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Wise travel planning = fewer mistakes

Book ahead and be ready for bad weather and unexpected delays

On our first trip to Europe, we relied on books and friends to plan our trip. Before the internet, these were the best options besides a travel agent. Just...

PhotoOn our first trip to Europe, we relied on books and friends to plan our trip. Before the internet, these were the best options besides a travel agent. Just like any planning method, ours had its pitfalls.

A big goof – not making all our hotel arrangements until we arrived in Europe. Friends suggested we do Europe their way -- make two nights’ hotel reservations at each end of the trip and then see how it goes. If we liked one place better than another we wouldn’t be locked in.

We made hotel reservations for Paris for five nights while in London. We loved Paris and attempted to book two additional nights, but our hotel was fully booked. Instead, they put us up at a sister hotel, literally on the other side of the railroad tracks. It was half the price and we had their day-old croissants for breakfast. Spontaneity may work for some people, but not me. I’ve learned never to leave home without having all lodging booked.

No matter how often we travel, we make mistakes. Some make for a good story, but others are frustrating. Here are some planning tips we’ve learned to avoid disappointments:

Plan your days. Sure, you can leave a day or two open for spur-of-the-moment activities, but if you have places and activities you’d like to do, draft an itinerary.

Check museums and attractions of interest for the days and times they’re open.

Do some of your sightseeing at night to fit in all you’d like to see; museums are often less crowded and the city and countryside look entirely different when the sun sets and the lights go on. You can find wonderful concerts at historic churches and synagogues in the evening.

Explore restaurants located near your hotel with an app like Yelp, and then read reviews. It’s always helpful to have a few restaurants in mind; check to see what dates and times they are open, especially holidays. We got stuck in New Zealand on New Year’s Day without a reservation; the restaurants, except in hotels, were all closed.

Find out if the city, town, or museums of interest have special celebrations, exhibits, or tours while you are in town. For example, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., or the Floral Carpet in Brussels, Belgium.

Determine if you need to pre-purchase tickets. Some popular museums, like the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Borghese Gallery and Museum in Rome, can become fully booked. Reserve your admission tickets to save time and ensure you’ll get in.

Check online to see what performances will be in town during your visit. It’s a lot of fun to view a performance venue, like the Opera House, by way of a performance.

If you want to attend a specific show, know what days it is available and whether you need to pre-purchase tickets.

If you are near a body of water, find out whether there are ferry boats or cruises and their schedules. Everything looks different viewed from the water and some require pre-booking.

Don’t let bad weather spoil your vacation. Plan for it and have several things you can do indoors on rainy/snowy/overcast days.

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Editor's note:  The author of this story has no financial interest in the companies, products or services discussed and has accepted no gratuities, payments or free merchandise. Any samples provided for research purposes were returned immediately upon conclusion of the research.

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New vacuum can clean your dog

The BarkBath features grime-removing nozzles that get beneath your pup's fur

Bathing one’s four-legged family member in a bathtub can be a messy experience. After all, a dirt-covered dog and a clean, white tub don’t necessarily go h...

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I-85 bridge collapses in Georgia

Collapse likely linked to intense fire

Atlanta's extremely heavy traffic congestion just got worse.A massive fire along I-85 in the city caused a portion of a bridge to collapse Thursday nig...

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McDonald's to use fresh beef over frozen patties by mid-2018

The company is going back to basics and improving its burger game

McDonald’s has been attempting to go back to the basics to rework its fast food image. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would be catering...

PhotoMcDonald’s has been attempting to go back to the basics to rework its fast food image. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would be catering to existing customers by focusing on hamburger sales, instead of selling wraps and other healthier products to draw in new customers.

Now the chain is doubling down on its burger approach. In an announcement made Thursday, the company said that it would be transitioning from using frozen patties to fresh beef in the majority of its restaurants by mid-2018. The change will augment other modernization efforts, such as using ordering kiosks and providing mobile payment options.

“Today’s announcement is part of a continuing food journey for McDonald’s,” said McDonald’s U.S. President Chris Kempczinski.

Photo
Photo via Twitter

Fresh beef

This isn’t the first time that McDonald’s has talked about using fresh beef to make its burgers. About a year ago, the company started testing the idea in 14 restaurants in the Dallas area, saying that if consumers liked it then they would consider rolling it out nationally.

That program eventually expanded to hundreds of restaurants in the Dallas area, and consumers were happy to see that the change did not overly affect prices, according to the New York Times. While McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary pointed out that prices will ultimately be set by franchise owners, she stated that the company did not expect consumers to feel much burden.

“We do not anticipate there will be any significant impact on price when this sandwich rolls out nationally,” she said.

Catering to customers

While they may be responsible for setting future prices, some franchise owners have expressed concerns about switching from frozen patties. They point out that freezing their product is a good way of killing pathogens like E. coli, and that using fresh beef increases the risk of possible contamination.

Despite that risk, McDonald’s seems to be running with its new identity of giving the customers what they want. Hary said that if the fresh beef change goes well, then changes to other items could be just around the corner.

“[McDonald’s will] continue to look at the rest of the menu based on what the customers are asking for,” she said. 

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Samsung seeking a reset with the Galaxy S8

New phone said to offer greater speed and safer battery

After last year's traumatic withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, which turned out to be a fire hazard, Samsung is hoping to turn the page with the r...

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Santander settles subprime auto loan suit with Massachusetts

Bank will pay $22 million to state and affected consumers

During the housing bubble, millions of homebuyers with iffy credit got stuck with subprime mortgages that, in many cases, turned out to be unaffordable....

PhotoDuring the housing bubble, millions of homebuyers with iffy credit got stuck with subprime mortgages that, in many cases, turned out to be unaffordable.

In the end, it nearly brought down the financial system.

Subprime mortgages are less common now, but subprime loans have not disappeared. They're increasingly common in auto lending.

In Massachusetts, one subprime auto lender, Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., will pay $22 million to settle charges from an investigation into its lending in the state.

Unfair and unaffordable

“After years of combating abuses from subprime mortgage lenders, these practices are unfortunately familiar,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy. “We found that Santander, a leading player in the business of packaging and reselling subprime auto loans, funded unfair and unaffordable auto loans for more than 2,000 Massachusetts residents.”

Healy says Massachusetts is the first state to reach a settlement relating to subprime auto loans. She said the settlement will provide relief to affected consumers and make future abuses less likely.

Much like the subprime mortgage fiasco, Healy said her investigation found that loans were being made to consumers without a reasonable basis for belief they could be repaid.

Healy alleges that Santander actually predicted that many of the loans would default, and also realized that financial information submitted by applicants was fictional, or at best inflated.

How it worked

Here's how it worked: a consumer found a car at a dealer they wanted to buy. The dealer offered financing, even though the buyer's credit was bad. Regardless, non-dealer institutions like Santander bought the loan and repackaged it, selling a bundle of these loans as securities to investors.

In 2008, when thousands of subprime mortgages went into default, it destroyed the value of those securities and nearly brought down investment banks, while drastically reducing the value of real estate.

Could subprime auto loans be as big of a systemic risk? Economists say it's unlikely, since repossessed vehicles are more easily resold than houses. But it certainly is a financial catastrophe for the consumers who lose their cars.

Healy faulted Santander for what she termed a lack of oversight. She said the bank's own internal audit raised warning flags, concluding that its oversight of the dealers making these subprime loans was inadequate.

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Consumers overpaying for gasoline, study finds

GasBuddy finds widest price gap within markets when prices are low

The price of gasoline has been relatively low for nearly two and a half years. The drop, which began in late 2014, followed 11 years of near record high pr...

PhotoThe price of gasoline has been relatively low for nearly two and a half years. The drop, which began in late 2014, followed 11 years of near record high prices at the pump.

But while consumers are far better off than they were in 2012, Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, says right now is when consumers are in greatest danger of overpaying for fuel. He says GasBuddy conducted a study that demonstrates just how much we're overpaying.

Think of it this way. When prices are sky-high, you probably search out the cheapest gas station in your area before filling up. Now, when prices are relatively low, just about any station will do.

But DeHaan says stations tend to charge closer to the same amount for gas when prices are high. When they're low, there can be a wide variation in the same city.

Tranquility and affordability

“We're in a relative period of tranquility and affordability at the pump, and so the data suggests Americans are at particular risk right now of overspending on gasoline,” DeHaan said. “And we expect that to continue for some time.”

To prove the point, DeHaan says GasBuddy looked at the last seven years of gas price data. In 2012, the national average was $3.61 a gallon. However, the price spread between the 5% of stations with the highest price and the 5% with the lowest price was only 95 cents a gallon.

But last year, when the national average was a much more affordable $2.13 a gallon, the spread increased to $1.13 a gallon.

Price complacency

Prices are not only still low, but they are also lower than expected for this time of year, due to the unexpected drop in oil prices. DeHaan says it could mean motorists have gotten a little complacent about the price they pay.

In Washington, DC, he notes, the spread between highest and lowest stations is $1.21 a gallon. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, the spread is around $1.

In some large metros, DeHaan says consumers can pocket $60 a month just by being selective about where they fill up.

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Personal income and spending on the rise in February

Consumers tucked more away in their savings accounts

Both personal incomes and spending rose in February -- the former more than the latter.The Commerce Department reports incomes climbed $57.7 billion, o...

PhotoBoth personal incomes and spending rose in February -- the former more than the latter.

The Commerce Department reports incomes climbed $57.7 billion, or 0.4%, last month following a $63 billion gain in January. Disposable personal income (DPI) -- what's left after taxes are extracted -- was up 0.3%, or $44.6 billion.

The incomes increase was due largely to advances in wages and salaries and rental income of persons.

Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) -- consumer spending -- inched up 0.1%, or $7.4 billion. When adjusted for inflation, it was actually down 0.1%.

The PCE price index rose just 0.1% and was up 0.2% when the volatile food and energy categories were stripped out; the PCE price index increased 0.2%.

The decrease in inflation-adjusted spending reflected cutbacks in spending that were partially offset by an increase in spending for nondurable goods.

Personal saving in February totaled $808.0 billion – up $4.3 billion from January, for a rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- of 5.6%.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2017 E300s and E300 4Matics.

The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 65 model year 2017 E300s and E300 4Matics.The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly if a passenger is s...

PhotoMercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 65 model year 2017 E300s and E300 4Matics.

The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly if a passenger is sitting on the edge of the seat or is lying in the seat with the seat reclined.

As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, "Occupant Crash Protection."

Failure of the airbag to deploy as intended could increase the risk of occupant injury.

What to do

MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the air bag control module software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in April 2017.

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

 

 

 

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Feds deny bid to ban agricultural pesticide

Environmentalists say chlorpyrifos poses hazard to consumers and farm workers

As environmentalists are learning, the Trump administration takes a very different approach to environmental matters than its predecessor.At midweek, t...

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Amazon proposes brands bypass brick-and-mortar retailers and bring their products online

The company has invited executives to a meeting to discuss the possibility

In a move that would secure its place in the $800 billion food and packaged goods market, Amazon is trying to convince some of the world’s biggest brands t...

PhotoIn a move that would secure its place in the $800 billion food and packaged goods market, Amazon is trying to convince some of the world’s biggest brands to start shipping their products directly to online shoppers and bypass notable chain stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco.

The company has sent invitations to the executives of prominent packaged goods makers, asking them to come to its headquarters in Seattle in May to hear its proposal, according to a Bloomberg report.

“Times are changing. . . Amazon strongly believes that supply chains designed to serve the direct-to-consumer business have the power to bring improved customer experiences and global efficiency. To achieve this requires a major shift in thinking,” the invitations read.

Delivering straight to doorsteps

If successful, Amazon would topple the current structure that packaged goods makers have with brick-and-mortar retailers and completely change the way that many products are designed, made, packaged, and shipped.

Manufacturers would no longer have to worry about making sure the product stands out on a grocery aisle shelf, since consumers would no longer have to stroll those aisles. The Bloomberg report points out that many items could be packaged according to new shipping needs; laundry detergent could come in sturdier, leak-proof containers and food items could come in durable and simpler packaging. Supply could also be controlled by plants that produce items based on individual needs instead of just filling trucks with inventory.  

Experts have pointed out that online grocery sales have mostly floundered in recent years, but such a drastic move could represent a big change in the way that manufacturers sell their products and consumers shop for their essentials.

“Most of these people haven’t been interested in e-commerce because e-commerce has been such a small piece of their overall sales,” says Melissa Burdick, vice president of e-commerce at The Mars Agency marketing firm. “But we’ve reached a tipping point. We’re at a time when companies are ready to start figuring this stuff out.”

Fear of missing out

So, how likely is it that packaged goods companies will be onboard with the idea? While it might be understandable to think that companies might want to retain the status quo, many might be loath to dismiss Amazon and then miss out on any future success.

"There was a big perceived penalty for missing the boat, fear of missing out on growth," says Jim Hertel, senior vice president at the marketing firm Inmar Inc. "Fear, more than anything else, may compel these companies to pay attention," adds analyst Ken Cassar.

Of course, brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t likely to go down without a fight. Many chains have already elected to provide online shopping options to blunt the impact of online shopping sites like Amazon, and it’s easy to point out that the proposal hasn’t yet addressed who will ship all of items (though Amazon does have the means of fulfilling those services.)

Regardless of how the plan shakes out, it’s at least worth noting that the idea of innovation in the industry isn’t dormant. What that means for shoppers remains to be seen. 

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Volkswagen to pay $157 million to 10 states to settle dirty diesel claims

It's the first time states have won environmental penalties against an automaker

Volkswagen will pay $157 million to 10 states that sued the company for its secret use of unlawful "defeat device" software to enable their diesel-powered...

PhotoVolkswagen will pay $157 million to 10 states that sued the company for its secret use of unlawful "defeat device" software to enable their diesel-powered cars to pass emissions inspections.

It's the first time the states have won environmental penalties against an automaker on their own. Previously, such cases were handled soley by the federal government.

“Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche tried to pull off an extraordinarily cynical corporate fraud – deceiving hundreds of thousands of consumers, pumping thousands of tons of harmful pollution into our air, and flouting New York and federal environmental laws designed to protect public health,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “This went on for nearly a decade, for no other reason than their bottom line, so the companies could avoid the expense of engineering cars that would actually meet our environmental standards."

"Adding insult to injury, they marketed these dirty vehicles as environmentally-friendly and technologically-advanced – not only deceiving consumers and harming our environment, but also undercutting the sales of their law-abiding competitors,” Schneiderman said.

States follow California

The lawsuits that led to the settlement were filed last summer by New York and Massachusetts. All of the states joining in the action have adopted California's stringent vehicle emission standards. The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Schneiderman said that setting the precedent of states enforcing emission laws is important because of President Trump's vow to defund federal environmental enforcement, leaving states like New York and California as the first line of defense in environmental matters.

"New York will continue to enforce the tough auto emission and greenhouse gas standards established by California, and intends to oppose any effort by the federal government to roll back EPA emission standards currently in place," a statement from Schneiderman's office said.

Electric cars

As part of today’s settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to substantially increase its commitment to New York’s emerging electric car market. The agreement requires Volkswagen to – by 2020 – at least triple the number of electric car models its Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi brands offer to New Yorkers from one model to three, including two electric SUVs.   

“Volkswagen was caught – and today’s settlement means we’ve now held them to full account,” Schneiderman continued. “No company – however large or powerful – is above the law in New York.  As we’ve made clear, if the federal government fails to do its job, I will continue to enforce our state’s environmental laws and hold accountable anyone who violates them – to ensure New Yorkers’ public health and environment are protected.”

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Old and the young increasingly call the shots in Hollywood

Today's young adult seems to prefer to stay in and watch Netflix

Movie box-office numbers have been falling in recent years as theaters have had to compete with expanding entertainment choices.But the make-up of the...

PhotoMovie box-office numbers have been falling in recent years as theaters have had to compete with expanding entertainment choices.

But the make-up of the audience filling the smaller number of seats has also been shifting. Increasingly, they are children and older adults.

Just look at the most recent box-office numbers. Disney's “Beauty and the Beast,” which shattered records its opening weekend, remained a far-and-away leader in its second week. It was followed by “Saban's Power Rangers,” another kid's movie that placed second on its opening weekend.

“CHIPS,” a comedy aimed at young adults, debuted in seventh place, grossing a disappointing $7.3 million. If you look back to the start of the 2000s, children have had a lot of box-office pull with films like “Shrek 2,” “Toy Story 3,” and the Harry Potter series.

With movie ticket prices climbing higher, not to mention the cost of concessions, young adults struggling economically are more inclined to stay in and watch Netflix. It's young families who are flocking to movie theaters, along with their grandparents.

Growing impact of seniors

AARP has released a study showing more than 30% of all motion picture theater customers are age 50 and up. The report found older audiences are driving drama revenue and providing niches that don't rely on huge budgets and foreign distribution.

These films are also providing steady work for older actors like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, who star in the new film “Going In Style.” (see trailer below)

But the study found films don't have to have an older cast to be a hit with seniors. It said 51% of consumers who saw “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” “Taken 3,” and “A Walk Amongst The Tombstones” were over 50.

AARP says older consumers were also a significant contributor to the success of some recent blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Do today's young adults not like the current Hollywood fare? It could be more a matter of economics. Many who are single are struggling. 

Young families, meanwhile, may be more inclined to splurge on a treat for the kids. Many seniors have the disposable income to enjoy movies in today's less-crowded theaters.

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The best and worst states for retirement

The states at the top of Bankrate's list may surprise you

In previous generations, Florida and Arizona were the most popular retirement destinations. After 30 years or more in the same job in a northern climate, m...

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U.S. economy continues growing at a so-so rate

Initial jobless claims were lower last week

Photo (c) z amir - FotoliaThe final tally of economic performance for the past year is in and the results are not encouraging.The Commerce Depart...

Photo
Photo (c) z amir - Fotolia

The final tally of economic performance for the past year is in and the results are not encouraging.

The Commerce Department reports that for all of 2016, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 2.0%, compared with an increase of 1.9% the previous year.

Many economists consider between 2-3% to be the “ideal” annual GDP growth rate.

For the final quarter of last year, GDP expanded at an annual rate of 2.1%, up a tad from the 1.9% reported in the second look at the numbers. In the third quarter of 2016, real GDP increased 3.5%.

Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, an inflation gauge tied to GDP, rose 2.0%. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” PCE price index was up 1.3%.

Corporate profits with inventory valuation adjustment and capital consumption adjustment rose $11.2 billion in the fourth quarter, following a surge of $117.8 billion in the third quarter.

For all of 2016, profits were down $2.3 billion, compared with a plunge of $64.0 billion in 2015.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

Photo
Photo (c) Yury Zap Fotolia

Jobless claims

The number of people applying for state unemployment benefits for the first time was lower last week.

The Labor Department (DOL) reports initial jobless claims for the week ending March 25 totaled a seasonally adjusted 258,000, down 3,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.

The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered by economists to be a better reflection of the labor market, rose 7,750 during the same week to 254,250.

The full report may be found on the DOL website.

 

 

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Making home safer for loved ones with dementia

Tips for creating a safe home environment for people living with Alzheimer's

For the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's dementia, home can be a perilous place. Alzheimer’s can affect a person’s judgement, senses...

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Juratoys recalls toy trolleys

The toy trolleys can tip backwards

Juratoys U.S. of Fairfield, N.J., is recalling about 10,300 Bricolo by Janod Push toy trolleys sold in the U.S. and Canada.The toy trolleys can tip bac...

PhotoJuratoys U.S. of Fairfield, N.J., is recalling about 10,300 Bricolo by Janod Push toy trolleys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The toy trolleys can tip backwards, posing an impact injury hazard to children.

The company has received two reports of trolleys falling backwards, both resulting in ER visits. One involved a tooth extraction the other a laceration to the child’s nose.

This recall involves four Bricolo by Janod-push toy trolleys. The French Cocotte Cooker trolley is red with orange wheels and includes a cooktop with fried egg shapes, an oven and eight accessories, including pots and pans “Janod” printed on the side and front of the trolley and J06544 printed on the base of the toy.

The DIY-Magnetic trolley is gray and black with red wheels with work station and tools. “Bricolo” is printed on the front of the DIY-Magnetic trolley and J06505 is printed on the base of the toy.

The Redmaster-Magnetic DIY trolley is black and gray with red wheels and 21 accessories, including three magnetic tools and a set of gears. J06493 is printed on the base of the toy.

The Barbecue trolley is brightly colored and comes with a magnetic spatula, magnetic barbecue fork, one piece of pork, two sausages, one fish, one piece of beef, and three tomatoes. J06523 is printed on the base of the toy. The trolleys measure approximately 17 inches tall and have a 1 foot by 1 foot base.

Item Number

Description

Years Sold

J06493

Janod Redmaster –Magnetic DIY Trolley

2015–2017

 

J06505

Janod DIY – Magnetic Trolley

2014–2017

J06544

Janod French Cocotte Cooker Trolley

2015–2017

J06523

 

Janod Barbecue Trolley

2012–2014

The trolleys, manufactured in China, were sold at various toy stores nationwide including Giggle and Saks Fifth Avenue, and online at Zulily.com from September 2012, to March 2017, for about $100. The Janod Barbecue trolley sold for about $70.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled trolleys and keep them out of the reach of young children until they have installed a repair kit. Contact Juratoys for a free repair kit that includes instructions, tools, and footers to prevent the toy from tipping backwards.

Consumers may contact Juratoys toll free at 877-277-1663 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.janod.com and click on “Product Recall” under the “Janod Express” tab at the top of the page for more information.

 

 

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Target recalls magnetic tic tac toe games

The magnets can come off the game pieces

Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 magnetic tic tac toe games.The magnets can come off the game pieces, posing a choking ha...

PhotoTarget Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 magnetic tic tac toe games.

The magnets can come off the game pieces, posing a choking hazard. In addition, when two or more magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside the intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Internal injury from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.

The company has received one report of the magnets falling off the game piece. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves a magnetic tic tac toe 10 x 10 inch plywood board with nine “X” and “Heart” game pieces. The game pieces have a magnet on the back. Model number “234-25-1089” is printed on the bottom right corner of the product.

The games, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Target stores nationwide from December 2016, through February 2017, for about $5.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled tic tac toe game and return it to any Target store for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Target at 800-440-0680 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT) any day or online at www.target.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page, then on “School/Stationery/Seasonal” for more information.

 

 

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Wells Fargo agrees to pay $110 million to settle fake account scandal

The company continues to be hit hard by both regulators and consumers

Last year, officials found that Wells Fargo employees, fueled by sales incentives, had opened approximately two million accounts under customers’ names and...

PhotoLast year, officials found that Wells Fargo employees, fueled by sales incentives, had opened approximately two million accounts under customers’ names and signed them up for various financial products without authorization. In September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) imposed its largest fine ever on the company, ordering it to pay a $100 million fine, restitution to victims, and a combined $85 million to two other agencies.

Now, the company is looking to settle a class-action lawsuit connected to the scandal. Per the Washington Post, Wells Fargo agreed on Tuesday to pay $110 million to consumers who had accounts opened without their permission, or were signed up for a product they did not agree to.

Pending court approval, the settlement would cover affected customers going all the way back to January 1, 2009. The bank said that the settlement should resolve a total of 11 class-action suits brought against it connected to the fake account scandal.

Settlement terms

Wells Fargo has also agreed not to use third-party arbitration under the settlement – a right that it has contentiously maintained allows it to take complaints to a private mediator instead of to court. The company had been invoking the right up until its announcement on Tuesday, and the change of direction was welcomed by the plaintiffs.  

“We believe this is an outstanding result obtained for the benefit of a proposed nationwide class, notwithstanding Wells Fargo’s effort to block the class action with an arbitration clause,” said Derek Loeser, partner of a firm that filed one of the class-actions against Wells Fargo.

Under the terms of the settlement, the $110 million will first go towards any out-of-pocket losses or fees that customers faced because of the unauthorized accounts. The remaining money will then be split up between all impacted customers.

“Significant harm” to consumers

In addition to the settlement news, Wells Fargo also announced on Tuesday that its rating had been lowered from “outstanding” to “needs to improve” under the Community Reinvestment Act -- a law designed to help monitor and promote banking practices to low-income and minority communities.  

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which made the decision, stated that the fraudulent sales practices were one reason for the downgrade. The effects of the move will limit Wells Fargo from opening more branches or making acquisitions in certain areas, and will open the bank up to fines or sanctions if patterns of discriminatory behavior are found in the future.

One regulator said that the deceptive sales practices that employees used already qualify as deceptive and unfair behavior, and that consumers have suffered because of it.

“These findings reflect an extensive and pervasive pattern and practice of discriminatory and illegal practices across multiple lines of business within the bank, resulting in significant harm to large numbers of consumers,” he said.

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan said that he was disappointed by the Comptroller's decision, but that the settlement represents “another step in our journey to make things right with customers.”

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Consumer groups ask feds to ban meat and poultry from Brazil

Corruption and unsanitary practices in the meatpacking industry raise health concerns

Consumer groups want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban meat and poultry products from Brazil following an investigation that found widespread corru...

PhotoConsumer groups want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban meat and poultry products from Brazil following an investigation that found widespread corruption and unsanitary practices there, but the USDA has so far refused to do so.

The Safe Food Coalition said many U.S. trading partners have already implemented total or partial bans, including Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Japan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, and Uruguay.

Unsavory practices uncovered by the probe include company officials dictating the placement of health inspectors, health certificates being falsified, the use of cancer-causing chemicals to disguise rotting meat, and the shipment of contaminated meat to Europe.

Instead of banning Brazilian meat until conditions improve, the USDA has elected to re-inspect shipments of Brazilian beef and subject them to more rigorous pathogen testing. These half-measures “will expose American consumers to unnecessary risks, and American taxpayers to unnecessary costs,” the coalition said.

May be too late

Safe Food Coalition members worry that U.S. officials will not adequately review whether Brazil’s food safety inspection system is actually “equivalent” until it is too late. They're urging the Administration to take action before American consumers begin getting sick.

The Safe Food Coalition is made up of consumer, public health, and victim groups who work on issues related to food, and organizations representing labor in the food industry.

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FTC sets out to prune occupational licensing

The proliferation of licensing hampers job growth, raises prices for consumers, the agency says

When you think of the Federal Trade Commission, you expect to hear of a new consumer protection measure or perhaps a corrective action taken against a comp...

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Potential springtime hazards to your pet

What pet owners can do to keep pets safe while gardening and spring cleaning

Spring is a time for gardening, cleaning, and Easter celebrations. But these springtime activities can also pose some hazards to furry family members....

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Supreme Court weighs in on credit card swipe fees

The justices unanimously said existing regulations inhibit free speech, returned the case to a lower court

The U.S. Supreme Court today ordered a lower court to take a closer look at a New York law that bars merchants from imposing surcharges on credit-card purc...

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Is knee-replacement surgery worth it?

It isn't for every patient, researchers conclude

With an aging Baby Boom population, there are an increasing number of joint replacement operations, particularly total knee replacements.When a knee is...

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Cost of treating neurological diseases exceeds $800 billion annually in U.S.

Researchers say the cost will likely increase in the coming years due to an aging population

Last month, we reported the findings of a study conducted by RTI International and the American Heart Association found that the cost of treating cardiovas...

PhotoLast month, we reported the findings of a study conducted by RTI International and the American Heart Association found that the cost of treating cardiovascular disease would top $1 trillion by 2035. The researchers warned that if the disease went unchecked, 131.2 million Americans -- or 45% of the country’s population -- would be affected by the disease by then.

Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease isn’t the only costly condition that consumers need to be worried about. A new study published in the Annals of Neurology finds that spending on nine of the most common neurological diseases currently exceeds $811 billion annually.

"Although society continues to reap the benefits of the dramatic research investments in heart disease and cancer over the last few decades, similar levels of investment are required to fund neuroscience research focused on curing devastating neurological diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer's, both to help our patients and also to avoid costs so large they could destabilize the entire health care system and the national economy," said lead author Dr. Clifton Gooch.

The researchers say the cost of treating neurological diseases will likely get worse in the coming years as the U.S. population ages. Statistics show that the elderly segment of the population will double between 2011 and 2050, with these individuals being the most at risk of suffering from a neurological condition. The report notes that the cost of treating only two conditions – dementia and stroke – will exceed $600 billion by 2030.

"The findings of this report are a wake-up call for the nation, as we are facing an already incredible financial burden that is going to rapidly worsen in the coming years," concluded Gooch.

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Target employees praised for stopping scam

Elderly couple almost became victims of 'grandpa scam'

Not a day goes by in America that thousands of consumers aren't tricked into paying large sums of money to scammers.These individuals employ all sorts...

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Spring home-buying season gets underway

Zillow reports that in many markets, sellers remain firmly in control

Sellers remain firmly in the driver's seat in most real estate markets across the country as the 2017 home shopping season gets underway.That's because...

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Mortgage applications dip

Contract interest rates were down significantly

Mortgage applications fell for the second time in a row, edging down 0.8% in the week ending March 24.The Mortgage Bankers Association also reports the...

PhotoMortgage applications fell for the second time in a row, edging down 0.8% in the week ending March 24.

The Mortgage Bankers Association also reports the Refinance Index was down 3% from the previous week with the refinance share of mortgage activity dropping 1.1% to 44.0% of total applications -- the lowest level since October 2008.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity slipped to 8.5% of total applications; the FHA share inched down 0.1% to 10.8%; the VA share rose to 11.0% from 10.1%; and the USDA share of total applications increased to 1.0% from 0.9% the week before.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRM) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) plunged 13 basis points -- from 4.46% to 4.33% -- with points increasing to 0.43 from 0.41 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) fell to 4.26% from 4.40%, with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA was down nine basis points to 4.24%, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.40 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs went from 3.68% to 3.57%, with points increasing to 0.43 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs fell 11 basis points to 3.30%, with points increasing to 0.28 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

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

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Ajinomoto Windsor recalls frozen ready-to-eat beef products

The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

Ajinomoto Windsor of Lampasas, Texas, is recalling approximately 35,168 pounds of frozen ready-to-eat beef taquito products.The products may be contami...

PhotoAjinomoto Windsor of Lampasas, Texas, is recalling approximately 35,168 pounds of frozen ready-to-eat beef taquito products.

The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically rubber with plastic.

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

The following items, produced on December 30, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 60-oz. plastic bags inside of a corrugated carton labeled as “JOSÉ OLÉ TAQUITOS BEEF CARNE DE RES IN CORN TORTILLAS Crispy and Crunchy,” with case codes 3366365A, 3366365B, 3366365C, 3366365D and a Best By date of December 30, 2017.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “Est. M-5590” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Paul Taylor at (909) 477-4800.

 

 

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Low inventory sends pending home sales tumbling in January

Home shoppers face numerous obstacles despite an improving economy

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

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

The National Association of Realtors reports its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) fell 2.8% last month to 106.4. While that reading is 0.4% above a year ago, it's the lowest since then.

But lower inventories wasn't the only problem home shoppers face.

"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."

Interest in buying a home is the highest it has been since the Great Recession, according to Yun. Households are 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.

While these factors bode well 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 showing

 

  • The PHSI in the Northeast rose 2.3% to 98.7 in January, and is now 3.6% above a year ago.
  • In the Midwest the index was down 5.0% to 99.5, and is now 3.8% lower than January 2016.
  • Pending home sales in the South inched up 0.4% to a reading of 122.5 and are now 2.0% higher than they were a year earlier.
  • The index dropped 9.8% in the West to 94.6, for a year-over-year decline of 0.4%.

Looking ahead

Existing-home sales this year are projected to rise 2.2% from 2016 to around 5.57 million. The national median existing-home price the point at which half the homes sell for more and half for less this is expected to rise around 4%. Last year, sales were up 3.8% and prices jumped 5.1%.

"Sales got off to a fantastic start in January,” said Yun, “but last month's retreat in contract signings indicates that activity will likely be choppy in coming months as buyers compete for the meager number of listings in their price range." 

 

 

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Look Cycle recalls Aerostems and road bikes

The stainless steel clamp securing the stem to the handlebars can corrode and break

Look Cycle is recalling about 800 road bikes and Aerostems.The stainless steel clamp that secures the stem to the handlebars can corrode and break, pos...

PhotoLook Cycle is recalling about 800 road bikes and Aerostems.

The stainless steel clamp that secures the stem to the handlebars can corrode and break, posing a fall and crash hazard.

The firm has received one report of the stainless steel clamp on an Aerostem breaking. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Look Cycle Aerostems sold either as an after-market component or installed as original equipment on Look Cycle model 695 and 795 road bikes for model years 2014 through 2017.

The Look Aerostems are made of black carbon fiber material with a black steel clamp around the handlebars. Recalled models have either no number or the number 380706 printed in white on the bottom of the clamp.

The stems and bikes, manufactured in France and Switzerland, were sold at independent bike stores nationwide from July 2013, through December 2016, for about $500 for the stems sold individually and for between $5,500 and $16,000 installed as original equipment on Look Cycle road 695 and 795 road racing bicycles.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using bicycles with the recalled Aerostems and return them to the place of purchase for a free repair. Consumers unable to return their bicycles should contact Look Cycle for instructions on receiving a free repair.

A complete list of photos of the recalled stems and bike models can be found on the firm’s website at http://www.lookcycle.com/en/safety-notice.  

 

 

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New urgency in the Takata airbag recall

Southern California civic leaders say too many unrepaired vehicles are still on the road

It was nearly two years ago that some automakers began recalling cars equipped with defective Takata airbags that are in danger of spraying metal fragments...

PhotoIt was nearly two years ago that some automakers began recalling cars equipped with defective Takata airbags that are in danger of spraying metal fragments through the passenger compartment when they deploy.

Since then, more than 42 million vehicles from 19 different automakers have been recalled and at least 11 people in the U.S. have been killed by the flying metal fragments.

California civic leaders, alarmed that millions of unrepaired recalled vehicles are still on state highways, have banded together to add urgency to the recall.

They say Southern California leads the nation in defective airbag deaths. They say the risk is especially high in that region because of warm weather, which is a factor that increases the defect in the airbag inflator. The initiative, called Airbag Recall: Southern California, is trying to spread the word in Southern California that if you are driving a car with one of these airbags, you need to take advantage of the free repair.

Putting lives at risk

"Airbags save lives, but defective ones are a hazard that puts our loved ones at risk," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "We have to give people the information they need to protect themselves and their families."

Federal transportation officials say the airbags with the greatest risk are in certain 2001-2003 Hondas and Acuras, with as high as a 50% chance of exploding upon deployment.

The affected models include the 2001 and 2002 Honda Civic, the 2001 and 2002 Honda Accord, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey, the 2002 Honda CR-V, the 2003 Acura CL, and the 2003 Honda Pilot.

The Honda risk

Honda is participating in the initiative, releasing a statement urging drivers of its affected models to check their vehicle identification number (VIN). If it's a recalled vehicle and the repair has not been made, the company says consumers should go to a Honda dealer for the free recall repairs immediately. The company says replacement parts, which were in short supply early in the recall, are now plentiful.

Owners of these vehicles may also schedule a repair by calling Honda at 1-888-234-2138.

Honda says consumers driving certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura models originally equipped with Takata's older "Alpha" inflators, are at an even higher risk. It says there is a 50% chance an "Alpha" inflator will rupture in a crash.

Honda says these vehicles should not be driven, except to a dealer for the repair.

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Cookbooks fall short when it comes to food safety, study finds

Researchers say many recipes don't ensure that foods are cooked to optimal internal temperatures

Late last year, we reported that TV cooking shows often fell short of the mark when it came to promoting food safety. In fact, a study showed that 70% of a...

PhotoLate last year, we reported that TV cooking shows often fell short of the mark when it came to promoting food safety. In fact, a study showed that 70% of all episodes displayed practices that were out of compliance with current standards, a worrying statistic.

However, television isn’t the only medium where food safety information is lacking. A new study conducted at North Carolina State University shows that many cookbooks also detail processes which don’t ensure that a dish has reached a safe internal temperature.

“Cookbooks aren’t widely viewed as a primary source of food-safety information, but cookbook sales are strong and they’re intended to be instructional,” said senior author Ben Chapman, an associate professor of agricultural and human sciences. “Ideally, cookbooks can help us make food tasty and reduce our risk of getting sick, so we’d like to see recipes include good endpoint cooking temperatures.”

Cookbooks fall short

For the purposes of the study, Chapman and his colleagues analyzed nearly 1,500 recipes from 29 cookbooks that were featured on the New York Times best sellers list for food and diet books. Included recipes all featured the handling of raw animal ingredients, such as meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

Each recipe was judged on three criteria which asked:

  • Does the recipe tell readers to cook the dish to a specific internal temperature?
  • If it does include a temperature, is that temperature one that has been shown to be safe?
  • Does the recipe perpetuate food-safety myths – such as saying to cook poultry until the juices “run clear” – that have been proven unreliable as ways of determining if the dish has reached a safe temperature?

Out of the 1,497 recipes analyzed, the researchers found that only 123 – or 8% -- answered all their questions, and some of those weren’t safe in other ways. The findings are dangerous, says Chapman, because many of the recipes did not guarantee a high enough internal temperature to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

"Very few recipes provided relevant food-safety information, and 34 of those 123 recipes gave readers information that wasn't safe," Chapman says. "Put another way, only 89 out of 1,497 recipes gave readers reliable information that they could use to reduce their risk of foodborne illness."

Ensuring food safety

The researchers say that many of the cookbooks relied on vague language to let consumers know when their food was ready, such as references to color, texture, or directions to “cook until done.”

Consumers should keep in mind that officials for food safety have detailed which internal temperatures should be reached for a large array of foods. That information can be found here, and the researchers say that referencing it is extremely important.

“This is important because cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs to a safe internal temperature kills off pathogens that cause foodborne illness,” explains lead author Katrina Levine. “These temperatures were established based on extensive research, targeting the most likely pathogens found in each food.”

“A similar study was done 25 years ago and found similar results – so nothing has changed in the past quarter century,” adds Chapman. “But by talking about these new results, we’re hoping to encourage that change.”

The full study has been published in the British Food Journal.

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Consumer confidence hits a 16-year high

The Conference Board found optimism in nearly every area

After posting a solid increase a month earlier, The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index moved sharply higher in March.The index shot up 9.5 po...

PhotoAfter posting a solid increase a month earlier, The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index moved sharply higher in March.

The index shot up 9.5 points to 125.6, with the Present Situation Index moving from 134.4 to 143.1 and the expectations Index increasing to 113.8 from 103.9 last month.

The index now stands at its highest point since December 2000.

“Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved considerably,” said Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco. “Consumers also expressed much greater optimism regarding the short-term outlook for business, jobs and personal income prospects.”

“Thus,” she added, “consumers feel current economic conditions have improved over the recent period, and their renewed optimism suggests the possibility of some upside to the prospects for economic growth in the coming months.”

Consumer perceptions

The appraisal by consumers of current conditions improved considerably in March. The percentage saying business conditions are “good” increased from 28.3% to 32.2%, while those who said they are “bad” fell to 12.9% from 13.4 percent.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also more positive, as the proportion of consumers who think jobs are “plentiful” rose from 26.9% to 31.7%; those who believe jobs are “hard to get” slipped from 19.9% to 19.5%.

There also was significantly more optimism about the short-term outlook. More than 27% of consumers expect business conditions to improve over the next six months -- up more than 3% from February, while those expecting conditions to worsen dropped from 10.5% to 8.4%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market also was more upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 20.9% to 24.8%, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined from 13.6% to 12.2%.

The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase improved to 21.5% from 19.2%, while the proportion looking for a decrease dropped from 8.1% to 7.0%.

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

 

 

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Seven popular springtime travel destinations

Booking.com tracks the most highly rated places to go after a long winter

Consumers like to travel at this time of year. After a long, cold winter they are often eager for a change of scenery. That's what spring break is all abou...

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How much house can you afford?

Four sets of numbers will give you a good idea

So you've been looking online at real estate and are tired of having your rent go up every year. You've decided to take the plunge into home ownership....

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Annual gain in home prices sets 31-month high

January prices were also up from December's level

Home price gains continued in January on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.According to the S&P; CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, the Nat...

PhotoHome price gains continued in January on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, the National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, jumped 5.9% from a year earlier, setting a 31-month high.

The 10-City Composite was up 5.1%, and the 20-City Composite reported a rise of 5.7%.

Seattle, Portland, and Denver had the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities over each of the last 12 months. Seattle led the way in January with an 11.3% year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland (+9.7%) and Denver (+9.2%).

Twelve cities reported greater price increases in the year ending January 2017 versus the year ending December 2016.

“Housing and home prices continue on a generally positive upward trend,” said David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“The recent action by the Federal Reserve raising the target for the Fed funds rate by a quarter percentage point is expected to add less than a quarter percentage point to mortgage rates in the near future. Given the market’s current strength and the economy, the small increase in interest rates isn’t expected to dampen home buying. If we see three or four additional increases this year, rising mortgage rates could become a concern."

Month-over-month

Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.2% in January. The 10-City Composite was up 0.3% and the 20-City Composite inched ahead 0.2%.

After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.6% month-over-month increase, while both the 10-City and 20-City Composites each reported a 0.9% advance. Thirteen of 20 cities reported increases in January before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, 19 cities saw prices rise.

“While prices vary month-to-month and across the country, the national price trend has been positive since the first quarter of 2012,” said Blitzer. “Tight supplies and rising prices may be deterring some people from trading up to a larger house, further aggravating supplies because fewer people are selling their homes. At some point, this process will force prices to level off and decline -- however we don’t appear to be there yet.” 

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Does your pet have springtime allergies?

Tips for reducing your pet's exposure to seasonal allergens

Just like humans, pets can suffer from seasonal allergies. But while pollen and other airborne environmental allergens might leave you sniffling and sneezi...

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Preventing poisonings at home: ways to keep kids safe

Tips for keeping little ones safe around laundry pods, prescription drugs, and other toxic household substances

Curiosity can lead to the discovery of new concepts and skills, but it can also land kids in dangerous situations. When kids deem certain household items w...

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Will your credit card company waive your late fee?

Chances are, it will if you'll just ask

Consumers hate fees, whether they are levied by a bank or credit card company. Overdraft fees were such a major bone of contention a few years ago that Con...

PhotoConsumers hate fees, whether they are levied by a bank or credit card company. Overdraft fees were such a major bone of contention a few years ago that Congress passed legislation to reduce them.

But fees don't always have to be paid. Sometimes, if you ask, a credit card company will waive them. And it happens a lot more than you might think.

CreditCards.com reports its latest research which shows that 87% of consumers who asked a credit card company to waive a late fee were successful. It also found that 69% of the time, if a customer asked a credit card company to lower the interest rate, the answer was "yes."

While it is true that banks and credit card companies depend more on fees than ever these days, it is also true that they are in a very competitive industry. Consumers have lots of options.

Competition works in your favor

In many cases, a credit card company would rather waive a fee once than possibly lose a customer. If a customer has a good credit score, he or she can open a new credit card account and transfer a high interest balance, often getting more than a year of 0% interest. Credit card companies know this.

That said, CreditCards.com found that only 25% of credit card customers ever asked for a waived fee or a lower interest rate. That means consumers are spending money needlessly.

There's even wiggle room when it comes to annual fees. Many rewards credit cards charge as much as $100 or more for the privilege of using their cards. But CreditCards.com found more than half of credit card customers in the U.S. were able to persuade the company to drop the fee altogether. Thirty-one percent were able to negotiate a lower fee.

More power than you realize

"People have far more power with their credit card company than they realize," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "Competition among card issuers is incredibly high these days and customer retention is a priority."

Schulz says you can't be afraid to ask for an exception because, very often, you're likely to get it.

That also holds true for credit limits. Of those customers who simply asked their credit card company to raise the card's credit limit, 89% got what they asked for.

As we have previously reported, this also works in other highly competitive services, such as insurance. If you have been with your insurance carrier for several years, chances are you can get a discount by saying you are shopping for a new policy.

If you are a senior citizen, or getting close to being one, you can get a discount almost anywhere. But, you have to ask for it. Again, surveys show most people don't.

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Government grant scam still claims victims

If you didn't apply for a grant, you can't be awarded one

The government grant scam has been around so long you might think everyone would know about it by now. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it remai...

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Scientists tout high-tech and low-tech ways to detect cancer

Progress reported in dianosing the disease through blood tests

Much of the progress towards treating cancer in recent years has come in early detection. Being able to diagnose cancer in the early stages of the disease...

PhotoMuch of the progress towards treating cancer in recent years has come in early detection. Being able to diagnose cancer in the early stages of the disease usually improves the odds of beating it.

So, the news from the University of California is creating excitement among oncologists. Researchers there say they have created a blood test called CancerLocator that not only tells doctors that a patient has cancer, but tells them where the cancer is in the body.

The test works by identifying DNA from cancer that is circulating in the blood stream.

"Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer, and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease,” Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from UCLA, told the London Telegraph.

Zhou concedes the technology is only beginning to be understood and has a long way to go before it can be usefully deployed.

Other research

Other scientists are also working on this technique. As we reported in 2015, researchers at the Mayo Clinic announced progress on a blood test that could diagnose cancer. As in the UCLA study, the technology centers around identifying cancer DNA in blood samples.

“What’s exciting about our discovery is that it allows us to stop thinking about screening organs and start thinking about screening people,” Mayo Clinic's Dr. John Kisiel said at the time. “As far as we are aware, this is the first series of experiments that has ever shown this concept.”

At the other end of the technology spectrum, the French news agency AFP reports researchers have trained dogs to detect breast cancer by sniffing bandages that touched a breast.

Remarkably, the researchers report the dogs have been 100% accurate. AFP quotes Isabelle Fromantin, who leads the project, as saying the system could be useful in developing countries where there is limited access to mammograms.

Fromantin said breast cancer cells have a unique smell that German shepherds, with their keen sense of smell, can be trained to detect.

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Later Easter could mean record retail spending

The NRF is forecasting a 6% surge over last year

With Easter nearly three weeks later this year than last, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting that consumers will spend more than ever to c...

PhotoWith Easter nearly three weeks later this year than last, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting that consumers will spend more than ever to celebrate.

NRF’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, projects spending will reach $18.4 billion -- 6% more than last year’s record $17.3 billion. That works out to an average of $152 per person -- up 4% from last year’s record of $146.

More time means more spending

“Most consumers have almost an entire extra month to shop for Easter this year, and by the time the holiday comes the weather should be significantly warmer than last Easter,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “That should put shoppers in the frame of mind to splurge on spring apparel along with Easter decorations. With the economy improving, consumers are ready to shop and retailers are ready to offer great deals whether they’re buying Easter baskets or garden tools.”

Consumers, the survey finds, will spend $5.8 billion on food (purchased by 87% of shoppers), $3.3 billion on clothing (50%), $2.9 billion on gifts (61%), $2.6 billion on candy (89%), $1.2 billion on flowers (39%), $1.1 billion on decorations (43%), and $788 million on greeting cards (48%).

Discount stores are still king

Fifty-eight percent of would-be shoppers say they'll be heading for discount stores, 46% will go to department stores, and 26% shop at local small businesses. Additionally, 27% will shop online, up 6% from last year. Among smartphone owners, 28% will research products on their devices while 18% will actually use them to make a purchase. Another 9% will use apps to do their research or purchase products.

“Easter continues to be a traditional holiday for consumers of all ages, especially young families who are planning to spend a bit more for this celebration,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “With the later timing of Easter, we will see more consumers shopping for special deals, especially on apparel and decorations.”

The survey, which asked 7,411 consumers about their Easter Sunday plans, was conducted March 1-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

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BMW recalls model year 2017 X5 vehicles

The passenger front airbag inflators may not vent properly

BMW of North America is recalling 36 model year 2017 X5 sDrive35i, X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive50i, X5 xDrive35d, and X5 xDrive40e vehicles.The recalled veh...

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Chlorofields recalls Asian Microgreens

The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

ChloroFields of Lawrence, Kan., is recalling 20 cases of Asian Microgreens that may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses have been reported to...

PhotoChloroFields of Lawrence, Kan., is recalling 20 cases of Asian Microgreens that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recalled product comes in a 1.5-oz. clamshell, and is identified as Asian Mix Microgreens with a sell by date of 3/26/2017 located on a white sticker on the bottom of the container. The UPC number of the product is 853763007096.

It was distributed throughout Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, and through retail grocery stores.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may call ChloroFields at 785-304-3226 Monday through Friday 8AM-5PM (CDT).

 

 

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Whiskey Hill Smokehouse recalls beef, venison and ostrich jerky products

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

Whiskey Hill Smokehouse of Hubbard, Ore., is recalling approximately 22,466 pounds of beef, venison and ostrich jerky products.The products contain soy...

PhotoWhiskey Hill Smokehouse of Hubbard, Ore., is recalling approximately 22,466 pounds of beef, venison and ostrich jerky products.

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

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

The following heat-treated, shelf stable items, produced and packaged from March 3, 2016, through March 10, 2017, are being recalled:

  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand HONEY GLAZED BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 069161 and best by date 3/11/17
    • 127161 and best by date 5/10/17
    • 194161 and best by date 7/14/17
    • 228161 and best by date 8/17/17
    • 264161 and best by date 9/22/17
    • 293161 and best by date 10/21/17
    • 341161 and best by date10/21/17
    • 362161 and best by date 12/29/17
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand CHILI ‘LICIOUS BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 104163 and best by date 4/15/17
    • 010171 and best by date 1/12/18
  • 3.2-oz and 7-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand SCORPION PEPPERED BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 068163 and best by date 3/10/17
    • 076161 and best by date 3/18/17
    • 106162 and best by date 4/19/17
    • 172161 and best by date 6/22/17
    • 207161 and best by date 7/27/17
    • 221161 and best by date 8/10/17
    • 271164 and best by date 9/29/17
    • 309162 and best by date 11/8/17
    • 348163 and best by date 12/15/17
    • 038172 and best by date 2/9/18
    • 048171 and best by date 2/22/18
  • 3.2-oz and 7-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand CAROLINA REAPER PEPPERED BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 068164 and best by date 3/10/17
    • 076162 and best by date 3/18/17
    • 106163 and best by date 4/19/17
    • 131161 and best by date 5/12/17
    • 172162 and best by date 6/22/17
    • 197162 and best by date 7/20/17
    • 207162 and best by date 7/1/17
    • 244161 and best by date 9/2/17
    • 258161 and best by date 9/10/17
    • 265162 and best by date 9/23/17
    • 289162 and best by date 10/18/17
    • 309163 and best by date 11/8/17
    • 335162  and best by date 12/2/17
    • 010172 and best by date 1/12/18
    • 037172 and best by date 2/8/18
    • 048172 and best by date 2/22/18
  • 3.5-oz plastic packages containing “PAINTED HILLS GRASS-FED BEEF JERKY Sweet Honeycomb” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 349161 and best by date 2/16/18
    • 305161 and best by date 11/3/17
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Mt. Shadow Foods, LLC Peppered Beef Jerky” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 046171 and best by date 2/17/18
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Mt. Shadow Foods, LLC Honey Jalapeño Beef Jerky” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 046172 and best by date 2/17/18
  • 3.0-oz plastic packages containing “WHISKEY HILL SMOKEHOUSE TROPHY SERIES OSTRICH JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 271161 and best by date 9/29/17
  • 3.0-oz plastic packages containing “MAUINUI VENISON GOURMET JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 084161 and best by date 3/28/17
    • 204161 and best by date 7/26/17
    • 267161 and best by date 9/28/17
    • 282161 and best by date 10/12/17
    • 344161 and best by date 12/13/17
    • 009171 and best by date 1/11/18
  • 8-oz and 4-oz plastic packages containing “The Jerky Hut PEPPERED GOLDEN NUGGETS BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 088162 and best by date 3/30/17
    • 133161 and best by date 5/16/17
    • 181161 and best by date 7/1/17
    • 229161 and best by date 8/18/17
    • 320162 and best by date 11/17/17
    • 342161 and best by date 12/8/17
    • 004171 and best by date 1/6/18
    • 067172 and best by date 3/10/18
  • 4-oz and 8-oz plastic packages containing “HOT The Jerky Hut GOLDEN NUGGETS Sweet & Tender BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 062161 and best by date 3/4/17
    • 078162 and best by date 3/22/17
    • 096161 and best by date 4/7/17
    • 111162 and best by date 4/22/17
    • 133162 and best by date 5/16/17
    • 153162 and best by date 6/3/17
    • 211162 and best by date 8/2/17
    • 229162 and best by date 8/18/17
    • 253162 and best by date 9/13/17
    • 263162 and best by date 9/21/17
    • 289164 and best by date 10/18/17
    • 313161 and best by date 11/10/17
    • 333162 and best by date 11/30/17
    • 347161 and best by date 12/14/17
    • 004171 and best by date 1/6/18
    • 033171 and best by date 2/7/18
    • 040171 and best by date 2/13/18
    • 058172 and best by date 3/1/18
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand HONEY JALAPEÑO BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 104162 and best by date 4/15/17
    • 144163 and best by date 5/25/17
    • 159163 and best by date 6/9/17
    • 176162 and best by date 8/5/17
    • 216163 and best by date 6/9/17
    • 228163 and best by date 8/17/17
    • 264162 and best by date 9/22/17
    • 293162 and best by date 10/21/17
    • 319161 and best by date 11/6/17
    • 362163 and best by date 12/29/17
    • 024172 and best by date 1/26/18
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand PEPPERED BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 104161 and best by date 4/15/17
    • 159161 and best by date 6/9/17
    • 194162 and best by date 7/14/17
    • 216172 and best by date 8/5/17
    • 271162 and best by date 9/29/17
    • 341162 and best by date 12/8/17
    • 362162 and best by date 12/29/17
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand GHOST PEPPERED BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 106161 and best by date 4/19/17
    • 197161 and best by date 7/20/17
    • 235162 and best by date 8/24/17
    • 271163 and best by date 9/29/17
    • 348162 and best by date 12/15/17
    • 038171 and best by date 2/9/18
  • 3.2-oz plastic packages containing “Bakke Brothers Brand GARLIC LOVERS BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 095163 and best by date 4/6/17
    • 141163 and best by date 5/25/17
    • 176161 and best by date 6/28/17
    • 202161 and best by date 7/20/17
    • 223163 and best by date 8/12/17
    • 236162 and best by date 8/25/17
    • 319161 and best by date 11/16/17
    • 365161 and best by date 1/4/18
    • 052171 and best by date 2/23/18
  • 4-oz and 8-oz plastic packages containing “The Jerky Hut SWEET WITH HABANERO BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 078163 and best by date 3/22/17
    • 124162 and best by date 5/5/17
    • 181162 and best by date 7/1/17
    • 229163 and best by date 8/18/17
    • 294163 and best by date 10/22/17
    • 320163 and best by date 11/17/17
    • 004173 and best by date 1/6/18
  • 4-oz and 8-oz plastic packages containing “The Jerky Hut GOLDEN NUGGETS Sweet & Tender BEEF JERKY” with “Lot Number” and “Best by” dates of:
    • 062161 and best by date 3/4/17
    • 078161 and best by date 3/22/17
    • 088161 and best by date 3/30/17
    • 111161 and best by date 4/22/17
    • 124161 and best by date 5/5/17
    • 153161 and best by date 6/3/17
    • 169161 and best by date 6/21/17
    • 211161 and best by date 8/2/17
    • 217161 and best by date 8/8/17
    • 253161 and best by date 9/13/17
    • 263161 and best by date 9/21/17
    • 273161 and best by date 10/3/17
    • 295161 and best by date 10/26/17
    • 320161 and best by date 11/17/17
    • 333161 and best by date 11/30/17
    • 343161 and best by date 12/12/17
    • 363161 and best by date 12/30/17
    • 034171 and best by date 2/7/18
    • 039171 and best by date 2/13/18
    • 058171 and best by date 3/1/18
    • 067171 and best by date 3/10/18

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 4993 or P-4993” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped nationwide including distribution through wholesale and internet/catalog sales.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Jerry Bowman at (503) 981-2915.

 

 

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Nissan recalls model year 2013-2014 Muranos

The power steering hose clamp may not secure the hose adequately

Nissan North America is recalling 56,766 model year 2013-2014 Muranos.The power steering hose clamp may not secure the hose adequately, allowing the ho...

PhotoNissan North America is recalling 56,766 model year 2013-2014 Muranos.

The power steering hose clamp may not secure the hose adequately, allowing the hose to detach and leak power steering fluid.

If the power steering fluid leaks onto a heat source such as hot engine or exhaust components, there could be an increased risk of a fire.

What to do

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will install a power steering high pressure hose kit, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

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

 

 

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T-Mobile to roll out scam call blocker

The company says its products will stop scam calls before they can reach its customers

In a recent report, we detailed a proposal made by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would effectively cut off scam robocallers from making call...

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Feds considering changes to banking rules

Data aggregator says a bank proposal would restrict consumer access to information

Some of the major banks have proposed changes to Dodd-Frank financial reform rules governing the way consumers access their financial information.Perso...

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Choosing a safe bone for your dog

Cooked bones can be dangerous, but raw bones can be safe as long as owners follow certain guidelines

Bones can provide mental stimulation, prevent boredom, and satisfy your pup’s innate urge to chew. But not all bones may be safe for your four-legged pal....

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Virgin America to take the name of its new mate, Alaska

It may be a modern merger, but the two shall soon be known by a single name

Well, you knew this was going to happen. Alaska Airlines has teased and tantalized Virgin America's loyal followers, saying it might let Virgin keep its na...

PhotoWell, you knew this was going to happen. Alaska Airlines has teased and tantalized Virgin America's loyal followers, saying it might let Virgin keep its name after the two were joined together as one. 

But it turns out that was just honeymoon talk. The kindly looking old fellow whose visage adorns Alaska's tails has turned grumpy and exercised the patriarch's prerogative. In other words, Virgin America will soon be no more. In its place will be a lot more Alaska Airlines planes, Alaska made clear this week.

"After months of research and in-depth conversations with fliers, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire the Virgin America name and logo likely sometime in 2019," the company said in a press release. "However, many of the elements you love about Virgin America will live on, paired with Alaska’s unbeatable performance and top-rated customer service." 

Virgin America was beloved by many of its regulars. Maybe it was the mood lighting, the nifty entertainment system, the snacks and meals you could order whenever hunger struck, the leather seats. Whatever it was, it was brilliantly executed.

Not that there's anything wrong with Alaska, of course. Besides being the biggest state in the country, it's a perfectly fine airline. It just doesn't have the zing that Virgin America created.

Shazaming and such ...

But Alaska is determined to change all that and its press releases are sounding more like Virgin's all the time. 

"Imagine arriving at the airport and immediately feeling welcomed to a fresh, modern experience.

You know you’ll reach your destination on time with minimal hassle, and the airline you’ve chosen offers consistently low fares and more nonstop flights to more destinations from the West Coast than any other. At your gate, you can’t help Shazaming every song on the upbeat playlist, and the overhead announcements tell you what you need to know with a healthy dose of fun."

This might sound like your old uncle trying to be one of the cool guys, but Alaska deserves some credit for trying. It is, after all, now the fifth largest airline in the country and trying to keep that youthful vibe is a worthy goal.

Alaska says it will be making upgrades to both Alaska and Virgin aircraft over the next few years, including faster wi-fi, expanded first class and premium sections, and an integrated awards program. 

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Helping kids adjust to wearing glasses

What parents can do to normalize glasses and prevent digital eye strain

Too much screen time can contribute to eye strain, which could explain why you may be seeing more and more bespectacled youngsters these days. The US D...

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Motorists getting an unusual break this spring

The annual seasonal price rise hasn't happened so far

In a famous Sherlock Holmes story, the key clue was the dog that did not bark. When it comes to gasoline prices, the key victory for consumers, it seems, i...

PhotoIn a famous Sherlock Holmes story, the key clue was the dog that did not bark. When it comes to gasoline prices, the key victory for consumers, it seems, is the price that did not rise.

By all accounts, the national average gasoline price should have risen about a dime a gallon over the last two or three weeks. It hasn't.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows today's average price of self-serve regular is $2.29 a gallon. That's what it was the day before, and a week ago. If you go back a month, the price was only a penny a gallon more.

Premium gasoline averages $2.81 a gallon and has a nearly identical pricing pattern to regular.

The normal pattern is that prices at the pump begin rising in early March as oil refineries begin regular maintenance and start switching over to the production of summer grade fuel blends. The reduced output almost always sends prices higher.

Oil prices are in reverse

So what's different about this year? Chances are, it's the price of oil. After breaking through the $55 a barrel level, prices have dropped below $50.

Oil prices started rising last fall when the OPEC producers, led by Saudi Arabia, decided to reduce production in order to boost oil prices, which had been low for two years. The market assumed OPEC would be successful and traders began bidding up the price of oil, making gasoline more expensive than it was the previous year.

But in the last few weeks it has become clear that OPEC faces a big challenge in raising oil prices. As the price rose, it became more profitable for U.S. shale producers to increase production, which they have done.

U.S. stockpiles of oil have become so large that it has weakened the market -- bad for traders and speculators but very good for consumers.

Saudis cut exports to U.S.

MarketWatch reports U.S. stockpiles have now hit a record, prompting the Saudis this week to "dramatically" cut oil exports to the U.S. OPEC, it seems, is desperate to reduce the U.S. stockpile of oil. Otherwise, it won't be able to ratchet oil prices higher.

For consumers, there's some stability at the gas pump this spring. Even in California, one of the most expensive places in the U.S. to fill up, the statewide average has fallen a bit in the last week, remaining below $3 a gallon for regular and at $3.23 for premium.

The West and upper Midwest has the most expensive fuel this week. The cheapest gasoline is in the Southeast, where the statewide average in South Carolina is $2.02 a gallon for regular and $2.59 for premium.

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House prices flat in January

Prices were up, though on an annual basis

Housing prices across the U.S. were unchanged in January, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted monthly House Price In...

PhotoHousing prices across the U.S. were unchanged in January, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted monthly House Price Index (HPI).

This is just the second month since early 2012 that the HPI has failed to increase. The other occurrence was in November, 2013. The previously reported December HPI increase of 0.4% was unrevised.

On a year-over-year basis -- from January 2016 to January 2017 -- house prices were up 5.7%.

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

Regional performance

For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly price changes from December, 2016 to January, 2017 ranged from -2.0% in the East South Central division to +0.6 percent in the Pacific division.

The 12-month changes were all positive, ranging from +3.5% in the East South Central division to +8.3% in the Mountain division.

The complete report may be found on the FHFA website

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Haibike recalls electric bicycles

The fork on the front wheel of the bicycles can rupture or break

Haibike of Denver, Colo., owned by Accell North America, is recalling about 267 electric bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The fork on the front whe...

PhotoHaibike of Denver, Colo., owned by Accell North America, is recalling about 267 electric bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The fork on the front wheel of the bicycles can rupture or break while the bike is in use, posing a fall hazard to the rider.

No incidents or injuries are reported.

This recall involves Haibike XDURO Urban, Race and Superrace models of electric bicycles. The recalled bicycles have an aluminum frame, hydraulic disc brakes, and a lithium battery.

They contain a letter/number combination (‘HAERA’ followed by at least three numbers and characters) printed on the front of the frame. Remove the battery to locate the letter/number combination on the frame.

The following models are included in the recall:

Model

Model Year

Color

Letter/Number

Haibike XDURO Urban

2014, 2015

Gray

‘HAERA’ followed by three numbers and characters

Haibike XDURO Urban RC

2016

Gray

Haibike XDURO Race

2014, 2015

Black

Haibike XDURO Superrace

2014, 2015

Black

Haibike XDURO Race S RX

2016

Gray

Haibike XDURO Urban S RX

2016

White

The bicycles, manufactured in Germany and Taiwan, were sold at independent bicycle dealers nationwide from January 2014, through February 2017, for about $4,000.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact Accell North America for a free repair.

Consumers may Contact Accell North America at 800-222-5527 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.haibike.com and click on “Current recalls” on the right side of the page for more information.

 

 

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Model year 2017 Ford Mustangs recalled

The driver's door may unlatch in a side impact crash

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Wells Fargo making ATM accessible with smartphones

Bank also rolls out new campaign to win back customers

Next week, if you need to withdraw money from a Wells Fargo ATM, you won't need your debit card. You can use your smartphone.The bank ran a pilot progr...

PhotoNext week, if you need to withdraw money from a Wells Fargo ATM, you won't need your debit card. You can use your smartphone.

The bank ran a pilot program on the technology in several areas of the country and is now ready to roll it out nationwide. To use the new system, Wells Fargo customers who have the bank's mobile app will be able to request a code that they will enter, along with their PIN.

In an interview with Reuters, Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo's head of ATM and branch banking, said the new system enhances safeguards against fraud.

"Security certainly was a big aspect of the cardless feature and the two-step identification helps reduce the risk of fraud," Velline told the wire service.

The ATMs will still take debit cards, but Velline says the digital access prevents thieves from installing skimmers that intercept and steal data from the inserted cards.

Repairing customer relations

The new system is being introduced as Wells Fargo continues its mission to repair relations with customers in the wake of last year's unauthorized accounts scandal. The bank got a black eye when it was revealed thousands of employees had opened checking and credit card accounts for customers without their permission, in a bid to increase fees.

In Orlando this week, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan hosted a company-wide town hall meeting to inform employees about efforts to win back trust.

“We’re making things right for our customers and our team members," Sloan said. "We are fixing problems, and we’re building a better bank for the future.”

New ad campaign

Employees also got a sneak peak at a new national advertising campaign with the theme “Building Better Every Day.” The advertising campaign will begin in mid-April across multiple channels.

Business Insider reports the bank has faced strong headwinds as it tries to reassure consumers, experiencing a pronounced decline in new accounts and an increase in closed accounts since the scandal broke last fall.

Citing company data, the publication notes that new checking accounts dropped 43% and new credit card accounts fell by 55% in February.

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Continued strength for new-home sales in February

Initial jobless claims head higher

Following a strong start for 2017 a month earlier, new-home sales rose again in February.The Commerce Department reports sales of...

Photo
Photo (c) kentoh
Following a strong start for 2017 a month earlier, new-home sales rose again in February.

The Commerce Department reports sales of single-family houses were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000 last month -- 6.1% above January and up 12.8% from February of last year.

At the same time, the government revised its January report to show sales at a rate of 558,000, versus the 555,000 initially reported.

"February's increase in new home sales is consistent with builders' growing confidence in the housing market," said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Granger MacDonald. "Builders are encouraged by heightened consumer activity and by the expectation that regulatory costs will decline in the year ahead."

Pricing and supply

The median sales price of new houses sold in February -- the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less -- was $296,200. That's down $15,100 from a year earlier and a loss of $12,000 from the month before.

The average sales price of  $390,400 is a year-over-year gain of $41,000 and up $35,100 from a month earlier.

The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 266,000, representing a supply of 5.4 months at the current sales rate.

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

Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

Also from the government, word that first-time applications for state unemployment benefits were on the rise.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), initial jobless claims jumped by 15,000 in the week ending March 18 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000. The previous week's claims level was adjusted upward by 2,000.

The less volatile four-week moving average came in at 240,000 – up 1,000 from the previous week's average, which was revised higher by 1,750.

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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EuroCan Manufacturing recalls pig ears pet products

The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

EuroCan Manufacturing is recalling individually shrink-wrapped, 6-pack, 12-pack and 25-pack bags of Barnsdale Farms, HoundsTooth and Mac's Choice Pig Ears...

PhotoEuroCan Manufacturing is recalling individually shrink-wrapped, 6-pack, 12-pack and 25-pack bags of Barnsdale Farms, HoundsTooth and Mac's Choice Pig Ears pet products.

The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

No illnesses of any kind have been reported to date.

The pig ears, lot number 84, were distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact the company Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (ET) at (888) 290-7606.

 

 

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Wellpet recalls one canned topper product for dogs

The product may contain elevated levels of naturally occurring beef thyroid hormone

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Payless steps towards bankruptcy, reports say

Retailers are having trouble meeting their first-quarter goals as a rough patch gets rougher

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AKC names the most popular pooches of the year

The lab takes the top spot, but Rottweilers are slowly rising through the ranks

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Report names top cities for Millennials

Salt Lake City, Miami, and Orlando rank in the top three

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PhotoMillennials may increasingly be settling down in the suburbs, but a new report finds several major U.S. cities have also caught the attention of those between the ages of 25 and 34.

According to research from Realtor.com, the top cities for Millennials are Salt Lake City, Miami, Orlando, Seattle, Houston, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Albany, San Francisco, and San Jose.

To come up with its ranking, the online real estate website analyzed the 60 largest markets in the U.S. and compared the share of Millennial page views in each area to the national average.

What's pumping Millennials into these metro areas? Job prospects and affordability, says Realtor.com.

Job growth and affordability

Low unemployment rates and affordable home prices have first-time home buyers flocking to Salt Lake City, Buffalo, and Albany, the study found.

In Buffalo, the main draw for the demographic was affordability. At 23%, Buffalo was found to have the most affordable home prices relative to salary. Albany came in second for affordability, where people only use 27% of their income on a home.

Salt Lake City had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9%, well below the national unemployment rate of 4.7%. Other cities with low unemployment rates included San Francisco, where the tech-fueled job market is drawing Millennials into the area, and San Jose, where job opportunities in Silicon Valley await.

Rising Millennial populations

“High job growth in markets such as Orlando, Seattle, and Miami, and the power of affordability in places like Albany and Buffalo are making these markets magnets for millennials,” said Javier Vivas, manager of economic research for realtor.com.  

“But what really stands out is that all these markets already have large numbers of millennials, which translates into strong populations of millennial home buyers," Vivas said.

The top markets in the report already have a significant Millennial population, Realtor.com noted. The average share of Millennials in the U.S. is 13%, but the top cities for Millennials were found to have an average share of 14%.

At nearly 16% of its total population, Salt Lake City had the highest share of Millennials. The population of Millennials was similarly high in Seattle (15.2%), Los Angeles (15%), and San Francisco (15%), despite the difficult-to-afford nature of the latter two locations. 

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Housing inventory hits post-recovery record low

Lack of homes putting upward pressure on prices

Real estate marketplace Trulia has confirmed what most would-be home buyers have long known. There just aren't that many homes for sale these days.Trul...

PhotoReal estate marketplace Trulia has confirmed what most would-be home buyers have long known. There just aren't that many homes for sale these days.

Trulia's quarterly Inventory and Price Watch found home values gained the most since 2012, but buyers are facing an increasingly tight supply of homes on the market. In the first three months of this year, Trulia says national housing inventory fell to a record low.

The number of homes for sale fell for the eighth consecutive quarter, falling 5.1% over the past year.

The report, which breaks down the market into starter, move-up, and premium homes, found inventory is tightest among starter homes. It's down 8.7%, while the inventory of move-up homes is down 7.9%. On the other hand, there appears to be plenty of premium, more expensive homes. The inventory is down just 1.7% -- the same as last year.

Rising prices and falling inventory

Rising prices and declining inventory is hitting the entry-level home buyer the hardest. As prices rise, affordability becomes a bigger issue. At the same time, fewer available homes simply complicates the problem. And increasing competition for the fewer available homes puts upward pressure on prices.

According to Trulia, the typical entry-level buyer now needs to dedicate 38.3% or his or her monthly income to buy a home. That's a 2.9% rise from last year. Affordability remains less of an issue for those in the move-up and premium housing segments.

Double-edged sword

"Recovering home values have proven to be a double-edge sword," said Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin. "While homeowners across the country are thrilled to regain equity in their homes, many have not been in a hurry to trade up. This has added to the inventory gridlock that ties up would-be starter-home inventory from ever coming on to the market, further constraining supply and decreasing affordability."

Some can't move up because they remain underwater on their mortgages. While they have regained significant equity in the last few years, home values still need to be above what they paid for their homes in order to sell and have enough cash for a down payment on another home.

The nation's home builders, who were very active during the housing bubble, have cut their production by nearly 50% since the bubble popped, making inventory even tighter.

McLaughlin says saving for a down payment is still one of the biggest obstacles for first-time buyers. He says this is hitting Millennials the hardest, as they struggle to save while having to paying increasingly higher rents.

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Sears raises doubt about its ability to survive

The company says it may go under unless it finds a way to compete with other retailers

Sears Holdings, the company that operates Sears and Kmart stores, is voicing doubts about its long-term ability to stay in business.In a filing with th...

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In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said there is "substantial doubt" about its viability unless it can raise additional capital.

The retailer has struggled, along with many other brick-and-mortar retailers, as more consumer purchases have shifted to online channels like Amazon. At the same time, overall retail sales have flattened in recent years due to demographic trends.

'Materially adversely affected'

In a 10-K filing with the SEC, Sears Holdings candidly warned that unless it found a way to compete effectively in the increasingly competitive retail sector, its business could be "materially adversely affected." In the document, it summed up the problem.

"The retail industry is highly competitive with few barriers to entry," the company said in the 10-K filing. "We compete with a wide variety of retailers, including other department stores, discounters, home improvement stores, appliances and consumer electronics retailers, auto service providers, specialty retailers, wholesale clubs, online and catalog retailers and many other competitors operating on a national, regional or local level."

The company notes that some of its competitors are actively engaged in new store expansion while online and catalog businesses, which handle similar lines of merchandise, are often not required to collect sales tax.

"We also experience significant competition from promotional activities of our competitors, and some competitors may be able to devote greater resources to sourcing, promoting and selling their products. In this competitive marketplace, success is based on factors such as price, advertising, product assortment, quality, service, reputation and convenience," the company said.

Problems are not new

Earlier this year Sears Holdings announced plans to transform its retail operations and possibly sell some of its assets, such as its Kenmore appliance and Die Hard battery brands, to raise much-needed cash.

As we reported in late December, Sears targeted about 30 Sears and Kmart stores for closing and announced it had secured a $500,000 line of credit to help it transform to meet the new retail realities.

Sears, meanwhile, has not been alone in its predicament. Just last month J.C. Penney announced it is closing around 130 of its stores in a bid to remain competitive.

It, like many other older, established retailers, announced it would shift more focus to selling online, a space currently dominated by Amazon.

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A February retreat for existing home sales

Prices, meanwhile, continued to rise

Sales of previously-owned homes fell in February after hitting the fastest pace in nearly10 years during July.The National Association of Realtors (NAR...

PhotoSales of previously-owned homes fell in February after hitting the fastest pace in nearly10 years during July.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- were down 3.7% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million.

Even with that decline though, the February sales pace is 5.4% ahead of a year ago.

Supply and affordability take a toll

Closings on home sales were the result of too few properties for sale and weakening affordability conditions.

“Realtors are reporting stronger foot traffic from a year ago, but low supply in the affordable price range continues to be the pest that's pushing up price growth and pressuring the budgets of prospective buyers,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Newly listed properties are being snatched up quickly so far this year and leaving behind minimal choices for buyers trying to reach the market.”

Yun also noted that a growing share of homeowners in NAR's first quarter home survey said now is a good time to sell, but added that, “until an increase in listings actually occurs, home prices will continue to move hastily.”

Pricing and inventory

The median existing-home price for all housing types was $228,400 last month -- up 7.7% from February 2016. That increase was the fastest since last January, marking the 60th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. The median is the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less.

Total housing inventory at the end of February was up 4.2% to 1.75 million existing homes available for sale, but down 6.4% from a year ago. It now has fallen year-over-year for 21 straight months. At the current sales pace, unsold inventory is at a 3.8-month supply.

Sales by region

  • Existing-home sales in the Northeast plunged 13.8% in February to an annual rate of 690,000, but are still 1.5% above a year ago. The median price rose 4.1% from the same period a year earlier to $250,200.
  • In the Midwest, sales were down 7.0% to an annual rate of 1.20 million. Still, they're up 2.6% from February 2016. The median price was $171,700 -- up 6.1% from a year ago.
  • The South saw existing-home sales rise 1.3% to an annual rate of 2.34 million -- 5.9% above the previous February. The median price shot up 9.6% from a year ago to $205,300.
  • Sales in the West fell 3.1% to an annual rate of 1.25 million, but are 9.6% above the year-ago level. The median price came in at $339,900, a year-over-year gain of 9.6%.
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Honda CR-V earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award

The vehicle's crash avoidance system was rated superior

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has selected the redesigned Honda CR-V as the latest recipient of its 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.The...

PhotoThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has selected the redesigned Honda CR-V as the latest recipient of its 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

The 2017 CR-V, like the previous generation of the small SUV, earned across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings. In addition, it's available with an optional front crash prevention system that earns a superior rating and acceptable-rated headlights.

When equipped with front crash prevention, the vehicle avoided collisions in the Institute's 12 mph and 25 mph track tests. The system also has a forward collision warning system that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The LED headlights that come with the CR-V's Touring trim received an acceptable rating. The halogen lights on the model's other trim levels are rated marginal.

To earn the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

It also must have an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

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Mortgage applications post first decline in four weeks

Contract interest rates were mixed

After rising for three consecutive weeks, mortgage applications have moved lower.The latest survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows applicat...

PhotoAfter rising for three consecutive weeks, mortgage applications have moved lower.

The latest survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows applications were down 2.7% in the week ending March 17.

The Refinance Index was also lower, dropping 3% from the previous week, pushing the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 45.1% of total applications from 45.6% the week before.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 9.0% of total applications -- the highest level since October 2014.

The FHA share dipped to 10.9% from 11.1%, the VA share of total applications fell 1% to 10.1%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 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) was unchanged at 4.46%, with points increasing to 0.41 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate was unchanged from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) fell four basis points -- to 4.40% from 4.44% -- with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA rose from 4.29% to 4.33% -- its highest level since January 2014, with points increasing to 0.40 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs inched up two basis points to 3.68%, with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate was unchanged from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs slipped to 3.41% from 3.45%, with points increasing to 0.25 from 0.24 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

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

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One more recall expansion for Vulto Creamery cheeses

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.Testing results...

PhotoVulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.

Testing results from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) found Ouleout lot # 617 positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and New York Department of Agriculture and Markets found possible contamination of Ouleout lot #623.

In the first expansion earlier this month, the company disclosed that testing results have identified Ouleout product contamination, similar to the strain isolated from a cluster outbreak of Listeriosis responsible for six illnesses and two confirmed deaths.

The soft raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland and Washington, D.C.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 607-222-3995 Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

 

 

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Polaris Recalls Sportsman 850 and 1000 ATVs

The right side panel heat shield can melt, posing burn and fire hazards

Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 19,200 Sportsman 850 and 1000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)The right side panel heat shield can m...

PhotoPolaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 19,200 Sportsman 850 and 1000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)

The right side panel heat shield can melt, posing burn and fire hazards to riders. In addition, in 2015 Sportsman 1000 ATVs, the exhaust springs can stretch and damage the exhaust seal, which can result in exhaust leaks and pose burn and fire hazards.

The company has received at least 793 incidents, including reports of warped, melted or burned side panels, 47 fires and four minor burn injuries.

This recall involves all model year 2015 and 2016 Polaris Sportsman 850 and 1000 model all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and “Sportsman 850” or “Sportsman 1000” is printed on the side of the steering column. The ATVs were sold in several colors. The model number is located on the fuel tank cover.

The following models are being recalled:

Model Year

Model Number

Model/Color

2015

A15SXA85AJ

Sportsman 850 White Lightning

2015

A15SXA85AA

Sportsman 850 Sage Green

2015

A15SXA85AC

Sportsman 850 Polaris Pursuit Camo

2015

A15SXE85AS

Sportsman 850 SP Sunset Red

2015

A15SXE85AM

Sportsman 850 SP Titanium Matte Metallic

2015

A15SYE85AS

Sportsman Touring 850 SP Sunset Red

2015

A15SYE85AV

Sportsman Touring 850 SP Blue Fire

2015

A15SXE95AW

Sportsman XP 1000 Matte White Le

2015

A15SXE95AK

Sportsman XP 1000 SP Black Pearl Metallic

2015

A15SXE95AC

Sportsman XP 1000 Polaris Pursuit Camo

2015

A15SYE95AX

Sportsman Touring XP 1000 Bronze Mist

2015

A15SXL95AM

Sportsman XP 1000 Titanium Matte Metallic

2015

A15SYL95AP

Sportsman XP 1000 Touring White Pearl Metal

2016

A16SXA85A2

Sportsman 850 White Lightning

2016

A16SXA85A1

Sportsman 850 Sage Green

2016

A16SXA85A9

Sportsman 850 Polaris Pursuit® Camo

2016

A16SXE85AB

Sportsman 850 SP Velocity Blue

2016

A16SXE85AS

Sportsman 850 SP Sunset Red

2016

A16SXN85A3

Sportsman 850 High Lifter Edition

2016

A16SXE85AM

Sportsman 850 SP Titanium Matte Metallic

2016

A16SYE85AS

Sportsman Touring 850 SP Sunset Red

2016

A16SXE95AG

Sportsman XP 1000 Matte Sagebrush Green

2016

A16SXE95AR

Sportsman XP 1000 Havasu Red Pearl

2016

A16SXD95A9

Sportsman XP 1000 Hunter Edition

2016

A16SYE95AK

Sportsman Touring XP 1000 Black Pearl

2016

A16SXM95AL

Sportsman XP 1000 High Lifter Edition

2016

A16SYE95AP

The ATVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from May 2014, through March 2017, for between $8,500 and $15,000.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ATVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off-Road Safety Recalls” for more information. In addition, check your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the “Product Safety Recalls” page to see if your vehicle is included in any recalls.

 

 

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H & B Packing recalls boneless beef products

The products may be contaminated with E. coli O103

H & B Packing Co., of Waco, Texas, is recalling approximately 79,461 pounds of boneless beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103.There...

PhotoH & B Packing Co., of Waco, Texas, is recalling approximately 79,461 pounds of boneless beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103.

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

The following items, produced on March 6, 2017, are being recalled:.

  • 60-lb. box containing boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.
  • Multiple combo bins containing 73,682-lbs of boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.
  • Two combo bins containing 4,095-lb of “Beef Chuck” with case code 73033 and production date 03/06/17.
  • Combo bin containing 1,624-lb of “Beef 94S Combos” with case code 118078 and production date 3/06/17.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. M13054” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to food manufacturers in Texas.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Kris Shirey at (254) 752-2506.

 

 

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U.S. bans electronic devices from airline cabins on some Mid-East flights

Rule covers direct flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa

A new U.S. Transportation Department rule taking effect today prohibits passengers from carrying electronic devices aboard commercial aircraft flying direc...

PhotoA new U.S. Transportation Department rule taking effect today prohibits passengers from carrying electronic devices aboard commercial aircraft flying directly to the U.S. from certain Middle Eastern countries.

A number of news outlets reporting the ban have quoted “senior U.S. officials” providing details of the new rule.

The devices – including smartphones, laptops, and tablets – may be packed in checked baggage.

The ban is said to be limited to flights departing 10 airports from the Middle East and North Africa and is based on security concerns. Officials told The Washington Post that intelligence continues to pick up on terrorist interest in targeting commercial aviation. The concern is that electronic devices can be modified to contain explosives.

According to Reuters, the affected cities include Cairo; Istanbul; Kuwait City; Doha, Qatar; Casablanca, Morocco; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates.

Reuters quotes Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen as saying the U.S "did not target specific nations. We relied upon evaluated intelligence to determine which airports were affected."

The affected airports are served by nine airlines that have non-stop flights to the U.S. The carriers include Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.

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How a home energy audit can help you save money

The Department of Energy offers tips for saving energy and lowering costs

If your winter heating bills were higher than expected, there may be areas for improvement in your home's energy envelope.And if it cost more to heat y...

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Blue Buffalo recalls dog food product

The product may contain elevated levels of naturally- occurring beef thyroid hormones

Blue Buffalo Company is recalling one production lot of BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs.The product may c...

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Common household items that can poison your pet

National Poison Prevention Week safety tips to keep your pet out of harm's way

Pet owners who are preparing to tackle the annual chore of spring cleaning may want to consider brushing up on their knowledge of common pet poisons. Chanc...

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The secret to success: high salaries and low housing costs

Zillow and LinkedIn try to identify the sweet spots

To enjoy a good standard of living, you need to find a job that pays reasonably well and housing that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.Increasingly, that'...

PhotoTo enjoy a good standard of living, you need to find a job that pays reasonably well and housing that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Increasingly, that's harder to do.

Take Silicon Valley, for example. Tech jobs in the region pay fabulous salaries, but because so many people are earning so much money, home prices are out of sight. Even apartment rents have hit the stratosphere.

Go to the Rust Belt, on the other hand, and you can get a great deal on a house or apartment. But you may have trouble finding a good paying job.

High-paying jobs and affordable homes

Real estate marketplace Zillow and professional networking site LinkedIn have teamed up to find that sweet spot -- locations at the intersection of high-paying jobs and affordable homes.

The two firms combined housing and employment data, using job listings, salaries, and the percentage of workers hired in the past year in health care, technology, and finance. They identified the markets in the U.S. where workers have the largest share of their paycheck left after paying the rent.

For tech workers who rent their home, Seattle was the top market, followed by Austin and Pittsburgh. Surprisingly, San Francisco was number four, thanks in large part to the generous tech salaries in the region. But if you aren't working in the tech industry, you might find it less than affordable.

People who work in finance will do best in Charlotte, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix. For people working in the healthcare industry, the sweet spot lies in Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Boston.

West Coast affordability challenges

Despite Seattle's presence on the lists, West Coast housing affordability is the worst in the nation. Zillow reports that both renters and home owners in West Coast housing markets can spend nearly half their income on housing.

In the interior of the country, meanwhile, it's a different story. There, the typical worker spends about 25% of his or her income on housing.

The report underscores the fact that relocating to accept a new job requires some careful thought, and maybe a little research.

"High demand and inventory shortages have driven up housing prices in some markets so much that even if you land a great job, the salary might not cover living within commuting distance," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "On the other hand, the nation's most affordable housing markets don't always offer plentiful employment opportunities."

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Painting tips to help a home sell faster

Neutral interior walls and earth-toned exteriors are most desirable to buyers, experts say

Listing your home for sale between May 1 to May 15 may help it sell faster during what is shaping up to be a competitive spring buying season. But could th...

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Disney agrees to provide $3.8 million in back pay

Labor Department says thousands of employees were paid less than mimimum wage

The Walt Disney Co. had a very big weekend, raking in $170 million at U.S. box offices with the nationwide release of its live action fairy tale remake, "B...

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King's Command Foods expands beef products recall

The products may be contaminated with extraneous metal objects

King’s Command Foods of Kent, Wash., is expanding its earlier recall of ground beef products that may be contaminated with extraneous metal objects.The...

PhotoKing’s Command Foods of Kent, Wash., is expanding its earlier recall of ground beef products that may be contaminated with extraneous metal objects.

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

The recall expansion now includes 37,114 pounds of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) beef products for a total of approximately 63,252 pounds.

The following items, produced on May 16 and 24, 2016, August 11, 2016, and October 5, 2016, are being added to the earlier recall:

  • 28-lb. case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72355 with packaging dates of 5-16-16, 5-24-16, 8-11-16 and 10-05-16.
  • 10-lb. case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED Certified Angus Beef Brand MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72090.
  • 10-lb. case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED Certified Angus Beef Brand MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72092.

Earlier this month, the firm recalled approximately 26,138 pounds of the following items, produced on October 13 and 24, 2016:

  • 28-lb. case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72354.
  • 28-lb. case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72355.
  • 15-lb. case packages containing 96 pieces of 2.5 oz. “FULLY COOKED SOUTHERN FRIED Beef Steak Fritter for Chicken Fried Steak” bearing case code 72559.
  • 15-lb. case packages containing 240 pieces of “FULLY COOKED COUNTRY FRIED BREADED BEEF FINGERS” bearing case code 72208.
  • 15-lb. case packages containing 60 pieces of “FULLY COOKED SOUTHERN FRIED BEEF STEAK FRITTER” bearing case code 72568.
  • 15-lb. case packages containing 80 pieces of “FULLY COOKED CHICKEN FRIED BEEF FRITTERS” bearing case code 72564.
  • 10-lb. case packages containing 40 pieces of “FULLY COOKED SOUTHERN FRIED BEEF STEAK FRITTER FOR CHICKEN FRIED STEAK” bearing case code 72206.
  • 10-lb. case packages containing 64 pieces of 2.5 oz. “FULLY COOKED Southern Style Breaded Beef Steakettes” bearing case code 74917.
  • 10-lb. case packages containing 160 pieces of 1.0 oz. “B-E-K-O FULLY COOKED COUNTRY FRIED BEEF FINGERS” bearing case code 72374.

Some of the recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. M1515A” inside the USDA mark of inspection were shipped to Department of Defense facilities and institutions nationwide.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact the King’s Command Foods recall hotline at (800) 325-4164.

 

 

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Model year 2016 Range Rovers and Range Rover Sports recalled

The passenger front airbag inflator initiator may fail to ignite

Jaguar Land Rover North America is recalling 205 model year 2016 Land Rover Range Rovers and Range Rover Sports.The passenger front airbag inflator ini...

PhotoJaguar Land Rover North America is recalling 205 model year 2016 Land Rover Range Rovers and Range Rover Sports.

The passenger front airbag inflator initiator may fail to ignite during a crash.

If the airbag inflator initiator fails to ignite, the passenger front airbag will not deploy, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

What to do

Land Rover will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger airbag, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 1, 2017.

Owners may contact Land Rover customer service at 1-800-637-6837. Land Rover's number for this recall is N026.

 

 

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Advanced Fresh Concepts recalls Edamame

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Advanced Fresh Concepts Franchise Corp. (AFC) of Rancho Dominguez, Calif., is recalling its Edamame (soybeans) -- UPC 0-23012-00261-9, dated between Januar...

PhotoAdvanced Fresh Concepts Franchise Corp. (AFC) of Rancho Dominguez, Calif., is recalling its Edamame (soybeans) -- UPC 0-23012-00261-9, dated between January 3, 2017, and March 17, 2017.

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recalled product was packaged by AFC Franchisees and sold under refrigeration in 8.0-oz. (227-g) packages and identified as “Edamame – Soybeans in Pods.”

The packed Edamame was sold at designated retail sushi counters within grocery stores, cafeterias and corporate dining centers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampssire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-866-467-8744 Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (PT) or by email at recall@afcsushi.com.

 

 

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Volkswagen recalls model year 2007-2010 Touaregs

The fuel filter flange may crack and allow fuel to leak out

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 20,908 model year 2007-2010 Touaregs.The fuel filter flange may crack and allow fuel to leak out.A fuel le...

PhotoVolkswagen Group of America is recalling 20,908 model year 2007-2010 Touaregs.

The fuel filter flange may crack and allow fuel to leak out.

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

What to do

Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the fuel filter flange if cracks are found. A protective cover will be applied to the fuel filter to prevent oxidization cracks from forming. These repairs will be made free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in May 2017.

Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for the recall is 20Z4.

 

 

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Model year 2017 Audi A5 Cabriolets and S5 Cabriolets recalled

The seat belt retractor pretensioners may malfunction

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 1,676 model year 2017 Audi A5 Cabriolets and S5 Cabriolets.A component within the front, rear, and rear center...

PhotoVolkswagen Group of America is recalling 1,676 model year 2017 Audi A5 Cabriolets and S5 Cabriolets.

A component within the front, rear, and rear center seat belt retractor pretensioners may detach after the seat belt retractor pretensioner is deployed in the event of a crash.

Although, the seat belt will operate as intended in the event of a crash, the pretensioner component may be a projectile within the vehicle cabin, increasing the risk of injury.

What to do

Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the safety belt retractors/pretensioners, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in May 2017.

Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for the recall is 69O8.

 

 

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BPA-free isn't necessarily better, new study says

Bisphenol chemicals accelerated breast cancer cell growth in a lab study

Scientists for years have urged the federal government to ban the synthetic chemical Bisphenol A from food packaging, citing extensive evidence that it eas...

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Travel splurges that are worth it

Travel can be exhausting but a few little splurges can make life easier

How we spend travel dollars is a personal choice. Do we allocate part of our travel budget for splurges, and if so, what’s worth indulging and what’s not?...

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Rare Frank Zappa albums to be re-released

A new generation will get a taste of the pioneering rock artist

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What to do to protect your home from hail

Tips on preparing your home's exterior for the impact of a spring storm

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20 jobs women are paid less for than men

Working as a financial advisor tops the list

There's been much discussion of pay inequities among men and women. Women have pointed out they tend to earn less than men for doing the same work and for...

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Leading economic indicators on a roll

February's gain was the sixth in a row

There's a good chance that the nation's economy will continue to chug along in the months ahead.The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index...

PhotoThere's a good chance that the nation's economy will continue to chug along in the months ahead.

The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.6% to 126.2.

“After six consecutive monthly gains, the U.S. LEI is at its highest level in over a decade,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board. “Widespread gains across a majority of the leading indicators points to an improving economic outlook for 2017, although GDP growth is likely to remain moderate,” he added, pointing out that “only housing permits contributed negatively to the LEI in February, reversing gains over the previous two months.”

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

The ten components of the LEI include:

  • Average weekly hours, manufacturing
  • Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
  • Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
  • ISM Index of New Orders
  • Manufacturers' new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
  • Building permits, new private housing units
  • Stock prices, 500 common stocks
  • Leading Credit Index
  • Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
  • Average consumer expectations for business conditions
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Is California's housing market peaking?

Declining inventory and rising rates are having an effect

California led the nation's housing recovery, with home prices in Southern California and the Bay Area zooming past their previous housing bubble highs....

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Job openings edge higher January

Hiring was also up a bit

Job openings edged up slightly during January, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).On the final business day of the month, t...

PhotoJob openings edged up slightly during January, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

On the final business day of the month, there were 5.626 million job openings, compared with 5.539 million in December, for a job openings rate of 3.7%.

The number of job openings was up a bit for the private sector -- from 5.065 million to 5.173 million, with most of them in professional and business services, and down for government -- to 452,000 from 474,000.

Hires

Hires during the month went from 5.303 million in December to 5.440 million, with a hires rate of 3.7%. There were 5.104 million private sector hires and 336,000 for government. Other services (+54,000) and finance & insurance (+41,000) led hiring in the private sector. The number of hires was little changed in all four geographic regions.

Separations

Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations, and is referred to as turnover. There were 5.258 million total separations in January, versus 5.084 in December. The total separations rate was 3.6%. The number of total separations was little changed in all four regions.

Net employment change

Over the 12 months ending in January, hires totaled 63.1 million and separations totaled 60.7 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.4 million.

This includes workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

The full report may be found on the BLS website.

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Builder confidence at 12-year high in March

However, challenges remain

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is at its highest point since June 2005.The HMI, a measure of b...

PhotoThe National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is at its highest point since June 2005.

The HMI, a measure of builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes, shot up six points during the month to a level of 71.

“While builders are clearly confident, we expect some moderation in the index moving forward,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Builders continue to face a number of challenges, including rising material prices, higher mortgage rates, and shortages of lots and labor.”

Still, “builders are buoyed by President Trump’s actions on regulatory reform,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald, “particularly his recent executive order to rescind or revise the waters of the U.S. rule that impacts permitting.”

The HMI uses a monthly survey to gauge builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” Builders are also 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.

A strong March showing

All three HMI components posted robust gains during the month. The component gauging current sales conditions was up seven points to 78, while the index charting sales expectations in the next six months rose five points to 78. Meanwhile, the component measuring buyer traffic jumped eight points to 54.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Midwest rose three points to 68 and the South rose one point to 68. On the other hand, the West dipped three points to 76 and the Northeast inched down a point to 48.

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RBR Meat Company recalls frozen pizza product

The product may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes

RBR Meat Company of Vernon, Calif., is recalling approximately 21,220 pounds of frozen pizza product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes....

PhotoRBR Meat Company of Vernon, Calif., is recalling approximately 21,220 pounds of frozen pizza product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

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

The following item, produced on February 23, 2017, is being recalled:

  • 50.6-oz. corrugated box containing 1 shrink wrapped 16” pizza labeled as “Marketside Extra Large Supreme Pizza,” with lot code 20547.

The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 1821” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail distribution centers in California, Nevada, Utah and Washington.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Eunice Wu at (323) 826-2144 Ext. 190.

 

 

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Advanced Sports International recalls Fuji bicycles

The rear wheel freehub can slip during pedaling

Advanced Sports International of Philadelphia, Pa., is recalling about 650 Fuji bicycles.The rear wheel freehub can slip during pedaling, posing a fall...

PhotoAdvanced Sports International of Philadelphia, Pa., is recalling about 650 Fuji bicycles.

The rear wheel freehub can slip during pedaling, posing a fall hazard.

The company has received four reports of freehub slipping while pedaling. No crashes or injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Advanced Sports International’s 2017 Fuji bicycles with Oval Concepts Rear Wheels. The aluminum or carbon fiber bicycles come in a variety of colors. The bicycle model name is printed on the frame of the bicycle. The wheel model number is printed on the rim of the wheel. The hub model number is printed on the drive-side hub flange.

Recalled models include:

Bike Model

Wheel Model

Hub Model

Fuji Altamira CX 1.1

Oval 950 Disc

3LLR

Fuji Altamira CX 1.3

Oval 723 Disc

Fuji Brevet 1.1 Disc

Fuji Cross 1.1

Fuji Gran Fondo 1.1 Disc

Fuji Gran Fondo 1.3 Disc

Fuji SL 1.3 Disc

Fuji Gran Fondo Elite Disc

Oval 924 Disc

Fuji SL 1.1 Disc

Fuji Norcom Straight 1.1

Oval 980

3NVR

Fuji Norcom Straight 1.3

Fuji SL 1.1

Oval 935

Fuji SL 1.3

Fuji Transonic Elite

Oval 950

The bicycles, manufactured in China and Taiwan, were sold at Fuji Bicycle and Authorized Oval Concept dealers from April 2016, through October 2016, for between $2000 to $8000.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop riding the recalled bicycles and contact Advanced Sports International to receive a free replacement freehub body.

Consumers may contact Advanced Sports International toll‐free at 888-286‐6263 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.fujibikes.com or www.ovalconcepts.com and click on “Recall Notice” at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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What are Millennials most likely to save for?

Study sheds light on the savings goals of Millennials and Gen Xers

When it comes to savings, the priorities of Gen Xers and Millennials are more alike than you’d think. A new survey by online loan marketplace LendingTree s...

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What's the best credit card for business use?

CreditCards.com picks three that it says are the best of 2017

If you operate a small business, it's helpful to keep personal and business expenses separate. That's why many business owners have at least two credit car...

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Where to find an internship this summer

Website focusing on entry-level jobs says opportunities have increased

For college students, landing a summer internship in their field can be a real advantage. Lots of former interns leave school with both a diploma and a job...

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January -- a tough month for air travelers

A security incident in Florida caused massive tarmac delays

Getting off the ground was a major challenge in some areas if you were flying anywhere during January.According to the Transportation Department's (DOT...

PhotoGetting off the ground was a major challenge in some areas if you were flying anywhere during January.

According to the Transportation Department's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR), airlines reported 30 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and 12 delays of more than four hours on international flights.

Fourteen of those long domestic delays and eight of the delays on foreign flights international were at occurred at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida on January 6 because of a security incident. That may have had a ripple effect at other airports on this date. DOT is investigating all reported extended tarmac delays.

During the same month, carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 76.0%. While that's not as good as the 81.3% on-time rate a year earlier, it is a bit better than December's 75.6% mark.

The airlines also report canceling 2.0% of their scheduled domestic flights in January, an improvement over the year-ago rate of 2.6%, but worse than the 1.6% rate chalked up a month earlier.

The ATCR, which is found on the DOT website, also includes data on chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays, and other problems with baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability, and discrimination. 

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New home construction gets a February bump

Initial jobless claims headed lower last week

Home builders took advantage of the warm spell the country enjoyed last month as housing starts rose 3.0% from the r...

Photo
Photo (c) alisonhancock - Fotolia

Home builders took advantage of the warm spell the country enjoyed last month as housing starts rose 3.0% from the revised January level to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.288 million.

At the same time, the Commerce Department revised the previous month's report to a rate of 1.251 million from 1.246 million.

Construction of new single-family homes were up 6.5% to a rate of 872,000, with gains posted in all regions but the South. The rate for apartment buildings dropped 7.7% to 396,000.

Building permits

Although the February construction numbers were encouraging, the outlook for the next few months isn't.

Building permits were issued last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.213 million -- down 6.2% below the revised January rate of 1.293 million.

The decline came primarily in authorizations for multi-unit buildings, which plunged 26.9% to a rate of 334,000. Permits for single-family homes were up 3.1% to a rate of 832,000.

Only the Midwest showed an increase in overall permits issued.

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

Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

Initial applications for state unemployment benefits were lower in the week ending March 11 after rising a week earlier.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports new claims totaled 241,000, a drop of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.

The four-week moving average rose 750 from the previous week to 237,250. Because of its relative lack of volatility, this tally is seen by many economists as a more accurate gauge of the labor market.

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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Whole Foods Market expands recall of Vulto Creamery cheeses

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Whole Foods Market is expanding its recall of cheese products made by Vulto Creamery to include Andes, Hamden and Walton Umber cheeses sold in eight stores...

PhotoWhole Foods Market is expanding its recall of cheese products made by Vulto Creamery to include Andes, Hamden and Walton Umber cheeses sold in eight stores in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

While Vulto has reported six illnesses and two deaths, Whole Foods Market has not received any reports of illnesses or injuries from consumers who purchased the recalled products.

The recalled products, cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with scale labels beginning with PLU codes 0200307, 0201357 or 0206308 and "sell by" dates from January 2, 2017, to April 2, 2017, were sold at the following Whole Foods Market stores:

  • 94 Derby Street, Hingham, Mass.
  • 1255 Raritan Road Unit 150, Clark, N.J.
  • 300 Bergen Town Center, Paramus, N.J.
  • 238 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • 1095 Avenue of the Americas. New York, N.Y.
  • 270 Greenwich Street, New York, N.Y.
  • 4 Union Square South, New York, N.Y.
  • 575 Boston Post Road, Port Chester, N.Y.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should bring their receipts to the store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or email vultocreamery@gmail.com.

 

 

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Hyundai recalls nearly a million Sonatas and Sonata Hybrids

The front seat belts may detach from the anchor pretensioners

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 977,778 model year 2011-2014 Sonatas and model year 2011-2015 Sonata Hybrids.The seat belt linkages for both front s...

PhotoHyundai Motor America is recalling 977,778 model year 2011-2014 Sonatas and model year 2011-2015 Sonata Hybrids.

The seat belt linkages for both front seat belts may detach from the seat belt anchor pretensioners, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

What to do

Hyundai will notify owners and dealers will inspect the connection between the seat belt linkages and the seat belt anchor pretensioners, repairing them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 7, 2017.

Owner's may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for the recall is 160.

 

 

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Bird flu suspected at Alabama poultry farms

The farms are across the state line from a Tennessee farm where the virus was detected

State agriculture officials and executives at a major poultry operation have announced thousands of chickens at three farms have been euthanized over the s...

PhotoState agriculture officials and executives at a major poultry operation have announced thousands of chickens at three farms have been euthanized over the suspected presence of bird flu.

The company, Aviagen, said it found the presence of virus antibodies in a flock, even though none of the chickens displayed symptoms of the disease. Officials were on high alert because the operation in Northern Alabama is just across the state line from a Tennessee farm where bird flu was detected last month.

According to Reuters, the company euthanized the flock and destroyed the eggs that had been collected from the chickens. Reuters quotes Alabama State Veterinarian Tony Frazier as saying about 15,000 chickens, out of a flock of around 153,000, were killed.

Alabama.com, a local news website, reports Frazier has issued a "stop movement" order for some poultry in the affected area. Officials so far believe the suspected outbreak is confined to a limited area.

Preliminary test results

Preliminary test results have confirmed bird flu at three sites, but further testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will determine the strain of flu and its severity.

Last week the USDA completed testing on bird flu samples from Lincoln County, Tenn., confirming the strain as H7N9 HPAI. All eight gene segments of the virus show that the virus originated among North American wild birds.

USDA took pains to point out the strain is different from the severe H7N9 virus that impacted poultry and caused illness among humans in Asia.

"USDA continues to work with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on the joint incident response," the agency said in a release. "Birds on the affected premises have been depopulated, and burial is in progress. An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the source of the infection.

Bird flu spreads quickly among animals but so far can only be transmitted to humans who come in contact with an infected bird. There have been no confirmed cases of human to human transmission of the virus.

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How often should you clean your pet’s belongings?

Pet toys, bedding, and accessories can harbor germs and bacteria -- here's when to clean them

The home of a pet owner is typically fairly easy to distinguish from the home of a non-pet owner. From the dog toys on the floor to the pet hair on the sof...

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U.S. researchers say e-cigarettes not a gateway to tobacco

Study said it looked for evidence but didn't find it

When electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) appeared in the marketplace a few years ago, it caught anti-smoking advocates by surprise.Cigarette smoking w...

PhotoWhen electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) appeared in the marketplace a few years ago, it caught anti-smoking advocates by surprise.

Cigarette smoking was on the decline. Now there was another product that looked like a cigarette, delivered nicotine, but contained no tobacco. Was it safe? Would it lead to a resurgence of smoking?

Since then, opposition to e-cigarettes among these groups has hardened. The devices are said to deliver harmful chemicals and serve as a gateway to cigarettes, hooking young people on nicotine.

Questioning conventional wisdom

While the health effects of e-cigarettes are still being studied, new research calls into question the contention that they are a gateway to tobacco. Researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) and University of Michigan flatly assert the evidence isn't there.

“The national trends in vaping and cigarette smoking do not support the argument that vaping is leading to smoking,” said Lynn Kozlowski, the paper’s lead author and a professor at UB.

Kozlowski says that existing research shows that as use of e-cigarettes has increased, overall smoking rates in the U.S. have declined. Kozlowski says the research team looked for the link between e-cigarettes and tobacco but didn't find it.

Questioning previous research

But what about previous studies that contend there is a link? Kozlowski and his colleagues say these studies have flaws. In particular, he says these studies don't clearly define what "smoking" is.

“Measures of ‘at least one puff in the past six months’ can mean little more than the experimenting vaper was curious how cigarettes compared,” Kozlowski said.

Kozlowski says the study only looked at the risks associated with moving from vaping on an e-cigarette to becoming a regular cigarette smoker. Critics of e-cigarettes, meanwhile, have worried that young people are increasingly vaping, and will develop a nicotine dependency that will eventually only be satisfied with tobacco.

Different ideas across the Atlantic

As we noted in 2015, the UK and U.S. have different ideas about e-cigarettes. Public health officials in the UK had just released a report saying e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

"My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health," said Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University, a co-author of the report.

The report also concluded there was no evidence that people who used e-cigarettes later took up smoking. Kozlowski says efforts in the U.S. should focus more on product safety.

“The public deserves accurate information on the health risks of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes,” Kozlowski said. “From the best evidence to date, e-cigarettes are much less dangerous than cigarettes. The public has become confused about this.”

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Are workplace mistakes more costly for women?

Study contends female financial advisors are more likely to be fired than men

When focusing on the workplace, women's rights advocates usually point out the difference in pay that men and women receive for the same work and responsib...

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Retail sales inch upward in February

Sales were generally soft across the board

Retail sales turned in an anemic performance in February, totaling $474.0 billion -- an increase of 0.1% from a month earlier but up 5.7% from a year earli...

PhotoRetail sales turned in an anemic performance in February, totaling $474.0 billion -- an increase of 0.1% from a month earlier but up 5.7% from a year earlier.

The Commerce Department report shows there were few, if any, stellar showings last month. Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers led the way with a sales advance of 1.8%, followed by nonstore retailers (+1.2%), health & personal care stores (+0.7'%), and furniture and home furnishing stores (+0.7'%).

On the losing end were electronics & appliance stores, where sales plunged 2.8%. Department store sales fell 1.1%, miscellaneous store retailers were off 0.8%, and gas stations sales dipped 0.6%. Sales at auto dealerships were down 0.1%.

The full report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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Consumer prices post tiny gain in February

Falling gas prices offset increases elsewhere

The Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) posted its smallest advance since last July -- rising just 0.1% in February. That put the gain o...

PhotoThe Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) posted its smallest advance since last July -- rising just 0.1% in February. That put the gain over the last 12 months at 2.7%.

The slight monthly increase came as gasoline costs fell, partially offsetting increases in other categories including food, housing, and recreation.

Energy down, food on the rise

Energy prices fell 1.0%, in February, its first decline since last July, with gasoline costs down 3.0%. Other major components were up, with natural gas rising 1.5% and electricity increasing 0.8% -- its first advance in four months. Over the past year, energy costs are up 15.2% with all of its major components rising.

Food costs were up 0.2% following January's 0.1% increase. Grocery prices, or food at home, rose 0.3% -- the sharpest advance since June 2015. Four of the six major grocery store food groups were higher: nonalcoholic beverages (+1.5%), dairy and related products (+0.8%), fruits and vegetables (+0.7%), and meats, poultry, fish & eggs (+0.2%). Cereals and bakery products and other food at home both fell 0.4%. Over the last 12 months, grocery prices are down 1.7%.

Food away from home (restaurant prices) rose 0.2% last month after an increase of 0.4% in January. Over the last 12 months, food away from home is up 2.4%, leaving the overall price of food unchanged.

Core inflation

Prices for all items, excluding the volatile food and energy categories, were up 0.2% in February, with the costs of housing, recreation, clothing, airline fares, motor vehicle insurance, education, and medical care among those that increased. Decliners included communication, used cars & trucks, new vehicles, and household furnishings and operations.

For the 12 months ending in February, this “core” rate of inflation was up 2.2% -- the 15th straight month it's been in the range of 2.1-2.3 percent. 

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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Mortgage applications up for third week running

Contract interest rates rose to three-year highs

Another increase in applications for mortgages -- the third straight.Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show applications were up 3.1% from a w...

PhotoAnother increase in applications for mortgages -- the third straight.

Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show applications were up 3.1% from a week earlier in the week ending March 10.

There was even better news for the Refinance Index, which rose 4%, increasing the refinance share of activity to 45.6% of total applications from 45.4% the previous week.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was the highest since October 2014 at 8.2% of total applications; the FHA share fell to 11.1% from 11.8%; the VA share dropped from 11.6% to 11.1%; and the USDA share was unchanged at 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) jumped 10 basis points -- from 4.36% to 4.46% -- its highest level since April 2014, with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.44 (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) soared 17 basis points to 4.44%, its highest level since April 2014, with points increasing to 0.28 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA rose to its highest level since January 2014 -- 4.29% from 4.18% -- with points increasing to 0.39 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs went from 3.57% to 3.66%, with points increasing to 0.45 from 0.36 (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 3.45%, with points increasing to 0.24 from 0.20 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

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

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Picone Meat Specialties recalls pork products

The products contain non-fat dry milk, an allergen not declared on the label

Picone Meat Specialties of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is recalling approximately 5,750 pounds of salami products.The products contain non-fat dry milk, an aller...

PhotoPicone Meat Specialties of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is recalling approximately 5,750 pounds of salami products.

The products contain non-fat dry milk, an allergen not declared on the label.

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

The following dry fermented salami items, produced from April 1, 2016, through January 18, 2017, are being recalled:

  • 115-lb. Box containing 6 – 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Spicy Dry Salami” bearing the case code P11.
  • 209-lb. Box containing 12 – 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Sweet Dry Salami” bearing the case code P17.
  • 192-lb. Box containing 9 – 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Spicy Soppressata Salami” bearing the case code P11.
  • 327-lb. Box containing 13 – 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Sweet Soppressata Salami” bearing the case code P17.
  • 1,120 -lb. Box containing bulk 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Sweet Soppressata Salami.”
  • 658-lb. Box containing bulk 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Spicy Soppressata Salami.”
  • 1,203-lb. Box containing bulk 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Sweet Dry Salami.”
  • 525-lb. Box containing bulk 20-24 lb. vacuum-packed packages of “Uncle Guiseppe’s Spicy Dry Salami.”
  • 300-lb. Bulk box containing vacuum-packed packages of “Giorgio’s Cacciatorino Piccante.”
  • 300-lb. Bulk box containing vacuum-packed packages of “Giorgio’s Cacciatorino Dolce.”
  • 400-lb. Bulk box containing vacuum-packed packages of “Giorgio’s Hot Soppressatta”
  • 400-lb. Bulk box containing vacuum-packed packages of “Giorgio’s Sweet Soppressatta”

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. M4445” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in New York.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Anthony Picone at (914) 381-3002.

 

 

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For-profit schools riding high under Trump regulation rollback

Education Department delays Obama-era rules cracking down on money-making schools

With the founder of Trump University in the White House, for-profit education is riding high once again. After years of increasing federal oversight, the f...

PhotoWith the founder of Trump University in the White House, for-profit education is riding high once again. After years of increasing federal oversight, the for-profit college industry sees President Trump's regulation rollback as its ticket to renewed growth.

The Education Department last week announced it would delay enforcing the "gainful employment" rules drafted by the Obama Administration to crack down on schools that leave their students with huge debts and scant job opportunities.

“This action is taken to allow the Department to further review the GE regulations and their implementation,” the agency said.

The rules cut off access to taxpayer funds for colleges and vocational training institutions if their graduates spend at least 20% of their discretionary income, or 8% of their total earnings each year, paying off student debt.

Regulations challenged

Schools have challenged the data used to make the determinations. 

The industry's lobbying group, Career Education Colleges and Universities, has taken the position that all schools -- public, private, and for-profit -- should be treated equally.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is an advocate of private education and said during her confirmation hearings that she would work to promote trade schools as an alternative to four-year colleges. 

President Trump's now-defunct Trump University claimed to offer training in real estate and finance but closed after a series of lawsuits and challenges from regulators and former students who said they got little for their money but sales pitches.

In November 2016, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of about 7,000 former students. 

One of the named plaintiffs in the case, Sonny Low, said he still had $9,000 in credit card debt and had to take a job at Home Depot to try to finally pay off the remainder, attorney Rachel Jensen said.

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Your chance of getting a job may be improving

Forecasting firm finds growing optimism among employers

The latest employment report from the Labor Department was cause for optimism if you're looking for a job. There was a big jump in job creation and the job...

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Consumers even less optimistic now about retirement

Survey finds we want to save but most of us are weak on the follow-through

The stock market is at record highs, in the eighth year of a bull market, but consumers contemplating retirement aren't sharing in the confidence. Capit...

PhotoThe stock market is at record highs, in the eighth year of a bull market, but consumers contemplating retirement aren't sharing in the confidence.

Capital One Investing's latest Financial Freedom Survey, which measures sentiment, found only 62% of participants think they're saving enough for a comfortable retirement. It's part of a downward trend, with 64% feeling confident last year and 72% the year before that.

Despite the declining confidence, even fewer are doing something about it. The survey found only 49% of participants have set up a long-term financial plan.

Specifically, the survey found that people thinking about their retirement years want to sock money away but aren't doing much to accomplish it. About 65% of consumers who are still working say they are putting away some money for retirement, but fewer than half are following a financial plan.

Big disconnect

For example, 39% have embraced the idea they should be saving 15% or more of their income for retirement but only 13% are actually doing it. More distressing, about one-third aren't saving at all.

According to the Labor Department, fewer than half of Americans have calculated how much money they need in retirement. It found that in 2014, 30% of workers in private industry, with access to a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k), did not participate.

Government economists say the first step is to start saving money each month, but soon after it is important to put together a plan. They say retirement is more expensive than most people think – that they will need about 70% of their current income to get by.

Individual retirement accounts

If your employer doesn't offer a retirement savings plan, you can set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and contribute up to $5,500 a month into it, providing not only retirement savings but tax advantages.

Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax deductible and any money the contributions earn while in the account are not taxed. When money is withdrawn from the account, it's taxed as ordinary income.

Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible, but the earnings aren't taxed either. There is no tax liability when the money is withdrawn.

If you aren't sure which is the better option for you, talk with a trusted and objective financial advisor.

A new type of Roth IRA is called myRA, a retirement account created by the Treasury Department to help you save for retirement if you don’t have access to a plan at work. For more information, visit myra.gov.  

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NYC sues Verizon over FiOS roll-out

Mayor Bill de Blasio says the company has broken its promises

There was a time when Verizon saw fiber in its future. It had a plan to lay fiber optic cable in major cities and use it to deliver broadband services at s...

PhotoThere was a time when Verizon saw fiber in its future. It had a plan to lay fiber optic cable in major cities and use it to deliver broadband services at speeds not previously available to the residential market. It called its service FiOS and it has become a prized but increasingly rare commodity as Verizon and other telecoms switch their focus to wireless services.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is tired of waiting for Verizon to finish wiring his town and has sued the company, saying it "broke the trust of 8.5 million consumers" when it promised they would have FiOS service by 2014.

“It’s 2017, and we’re done waiting,” the mayor said, noting that Verizon had promised to install fiber in "every residential building" in the city. “No corporation – no matter how large or powerful – can break a promise to New Yorkers and get away with it.”

For its part, Verizon says it is still laying cable and expects to spend an additional $1 billion in New York over the next four years. A spokesman said the company would "vigorously fight" the lawsuit and said de Blasio's claims were driven by "political self-interest."

“The de Blasio administration is disingenuously attempting to rewrite the terms of an agreement made with its predecessor and is acting in its own political self-interests that are completely at odds with what’s best for New Yorkers,” spokesman Raymond McConville said. 

The suit seeks a judgment declaring that Verizon is in breach of its agreement and ordering it to get back on schedule.

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Underwater homeowners still struggling to get to the surface

Those still underwater may stay there a while longer, but there have been improvements

The housing market has recovered to the point that many homes now cost more than they did at the height of the housing bubble.But real estate varies fr...

PhotoThe housing market has recovered to the point that many homes now cost more than they did at the height of the housing bubble.

But real estate varies from market to market, and there are quite a few homes that were purchased during the bubble days and are nowhere near to those once heady values. And that's bad news for the consumers who purchased them.

While each quarter there are fewer homeowners who owe more on a mortgage than their home is worth, the latest data from Zillow shows many of those underwater homeowners have a long way to go. The numbers show about half of those who are still underwater owe at least 20% more than their homes are worth.

At the end of last year, 10.5% of homeowners with a mortgage were underwater, an improvement from the 13.1% who were underwater the year before. At the height of the housing crisis, in the first quarter of 2012, 31.4% owed more than their homes were worth.

Big improvements

Zillow reports homes in the New York metro area have made a big improvement over the last year. So have homes in the Los Angeles area. There, only 5.5% of homeowners are still underwater.

But in the Chicago metro, more than 16% still owe more than their homes are worth. It's 14% in Baltimore.

When a homeowner is underwater on a mortgage, it means he or she can't sell their home without having to make a very large cash payment to the lender at settlement. That keeps a lot of houses from coming on the market, leading to the very tight inventory situation we now have in many parts of the country.

Persistent reminder

"Negative equity is one of the most persistent reminders of the long-term losses suffered when the housing market collapsed," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Accelerating home value appreciation over the past few months was a blessing to owners who have been underwater since the housing bubble burst, but not all underwater owners were able to ride that wave to positive equity.”

The bad news for distressed homeowners? Gudell says they aren't going to get their heads above water any time soon. She predicts “a long wait before returning to a positive balance on their home loans."

CoreLogic, meanwhile, is a bit more optimistic. Analyzing the same data, it finds that fewer than 8% of mortgaged homes are still underwater.

“Average home equity rose by $13,700 for U.S. homeowners during 2016,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic.

In addition to price appreciation, Nothaft says a decade of mortgage payments have reduced principal amounts. He says about 25% of all outstanding mortgages have a term of 20 years or less, which amortize more quickly than 30-year loans and contribute to faster equity accumulation.

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The rate of wholesale inflation slows in February

Energy costs played a big part in the increase

The cost of living one step shy of the consumer level -- referred to by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final de...

PhotoThe cost of living one step shy of the consumer level -- referred to by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand -- rose at a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.3% last month.

For the 12 months ended February 2017, wholesale prices were up 2.2%, the largest advance since an increase of 2.4% in the 12 months ended March 2012.

Services and goods on the rise

Over 80% of the February advance was due to a 0.4% increase for services, the sharpest since last June. A major factor in the increase was the 4.3% surge in the price of traveler accommodation services. Costs for chemicals and allied products wholesaling; legal services; apparel wholesaling; health, beauty, and optical goods retailing; and architectural and engineering services also moved higher.

Offsetting those increases was a 10.0% plunge in the price of automotive fuels and lubricants retailing, along with declines in the costs of wireless telecommunication services and for securities brokerage, dealing, and investment advice.

Prices for goods were up 0.3%, the sixth consecutive rise. Over half of that was due to energy costs, which were up 0.6% with electricity prices surging 1.6%.

Prices for fresh and dry vegetables, jet fuel, liquefied petroleum gas, pharmaceutical preparations, and residual fuels also rose.

Gasoline costs were down 2.5%, while prices for beef and veal, and for search, detection, navigation & guidance systems, and equipment also decreased.

The core rate of inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.3%.

The complete report is available on the BLS website.

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Vulto Creamery expands raw milk cheese recall

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is expanding its earlier recall of raw milk cheeses.The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.Al...

PhotoVulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is expanding its earlier recall of raw milk cheeses.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

All lots of four additional cheeses have been added to the recall: Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden & Walton Umber.

In all, Vulto has recalled the following eight cheese items: Heinennellie, Miranda,, Willowemoc, Ouleout , Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden & Walton Umber.

Testing results have identified Ouleout product contamination, similar to the strain isolated from a cluster outbreak of Listeriosis responsible for six illnesses and two confirmed deaths.

The recalled products were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, California, Chicago Ill., Portland Ore., and Washington, D.C.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact Vulto at 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

 

 

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Model year 2017 Infiniti QX30s recalled

The driver-side curtain airbag may not deploy in a crash

Nissan North America is recalling 79 model year 2017 Infiniti QX30s.The recalled vehicles have a driver-side curtain airbag inflator initiator that may...

PhotoNissan North America is recalling 79 model year 2017 Infiniti QX30s.

The recalled vehicles have a driver-side curtain airbag inflator initiator that may fail to ignite during a crash, preventing the airbag from deploying, increasing the risk of injury.

What to do

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver-side curtain airbag assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in March 2017.

Owners may contact Infiniti customer Service at 1-800-662-6200.

 

 

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King's Command Foods recalls beef products

The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

King’s Command Foods of Kent, Wash., is recalling approximately 26,138 pounds of ground beef products.Consumers reported finding a metal object in the...

PhotoKing’s Command Foods of Kent, Wash., is recalling approximately 26,138 pounds of ground beef products.

Consumers reported finding a metal object in the meat products.

There have been no confirmed reports of injuries or adverse reactions.

The following meatballs and chicken fried steak items, produced on October 13 and 24, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 28-lb. Case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72354.
  • 28-lb. Case bulk packages of “FULLY COOKED MEATBALLS” bearing case code 72355.
  • 15-lb. Case packages containing 96 pieces of 2.5 oz. “FULLY COOKED SOUTHERN FRIED Beef Steak Fritter for Chicken Fried Steak” bearing case code 72559.
  • 15-lb. Case packages containing 240 pieces of “FULLY COOKED COUNTRY FRIED BREADED BEEF FINGERS” bearing case code 72208.
  • 15-lb. Case packages containing 60 pieces of “FULLY COOKED SOUTHERN FRIED BEEF STEAK FRITTER” bearing case code 72568.
  • 15-lb. Case packages containing 80 pieces of “FULLY COOKED CHICKEN FRIED BEEF FRITTERS” bearing case code 72564.
  • 10-lb. Case packages containing 40 pieces of “FULLY COOKED SOUTHERN FRIED BEEF STEAK FRITTER FOR CHICKEN FRIED STEAK” bearing case code 72206.
  • 10-lb. Case packages containing 64 pieces of 2.5 oz. “FULLY COOKED Southern Style Breaded Beef Steakettes” bearing case code 74917.
  • 10-lb. Case packages containing 160 pieces of 1.0 oz. “B-E-K-O FULLY COOKED COUNTRY FRIED BEEF FINGERS” bearing case code 72374.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. M1515A” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to Department of Defense facilities and institutions nationwide.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact the King’s Command Foods recall hotline at (800) 325-4164.

 

 

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Girl's death blamed on hoverboard fire

Device was reportedly plugged in and charging when it burst into flames

The death of a three year-old girl in Harrisburg, Pa., over the weekend is being blamed on a hoverboard.The child wasn't using the device. Authorities...

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New device may help prevent hot car deaths

Parents receive a cell phone alert if they've left their child in their car seat

Hot car-related deaths happen all too often in the U.S. Since 1998, an average of 37 kids per year have died from being left alone in a hot car, according...

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Study finds big spread between low and high interest savings

NerdWallet analysis finds savers are leaving a lot of money on the table

When the Federal Reserve meets later this week the odds are it will boost the Federal Funds rate for the second time since December.Yields on governmen...

PhotoWhen the Federal Reserve meets later this week the odds are it will boost the Federal Funds rate for the second time since December.

Yields on government bonds have already moved higher, so what are you earning on your savings account? Probably not very much.

Most banks have yet to catch up to the interest rate curve, yet there are opportunities for savvy savers.

The personal finance site NerdWallet has looked at a wide range of data to gauge the spread between the lowest rates on savings and the highest. It estimates that if every saver got the best rate currently available, the cumulative gain in interest would total $5.6 billion. Put another way, consumers with savings accounts are leaving that much money on the table.

$274 more per year

Here's what the analysis found: a savings account with the highest yield pays $274 more per year than a low-interest account on savings of $25,000.

Even with pathetically-low interest rates, consumers are socking more money away than they did a decade ago. In 2007, savings amounted to 2.95% of disposable income. By last year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis found it had nearly doubled. Still, the NerdWallet analysts say consumers should be saving more of their income.

A way to boost savings is to save most or all of any income tax refund. The average refund is $3,120, which would go a long way toward covering an emergency expense, so you don't have to put it on a high-interest credit card.

So, what constitutes high-yield on a savings account these days? It's not what it used to be. Believe it or not, 1.10% today is considered a high rate of return on a federally insured savings account. It only looks big when compared to the paltry offerings of most passbook savings accounts, which are well below 1%.

You can find higher-yielding savings accounts by shopping around. For example, Ally Bank currently offers 1% interest on its online savings account.

Generous interest on some checking accounts

Your bank may also pay a relatively generous return on certain checking accounts. These accounts usually require you to make a certain number of debit purchases each month and have at least one direct deposit, but they can pay in excess of 2% on at least a portion of your checking account balance.

Still not impressed? Well, just wait. NerdWallet predicts rates are just beginning to go up.

“As interest rates increase, banks will want to lend more money, which means they need to incentivize consumers to deposit more money in checking and savings accounts,” said Sean McQuay, NerdWallet’s credit and banking expert. “As a result, soon banks will be competing for your money by offering increasingly high-interest yields.”

So start saving now. The more you have in savings when rates get attractive, the more interest you'll earn.

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Nissan recalls model year 2012 Versas

The curtain and seat-mounted airbags may deploy unexpectedly

Nissan North America is recalling 54,751 model year 2012 Nissan Versas.Degradation of the side impact sensor connector pins may cause the curtain and s...

PhotoNissan North America is recalling 54,751 model year 2012 Nissan Versas.

Degradation of the side impact sensor connector pins may cause the curtain and seat-mounted airbags to deploy unexpectedly if the door is slammed, increasing the risk of injury.

What to do

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will install a new jumper harness, and replace the side impact satellite sensors, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

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

 

 

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WikiLeaks offers to help tech companies block CIA spying

But tech companies appear dubious the problem is real

Among this week's revelations in the release of thousands of purported CIA files is the contention that some flawed computer security software is going unr...

PhotoAmong this week's revelations in the release of thousands of purported CIA files is the contention that some flawed computer security software is going unrepaired because U.S. intelligence agencies find them useful.

The files, code-named Vault 7, contend that the CIA knows about various security flaws but hasn't alerted the manufacturers because it wants to keep using them to spy on its targets.

On the heels of the document release, The Daily Mail reports that WikiLeaks director Julian Assange is offering to provide details of the defects to the appropriate companies. The information was redacted from the document release so that it would not be distributed any further among hackers than it already has.

A lot more information

Assange told reporters that he has access to "a lot more information" that he is willing to make available to companies so they can make their consumer products more secure.

"After considering what we think is the best way to proceed and hearing these calls from some of the manufacturers, we have decided to work with them to give them some exclusive access to the additional technical details that we have, so that fixes can be developed and pushed out, so people can be secured," Assange said in a video posted on The Daily Mail website. "And then once this material is effectively disarmed by us, by removing critical components, we will publish additional details about what has been occurring."

The documents published by WikiLeaks claim the CIA has penetrated the operating systems of iPhones and Android devices to intercept messages. Some documents alleged the spy agency is able to use Samsung smart TVs to listen in when the set is believed to be turned off.

Silicon Valley skepticism

But another British newspaper, The Guardian, reports tech companies appear to be in no rush to take Assange up on his offer. In fact, The Guardian quotes Ryan Kalember, a senior executive at Proofpoint, as finding "nothing earthshattering" in the documents. He says some of the systems mentioned in the documents are old and are either no longer used or have been updated.

In other words, he says it really isn't clear how many of the vulnerabilities highlighted in the documents are real. Another anonymous security researcher dismissed the documents as "unimpressive," saying they show a lack of technical sophistication at the CIA.

Writing on Sophos Software's Naked Security blog, John E. Dunn also seems to classify the document dump as old news.

"The significance of Samsung TV hacking is not that the CIA will do this to the average citizen – CIA target lists are tiny – but that they can do that at all," Dunn writes. "As we know from numerous IoT vulnerability stories, these devices have a security problem."

The same is true, he writes, for vulnerable smartphone messaging programs. The big news, he concludes, is the CIA somehow lost control of these documents. If WikiLeaks can get its hands on them, so can a lot of other people.

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Domino's settles New York wage theft suit for $480,000

The company will remain a defendant in similar cases across the state

Last May, the state of New York sued Domino’s pizza for allegedly underpaying its workers by an estimated $565,000. New York Attorney General Eric Schneide...

PhotoLast May, the state of New York sued Domino’s pizza for allegedly underpaying its workers by an estimated $565,000. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had said that the wage violations were the result of franchisees using a computer system called “PULSE,” which had been known to undercalculate gross wages and overtime pay.

“At some point, a company has to take responsibility for its actions and for its workers’ well-being. We’ve found rampant wage violations at Domino’s franchise stores. And, as our suit alleges, we’ve discovered that Domino’s headquarters was intensely involved in store operations, and even caused many of these violations,” said Schneiderman in a statement.

The case quickly attracted attention because it was the first time that New York had held a corporation liable for actions taken by its franchisees. However, it seems that three franchisees will ultimately be footing the bill for the suit. Shueb Ahmed, Anthony Maestri, and Matthew Denman, the owners of the three franchisees comprising ten restaurants, will pay back $150,000, $240,000, and $90,000, respectively, to affected employees.

Under the proposed agreement, Domino’s will remain a defendant in the case because of further allegations of wage theft across the New York. Schneiderman says that similar wage theft accusations and labor law violations have been resolved throughout the state, with money going back into workers’ pockets.

"The Attorney General has now settled investigations into labor law violations at 71 Domino's franchise locations in New York State, owned by fifteen individual franchisees. These locations comprise more than half of the franchise stores and over a third of the total number of Domino's stores in New York. . . The Attorney General's office has secured nearly $2 million in total restitution for Domino's workers statewide through these settlements," the Attorney General’s office stated in a release.

“My office will continue with our lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza to end the systemic violations of workers’ rights that have occurred in franchises across the State. We will not allow businesses to turn a blind e to blatant violations that are cheating hard working New Yorkers out of a fair day’s pay,” said Schneiderman.

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What Millennials are eating

New research suggests Millennials tend to opt for healthy snacks as meal replacements

Most consumers between ages 18 and 34 were raised in an increasingly health-conscious U.S., and their eating habits reflect it. Now, new research suggests...

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February brings solid employment gain

Construction and manufacturing were among the winners

Gains in construction, private educational services, and manufacturing helped push total nonfarm payroll employment up by 235,000 in February.At the sa...

PhotoGains in construction, private educational services, and manufacturing helped push total nonfarm payroll employment up by 235,000 in February.

At the same time, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), the jobless rate ticked down a notch to 4.7%.

As it released its February figures, the government revised December's job creation down by 2,000 to +155,000; the change for January was revised up from +227,000 to +238,000. That means employment gains for those two months were 9,000 more than previously reported.

Construction, manufacturing employment on the rise

Construction employment increased last month (+58,000), along with private educational services (+29,000), manufacturing (+28,000), health care (+27,000), and mining (+8,000).

Retail trade employment fell (-26,000) with losses occurring in general merchandise stores, sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores, and electronics and appliance stores.

Who's working and who's not

The unemployment rate for whites fell to 4.1% in February, while rates for adult men (4.3%), adult women (4.3%), teenagers (15.0%), blacks (8.1%), Asians (3.4%), and Hispanics (5.6%) showed little or no change.

The labor force participation rate, at 63.0%, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.0%, showed little change last month.

The average workweek for all employees held steady at 34.4 hours in February, while average hourly earnings rose by 6 cents to $26.09 following last month's increase of a nickel. Over the year, average hourly earnings are up 71 cents, or 2.8%

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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Model year 2017 Jettas recalled

The tire information label contains incorrect information

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 4,875 model year 2017 Jettas.The vehicle's tire information label has incorrect information, possibly causing...

PhotoVolkswagen Group of America is recalling 4,875 model year 2017 Jettas.

The vehicle's tire information label has incorrect information, possibly causing the operator to overload the vehicle. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, "Tire Selection and Rims."

Overloading the vehicle may affect vehicle handling or result in tire damage, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers install a corrected tire information label, 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 the recall is 01B8.

 

 

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Pier 1 Imports recalls bistro chairs

The chair can become unstable, posing a fall hazard

Pier 1 Imports of Fort Worth, Texas, is recalling about 14,000 Neely and Dahlia bistro sets and 1,100 bistro chairs sold in the U.S, and Canada.The bol...

PhotoPier 1 Imports of Fort Worth, Texas, is recalling about 14,000 Neely and Dahlia bistro sets and 1,100 bistro chairs sold in the U.S, and Canada.

The bolts and/or nuts connecting the chair legs to the chair base can loosen and make the chair unstable, posing a fall hazard.

The company has received six reports of incidents of the chair legs loosening and/or collapsing, resulting in four reports of injuries including bruises and abrasions from falls.

This recall involves Neely and Dahlia bistro chairs sold separately and as part of a set. The chairs are made from powder coated cast aluminum, and were sold in eight colors. The chairs are approximately 33 inches high by 20 inches deep by 18.25 inches wide.

A metal Pier 1 Imports brand plate is attached to the support ring on the underside of the bistro table. Only the chairs are included in this recall.

The bistro chairs and sets, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Pier 1 Imports stores nationwide and online at www.Pier1.com from January 2013, through, July 2016 for between $100 and $380.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and contact Pier 1 Imports for a free repair kit.

Consumers may contact Pier 1 Imports toll-free at 855-513-5140 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CT) Sunday or online at www.pier1.com and click on “Product Notes & Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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Various BMW vehicles recalled due to possible traction issue

The front driveshaft's universal joint may fail

BMW of North America is recalling 121,737 model year 2011-2013 X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive50i, X5 M and X5 xDrive35d vehicles, 2011-2014 X6 xDrive35i, X6 xDriv...

PhotoBMW of North America is recalling 121,737 model year 2011-2013 X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive50i, X5 M and X5 xDrive35d vehicles, 2011-2014 X6 xDrive35i, X6 xDrive50i and X6M vehicles, and model year 2011 x6 ActiveHybrid vehicles.

Water and debris may enter the front driveshaft's universal joint, causing excessive wear and possibly resulting in the joint's failure.

If the front universal joint fails, the front wheels would not be driven, affecting vehicle traction. Additionally, continued driving of the vehicle with a broken front universal joint may damage other components. Either condition may increase the risk of a crash.

What to do

BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front driveshaft, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2017.

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

 

 

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Biery Cheese Company expands cheese recall

The products may be contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes

Biery Cheese Company is expanding its earlier recall of specialty cheeses that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been c...

PhotoBiery Cheese Company is expanding its earlier recall of specialty cheeses that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been confirmed to date.

The following products have been added to the recall:

 Brand Description Product Size UPC Code Sell By Date
GFSMonterey Jack Cheese with Jalapeno Peppers1.5 lb.0 93901 77758 407/19/17

 

07/20/17

The recalled products were packaged at Biery Cheese Company in Louisville, Ohio, and shipped to distribution centers located in the States of: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin between February 7-10, 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 Biery Cheese Company at 1-800-243-3731 Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm (EST).
 

 

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Recalled SoyNut butter blamed for child's severe illness

Health officials say 16 people have been affected in nine states

Earlier this week, the SoyNut Butter Co. recalled its I.M. Healthy brand of soynut butter, saying it might be contaminated with E. coli. But the recall cam...

PhotoEarlier this week, the SoyNut Butter Co. recalled its I.M. Healthy brand of soynut butter, saying it might be contaminated with E. coli. But the recall came too late for an eight-year-old California boy and others, a lawsuit charges. 

Federal officials currently put the number of affected people at 16 in nine states. 

Mosby and Erin Simmons of Santa Clara, California, say their son ate the soynut butter for several days before he began suffering abdominal pains. He was hospitalized and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening form of kidney failure, the suit alleges, according to Courthouse News Service

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration interviewed nine of the 12 victims and discovered they had consumed the soynut butter at home and in childcare facilities.

“The epidemiologic evidence available to investigators at this time indicates that I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter is a likely source of the outbreak,” health officials said in a statement.

On March 2, the FDA and CDC held a call with the owners of the SoyNut Butter Company to advise the firm about the multistate outbreak linked to their SoyNut Butter products, the FDA said. 

Avoid all products

CDC recommends that consumers not eat, and childcare centers and other institutions not serve, any variety or size of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter or I.M. Healthy granola produced by SoyNut Butter Company. The CDC also urges consumers to check their pantry for SoyNut Butter products.

The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening

Children under the age of 10 and the elderly are more likely than others to develop severe illness, including HUS, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

According to the CDC, as of March 7, a total of 16 victims had been identified in nine states: Arizona, (4), California (4), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), and Oregon (2) Virginia (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (1). Eight ill people have been hospitalized and five people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Fourteen of the 16 illnesses were reported in children under the age of 18. No deaths have been reported.

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Netflix more widely used than DVR, researchers say

A study shows many TV services are changing the game for consumers

While it may have led to strife among couples due to “cheating” of sorts, Netflix ended 2016 on a high note among consumers. The company ended the year far...

PhotoWhile it may have led to strife among couples due to “cheating” of sorts, Netflix ended 2016 on a high note among consumers. The company ended the year far ahead of its competitors Amazon and Hulu in the streaming video business, and critics have lauded its original content.

Now, new research shows that, for the first time, Netflix is even more popular among consumers than DVR or on-Demand services (VOD). An annual survey conducted by Leichtman Research Group Inc. shows that 54% of U.S. consumers now have Netflix in their household, while 53% have DVR. This is a big change from 2011, when 44% of consumers used DVR and only 28% used Netflix.

The news may be viewed negatively by traditional cable companies, which have warily regarded Netflix for some time now. However, additional findings from the study show that many TV services are changing the game and finding prominence.

"On-Demand and time shifting TV services like DVR, VOD and Netflix have permanently changed the way that people can watch TV. Today, over 50% of households have a DVR and, for the first time in the fifteen years of this study, over half of households have Netflix," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

Survey findings

While Netflix has risen above DVR and VOD, the survey shows that many people choose to combine the services for an optimal TV viewing experience. The researchers found that of the 1,211 households included in the study, 30% use two of the three choices, while 14% use all three.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • 64% of households get a subscription video on-Demand (SVOD) service from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu -- 51% of all adults stream any of these services on a monthly basis
  • 23% of all adults stream Netflix daily -- compared to 6% in 2011
  • 81% of Netflix streaming users watch Netflix on a TV set
  • 64% of pay-TV subscribers have a DVR -- compared to 49% in 2011
  • 60% of DVR households have DVR on more than one TV -- compared to 33% in 2011
  • 65% of all cable and Telco video subscribers have used VOD from their current provider
  • 58% of all cable subscribers used VOD in the past month -- compared to 42% in 2011

While streaming and recording video has become wildly popular, the researchers say that traditional TV viewing hasn’t completely fallen off of consumers’ radars. "Traditional TV viewing still exists. For example, 46% of adults agree that they often flip through channels to see what's on TV,” said Leichtman.

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Consumers face continued income uncertainty

An improving economy hasn't always led to household stability

Since the financial crisis nine years ago, American households have been through some financial ups and downs.After the crisis turned an ordinary reces...

PhotoSince the financial crisis nine years ago, American households have been through some financial ups and downs.

After the crisis turned an ordinary recession into The Great Recession, a number of households lost income. Young people just entering the workforce often had to work two part-time jobs because full-time jobs were hard to get.

Things are a lot better now, but a new report from the Pew Charitable Trust found something hasn't changed since those uncertain times. A significant number of U.S. households are experiencing income volatility from one year to the next, defined as a 25% swing, up or down. More than a third of U.S. households experienced such a swing from 2014 to 2015.

Pew's most recent survey found only about 46% of respondents earned more money than they spend, meaning more than half are falling deeper into debt. Making matters more difficult, only 47% reported having consistent and predictable bills and income month-to-month. That makes financial planning harder.

Key takeaways

Some key takeaways include the fact that income volatility is widespread but is pronounced among certain populations. Thirty-eight percent of families earning below $25,000 reported significant gains in income. At the same time, 20% of Hispanic households, and those with no college, reported declining incomes.

When income shifts, the change is often dramatic. At the median, the incomes of households with losses plunged by 49%, while families with gains raised their incomes by 56%. The median household income gain was $20,500 and the median income loss was $25,000.

Finally, the families experiencing income volatility, whether a gain or a loss, saved less and reported lower financial well-being than households with a stable income.

Structural economic changes?

The report does not assign a reason for the increase in income volatility, but the answer could lie in structural changes to the economy since 2008. The rise of the "gig economy" has led to more temporary and contract positions. They may pay well for a period of time before expiring.

Since the financial crisis, more people have started businesses, which are often "boot strapped" and under-capitalized. As businesses ramp up there are often periods where business is slow.

Whatever the reason, the Pew reports finds there are more U.S. households where income is not steady and predictable. When that's the case, it is more of a challenge to plan and budget and may leave families feeling less financially stable.

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Lowe's launches new VR experience to help DIYers

Holoroom How To walks users through the process of completing an unfamiliar project

Currently, many consumers turn to YouTube to learn how to do some kind of home improvement project. Now, Lowe’s is experimenting with technology to take th...

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Looking for a job? Here's what offers the best pay

Employment sites show health care and management provide the best opportunities

The job market appears to have shifted. The most recent numbers show employers are hiring more people, allowing job seekers to be a little more selective....

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2017's top balance transfer credit cards

Card comparison site picks the Citi Diamond Preferred and Chase Slate

Credit cards come and go and sometimes the terms change, so it's a good idea to keep up to date on the latest offerings.This year, card comparison site...

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Job cuts down sharply in February

First-time jobless claims were on the rise last week

Although there may not be a connection, the shortest month of the year saw a big drop in job cut announcements.Outp...

Photo
Photo (c) kikkerdirk - Fotolia
Although there may not be a connection, the shortest month of the year saw a big drop in job cut announcements.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports employers announced plans to trim their payrolls by 36,957 in February, down 19% from January.

So far this year, employers have announced 82,891 jobs -- a 40% decline from the 136,713 announced through February of last year.

Heavy hits in retail

Retail continues to lead all sectors in job cuts, with 11,889 terminations last month.

The largest in that sector came from JC Penney, which is closing 140 stores and cutting 5,500 jobs. Family Christian Stores is shuttering 240 stores in 36 states, eliminating 1,300 workers, and L.L. Bean is offering buyouts to over 900 staffers in an effort to cut its workforce by 10%.

“Retailers are experiencing a tremendous transformation from the traditional business model,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “The cost of digitizing merchandise, moving sales to online, and downsizing physical stores will likely take a toll on employees in this field.”

Firing and hiring

However, at the same time retail is cutting jobs, the sector is on a hiring binge. Through February, Challenger has tracked over 33,000 hiring plans announced by retailers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports retail experienced the most job gains in January -- 46,000.

In fact, overall hiring announcements are at an all-time high. Challenger reports that in the first two months of the year, employers have announced plans to hire 162,266 workers -- the highest January-February hiring total on record.

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Jobless claims

The number of initial applications for state unemployment was on the rise in the week ending March 4, with the BLS reporting an increase of 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted total of 243,000.

This marks the 105th straight week that claims have been below 300,000 the longest stretch since 1970.

The four-week moving average came in at 236,500 -- up 2,250 from the previous week.

The complete report is available on the BLS website.

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Spending boom projected for St. Patrick’s Day

Consumers are expected to shell out huge amounts of green

When you compare it with Christmas or Mothers Day, St. Patrick’s Day isn't what you might call a “major” holiday.But that won't stop consumers from the...

PhotoWhen you compare it with Christmas or Mothers Day, St. Patrick’s Day isn't what you might call a “major” holiday.

But that won't stop consumers from the spendin' o' the green for the wearin' o' the green.

The National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, predicts spending for St. Patrick’s Day revelry will hit $5.3 billion -- the high point in the survey’s 13-year history.

More than 139 million U.S. consumers plan to celebrate the Irish holiday, laying out an average of $37.92 per person to do so. That tops last years spending by $2.55 and beats the old record of $36.52 set in 2015.

“Now that winter is almost behind us and with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday, we will see more Americans getting together to celebrate with friends and family,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers should expect a nice boost in sales as consumers purchase apparel, decorations, food and beverages to help make their celebrations special.”

It's party time

The survey finds 83% of those celebrating will wear green to show their Irish pride, 31% plan to make a special dinner and 27% will head for a bar or restaurant. Twenty-three percent said they plan to decorate their homes or offices in an Irish theme, and 15% will go to a private party. In addition, 15% are planning to attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade, especially those living in the Northeast (21%).

In addition, 52% of those celebrating will buy food, 41% beverages, 28% apparel or accessories, 22% decorations, and 14% candy. Those folks shopping will do it at grocery stores (39%), discount stores (29%), bars/restaurants (21%), and department stores (18%).

While the holiday is most popular among individuals 18-24 years old (77% celebrating), those 25-34 will be the biggest spenders at an average of $46.55.

The survey, which was conducted February 1-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points, asked 7,609 consumers about their St. Patrick’s Day plans.

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Whole Foods Market recalls cheeses in four Northeastern states

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Whole Foods Market, in response to Vulto Creamery’s recall of soft wash- rind raw milk cheeses, is recalling the products from nine stores in Connecticut,...

PhotoWhole Foods Market, in response to Vulto Creamery’s recall of soft wash- rind raw milk cheeses, is recalling the products from nine stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and New York.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall includes Vulto Creamery Ouleout and Miranda soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses which were cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with scale labels beginning with PLU codes 0200305 and 0200306 and "sell by" dates from 12/27/2016 to 03/28/2017.

The Ouleout products were sold at the following stores:

  • 350 Grasmere Avenue, Fairfield, Conn.
  • 115 Prospect Street, Cambridge, Mass.

The Miranda products were sold at the following stores:

  • 170 Great Road, Bedford, Mass.
  • 575 Worcester Road, Framingham, Mass.
  • 647 Washington Street, Newton, Mass.
  • 2 Somerset Street, Portland, Maine
  • 1425 Central Avenue, Albany, N.Y.
  • 250 7th Ave, New York, N.Y.
  • 270 Greenwich Street, New York, N.Y.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products may bring their receipts to the store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

 

 

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Vulto Creamery recalls soft, wash-rind raw milk cheeses

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.Testing results...

PhotoVulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.

Testing results from the Food & Drug Administration found Ouleout lot # 617 positive for Listeria monocytogenes and New York Department of Agriculture and Markets found the possible contamination of Ouleout lot #623.

The recalled products were sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland and Washington, D.C.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should return the cheese to the purchase location for a refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the firm at 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

 

 

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How much sunshine is enough?

Spanish researchers say the answer varies with the season, time of day and other factors

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Five foods that can boost your heart health

Plant-based eating patterns can lower risk for heart disease, researchers say

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Report finds an increasing number of kids are getting sick from drinking hand sanitizer

Researchers believe older children may be drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk

Busy parents have been known to keep a few bottles of gel hand sanitizer in their car or purse to wipe out germs on-the-go. But children don’t always use h...

PhotoBusy parents have been known to keep a few bottles of gel hand sanitizer in their car or purse to wipe out germs on-the-go. But children don’t always use hand sanitizer for its intended purpose, researchers say.

A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that an increasing number of children are getting sick from drinking hand sanitizer. Over 70,000 children drank hand sanitizer between 2011 and 2014, the report revealed.

Researchers believe that older children may be downing the gel for its high alcohol content, while younger children may find the scent of the product appealing.

"Older children [aged 6-12 years] were more likely to report intentional ingestion and to have adverse health effects and worse outcomes than were younger children, suggesting that older children might be deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers," the team wrote.

Health effects

Most reported incidents (about 90%) involved children younger than five, but 6,200 incidents occurred among children aged 6 to 12. However, dangerous health effects can occur whether exposure to hand sanitizer was intentional or accidental.

The CDC wrote that liquid hand sanitizer -- which can contain up to 95% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol -- has been found to cause “serious consequences” including breathing difficulties, excessive acid buildup in tissues, and even coma.

While the most common effects are eye irritation and vomiting, information reported to the National Poison Data System (NPDS) showed that three children suffered seizures and five entered a coma.

What to do

In light of these findings, the CDC is urging adults to supervise children's use of hand sanitizers and to store bottles up and away from children -- or better yet, have children wash their hands with soap and water.

“Hand washing with soap and water is the recommended method of hand hygiene in non-health care settings such as the home and school,” the CDC wrote.

The report was published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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New research suggests caffeine may reduce dementia risks

Caffeine among 26 compounds boosting protective brain enzyme

Good news if you're a heavy coffee drinker. The caffeine in your favorite beverage may be helping your brain fight off dementia.Researchers at Indiana...

PhotoGood news if you're a heavy coffee drinker. The caffeine in your favorite beverage may be helping your brain fight off dementia.

Researchers at Indiana University (IU) are advancing that theory after a study identified 24 compounds, including caffeine, that appear to boost a brain enzyme that keeps dementia from occurring. The enzyme, NMNAT2, was discovered last year and the account of the findings appear this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

IU professor Hui-Chen Lu, who led the study, said the discovery could lead to development of drugs that boost the enzyme, perhaps creating a preventive treatment against age-related neurological disorders.

Misfolded proteins

The Indiana study was the first to reveal what Lu calls the "chaperone function" in the enzyme, that prevents the misfolding of proteins called tau, which can pile up in the brain as plaques as a person ages.

These misfolded proteins have been linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Of particular concern to researchers is Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that affects over 5.4 million Americans, and those numbers are expected to rise as the population ages.

The Indiana study is not the first to suggest that caffeine plays a beneficial role in brain health. Last August, researchers from three countries reported their findings that caffeine can combat the effects of age-related memory impairment.

Other research

In this case, the international research team focused on a certain receptor in the brain, called adenosine A2AR, which is linked to memory impairments related to age. Following up on previous research, the researchers say they were able to manipulate this receptor to induce a sort of “early aging” that led to the release of hormones related to stress and memory loss.

To prevent this early aging, the researchers tested a caffeine analogue on animal models. They reported that caffeine blocked the receptor from acting properly, which in turn normalized the memory- and stress-related deficits.

While coffee has had something of a checkered past when it comes to health -- in the 1970s it was thought to cause heart disease -- lately research has emphasized its positive role. Recent health studies have suggested it can reduce risks to colon cancer and multiple sclerosis.

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Gen X homebuyers catching up with Boomers and Millennials

After being slammed by the housing crash, this generation is back in the game

For Generation X consumers, the timing couldn't have been worse. Many bought their first homes in 2007 and 2008, just as housing bubble prices were hitting...

PhotoFor Generation X consumers, the timing couldn't have been worse. Many bought their first homes in 2007 and 2008, just as housing bubble prices were hitting their peak.

Baby Boomers had owned their homes for a lot longer and Millennials, by and large, had yet to enter the housing market. It was Gen X that got slammed the hardest when home prices plunged and millions of homeowners found themselves under water.

This year's Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), paints a very different picture.

A bigger share of last year's home buyers were Gen Xers, finally able to sell their starter homes and move up, thanks to rising home prices and an improving economy.

Still struggling with student loans

The survey also found that more and more Millennials and younger Boomers have children living at home; Boomers and Gen X are still struggling with student loan debt; and more Millennials are settling in the suburbs.

But Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says what jumps out of the report is the trial and tribulations faced by the Gen Xers, and how they are now overcoming them.

"Gen X sellers' median tenure in their previous home was 10 years, which puts many of them selling a property they bought right around the time home values were on the precipice of declining," said Yun.

Yun says the generation born between 1965 and 1983 has benefited from a much stronger job market and a 41% cumulative rise in home prices since 2011. Because of that, more members of that generation have been able to build equity and move up to a larger home.

Could help ease home shortage

"More Gen X sellers are expected this year and are definitely needed to ease the inventory shortages in much of the country," Yun said.

Gen X made up 28% of buyers in the latest accounting. That still keeps them in third place behind more numerous Millennials and Boomers, but their numbers have risen sharply.

Student debt is still dogging all three generations. Millennial households are most likely to be paying off student loans in addition to the mortgage, but Gen X households with student debt typically owe more.

Among buyers citing student loans as a major challenge to saving for a down payment, Millennials were more likely to have that problem than Gen X.

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Mortgage applications post second consecutive weekly advance

Contract interest rates moved higher as well

It's now two gains in a row for mortgage applications.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 3.3% in the week ending March 3, wi...

PhotoIt's now two gains in a row for mortgage applications.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 3.3% in the week ending March 3, with the Refinance Index surging 5% from the previous week to the highest level since December. That advance helped push the refinance share of mortgage activity to 45.4% of total applications from 45.1% the previous week, which included an adjustment for the Presidents Day holiday.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 7.7% of total applications -- the highest level since October 2014. The FHA share of total applications dropped to 11.8% from 12.3% the week before, the VA share of inched down 0.1% to 11.6%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 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 4.30% -- with points increasing to 0.44 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) went from 4.23% to 4.27%, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.25 (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 jumped 11 basis points to 4.18%, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs increased to 3.57% from 3.51%, with points unchanged at 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs shot up 13 basis points to 3.48%, with points decreasing to 0.20 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

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

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L.L. Bean recalls snowshoes

The plastic material on the snowshoes can weaken and break

L.L. Bean, of Freeport, Maine, is recalling about 3,000 pair of snowshoes and snowshoe packages.The plastic material on the snowshoes can weaken and br...

PhotoL.L. Bean, of Freeport, Maine, is recalling about 3,000 pair of snowshoes and snowshoe packages.

The plastic material on the snowshoes can weaken and break during use, posing a fall hazard to users.

The firm has received four reports of the plastic on the snowshoes cracking. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves the L.L. Bean Adventure Adjustable Snowshoes 25”-30” and L.L. Bean Adventure Adjustable Snowshoe Package 25”-30.”

The recalled snowshoes have an aluminum frame with Boa bindings and a deck made from polyethylene with “ADVENTURE ADJ 25-30” printed on the side and “L.L. Bean” printed on the front. They were sold in red (Carbon Chili) and blue (Glacier/Teal) and can be worn with men’s or women’s winter boots.

The recalled snowshoe package includes the recalled snowshoes, adjustable snowshoe poles and a bag.

The snowshoes and snowshoe packages, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at L.L. Bean stores nationwide, L.L. Bean catalog and online at www.llbean.com from November 2016, through February 2017, for about $170 for the snowshoes and $200 for the snowshoe package.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the snowshoes and contact L.L. Bean for a full refund.

Consumers may contact L.L. Bean at 800-555-9717 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) any day or online at www.llbean.com and click on “Recall and Safety Info” at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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Rochester Meat Company recalls pork sausage products

The products contain monosodium glutamate which is not declared on the label.

Rochester Meat Company of Rochester, Minn., is recalling approximately 13,330 pounds of pork sausage products.The products contain monosodium glutamate...

PhotoRochester Meat Company of Rochester, Minn., is recalling approximately 13,330 pounds of pork sausage products.

The products contain monosodium glutamate, which is not declared on the label.

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

The following raw pork sausage items, produced from November 14, 2016, through February 3, 2017, are being recalled:

  • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 40 patties per box of Rochester Meat Company “Pork Sausage Patties,” bearing the case code 10012724390418.
  • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 50 patties per box of Rochester Meat Company “Pork Sausage Patties,” bearing the case code 10012724390517.
  • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 80 patties per box of Rochester Meat Company “Pork Sausage Patties,” bearing the case code 1002724390029.
  • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 50 patties per box of Rochester Meat Company “Pork Sausage Patties NAT,” bearing the case code 1002724390036.
  • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 160 - 1 oz. links of Rochester Meat Company “Pork Sausage Links,” bearing the case code 1002724391002.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 8999” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to institutional locations in Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

What to do

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Debbie Green at (618) 857-4011.

 

 

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F.B. Packing recalls beef products

The products may be contaminated with plastic

F.B. Packing of Boston, Mass, is recalling approximately 8,430 pounds of shaved beef products.The product contains readily visible, long, thin strands...

PhotoF.B. Packing of Boston, Mass, is recalling approximately 8,430 pounds of shaved beef products.

The product contains readily visible, long, thin strands of clear soft plastic from packaging material.

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

The following shaved steak items, produced on December 21, 2016, are being recalled:

  • 10-lb. poly bag packages containing thin-sliced (shaved) pieces of “Frank Bertolino Beef Co. Inc. Certified Angus Beef XL Shaved Steak” with case code 71888
  • 10-lb. poly bag packages containing thin-sliced (shaved) pieces of “Bellissimo Silver Beef Shaved Steak.” with case code 71882

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 17994A” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and a “Use by” date of 7/21/2017, were shipped to retail locations in Illinois and Massachusetts.

What to do

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Leo Bertolino at (617) 269-6340.

 

 

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Consumer groups ask FCC not to toss privacy rules for broadband providers

The Trump-era commission has been racing to please the advertising industry

Bring up the subject of privacy and you're liable to get this answer: "Well, I don't do anything I'm ashamed of, so I don't care who knows what I'm doing."...

PhotoBring up the subject of privacy and you're liable to get this answer: "Well, I don't do anything I'm ashamed of, so I don't care who knows what I'm doing."

That's fine, but the issue of privacy in the internet era is not so much about others learning your secrets but about marketers and advertisers following your every virtual step and amassing huge data troves that are then used for everything from targeting advertising to you, determining your credit rating, and perhaps influencing your employment prospects.

This is the thinking behind privacy regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission under the Obama Administration, regulations that the Trump Administration is preparing to toss. Leading consumer organizations are coming to the defense of the regulations, urging the FCC to retain the privacy rules that limit how much data broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T can gather about you. 

"Before the internet was developed, consumers relied on the law to protect their privacy and the security of their correspondence through the mail, telegram, and telephone. Consumers should not have less privacy and security just because our systems of communication have evolved to include the internet," Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America say in papers filed with the FCC late Monday.

Racing to repeal

The Obama-era rules require broadband providers -- or internet service providers, as they are sometimes called -- to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before drawing on their Web-surfing history or app usage data for ad targeting.

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a longtime foe of the regulations, has already managed to delay implementation of a regulation that requires providers to take reasonable security measures to protect consumers' data.

Advertisers and broadband providers say the rules are unfair because they are inconsistent with more permissive Federal Trade Commission rules, which apply to websites but not to broadband providers.

The FTC generally recommends that companies allow consumers to opt out of data collection but doesn't require an opt-in procedure.  

But the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America argue that broadband providers are not comparable to other Web companies.

"Broadband internet access service providers have a unique, sweeping view into consumers’ daily online lives, and should be held to a higher standard than edge providers," the groups said in a letter to the FCC.

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ExxonMobile expanding Gulf Coast refinery operations

But the extra fuel may not be headed for your neighborhood gas station

ExxonMobile CEO Darren Woods says the company plans to spend $20 billion over a ten-year period to upgrade and expand oil and chemical operations along the...

PhotoExxonMobile CEO Darren Woods says the company plans to spend $20 billion over a ten-year period to upgrade and expand oil and chemical operations along the Gulf Coast.

Woods is talking up the economic benefits, with new construction projects at 11 new and existing sites, generating thousands of temporary and permanent jobs. But consumers might be asking if the project will result in increased supplies of gasoline, keeping U.S. prices low and supplies plentiful.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said he doubts that is part of the plan.

"They could be positioning themselves to use cheap energy and open up more refined exports," DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. "As the U.S. has matured in terms of fuels demands, it’s hard to imagine any refinery expansions were geared to serve U.S. motorists."

Export opportunities

In a statement, Woods hinted that's the case, with growing U.S. oil supplies creating new opportunities for exports.

“We are using new, abundant domestic energy supplies to provide products to the world at a competitive advantage resulting from lower costs and abundant raw materials," Wood said. "In this way, an upstream technology breakthrough has led to a downstream manufacturing renaissance.”

While U.S. law was recently amended to allow American oil to be exported, U.S. gasoline has always been cleared for sale beyond U.S. borders. And as long as exports don't impact U.S. supplies, raising the price at the pump for consumers, they could yield a benefit to the national economy, helping to narrow the trade deficit.

Growing demand in the developing world

Since there has been dramatic improvement in developing world economies in just the last few months, Woods says the company sees opportunity.

“These projects are export machines, generating products that high-growth nations need to support larger populations with higher standards of living,” he said. “Those overseas markets are the motivation behind our investments. The supply is here; the demand is there. We want to keep connecting those dots.”

In fact, U.S. gasoline demand has fallen in recent years, thanks to newer cars with higher fuel economy and the growing use of electric vehicles.

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Could smartphones get even smarter?

A Rutgers team is trying to help your phone understand you better

Your smartphone can often clamor for your attention like a three year-old. There are chimes for text messages, Twitter posts, email arrivals, and news aler...

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Consumer borrowing for cars at record high

More buyers are also extending the loan to six or seven years

Economists who say there isn't much inflation in the U.S. economy probably haven't shopped for a car lately.The average transaction cost on a new car i...

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Home prices post annual and month-over-month gains in January

The CoreLogic forecast calls for more of the same

There's a good chance the value of your home went up during January.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows ho...

PhotoThere's a good chance the value of your home went up during January.

Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows home prices nationwide -- including distressed sales -- shot up 6.9% in January from the same month a year ago and inched ahead 0.7% from December 2016.

“With lean for-sale inventories and low rental vacancy rates, many markets have seen housing prices outpace inflation,” said CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft.

Looking ahead

The increase in values seems likely to continue.

“The spring home buying season is shaping up to be one of the strongest in recent memory,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “A potent mix of progressive economic recovery, demographics, tight housing stocks and continued low mortgage rates are expected to support this robust market outlook for the foreseeable future.”

According to the CoreLogic HPI Forecast, home prices should advance of 4.8% from January 2017 to January 2018 and increase 0.1% from January to February.

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Ford recalls Edges and Lincoln MKXs and Continentals

The driver's front airbag may not fully inflate during a crash

Ford Motor Company is recalling 27,531 model year 2016-2017 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles.The driver's front...

PhotoFord Motor Company is recalling 27,531 model year 2016-2017 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles.

The driver's front airbag may not fully inflate or the airbag cushion may detach from the airbag module during a crash.

As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, "Occupant Crash Protection."

If the airbag does not fully inflate or the cushion detaches during a crash, there is an increased risk of injury.

What to do

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver front airbag module, free of charge. Owners will be notified when remedy parts are available, currently expected to be in August 2017.

Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17C02.

 

 

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Meijer expands cheese recall

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Meijer is expanding its earlier recall of cheeses to include its Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese and its pre-wrapped Ham Sub on Artisan W...

PhotoMeijer is expanding its earlier recall of cheeses to include its Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese and its pre-wrapped Ham Sub on Artisan White Baguette.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

There have been no known illnesses reported to Meijer associated with these products.

The recalled Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese was located on “cheese islands” within the retailer’s deli section, has the expiration dates of March 28, 2017, May 13, 2107, and June 10, 2017, and the UPC 8-86926 27573-5.

The recalled Meijer pre-made Ham Sub on Artisan White Baguette was located in its “grab-and-go” fresh deli cases with sell by dates between November 2, 2016, and December 30, 2016, and the UPC Code 7-13733 76499-5.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should stop using them and and either dispose of them or return them to the customer service desk at any Meijer store for a full refund.

Consumers seeking additional information may contact Meijer at (800) 543-3704, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

 

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Officials say there is no threat to the food supply

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Precautions to take to prevent a skin reaction

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Things home sellers try to hide

Don't make an offer until you're sure you've checked for these things

You're out with your real estate agent looking at houses, and in this market it's really tough. While you are considering whether or not to make an offer o...

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What to do to prevent a dryer fire

Cleaning the lint trap isn't the only precaution to take, experts say

Nearly 3,000 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year, causing an estimated $35 million in property loss, according to the the U.S. Fire Administrat...

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A nasty flu season could interfere with spring vacation season

A building flu season and spring break could create a perfect storm of coughing and sneezing

We're now at the peak of flu season, with the spring break travel season coming up fast. The two together could be a recipe for disaster.AIG Travel rep...

PhotoWe're now at the peak of flu season, with the spring break travel season coming up fast. The two together could be a recipe for disaster.

AIG Travel reports the current flu season is particularly nasty. The flu hospitalization rate was 29.4 per 100,000 people a month ago, compared to just over five per 100,000 at the same time last year.

That means the person in the seat next to you on an airplane has a much better chance of being in some stage of the flu.

AIG Travel's global medical director, Dr. William Spangler, says there are things travelers can do to minimize their risks.

Not too late to get a flu shot

Step number one is to get a flu shot if you haven't already been vaccinated this flu season; Spangler says it's the single most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick. The vaccine needs about two weeks to become effective, so don't wait until just before your departure.

While getting vaccinated is important, you shouldn't stop there. Spangler says travelers should frequently wash their hands, since a flu vaccine won't protect against all strains of the virus.

You might feel silly doing it, but taking what might appear to be extreme cleanliness measures could prevent you from getting sick. On an aircraft, carry disinfecting wipes to wipe down tray tables and arm rests, or other public surfaces you might come in contact with.

Staying healthy by eating right and getting plenty of sleep may also help. Some people take Vitamin D supplements, for example, but medical professionals are somewhat leery about its effectiveness. It's best to talk to your doctor before going down that path.

If you're sick, stay home

Finally, if you feel like you're coming down with the flu, by all means stay off of commercial aircraft. Don't subject fellow travelers to possibly getting sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu usually hits you suddenly. Symptoms usually include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Most people who get the flu will recover in less than two weeks with proper treatment and bed rest. However, it can be a serious, life-threatening illness for some, including the very old and very young. Some people suffer sinus and ear infections as a result of the flu.

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Trump Administration suspends comments on new airline ticket pricing

The suspension will provide more time to 'review and consider' the policy

If you have a comment about airline pricing, keep it to yourself. The Trump Administration has stopped collecting comments about a couple of left-over Obam...

PhotoIf you have a comment about airline pricing, keep it to yourself. The Trump Administration has stopped collecting comments about a couple of left-over Obama Administration proposals about how airline fees are disclosed to consumers.

One proposal, dealing with how airlines market fares, had generated more than 56,000 comments. The other, dealing with how baggage fees are disclosed, had only generated 49.

The Transportation Department last week announced it was suspending the comment periods to "allow the president’s appointees the opportunity to review and consider this action.” 

Airlines thus join automakers, energy companies, and Wall Street -- all have been looking for rollbacks on policies implemented during Obama's tenure.

New system

Airlines have been experimenting with a new system that would make it easier for them to display all the pricing options available, something that's hard to do in today's systems. Travel agents and comparison sites have argued that they should have full access to the new airline systems, freeing them from the 1960s-era systems they now use.

The airlines argue that the government shouldn't tell them now to run their business and have said their system will be better for consumers once it is fully operational. 

A group representing travel agents expressed disappointment with the decision. 

“Consumers deserve transparency in fare and schedule information and ancillary fees,” said Steve Shur, president of the Travel Technology Association.

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New TSA pat-downs may be a bit more intimate

The agency is stepping up its security screenings following embarrassing lapses

If you're one of the unlucky few selected for a TSA pat-down next time you travel, you may find it a bit more, um, personal than in the past. Embarrassed b...

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Consumers increasingly turning to personal loans

Similar to a credit card, a personal loan is only secured by your creditworthiness

Consumers are spending and borrowing money again. One way they are doing it is with personal loans.The personal loan as a credit instrument has been ar...

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Kids II recalls Oball

The clear plastic disc on the outside of the ball can break

Kids II of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 697,000 Oball Rattles sold in the U.S and Canada.The clear plastic disc on the outside of the ball can brea...

PhotoKids II of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 697,000 Oball Rattles sold in the U.S and Canada.

The clear plastic disc on the outside of the ball can break, releasing small beads, posing a choking hazard to young children.

The firm has received 42 reports of the plastic disc breaking releasing small beads including two reports of beads found in children’s mouths and three reports of gagging.

This recall involves Oball Rattles in pink, blue, green and orange with model number 81031 printed on the inner surface of one of the plastic discs and on the packaging. The balls have 28 finger holes and measure four inches in diameter.

Embedded in the rattles are a clear plastic disc with all orange beads and two clear plastic discs with beads of varying colors on the perimeter.

Only rattles with date codes T0486, T1456, T2316, T2856 and T3065 located on a small triangle on the inner surface of the rattle are included in the recall. The first three numbers represent the day of the year and the last digit represents the year of production.

The rattles, manufactured in China, were sold at Target, Walgreens, Walmart and other retailers nationwide and online at Amazon.com, Babyhaven.com, Diapers.com, ToysRUs.com, Walgreens.com and other online retailers from January 2016, through February 2017, for between $5 and $7.

What to do

Consumers should immediately take these recalled rattles away from young children and contact the firm to receive a full refund.

Consumers may contact Kids II toll-free at 877-243-7314 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or visit www.kidsii.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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Ohio Farms Packing recalls veal products

The products may be contaminated with E. coli O103

Ohio Farms Packing Co. Ltd., of Creston, Ohio, is recalling approximately 40,680 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O10...

PhotoOhio Farms Packing Co. Ltd., of Creston, Ohio, is recalling approximately 40,680 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103.

None of the products were sold directly to consumers, and there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

The the following items, produced November 30, 2016, through February 3, 2017, are being recalled:

60-lb boxes of “Atlantic Veal & Lamb Inc.: Boneless Veal SF” with product codes:

  • 511012
  • 511020
  • 511021
  • 511023
  • 511024
  • 511030
  • 511032
  • 511034
  • 511336
  • 511337
  • 511340
  • 511341
  • 511343
  • 511351
  • 511362
  • 511365

60-lb boxes of “Atlantic Veal & Lamb LLC: Boneless Veal” with product codes:

  • 507023
  • 507030
  • 507335
  • 507342
  • 507356
  • 507358

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 34569” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors in Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada.

What to do

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

Companies that purchase products from Ohio Farms Packing Co. Ltd. should contact the firm directly to determine whether the products they have purchased is subject to the recall.

Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Shawn Peerless at (718) 599-6400.

 

 

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Air travel with an infant: what to pack

Preparation is the key to a smooth and safe journey

Parents of infants may cringe at the thought of bringing their tiny tyke on board a crowded airplane, but a little preparation can make the journey safer a...

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Consumers affected by hearing loss to double by 2060, study finds

Researchers call on policy makers to plan ahead

If you’re at all frustrated with an older family member who’s hard of hearing, you might want to consider lightening up a bit.Researchers from Johns Ho...

PhotoIf you’re at all frustrated with an older family member who’s hard of hearing, you might want to consider lightening up a bit.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have conducted a study and found that the prevalence of hearing loss in older Americans is likely to rise dramatically in the next 40 years or so. Unfortunately, this is an issue that may also be indicative of greater health problems to come in the years ahead.

“Hearing loss is a major public health issue independently associated with higher health care costs, accelerated cognitive decline, and poorer physical functioning. More than two-thirds of adults 70 years or older in the United States have clinically meaningful hearing loss,” the researchers said.

“With an aging society, the number of persons with hearing loss will grow, increasing the demand for audiologic health care services.”

Hearing loss rates to double

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing audiometric data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. By cross-referencing this information with estimates from the 10-year population estimates from 2020 to 2060, the researchers found that the number of people that will suffer from hearing loss will increase from 44.1 million to 73.5 million during the time period.

Additionally, the study found that older adults will be most affected by the condition. The researchers estimate that 55.4% of all adults with hearing loss will be over the age of 70 in 2020. By 2060, that figure is expected to drop slightly to 67.4%. However, hearing loss is expected to increase by 7.6% in adults 20 and over during the same period.

The researchers point out that over the next 43 years, the number of U.S. consumers affected by hearing loss is projected to double, outpacing the overall population growth rate. They say that it is up to policy makers and elected officials to plan for this eventuality to reduce negative effects going forward.

“These projections can inform policy makers and public health researchers in planning appropriately for the future audiologic hearing health care needs of society,” they said.

The full study has been published in JAMA Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

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Court upholds NYC law targeting puppy mills

Pet store owners and breeders had argued that the law discriminated against them

A federal appeals court has upheld New York City laws intended to curb puppy mills. The ruling comes just a few days after San Francisco adopted legislatio...

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When is the best time to list your home for sale?

According to Zillow, it's a Saturday in early May

It's become a seller's real estate market in much of the country in the last few months. Declining inventories have increased competition for the fewer hom...

PhotoIt's become a seller's real estate market in much of the country in the last few months. Declining inventories have increased competition for the fewer homes that are for sale, and they usually sell quickly.

But if you're looking for an even faster sale, real estate marketplace Zillow suggests listing your home in late spring. Specifically, it recommends May 1 to May 15. Homes hitting the market in that two-week period, it reports, sell faster and for more money.

If you happen to live in one of the nation's 25 largest metro areas, you might think about getting on the market sooner, such as in April.

Home shortage has spurred activity

Zillow reports buyers are getting active earlier than in years past because of the shortage of homes on the market. They realize the process might take longer and that their attempt to purchase a home might not always be successful. The Zillow Group report notes fewer than half of buyers got the first home on which they made an offer.

"With 3% fewer homes on the market than last year, 2017 is shaping up to be another competitive buying season," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Many home buyers who started looking for homes in the early spring will still be searching for their dream home months later.”

The reason May is a good month for selling, Gudell says, is the anxiety some buyers may feel makes them willing to pay a premium to close the deal.

List on Saturday

The study also shed some light on the best day of the week for your listing to show up on Zillow. Not surprisingly, it's Saturday. That's when the most people are home from work at the start of the weekend and may be more inclined to search for houses.

In January, Mortgage News Daily reported that existing home inventory hit a record low. The 1.65 million existing homes available for sale at the end of December was down 10.8% from the previous month.

Inventory is down for a number of reasons, including the fact that new home construction is about half the level it was before the housing market crash.

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Costco memberships going up by $5

Warehouse retailer hikes fee in wake of declining earnings

Costco, like many retailers, is feeling financial pain these days. It reported fiscal second quarter earnings Thursday, showing a drop in both revenue and...

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Services sector continues to show strength

Initial jobless claims are at their lowest level since 1973

February was another good month for the non-manufacturing, or services, sector of the economy.The Institute for Supply...

Photo
Photo (c) z amir - Fotolia

February was another good month for the non-manufacturing, or services, sector of the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management reports the the NMI rose 1.1% last month to 57.6% -- the highest reading since October 2015, and the 86th consecutive month of growth.

A reading above 50% signals expansion, while anything below that suggests contraction.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index jumped 3.3% to 63.6%, the highest reading since February 2011. The New Orders Index registered 61.2%, 2.6% higher than January and the highest reading since August 2015.

The Employment Index inched ahead 0.5% to 55.2%, and the Prices Index fell 1.3% to 57.7%, indicating that prices increased, but at a slower rate, for the 11th month in a row.

Industry performance

The 16 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in February were:

  1. Utilities;
  2. Mining;
  3. Management of Companies & Support Services;
  4. Other Services;
  5. Accommodation & Food Services;
  6. Health Care & Social Assistance;
  7. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting;
  8. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services;
  9. Finance & Insurance;
  10. Public Administration;
  11. Educational Services;
  12. Wholesale Trade;
  13. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation;
  14. Retail Trade;
  15. Transportation & Warehousing; and
  16. Construction.

The two industries reporting contraction in February were:

  1. Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; and
  2. Information.
 
Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

From the Department of Labor (DOL), word that initial applications for state unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 in the week ending February 25 to a seasonally adjusted 223,000. That's the lowest level for initial claims since March 31, 1973.

The level for the previous week was revised lower by 2,000 to 242,000.

The four-week moving average was down 6,250 from the previous week to 234,250 -- the lowest level since April 14, 1973.

The previous week's average was revised down from 241,000 to 240,500.

The complete report may be found on the DOL website.

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Model year 2017 BMWs and and Rolls-Royce Dawns recalled

Seat-mounted side airbag inflator initiators may fail to ignite