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News in February 2017

Trump's use of Twitter cited in sex offender case

Supreme Court hears argument that North Carolina law is too broad

Donald Trump is not known as a civil libertarian, but his nonstop use of Twitter was invoked by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan as the court heard oral arguments about a North Carolina law that limits use of social media by registered sex offenders.

“In fact, everybody uses Twitter,” Kagan said. “All 50 governors, all 100 senators, every member of the House has a Twitter account. So this has become a crucially important channel of political communication.”

The case involved Lester Gerard Packingham. He was arrested for dating a 13-year-old girl when he was 21, Courthouse News Service reported. That made him subject to a 2008 state law that prohibits sex offenders from using commercial social networks.

Things were going along just fine until Packingham went to court and beat a traffic ticket, then took to Facebook to celebrate his win.

“Man God is Good!” the post said. “How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, no court costs, no nothing spent … Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thank JESUS!”

Police troll

A police officer trolling the web for sex offenders found the post and Packingham was once again in trouble. Packingham's lawyer, David Goldberg of the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the state law is "sweeping" and too broad. He called it a "stark abridgement of the freedom of speech."

"[The law] reaches vast swaths of core First Amendment activity that is totally unrelated to the government's preventative purpose. Mr. Packingham is not accused of communicating with or viewing the profile of a minor," Goldberg said. "He violated [the law] by speaking to his friends and family about his experience in traffic court."

Arguing for the state was Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery, who cast the law as similar to laws that prohibit sex offenders from visiting schools, playgrounds, and similar locations. He was questioned by justices about whether the law was so broad it took away inalienable rights not related to sexual contact with minors.

"So a person in this situation, for example, cannot go onto the President's Twitter account to find out what the President is saying today?" Justice Kagan asked Montgomery, according to a Supreme Court transcript. "Not only the President. I mean, we're sort of aware of it because the President now uses Twitter. But in fact, everybody uses Twitter. ... So this has become a crucial -- crucially important channel of political communication. And a person couldn't go onto those sites and find out what these members of our government are thinking or saying or doing; is that right?"

"That's right," Montgomery conceded. "However, there are alternatives. Usually those congressmen also have their own web page."

A ruling on the case is expected later this year.

Donald Trump is not known as a civil libertarian, but his nonstop use of Twitter was invoked by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan as the court heard oral a...

Automakers were Takata's accomplices, suit charges

Major carmakers knew Takata airbags were dangerous but used them anyway, the complaint alleges

The ink had not yet dried on a judge's order fining airbag-maker Takata $1 billion for wire fraud when a class-action lawsuit was filed in Florida charging that Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota had installed the defective airbags in cars for years while knowing they were dangerous.

“For over a decade, Takata lied to its customers about the safety and reliability of its ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators,” said Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Blanco after a Detroit federal court judge imposed the fine Monday. “Takata abused the trust of both its customers and the public by allowing airbag inflators to be put in vehicles knowing that the inflators did not meet the required specifications."

The Florida lawsuit charges that it was not only Takata that knew of the hazards presented by the faulty airbag inflators. It alleged that automakers knew of the dangers but kept pressuring suppliers to keep costs down and continued using Takata airbags even though they knew they were prone to explode and spew deadly shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

At least eleven people have died in the U.S. and more than 100 have been injured by the airbags, and automakers have staged a massive recall of more than 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles.

The Florida suit was filed by attorney Kevin Dean, who objected to the Takata plea deal and charged that documents filed with the court showed that automakers were not victims of a Takata cover-up but accomplices.

Judge George Caram Steeh approved the settlement anyway, saying that Dean's objections could be handled in a separate civil suit.

Honda strongly denied the allegations in the Florida suit, saying it "reasonably believed" they were safe. 

The ink had not yet dried on a judge's order fining airbag-maker Takata $1 billion for wire fraud when a class-action lawsuit was filed in Florida charging...

A privacy fight is brewing at the FCC

New Chairman Ajit Pai is rolling back an internet privacy rule adopted last year

In its first few weeks in office, the Trump administration has taken aim at a number of its predecessor's policies.

A case in point is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), whose control passed from Democrats to Republicans with the change in administrations.

Newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai moved quickly to back away from his predecessor's position on Net Neutrality --the principal that internet service providers (ISP) shouldn't favor one type of content over another.

Pai has argued that companies that own broadband distribution networks need to be free to charge more for data-intensive content, such as movies.

Privacy rule roll-back

Late last week Pai signaled his intention to roll-back another Obama-era policy -- a proposed FCC rule requiring ISPs to gain customers' specific approval before their sensitive information is shared with third parties.

The rule has not yet gone into effect and Pai has said he will block it, arguing that it places an unfair privacy burden on ISPs, one not shared by websites and social media networks.

His move is meeting stiff opposition from privacy advocates in and out of Congress. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has been among the most vocal critics in Congress.

He said ISPs should bear heavier responsibilities because they are "gatekeepers." He charged Ajit would give ISPs a green light to ignore best industry practices and put consumers' sensitive data at risk.

“Chairman Pai’s suspension of the data-security rules under the broadband-privacy order shows his clear intention to undermine the broadband-privacy rules in their entirety," said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, an advocacy group. "Despite the rules’ passage in a 3–2 vote, Pai has elected to suspend these orders on his own authority, showing his disregard both for agency procedures and for consumers whose private information is left more vulnerable."

Pre-emptive strike

Wood said it is no coincidence that Pai is moving to block proposed rules before they can go into effect. The privacy provisions were scheduled to become active on March 2.

"What he’s doing today with regard to internet users’ privacy protections is a clear signal that he intends to reverse every other protection in due time, if he can," Wood said.

The FCC adopted the privacy rules last year. They required ISPs to get consumers' permission before selling information about them -- such as their web-browsing histories. The rules also required internet providers to tell consumers who is receiving their information.

In its first few weeks in office, the Trump administration has taken aim at a number of its predecessor's policies.A case in point is the Federal Commu...

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    Women lose more sleep than men with children in the house, study finds

    Researchers caution that inadequate sleep could lead to negative health consequences

    Having a child translates into a lot of sleepless nights, but a new study shows that moms may be more sleep deprived than dads in the grand scheme of things.

    Researchers have found that women are much less likely to get a good night’s sleep when there are children in the house than men. This, they say, may explain why some women feel so exhausted when compared to their significant other.

    “I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted. Our study found not only are they not sleeping long enough, they also report feeling tired throughout the day,” said study author Dr. Kelly Sullivan of Georgia Southern University.

    Sleep deprived women

    For the purposes of the study, researchers surveyed over 5,800 people and asked how long they slept and how tired they felt in the last month. Participants analyzed factors such as age, race, education, marital status, number of children in the household, income, body mass index, exercise, employment, and snoring to gauge any connection to sleep deprivation.

    Of the approximately 2,900 female respondents who were 45 years old or younger, the researchers found that having children in the house was the only factor that definitively affected how much sleep was gotten. They found that for each child in the house, the odds of insufficient sleep rose by nearly 50%.

    Additionally, the researchers found that 62% women in this group who didn’t have children were able to sleep for at least seven hours per night. That number dropped to 48% for women who had children.

    Negative health consequences

    The researchers believe that their study explains why some women so often report that they feel worn out or tired. They point out that younger women with children report feeling tired an average of 14 days out of the month, compared to 11 days for women without children living in the house.

    Interestingly, the number of children living in the home had no correlation for how long men slept at night. While this difference between the genders isn’t completely understood, Sullivan says the important thing to focus on is the health impact that sleep deprivation can have on all people.

    “Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact heart, mind and weight. It’s important to learn what is keeping people from getting the rest they need so we can help them work toward better health,” she said.

    Having a child translates into a lot of sleepless nights, but a new study shows that moms may be more sleep deprived than dads in the grand scheme of thing...

    Years after financial crisis, many Boomers still struggling

    Financial plight puts a different spin on retirement plans

    The financial crisis, which deepened an existing recession, was a major blow to the U.S. economy.

    Since then, the nation has been on a slow path toward recovery. Today, many consumers are feeling a lot better than they did a few years ago. Baby Boomers, however, are among the least likely to feel that way.

    A study commissioned by the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement found only 2% of middle income Boomers think the economy has fully recovered. Sixty-five percent don't think they have benefited at all from the recovery.

    And while nearly all the Boomers in the survey said they expect to retire one day, the study found a near universal adjustment to just what form retirement will take.

    Savings and earnings have fallen

    Here are a couple of reasons why: among the group saying it has not benefited from the recovery, more than half say their money in savings is less than before the crisis. Four out of ten say they are earning less money than they did a decade ago.

    Back then, 45% of middle income Boomers said they expected to have no debt in retirement, living in a home with no mortgage. Today, only 34% have that expectation.

    Boomers contemplating retirement are also planning to be more dependent on Social Security income. Ten years ago, 40% of Boomers said they expected their retirement savings would be their primary income source. Today, it's 34%.

    It's no surprise, then, that many Boomers appear to be reconsidering plans to stop working. The study shows nearly half of Boomers -- 48% -- plan to expect to hold down a full or part-time job after they reach retirement age. Before the financial crisis, it was just 35%.

    "Ten years ago, Baby Boomers had a clear vision of what a personally satisfying retirement looked like," said Scott Goldberg, president of Bankers Life. "But today, many are realizing they will not be as financially independent in retirement as they once expected."

    What to do

    If you are in your 50s or 60s, you don't have the luxury of a lot of time to build wealth for your golden years. But there are steps you can take now to become better prepared. They involve cutting expenses and increasing savings.

    First, AARP suggests defining what you want retirement to be. And be specific. If you want to travel, for example, think about what kind of travel. And it should go without saying, you need to be practical.

    Next, add up your assets, both financial and personal. If you have developed a skill over the years related to a favorite hobby, maybe that can be a source of income after you quit your day job.

    Decide when you want to start collecting Social Security. The monthly payments will be a lot larger if you can put it off until age 70.

    Analyze your budget, looking for ways to trim spending. Just a little each month can add up to growing savings.

    The financial crisis, which deepened an existing recession, was a major blow to the U.S. economy.Since then, the nation has been on a slow path toward...

    Buy a house last year? It'll change the way you file your taxes

    You now have a lot more expenses that are tax deductible

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) wants to help you with your taxes. Why would the trade group representing real estate brokers want to do that?

    Well, there is a connection. Homeownership carries with it some tax breaks, in particular the deduction for mortgage interest. The group probably reasons that if you know about all the tax advantages of homeownership, you'll be more likely to want to purchase a home.

    NAR's website HouseLogic.com provides information to homeowners on how to maximize tax savings from their homes. One article informs homeowners of the various ways in which owning a home will change the way they do taxes.

    Probably the biggest change is the tax form you use to file your taxes. If you have used the "short form," 1040EZ in the past, you'll have to switch to the standard Form 1040, because you will need to itemize deductions on Schedule A.

    Itemized deductions

    Before buying a home, you probably just claimed the Standard Deduction. But now after owning a house for a year, you probably have mortgage interest and property taxes. When you combine them with the state and local taxes you've always paid but never deducted, your itemized deductions may well exceed the amount of the Standard Deduction.

    The biggest home-related deduction, by far, is the mortgage interest deduction. At the end of the year your lender sent you a form showing how much interest you paid during the year. Chances are, it's several thousand dollars.

    To be deductible, the loan must be secured by your home, but the IRS takes a very broad view of what that can be. Yes, it's a single family home or condo, but it can also be a boat or trailer. The IRS just requires you to be able to sleep and cook in it and for it to have a toilet.

    HELOC interest also deductible

    If you have a home equity line of credit -- a second loan that is secured by the equity in your home, that interest too is tax deductible. Many people use a HELOC to make a major purchase or to consolidate credit card debt since they can write off the interest.

    If you happen to purchase a vacation home, the mortgage interest and taxes on that property are also tax deductible.

    When they purchase a home for the first time, many consumers decide to have a professional prepare their taxes so they don't overlook any deductions. That's not a bad idea, but NAR says most homeowners are perfectly capable of preparing their tax returns themselves.

    NAR suggests using a tax preparation software to make sure you get all the deductions to which you are entitled. If your adjusted gross income is below a certain level -- usually $62,000 a year -- you may qualify for the free use of tax preparation software at IRS.gov.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) wants to help you with your taxes. Why would the trade group representing real estate brokers want to do that?...

    Consumer confidence rebounds from January slump

    The view of current conditions improved along with expectations

    Consumers seem to be feeling a lot better about the economy than they did a month ago.

    The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index rose 3.2 points in February to 114.8 after dipping a point and a half the month before.

    The improvement came as the Present Situation Index rose from 130.0 to 133.4 and the Expectations Index jumped from 99.3 last month to 102.4.

    “Consumer confidence increased in February and remains at a 15-year high,” according to Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco. “Consumers rated current business and labor market conditions more favorably this month than in January. Expectations improved regarding the short-term outlook for business, and to a lesser degree jobs and income prospects. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead.”

    Survey results

    Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was relatively steady, with those saying business conditions are “good” slipping from 29.0% to 28.7%, and those who think conditions are “bad” dropping to 13.2% from 15.9%.

    The way consumers see the labor market was mixed as well. Those who say jobs are “plentiful” declined from 27.1% to 26.2%, while those who believe jobs are “hard to get” also decreased -- from 21.1% to 20.3%.

    There was more optimism about the short-term outlook. The percentage of consumers who foresee business conditions improving over the next six months rose from 22.9% to 24.0%. At the same time, though, those expecting business conditions to worsen also rose -- from 10.8% to 11.1%.

    Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was a little more upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead rose to 20.4% from 19.7%, while those who think there'll be fewer jobs dropped from 14.4% to 13.6%.

    The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase inched up from 18.1% to 18.3%; the proportion expecting a decline dropped to 8.2% from 9.4%.

    The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was February 16.

    Consumers seem to be feeling a lot better about the economy than they did a month ago.The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index rose 3...

    Fourth quarter economic growth continues its tepid pace

    2016's GDP was down sharply from the preceding year

    The Commerce Department's second look at fourth-quarter economic growth wasn't any more encouraging than its first estimate.

    Thus, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 1.9% in the last three months of 2016, the same pace as was reported in the first look. GDP had shot up at an annual rate of 3.5% in last year's third quarter.

    For all of 2016, real GDP increased 1.6% from the 2015 annual level, compared with an increase of 2.6% in 2015.

    Not much change

    With the second estimate, the general picture of economic growth in the fourth quarter remains the same. The increase in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) was larger and increases in state and local government spending and in nonresidential fixed investment were smaller than previously estimated.

    The price index for gross domestic purchases rose 1.9% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 1.5% in the third quarter.

    The PCE price index increased 1.9%, compared with an increase of 1.5%. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index was up 1.2%, compared with a 1.7% rise in the previous quarter.

    The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

    The Commerce Department's second look at fourth-quarter economic growth wasn't any more encouraging than its first estimate.Thus, real gross domestic p...

    Little Tikes recalls toddler swings

    The plastic seat can crack or break, posing a fall hazard

    Little Tikes of Hudson, Ohio, is recalling about 540,000 Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug ‘n Secure Pink toddler swings.

    The plastic seat can crack or break, posing a fall hazard.

    The firm has received about 140 reports of the swing breaking, including 39 injuries to children including abrasions, bruises, cuts and bumps to the head. Two of the reported injuries included children with a broken arm.

    This recall involves Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug’n Secure pink toddler swings. The swing has a pink T-shaped restraint in front with a Little Tikes logo, and is suspended by four yellow ropes.

    The model number 615573 is molded on the back of the swing seat and there is a manufacturing date code stamp on the back of the seat. The molded INNER arrow of the date code stamp points to “10”, “11”, “12” or “13”, it is included in the recall.

    In addition, swings with a date code stamp of “9” on the INNER arrow combined with “43” or higher number stamped on the OUTER are included in this recall. No other date codes or other colored swings are affected.

    The swings, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Walmart, Toys “R” Us and other stores nationwide and online at www.littletikes.com and other websites from November 2009, through May 2014, for about $25.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled swings and contact Little Tikes for a refund in the form of a credit towards the purchase of another Little Tikes product.

    Consumers may contact Little Tikes toll-free at 855-284-1903 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.littletikes.com and click on Product Recalls under the At Your Service menu for more information.

     

     

    Little Tikes of Hudson, Ohio, is recalling about 540,000 Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug ‘n Secure Pink toddler swings.The plastic seat can crack or break, po...

    Lakeview Cheese and Bashas’ Family of Stores recall cheese products

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Lakeview Cheese and Bashas’ Family of Stores are recalling various types of Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The following nine Colby cheese products, including fixed-weight and bulk- cut, random-weight items, are being recalled:

    Food City Colby Longhorn Cheese

    12 oz.

    Food City Colby Jack Cheese

    12 oz.

    Food City Colby Monterey Cheese

    12 oz.

    Random Weight Longhorn Colby Cheese

    Random Weight Cut Co-Jack Cheese

    Random Weight Cut Monterey Jack Cheese

    Random Weight Cut Pepper Jack Cheese

    Random Weight Colby Quarter Longhorn

    Random Weight Colby Horn

    The recalled products, manufactured by Guggisberg Cheese and by Deutsch Kase Haus, were distributed by Lakeview Cheese to Bashas’ Family of Stores, and sold in Bashas’ and Food City supermarkets’ Arizona meat departments under the grocery brands’ private label.

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled products between September 1, 2016, and February 21, 2017, may return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Consumers with questions may call Bashas’ Family of Stores’ customer service department at 480-883-6131.

     

     

    Lakeview Cheese and Bashas’ Family of Stores are recalling various types of Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnes...

    BMW recalls model year 2014-2017 i3 REx hybrid electric vehicles

    A fuel vapor leak is possible

    BMW of North America is recalling 19,130 model year 2014-2017 i3 REx hybrid electric vehicles.

    The fuel tank vent line may rub against the ribbed wire protection sleeve of the battery positive (B+) cable, creating a hole in the vent line and causing a fuel vapor leak.

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

    What to do

    BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel vent line, replacing it as necessary, and install a clip to prevent it from chafing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 3, 2017.

    Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

     

     

    BMW of North America is recalling 19,130 model year 2014-2017 i3 REx hybrid electric vehicles.The fuel tank vent line may rub against the ribbed wire p...

    Takata expected to set up $125 million fund for airbag victims

    The fund is part of a $1 billion settlement being presented in a Detroit federal court on Monday

    Takata has reportedly agreed to set up a fund to compensate victims of its faulty airbags, which have been blamed for 11 deaths and hundreds of injuries in the United States. The $125 million fund is part of a plea deal expected to be aired in a federal courtroom in Detroit on Monday.

    More than 70 million of the defective airbags have been recalled because their inflator can explode and send deadly shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

    The recall process has been seen as painstakingly slow by consumers, although regulators and automakers say they have been working as quickly as possible to remove and replace the defective units.

    Last December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an order that set deadlines for when automakers must have replacement parts available for customers. 

    “NHTSA is doing everything possible to make sure that there are no more preventable injuries or deaths because of these dangerous airbag inflators,” said then-NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “All vehicle owners should regularly check their vehicles for recalls at SaferCar.gov and go get them fixed at no cost as soon as replacement parts are available.”

    It's not that easy, of course. Consumers and dealers alike have been frustrated by a lack of parts. Some automakers have asked dealers to make loaners available but most have not, leaving consumers with little choice but to drive around with a lethal explosive device just inches from their face. 

    The fund is said to be similar to the one General Motors set up in 2014 to deal with the deaths and injuries that resulted from faulty ignition switches on some of its smaller sedans. Press reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere say the fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who also ran the GM fund and handled compensation for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    $1 billion total

    The fund is part of what's expected to be $1 billion that Takata will pay as part of an agreement to plead guilty to criminal wire fraud for allegedly providing false safety reports to automakers. Much of the remaining amount will be used to reimburse automakers for the expenses they have incurred in conducting the recalls. 

    Takata had earlier turned aside a plea by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that it establish a fund to compensate victims, saving them the expense and trauma of pursuing legal action against the company. He said Takata only agreed to the action "because they had a gun to their head."

    Blumenthal noted that General Motors had set up its fund just months after recalling millions of cars with defective ignition switches, and he called the $125 million "paltry" compared with the automakers' fund.

    Settling the court case is thought to be the last hurdle in Takata's attempt to find a buy for the troubled company, which would otherwise likely face bankruptcy.

    Takata has reportedly agreed to set up a fund to compensate victims of its faulty airbags, which have been blamed for 11 deaths and hundreds of injuries in...

    Big bug leaks lots of data but maybe nobody saw it

    Industrial-strength ISP was leaking data for nearly six months before anyone noticed

    You may never have heard of Cloudflare, but chances are it has heard of you. It's an internet service provider that handles about 10 percent of the world's web traffic and it's just learned that a "leak" in its system has exposed an unknown quantity of data to public view.

    The flaw was first uncovered by Google vulnerability researcher Tavis Ormandy on February 17, but it could have been leaking data since as long ago as September 22, Wired.com reported.

    Cloudflare's corporate clients include household names like Uber, Fitbit, and OkCupid, among many others, so there is potentially a lot of personal information at stake -- everything from user IDs and credit card numbrs to health data.

    Company officials emphasize that the security flaw wasn't a hack job but rather a bug that allowed some data -- one in every 3.3 million page requests -- to be publicly visible on the web. That doesn't sound like much, but considering the billions of page requests routinely handled by Cloudflare each day, it could be significant.

    It's hard to estimate just how serious the problem was, but it illustrates the risks involved in today's massive data storage and transmission systems, where even a well-designed and carefully maintained network can experience small problems that have a potentially big result.

    In this case, Cloudflare officials are saying that although the data leaks were real, there's no evidence any of it was misused.

    "We think it’s unlikely that someone actually spotted it and did something bad with it,” John Graham-Cumming, Cloudflare’s chief technology officer, said, according to a Wall Street Journal report

    What to do

    The advice for consumers will sound familiar -- change your passwords. This is easier said than done, of course. Most of us have hundreds of passwords if we actually do what experts recommend, which is to have a separate password for each site we visit.

    One consumer we know has a 19-page list of user IDs and passwords. He uses Lastpass to generate and store passwords but still encounters frequent incidents in which a single site -- Google, for example -- may require 20 or more passwords for separate accounts and functions.

    It's devilishly hard to keep them all straight and the idea of changing all of them everytime there's another breach, hack, or leak becomes more than a little absurd.

    You may never have heard of Cloudflare, but chances are it has heard of you. It's an internet service provider that handles about 10 percent of the world's...

    Self-driving cars may get a boost from the Trump Administration

    Transportation Secretary Chao sees potential safety benefits but warns of possible job losses

    The Obama Administration had taken a cautious stance towards self-driving cars. Now it looks as though the Trump Administration may be more inclined to release the brakes.

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told the National Governors Association Sunday that self-driving cars hold great promise to reduce traffic deaths, although she noted that, with 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S., they may also put a dent in the job market.

    Chao said she is reviewing the self-driving car guidelines issued by the Obama Administration in September. Automakers have claimed the guidelines could needlessly slow development of autonomous cars by allowing states to implement their own regulations and requiring car companies to share proprietary data.

    Chao said she is evaluating the guidance and will "ensure that it strikes the right balance." 

    Noting that traffic fatalities were up 7 percent in 2015 and increased another 8 percent in the first nine months of 2016, Chao said there is "a lot of stake in getting this technology right."

    Chao noted that surveys have found the motoring public is not wild about the idea of self-driving cars and she urged automakers and Silicon Valley tech firms to "help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technology."

    The Obama Administration had taken a cautious stance towards self-driving cars. Now it looks as though the Trump Administration may be more inclined to rel...

    Another dip in pending home sales

    The Pending Home Sales Index is at its lowest point in a year

    A lull in contract activity in the Midwest and West dragged pending home sales down to their lowest level in a year in January.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) dipped 2.8% last month to 106.4. Although its most recent reading was lower, the PHSI is 0.4% above its level at the same time a year earlier.

    Home shoppers in January faced numerous obstacles as they sought to buy a home.

    "The significant shortage of listings last month along with deteriorating affordability as the result of higher home prices and mortgage rates kept many would-be buyers at bay," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Buyer traffic is easily outpacing seller traffic in several metro areas and is why homes are selling at a much faster rate than a year ago. Most notably in the West, it's not uncommon to see a home come off the market within a month."

    Buying interest on the rise

    Interest in buying a home is the highest it has been since the Great Recession, according to Yun, with households feeling more confident about their financial situation. Job growth is strong in most of the country and the stock market has seen record gains in recent months.

    Yun points out that while these factors bode favorably for increased sales in coming months, buyers are dealing with challenging supply shortages that continue to run up prices in many areas.

    "January's accelerated price appreciation is concerning because it's over double the pace of income growth and mortgage rates are up considerably from six months ago," said Yun. "Especially in the most expensive markets, prospective buyers will feel this squeeze to their budget and will likely have to come up with additional savings or compromise on home size or location."

    Regional action

    • The PHSI in the Northeast rose 2.3% to 98.7 in January, and is now 3.6% above a year ago.
    • Pending home sales in the South inched up 0.4% to an index of 122.5 and are now 2.0% above last January.
    • In the Midwest the index was down 5.0% to 99.5, and is now 3.8% lower than January 2016.
    • The index in the West plunged 9.8% in January to 94.6, and is now 0.4% lower than a year ago.
    A lull in contract activity in the Midwest and West dragged pending home sales down to their lowest level in a year in January.The National Association...

    Mercedes-Benz recalls various model year 2017 vehicles with airbag issue

    Certain front airbags may not deploy in a crash

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,051 model year 2017 CLA250, CLA250 4Matic, E400 Coupe, E400 4Matic Coupe, E550 Coupe, E400 Cabriolet, E550 Cabriolet, E300, E300 4Matic, E400 Wagon, GLA250, and GLA250 4Matic vehicles.

    The pelvis airbag or the front passenger air bag inflator initiator may fail to ignite in the event of a crash.

    If the pelvis airbag or the front passenger airbag does not deploy as intended in the event of a crash, the occupants have an increased risk of injury.

    What to do

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected air bag modules, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early March 2017.

    Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

     

     

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,051 model year 2017 CLA250, CLA250 4Matic, E400 Coupe, E400 4Matic Coupe, E550 Coupe, E400 Cabriolet, E550 Cabriol...

    Model year 2014-2017 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s recalled

    The front driveshaft bolts may loosen allowing the front driveshaft to disconnect

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 69,298 model year 2014-2017 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD).

    The front driveshaft bolts may loosen and allow the front driveshaft to disconnect, potentially causing a loss of motive power, which can increase the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace all eight front driveshaft bolts, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 31, 2017.

    Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T03.

     

     

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 69,298 model year 2014-2017 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD).The front driveshaf...

    Cooper recalls Discoverer M+S Sport tires

    The tires do not meet the traction requirements for snow tires

    Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 7,067 Discoverer M+S Sport tires, sizes 235/75R15, 255/65R16, 215/70R16, 225/70R16, 235/70R16, 245/70R16, 265/70R16, 255/60R17, 225/65R17, 235/65R17, 265/65R17, 255/55R18, 235/60R18 and 255/50R19.

    The tires may be marked with the Alpine Symbol, but do not meet the traction requirements for snow tires. As such, they fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 139, "New Pneumatic Radial Tires for Light Vehicles."

    The tires may not provide the expected traction or performance in snow conditions, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Cooper will notify owners, and dealers will replace all the affected tires with tires from a different brand line, free of charge. The recall began on February 20, 2017.

    Owners may contact Cooper customer service at 1-800-854-6288. Cooper's number for this recall is 166.

     

     

    Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 7,067 Discoverer M+S Sport tires, sizes 235/75R15, 255/65R16, 215/70R16, 225/70R16, 235/70R16, 245/70R16, 265/70R16, 255/...

    Ready Pac Foods recalls chicken salad

    The product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Ready Pac Foods establishments located in Swedesboro, N.J., Jackson, Ga., and Irwindale, Calif., are recalling approximately 59,225 pounds of one variety of chicken salad.

    The product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

    The following item, produced between January 17, 2017, and February 17, 2017, is being recalled:

    • 7.5-oz. single serve salad bowl packages of “Ready Pac Foods Puro Picante Blazin Hot” with Use By Dates of 01/31/17 through 03/04/2017.

    The recalled product, bearing establishment number P-27497, P-32081, or P-18502B inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail locations nationwide.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Mary Toscano at 1-800-800-7822. 

     

     

    Ready Pac Foods establishments located in Swedesboro, N.J., Jackson, Ga., and Irwindale, Calif., are recalling approximately 59,225 pounds of one variety o...

    Volvo recalls XC90, S90 and V90 Cross Country vehicles

    The Inflatable Curtain airbags may not inflate properly

    Volvo Car USA is recalling 5,529 model year 2017 XC90, S90 and V90 Cross Country vehicles.

    The bolts that secure the Inflatable Curtain (IC) airbags in place may break, possibly resulting in the IC airbag deploying improperly in the event of a crash. As, such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 226, "Ejection Mitigation."

    If the IC airbags do not deploy properly in the event of a crash, the vehicle occupants have an increased risk of injury.

    What to do

    Volvo will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the bolts, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 1, 2017.

    Owners may contact Volvo customer service at 1-800-458-1552. Volvo's number for this recall is R89714.

     

     

    Volvo Car USA is recalling 5,529 model year 2017 XC90, S90 and V90 Cross Country vehicles.The bolts that secure the Inflatable Curtain (IC) airbags in...

    Warm temperatures, not just drought, are shrinking the Colorado River, study says

    The lifeblood of the Southwest is losing its flow

    The American Southwest as we know it today would not exist without the Colorado River. Spanning 1,450 miles through the region, the river irrigates farms, creates hydro-power, provides drinking water to millions and is a source of fun and beauty in federally-recognized recreation areas and parks along the route.

    “We couldn’t inhabit the Southwest, with its large areas of desert, without a big river running through the middle of it,” according to to the author of a two-year-old report which found that the river is responsible for $1.4 trillion worth of economic activity.

    All of which is to say, government agencies need to act fast if they want to preserve the economy of the Southwest. New research from the University of Arizona and Colorado State University shows that warming temperatures are causing the Colorado River to shrink.

    A 21st-Century Decline

    In the 21st century, from 2000 through 2014, the river’s flow reached only 81 percent of its 20th century average, the researchers found. They attributed that change in flow to warming temperatures, saying this is the first study of its kind to trace a direct link between global warming and the decreased Colorado River flow.

    "The future of Colorado River is far less rosy than other recent assessments have portrayed,” co-author Bradly Udall told ScienceDaily. “A clear message to water managers is that they need to plan for significantly lower river flows." 

    Not that previous assessments of the Colorado River have actually been rosy. A longtime drought has diminished water in the region since 2000. Government officials and researchers have warned that the agriculture industry will need to dramatically cut back on its water usage in the years to come as a result. And the Bureau of Reclamation this month forecast that there is a 34 percent chance the river will not be able to fulfill the needs of all the states depending on it in 2018.

    But the drought has only accounted for two-thirds of the river’s decline, according to the latest research from the Colorado and Arizona researchers. The remaining third of the loss, they say, is literally caused by climate change.

    Warmer temperatures have been causing the moisture in the river basin’s waterways to evaporate, according to their research. The findings mean that even an end to the drought may not restore the river to previous levels. “We can’t say with any certainty that precipitation is going to increase and come to our rescue,” Udall explained in another interview.

    Conservationists sue to prevent drilling

    Yet even as farmers, the real estate industry, and consumers anticipate cutbacks, conservationists worry that other industries may want to build new infrastructure along the Colorado River Basin and get their share. The Bureau of Land Management’s resource management plans currently allow for oil and gas drilling in the Colorado Basin area.

    Last fall, the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue the BLM if the agency would not promise to block all new oil and gas development in the upper basin of the river. Part of the concern, Center for Biological Diversity attorney Wendy Park tells ConsumerAffairs, is that fracking or drilling in the basin would require companies “to use tremendous amounts of water,” water she worries would likely come from the Colorado River.

    But there have been some hopeful developments. Since being threatened with the suit, the BLM has agreed to do a new evaluation into the effects of industry in the region, called a programmatic biological opinion, which Park anticipates will be ready in the spring. 

    The American Southwest as we know it today would not exist without the Colorado River. Spanning 1,450 miles through the region, the river irrigates farms,...

    Career expectations vary widely by gender, study finds

    But both men and women are choosing to delay their family plans to focus on their careers

    A new survey commissioned by CareerBuilder finds that a majority of women over the age of 25 are postponing starting a family in order to focus on their careers.

    Eighty-three percent of women are delaying their family plans while opting to allow their career to take center stage. Slightly fewer male respondents (79%) indicated that they were doing the same.

    Wanting to earn and save enough money to provide for their family was the top reason to postpone family plans among both women and men who plan to have children. But while men and women may be equally content to focus on their careers, the two genders share few similarities in the realm of career expectations.

    Different views

    The study found that men and women have very different ideas of what they expect to get out of their career, in terms of both expected annual salary and job title.

    “There is a growing trend among today’s workforce – both men and women are waiting to have children until they have reached their professional and financial goals,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder.

    “Despite similar reasons for postponing family plans, men and women differ widely on how much they expect to earn and at what level of position over their careers,” said Haefner.

    Gender differences regarding career expectations were apparent in the fact that 44% of men expected to reach a six figure salary, compared to just 20% of women. Over a third of women (34%) believed there is unequal pay at their organization.

    Title expectations

    In addition to higher salaries, men were also more likely to expect higher job levels during their career. Twenty-two percent of women expected to remain or reach entry-level, while only 10% of men had such modest expectations.

    More than double the amount of men (9%, compared to 4% of women) expected to become company owner. Aspirations to become vice president reflected a similar discrepancy, with 5% of men expecting to reach vice president level compared to just 2% of women.

    Additional findings from the study showed that 63% of women who plan to have children are waiting until at least age 30 to start a family. Fifteen percent of women (and twice as many men) said they are waiting until at least age 35 to start a family. 

    A new survey commissioned by CareerBuilder finds that a majority of women over the age of 25 are postponing starting a family in order to focus on their ca...

    Judge refuses to release jailed Volkswagen executive

    Oliver Schmidt awaits trial on 11 felony counts, other VW execs remain in Germany

    Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines, penalties, and buyback costs related to its "dirty diesel" scandal. But that's not much help to Oliver Schmidt, a VW engineer who at one time headed the automaker's emissions compliance department.

    Schmidt, 48, has been in jail in Detroit awaiting trial on 11 felony counts, and a federal judge Thursday refused to release him on bond, saying he presented an extreme flight risk. Schmidt was arrested at Miami International Airport Jan. 7 as he attempted to fly home to Germany after a family vacation. He faces up to 169 years in prison if convicted. 

    Other VW executives have been warned to stay in Germany, where they are safe from arrest and extradition, at least for now, since Germany rarely extradites its citizens to foreign countries.

    Schmidt was allegedly the author of a damning memo written in April 2014 when researchers at West Virginia University discovered that VW diesels exceeded federal standards and used a software program to reduce emissions when a car was being tested, Automotive News reported.

     “It should first be decided whether we are honest. If we are not honest, everything stays as it is,” Schmidt allegedly wrote to a colleague.

    Schmidt is only the second VW employee to feel the brunt of the scandal. James Liang, a Volkswagen engineer based in California, entered a guilty plea last September to conspiring to defraud regulators. He has been cooperating with investigators and is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

    Volkswagen has agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines to various U.S. agencies as well as conducting a recall and buyback program that is expected to push the total cost in the U.S. and Canada beyond $23 billion.

    Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines, penalties, and buyback costs related to its "dirty diesel" scandal. But that's not much help to Oliver Sc...

    Rising mortgage rates growing issue for home buyers

    Consumers fear it will make homes less affordable

    It's not the fact that home prices have continued to rise over the last few years, or that inventory levels are dropping to near-historic lows.

    The fact that mortgage interest rates have ticked up a half point or more over the last couple of months is a growing source of concern for potential buyers, according to a new report from Zillow Group.

    Mortgage rates started going up in the wake of the U.S. presidential election as dollar strength boosted the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond, a key mortgage rate indicator. The Federal Reserve has hiked the Federal Funds rate once since then but has strongly suggested more increases are coming this year.

    It may not be that surprising, then, that 53% of prospective buyers told Zillow survey-takers that rising mortgage rates is a chief concern.

    Mortgage applications drop

    The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports the number of consumers taking out mortgages last week dropped 2% from the week before as rates continue to go up. But interest rates are still very low compared to the recent past.

    The MBA report shows the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose slightly last week to 4.36%. It's nearly a point higher than the record low but is still well below the 6% level that prevailed during the housing bubble.

    Worries about inventory levels -- the number of homes available for sale -- is still the biggest headache for home buyers. The selection seems to get smaller each month. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports January inventory levels nationwide were down more than 7% from January 2016.

    Inventory affecting prices

    NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says the lack of inventory is putting upward pressure on prices, which combined with rising rates, is making homes less affordable for more would-be buyers.

    In fact, the Zillow survey of homebuyers found 65% were feeling angst over the lack of choices. The choices are especially limited in red-hot housing markets and in the entry-level price range in general.

    "For years, falling interest rates have been a boon to the U.S. housing market, keeping monthly mortgage payments low for first-time and move-up buyers alike, even as home values rose," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages for Zillow Group. "As rates rise this year, first-time buyers and those looking to buy in expensive markets where affordability is already an issue will feel the pinch of higher rates on their budget."

    But that may not slow home sales, at least not in the foreseeable future. The Zillow survey shows homebuyers are still in the hunt, looking for a less expensive home if rates continue to rise.

    It's not the fact that home prices have continued to rise over the last few years, or that inventory levels are dropping to near-historic lows.The fact...

    New car sales will likely dip in February

    Carmakers suffering the biggest sales declines may offer the best incentives

    February new car sales are often a mixed bag. It's the shortest month of the year, so there are fewer days to sell cars.

    But it has Presidents' Day weekend, probably the biggest holiday associated with car and truck sale promotions. This month, industry analysts expect to see sales dip over last February's sales total.

    Kelley Blue Book projects new-vehicle sales will fall 3% year-over-year to a total of 1.3 million units in February. On a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), that works out to an estimated 17.1 million vehicles by the end of December.

    "Retail growth for manufacturers will be tough to achieve in February, as consumer demand remains relatively flat despite increased incentives," said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

    But in spite of the expected sales dip, Fleming says 17 million vehicles would be a healthy annual sales total.

    Edmunds has more optimistic projection

    Automotive site Edmunds.com sees a slightly better February, projecting SAAR sales of 17.6 million. It expects only a 1% drop from last February and a 17% jump over the previous month.

    "The holiday weekend is likely a contributing factor to strong sales in February, but we're also seeing signs that automakers are starting to be a bit more aggressive to move cars off the lot," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director for industry analysis. "Fleet sales were robust in February, and incentives are continuing to rise. While trucks and SUVs don't need as much help to find interested buyers, inventories of passenger cars have been building."

    When dealers and manufacturers have to offer more incentives to move vehicles, that's good for consumers. But you'll get the best deals if you avoid the "hot" cars that are selling the best and focus more on the laggards. Those are the models on which you can negotiate the best deals.

    In February, Edmunds projects General Motors will increase its sales over last year, so it might not have to resort to so many attractive incentives.

    But Fiat Chrysler and Hyundai/Kia might offer some attractive deals, since their sales are down the most from last year. However, Edmunds projects all carmakers will see sales increases over January.

    February new car sales are often a mixed bag. It's the shortest month of the year, so there are fewer days to sell cars.But it has Presidents' Day week...

    New home sales rebound in January

    Home prices were mostly lower

    2017 is off to a good start in terms of sales of new single-family houses.

    The Commerce Department reports sales rose 3.7% last month to seasonally adjusted annual rate of 555,000, following a sales rate of 535,000 in December, which was revised downward from an initially reported 536,000.

    The January rate is also 5.5% ahead of the year-ago pace of 526,000.

    Sales advanced in all regions except for the West, where they declined 4.4%.

    Prices and inventory

    The median sales price for houses sold last month was $312,900, up $21,800 from January 2016, but down $3,300 from December. The median is the point at which half the houses sold for more and half sold for less.

    The average sales price was $360,900, a year-over-year loss of $4,700 and down $18,000 from November.

    The number of new houses for sale at the end of January totaled 265,000, which translates into a supply of 5.7 months at the current sales rate.

    The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

    2017 is off to a good start in terms of sales of new single-family houses.The Commerce Department reports sales rose 3.7% last month to seasonally adju...

    Moose Toys recalls toy frogs

    The battery’s chemicals can leak, posing chemical and injury hazards

    Moose Toys Proprietary of Australia is recalling about 444,000 Little Live Pets Lil Frog and Lil Frog Lily Pad toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

    When the button batteries are removed from the toy frogs, the battery’s cap can become a projectile and the battery’s chemicals can leak, posing chemical and injury hazards.

    The firm has received 17 reports of the battery’s cap becoming a projectile or battery chemicals leaking, including two injuries that resulted in emergency room and doctor’s office visits for eye irritation from the battery chemicals.

    This recall involves the Little Live Pets Lil Frog plastic toys. They operate with four button batteries and jump.

    Little Live Pets Lil Frog has SKU: 28217 and Lil Frog Lily Pad has SKU: 28218 printed on the frog’s lower belly near its left thigh with a manufacture date code under it. The date code range is WS112016 to WS123216.

    The toy frogs were sold in pink, blue and green colors.

    The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at AAFES, Target, Toys “R” Us and Walmart stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com from August 2016, through February 2017, for about $15 for the Lil Frog and $25 for the Lil Frog Lily Pad.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the toy frogs, refrain from opening the battery compartment and contact Moose Toys for a free replacement Little Live Pet product.

    Consumers may contact Moose Toys toll-free at 844-575-0340 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.moosetoys.com and click on “Product Safety” for more information.

     

     

    Moose Toys Proprietary of Australia is recalling about 444,000 Little Live Pets Lil Frog and Lil Frog Lily Pad toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.When th...

    Fratelli Beretta USA recalls mortadella product

    The product contains pistachio nuts, an allergen not declared on the label

    Fratelli Beretta USA of Mount Olive, N.J., is recalling approximately 468 pounds of mortadella product.

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

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

    The the following item, were produced on November 30, 2016, bearing establishment number “EST. 7543B” inside the USDA mark of inspection, is being recalled:

    • 3-oz. plastic packages containing slices of “Deli Thin Dietz & Watson Mortadella” with Lot# LO23633800 and Best By Date April 2, 2017.

    The product was shipped to a distributor in Pennsylvania and further distributed to retail and distribution centers in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

    What to do

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

    Consumers and with questions about the recall may contact Simone Bocchini at (201) 438-0723.

     

     

    Fratelli Beretta USA of Mount Olive, N.J., is recalling approximately 468 pounds of mortadella product.The product contains pistachio nuts, an allergen...

    Calphalon recalls cutlery knives

    The blade on Contemporary Cutlery knives can break during use

    Calphalon Corp., of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 2 million Contemporary Cutlery knives sold in the U.S. and Canada.

    The blade on knives can break during use, posing a laceration hazard.

    The company has received 27 reports of finger or hand lacerations including four injuries requiring stitches. In addition, the firm has received about 3,150 reports of broken knives.

    This recall involves Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery carving, chef, paring, santoku and utility knives sold individually and in sets made between August 2008, and March 2016.

    The following models are included in the recall:

     

    Product

    Item

    Item Number

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    4.5" Parer

    KNR10045C

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    7" Santoku

    KNR0007C

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    Contemporary Paring Knife Set

    1821332

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    5" Santoku

    KNR0005C

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    8" Chef Knife

    KNR4008C

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    Fruit/Vegetable Set - 3.5" parer & 6" utility

    KNSR002C

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

    Carving Set - 6" fork & 8" slicer

    KNSR0102C

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 21-piece set

    3½" parer, 5" boning knife, 5" santoku, 5½" tomato/bagel knife, 6" fork, 6" utility, 7" santoku, 8" bread, 8" chef’s knife, 8" slicer, 10" steel, kitchen shears, 8 steak knives, and knife block

    1808009

    Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 17-piece set

    4½" parer, 6" utility, 7" santoku, 8" bread, 8" chef’s knife, 8" slicer, 10" steel, kitchen shears, 8 steak knives, and knife block

    1808008

    Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 14-piece set

    4.5" Parer, 6" Utility, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

    1922890

    Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 15-piece set

    4.5" Parer, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

    1922971

    Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 18-piece set

    4.5" Parer, 5" Boning, 5.5" Tomato, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8" Slicer, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

    1932810

    Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 20-piece set

    4.5" Parer, 5" Boning, 5" Santoku, 5.5" Tomato, 6" Fork, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8" Slicer, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

    1922976

    The knives, manufactured in China, were sold at J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and other stores nationwide and online at www.Amazon.com from September 2008, through December 2016, for $25 for a single knife to $300 for a knife block set.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled cutlery and contact Calphalon for a replacement cutlery product.

    Consumers may contact Calphalon at 800-809-7267 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.calphalon.com and click on “Customer Support” at the bottom of the page then “Recalls” for more information.

     

     

    Calphalon Corp., of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 2 million Contemporary Cutlery knives sold in the U.S. and Canada.The blade on knives can break du...

    How's your savings compare to your credit card debt?

    Bankrate survey finds growing number of consumers on wrong side of that equation

    Saving money can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. There always seems to be pressing needs for spending money that should go for a rainy day.

    The task is even harder when you are burdened with high-interest credit card debt. Those monthly payments eat into potential savings.

    Personal finance site Bankrate.com conducted a survey of consumers and found just 52% had more money in emergency savings than in credit card debt. That's about the same level as last year.

    However, 24% of consumers said their total credit card debt is greater than the amount of money they have set aside in savings, up from 22% last year. About 17% of consumers said they have no credit card debt, which is encouraging, but admitted they don't have any money in savings either.

    Savings, relative to debt

    "Too many Americans haven't right-sized their savings relative to debt, and even those that have made progress still find themselves with an inadequate amount of savings," said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst.

    The older you are, the more likely you are to have more in savings than in credit card debt. However, older Millennials, who came of age during the financial crisis, are more likely than their younger peers to have significant emergency savings.

    The report's authors expressed alarm at one other finding. Seniors age 72 and older are more likely than anyone to have no emergency savings, even if they have no credit card debt. The authors say it suggests that many seniors are surviving on fixed incomes with no wiggle room in their monthly cashflow.

    Higher income, higher savings

    As you might expect, the higher a consumer's income, the more likely he or she is to have significant savings and little credit card debt. The balance between savings and debt begins to shift as income levels go down.

    The lowest income households are the most likely to have neither credit card debt nor emergency savings.

    Credit card debt is among the most toxic, since it usually carries a double-digit interest rate. It's also dangerous because it is so easy to run up large balances that are carried over month to month.

    If a consumer just makes the minimum monthly payment, he or she will make little progress in paying down the debt. To effectively reduce credit card balances, look at each month's bill for the monthly finance charge. Pay that amount, plus as much as you can toward the principal.  

    Saving money can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. There always seems to be pressing needs for spending money that should go for a rainy day....

    Fourth quarter home prices rise despite interest rate hikes

    Initial jobless claims ticked higher last week

    Home prices moved higher in the final three months of 2016.

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House Price Index (HPI), which is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, rose 1.5% from the third quarter and shot up 6.2% from the same three-month period a year earlier.

    “Although interest rates rose sharply during the fourth quarter, our data show no signs of a home price slowdown,” said FHFA Deputy Chief Economist Andrew Leventis. “Although it will certainly take more time for the full effects of the elevated interest rates to be felt, there is no evidence of a normalization in the unusually low inventories of homes available for sale, which has been the primary force behind the extraordinary price gains.”

    Report highlights

    • Home prices rose in 46 states and the District of Columbia between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the fourth quarter of 2016. The top five states in annual appreciation were: 1) Oregon -- 11.0%; 2) Colorado -- 10.6%; 3) Florida -- 10.4%; 4) Washington -- 10.2%; and 5) Nevada -- 8.9%.
    • Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., annual price increases were greatest in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL, (+13.2%). Prices were weakest in Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ (MSAD), (-1.8%).
    • Of the nine census divisions, the Mountain division experienced the strongest increase in the fourth quarter, posting a 2.1% quarterly increase and were up 8.0% on a year-over-year basis. House price appreciation was weakest in the Middle Atlantic division, where prices rose 0.9% from the last quarter.

    Jobless claims

    A slight increase was registered last week in filings of first-time state unemployment benefits.

    The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims were up 6,000 in the week ending February 18 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 to 238,000.

    The four-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, came in at 241,000 -- down 4,000 from the previous week.

    The current level is the lowest since July 21, 1973 when it was 239,500.

    The complete report may be found on the DOL website.

    Home prices moved higher in the final three months of 2016.The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House...

    A January surge in sales of existing homes

    Last month's sales pace was the fastest in nearly a decade

    Sales of previously-owned homes rose in January to their fastest clip in nearly a decade.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports sales of existing homes -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- shot up 3.3% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million.

    That pace is 3.8% above a year ago and is the strongest since February 2007.

    A good start for 2017

    "Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as homebuyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate and deteriorating affordability conditions."

    The median price for all types of existing homes was $228,900 in January -- up 7.1% from the year before. That increase was the sharpest since January 2016 and marks the 59th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. The median is the point at which half the homes cost more and half less.

    Total housing inventory at the end of the month was up 2.4% to 1.69 million existing homes available for sale. Still, that's 7.1% lower than a year ago and has fallen year-over-year for 20 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace.

    Yun expects competition will heat up even more heading into the spring for house hunters looking for homes in the lower- and mid-market price range.

    "NAR and realtor.com's new ongoing research -- the Realtors Affordability Distribution Curve and Score -- revealed that the combination of higher rates and prices led to households in over half of all states last month being able to afford less of all active inventory on the market based on their income," he said.

    Regional tally

    • The January surge was led by the West, where existing-home sales surged 6.6% to an annual rate of 1.29 million, and are now 8.4% higher than they were a year ago. The median price was $332,300 -- up 6.8% from January 2016.
    • Sales in the Northeast jumped 5.3% to an annual rate of 800,000, for a year-over-year advance of 6.7%. The median price was $253,800, up 2.5% from the previous January.
    • In the South, sales were up 3.6% to an annual rate of 2.31 million, and are now 3.1% above January 2016. The median price in the South was up 9.2% from a year earlier to $201,400.
    • The only decline came in the Midwest, where sales dipped 1.5% to an annual rate of 1.29 million, and are 0.8% below a year ago. The median price, however, rose 6.5% from the year before to $174,900.
    Sales of previously-owned homes rose in January to their fastest clip in nearly a decade.The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports sales of ex...

    2016 travelers' woes are lowest in decades

    Flight cancellation, mishandled baggage, and bumping rates improved over 2015

    The air traveling public had less to gripe about in 2016.

    The Transportation Department's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report shows carriers canceled just 1.17% of their scheduled domestic flights last year -- compared with 1.5% in 2015 and the lowest in the 22 years with comparable numbers.

    The previous low was 1.24% in 2002. Airlines canceled 1.6% of their scheduled domestic flights this past December, versus 1.7% a year earlier, but up from the 0.3% rate the month before.

    In addition, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.70 per 1,000 passengers last year, compared with 2015’s rate of 3.13. That's the lowest annual rate since DOT started collecting mishandled baggage report data in September 1987. The previous low was 3.09 in 2012.

    On a month-over-month basis, there was a mishandled baggage rate of 3.58 reports per 1,000 passengers in December, down from December 2015’s rate of 3.97, but up from November 2016’s rate of 2.02.

    The 2016 bumping rate of 0.62 per 10,000 passengers was an improvement over the 0.73 rate posted in 2015 and the lowest annual rate based on historical data dating back to 1995. The previous low was 0.72 in 2002.

    The report also includes on-time performance, tarmac delay, chronically delayed flight, and the causes of flight delay data.

    In addition, there's a tally of aviation service complaints including flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability, and discrimination.

    The complete report is available on the DOT website.

    The air traveling public had less to gripe about in 2016.The Transportation Department's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report shows carriers canceled just...

    Michelin recalls X Works XZY tires

    The tires lack the required DOT symbol and load range letter designation

    Michelin North America is recalling 247 Michelin X Works XZY tires, size 315/80R22.5 156/150K, manufactured from January 1, 2011, to July 31, 2015.

    The tires lack the required DOT symbol and load range letter designation, and, as such, fail to conform to the requirements of U.S Code 30112 and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 119, "New Pneumatic Tires for Motor Vehicles with a GVWR of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) and Motorcycles."

    Tires that do not comply with FMVSS requirements may increase the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Michelin will notify owners and will either correct the tires by permanently applying the required markings or replace the tires with a similar product, free of charge. The recall began on February 13, 2017.

    Owners may contact Michelin at 1-888-847-8475.

     

     

    Michelin North America is recalling 247 Michelin X Works XZY tires, size 315/80R22.5 156/150K, manufactured from January 1, 2011, to July 31, 2015.The...

    New app improves the survivability of a heart attack

    Carmaforlife uses timers and protocols to direct practitioners through a cardiac event

    A new study from Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut showed that a recently released app called Carmaforlife can be an effective tool in improving the survivability of a heart attack.

    The app features educational content designed to help practitioners guide a code blue team through resuscitation. The idea behind Carmaforlife is to keep medical health professionals up to date on the Advanced Cardiac Life Support protocols set forth by the American Heart Association.

    The new study found that Carmaforlife helped improve survival rates of a cardiac arrest by 21%, from 57% to 78%. Additionally, the number of patients who were able to go home after having a heart attack improved by 64%.

    'Immediate results'

    The founder of the company behind the app, ACLS Solutions, detailed the impressive results of the study at the Joseph A. Zacanino conference at Yale New Haven Health System recently.

    “All of the resident physicians and critical care doctors and nurses have come to rely on this app and they know that in the most difficult and stressful situations they face it has made them better practitioners and they see the immediate results,” said Gloria Bindelglass, ACLS Solutions’ CEO and founder.

    Carmaforlife (also known as the Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation Mobile Application) aims to assist doctors in situations where precise timing is critical via a series of countdown timers. The different protocols for each different type of cardiac arrest are listed in detail and interact with the timers to direct practitioners.

    Helps with timing

    An audible metronome within the app and practice sessions with mock code simulations help practitioners pace their chest compressions perfectly.

    As the code progresses, the app documents everything being done in real time. This feature not only saves doctors time by eliminating the need to record manually, it could improve the accuracy of the medical record and allow for a more detailed review of the performance by the team.

    Finally, the app helps the team leader determine the possible cause of the heart attack, which could help expedite and improve patient recovery. ACLS Solutions suggested that the app could be used not only in the hospital, but in the prehospital setting by paramedics in the field or even by corpsman in the military.

    A new study from Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut showed that a recently released app called Carmaforlife can be an effective tool in improving the survi...

    Google plans expansion of its Waze ride-sharing service

    The service differs in many ways from more conventional services like Uber and Lyft

    Back in August, we reported that Google was staking its claim in the ride-sharing business. Using its Waze navigation app, the company began testing a “Going my way?” concept that allowed drivers to connect with travelers that were going in the same direction.

    Initially, tests were confined to Israel and the San Francisco Bay area, but the Wall Street Journal reports that positive results have prompted Google to expand the program. Waze chief Noam Bardin announced that the company will be testing the service in several U.S. cities and in Latin America over the next several months.

    Ride-sharing differences

    The expansion is likely to put Google on a collision course with other popular ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. However, Waze’s service differs in several key ways.

    For one, users must order their Waze rides hours in advance and there is no guarantee that a driver will accept. This is because the service asks drivers who use the navigation app to pick up travelers who are going in the same direction. Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, operate more of an on-demand service that users depend on to take them wherever they want to go on short notice.

    As such, drivers will more than likely not be using Waze as their main source of income, as many Uber and Lyft drivers do now. Riders only pay drivers 54 cents per mile – the reimbursement rate for business travel according to the IRS – and Waze currently doesn’t take a cut of those earnings. However, that could change if the service finds success.

    The main drawing point for riders will be the difference in price. A trip from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco cost a scant $4.50 for users of the Waze service, while Uber and Lyft’s cheapest rides cost $10.57 and $12.40, respectively. However, much of the service’s success will depend on driver cooperation.

    “Can we get the average person on his way to work to pick someone up and drop them off once in a while? That’s the biggest challenge,” said Bardin.

    Self-driving integration?

    Google bought Waze for $1 billion back in 2013, but it has had its eyes on the self-driving market for some time. In the same year, it invested $258 million in Uber and placed one of its executives on the company’s board.

    Over time, the companies parted ways due to competition, but the emergence of the Waze Carpool service may kick things into overdrive. As of right now, Google does enjoy some advantage because it doesn’t have to overcome some of the regulatory obstacles that other ride-sharing services have had to deal with. Bardin also notes the possibility of integrating self-driving technologies into the service in the future.

    “If we were a startup, we couldn’t afford to take these sorts of long term bets. With Google, we can. . . And maybe at the end of the day, instead of a neighbor picking you up, a robot picks you up,” he quipped.

    Back in August, we reported that Google was staking its claim in the ride-sharing business. Using its Waze navigation app, the company began testing a “Goi...

    Promoter of 'free prize' scam nabbed in international crackdown

    Consumers were told they had to pay $25 to collect a $1 million prize

    If someone told you that you had won $1 million and all you had to do was pay a "processing fee" of $25, you'd be suspicious, right? Unfortunately, not everyone is as cautious as you, and many consumers, especially the elderly, fall for such come-ons.

    There is, of course, no $1 million prize. So, at best, the victim loses $25. At worst, their bank or credit card account may be raided by the perpetrators of the scam.

    One such individual in Ian Gamberg, who has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that he provided services for a direct mail scheme that tricked people into thinking they had won a prize. 

    The settlement resolves the charges against Gamberg, who printed and mailed the promotions and participated with other defendants in editing the language and layout of the mailers and envelopes. The promotions were mailed under the names Paulson Independent Distributors, International Procurement Center, Phelps Ingram Distributors, and Keller Sloan & Associates.

    The order imposes an $800,000 judgment, but Gamberg was allowed to pay only $1,400 based on his financial condition. The full judgment will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his circumstances. 

    Litigation continues against the remaining defendants in the scheme, Millenium Direct Incorporated and its principal David Raff.

    International effort

    The case was filed as part of an international initiative against mass-mail fraud, which included actions taken involving law enforcement agencies from Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

    If someone told you that you had won $1 million and all you had to do was pay a "processing fee" of $25, you'd be suspicious, right? Unfortunately, not eve...

    Mortgage applications post decline

    Contract interest rates headed higher

    Mortgage applications registered their second straight decline in the week ending February 17, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, falling 2% from a week earlier.

    The Refinance Index was down 1% from a week earlier, with the refinance share of mortgage activity was down 0.7% to 46.2% of total applications -- the lowest level since November 2008.

    The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity fell to 7.3% of total applications, the FHA share was 11.6%, the VA share rose to 12.1% from 11.8% the previous week, and the USDA was 0.9%.

    Contract interest rates

    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) rose four basis points -- to 4.36% from 4.32% -- with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.34 (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 $424,100) went from 4.28% to 4.29%, with points increasing to 0.28 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 inched up two basis points to 4.14%, with points increasing to 0.33 from 0.31 (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 3.56% from 3.55%, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs dipped three basis points to 3.31%, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.19 (including the origination fee) for80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

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

    Mortgage applications registered their second straight decline in the week ending February 17, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, falling 2% fr...

    Yamaha Corporation of America recalls piano benches

    The paint on the piano bench’s interior compartment contains an excessive level of lead

    Yamaha Corporation of America of Buena Park, Calif, is recalling about 900 benches sold with Yamaha grand pianos.

    The paint on the bench’s interior compartment contains an excessive level of lead in violation of the federal lead paint standard.

    No incidents or injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves piano bench model number 3 I PM / PAW sold with one model of Yamaha grand piano GB1K PM / PAW.

    The recalled benches are brown wood with a brown padded leather seat and a compartment under the seat. It has a manufacturing date code between 08 07 and 16 08 (“YY MM” for year and month). The model number, manufacturing date code and “Yamaha Corporation” are printed on a white label on the interior compartment.

    Consumers can also find a list of piano serial numbers sold with a bench that is being recalled is at http://4wrd.it/benchrecall.

    The benches, manufactured in Indonesia, were sold with the grand pianos at piano stores nationwide from January 2009, through November 2016, for about $15,000.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately remove the recalled piano benches from areas with children and contact Yamaha Corporation of America for instructions on returning it for a free replacement.

    Consumers may contact Yamaha Corporation of America toll-free at 844-703-5446 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at Benchrecall@yamaha.com, online at www.usa.yamaha.com and click on “Support” or http://4wrd.it/benchrecall for more information.

     

     

    Yamaha Corporation of America of Buena Park, Calif, is recalling about 900 benches sold with Yamaha grand pianos.The paint on the bench’s interior comp...

    Biery Cheese Company recalls Longhorn Colby cheeses

    The products may be contaminated Listeria monocytogenes

    Biery Cheese Company is recalling specialty Longhorn Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The following products, packaged at Biery Cheese Company in Louisville, Ohio, and distributed to distribution centers between November 11, 2016, and January 4, 2017, in Georgia, Indiana and Pennsylvania are being recalled:
     

    Brand

    Description

    Product Size

    UPC Code

    Sell By Date

    Delallo

    Premium Sliced Colby Cheese

    8 oz

    0 72368 12452 0

    May/6/2017

    Delallo

    Premium Sliced Hot Pepper Cheese

    8 oz

    0 72368 12462 9

    May/6/2017

    Dietz & Watson

    Pasteurized Process New York State Cheddar Cheese with Jalapeno and Cayenne

    8 oz

    0 31506 79412 4

    May/6/2017

    Dietz & Watson

    Pepper Jack Cheese

    8 oz.

    0 31506 79450 6

    May/6/2017

    Private Selections

    Hardwood Smoked Gouda Slice

    8 oz.

    0 11110 60861 1

    05/06/17

     

    What to do

    Customers who have purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Consumers with questions may contact Biery Cheese at 1-800-243-3731 Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm (EST).

     

     

    Biery Cheese Company is recalling specialty Longhorn Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported...

    MDS Foods expands cheese recall

    The products may be contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes

    MDS Foods is expanding its earlier recall of cheese products.

    Deutsch Kase Haus of Middlebury, Ind., supplied MDS Foods with cheeses that have been found to be contaminated with the pathogenic organism Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The following items are being recalled due to supplier contamination:

    Item NoDescriptionBrandSizeUOMUPC CodeProduct Code Date From
    10209Jalapeno Jack Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    10241Jalapeno RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    10244Jalapeno RW HalfmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    10245Jalapeno EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865310245802/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    17209Jalapeno ColbyJack Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    17245Jalapeno CoJack EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865317245102/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18209Colby Jack Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18241Colby Jack RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18244Colby Jack RW HalfmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18245ColbyJack EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865318245002/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    28209Cheddar Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    28245Cheddar EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865328245702/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55209Colby Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55241Colby RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55244Colby RW HalfmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55245Colby EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865355245102/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55523Colby LonghornAmish Classics15LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    65209Grand ButterkaseAmish Classics6LB82865365209002/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    65241Grand Butterkase RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    65245Grand Butterkase EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865365245802/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    69209Farmers Cheese Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55553Colby Mini Horn .75 oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865355553702/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18830ColbyJk St Pk 1oz Hlf Mn SliceDeli Readi1LB63466062875702/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18831ColbyJk St Pk 1oz Mn Hrn SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062860302/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55830Colby St Pk 1oz Hlf Mn SliceDeli Readi1LB63466062872602/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55831Colby St Pk 1oz Mini Hrn SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062859702/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18740Colby Jack Mini HornDietz & Watson6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55740Colby Mini HornDietz & Watson6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18755Colby Jack Mini HornMeijer6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18758Colby Jack EW Halfmoon ChunkMeijer8OZ71373334058802/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55755Colby Mini HornMeijer6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55758Colby EW Halfmoon ChunkMeijer8OZ71373334047202/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18703Colby Jack EW HalfmoonOld Tyme8OZ09477610221102/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55703Colby EW HalfmoonOld Tyme8OZ09477610227302/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    10840Pepper Jack EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693610602/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    10841Pepper Jack EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693606902/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18840Marble EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693611302/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18841Marble EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693605202/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18842Marble RW HalfmoonTroyer8OZN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    28841Cheddar EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693607602/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55840Colby EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693609002/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55841Colby EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693604502/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    55842Colby RW HalfmoonTroyer8OZN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    69840Farmers EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693613702/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    69841Farmers EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693608302/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    69842Farmers RW HalfmoonTroyer8OZN/A02/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017
    18790ColbyJack St Pk .75oz SliceWinder Farms1LB82865318790502/28/2017 thru
    8/14/2017

    The following items, packaged on the same production lines as those listed above, are being recalled:

    Item #DescriptionBrandSizeUOMUPCAffected Date(s)
    10311Jalapeno Jack PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A04/18/2017
    26244Hot Pepper RW SquareAmish Classics12LB85865326244206/10/2017
    28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A03/28/2017
    28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A04/25/2017
    28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A05/29/2017
    28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A07/03/2017
    61243Muenster RW End ChunksAmish Classics12LBN/A273-16
    61243Muenster RW End ChunksAmish Classics12LBN/A319-16
    61243Muenster RW End ChunksAmish Classics12LBN/A341-16
    61244Muenster RW SquareAmish Classics8OZN/A03/28/2017
    61244Muenster RW SquareAmish Classics8OZN/A05/13/2017
    61244Muenster RW SquareAmish Classics8OZN/A06/04/2017
    03554Monterey Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865303554103/28/2017
    03554Monterey Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865303554105/03/2017
    10553Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LBN/A003-17
    10554Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310554103/17/2017
    10554Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310554105/03/2017
    10555Jalapeno Jck St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310555803/28/2017
    10555Jalapeno Jck St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310555803/30/2017
    10555Jalapeno Jck St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310555805/18/2017
    11553Mozzarella St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB828653115533322-16
    11553Mozzarella St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB828653115533333-16
    26555Hot Pepper St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865326555903/17/2017
    26555Hot Pepper St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865326555904/22/2017
    28532Cheddar Mild Clr StickDeli Made EZ4.5LBN/A04/18/2017
    28545Ched Mld C St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ2LB82865328545804/22/2017
    28553Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LBN/A018-17
    28555Ched Mld C Stk Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865328555703/10/2017
    28555Ched Mld C Stk Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865328555704/22/2017
    58554Provolone St Pck .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865358554103/28/2017
    58555Provolone Stk Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865358555803/28/2017
    61552Muenster St Pk .75 oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB828653615521328-16
    71554Havarti .75oz St Pk SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865371554205/03/2017
    10831Jalapeno St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062878802/28/2017
    10831Jalapeno St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062878804/22/2017
    10831Jalapeno St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062878805/18/2017
    26831Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062868902/28/2017
    26831Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062868904/22/2017
    26831Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062868905/16/2017
    28831Cheddar St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062877102/28/2017
    28831Cheddar St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062877105/04/2017
    28745Cheddar Mild Color LoafDuck Deli5LBN/A273-16
    28747Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceDuck Deli1.5LB828653287476004-17
    28747Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceDuck Deli1.5LB828653287476358-16
    58747Provolone Stk Pck .75oz SliceDuck Deli1.5LB828653587477004-17
    58774Provolone St Pk .667ozLa Rosa2.25LB828653587743004-17
    28769Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceMadison Valley1.5LB828653287698320-16
    61758Muenster EW SquareMeijer8OZ88692627573503/28/2017
    61758Muenster EW SquareMeijer8OZ88692627573505/13/2017
    61758Muenster EW SquareMeijer8OZ88692627573506/10/2017
    10703Jalapeno Jack EW HalfmoonOld Tyme8OZ09477610230305/29/2017
    26703Hot Pepper Cheese EW SquareOld Tyme8OZ09477610228006/10/2017
    61703Muenster EW SquareOld Tyme8OZ09477610224206/04/2017
    10812Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceSutters Quality Foods1.5LB82865310812202/28/2017
    10812Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceSutters Quality Foods1.5LB82865310812205/16/2017
    10815Jalapeno Jack LoafSutters Quality Foods5LBN/A05/09/2017
    28812Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceSutters Quality Foods1.5LB82865328812605/18/2017
    28815Cheddar Mild Color LoafSutters Quality Foods5LBN/A04/18/2017
    58814Provolone SalameSutters Quality Foods6LBN/A05/06/2017
    10790Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceWinder Farms1LB82865310790305/03/2017

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Consumers with questions may contact MDS Foods customer service at (330) 879-9780 Monday through Friday, 8:00AM to 5:00PM (EST).

     

     

    MDS Foods is expanding its earlier recall of cheese products.Deutsch Kase Haus of Middlebury, Ind., supplied MDS Foods with cheeses that have been foun...

    Why you may make more if you’re physically attractive

    Researchers say it's a factor, but certain individual traits matter too

    Tensions can run high amongst employees when it’s time for a company to distribute raises and promotions. Oftentimes, those who end up getting the short end of the stick will feel slighted, but does the fact that they’re making less than their coworkers have anything to do with their looks?

    Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Massachusetts believe that may be a factor. After conducting a study, they stated that being more physically attractive gave consumers an edge when it came to earning more income.

    However, they say that beauty isn’t really the key aspect that leads to more money. It turns out that the personality traits and confidence imparted by being good-looking are more important.

    "Physically more attractive workers may earn more, not necessarily because they are more beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better personality traits conducive to higher earnings, such as being more Conscientious, more Extraverted, and less Neurotic," explains researcher Satoshi Kanazawa.

    Personality matters

    The idea that more attractive workers make higher salaries isn’t necessarily a new one; past studies have sought to address the “beauty premium” and “ugliness penalty,” as the researchers call it.

    In the current study, the researchers evaluated the concepts by analyzing a nationally representative sample of U.S. workers. It rated workers based on physical attractiveness at four different points in life over a 13-year period. The findings were organized using a five-point scale.

    The analysis showed that workers were not necessarily discriminated against because of how they looked. Rather, the researchers found that aspects such as health, intelligence, and major personality factors correlated with physical attractiveness.

    “It appears that more beautiful workers earn more, not because they are beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better (more Conscientious and Extraverted, and less Neurotic) personality,” the researchers said.

    Pays to be unattractive?

    In a bit of an ironic reversal, the researchers even found that in some cases it paid to be more unattractive than coworkers.

    After analyzing the findings, Kanazawa and lead researcher Mary Still found that respondents who were rated as “very unattractive” on the scale usually made more than those who were simply unattractive. These workers were even able to challenge those more highly rated in beauty in some circumstances.

    “Very unattractive respondents always earned significantly more than unattractive respondents, sometimes more than average-looking or attractive respondents,” the researchers said.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

    Tensions can run high amongst employees when it’s time for a company to distribute raises and promotions. Oftentimes, those who end up getting the short en...

    California crisis shows value of flood insurance

    Homeowners insurance does not protect against flood damage

    You sometimes hear about homeowners being "underwater" -- meaning they owe more on their home than it's worth. But you can also be literally underwater, a prospect homeowners in parts of northern California are currently facing.

    If the Lake Oroville Dam's spillway fails, as disaster officials fear it may, more than 100,000 homes could potentially be flooded.

    “The potential for flooding poses a significant threat to life and property in these ... northern California counties and has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents,” said Janet Ruiz, the Insurance Information Institute's California Representative. “Standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover flood-caused damage. A separate flood insurance policy is needed.” 

    Read that again: Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flooding. 

    Or as California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones puts it: "Flood insurance may be all that stands between you and devastating financial losses. ... I urge homeowners to review their coverage needs and consider a flood insurance policy. Consumers need to know their risks and prepare before disaster strikes."

    Federally-subsidized flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies. It's important to note that NFIP policies have a 30-day waiting period before the coverage is activated, so you can't wait until it starts raining to sign up. 

    Excess flood insurance policies are also available from some private insurers if additional coverage is needed above and beyond the basic FEMA NFIP policy. To learn more about flood insurance, visit FloodSmart.gov.

    What to do

    Jones suggests consumers, including those in low-risk areas, assess their need to purchase coverage well before big storms hit. Even areas that have never experienced floods may be at risk after years of severe drought and devastating wildfires in California and elsewhere.
     
    Jones also advises consumers to prepare for potential disaster by using their smartphone to record a home inventory to catalog their belongings and store them in their cloud account. Residents should also consider scanning deeds, insurance policies, and other important documents and store them in the cloud for easy access after the storm.
    You sometimes hear about homeowners being "underwater" -- meaning they owe more on their home than it's worth. But you can also be literally underwater, a...

    Gas prices poised for annual early spring climb

    Prices at the pump are already much higher than they were last year

    Consumers who have gotten accustomed to relatively low gasoline prices over the last two and a half years will have an adjustment to make this spring.

    Gas prices are going to be a bit higher than they were last year.

    Actually, they already are. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is $2.28 a gallon, with almost no movement in the last week. But compared to the price a year ago, it is 57 cents a gallon more.

    The national average price of premium gasoline, required in a growing number of new vehicles, is $2.80 a gallon, about 59 cents a gallon more than last year. Diesel is selling, on average, at $2.51 a gallon, about 53 cents more than last year.

    Rising oil prices

    The reason for the higher prices, up until now, is the cost of crude oil. Oil prices are higher than they were last year, mainly because OPEC has been sending strong signals that it plans to cut production to reduce the huge glut of oil that has kept oil prices relatively soft since late 2014.

    However, most of those proposed cuts have not actually occurred yet. The oil market's growing confidence that they will has prompted traders to bid up crude oil prices to just under $55 a barrel -- still a long way from its highs.

    Over the next few weeks, motorists will likely begin to see prices at the pumps for all grades of fuel begin to move higher. That's because refineries typically reduce operations in late winter and early spring to perform maintenance and begin to switch to more expensive summer grades of gasoline.

    Those prices normally rise until the Memorial Day weekend before slowly declining over the summer. If this year is like the last one, consumers could see gasoline prices go up another 25 cents or so before they peak.

    Refinery issues could boost prices more

    They could shoot even higher if a refinery or two has to cut back production even more. Over the weekend a fire broke out at a refinery in Torrance, Calif. According to the Los Angeles Times, the fire started with an explosion Saturday morning. In a Tweet, GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan says California motorists could see gas prices jump 10 to 25 cents a gallon as a result.

    Currently, the statewide average price of regular gas in California is $2.90 a gallon. The price of premium is $3.14 a gallon.

    California has some of the most expensive gasoline in the country. The cheapest gas this week is found in South Carolina, where the statewide average for regular is $2.03 a gallon and the average price of premium is $2.60.

    Consumers who have gotten accustomed to relatively low gasoline prices over the last two and a half years will have an adjustment to make this spring.G...

    Suburbs increasingly 'hotter' housing markets than urban areas

    But proximity to an urban core helps define a suburban hotspot

    A few years ago, Millennial homebuyers were eager to live in the city. They liked the idea that they could walk to movie theaters, restaurants, and shopping centers.

    But as more of them have started families, the suburbs are looking a bit more attractive these days. Realtor.com reports a number of suburban communities have become real estate hot spots in their own right, fueling price rises outside the city core.

    The housing marketplace singles out Northeast/Montebello, Colo., a Denver suburb; Wylie/St. Paul, Texas, a suburb of Dallas; and Dublin/Dougherty, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco, as the nation's most prominent suburban hotspots.

    Meccas for young families

    “Suburbs are traditionally viewed as Meccas for young families, willing to trade in shorter commute times and urban nightlife for better schools and larger homes,” said Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com's chief economist.

    But Smoke says the relationship between the suburbs and urban areas is intertwined. As urban home prices have shot up in recent years, and inventory levels have tightened, the more affordable suburban home prices have started to look a lot more attractive.

    "Our analysis indicates 50 percent of buyers planning to purchase a home this spring indicated they preferred a home in the suburbs,” Smoke said.

    Proximity to the city

    But the analysis also shows that what often makes a suburb appealing to homebuyers is its proximity to an urban area, and ease of getting back and forth. Smoke says the suburbs that made the list are located just outside urban centers, which are themselves hot housing markets.

    The suburbs on the list have also enjoyed recent explosive growth. They've seen an average of 18.8% household growth over the last seven years. That edges out the growth in other suburban and urban neighborhoods.

    In some Sunbelt metros, the growth of suburban households has far outpaced urban growth. The realtor.com analysis found suburban areas of Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, and Houston grew by 18% to 27% between 2010 and 2017. That compares to just 7% to 16% for those metros' urban areas. Nationwide, population growth in suburbs exceeded urban population growth in 33 of 50 metros.

    Realtor.com says the suburbs on its list are among the top 8% when it comes to the hottest real estate Zip Codes in the country. It says these homes received 1.6 times more views on realtor.com than the typical home in the study.

    A few years ago, Millennial homebuyers were eager to live in the city. They liked the idea that they could walk to movie theaters, restaurants, and shoppin...

    Screening developed for women with dense breast tissue

    Rapid Breast MRI developer says the protocol could detect breast cancer six years earlier

    A doctor in Flint, Mich., says he has developed a special screening process to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.

    He says his "Rapid Breast MRI" protocol could detect breast cancer up to six years earlier than a mammogram and could possibly save thousands of lives.

    "Your breasts will be seen as dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat in the breasts," the American Cancer Society says on its website.

    As it turns out, breast density is very common and not abnormal. However, it can present some challenges to screening using a mammogram.

    Not clear what women should do

    According to the Mayo Clinic, some states have laws requiring doctors to inform women when a mammogram shows they have dense breast tissue. "But just what women should do in response isn't clear," the Mayo Clinic says.

    Dr. David A. Strahle, chairman of Regional Medical Imaging (RMI), believes Rapid Breast MRI could be the answer.

    An MRI is a highly effective way to see what is going on inside the body. The only problem is, it's very expensive. For that reason, only about 2% of women -- those considered at high risk for breast cancer -- get MRI screenings.

    Strahle says his protocol cuts the time required for a breast scan by 70%, to just seven minutes. That, he says, will drastically reduce the cost.

    Half the cost of regular MRI

    While insurance companies do not yet cover Rapid Breast MRI, Strahle says the exam costs $395 out-of-pocket, compared to $700 or more for a full diagnostic MRI. Strahle says the scan only needs to be performed every two years, as opposed to more frequent mammograms.

    "This is a major breakthrough," Strahle said. "I can see a day when we can prevent this disease from killing women."

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women in the U.S. Nearly 41,000 U.S. women died from breast cancer in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

    According to the CDC, women age 50 to 74 should be screened for breast cancer every two years. Women under 50 should discuss with their doctor when to begin screening.

    A doctor in Flint, Mich., says he has developed a special screening process to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.He says his "Rapi...

    Builder confidence drops in February

    It's the second decline in as many months

    Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family fell for a second straight month in February, with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) declining two points to a level of 65.

    “With much of the decline this month resulting from a decrease in buyer traffic, builders continue to struggle to minimize costs while dealing with supply side challenges such as a lack of developed lots and labor shortages,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Despite these constraints, the overall housing market fundamentals remain strong and we expect to see continued growth this year as some of these concerns are addressed.”

    A broad-based decline

    The NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." Builders are asked to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average," or "low to very low."

    Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

    All three HMI components fell in February. The component gauging current sales conditions slipped one point to 71, the index charting sales expectations in the next six months registered a three-point decline to 73, and the component measuring buyer traffic dropped five points to 46.

    Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast was down two points, the South dipped one point, the Midwest rose a point, and the West held steady for the third month in a row.

    “While builders remain optimistic, we are seeing the numbers settling back into a normal range,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald. “Regulatory burdens remain a major challenge to our industry, and NAHB looks forward to working with the new Congress and administration to help alleviate some of the pressures that are holding small businesses back and making homes less affordable.”

    Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family fell for a second straight month in February, with the National Association of Home Builders...

    California realtors say sales were robust in January

    The median price dipped on an uptick in sales of less expensive homes

    As we reported in recent days, housing affordability in California's red hot real estate markets has improved over the last few months. Industry experts say prices have leveled off a bit while incomes have risen.

    But that doesn't mean the market is slowing down. The California Association of Realtors (CAR) reports 2016 ended on a strong note and 2017 started the same way.

    If 2017 sales follow January's path, CAR estimates more than 420,000 existing homes will be sold statewide by December 31. That's up 2.1% from December and 4.4% from January 2016.

    "California's housing market continues to be defined by the higher-priced, coastal markets and the less expensive, inland areas that still offer access to major employment centers," said CAR President Geoff McIntosh.

    To find more affordable housing, McIntosh says many buyers are looking outside the core Bay Area markets of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. That's led to an uptick in sales in Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano.

    In Southern California, the same thing is happening, leading to stronger markets in recent months in Riverside and San Bernardino.

    Median price below $500,000

    The median sale price of an existing single-family home in California fell below the $500,000 mark for the first time in nearly a year, but that doesn't mean homeowners are cutting prices. It simply means that more less-expensive, entry-level homes are selling, which is a healthy sign for the market.

    California's median sale price was down 3.8% from a revised $508,870 in December to $489,580 in January. Still, that was 4.8% higher than January 2016.

    CAR Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young credits the recent rise in mortgage rates with spurring January sales. She says homebuyers were motivated to act before rates move even higher, which she predicts will eventually have a dampening effect on housing markets, since it will likely put homeownership out of reach for some consumers.

    The inventory of available homes has been extremely tight in California markets for months, but showed some improvement in January. CAR reports there were 3.7 months on inventory last month, compared to 2.6 months in December.

    As we reported in recent days, housing affordability in California's red hot real estate markets has improved over the last few months. Industry experts sa...

    Model year 2009-2013 Suzuki Grand Vitaras recalled

    The gear shift rear shaft may break

    Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 791 model year 2009-2013 Grand Vitaras equipped with a manual transmission.

    The gear shift rear shaft may break, preventing the gears from being able to be changed, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Suzuki will notify owners, and dealers will replace the gear shift rear shaft, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 1, 2017.

    Owners may contact Suzuki customer service at 1-800-934-0934. Suzuki's number for this recall is VZ.

    About this recall

    This story is based on a recall notice issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the automobile manufacturer. Although the recall notice may specify certain models and production years, the actual recall may officially include only certain vehicles within those categories -- production runs during a certain time span, for example.

    Has your car been recalled? To check whether there are outstanding recalls on your car, jot down your VIN number (which you can find in the lower left corner of your windshield), go to www.nhtsa.gov/recalls, and enter the VIN where indicated. 

    Once notified of a recall, you should contact your local dealer, who will make the necessary repairs if parts are available. Frequently, parts are not immediately available and you may have to wait, sometimes for months in the case of a large recall. The dealer may voluntarily provide you with a loaner but is not required by law to do so. 

     

     

    Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 791 model year 2009-2013 Grand Vitaras equipped with a manual transmission.The gear shift rear shaft may break, pr...

    Nissan recalls model 2002 Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s

    The Takata airbag inflators may rupture

    Nissan North America (Nissan) is recalling 46 model year 2002 Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s.

    The vehicles' Takata airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules used as original equipment or replacement equipment may rupture in the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the front airbags.

    What to do

    Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger airbag assembly, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

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

    This story is based on a recall notice issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the automobile manufacturer. Although the recall notice may specify certain models and production years, the actual recall may officially include only certain vehicles within those categories -- production runs during a certain time span, for example.

    Has your car been recalled? To check whether there are outstanding recalls on your car, jot down your VIN number (which you can find in the lower left corner of your windshield), go to www.nhtsa.gov/recalls, and enter the VIN where indicated. 

    Once notified of a recall, you should contact your local dealer, who will make the necessary repairs if parts are available. Frequently, parts are not immediately available and you may have to wait, sometimes for months in the case of a large recall. The dealer may voluntarily provide you with a loaner but is not required by law to do so. 

     

     

    Nissan North America (Nissan) is recalling 46 model year 2002 Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s.The vehicles' Takata airbag inflators assembled as part of...

    Choice Farms recalls mushrooms stuffed with cheese

    The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Choice Farms is recalling a limited quantity of stuffed mushrooms that be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The recall pertains to a total of seven individual shrink-wrapped trays of one of three following stuffed mushroom types:

    Product DescriptionBest if Enjoyed ByLot NumberUPC

    Traditional Gourmet Portabella Mushrooms
    (2 count tray, 8 oz.)

    2/16/2017120410007-17524-72470

    Pizza style Portabella Mushrooms
    (2 count tray, 8 oz.)

    2/16/2017120410007-17524-72471

    Stuffed Mushrooms
    (6 count tray, 7 oz.)

    2/16/2017120410007-17524-72469

    The recalled products were sold on Friday, February 10, 2017, at the following stores:

    Store #Location
    Kroger 445

    5330 S. Cooper/ Green Oaks
    Arlington, TX 76017

    Kroger 461

    5190 Hwy. 78
    Sachse, TX 75048

    Kroger 529

    4241 Capitol Avenue
    Dallas, TX 75204

    Kroger 566

    3205 University Drive
    Nacadoches, TX 75965

    Kroger 575

    2935 Ridge Road
    Rockwall, TX 75032

    Kroger 695

    5701 W. Pleasant Ridge
    Arlington, TX 76016

    Dillon 072

    10515 W. Central Ave.
    Wichita, KS 67212

    What to do

    Customers who suspect they have purchased the recalled products should dispose them and contact Choice Farms LLC for a refund.

    Consumers with questions may contact Choice Farms at 800-605-0881.

    Choice Farms is recalling a limited quantity of stuffed mushrooms that be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported to d...

    New sell-by labels aim to reduce confusion, waste

    Forty percent of food goes to waste in the U.S. each year, partly because of unclear labels

    Every now and then, you'll see a story explaining that the dates stamped on food don't really mean much -- that most of them are voluntary and aren't really related to health and safety.

    The reason for all the confusion is that there have never been any binding rules for most types of expiration dates, so manufacturers have been playing it by ear. That's about to stop, and consumer advocates say it will help Americans save money by not throwing out perfectly edible food. It should also relieve the pressure on landfills.

    Perhaps surprisingly, the new standardization isn't the result of new government regulations. Instead, the two leading grocery trade groups, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have come up with a set of voluntary standards that manufacturers and grocers will be encouraged to adopt.

    “Our product code dating initiative is the latest example of how retailers and manufacturers are stepping up to help consumers and to reduce food waste,” said Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and CEO, in a press release describing the new standards.

    The new standards replace the current thicket of different date labels with two: "Use By" and "Best if Used By."

    What's the difference? 

    • "Use By" will be a safety warning, cautioning that perishable food may not be fit to eat after a certain date;
    • "Best if Used By" is a subjective prediction of when a packaged food may start to taste a bit stale, but it is not a safety warning. 

    Cost-effective

    Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and independent health and consumer groups have been urging such action for years.

    “I think it’s huge. It’s just an enormous step,” said Emily Broad-Leib, the director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, in a recent Washington Post report. “It’s still a first step — but it’s very significant.”

    “Clarifying and standardizing date label language is one of the most cost effective ways that we can reduce the 40 percent of food that goes to waste each year in the United States,” Broad-Leib said, adding that the new standards will help consumers "make better decisions and reduce needless waste of food and money."

    You won't see the changes immediately. July 2018 is the official deadline and since the new standards are voluntary, not everyone will follow them. But major grocers, including Walmart, say they plan to get in line.

    It's also possible that the new industry standards may form the basis for federal legislation at some point, though in the current deregulatory climate, it doesn't seem likely that will happen anytime soon.

    Every now and then, you'll see a story explaining that the dates stamped on food don't really mean much -- that most of them are voluntary and aren't reall...

    Study finds 178 million exposed cyber assets in the U.S.

    Consumers can be spied on and could become part of a crime ring without adequate security

    Are your cyber assets exposed? If so, you're not alone. A new study by Trend Micro finds that no fewer than 178 million internet-connected devices in the U.S. are exposed to hacking.

    Very simply, an exposed cyber asset is a device like a router, webcam, or DVR that's connected to -- and visible on -- the public internet. Such devices can be used to spy on their owners and can often be taken over and used in cyberattacks on others.

    The study looked at the ten largest U.S. cities and found that Los Angeles has the highest number of exposed assets, followed by Houston and Chicago.

    Interestingly, the study said that the majority (79%) of exposed DVRs are in Chicago and more than three quarters (80%) of all exposed DVRs are made by TiVo.

    Internet-connected cameras that are most exposed include home cameras made by D-Link and security cameras made by GeoVision and Avtech

    What to do

    The router is like the front door to your home's internet. If it is not secure, criminals can break into your local connection and potentially monitor your activities and even, in some cases, make off with your private data.

    An unsecured router can also be turned into a "zombie," meaning that it can become part of a "botnet" (the cyber equivalent of those roving bands you see on The Walking Dead). While this may not affect you directly, it turns your home into a crime scene and makes you part of the global networks that support terrorism, child pornography, and identity theft.

    The most basic security step is to never buy a used router. Second is to always change the password on any router you buy. The password you choose should be long (preferably 16 characters or so) and complex -- a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.

    Write the password down, but don't leave it in plain view where visitors can see it. It's important to note here that we're not talking about the password you set up for wi-fi (which can be a little simpler if you wish) but rather the administrator password for the router. 

    Thie third step is to buy a router that has an embedded security solution. Trend Micro notes that it has partnered with ASUS to pre-install a security layer on ASUS routers. Similar solutions are available from other vendors.

    Trend Micro offers a free guide to securing your router. 

    Are your cyber assets exposed? If so, you're not alone. A new study by Trend Micro finds that no fewer than 178 million internet-connected devices in the U...

    Mortgage payments take bigger bite out of family budgets

    Homebuyers squeezed between rising interest rates and home prices

    There's a term for it – house poor. It means after paying for your house each month, you have little money left over.

    Real estate marketplace Zillow reports that it seems to be becoming the norm. Interest rates are going up, along with home values. As a result, Zillow says the average mortgage payment takes a bigger bite of household income than at any time in the last six years.

    A year ago, homebuyers spent an average of 14.7% of household income on the mortgage. Now, it's 15.8%.

    The rise in home values has been the biggest driver, Zillow says. Average home prices nationwide are rising more than 5% a year, largely because of a prolonged drop in inventory. With fewer homes on the market, the ones that are for sale can command higher prices. They sell closer to asking prices because sellers, not buyers, have the upper hand.

    $758 average payment

    At the end of last year, the average monthly mortgage payment totaled $758, an increase of about $68 over the previous year. Zillow says most of the increase is because of rising home values. Another factor is property taxes. As the value of a house increases, so do the real estate taxes, which are tacked onto the monthly mortgage payment.

    While the Federal Reserve is on a path of higher rates, the Federal Funds rate that it controls has little impact on mortgage rates. Instead, the stronger dollar has driven bond yields higher, and it is those rates – especially the rate on the 30-year Treasury note, that most influence mortgage rates.

    Expensive homes get more expensive

    “As mortgage rates rise, buyers will face higher financing costs and already expensive homes will come with even higher monthly mortgage payments," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

    She says mortgage rates could rise further before the share of income needed to pay the median monthly mortgage reaches the historical average. That said, many expensive markets on both coasts have already exceeded it.

    “On the rental side, rent appreciation has slowed lately, giving renters' incomes a chance to catch up as many are already committing a larger share of their income to a monthly rental payment," Gudell said.

    Mortgage payments also vary from market to market, since houses in California generally cost a lot more than they do in Nebraska. The Zillow report shows mortgage payments for homeowners in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco take the biggest budget bites of household income – more than 40%.

    There's a term for it – house poor. It means after paying for your house each month, you have little money left over.Real estate marketplace Zillow rep...

    'Netflix cheating' becoming more widespread, company says

    Company says couples who have vowed to watch series together increasingly stray

    When it comes to pressing social issues, this is probably not anywhere close to the top of the list. It might not even be on the list.

    Netflix has released a new study showing 48% of the couples who are members have admitted to “cheating” on their significant other. Not sexual infidelity, mind you. They've cheated by binge-watching future episodes of a show the couple had agreed to watch together.

    Netflix highlighted the “problem” in a 2014 advertising campaign, below.

    The commercial was the result of a 2013 Netflix study that first identified the phenomenon of one partner watching ahead without telling the other. Since then, Netflix says the practice has increased 300% and is now a common thing among couples sharing a Netflix account.

    The urge to cheat

    “The urge to cheat starts slow, and before you know it the rush to watch ahead is too irresistible – the white lies and excuses become part of the game,” Netflix said in a press release. “This behavior only continues to grow with 63% of American cheaters admitting they'd cheat more if they knew they'd get away with it.”

    The company says binge-watching makes cheating more prevalent because it's easy to say “just one more.”

    “We're human, the more attractive the show - the more the eye will stray,” the company said.

    Netflix says its survey shows the U.S. doesn't have the most cheaters. That honor goes to Brazil, followed closely by Mexico.

    What about the country where couples are most likely to honor their vow to only watch together? According to Netflix, the Netherlands has the most loyal viewing couples, followed by Germany and Poland.

    When it comes to pressing social issues, this is probably not anywhere close to the top of the list. It might not even be on the list.Netflix has relea...

    Consumers falling behind on car payments

    Delinquencies rise, along with consumer debt

    A report this week from the New York Federal Reserve Bank shows the delinquency rate on new car loans continued to rise in the fourth quarter of last year, approaching levels not seen since the financial crisis.

    Car loans that were just 30 days late rose to more than $23 billion in the last three months of the year. That's the most since the third quarter of 2008.

    Fewer car loans were seriously delinquent – more than 90 days late. But seriously delinquent loans totaled more than $8 billion, the highest since the previous quarter, which is not an encouraging trend.

    Rising new car sales

    New car sales have been rising to record levels month after month over the last couple of years, with the aid of low interest rates and attractive deal incentives.

    But with the average new car transaction price now north of $35,000, personal finance advisers have worried that consumers are buying vehicles they really can't afford by stringing out the payments over six or seven years.

    Even back in 2014, Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian, worried that car buyers were getting overextended.

    “Car buyers tend to shop with a monthly payment in mind,” Zabritski said at the time. “As a result, we are continuing to see them turn to leasing and longer loan lengths as strategies to keep payments down and make vehicles more affordable.”

    Seven year loans are risky

    A seven year loan usually means the buyer can barely afford the payment. A financial setback here and there over the next seven years and they could fall behind on their payments. That may be what we are beginning to see now.

    Leasing isn't getting any easier either. A report from leasing marketplace Swapalease.com shows applicants for an auto lease in January registered only a 50% approval rate, down from over 63% in January 2016.

    The auto loan data is continued in a New York Fed report on overall consumer debt. The report found total household debt increased substantially by $226 billion, a 1.8% increase, to $12.58 trillion.

    Officials said it was the largest quarterly increase in total household debt since the fourth quarter of 2013, with the total now less than a percentage point below its peak of $12.68 trillion, reached at the beginning of the financial crisis.

    A report this week from the New York Federal Reserve Bank shows the delinquency rate on new car loans continued to rise in the fourth quarter of last year,...

    Saputo Inc. recalls Gouda cheese products

    Officials say the goods may be contaminated with listeria

    Saputo Inc. has initiated a recall of certain Gouda cheese products over concerns of a potential listeria contamination. Supplier Deutsch Kase Haus LLC notified the company of the danger after finding that its products may have been compromised

    Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

    The recall covers two products -- Great Midwest Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese and Dutchmark Pasteurized Processed Smoked Gouda Cheese. Both were sold nationwide, primarily in retail stores and at deli counters.

    Information on the brand, product, pack size, universal product code (UPC), and "Sell By" date can be found below. No illnesses have been associated with this recall thus far.

    What to do

    Consumers who have purchased either recalled product are urged to dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. If you are concerned about any illness or injury as a result of consuming the product, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

    For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-877-578-1510, Monday through Frida, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST. 

    Saputo Inc. has initiated a recall of certain Gouda cheese products over concerns of a potential listeria contamination. Supplier Deutsch Kase Haus LLC not...

    Traffic deaths surge in 2016

    Deaths rose 14% since 2014, the biggest two-year increase in 53 years

    The National Safety Council estimates nearly 40,000 people died in traffic accidents last year, 6% more than the previous year and 14% more than in 2014.

    It was the largest two-year increase in traffic deaths since 1964.

    Logically, traffic deaths should be going lower. Think about all the safety features modern vehicles now have. In 1964, not only were there no airbags but seat belts weren't even required in all cars.

    So why are traffic deaths soaring? Part of the answer my lie in the fact that there are a lot more vehicles on the road than there were in 1964.

    Then again, the behavior of the people behind the wheel might also play a role. The Council conducted a survey of drivers and learned that 64% thought exceeding the speed limit was not a safety issue.

    Bad behavior

    Forty-seven percent thought it was acceptable for a driver to text while behind the wheel, 13% believe it is okay to drive after smoking marijuana and even 10% aren't deterred from driving after drinking a little too much alcohol.

    "Our complacency is killing us," said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn't true."

    In addition to deaths, she says traffic accidents caused an estimated 4.6 million serious injuries last year, costing society around $432 billion.

    Hersman says the U.S. is behind the rest of the developed world in preventing highway fatalities. As we reported last July, the U.S. has the highest traffic death rate among the top 20 high-income nations. And while death rates were down in the U.S. by 31% from 2000 to 2013, other developed countries dramatically reduced their crash deaths by an average of 56% during the same period.

    Looking for answers

    What's the answer? Some might think it's autonomous cars, but the National Safety Council wants immediate implementation of life-saving measures on the road that it says would set a goal of zero deaths.

    Those measures include mandatory ignition locks for people with a drunk driving conviction, along with better education about the dangers of drinking and driving. It also believes automated enforcement tools to catch speeders, similar to the traffic cameras that nab drivers who run red lights, is a step in the right direction.

    The Council is also pushing laws to ban the use of cell phones -- even in hands-free mode -- when someone is behind the wheel. Finally, it's pushing for states to toughen seat belt laws and extend three-tiered licensing systems to all new drivers from the current age of 18 to 21.

    The National Safety Council estimates nearly 40,000 people died in traffic accidents last year, 6% more than the previous year and 14% more than in 2014....

    Delta dishing up more meals on transcontinental flights

    Changes will begin on March 1 and expand to other markets in late April

    Back in December, Delta announced that it would be testing complimentary meals for coach passengers on its transcontinental flights. Travelers flying between New York-JFK and Los Angeles International Airport/San Francisco International Airport were being targeted to see if the program was feasible.

    Now it seems that the company will be expanding on that effort. An announcement released by Delta states that it will begin offering complimentary meals on the aforementioned flights on March 1 and will expand it to 10 other cross-country flights by April 24.

    Markets in Seattle, California, New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. will benefit from the upgrade, with customers getting a free meal if they fly BOS-SFO, BOS-LAX, BOS-SEA, DCA-LAX, FK-PDX, JFK-SAN, JFK-SEA, SEA-FLL, SEA-MCO, and SEA-RDU.

    “The enhancement is part of Delta’s ongoing multi-million dollar investment in the on-board customer experience that includes upgraded Main Cabin snacks, enhanced blankets, refreshed Flight Fuel food-for-purchase options and free in-flight entertainment,” the company stated.

    Meal options

    Travelers will be able to choose from a few different meal options for their complimentary meal. For breakfast, fliers can choose between a Honey Maple Breakfast Sandwich, the Luvo Breakfast Medley, or a fruit and cheese plate. For lunch, Delta offers a choice between a Mesquite-Smoked Turkey Combo, the Luvo Mediterranean Whole Grain Veggie Wrap, or a fruit and cheese plate. Those flying overnight will be also be offered a breakfast bar during the pre-arrival beverage service.

    Additionally, Delta Comfort+ members will be offered a pre-arrival snack basket and complimentary beer, wine, and spirits if over 21. For members flying from JFK to LAX or SFO, a mid-service Greek frozen yogurt bar will also be provided.

    Delta stated that it expanded its offering to more flights after receiving positive feedback from its customers on tests conducted last year.

    “We are all about making our Main Cabin experience the best it can be for our customers and offering free, high quality meals is a big part of that experience. When we tested this concept, our customers loved it and appreciated it so we are implementing in our most strategic markets,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s Senior Vice President of In-Flight Service.

    Back in December, Delta announced that it would be testing complimentary meals for coach passengers on its transcontinental flights. Travelers flying betwe...

    Simple indoor project ideas for a cold winter weekend

    When winter weather forces you indoors, make the most of it by enhancing your home

    Stuck inside during a chilly winter weekend? Instead of allowing cabin fever to slowly set in, why not make the most of your time by completing a DIY project or two?

    Weekends when you can’t go outside are the perfect opportunity to spend some time embracing and improving your indoor space. But figuring out which potential home projects are hiding in plain sight isn’t always easy.

    Fortunately, HouseLogic, the resource website for homeowners from Realtor.com, has some ideas on how homeowners can improve their indoor spaces when it’s too cold to go outside. Most of HouseLogic’s ideas can be done in a weekend.

    Quick and easy projects  

    Here are a few ways homeowners can spruce up their home's interior when frigid temperatures make staying in necessary:

    • Personalize your new house. If you own a newly built home, it may look quite similar to your neighbor’s. Help your cookie-cutter home stand out by completing a simple project such as painting the front door or ceiling blades or upsizing your cabinets.
    • Add shelves. Few people have ever wished they had less storage space in their home, but not all storage solutions are easy on the eyes. Wall shelves, however, create additional storage while adding architectural interest to a home. Shelves can also fit into unexpected spots, such as over the bathroom door or in between your walls’ studs.
    • Hide eyesores. Dingy floors, ugly appliances, and clunky air conditioning units are among the features that most homeowners would prefer not to look at every day. You can hide or disguise these eyesores with tips such as concealing a breaker box with a framed picture or painting a pattern on plain vinyl flooring.
    • Fix quirks. If your home sweet home has a few quirks, such as a flickering light or strange noise emanating from your wall, take some time to fix the issues. To stop creaking floors, HouseLogic recommends dusting talcum powder in between the seams of floorboards. For a toilet tank that refills all on its own, try untangling or loosening the chain or bending the tube connected to the float ball.
    Stuck inside during a chilly winter weekend? Instead of allowing cabin fever to slowly set in, why not make the most of your time by completing a DIY proje...

    What stresses you out at work?

    A survey finds deadline pressure is the most common source

    Let's assume that people normally think they have a little too much stress at work. It just goes with the territory. No one thinks they have it easy, right?

    But when CareerCast conducted a survey of its readers, it found nearly three-quarters of them believed they were under a lot of stress at work. Participants were asked to rate their stress on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being constant stress.

    Almost no one admitted to a stress-free job. But the survey found 71% of participants rated their stress at seven or more, suggesting they believe they work in a very stressful environment.

    Stressful deadlines

    What's the source of the stress? Thirty percent said it was the deadlines they had to meet as part of the job. The next-closest source of stress was being responsible for other people's lives, like being an airline pilot, surgeon, or police officer. That came in at 17%.

    Further down the list, 10.2% said competitiveness in the office was the biggest source of stress and 8.4% pointed to the physical demands of the job.

    "There isn't much you can do about reducing stress if you are on the front lines and responsible for the lives of others aside from changing careers," said Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast. "However, if deadlines are causing undue stress at work, ask your supervisor for additional resources to help with the project or find out if timelines can be relaxed to find some relief."

    Education more stressful than healthcare

    Believe it or not, people who work in education reported higher stress levels than those in healthcare. Among education workers, 88.9% reported a stress level of seven or higher, while only 69% of healthcare workers did.

    In between are people who work in customer service, the poor souls who spend each day listening to our complaints. Seventy-eight percent of customer service employees reported a stress level of seven or higher.

    The survey found that the average employee spends 47 hours a week at work, not the customary 40 hours. That means the average employee is spending nearly 40% of his or her waking hours facing various job-related stress.

    The survey found that stress was a principal reason some employees left a job. Nearly 59% of participants said they would leave their professions, if they could, to escape the stress.

    Let's assume that people normally think they have a little too much stress at work. It just goes with the territory. No one thinks they have it easy, right...

    Loblaw Companies Limited recalls baby food pouches due to botulism concerns

    Consumers who purchased the products from Canada should be extremely cautious

    Loblaw Companies Limited has updated a recall of  it brand baby food pouches due to concerns that the packaging may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum.

    Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria that is most commonly associated with causing botulism. Food infected with the bacteria may not look or smell spoiled, but it can have devastating health consequences. If consumed, symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, blurred or double vision, dry mouth, respiratory failure, and paralysis. In worst-case scenarios, consumption can even lead to death.

    The initial recall was issued on February 3, 2017 but was updated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to include more products after a food safety investigation. The products were sold in several Canadian regions, including various locations in Ontario, Atlantic, Québec, and West. However, U.S. consumers who bought the products and brought them back to the states should also beware. 

    For the full list of locations where the products were sold, and information on the brand names, common names, sizes, codes on products, and universal product codes (UPCs), consumers should visit this site here.

    What to do

    Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are urged to throw them away immediately or return them to the place of purchase. If you believe you have become sick as a result of consuming a recalled product, you should call your doctor immediately.

    For more information about the recall, consumers can contact Loblaw Companies Ltd at 1-888-495-5111 or online at customerservice@presidentschoice.ca. 

    Loblaw Companies Limited has updated a recall of  it brand baby food pouches due to concerns that the packaging may permit the growth of Clostridium botuli...

    Mercedes-Benz recalls some 2017 models to fix airbag issue

    The occupant protection control may malfunction, not properly identifying passenger seat occupants

    Mercedes-Benz is recalling several 2017 models because of a potential problem with the airbags. The company said the front passenger occupant detection control unit may have been incorrectly installed. As a result, the front passenger seat occupant may be misclassified.

    For example, an adult may be misclassified as a child seat, causing the front passenger air bag to be deactivated in the event of a crash, which could cause injury or death.

    Affected models include certain 2017 E300, E300 4Matic, and E43 AMG vehicles.

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the routing of the pressure hose of the seat occupancy detection control unit and replace the pressure hose and seat occupancy detection mat if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early March 2017. Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

    Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

    Mercedes-Benz is recalling several 2017 models because of a potential problem with the airbags. The company said the front passenger occupant detection con...

    Britax recalls Click & Go receivers on baby strollers due to potential fall hazard

    A damaged receiver mount can cause the car seat to disengage and fall unexpectedly

    Britax has initiated a recall of approximately 717,000 units of its Click & Go receivers found on Britax B-Agile and BOB Motion Strollers.

    The company says a damaged receiver mount on the stroller can cause the car seat to disengage and fall unexpectedly when the products are in travel system mode, which poses a fall hazard to infants in the car seat. The recall pertains to strollers that are folding, single or double occupant models and have Click & Go receiver mounts that attach the car seat carrier to the stroller frame.

    There are 121 affected model numbers of the B-Agile products and 21 affected model numbers of the BOB products included in the recall, which can be viewed here. The model numbers can be found on the inside of the stroller's metal frame near the right rear wheel for single strollers and in the front middle underside of the frame on double strollers.

    The products were sold nationwide between May, 2011 and February, 2017 at retailers like Babies R Us, buy buy Baby, and Target, as well as online at Amazon.com, albeebaby.com, buybuybaby.com, diapers.com, ToysRUs.com, and other websites. The products cost between $250 and $470 for the strollers and the travel systems. 

    Thus far, Britax has received 33 reports of car seats unexpectedly disconnecting from the strollers and falling to the ground, which has resulted in 26 injuries. The company is aware of 1,337 reports of strollers that have damaged Click & Go receiver mounts. 

    What to do

    Britax is urging consumers who own one of the affected products to stop using the strollers in cars; however, it says that the products can continue to be safely used as a stroller.

    The company is asking that consumers not return the product to the retailer. Instead, consumers should dispose of the Click & Go receivers. The company has pledged to provide a remedy kit to fix the broken part for single stroller models. 

    For more information, consumers can contact Britax online at us.britax.com/recall and stroller.recall@britax.com. Consumers can also reach the company by phone at 844-227-0300, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. 

    Britax has initiated a recall of approximately 717,000 units of its Britax B-Agile and BOB Motion Strollers with Click & Go receivers.The company says...

    Veggie Noodle Co. recalls butternut spirals

    The products may have been contaminated with listeria

    Veggie Noodle Co. based out of Austin, Texas is voluntarily recalling certain Butternut Spiral products due concerns of a possible listeria contamination.

    Listeria monocytogenes is an organism can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

    The recalled products were packaged in 10.7 oz clear plastic containers with the universal product code (UPC) of 852287006059 and an "Enjoy By" date of February 23, 2017; both pieces of information can be found on the side of the packaging. 

    The products were shipped to several U.S. states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. There have been no reported illnesses related to the recall at this time.

    What to do

    Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are urged by the company not to consume them and to either discard or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    For more information, consumers can contact Veggie Noodle Co. via email at info@veggienoodleco.com or by phone at 512-200-3337, extension 500, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. 

    Veggie Noodle Co. based out of Austin, Texas is voluntarily recalling certain Butternut Spiral products due concerns of a possible listeria contamination....

    Century Packing Corp. recalls nearly 1,000,000 pounds of chicken sausage products

    The company says the items contained undeclared MSG

    Century Packing Corp. has recalled 999,419 pounds of thermally processed, commercially sterile chicken sausage products due to a misbranding issue.

    The products contained monosodium glutamate (MSG), but the substance was not declared on the product labels, according to findings from U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). 

    The recalled products were produced from January 1, 2015 through February 13, 2017 and were distributed for retail and institutional use in Florida and Puerto Rico. In total, there were six recalled products:

    • 2.78-oz. pouches of “Great Value Minis – Bites of Chicken Sausage and Bouillon” with Packaging Dates of “01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
    • 10-oz. pouches of “Great Value Minis – Bites of Chicken Sausage and Bouillon” with Packaging Dates of “01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
    • 2.78-oz. pouches of “Econo Mini – Bite Size Chicken Sausages” with Packaging Dates of “ 01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
    • 10-oz. pouches of “Econo Mini – Bite Size Chicken Sausages” with Packaging Dates of “01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
    • 5-oz. cans of “Sedano’s Chicken Vienna Sausage in Chicken Broth” with Packaging Dates of “08/2015” and “05/2016”
    • 117 units per pouch of “ Carmela Foods Chicken Sausage and Bouillon” with Packaging Dates of “02/2016 – 02/14/2017”

    What to do

    Each product can also be identified by a "P-7375" establishment number inside the USDA mark of inspection. There have been no illnesses reported in connection to these products thus far, but any consumer who has a health concern is urged to contact their healthcare provider.

    Consumers seeking more information about the recall can contact the company's Quality Control Manager Yixa Hernandez at (787) 716-2555.

    Century Packing Corp. has recalled 999,419 pounds of thermally processed, commercially sterile chicken sausage products due to a misbranding issue.The...

    Yahoo and Verizon reportedly move closer to a deal

    The latter may ask for a $250 million discount and will share ongoing legal responsibility for recent data breaches

    The Yahoo and Verizon acquisition deal has faced many bumps in the road since the deal was first struck last July. In September, details on Yahoo’s data breach of 500 million accounts were made public and threatened the security of the arrangement.

    Unfortunately, things only seemed to escalate from there. Rumors circulated that Verizon was seeking a $1 billion discount on the deal, and executives stated that they needed more information before things could move forward. Then, in December, a separate data breach of one billion user accounts was revealed, and many experts proclaimed that the acquisition was as good as dead.

    However, Verizon hasn’t left the negotiating table, and now sources are saying that a new deal could be imminent. Bloomberg quotes sources close to the matter as saying that Verizon is close to renegotiating a deal that would reduce the original $4.8 billion price tag by about $250 million.

    Additionally, sources say that Yahoo’s renamed entity Altaba would share ongoing legal responsibilities related to the data breaches. While a specific timetable for the announcement has not been set, and the deal could be renegotiated further, sources say the deal could be announced as soon as a few days or as late as a few weeks from now.

    Cementing a deal

    Yahoo has been under pressure to cement the deal for some time. CEO Marissa Mayer, who was brought in specifically to turn things around for the struggling company, has been at the helm as each data breach was publicized. However, earlier reports suggest that she will be stepping down as a director pending a successful acquisition deal.

    Verizon has faced a different sort of pressure connected to the deal. Yahoo’s platform of one billion users would greatly help the company expand into the mobile media and advertising markets, but some shareholders may be leery about doing business with a company that has suffered so much scandal in such a short amount of time. However, ultimately, those same shareholders would have to approve a revised deal before it could go forward.

    On news of the deal, Yahoo’s stock jumped 2% to $45.93 just before 11:00 a.m. Consequently, Verizon shares slipped 0.7% to $47.95. 

    The Yahoo and Verizon acquisition deal has faced many bumps in the road since the deal was first struck last July. In September, details on Yahoo’s data br...

    Feds find funeral homes aren't all providing itemized pricing

    Investigators visited 133 funeral homes and found 31 violations in the last two years

    Politicians frequently decry so-called death taxes, but for most people, it's not taxes but funeral costs that are the final indignity. Funeral homes are required to provide an itemized pricing breakdown, but as a recent Federal Trade Commission investigation finds, many don't do so.

    FTC investigators visited 133 funeral homes during 2015 and 2016 and found that 31 of them failed to disclose itemized pricing as required by the FTC's Funeral Rule.

    The rule requires funeral homes to provide consumers with an itemized general price list at the start of an in-person discussion of funeral arrangements, a casket price list before consumers view any caskets, and an outer burial container price list before they view grave liners or vaults.

    The rule also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service. This enables consumers to compare prices and buy only the products and services they want.

    Penalties for violating the rule can be as high as $40,654 per violation, but funeral home violators are given the option of entering a training program instead of paying the fine, and all of those caught in the recent two-year investigation have done so.

    Investigation results

    The results of the FTC 2015-2016 undercover inspections for price list disclosures by region are as follows:

    • In Bakersfield, California, none of the 10 funeral homes inspected in 2016 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In Atlanta, Smyrna, and Marietta, Georgia, one of the 10 funeral homes inspected in 2015 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In Detroit, Warren, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, 10 of the 15 funeral homes inspected in 2015 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In St. Louis, Missouri, three of the 16 funeral homes inspected in 2015 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In Alamogordo and Roswell, New Mexico, nine of the 14 funeral homes inspected in 2016 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In Bismarck, North Dakota, none of the six funeral homes inspected in 2016 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, four of the 34 funeral homes inspected in 2015 failed to make a price list disclosure;
    • In Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties in Virginia, two of the 17 funeral homes inspected in 2016 failed to make a price list disclosure; and
    • In Tacoma, Washington, two of the 11 funeral homes inspected in 2015 failed to make a price list disclosure.
    Politicians frequently decry so-called death taxes, but for most people, it's not taxes but funeral costs that are the final indignity. Funeral homes are r...

    Report says nearly 56,000 bridges are 'structurally deficient'

    Trade group says these spans are crossed 185 million times a day

    When the U.S. Department of Transportation recently released its National Bridge Inventory report for 2016, one group was particularly interested.

    The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), a trade group representing highway contractors, got out its calculator and did some math.

    It counted 55,710 bridges in the U.S. that were structurally compromised. After some calculations, it said it discovered cars, trucks, and school buses cross these bridges 185 million times a day.

    Only 1,900 of the bridges on the list are on the Interstate Highway System. But ARTBA says state transportation departments have pointed out 13,000 interstate bridges that either need replacement, widening, or major work.

    Slight improvement

    The number of structurally deficient bridges actually declined 0.5% from 2015, but ARTBA says that really isn't good news. If that's all the improvement that can be gained in 12 months, the group says it would take more than 20 years to improve or replace all of the bridges on the list.

    ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black says about 28% of the deficient bridges are more than 50 years old and have never had any major reconstruction work done.

    “America’s highway network is woefully underperforming," Black said. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded, and in desperate need of modernization.”

    Black says state and local transportation departments lack the resources to keep up with bridge repairs.

    Infrastructure spending?

    During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump focused on the nation's "crumbling infrastructure" as one of his priorities. Wall Street expects major spending in that area in the months ahead, one reason for the stock market's current lofty elevation.

    Being declared "structurally deficient" doesn't mean a bridge is about to fall down. Bridges are rated on a scale of one to nine for their soundness, and a rating of four or below puts it in the deficient category. While the bridges might not be immediately unsafe, ARTBA says they do need attention.

    The report found Iowa has the most structurally deficient bridges, followed by Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Nevada, Delaware, and Hawaii have the fewest.

    Bridges rarely collapse, but when they do the results can be catastrophic. In 2007, a span of an I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 135.

    When the U.S. Department of Transportation recently released its National Bridge Inventory report for 2016, one group was particularly interested.The A...

    Student debt collector to pay $700,000 for using unlawful tactics

    GC Services left phone messages for third parties, among other violations

    A large student debt collector, GC Services, will pay $700,000 for using unlawful tactics, the Federal Trade Commission announced.

    The FTC’s complaint alleged that the company’s collectors left phone messages that illegally disclosed purported debts to third parties.

    GC Services employees also called consumers multiple times after being told that the person who answered did not owe the debt, that they had called the wrong person, or that the person they wanted could not be reached there.

    According to the FTC, GC Services also falsely claimed that it would take steps to prevent its employees from making unlawful calls to third parties to find a debtor.

    Student loan debt is a large and growing segment of the U.S. debt collection industry, according to the FTC. More than 40 million consumers have outstanding loan debt, carrying an average balance of $29,000. GC Services is a third-party debt collector of defaulted federal student loans and other types of debt.

    A large student debt collector, GC Services, will pay $700,000 for using unlawful tactics, the Federal Trade Commission announced.The FTC’s complaint a...

    Inflation showing up in online sales

    Adobe's Digital Price Index shows big late-year price hikes

    The government's latest measure of inflation at the wholesale level saw a significant jump in January.

    While the Labor Department has yet to report on the latest inflation number at the consumer level, Adobe's Digital Price Index (DPI) suggests consumers are paying more for things than they were last year, at least when they shop online.

    The DPI tracks $7.50 out every $10 spent online with the top 500 U.S. retailers. In the last two months it started tracking prices for five new categories -- alcoholic beverages, auto parts, tools and home improvement products, personal care products, and pet products.

    In January, Adobe reports finding higher than expected inflation in consumer goods. Despite holiday sales, December prices were up significantly over December 2015 data.

    Trend continues in January

    Adobe reports the trend continued into January, with prices increasing 0.05%, which resulted in a 1.2% cumulative inflation rate over just the last three months.

    Again, despite intense competition among retailers for holiday dollars, Adobe found that TVs cost 7.8% more than they did a year ago, the cost of appliances was up 6%, and tablets were up 5.4% from a year ago.

    So what are we to make of these numbers?

    “The inflation we’re seeing is really interesting because the American economy has been struggling with deflation in the last few years, especially in durable goods like computers and appliances," said Luiz Maykot, data science analyst for the Adobe DPI. "But here we’re seeing people out buying TVs and computers, spending their disposable income, and that’s generally a good sign for the economy."

    Didn't slow consumer spending that much

    Rising prices are never good for the consumers, but Maykot points out that it means businesses are able to raise their prices a bit, which will help keep them in business. And the extent of the price rise didn't seem to bother consumers, who kept spending.

    "It’s too soon to tell if this will continue, but it’s an important trend to watch,” Maykot said.

    In the new category of alcoholic beverages, Adobe says beer prices rose the most year over year. But it says online wine sales were very strong, suggesting that could become a growing opportunity for online retailers.

    Inflation has been largely non-existent since the financial crisis, which is the reason the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near zero. But after a small hike in December, Fed Chair Janet Yellen, testifying before Congress this week, said there are signs that the economy is beginning to grow faster, suggesting another rate hike next month could be in the cards.

    The government's latest measure of inflation at the wholesale level saw a significant jump in January.While the Labor Department has yet to report on t...

    Guggisberg Cheese Inc. recalls colby products due to listeria concerns

    Consumers are urged to discard or return the products

    Guggisberg Cheese Inc. is initiating a recall of certain colby cheese products after receiving reports of a possible listeria contamination.

    Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

    The products were produced by Guggisberg Cheese Inc. and Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC between September 1, 2016 and January 27, 2017. They were packaged in clear plastic and sold at deli counters and in retail stores in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, and West Virginia. There have thus far been no reports of illness related to this recall.

    The full list of recalled products, including information about the product, size, universal product code (UPC), and "Use By" dates can be seen below:

    What to do

    Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are urged to either throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    For more information, consumers can contact customer service representative Ursula Bennett at 330-893-2500, Monday through Wednesday and Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST. 

    Guggisberg Cheese Inc. is initiating a recall of certain colby cheese products after receiving reports of a possible listeria contamination.Listeria mo...

    VW recalls some 2017 Passats for potential brake problem

    The company says that brake fluid may leak from affected models

    Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. is recalling certain 2017 Passat vehicles. Brake fluid may leak slowly from the some of the brake line connections, resulting in a low brake fluid level.

    A low brake fluid level may lengthen the distance needed to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

    Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected brake lines, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in March 2017. Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 47N3.

    Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

    Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. is recalling certain 2017 Passat vehicles. Brake fluid may leak slowly from the some of the brake line connections, resul...

    Against the Grain Pet Food recalls products over pentobarbital concerns

    The barbiturate can cause drowsiness, dizziness, or even induce a coma

    Against the Grain Pet Food is initiating a recall for one lot of its "Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs" dog food. Company officials say that the product may be contaminated with pentobarbital.

    Pentobarbital is a barbiturate that can cause several side effects for dogs who consume it, including drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea nystagmus (wherein the eyes move back and forth in a jerky manner), inability to stand, and coma. 

    The product was manufactured and distributed in 2015 and has an expiration date of December, 2019. The lot number on affected products is 2415E01ATB12 and the second half of the universal product code (UPC) is 80001. These figures can be found on the back of the product label. 

    What to do

    There have been no complaints reported to Against the Grain about the product at this time. However, consumers in possession of recalled cans are urged not to feed it to the food to pets. 

    The company recommends returning the product to the place of purchase. Consumers who do so will receive a full case of Against the Grain food for any inconvenience.

    For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-800-288-6796, Monday through Friday, between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. CST.

    Against the Grain Pet Food is initiating a recall for one lot of its "Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs" dog food. Company officials...

    Senators want to trash rules holding back self-driving cars

    Requiring things like steering wheels and brake pedals slows progress, they say

    With Republicans in control of Congress, there's a lot of talk about clearing out regulations that slow the adoption of new technology -- like rules that require cars to have old-fashioned things like steering wheels and brake pedals.

    While safety advocates have been trying to slow the rush towards adoption of self-driving cars, two senators say they want to clear away the regulatory brush that is inhibiting adoption of new technology that could make hands-on driving a thing of the past.

    Republican John Thune of South Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan, say they're exploring legislation that "clears hurdles and advances innovation in self-driving vehicle technology."

    The two say autonomous cars would save lives and transform daily life.

    “More than any other automotive technology in history, self-driving vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce the more than 35,000 lives lost on our roads and highways every year and fundamentally transform the way we get around," the two said in a prepared statement. "Ensuring American innovators can safely develop and implement this technology will not only save lives but also solidify our nation’s position as the world leader in the future of mobility."

    Automakers' objections

    They point to objections from automakers, who say that federal requirements that all vehicles must have steering wheels and brake pedals are among the rules that could slow the adoption of autonomous vehicles.

    Automakers also complain that states are moving ahead with their own regulations, creating the potential for a confusing "patchwork" of laws.

    "Our effort will also include a discussion on the existing patchwork of laws and regulations and the traditional roles of federal and state regulators," Thune and Peters said.

    The two said that most existing safety regulations -- not surprisingly -- assume that cars and trucks have a driver. 

    “Many current federal vehicle safety standards reference placement of driver controls and other systems that assume a human operator. While these requirements make sense in today’s conventional vehicles, they could inhibit innovation or create hazards for self-driving vehicles," they said. "Left on its own, the slow pace of regulation could become a significant obstacle to the development of new and safer vehicle technology in the United States."

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last year adopted new nationwide safety guidelines for self-driving cars, insisting that autonomous cars have a proven "robust design" before they are turned loose on the streets while making it clear that self-driving cars have the potential to reduce accidents.

    “Ninety-four percent of crashes on U.S. roadways are caused by a human choice or error,” said then-NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “We are moving forward on the safe deployment of automated technologies because of the enormous promise they hold to address the overwhelming majority of crashes and save lives.”

    The Trump administration hasn't yet indicated what approach it will take to self-driving cars.

    With Republicans in control of Congress, there's a lot of talk about clearing out regulations that slow the adoption of new technology -- like rules that r...

    T-Mobile responds to Verizon's unlimited data plan

    The company is making some offers of its own to boost the competition

    In a recent report, we detailed Verizon’s decision to introduce an unlimited data plan. Executives boasted that it was a move that would allow the company to build for the future, but the folks over at T-Mobile have a few bones to pick with the decision.

    In an announcement on the company website, T-Mobile President and CEO John Legere alleged that Verizon’s new offering was a move of necessity prompted by other carriers that offer better deals – namely, T-Mobile.

    “I don’t blame Verizon for caving. They just lost their network advantage, and they know it. . . and more importantly, more and more customers know it. Their back’s against the wall,” he said. “This is what the Un-carrier does – drag the carriers kicking and screaming into the future. Next up, we’re going to force them to include monthly taxes and fees. Mark my words.”

    Upping the ante

    To back up these strong words, T-Mobile declared that it would be making some offers of its own. Starting on February 17, the company said that T-Mobile ONE unlimited data subscribers would no longer be charged for watching full HD non-throttled video.

    It is also increasing the cap for free data tethering to 10 GB per month for customers who like to use their phones as mobile hotspots and connect other devices to the internet. After reaching this cap, users will still have access to unlimited 3G data through the end of the month. Lastly, it said that it will be offering two new lines on T-Mobile ONE for $100.

    Customers who want to take advantage of the new offers will be able to do so on February 17 by activating them in the T-Mobile app or online at my.t-mobile.com.

    While T-Mobile’s actions will undoubtedly raise some consumer eyebrows, it may prompt additional actions by other carriers like Verizon who feel they need to offer more to retain customers. And, thankfully, while all that is going on, consumers may be able to rake in great savings and attractive new features.

    In a recent report, we detailed Verizon’s decision to introduce an unlimited data plan. Executives boasted that it was a move that would allow the company...

    Cathay Pacific introduces travel rewards card

    Regular Cathay Pacific customers would benefit the most

    Cathay Pacific is the latest airline to roll out its own branded travel rewards credit card. The airline is teaming with Synchrony Bank to issue the Cathay Pacific Visa card.

    Consumers who routinely fly the airline will get the most benefits. Cathay Pacific flies to 173 destinations in 42 countries and territories. While the most perks are for tickets on those flights, the company says the card can be used anywhere in the world where Visa is accepted.

    While mostly an Asian-centered international airline, Cathay Pacific originates more than 100 flights each week from six U.S. airports -- Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Newark Liberty, and San Francisco.

    The card provides up to two Asia Miles per dollar spent on eligible purchases. For opening an account, consumers can earn 25,000 Asia Miles, as long as they spend $2,500 or more in the first 90 days of opening their account. The airline says that alone is enough for a one-way upgrade on a Cathay Pacific flight.

    A natural step

    Though it's relatively late to the rewards credit card game -- most major airlines already have branded cards -- Eric Odone, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, Americas, Cathay Pacific, says the card is a natural step for a company that seeks to enhance the joys of travel.

    "We share Cathay Pacific's passion for superior customer service and rewarding travelers well with greater perks and payment flexibility to enjoy their experience," said Tom Quindlen, Executive Vice President and CEO of Retail Card for Synchrony Financial.

    Here's a quick rundown of what the new credit card offers:

    • Two Asia miles for every $1 spent on Cathay Pacific, either online or during a flight
    • One and a half Asia Miles for every $1 spent on restaurants in the U.S. and other countries
    • One and a half Asia Miles for every $1 spent anywhere outside the U.S.
    • One Asia Mile for every $1 spent in the U.S.

    The Asia Miles website shows customers where they can find ways to redeem the miles they earn. The redemptions include use on Cathay Pacific, oneworld and partner airlines, and travel packages.

    Cathay Pacific is the latest airline to roll out its own branded travel rewards credit card. The airline is teaming with Synchrony Bank to issue the Cathay...

    How to protect your home from burglars

    There are lots of products and services, but some may be more effective than others

    There are many consumer products and services designed to help homeowners protect their dwellings from burglaries.

    Depending on where you live, that may be a pressing concern. According to the FBI, burglaries accounted for nearly 24% of property crimes committed in 2010. The cost to victims that year was an estimated $4.6 billion.

    Before deciding whether you need a deterrent and what type, it might be useful to hear from some actual burglars who have encountered these obstacles.

    Researchers at the University of North Carolina Charlotte visited 422 convicted burglars who were serving time in prison, asking them what was most effective at keeping them out of a home.

    Alarms are a deterrent

    The study suggests alarms are an effective deterrent. Sixty percent of the burglars questioned said they would seek another target if they encountered a house with an alarm.

    An equal number said they would be discouraged by the presence of video surveillance, and would be likely to choose another house to rob.

    The overwhelming majority of the burglars who were interviewed were not pros. Most of them admitted they were breaking into homes in search of drugs or to steal stuff they could sell to support their drug habit.

    In fact, unless you live in a mansion, that's likely to be who is trying to break into your house, not a cat burglar in search of diamonds.

    Laminate windows

    Writing on Quora, David Cole passed along a post he said he found on Reddit from someone purporting to be a retired cat burglar. His advice to consumers was to laminate first floor windows.

    "A crook's biggest weapon is speed, and their biggest enemy is time," the purported burglar wrote. "If somebody were to try to break into your home and ended up hitting a window that was laminated, they would, in almost every case, run off."

    He suggested laminated windows delivered a lot more security than alarms or dogs, but then again the guy was supposedly a pro. Amateurs in search of drug money may be less likely to be skilled at disabling security systems or befriending dogs.

    Signs.com suggests just having a sign that says the house is protected by a security system, or that a dog is on the premises, is usually enough to make a would-be burglar move on to your neighbor's house.

    Assuming a burglar cases a house before breaking in, he or she may be deterred if it appears the target imposes challenges. A well-lit porch and good visibility from the street may also be an effective deterrent.

    Learn more about home security systems.

    There are many consumer products and services designed to help homeowners protect their dwellings from burglaries.Depending on where you live, that may...

    Wholesale inflation jumps 0.6% in January

    Rise was propelled mostly by gasoline costs

    The government reports inflation at the wholesale level surged in January, rising 0.6%. That reflects an increase in costs before goods go on sale to consumers. At some point, however, consumers should expect to pay at least some of those costs.

    Most of the January increase was for food, energy, and trade services. When those categories are stripped out, the Producer Price Index rose just 0.2%.

    Prices for what are known as final demand goods moved up 1.0% in January, the largest rise since a 1.0% gain in May 2015. Final demand reflects the final stage of the process when a good or service is offered to retailers.

    In January, most of the final demand increase can be traced to energy, which was 4.7% higher. Oil and gasoline prices moved up early in the year on the belief that production cuts by OPEC would reduce supply. So far, the evidence on that has been sketchy.

    Gasoline was the big driver

    When you drill down deeper into the energy category, you see that gasoline was the big driver there. The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the gasoline index surged 12.9% in January, even though prices have remained more stable at the retail level.

    Costs associated with drug production, iron and steel scrap, home heating oil and natural gas, and pork also moved higher. Their rise was partially offset by a 7.2% decline in beef and veal prices.

    Since the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. inflation rate has remained largely non-existent. The reduction in demand for goods and services actually created a deflationary effect.

    The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near 0% for years in an effort to produce a little inflation in the economy. While high inflation, such as what the U.S. experienced in the 1970s, can be very bad for consumers, economists say some inflation is needed to give businesses the ability to raise prices over time.

    The government reports inflation at the wholesale level surged in January, rising 0.6%. That reflects an increase in costs before goods go on sale to consu...

    MDS Foods Inc. recalls multiple cheese products

    A supplier informed the company that products may be contaminated with listeria

    MDS Foods Inc. -- operating out of Massillon, Ohio -- has issued a recall of multiple products that may have been contaminated by listeria. The company was informed by one of its suppliers, Deutsch Kase Haus, that its minihorn cheeses may have been infected by the dangerous bacteria.

    Listeria monocytogenes is an organism can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

    The affected products were distributed nationwide by MDS Foods Inc. under multiple brand labels, including Amish Classics, Meijer, Deli Made EZ, Deli Readi, Lipari Old Tyme, Duck Deli, and Old Tyme. 

    The full list of recalled food items due to found contamination from the cheese supplier can be seen below, including information on the brand, description, product size, piece UPC code, case UPC code, and date code:

    MDS Foods 
    Item #

    Brand

    Description

    Product Size

    Piece UPC Code

    Case UPC Code

    Date Code

    55209

    Amish
    Classics

    Colby Deli (Mini) Horn

    6 lb

    8 28653 552093

    00 8 28653 55209 3

    Sell by: May 17, 2017

    55241

    Amish
    Classics

    Colby RW Fullmoon

    Approx. 8 oz

    8 28653 55241 3

    00 8 28653 55241 3

    Best if used by:
    07/10/17

    7/4/2017

    6/4/2017

    5/19/2017

    55245

    Amish
    Classics

    Colby EW Fullmoon

    8 oz

    8 28653 55245 1

    00 8 28653 55245 1

    Best if used by:

    7/10/2017

    7/4/2017

    6/3/2017

    5/19/2017

    55831

    Deli
    Readi

    Colby Mini
    Cheese Slices

    2 lb pack

    6 34660 62859 7

    00 6 34660 62859 7

    Best if used by:
    05/02/2017

    4/22/2017

    55553

    Deli
    Made EZ

    Colby Cheese
    Slices

    1.5 lb pack

    8 28653 55554 4

    00 8 28653 55553 7

    335-16

    18755

    Meijer

    Colby Jack Mini
    Horn

    6 lb

    710917 18755

    7 10917 18755

    Sell by Date:
    05/02/17

    55755

    Meijer

    Colby Mini Horn

    6 lb

    710917 55755

    7 10917 55755

    Sell by Date:
    05/02/17

    Cheese products being recalled due to potential contamination are listed in the next table:

    MDS Foods Item #

    Brand

    Description

    Product
    Size

    Piece UPC Code

    Case UPC Code

    Date Code

    55244

    Amish 
    Classics

    Colby RW 
    Halfmoon

    Approx. 
    8 oz

    N/A

    0 08 28653 55244 4

    Best if used by: 
    07/10/2017

    55758

    Meijer

    Colby EW Halfmoon

    8 oz

    7 13733 34047 2

    0 07 13733 34047 2

    Best if used by:
    07/10/2017

    18244

    Amish
    Classics

    Colby Jack RW Halfmoon

    Approx.
    8 oz

    N/A

    00828653182443

    Best if used by:
    07/10/2017

    18758

    Meijer

    Colby Jack 
    EW Halfmoon Chunk

    8 oz

    713733340588

    00713733340588

    Best if used by: 
    07/10/2017

    18241

    Amish 
    Classics

    Colby Jack 
    RW Fullmoon

    Approx. 
    8 oz

    N/A

    0 08 28653 18241 2

    Best if used by: 
    07/10/2017

    18245

    Amish 
    Classics

    Colby Jack 
    EW Fullmoon

    8 oz

    828653182450

    00828653182450

    Best if used by: 
    07/10/2017

    28245

    Amish 
    Classics

    Cheddar 
    EW Fullmoon

    8 oz

    828653282457

    00828653282457

    Best if used by: 
    07/10/2017
    07/04/2017

    73705

    Lipari Old 
    Tyme

    Swiss 
    Sandwich
    Cut

    Approx 
    8.5 lbs

    N/A

    00828653737056

    Best if used by: 
    07/04/2017

    10241

    Amish
    Classics

    Jalapeno RW Fullmoon

    Approx.
    8 oz

    N/A

    0 08 28653 10241 0

    Best if used by:
    07/04/2017

    10245

    Amish 
    Classics

    Jalapeno 
    EW Fullmoon

    8 oz

    828653102458

    00828653102458

    Best if used by: 
    07/04/2017

    18830

    Deli Readi

    Colby Jack 
    St Pk 1oz Halfmoon Slice

    1 lb

    6 34660 62875 7

    006 34660 62875 7

    Best if used by: 
    05/02/2017

    10831

    Deli Readi

    Jalapeno St 
    Pk 1oz Slice

    2 lb pack

    6 34660 62878 8

    0 06 34660 62878 8

    Best if used by: 
    04/22/2017

    26831

    Deli Readi

    Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz Slice

    2 lb pack

    6 34660 62868 9

    0 06 34660 62868 9

    Best if used by:
    04/22/2017

    26555

    Deli 
    Made EZ

    Hot Pepper 
    St Pk .5oz
    Slice

    1.5 lb 
    pack

    8 28653 26555 9

    0 08 28653 26555 9

    Best if used by: 
    04/22/2017

    28747

    Duck Deli

    Cheddar St 
    Pk .75oz
    Slice

    1.5 lb 
    pack

    8 28653 28747 6

    0 08 28653 28747 6

    Production Date: 
    358-16

    28545

    Deli
    Made EZ

    Cheddar St Pk .75oz Slice

    2.0 lb pack

    8 28653 28545 8

    0 08 28653 28545 8

    Best if used by:
    04/22/2017

    28555

    Deli
    Made EZ

    Ched Mild Stk Pk .5oz Slice

    1.5 lb pack

    8 28653 28555 7

    0 08 28653 28555 7

    Best if used by:
    04/22/2017

    55830

    Deli Readi

    Colby St Pk
    1oz 
    Halfmoon
    Slices

    1.0 lb pack

    6 34660 62872 6

    0 06 34660 62872 6

    Best if used by:
    04/22/2017

    55703

    Old Tyme

    Colby EW Halfmoon

    8 oz

    0 94776 10227 3

    0 00 41563 26105 7

    Best if used by:
    06/03/2017

    10555

    Deli 
    Made EZ

    Jalapeno 
    Jack St Pk 
    .5oz Slice

    1.5 lb 
    pack

    8 28653 10555 8

    0 08 28653 10555 8

    Best if used by: 
    03/30/2017

    What to do

    Consumers who have purchased any of the listed cheese products from the listed sell-by dates are urged not to consume the product and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Products with unreadable codes should also be returned for the sake of safety.

    For more information, consumers can contact MDS Foods Customer Service at (330) 879-9780, extension 105, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. EST. 

    MDS Foods Inc. -- operating out of Massillon, Ohio -- has issued a recall of multiple products that may have been contaminated by listeria. The company was...

    Verizon introduces unlimited data plan

    The new plan is available to new and existing customers

    Verizon Wireless has joined most of its competitors in offering an unlimited data plan, stating that it is available for both new and existing customers.

    The new Verizon Unlimited plan costs $80 for unlimited data, talk, and text on one smartphone line if you also sign up for paper-free billing and AutoPay. Four lines cost $45 per line, also with unlimited data, talk, and text on smartphones and tablets, again with the requirement of paper-free billing and AutoPay.

    Many consumers might say the move is long overdue, since unlimited data plans are now everywhere. Industry analysts say Verizon was forced to act because it was losing too many customers.

    The plan also includes HD video streaming, Mobile Hotspot, voice and text coverage to Mexico and Canada, and up to 500 MB/day of roaming in both U.S. neighbors.

    Building for the future

    “We’ve built our network so we can manage all the activity customers undertake," said Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon’s wireless division. "Everything we’ve done is to provide the best experience on the best network – and we’ve built it for the future, not just for today.”

    But Dunne says unlimited data might not be desirable for everyone. The company will continue to offer 5GB, S, M, and L plans that might be more suitable for lighter users. And though the plan is "unlimited," the unlimited data might not always be at the same speed.

    "To ensure a quality experience for all customers, after 22 GB of data usage on a line during any billing cycle we may prioritize usage behind other customers in the event of network congestion," Verizon said in a statement.

    The company says it doesn't expect that to happen very often, but needs to be able to do that to manage network resources.

    The new Verizon plan is similar to its principal competitors, but Verizon says it holds a key advance. It offers higher quality video streaming. Also, AT&T's unlimited plan requires subscribing to other AT&T-affiliated services.

    Verizon Wireless has joined most of its competitors in offering an unlimited data plan, stating that it is available for both new and existing customers....

    Chevrolet Cruze Diesel hits 52 mpg mark

    But will Americans go for diesels after the VW fiasco?

    The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel has won top place in the fuel-sipping derby, qualifying for a 52 miles per gallon highway rating from the Environmental Protection Agency and 30 mpg in city driving with a six-speed manual transmission.

    It's the first non-hybrid vehicle since the tiny Geo Metro to get an EPA rating of at least 50 mpg on the highway. The question is whether consumers, who fell for Volkswagen's discredited "clean diesel" claims, will chance it once again.

    General Motors is obviously betting they will. 

    “Chevrolet is dedicated to offering customers a wide range of propulsion options. We know there are customers looking for the right combination of fuel efficiency, driving dynamics, fuel type and more. With the EPA-estimated 52-mpg highway Cruze Diesel Sedan, they can get it all,” said Steven Majoros, director of Chevrolet Marketing.

    The car features a new Ecotec 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine offering 137 horsepower (102 kW) and 240 lb-ft of torque. Cruze Diesel passed all stringent U.S. environmental standards and validation, including Tier 3 Bin 125 emissions standards, GM said, hoping to quell any doubts about its clean air bona fides.

    Buyers will be able to option their Cruze Diesel Sedans with either a standard six-speed manual or a new, optional Hydra-Matic nine-speed automatic transmission that includes fuel-saving stop/start technology.

    GM is not taking a back seat to competitors in the fuel economy battle. Its Chevrolet Bolt recently achieved an EPA-certified range of 238 miles, making it the the first electric car in the U.S. to achieve a range of more than 200 miles.

    The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel has won top place in the fuel-sipping derby, qualifying for a 52 miles per gallon highway rating from the Environmental Pro...

    Washington considers a 15 mph speed limit in some neighborhoods

    It's part of a growing 'Vision Zero' movement that aims to eliminate traffic fatalities

    As cities and suburbs become more urban, more and more people are getting around on foot and on bicycles. This is good, except when they get hit by cars. 

    In Washington, D.C., local transportation officials have festooned the city with bike lanes and have made improvements to crosswalks and traffic signals. Now they're looking at speed limits.

    Like most cities, D.C. has a default speed limit of 25 miles per hour but under its "Vision Zero" program, which aims to end traffic fatalities by 2024, the speed limit may go as low as 15 in some areas at some times, the Washington Post reported recently.

    The "neighborhood slow zones" would be around schools, parks, senior centers, and youth centers. Current thinking is that the speed limit in those areas would drop to 15 mph from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

    Leading factor

    The lower speed limits and increased traffic enforcement target speeding because it's the leading factor in traffic deaths, city officials say. All other things being equal, speed determines the outcome of a car-pedestrian collision. At 20 mph or so, the victim has a good chance of surviving. At 40, they are likely to die or suffer devastating injuries.

    The targeted areas, city officials note, not only have a lot of foot traffic but also have lots of children and seniors, who are the most frequent victims of pedestrian accidents.

    Washington D.C. doesn't have many traffic fatalities -- it had only 28 last year -- but it's also not very big, only 68 square miles, and is loaded with traffic, much of it impatient commuters heading to or from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs where much of the capital area population resides.

    Not just D.C.

    Washington's not the only city actively trying to achieve Vision Zero, which originated in Switzerland. New York City became the first major U.S. city to adopt it when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office and even far-flung suburb-style cities like San Antonio are getting on board with it.

    A recent article in Governing magazine reported that San Antonio adopted the program after recording 373 pedestrian deaths over a decade. Shirley Gonzalez ran successfully for the city council on a Vision Zero platform, saying that she would promote a transportation policy that put “pedestrians first, followed by cycling, public transportation and private automobiles, in that order.” 

    Cities around the country are doing the same, some more vigorously than others. 

    Promoters of autonomous cars assure us that self-driving cars will be the answer to traffic fatalities, but Vision Zero advocates say improved street design and slower speeds in neighborhoods can save a lot of lives without the expensive and complex technology autonomous cars require. 

    As cities and suburbs become more urban, more and more people are getting around on foot and on bicycles. This is good, except when they get hit by cars....

    Think about your current relationship before 'friending' an old flame on Facebook

    Social media researcher says Valentine's Day is an ideal time to discuss boundaries regarding social media

    Open and honest communication can foster trust, and trust is an essential component of a healthy relationship -- but the rock-solid trust you worked so hard to establish may crumble if you or your significant other crosses a boundary on social media.

    While you might think ‘friending’ an old flame on facebook is innocent enough, social media researcher Joyce Baptist says this move is capable of damaging a relationship.

    "Social media can enhance romantic relationships when it's used to stay in touch throughout the day or honor your partner's achievements, but there are pitfalls to avoid that could damage the relationship," said Baptist, an associate professor of marriage and family therapy at Kansas State University.

    Baptist says it’s important to make sure you and your partner are on the same page regarding social media. A lack of agreement regarding boundaries on social media can hurt a relationship, but having clear-cut boundaries as to what is and isn’t acceptable can help to preserve trust.

    Could hurt your partner

    To find out how social media affects relationships, Baptist studied nearly 7,000 couples who use social media. Her research showed that while some people accepted the fact that their partners interacted with old flames or flirted with others online, they weren’t always happy about it.

    "Although they may say, 'I trust you and it's OK,' they are not happy about it," Baptist said. "They eventually perceive that their significant other is spending too much time connecting with others on social media rather than paying attention to their own partner."

    Situations like these can take a toll on relationship satisfaction and interfere with the levels of care people receive from their partner, says Baptist. But a simple conversation regarding social media boundaries can help to protect a relationship from these situations.

    Setting boundaries

    In addition to sharing what you are willing to tolerate, Baptist recommends sharing what you would prefer. Coming to an agreement regarding boundaries on social media can create a secure and satisfying relationship.

    "When you come across an old flame or another attractive person on social media, the question to ask is: Will communicating with this other person enhance my relationship or harm it?" she said. "Just because you see that your girlfriend or boyfriend from high school is on Facebook doesn't mean that you need to 'friend' them."

    Allowing a former significant other back into your life via social media can be a slippery slope, says Baptist, because people can be tempted to confide in their previous partner during the lower points of their current relationship.

    But ebbs and flows in a relationship are normal, and a low point doesn't necessarily mean that your relationship is doomed to fail. But Baptist says reigniting an old flame could, in fact, destroy your relationship.

    Her best advice? “If you are serious about your relationship, cut off those ties.”

    Open and honest communication can foster trust, and trust is an essential component of a healthy relationship -- but the rock-solid trust you worked so har...

    Report finds older couples more likely to conceal spending from spouse

    CreditCards.com finds 12 million consumers have secret accounts

    Have a credit card account that your significant other has no idea exists? If so, you aren't alone.

    A report by Creditcards.com reveals nearly 12 million consumers have concealed a credit card or bank account from their spouses. Why they do that, we'll leave to your imagination.

    But what's interesting is the age demographic breakdown. The older you are, the more likely you are to have a secret account. Baby Boomers are four times as likely to conceal an account than Millennials.

    Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, says keeping secrets in a relationship is no trivial matter and never a good idea.

    Starts out small

    "Like any indiscretion, what starts out small tends to build,” he said. Spending $25 without consulting your partner may seem incidental, but when those purchases become more frequent or if the amount grows, it can wreak havoc on your accounts and your budget."

    Financial cheating is not always about marital cheating. Many people, it seems, just want to be able to buy what they want without having to seek approval from a partner. And often, these are big purchases.

    The report found about 28% of consumers with a secret account sometimes spend $500 or more on a secret purchase. Again, age is a contributing factor. Baby Boomers are much more likely to be big secret spenders than Millennials.

    Many don't care

    Could it be that the longer people have been together the less they care what the other does with money? Creditcards.com found a surprising number of married people who say they don't need to knew what their partner is spending. Not surprisingly, the more money you make the more you are likely to hold this attitude.

    Relationship counselors warn that spending in secret, what's known as “financial infidelity,” can be a problem if the reason is based on a lack of trust. They say problems quickly arise when one spouse is afraid to tell the other how much debt they've accumulated.

    Personal finance blogger Dave Ramsey writes that “financial infidelity” can cover a wide range of spending issues. At the root of it, he points to two problems – one with a couple's financial life, the other with their relationship.

    Have a credit card account that your significant other has no idea exists? If so, you aren't alone.A report by Creditcards.com reveals nearly 12 millio...