/17, 8/5/17, 9/9/17, 10/9/17, 12/12/17, 12/24/17
Cappuccino8 9934900204 87/4/17, 9/9/17, 12/2/17
Chocolate Chip8 9934900302 18/5/17, 12/12/17
Lavender8 9934900206 212/2/17
 

The recalled products were distributed across the U.S. through retail stores receiving them from KeHE Romeoville & Dallas warehouses, DPI NW, Americold, IWI Franklin, Indiana warehouse, Jakes Finer Foods, Houston Texas, Haddon House Richburg, South Carolina & Medford, New Jersey, Grocery Outlet California, UNFI- Auburn, Washington, Dallas, Texas, and Ridgefield, Washington.

What to do

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

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

 

 

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ISB Food Group recalls two varieties of L.A.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

ISB Food Group is recalling L.A. Creamery Honeycomb ice cream and L.A. Creamery Salted Caramel ice cream.The items were produced in a co-packing facili...

PhotoISB Food Group is recalling L.A. Creamery Honeycomb ice cream and L.A. Creamery Salted Caramel ice cream.

The items were produced in a co-packing facility that has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recalled products, with expiration dates of March 18, 2017, were distributed from March – October 2016, in California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts.

The product is packaged in paper 14-oz. ice cream containers with the L.A. Creamery brand name, Salted Caramel flavor and Honeycomb flavors, specifically stamped on the bottom of the container.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products may contact the company for a full refund or with any questions at (818) 405-0022, extension 103, Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 3:00 pm (PT)

 

 

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Drug companies enjoy 2016 election victories

Republicans to lower drug costs? Pharma companies aren't convinced

Few things unite Americans like rage against price-gouging pharmaceutical companies. But that growing sentiment had little effect on the drug industry’s co...

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Trump's 'drain-the-swamp' promise takes a back seat to reality

Washington is full of lobbyists and influence-peddlers. Good thing too

President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a lot of promises during his campaign, one of the most notable being his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D....

PhotoPresident-Elect Donald J. Trump made a lot of promises during his campaign, one of the most notable being his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., a pledge based on the popular misconception that the nation's capital is located on the site of a former swamp.

In fact, the District of Columbia may be marshy, but it was never technically a swamp. And it's not a swamp today either -- it's more like a beehive that has been whacked with a big stick. The place, in a word, is buzzing.

It's been eight years since there was a change in administrations and a change in ruling party to boot. Leaving politics aside for a moment, this is a bonanza for Realtors who will soon have hundreds of upscale homes to list as dejected Democrats leave town and hundreds of jubilant incoming Republicans replace them.

(Realtors prefer for the successful candidate to be from New York, California, or some other high cost-of-living state; they tend to be willing and able to spend more on housing. The first and, as it turns out last, Clinton Administration was not popular with the housing trade).

But forget Realtors, the business of Washington is lobbying. There are all kinds of lobbyists. Some represent charitable causes and what used to be called "do-gooder" groups, but the high-powered ones represent business interests. Although they tend to be vilified by candidates and everyone else, lobbyists are necessary since, without them, businesses and institutions would soon be hopelessly hamstrung by regulations, at least in theory.

In their simplest form, lobbyists provide information to lawmakers, helping them understand what effect a given piece of legislation would have on a specific industry. When necessary, gentle persuasion may be employed. (Full disclosure: I worked for several years with what we call "government affairs firms" in D.C. but have no current ties with any special interest groups or lobbying firms). 

A lengthy list

Given all this, it was not surprising today when I came across a list of the lobbyists who were heading up various elements of the Trump transition team. There are lobbyists representing Altria, Coca-Cola, General Elecric, Dow Chemical, and Duke Energy, among many others, in charge of finding top appointees for Homeland Security, Labor, Energy, Interior, Agriculture, Defense, and the list goes on.

Shocking? Not really. Since top Obama appointees will soon turn in their resignations and leave, new appointees must be identified, vetted, grilled, and examined.

It's a lengthy process and one that must be carried out largely by the President-Elect's staff. He is not yet the President, after all, and does not command the full resources of the executive branch, so it's necessary to find volunteers who know the territory, are accustomed to working long hours, and looking out for the arcane details that will bite you if you don't see them coming -- lobbyists, in other words.

Many lobbyists are former government officials who worked on the Hill or in one of the agencies. Their bosses tend to be former officeholders -- Senators and Representatives who are living the heavenly (and lucrative) afterlife that follows a few terms in office.

In Trump's case, he is especially dependent on Washington insiders. He, after all, is a businessman, not a politician. He has never held elective office, doesn't have many close contacts in D.C., and his swamp-draining campaign promises (and those leaked videotapes) basically made him a pariah in the political world. 

A jarring transition

"He couldn't even staff the campaign because no one wanted to be associated with him," said one Trump aide quoted in a Politico newsletter. "It's different now but there's going to have to be a lot of forgive and forget."

Working in Trump's favor -- lobbying firms are scrambling to demonstrate to their clients that they wield influence with the incoming Trumpians and are desperate to volunteer to help the transition move smoothly. 

The transition from Political Outsider to President-Elect can be jarring. One minute you're railing against special interests, greedy capitalists, and featherbedding bureaucrats. The next, you're the biggest insider of all, your desk the one where the buck stops.

Love him or hate him, Trump faces a difficult few months. He won't have time to be draining any swamps. And while struggling to assemble his team, Trump will know that across town, plans are being made by rivals already hard at work on the 2018 election. His oversights today will be the political fodder of tomorrow's campaigns. 

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Nintendo to halt production of the Wii-U soon

Releases of the Nintendo Switch and NES Classic Edition should keep fans happy, though

Nintendo is a name that’s easily recognizable by gamers and non-gamers alike. Throughout its history, the company has produced some of the world’s premiere...

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FTC revises its used car information sticker

The sticker provides information about warranties, airbags, and other essentials

Buying a used car used to be pretty much an act of faith. But federal regulations adopted over the years have made more information available to consumers,...

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Black Friday sales begin today for Walmart

Users of the company's app can take advantage of several deals

For an event whose name suggests a one-day connection, Black Friday seems to start earlier and last longer every year. Retailers are eager to move product...

PhotoFor an event whose name suggests a one-day connection, Black Friday seems to start earlier and last longer every year. Retailers are eager to move product and rake in consumer dollars, and now one company has officially kicked off its Black Friday sales.

Walmart shoppers who use the company’s app can start indulging in sales today on a variety of items, including electronic devices like an Acer laptop and a 65-inch Hitachi 4K Ultra HDTV. The deals will continue all the way through the actual Black Friday event on November 25, and may even last longer into the holiday shopping season.

Starting up its sales early could be viewed by some to be a risky move; recent reports indicate that consumers have become guarded when it comes to Black Friday, with many saying that they’ll be avoiding the hassle by doing more shopping online.

Consumers who do choose to shop in stores say that they’re often disappointed by hyped up deals that fall short of expectations because product inventory runs out so fast. However, Walmart says that won’t be a problem this year. The company says that it is stocking up on 1.5 million TV’s, 2 million tablets and computers, and 3 million video games that will be purchasable online and at stores.

“I don’t expect to see any kind of decline [on] Black Friday. . . traffic continues to grow in the stores while we continue to grow our online business,” said Walmart’s chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies.

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Here's a sneak peek at Black Friday ad slicks

Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kmart have all tipped their hands

For consumers planning to get up early and hit the stores on Black Friday, here's a way to plan your morning. A shopping website, BestBlackFriday.com has p...

PhotoFor consumers planning to get up early and hit the stores on Black Friday, here's a way to plan your morning. A shopping website, BestBlackFriday.com has published leaked Black Friday ad slicks from five major retailers, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kmart.

Best Buy

According to the ad for Best Buy, the electronics retailer will open at 5:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and offer a Samsung 55-inch 2160p 4K HD smart TV for $479.99, marked down by $320. A Toshiba 49-inch 2160p set will go for $199.99.

The Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch touchscreen laptop will have a sale price of $349.99, $150 lower than its regular price. The seven-inch, 8GB Kindle Fire has a sale price of $33.33. You can save $125 on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Walmart

Walmart will open at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. The Walmart ad shows the iPhone 5 on Straight Talk Wireless selling for $99. A Philips 55-inch 4K LED TV has been marked down to $298.

For gamers, the Playstation 4 Slim 500GB bundle is $249, and includes a $30 gift card. The Samsung 4K Blue-ray disc player is $39.

Target

The ad for Target's Black Friday Preview Sale, starting Thanksgiving Day, promotes a Fitbit Charge HR for $89.95, marked down from $129.95.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Target is offering the Jetson V6 hoverboard with Bluetooth speakers for $284.99. In the toy department, the Badgor Basket wooden doll house, with 15-piece furniture set, goes for $69.

Sears

Sears will open at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Its ad touts a Kenmore washer-dryer combo for $279.99 each and a 25.6 cubic inch, two-door stainless steel refrigerator for $999.

The Craftsman 41-inch, 12-drawer ball bearing tool chest is marked down to $349.98. A Serta Posturepedic queen sized mattress and box spring set has been marked down to $349.

Kmart

Kmart will open at 7:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving and its ad shows a Bell & Howell dashcam with 8 GB micro SD card for $15. It's 10-inch Frozen or Spiderman bike, regularly $49.99, has been marked down to $19.

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Blacks, Hispanics still lag in conventional mortgage approval

But Zillow reports both groups are closing the gap

Housing data collected by the federal government shows African American and Hispanic borrowers still have a harder time qualifying for a conventional mortg...

PhotoHousing data collected by the federal government shows African American and Hispanic borrowers still have a harder time qualifying for a conventional mortgage than other races.

The statistics gathered under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) show improvements in mortgage access for these groups, but disparities persist.

For example, 22.4% of black applicants were denied in 2015 when they applied for a conventional mortgage. But that's an improvement from five years earlier, when the denial rate was 30.5%.

Among Hispanic mortgage applicants, 17.3% were turned down when they applied for a conventional mortgage last year, but that was also a significant improvement over 2010's 25% decline rate.

Typically, 10% of all applicants are turned down

Overall, only 10.4% of all conventional mortgage borrowers were turned down last year.

"Even though conditions have improved over the past few years, getting approved for a mortgage is still a significant barrier for some would-be buyers," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Owning a home is an important way for the middle class to build personal wealth. It's encouraging to see more black and Hispanic borrowers getting approved for mortgages, but there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made."

It should be noted that the denial rate only applies to conventional mortgages, which can carry some advantages but usually require larger down payments and stronger credit profiles.

FHA a popular alternative

For consumers who don't qualify for a conventional mortgage, a government-backed FHA mortgage is a popular alternative. To qualify for an FHA mortgage, an applicant needs only a credit score of 580 and a 3.5% down payment.

There can be slightly higher interest rates associated with these loans, however. Also, the homeowner is required to continue to pay for mortgage insurance over the life of the loan, no matter how much equity he or she eventually gains in the property.

Zillow raises a concern that black and Hispanic borrowers are not getting access to the conventional loan market at the same rate as white and Asian applicants. The real estate website says the problem appears to be so entrenched that last week Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced programs to improve access to credit for these groups.

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Economy: Completed foreclosures, jobless claims down

Serious mortgage delinquencies were lower as well

Another month of declines in both completed foreclosures and the foreclosure inventory.Property information provider CoreLogic repo...

Photo
Photo © Torian

Another month of declines in both completed foreclosures and the foreclosure inventory.

Property information provider CoreLogic reports completed foreclosures declined by 7.0% in September from the same time a year ago, while the foreclosure inventory plunged 31.1%.

The number of completed foreclosures nationwide was down year-over-year by 3,000 -- to 36,000 in September 2016, representing a drop of 69.7% from the peak of 118,222 in September 2010.

The foreclosure inventory represents the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process and completed foreclosures reflect the total number of homes lost to foreclosure.

Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.4 million completed foreclosures nationally. Since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.5 million homes lost to foreclosure.

As of September, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 340,000, or 0.9%, of all homes with a mortgage, versus 493,000 homes, or 1.3%, the year before.

Mortgage delinquencies

The number of mortgages in serious delinquency -- 90 days or more past due including loans in foreclosure or REO -- plummeted 24.8% from September 2015 to September 2016, with 1 million mortgages, or 2.6%, in serious delinquency. That's the lowest level since August 2007. Decreases were seen in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

“This improvement is continued evidence of the recovery in the housing market,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic, “especially given that the decreases were fairly uniform in most cities across the country.”

Report highlights

  • On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures increased by 5.2% to 36,000 in September from the 34,000 reported for August. 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.
  • The September foreclosure inventory was down 3.1% compared with August 2016.
  • The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in September were Florida (53,000), Texas (27,000), Michigan (24,000), Ohio (23,000), and Georgia (21,000).These five states accounted for 36% of completed foreclosures nationally.
  • Four states and the District of Columbia had the lowest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in September: the District of Columbia (186), North Dakota (338), West Virginia (447), Alaska (643), and Montana (701).
  • Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest foreclosure inventory rate in September: New Jersey (3.0%), New York (2.7%), Maine (1.8%), Hawaii (1.8%), and the District of Columbia (1.6%).
  • The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory rate in September 2016 were Colorado (0.3%), Minnesota (0.3%), Arizona , Michigan, and Utah (all at 0.3%).
Photo
Photo © Marzky Ragsac Jr. - Fotolia

Jobless claims

The decline last week in first-time applications for state unemployment benefits more than wiped out the increase posted the previous week.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims were down by 11,000 in the week ending November 5 to a seasonally adjusted 254,000.

It's now been 88 straight weeks that claims have been below 300,000 the longest streak since 1970.

The four-week moving average inched up 1,750 from a week earlier to 259,750. This measure is seen as a better gauge of the labor market as it lacks the volatility seen in the weekly headcount.

The complete report may be found on the DOL website.

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Flavor Trade expands recall of beef products

The products did not undergo federal inspection

Flavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is expanding its original recall of beef jerky products that were produced without undergoing federal inspection and used...

PhotoFlavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is expanding its original recall of beef jerky products that were produced without undergoing federal inspection and used the USDA mark of inspection without authorization.

The original recall included 113 pounds of product. This expansion includes an additional 628 pounds of product for a total of approximately 741 pounds.

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

The following items, produced on May 18, June 10, August 30, September 27-28, October 25-26, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Wheat,” which may or may not include package code 614261.
  • 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Porter,” which may or may not include package code 619290.
  • 3-oz. sealed packages containing “E3 Meat Co. Paleo Beef Jerky Sweet.”
  • 3-oz. sealed packages containing “E3 Meat Co. Paleo Beef Jerky Spicy.”

The recalled products may or may not incorrectly bear a USDA mark of inspection, which would include establishment number “EST. 48135”. They were shipped to retail locations in Kansas and Missouri.

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 Shannon Kimball at (816) 531-2288. 

 

 

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Volvo recalls vehicles with seat belt buckle issue

The front passenger seat belt buckle may separate from the seat belt bracket

Volvo Car USA is recalling 74,027 model year 2016-2017 XC90, S90, XC60, V60 Cross Country, V60, S60 Cross Country, S60, and S60 Inscription vehicles manufa...

PhotoVolvo Car USA is recalling 74,027 model year 2016-2017 XC90, S90, XC60, V60 Cross Country, V60, S60 Cross Country, S60, and S60 Inscription vehicles manufactured February 16, 2015, to August 22, 2016.

The front passenger seat belt buckle attaching stud may loosen, allowing the buckle to separate from the seat belt bracket. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 210, "Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages" and number 209, "Seat Belt Assemblies."

If the seat belt buckle separates from the bracket, the front seat passenger may not be restrained adequately in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

What to do

Volvo will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front passenger seat belt buckle stud, replacing the seat belt buckle as needed, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 12, 2016.

Owners may contact Volvo customer service at 1-800-458-1552. Volvo's number for this recall is R89708.

 

 

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Klement's Sausage Company recalls beef and sausage products

The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials

Klement’s Sausage Company of Milwaukee, Wis., is recalling approximately 1,689 pounds of beef and pork products that may be contaminated with extraneous ma...

PhotoKlement’s Sausage Company of Milwaukee, Wis., is recalling approximately 1,689 pounds of beef and pork products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials.

The company has received one report of an oral injury associated with consumption of these products.

The following ready to eat beef and pork snack stick items, produced on May 13, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 1-oz. plastic packages containing 2 pieces of “KLEMENT’S ORIGINAL SNACK STICKS NATURALLY HARDWOOD SMOKED NO MSG ADDED GLUTEN FREE” with a sell by date of 11-16-17 and case code of 3262.

The recalled products bearing establishment number “EST. 2426B” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to vending distributors in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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 Becca Herrmann at (414)-744-2330, EXT. 273.

 

 

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Trump brand saved by election win

Damage to the brand has evaporated with Trump's upset victory

In the depths of the presidential campaign, marketing analysts said that Trump the candidate was doing a lot of damage to Trump the brand and that Donald T...

PhotoIn the depths of the presidential campaign, marketing analysts said that Trump the candidate was doing a lot of damage to Trump the brand and that Donald Trump's hotels, golf clubs, neckties, and other consumer goods were feeling the heat.

But now that it's the morning after, things are looking a little different. A post-Election Day, overnight national survey conducted by Brand Keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy, revealed that in each of the seven categories Brand Keys has been tracking, the Trump brand has rebounded to levels seen just prior to the April 2015 announcement of his candidacy.

"“Mr. Trump has been one of the most powerful brands we'’ve ever tracked,”" said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “"You could add his name to anything from ties to buildings and the increased perceived value of the products fell into the 20% to 37% range. Which was very high, enviable by any category or brand standards, and what a brand is supposed to do. Now, I suppose, he literally qualifies as ‘the most powerful brand in the world’.”"

Blurred the lines

The Trump brand took a beating as campaign rhetoric heated up. Things worsened when a videotape was released that captured Trump making lewd comments about women.

"That didn't totally surprise or alarm us,"” Passikoff said. "“In becoming a candidate Mr. Trump changed both the brand paradigm regarding consumer expectations and values surrounding the Trump brand and also blurred the traditional lines regarding where the ‘Trump brand’ was expected to compete."

Passikoff said that human brands -- brands built around living people -- are powerful but can be damaged by the actions of their namesakes. They "don'’t usually come back as strong as they used to be" after an incident like the videotape release, he said.

"Think about what happened to Martha Stewart or Tiger Woods. Their brands survived but they never came back as strong as they were before the brand imploded –after they went to jail or were forced to do a PGA Adultery walk-of-shame, for example,"” noted Passikoff.

"“Human brands don’'t generally get a second chance to breathe real life back into their brands or rekindle the desire in the hearts and souls of consumers. Not at their former brand strength, added-value levels, at least," Passikoff said. "But apparently winning a presidential election is the exception that tests the rule."

Study details

According to 1,203 registered voters in the nine US Census regions, 100% of the categories where Brand Keys has tracked the Trump brand that had been negatively affected a month ago with the Access Hollywood tape disclosure have rebounded to pre-candidacy added-value brand levels.

Added-value related to the Trump brand --– that is, how much more a product or service is seen to better meet consumer expectations and be seen to be worth more monetarily with the Trump brand --– is back up significantly from a month ago in each of the seven categories where Brand Keys has historically tracked the Trump brand.

In some categories the added-value brand numbers are the highest Brand Keys has ever tracked for the brand.

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Four cities approve tax on sugary soda

Anti-obesity advocates go four-for-four on election day

If you ask voters, putting an extra tax on sugar-sweetened soda seems like a good idea. It was on the ballot Tuesday in four cities, and voters in all four...

PhotoIf you ask voters, putting an extra tax on sugar-sweetened soda seems like a good idea. It was on the ballot Tuesday in four cities, and voters in all four cities approved it.

Three of the cities are in California – actually the same region of California. The tax won approval in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany. In addition, voters in Boulder, Colo., approved the tax.

In a statement issued on election day, before any of the ballots were counted, Dr. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said just the presence of the ballot initiatives represents a new normal for “Big Soda.”

“The lessons learned by the community groups and advocates in these campaigns will be shared across the country and brought to bear in other cities and states,” Jacobson said. “The industry will continue to outspend because they can’t afford to lose. But they have already lost: The science base is growing stronger for sugar drinks’ causation of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and tooth decay, and communities are acting.”

Outspent

According to USA Today, consumer groups pushing for the soda tax spent just over $9 million to support their cause. Opponents, back in part by the beverage industry, spend $20 million. It was pretty much the same story in the other three municipalities.

The four cities are the first to approve a soda tax since Berkeley, Calif., took that step in 2014. In Tuesday's voting, Boulder added a two-cent tax to the cost of soda. The California cities each added a penny.

Will it have an effect? The World Health Organization (WHO) believes it will and recently urged cities around the world to enact taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. The organization said it believes adding to the cost of these products could help reduce health risks like type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes. . . If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs).

The taxes approved in Tuesday's voting are projected to raise as much as $29 million between the four cities.

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Business interests try to read the Trump tea leaves

Trade restrictions, immigration policy, media regulations eyed on Wall Street and beyond

Donald Trump's victory at the polls has business interests wishing they had a crystal ball that would tell them which of Trump's campaign promises he actua...

PhotoDonald Trump's victory at the polls has business interests wishing they had a crystal ball that would tell them which of Trump's campaign promises he actually intends to pursue vigorously.

Republican candidates are usually fervent supporters of free trade and opponents of unnecessary government regulation of business. But Trump is not your ordinary Republican, and it's not entirely clear what his approach will be. 

Restricting international free trade and renegotating treaties like NAFTA -- as he has proposed -- could have an enormous impact on everything from advertising to bananas, while tighter immigration policies would hit the food and beverage industries hard, Advertising Age notes today.

It quotes analysts as saying that Corona and Modelo Especial beers would be at risk. If 1.5 million undocumented Mexican immigrants left the United States, the beer brands could suffer because, the analysts say, Mexican immigrants' per capita beer consumption is about twice that of the general population.

Media policy

Telecom and media interests are also feeling some trepidation. Trump made no secret of his disdain for the news media and threatened to change libel laws to make it easier for candidates to sue press outlets.

Trump has also been outspoken in his opposition to further media consolidation and specifically mentioned AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner. He also said he would try to break up Comcast and NBC Universal.

"As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN," Mr. Trump said Oct. 22 as the deal was announced, "a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."

An AT&T executive said this morning that the company is looking forward to working with Trump and is optimistic the deal can be approved.

Broadband providers are also wondering how a Trump presidency will affect the Federal Communications Commission, which is implementing new rules to protect consumers' privacy on the Web. 

In a letter to Trump organized by the National Association of Manufacturers, top executives from Boeing, Ford, and United Technologies, among others, urged Trump to take a "constructive" approach to business regulation.

“We hope President Trump is more nuanced than candidate Trump,” said Jake Parker, vice president of China operations of the U.S.-China Business Council, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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And the winner is ... marijuana

California, three other states legalize recreational use of the weed

As the smoke cleared from Tuesday's election, marijuana emerged the winner. Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed measures making t...

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Vaping in teens leads to heavier smoking patterns, study finds

Researchers link the habit with increased cigarette smoking, prompting health concerns

The popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise for teens across the U.S. Middle and high school students are glorifying habits like vaping, and many stil...

PhotoThe popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise for teens across the U.S. Middle and high school students are glorifying habits like vaping, and many still believe that the products don’t pose much of an immediate threat to their health.

While different studies have disagreed over that fact, new findings from the University of Southern California suggest that the health of young users may be at serious risk in the short- and long-term. The reason, the authors say, is that e-cigarette use and vaping can be associated with an increased frequency of smoking and heavier smoking habits overall.

Heavier smoking patterns

Dr. Adam M. Leventhal and his colleagues came to their conclusions after analyzing surveys given to 10th grade students in ten public high schools in Los Angeles County between 2014 and 2015. Questions focused on the frequency and heaviness of e-cigarette and cigarette use, as well as vaping habits. A follow-up survey was given six months later to gauge any changes.

The analysis found that students that smoked or vaped at the time when they took the first survey were more likely to increase their e-cigarette smoking frequency by the time the second survey was taken. Similarly, the researchers found that adolescents who smoked cigarettes were more likely to increase their smoking frequency and heaviness if they also vaped; this was especially true for infrequent smokers.

The researchers believe these findings speak to the need for stronger tobacco control policies, though they admit that more research will need to be conducted to verify the results. The full study has been published in JAMA

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October retail hiring down from a year ago

However, other industries are adding workers

Ahhh...the best laid plans and all that.Even though many major retailers said they planned on expanding their workforces this Christmas shopping season...

PhotoAhhh...the best laid plans and all that.

Even though many major retailers said they planned on expanding their workforces this Christmas shopping season, October employment gains have plunged 21% from a year ago to 154,600.

An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows that's the fewest job gains to kick off the holiday hiring season since 2012.

This year’s decline follows two consecutive years of record job gains in October. BLS data shows that retail employment grew by 194,800 in 2015, a record number of October job gains for the sector.

Not a harbinger

Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger points out, however, that record October job gains in 2015 did not lead to record retail hiring throughout the holiday season. In fact, overall holiday hiring declined.

“The shrinking number of jobs added during the holiday season does not necessarily mean that the retail industry is shrinking," said Challenger. “As of October, there were 15,994,000 Americans employed in this sector. That is up from 15,759,000 a year ago and represents the highest October employment level ever recorded by the BLS.”

What's going on

A few trends could be contributing to the fall off in holiday hiring. Challenger said stronger hiring throughout the year and advances in retail technology may mean that stores do not have to hire as many extra workers during the busy holiday shopping season. In addition, he said, “increased online shopping could be shifting the holiday job gains away from retailers toward warehousing, fulfillment, and transportation operations.”

In fact, holiday hiring plans announced by the likes of Amazon.com, UPS, and FedEx have grown significantly over the last five years, according to Challenger. Meanwhile, hiring announcements from retailers have remained relatively flat or declined.

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Mortgage applications down for third straight week

Contract interest rates were mixed

Another decline -- the third in a row -- for mortgage applications.The weekly mortgage applications survey conducted by the Mortgage Bankers Associatio...

PhotoAnother decline -- the third in a row -- for mortgage applications.

The weekly mortgage applications survey conducted by the Mortgage Bankers Association shows applications were down 1.2% in the week ending November 4, 2016.

The Refinance Index plunged 3% to its lowest level since May, dragging the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 62.3% of total applications from 62.7% the week before.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 4.5% of total applications, the FHA share was up 11.6% from 11.1%, the VA share of total applications slipped to 12.3% from 12.4%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.7%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) rose two basis points -- from 3.75% to 3.77%, the highest level since June, with points increasing to 0.38 from 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) went to 3.75%, its highest level since June 2016, from 3.74 percent, with points decreasing to 0.27 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA inched up two basis points to 3.61%, its highest level since June, with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs dipped to 3.03% from 3.04%, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs fell five basis points to 2.92%, with points increasing to 0.47 from 0.40 (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.

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Country Home Products recalls leaf and lawn vacuums

The muffler can overheat and melt the air cleaner cover

Country Home Products of Vergennes, Vt., is recalling about 3,900 Pro leaf and lawn vacuums.The muffler can overheat and melt the air cleaner cover, po...

PhotoCountry Home Products of Vergennes, Vt., is recalling about 3,900 Pro leaf and lawn vacuums.

The muffler can overheat and melt the air cleaner cover, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.

The firm has received 20 reports of the vacuums becoming hot to the touch, melting or catching fire. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Premier, Pro and Pro-XL models of the tow-behind DR leaf and lawn vacuums manufactured by Country Home Products.

Recalled units have a serial number between LLV34601 and LLV39980. The leaf and lawn vacuums are towed behind a riding lawnmower to collect leaves and are tan and black in color with a set of two wheels on each side.

The DR logo with “Professional Power Done Right” and “leaf and lawn vacuum” are printed on the side of the vacuum. The serial number is located on the left side of the tow bar near the engine. 

 

Model

Serial Number

Gallons

Engine

Premier

 

 

 

LLV34601 through LLV39980

200

Electric start using the R225 engine

Pro

321

Both manual starts and electric starts using the R300 engine

Pro-XL

321

Both manual starts and electric starts versions using the R390 engine

The vacuums, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Country Home Products catalog, website and authorized dealers nationwide, including Tractor Supply Company, from August 2014, through September 2015, for between $1,300 and $2,200.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled leaf and lawn vacuums and contact Country Home Products to receive a free repair kit that contains a replacement muffler and instructions for completing the repair.

Consumers unable to install the repair kit should contact the firm for information on authorized dealers who can install the free repair.

Country Home Products is contacting all purchasers directly.

Consumers may contact Country Home Products toll-free at 877-220-0691 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at vacrecall@chp.com or online at www.DRPower.com and click on “Product Recalls” for more information.

 

 

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MTR Sambar Powder recalled due to possible health risk

The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

SHRI SHIVA Foods is recalling MTR Sambar Powder which may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses have been reported.The product, packed in 20...

PhotoSHRI SHIVA Foods is recalling MTR Sambar Powder which may be contaminated with Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported.

The product, packed in 200-g plastic pouches under MTR Brand stamped with MFD.27.10.15 on the back, was sold from January 2016, to October 2016, thru one New York and one Ohio wholesaler.

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's consumer affairs office at 347-581-7931, Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm (EST).

 

 

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Lawmakers push for antitrust probe of EpiPen maker

Senate Judiciary Committee wants an FTC investigation

High drug prices may not be a partisan issue. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined their Democratic colleagues in asking the Federal T...

PhotoHigh drug prices may not be a partisan issue. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined their Democratic colleagues in asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate drug maker Mylan.

Mylan, you will recall, is the pharmaceutical firm that produces the EpiPen, a device that dispenses a life-saving antidote to allergic shock. The company became a focus of a political storm over the summer when it raised the price of the product to around $600, even though it was essentially the same product that it had been selling for nearly a decade.

On Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-WI) asked the FTC to review Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ business practices involving EpiPens for possible antitrust behavior. The lawmakers made the request in response to published reports that the company attempted to prevent schools from purchasing a competing product.

Since children are often subject to life-threatening allergic reactions, many schools keep the antidote on hand in the event of such emergencies.

A shared priority

“Increasing patient access to safe, effective and affordable medications has long been a shared priority of ours,” the lawmakers from opposing parties wrote in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “We also share a strong belief that potential anti-competitive actions by drug industry participants must be aggressively investigated because of their impact on competition and drug costs.”

When the issue of EpiPen pricing broke into the headlines in August, the federal government quickly took note, since Medicare and Medicaid spent a lot of money on the product. Was the government being overcharged, the Justice Department wanted to know?

Mylan responded to the public pressure by introducing a discount program for low and middle income patients, but refused to budge from its price for the EpiPen.

Speedy settlement

When the Justice Department began asking questions, Mylan offered to settle, agreeing to pay a $465 million dollar fine to settle charges it had misclassified the drug as a generic. But the company did not admit to any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.

Meanwhile, a number of states, led by Minnesota, are conducting their own investigation into EpiPen pricing to determine whether state Medicaid and other aid programs were overcharged.

In calling for the antitrust probe, Grassley and Leahy said the FTC plays a critical role in protecting consumers from anti-competitive behavior, especially by pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing to looking into the recent Mylan settlement with the Justice Department.

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Apps to help parents get through the holidays

Having these apps in your back pocket can help keep your family organized

With the holidays just around the corner, there may be a few parties or family gatherings in your future. If you’re a parent, you’ll likely be facing many...

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No more free ride for new Tesla owners

The electric automaker will start charging for charging

It's said that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and for new Tesla owners, there will no longer be free supercharging. In this case, "supercharging" r...

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How Vine may survive after all

Twitter is reportedly reviewing bids from other companies to buy the app

Last month, Twitter seemed to be in a bit of frenzy to cut costs. It laid off 9% of its workforce and announced plans to axe its mobile video app, Vine....

PhotoLast month, Twitter seemed to be in a bit of frenzy to cut costs. It laid off 9% of its workforce and announced plans to axe its mobile video app, Vine.

Upon receiving news of the latter, the internet promptly blew up with indignation and mourning. Fans of the service couldn’t believe that the once-popular six-second video app was going to fall by the wayside, and that got the attention of several prospective new suitors.

A report from TechCrunch reveals that Twitter is fielding several different offers from companies who want to buy Vine. Initially, as many as 10 bids were made for the company, but Twitter has narrowed it down to less than a half-dozen.

Tough choices

There are a couple of problems for Twitter when it comes to making a selection, though. The first is that it isn’t likely that Twitter will earn much revenue from selling off the service. Reports suggest that several of the bids were less than $10 million, which is about what it cost for Twitter to operate the service for a month. So, right off the bat, the compensation might be relatively low.

Secondly, Twitter can’t be sure how selling off Vine will reflect on its own business. Critics suggest that things could go one of two ways: if Vine is bought by a company that can help it flourish, then the strong integration between Vine and Twitter’s app can lead to more video being served on the Twitter platform, attracting users. Twitter may even earn some money from sponsored content deals.

However, if Vine’s new owner ends up shutting down the mobile app or shutting down its archives, the backlash from users and fans could be overwhelming. That kind of negative sentiment could reflect poorly on Twitter, since Vine is so heavily associated with the social media giant. Additionally, another company taking over Vine and making it a huge success could indicate weakness in Twitter’s leadership, who have been unsuccessful with revitalizing the app.

So, it seems that Twitter will have to be very careful when it comes to choosing a new home for Vine. The company could still refuse all offers and continue with plans to phase out the app, but the hard financial times that it’s going through make that a little less likely. Whichever path it chooses, internet users will be sure to be watching. 

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Three good smartphones for a bargain price

Most smartphones now cost over $600, but there are cheaper alternatives

Priced a new smartphone lately? It's definitely a different world since carriers have stopped subsidizing the cost of devices if you signed a two-year cont...

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Are consumers suffering from Black Friday burnout?

Survey finds more consumers 'hate' it than 'love' it.

We've heard for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and that consumers eagerly look forward to participating. But really? Do pe...

PhotoWe've heard for years that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and that consumers eagerly look forward to participating. But really? Do people really enjoy standing in line outside a Walmart at 4:00 a.m.?

Our friends at BestBlackFriday.com have stumbled across the painful truth. A survey conducted for the site by SurveyMonkey found a sizable number of consumers actually claim to hate Black Friday.

According to the results, fewer than 15% of those questioned actually “love” the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season. A little over 35% profess to hate it. About half of those in the survey describe Black Friday as “just okay.”

A young person's game

Other takeaways from the survey – younger shoppers tend to “love” Black Friday more than older people. There is a huge drop in affection after Americans turn 30. Consumers who say they hate Thanksgiving openings also hate Black Friday.

Is it possible consumers are just burned out on Black Friday hype? Phil Dengle, a principal at BestBlackFriday, says that's a logical explanation. Also, he says consumers no longer have to get up early and fight the crowds in order to get a good buy.

“The numerous pre-Black Friday and early November sales are absolutely turning shoppers off to the actual day of Black Friday.,” Dengler said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.

As of November 7, Dengler notes that Amazon had already opened its "Black Friday Store," and retailers like Walmart have been showcasing Early Bird Online Specials.

“Actual Black Friday doorbusters will start on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year, so everything is much more spread out,” he said. “Overall, prices are still going to be better on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, but it is still more than possible to find great deals in the weeks leading up.”

More online shopping

And the week after too. Research has shown year after year that overall, the best deals aren't found on Black Friday but in early December. And more and more sales are being conducted online. The significant drop in the number of major retailers open this Thanksgiving probably has less to do with perceived public backlash than with the fact shoppers can still buy things from the comfort of their living rooms between dinner and football.

Plus, Dengler says there are now so many deals, before and after Black Friday, consumers are not obsessed with getting the absolute lowest price.

“Many shoppers just do not want to go through with the hassle and stress of shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, so they are sacrificing a few dollars to get it on their own terms,” he said.

Finally, the survey suggests this Black Friday might find the stores not so crowded. Forty percent said they didn't plan to shop at all the day after Thanksgiving and 28% said they would limit their shopping to online.

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Hiring slows in September amid static job opening situation

Net hiring over the past year is higher

Even though there was little change in the number of job openings during September, there were fewer people added to payrolls than in August.The Labor...

PhotoEven though there was little change in the number of job openings during September, there were fewer people added to payrolls than in August.

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the number of people who found work dipped to 5.1 million, while the number of job openings was fairly steady at 5.5 million.

With a hires rate of 3.5%, the number of hires was little changed for total private and for government, fell in arts, entertainment, and recreation, and showed little change in all other industries. Hiring was down in the Northeast region and steady in all other regions.

Separations

Total separations, or turnover, includes quits, layoffs & discharges, and other separations.

September saw 4.9 million total separations, about the same as August, for a rate of 3.4%. The total was essentially unchanged for private and for government, but increased in transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Separations decreased in arts, entertainment, and recreation (-55,000), and the total number was little changed in all four regions.

The number of quits was little changed in September (3.1 million), and the quits rate was 2.1%. The number of quits was little changed for total private, and increased for government. The number of quits was little changed in all four regions.

Layoffs and discharges totaled 1.5 million in September, down 218,000 from August, with a rare dip to 1.0%. The number of layoffs and discharges decreased for total private and for government, and was down in the South.

The other separations category was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, government, and in all four regions.

Net change

For the year ending in September, hires totaled 62.7 million and separations totaled 60.1 million, for a net employment gain of 2.6 million. This includes workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

The complete report is available on the BLS website.

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55+ housing market shows continued strength

The market has grown for the last ten quarters

The market for 55+ housing continued to perk along in the third quarter.According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), its 55+ Housing...

PhotoThe market for 55+ housing continued to perk along in the third quarter.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), its 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) rose two points in the July-September period for a reading of 59. That marks the 10th consecutive quarter with a reading above 50, which indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

"The 55+ housing market continues on a steady path toward recovery, much like the overall housing market," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Older homeowners are able to take advantage of low mortgage rates and rising home prices, enabling them to sell their current homes and buy or rent a home in a 55+ community."

Gauging the market

There are separate 55+ HMIs for two segments of the 55+ housing market: single-family homes and multifamily condominiums. Each 55+ HMI measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic, and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair, or poor (high, average, or low for traffic).

Two of the three index components of the 55+ single-family HMI posted an increase from the previous quarter: Present sales rose two points to 63 and traffic of prospective buyers rose five points to 47. Expected sales for the next six months dropped four points to 65.

The 55+ multifamily condo HMI rose one point to 48. The index component for present sales was up two points to 51, while expected sales for the next six months fell three points to 51 and traffic of prospective buyers was unchanged at 38.

All four indices tracking production and demand of 55+ multifamily rentals decreased in the third quarter. Present production fell three points to 48, expected future production decreased seven points to 49, current demand for existing units dropped nine points to 59, and future demand fell eight points to 59.

"Builders and developers for the 55+ housing sector tell us that business is solid right now and they expect that trend to continue through the rest of the year," said Jim Chapman, chairman of NAHB's 55+ Housing Industry Council and president of Jim Chapman Homes LLC in Atlanta.

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OSI Industries recalls chicken products

The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

OSI Industries of Fort Atkinson, Wis., is recalling approximately 21,403 pounds of chicken products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials....

PhotoOSI Industries of Fort Atkinson, Wis., is recalling approximately 21,403 pounds of chicken products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials.

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

The following ready-to-eat chicken products, produced on August 5, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 35-oz./2 lbs 3 oz frozen plastic packages containing “ON-COR CHICKEN PATTIES MICROWAVEABLE” with Best by Date 8/5/2017

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-5615” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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 Dave Wetherton at (844) 674-8100. 

 

 

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Model year 2016 Chevy Malibus recalled

The fabric of the side-impact airbag cushion may tear during deployment

General Motors is recalling 18 model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured November 18, 2015, to June 7, 2016.The fabric of the side-impact airbag c...

PhotoGeneral Motors is recalling 18 model year 2016 Chevrolet Malibus manufactured November 18, 2015, to June 7, 2016.

The fabric of the side-impact airbag cushion may tear during deployment.

If the airbag tears during deployment, it may not perform as designed, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

What to do

GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, replace the air bag module, free of charge. The recall began October 27, 2016.

Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 16079.

 

 

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Chrysler recalls Jeep Cherokees with airbag inflator issue

The air bag may not inflate properly

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 88 model year 2017 Jeep Cherokees manufactured October 13, 2016, to October 17, 2016.Improper welds on the driver's...

PhotoChrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 88 model year 2017 Jeep Cherokees manufactured October 13, 2016, to October 17, 2016.

Improper welds on the driver's knee airbag inflator may prevent the airbag from inflating properly, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

What to do

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's knee air bag module, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 18, 2016.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S84.

 

 

 

More

Feds warn of gift card scam

Callers demand immediate payment of phony debts, suggest using gift cards to pay

The phone rings and the caller identifies himself as a police official. Your grandson has been caught texting while driving and needs $500 to get out of ja...

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Dish Network, citing viewership data, predicts Clinton win

Company says it knows the shows Democrats and Republicans watch

You may have thought FBI Director James Comey's surprise announcement over the weekend that the Hillary Clinton email probe is closed again was the big fac...

PhotoYou may have thought FBI Director James Comey's surprise announcement over the weekend that the Hillary Clinton email probe is closed again was the big factor in affecting the race with Donald Trump.

But according to Dish Network, a Clinton victory is baked into America's TV viewing choices. Come January 20, the company predicts, Hillary Clinton will be taking the oath of office.

The “Viewers to Voters” predictive model analyzed anonymous viewership data. Who watches what apparently determines the outcome of the vote. The results show Democrats keeping the White House but Republicans retaining control of the House. The data couldn't get a read on the outcome of Senate races.

Viewership reveals political leanings

The folks at Dish maintain that what you tend to watch on TV reveals your political leanings. For example, it says consumers who watch sports, religious programming, or family-oriented television are more likely to pull the lever for the GOP.

But consumers who watch series and specials, as well as education and music-themed programs, are more likely to support Democrats.

Dish, of course, has access to all this information and its read, based on the numbers it's seen so far, suggests there are more Democrat-leaning viewers than Republican consumers. Of course, the company has no way of knowing who is watching what on DirecTV and other providers, so how reliable can it be?

The company says it deployed the analysis for the first time two years ago, during the mid-term election, and the forecast was 98% accurate.

A different election

True, but this presidential race has been unlike any other in recent memory. One candidate has been investigated by the FBI. The other was caught on tape bragging in vulgar language about his power over women.

In a normal year, it might have disqualified both. But this year, they are somehow running against each other.

What isn't clear from the Dish Network viewership analysis is how many consumers were desperately trying to find something on TV to watch to divert their attention from the election.

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Five easy household budgeting tips

To effectively save money, just take baby steps

For families and individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck, saving money for the future, or for an emergency fund, might seem out of the question. But by dev...

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Ford recalls model year 2015-2017 Mustangs

A hose may separate from the engine oil cooler tube assembly causing an oil leak

Ford Motor Company is recalling 6,582 model year 2015-2017 Mustangs manufactured February 24, 2015, to August 30, 2016.A hose may separate from the eng...

PhotoFord Motor Company is recalling 6,582 model year 2015-2017 Mustangs manufactured February 24, 2015, to August 30, 2016.

A hose may separate from the engine oil cooler tube assembly causing an oil leak.

A sudden loss of engine oil may cause engine failure, increasing the risk of a crash. Additionally, an oil leak, in the presence of an ignition source, increases the risk of a fire.

What to do

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the engine oil cooler tube assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 12, 2016.

Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. 

 

 

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OLMA-XXI recalls two smoked fish products

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

OLMA-XXI of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling Premium Norwegian Sliced Smoked Salmon and Turbot, Butterfish, Smoked, Sliced Salmon.The product may be contam...

PhotoOLMA-XXI of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling Premium Norwegian Sliced Smoked Salmon and Turbot, Butterfish, Smoked, Sliced Salmon.

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The following products, packaged in a plastic vacuum packed bag, are being recalled:

  • Premium Norwegian Salmon Smoked, Sliced 8 oz (227g), UPC #856687004288, lot #606002 - best by 02/23/2017
  • Salmon, Turbot, Butterfish Smoked, Sliced 8 oz (227g), UPC #856687004448, lot #529910- best by 10/20/2016

The recalled products were distributed by refrigerated trucks through retail stores and warehouses between December 2015 – October 2016, in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, Texas, Illinois, Georgia and Washington.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to OLMA-XXI, Inc. for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 718-675-0706, Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm (ET).

 

 

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Model year 2016 Toyota Highlanders recalled

The brake fluid level sensor may not detect the brake fluid level

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 7,056 model year 2016 Highlanders manufactured May 26, 2016, to September 16, 2016.The brake flui...

PhotoToyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 7,056 model year 2016 Highlanders manufactured May 26, 2016, to September 16, 2016.

The brake fluid level sensor may not be connected to the wire harness, preventing the sensor from detecting the brake fluid level. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 135, "Light Vehicle Brake Systems."

If the brake fluid level is low and is not detected, braking performance may be decreased, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, connect the wire harness to the sensor, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 7, 2016.

Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. Toyota's number for this G03.

 

 

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Journaling your travels -- the best way to preserve your memories

Details fade from memory quickly, but a journal can help you retain them

On our first European trip we bought a travel diary and my husband and I took turns chronicling our days. One night we had such an extraordinary dinner, we...

PhotoOn our first European trip we bought a travel diary and my husband and I took turns chronicling our days. One night we had such an extraordinary dinner, we both wrote. We shared details of our escapades, mishaps, interesting characters, meals, and purchases. Our narratives are descriptive and even decades later it is still fun to look back at our early travels and remember so many details of our trips.

Nowadays we travel so often, it can be hard to stay on top of it all. I still journal, but not by hand and not each day. I use a variety of tools to remember our experiences and work hard to capture all the joyous and offbeat moments. These are some of my helpers:

  1. Take lots of photos. This is one of the best ways to remember your trip and remind yourself of everything you’ve done.

  2. While snapping photos, take pictures of the titles and explanations of the sites you are visiting.

  3. Make sure your cell phone is location enabled; that way it will track where your photos were taken for you, as long as you have a connection.

  4. Write yourself an email, sharing what was special about your day.

  5. Save personal, tour, or cruise itineraries.

  6. Pick up brochures, saving and organizing them in an envelope or plastic sleeve you’ve brought along for this purpose.

  7. Keep your entrance and ticket stubs and all programs.

  8. Purchase postcards. Check your lodging folder as there may be free ones for you to take.

  9. Save menus, if possible, or take photos of interesting foods, dishes, and meals you’d like to recall.

  10. Use the notes app on your cell phone to jot down names of sites, history tidbits, and any details to jog your memory.

  11. Send yourself postcards and write about what you loved about your day or stay. These are fun to scan and use with your photos.

  12. When you return home, organize all your memorabilia by date and location.

  13. Use word processing software to create a journal. Begin with your itinerary, including names of hotels, memory-worthy restaurants and foods, and sightseeing for the day.

  14. Add details using your memorabilia and memory. If you can’t remember names of the special sites you visited, do an online search.

  15. While you are searching, add details and descriptions from the websites. They’ll not only make your experience come alive, the additional knowledge will add to your memories and enhance your experience.

  16. Check in with fellow travelers and make notes of their memories and recollections, including them with yours.

Once you have your journaling done, decide how to use it. A wonderful way to remember your trip is to combine your photographs with your written memories. You can do this with scrapbooks or make an online photobook. Whatever you choose to do, it will be a one-of-a-kind reminder of your travels – something to cherish for years to come.

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Is the future of driving going to really be that different?

So far, the evidence is scarce

If you believe everything you read lately, the auto industry is about to shrink. Millennials won't buy cars, but will share them through car-sharing arrang...

PhotoIf you believe everything you read lately, the auto industry is about to shrink. Millennials won't buy cars, but will share them through car-sharing arrangements.

Or, they will simply summon a driverless car from a smartphone app and be driven to and picked up from their destination.

Wall Street has bought into these scenarios as the stock prices for Ford and GM have sunk in recent months. But when all of this happens, and whether it really does happen, is still very much in doubt. After all, each era has offered up ambitious visions for the future that never materialized.

Still robust sales

As for the auto industry, it appears to still be doing quite nicely. Consumers have not yet shown an inclination to give up car ownership. While it's true new car sales were down about 6% last month, it's only because the comparison is to October 2015, when the industry blew the roof off sales projections.

According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), consumers not only bought new vehicles in huge numbers last month, they paid top dollar for them. The average transaction price was $34,663, nearly $800 more than consumers paid in October 2015.

"The Detroit automakers posted gains between 4% and 6% percent, as their strong portfolios of trucks and SUVs align extremely well with current consumer demand,” said KBB analyst Tim Fleming.

The auto industry was on the ropes in early 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis. But since then it has begun to set sales records month after month. Is all that going to end because Millennials want to share cars and not even own one? So far, the evidence hasn't been persuasive.

Role of Millennials

A new study by automotive site Edmunds.com suggests the major impact Millennials are bringing to the auto world features a more prominent role for women in the purchase process. The study found that both men and women are equally confident in their ability to negotiate a deal.

The most likely result of Millennials emergence as the biggest group of car-buyers, says Michelle Shotts, senior director of customer insights at Edmunds, is automakers, dealers, and marketers will begin to engage with car shoppers on a highly personalized, individual level.

But they'll still be buying cars and, for the foreseeable future, they'll be driving them themselves.

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Mercedes-Benz recalls various GLE Class vehicles

The low beam headlights may not be adjusted properly

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,215 model year 2016-2017 GLE 300d 4MATIC, GLE 350, GLE 350 4MATIC, and GLE 400 4MATIC vehicles manufactured Octobe...

PhotoMercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 2,215 model year 2016-2017 GLE 300d 4MATIC, GLE 350, GLE 350 4MATIC, and GLE 400 4MATIC vehicles manufactured October 14, 2015, to November 23, 2015.

The vehicles' low beam headlights may not be adjusted properly. Thus, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, "Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Assoc. Equipment."

If the low-beam headlights are out of adjustment, the driver's visibility may be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and correct the headlight adjustment, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in November 2016.

Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

 

 

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Flavor Trade recalls beef jerky products

The products did not undergo federal inspection

Flavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is recalling approximately 113 pounds of beef jerky products that did not undergo federal inspection and used the USDA ma...

PhotoFlavor Trade of Kansas City, Mo., is recalling approximately 113 pounds of beef jerky products that did not undergo federal inspection and used the USDA mark of inspection without authorization.

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

The following items, produced September 27 – 28, and October 25 – 26, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Wheat” which may or may not include package code 614261.
  • 3-oz. sealed packages containing “Craft Beer Jerky: Created with Porter” which may or may not include package code 619290.

The recalled products may or may not incorrectly bear a USDA mark of inspection which would include establishment number “EST. 48135.” They were shipped to retail locations in Missouri.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or returned them to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Shannon Kimball at (816) 531-2288. 

 

 

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Ford Escapes and Mercury Mariners recalled

The fuel delivery module may crack, causing a fuel leak.

Ford Motor Company is recalling 329,265 model year 2010-2012 Ford Escapes manufactured February 26, 2009, to April 29, 2012, and 2010-2011 Mercury Mariners...

PhotoFord Motor Company is recalling 329,265 model year 2010-2012 Ford Escapes manufactured February 26, 2009, to April 29, 2012, and 2010-2011 Mercury Mariners manufactured February 25, 2009, to December 12, 2010.

On vehicles with a 3.0L engine, the Fuel Delivery Module (FDM) may crack, causing a fuel leak. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire.

What to do

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the FDM flange with one that has a redesigned fuel supply port, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 12, 2016.

Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 16S41.

 

 

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Running Trainer recalls bicycles

The pedals can detach from the bicycle, posing a fall hazard

Running Trainer of Australia is recalling about 245 Bionic Runner bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The pedals can detach from the bicycle, posing a...

PhotoRunning Trainer of Australia is recalling about 245 Bionic Runner bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The pedals can detach from the bicycle, posing a fall hazard to riders.

The firm has received one report of a pedal detaching from the bicycle, resulting in an injury to a rider who fell off the bicycle and scraped his knees and finger.

This recall involves the Gen 2 Bionic Runner bicycles that mimic running motion. The bicycles are black and have red pedals and red trim around the wheels. The bicycles have a folding frame and “BIONIC RUNNER” is printed in white on the side of the stirrups.

The bicycles, manufactured in China, were sold online at Running Trainer’s website, www.run4.com, from May 2016, through September 2016, for about $900.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact Running Trainer to receive free replacement pedals. The firm has contacted all registered owners directly.

Consumers may contact Running Trainer at 800-603-4631 from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) Monday through Sunday, by email at support@run4.com or online at www.run4.com and click on “Safety Notices” at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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Rankings for the best and worst U.S. airports

Phoenix ranks as the best, while La Guardia comes in last

Experienced air travelers know which airports they like and which ones to stay away from. Unfortunately, for those of us who don’t fly as much, bad service...

PhotoExperienced air travelers know which airports they like and which ones to stay away from. Unfortunately, for those of us who don’t fly as much, bad service and amenities can often catch us by surprise.

To address this issue, the folks over at ThePointsGuy.com – a travel and lifestyle media platform -- took a look at the 30 busiest airports in the U.S. and ranked them from best to worst.

Each was judged on a variety of factors, including flight delays, cancellations, average security wait times, distance from the city center, public transit options, bars and restaurants, lounges, Wi-Fi costs, and parking rates.

Best and worst

The study found that Phoenix Sky Harbor International was the best airport in the U.S. It is the closest airport to its city’s center, has the second-best public transit time, third-cheapest parking, third-most restaurants and bars per capita, and the fifth-fewest flight cancellations.

Rounding out the top five were Portland International Airport in Oregon; San Diego International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, and Honolulu International Airport.

On the other hand, frequent fliers in New York will dismayed -- thought not surprised -- that two of their most well-known airports make the bottom of the list. La Guardia Airport, located in Queens, came in dead last due to having the most flight delays, most cancellations, and most expensive parking of all the airports surveyed.

John F. Kennedy Airport, also in Queens, occupies the second-to-last spot for having the longest security wait times and longest driving time from the city center.

The other three contenders at the bottom of the list included Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport.

To see the complete list, visit the researchers' site here

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Feds designate routes with alternative fuel stations

It's intended to make it easier to travel longer distances in electric, propane, and hydrogen cars

Having an electric car is fine, but you need to plug it in once in awhile. A new federal program aims to make it a little bit easier to find a charging sta...

PhotoHaving an electric car is fine, but you need to plug it in once in awhile. A new federal program aims to make it a little bit easier to find a charging station, not to mention a place to fill up your hydrogen, propane, or natural gas vehicle.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has designated 55 routes that will serve as the basis for a national network of “alternative fuel” corridors spanning 35 states.

“Alternative fuels and electric vehicles will play an integral part in the future of America’s transportation system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “We have a duty to help drivers identify routes that will help them refuel and recharge those vehicles and designating these corridors on our highways is a first step.”

The network is nearly 85.000 miles long and more routes will be added as new fueling and charging stations are built, Foxx said.

The corridors designated as “sign-ready,” meaning routes where alternative fuel stations are currently in operation, will be eligible to feature new signs alerting drivers where they can find fuel for their alternative fuel vehicles -- similar to the existing signs along Interstates that point to gas, food, and lodging.

Maps that show the various routes designated for electric, propane, hydrogen, and natural gas vehicles are on the FHWA website.

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Deer pose special road hazard in November

'Deer season' takes on a whole different meaning for motorists

If you are driving through stretches of wooded areas this month, keep a sharp lookout for deer. A survey by State Farm Insurance shows this month tops the...

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Thanksgiving air travel projected to rise 2.5%

But airlines are confident they can handle the extra passengers

If you are traveling by air this Thanksgiving weekend, hopefully you have booked your flight by now.If not, you may not only have a hard time making co...

PhotoIf you are traveling by air this Thanksgiving weekend, hopefully you have booked your flight by now.

If not, you may not only have a hard time making connections, but you'll pay the premium rate.

For those of you who have your tickets and made your plans, you might want to get to the airport a little early. Estimates suggest there will be crowded terminals.

Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade group, projects 27.3 million consumers will travel by air during the Thanksgiving travel period, a rise of 2.5% over last Thanksgiving. The group says that amounts to an extra 55,000 passengers a day.

74,000 extra seats

For their part, the airlines say they can handle the extra load. Domestic airlines have added 74,000 seats per day by adding flights and replacing smaller planes with larger ones.

The reason more consumers are flocking to the nation's airports is no mystery. The airlines have lowered fares, passing on some of their fuel savings to consumers.

“Airlines are adding capacity to accommodate the increased demand, and travelers should rest assured that while more people will be flying, there will be more than an adequate number of seats available,” said A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.

Airlines may have increased their capacity to handle the expected increase in passengers, but what about the boarding process? Should travelers expect bottlenecks at airport security checkpoints?

Bottlenecks?

The airlines say these checkpoints should be manageable because of the increased number of consumers who have registered for programs like PreCheck, that moves passengers through the screening process faster.

The Transportation Security Administration says that consumers who purchase a five-year membership for $85 will be able to get through the security checkpoint and board the aircraft without having to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets.

TSA says it's still a good idea to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight, especially during the Thanksgiving travel period. You'll find TSA's additional tips for reducing your waiting time in line here.

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Federal, state authorities sue New York debt collectors

Defendants allegedly ran roughshod over consumers' rights

There are several ways debt collectors can step over the line when they try to collect money from consumers. A lawsuit claims Buffalo, N.Y. debt collectors...

PhotoThere are several ways debt collectors can step over the line when they try to collect money from consumers. A lawsuit claims Buffalo, N.Y. debt collectors tried just about all of them.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have filed a federal court lawsuit against two individuals who Schneiderman alleges were operating a network of “fly-by-night collection shops that harass, threaten, and deceive” consumers so that they would pay money they might not owe.

The lawsuit seeks to close the debt collection operations and to compensate consumers affected by the debt collection efforts.

Threats and deception

“These collection shops inflated debts, threatened victims, and deceived them out of millions,” Schneiderman said.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray says the debt collectors used fear and intimidation tactics to force consumers to pay debts, without verifying or proving that they actually owed the money.

The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act sets out consumers' rights when it comes to collecting debts and places strict limits on what collectors can say or do. When collectors violate these rules, they can often force consumers to pay money they do not legally owe.

List of charges

The suit makes a number of accusations. It claims the defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in its interactions with consumers. It also claims they ran afoul of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which bars unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the consumer financial marketplace.

The suit claims “repeated fraudulent acts and deceptive acts or practices” in violation of New York law, which also has provisions covering debt collection.

The specific charges provide a laundry list of things a debt collector is not supposed to do: inflating the amount owed by taking on fees they aren't allowed to collect; threatening legal action against the consumer when there were no grounds to do so; and telling consumers they would be arrested immediately if they didn't pay up.

The suit is a good reminder that consumers have options when a debt collector is trying to collect a dubious debt. Among the key provisions is the right to see verification of the debt.

The Federal Trade Commission spells out consumers' rights here.

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Retailers already rolling out holiday shopping deals

Amazon opens a Black Friday Store with daily deals

As they did last year, retailers are getting an early start on Black Friday deals, rolling them out early to snag consumers' dollars before some other stor...

PhotoAs they did last year, retailers are getting an early start on Black Friday deals, rolling them out early to snag consumers' dollars before some other store does.

Amazon has opened up what it calls its Black Friday Store, with sale items every day in advance of the official start to the holiday shopping season. In fact, Amazon is promising to put up new deals periodically every day until December 22.

At the same time, the online retail giant has launched several curated Holiday Gift Guides. The company predicts OLED, HDR, and 4K TVs will be big draws in electronics, along with Alexa-enabled home security cameras, VR/360-degree cameras, instant film cameras, and drone photography.

Other predicted hot items include Twitch streaming and in-home music studio equipment, along with VR and AR gaming products.

Shopping with Alexa

"This holiday season, we're offering more deals than ever before and - for the first time ever - giving Prime members an opportunity to use Alexa voice shopping for purchasing their holiday gifts hands-free,” said Doug Herrington, Senior Vice President of North American Retail at Amazon. “They can make purchases simply by asking Alexa-enabled devices, like the new Echo Dot, while relaxing at home with family and friends."

Walmart is also getting an early start, offering up daily holiday gift deals on its website. There are featured deals each day from a number of different departments, including electronics, apparel, toys, and appliances.

Sam's Club, meanwhile, has introduced its “Instant Savings Book,” promising instant deals across all departments. The company says all the potential savings add up to $5,000.

Of course, Black Friday itself is coming up fast. BestBlackFriday.com has published what it says are leaked Black Friday ad slicks from Sam's Club, Dell, Walmart, and Toys R Us. Deals include a Dell laptop for $99.99.

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AC Creamery recalls Manila Sky Purple Yumm Ice Cream

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

AC Creamery of Anaheim, Calif., is recalling its 16-oz. packages of Manila Sky Purple Yumm Ice Cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....

PhotoAC Creamery of Anaheim, Calif., is recalling its 16-oz. packages of Manila Sky Purple Yumm Ice Cream that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The recalled product was distributed nationwide in retail stores and at events such as Florida Food & Lodging Show, Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture and California State University Pilipino American Student Association (CSUF PASA) Friendship Games.

An expiration date of Mar 06, 2018, is stamped on the bottom of the container.

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 1-714-871-9951, Mondays-Fridays from 9AM -5PM (PT).

 

 

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