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Consumer Watchdog wants privacy probe of Uber's app

The group's complaint to FTC says that Uber tracks former riders who deleted app

A consumer group has lodged a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), charging that Uber Technologies tracked consumers who had once used the co...

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Here are America's most deadly highways

The deadliest run is along Florida's Atlantic coast

To improve your odds against being involved in a fatal car crash, avoid Route 1 in Florida. That stretch of road had more fatal accidents than any highway...

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Some ideas for a Mom and the kids getaway

Travel site picks some age-appropriate destinations

Family vacations can either be a stressful nightmare or a bonding experience to create lasting memories. They're sort of what you make of them.With tha...

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Osprey recalls child backpack carriers

A child seated in the carrier can slip through the leg openings

Osprey Child Safety Products and Osprey Packs of Cortez, Colo., is recalling about 88,000 Poco child carriers sold in the U.S. and Canada.A child seate...

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Chromag Bikes recalls bicycle stems

The clamping bolts that secure the stem to the fork steerer can break

Chromag Bikes is recalling about 100 Chromag bicycle stems.The clamping bolts that secure the stem to the fork steerer and/or the handlebars can break,...

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Credit card rates at record high

CreditCards.com says the average interest rate is now 15.74%

Consumers who are carrying a credit card balance are paying a little more each month, even if they don't add a penny to their total debt.The average cr...

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How to find a dog-friendly neighborhood

Trulia says if you know what to look for, it's easy to identify

If you have a dog and are planning to move, you may have more to think about than the number of bedrooms and the commute time to the office. You'll want to...

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Fineberg Packing recalls ready-to-eat ham

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Fineberg Packing Co., of Memphis, Tenn., is recalling approximately 8,822 pounds of ready-to-eat ham that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes....

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Party Animal recalls dog food

The products may contain pentobarbital

Party Animal is recalling all lots of its 13-oz. cans of Cocolicious Beef & Turkey dog food (Lot #0136E15204 04, best by July 2019) and 13-oz. cans of Coco...

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Uncle John's Pride ready-to-eat sausage

The products may be contaminated with metal objects

Uncle John’s Pride of Tampa, Fla., is recalling approximately 139,909 pounds of ready-to-eat smoked meat and poultry sausage products.The products may...

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How would a government shutdown affect you?

You might have to wait longer for your tax refund and possibily change vacation plans

Don't look now, but Congress is about to play chicken with the White House over keeping the lights on once again. This time, the shoe is on the other foot....

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Beware of 'diet' foods with high sugar content

Researchers say many products are camouflaged to seem healthy but can cause lasting damage

So, you’ve decided to go on a diet. That’s great news, and it really should help you get healthier and shed some pounds. But what are you going to eat? If...

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The high cost of cancer

Besides expensive drugs, families usually face a decline in income

Cancer is a dreaded disease. Though survival rates have improved in recent years, the treatment is long, painful, and expensive.The recent focus on the...

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Mortgage applications bounce back

Contract interest rates were headed lower last week

A rebound in mortgage applications from the previous week's decline.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 2.7 percent in the we...

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Zutano recalls infant booties

The non-slip rubber grips on the bottom of the booties can detach

Zutano Global of New Bedford, Mass., is recalling 38,000 infant Cozie booties.The non-slip rubber grips on the bottom of the booties can detach, posing...

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Lowe's warns of new Facebook scam

Fake $50 coupons are showing up in timelines

Regardless of what you see on your Facebook feed, Lowe's is not giving away $50 gift cards for Mothers' Day.Scammers are posting a fake coupon on Faceb...

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Surviving the Trump Era and beyond

Disruption is everywhere but with the right strategy, you can make it through

An 1867 Matthew Arnold poem, Dover Beach, speaks of being "on a darkling plain ... where ignorant armies clash by night." That mi...

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Top online colleges in the New York area

The tuition might not be cheaper, but you might save in the long run

With the cost of college tuition rising much faster than the rate of inflation, and college loans loading students down with crushing debt, many students a...

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Feds seal deal to stop envelope-stuffing scheme

Consumers were told they could make $5,000 per week stuffing envelopes

You would think that envelope-stuffing scams went out with bargain offers to sell the Brooklyn Bridge. But apparently not; the Federal Trade Commission has...

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It's the moving season -- time to be careful

We have some tips to help you make the process as painless as possible

It's springtime and there are so many fun things that go with it: allergies, housecleaning, and perhaps most traumatic of all -- relocating.Americans a...

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Debt consolidation: the pros and cons

A loan might improve monthly cash flow but it can also pave the way to more debt

When consumers rack up lots of debt on several different accounts, they often find the various monthly payments take a huge bite out of monthly cash flow....

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What's your retirement strategy?

If you don't have one, you're probably not alone

As more Baby Boomers get closer to retirement every day, policymakers worry that too many of them are not prepared.To be prepared, you need a strategy...

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Cherokee nation sues opioid drug distributors

Complaint alleges distributors and retailers are responsible for the opioid crisis

The opioid drug crisis in the U.S. has grown by leaps and bounds. States have seen their drug treatment costs soar as more consumers become hooked on the p...

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Advertisers are the latest to embrace ad blocking

Even -- or perhaps especially -- advertisers worry about ads cluttering up the web

Believe it or not, the advertising industry is now talking up the idea of ad blockers.Concerned that annoying and intrusive ads are driving away web us...

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Court order blocks release of new Prince EP

A lawsuit claims that a music engineer who worked on the unreleased tracks had no right to make them public

It’s been nearly a year since renowned pop artist Prince passed away from an opioid overdose. Fans mourned the music icon’s death by rushing to sites like...

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A simple trick to boost your energy level

Georgia researchers say you don't need energy drinks

Consumers spend lots of money on energy drinks and coffee to get an extra energy boost. But it turns out it's an unnecessary expense.At least that's wh...

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Why world tensions are making mortgages cheaper

Meanwhile, the mortgage interest tax deduction could be in the crosshairs

The election of Donald Trump coincided with a gradual rise in mortgage rates, which had been at near record-low levels for much of 2016.But in recent w...

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FDA issues new warnings about giving codeine and tramadol to children

The danger of an overdose is much higher than with most adults, the agency warns

There's a lot of concern about opioid abuse by adults, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there are also serious risks associated with giving...

PhotoThere's a lot of concern about opioid abuse by adults, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there are also serious risks associated with giving opioids to children.

The agency said today that it is changing the labeling requirements for two types of opioid medications often given to children -- codeine, found in some prescription pain and cough medicines and some over-the-counter cough medicines, and tramadol, found in some prescription pain medicines.

"We are requiring these changes because we know that some children who received codeine or tramadol have experienced life-threatening respiratory depression and death because they metabolize these medicines much faster than usual, causing dangerously high levels of active drug in their bodies," said the FDA's Douglas Throckmorton, M.D.

"This is especially concerning in children under 12 years of age and adolescents who are obese or have conditions that may increase the risk of breathing problems, like obstructive sleep apnea or lung disease," Throckmorton said. Respiratory depression can also occur in nursing babies, when mothers who are ultra-rapid metabolizers take these types of medicines and pass it along to their children through their breast milk, he said.

Additional warnings

Throckmorton noted that since 2013, prescription codeine labeling has contained a Boxed Warning and Contraindication for children up to age 18 years of age regarding the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression following the use of codeine for pain management after the removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy).

Now, labels for both codeine and tramadol are being updated to include additional Contraindications and Warnings; among the updates are Contraindications for use of codeine or tramadol in all children younger than 12 years of age, warnings about their use in children 12-18 years of age with certain medical conditions, and a stronger warning recommending against their use in nursing mothers.

In addition to these labeling changes, labeling for tramadol-containing products will also get a Contraindication for post-operative pain management in children up to age 18 years of age who have undergone tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy, which is already in labeling for codeine products.

"We urge health care providers, stakeholders and the public to read the Drug Safety Communication that we issued today, which provides more detailed information," Throckmorton added. "We understand that there are limited options when it comes to treating pain or cough in children, and that these changes may raise some questions for health care providers and parents. However, please know that our decision today was made based on the latest evidence and with this goal in mind: keeping our kids safe."

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Lack of sleep makes it harder for anxious and depressed people to view the world positively

Study findings indicate that getting sleep is vital when it comes to managing the conditions

Those who suffer from depression or anxiety may find that getting through each day is a daily struggle. Working up the drive to perform even the simplest t...

PhotoThose who suffer from depression or anxiety may find that getting through each day is a daily struggle. Working up the drive to perform even the simplest tasks might take large amounts of energy, and naturally it would be easy to develop a negative outlook on the world.

Now, a new study suggests that lack of sleep may be behind the negative emotional responses that many anxious and depressed people feel. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) point out that anxiety and depression often lead to sleeping problems that may affect an area of the brain that regulates how we react to the world around us.

"Our research indicates sleep might play an important role in the ability to regulate negative emotions in people who suffer from anxiety or depression,” said lead researcher Heide Klumpp, assistant professor of psychiatry at UIC.

Reappraisal difficulty

The study assessed 78 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 who had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and/or a major depressive disorder. Using a device called an actigraph, the researchers measured participants awake time in bed over a six-day period to evaluate sleep efficiency. Before the evaluation, participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire gauging their sleep over the past month and to take part an emotion-regulation task involving reappraisal.

Reappraisal is an exercise where participants are asked to look at an image – in this case a scene of violence such as a war or accident photo – and try to look at it in a more positive way. For example, an image of a woman with a bruised face might be seen as an actress wearing makeup for a role rather than a survivor of violence.

"Reappraisal is something that requires significant mental energy. In people with depression or anxiety, reappraisal can be even more difficult, because these disorders are characterized by chronic negativity or negative rumination, which makes seeing the good in things difficult," explains Klumpp.

Less sleep stresses the brain

The questionnaire revealed that three out of four participants met the criteria for significant sleep disturbance, while the actigraph showed that most the group suffered from insomnia. When comparing data on all the tasks, the researchers found that those who reported poorer sleep on the questionnaire had less brain activity in a particular area of the brain during the reappraisal task. However, those who had more awake time in bed and lower sleep efficiency according to the actigraph had higher brain activity during the reappraisal task, indicating that their brains had to work harder to carry out the task.

"Because the questionnaire and actigraph measure different aspects of the sleep experience, it is not surprising that brain activity also differed between these measures. The questionnaire asks about sleep over the previous month, and answers can be impacted by current mood. Plus, respondents may not be able to accurately remember how they slept a month ago. The actigraph objectively measures current sleep, so the results from both measurements may not match," explains Klumpp.

The researchers say that their findings indicate that sleep plays an important role when it comes to regulating negative emotions, and that those who suffer from anxiety and depression could be at a disadvantage because their conditions tend to inhibit sleep.

The full study has been published in Depression and Anxiety

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Caramia Furniture recalls Jaxson/Cameron six-drawer dressers, night tables, and tall boy chests

The products may tip-over if not securely anchored to the wall

Caramia Furniture of Brampton, Ontario Canada, is recalling about 759 Jaxson/Cameron six-drawer dressers, night tables, and tall boy chests sold throughout...

PhotoCaramia Furniture of Brampton, Ontario Canada, is recalling about 759 Jaxson/Cameron six-drawer dressers, night tables, and tall boy chests sold throughout Canada.

The recalled products may tip-over if not securely anchored to the wall, posing an entrapment hazard. There have been no fewer than a half dozen such recalls in the U.S., this year alone.

Ikea recently agreed to pay a $50 million settlement for tip-overs involving the deaths of six children and toddlers, and in 2015 implemented a repair program that includes a free wall anchoring kit for certain tipover-prone pieces of furniture.

The current recall involves the Jaxson and Cameron six-drawer dresser, night table, and tall boy chest. The six-drawer dresser measures (52 inches x 18 inches x 34 inches; the two drawer night table is 25 inches x 16 inches x 26 inches; and the four drawer tall 36 inches x 18 inches x 44 inches.

The six-drawer dressers and the two-drawer night tables were sold in white, cottage white, and espresso colors. The four-drawer tall boy was sold in cottage white and espresso.

The affected products, sold between November 2013 and October 2015 on their own and as part of collections containing other unaffected products, have the following item codes:

The recalled products were sold with the following item codes:
ItemColourJaxson Item #'sCameron Item #'s
Night TableEspressoJAXS-NT-ES1CAM2D-318
DresserEspressoJAXS-DR-ES1CAM6D-318
Tall BoyEspressoJAXS-TB-ES1CAM4D-318
DresserWhiteJAXS-DR-WH1CAM6D-307
Night TableWhiteJAXS-NT-WH1CAM2D-307
DresserCottage WhiteJAXS-DR-CW1CAM6D-007
Tall BoyCottage WhiteJAXS-TB-CW1CAM4D-007
Night TableCottage WhiteJAXS-NT-CW1CAM2D-007
 

The item code and date code can be found on a label on the top right corner at the back of the product or on the product packaging.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should move them to an area where children cannot access them and contact Caramia Furniture to obtain free tip over restraint kits to secure the dresser and night table to the wall.

Consumers with questions may call Caramia Furniture toll-free at 1-877-728-0342, Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (EST) The also may order a free tip over restrain kit from the company's web site.

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Getting to your vacation destination this summer may cost less

Many European destinations provide double-digit discounts over last summer

Air travel may not be getting any more pleasant, but it may cost less this summer -- at least, some destinations are cheaper.Travel comparison site Che...

PhotoAir travel may not be getting any more pleasant, but it may cost less this summer -- at least, some destinations are cheaper.

Travel comparison site Cheapflights.com has analyzed this summer's fares and found huge discounts over last year's record low ticket prices. It highlights five destinations offering double-digit discounts over last summer.

Barcelona, Spain -- 41% less

There's a lot to do in Barcelona, especially if you're an art lover or an admirer of fine wines. The newly opened L9 metro line makes getting from the airport to the city center a lot easier. New attractions include Ferrari Land and the opening of Sant Pau's newly restored Sant Salvador hall.

Venice, Italy - 31% less

There are always plenty of good reasons to visit Italy, including great food and wine. This summer, Venice hosts the new Viva Vivaldi multimedia show at the Museo Diocesano d'Arte Sacra. Also on tap are the Festa di San Marco, a water parade of row boats, and the Venice Film Festival.

Lisbon, Portugal -- 26% less

Summer is always beautiful in Lisbon, and this summer it's also less expensive to get there. The city is rich in history and architecture. High on most visitors' list is St. George's Castle and a walking tour of the Alfama neighborhood, with its narrow, cobblestone streets.

Knoxville, Tennessee -- 17%

You don't have to fly to Europe this summer to save money on airfare. Cheapflights.com reports getting to Knoxville, Tenn., at the edge of the Smokey Mountains, is also cheaper this summer. The region hosts a variety of music festivals this summer, while mountain trails and lakes draw visitors who love the great outdoors.

Dublin, Ireland, 16% less

The capital of Ireland has always been a popular destination because of its beauty and affordability. Now, getting there from 20 U.S. airports costs less as well. This summer offers Bloomsday in celebration of James Joyce, Taste of Dublin, and the Dublin Writers Festival.

A lot of other destinations cost less this summer as well. Cheapflights.com highlights Colorado Springs, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Hilo, Hawaii; Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Spokane, Washington.

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Leading Economic Index suggests growth to continue through 2017

Initial jobless claims are on the rise

The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) was higher in March for a fifth consecutive month.T...

 

Photo
Photo (c) tashatuvango - Fotolia

The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) was higher in March for a fifth consecutive month.

The rise of 0.4% follows advances of 0.5% and 0.6% in February and January, respectively. Additionally, the index wrapped up 2016 with a gain of 0.6% in December and a 0.2% increase for November

“The March increase and upward trend in the U.S. LEI point to continued economic growth in 2017, with perhaps an acceleration later in the year if consumer spending and investment pick up,” said Conference Board Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research Ataman Ozyildirim. “The gains among the leading indicators were very widespread, with new orders in manufacturing and the interest rate spread more than offsetting declines in the labor market components in March.”

The LEI, a closely watched forecaster 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
Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

A give-back in the jobless claims last week.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports first-time applications for state unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 in the week ending April 15 to a seasonally adjusted total of 244,000.

Initial claims fell by exactly the same amount a week earlier.

The four-week moving average, which is less volatile than the weekly average and considered a better reading of the labor market, came in at 243,000 -- down 4,250 from the previous week.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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Emirates cuts back flights to five American cities

The ban on personal electronics on incoming Middle East flights has cut bookings

Emirates, hit hard by President Trump's ban on using electronics on U.S.-bound flights, is cutting its schedule to five American cities because of "signifi...

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Is the birth control you’re taking safe?

Researchers say some oral contraceptives negatively impact quality of life

We sometimes take it for granted that the pills and supplements we take every day are safe, but a recent study finds that certain oral contraceptives taken...

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Sling TV links up with LG smart TVs

Cutting the cord to cable TV is getting easier

For entertainment consumers who want to try to get along without a big pay-TV bill each month, the task may be a little easier.Sling TV has announced i...

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Air travelers consumer rights microsite now available

It's an easy way to learn what you should expect from your airline

The  Department of Transportation (DOT) has a new tool to help consumers understand their rights when traveling by air.The “flights and rights” microsi...

PhotoThe  Department of Transportation (DOT) has a new tool to help consumers understand their rights when traveling by air.

The “flights and rights” microsite contains information on what airlines can and cannot do when it comes to things like flight cancellations, tarmac delays, and overbooking, just to mention a few.

Meanwhile, air travelers had an easier time getting where they were going during February.

According DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report, airlines canceled just 1.5% of their scheduled domestic flights in February. That's an improvement of 0.5% from January and 0.1% from the same period a year earlier.

On-time arrival rates were a a mixed bag, with a February rate of 82.6%. It's much better than January (76.0%), but worse than February 2016 (83.6%).

Additionally, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours during February on domestic flights, and four delays of more than four hours on international flights. All are being investigated by the DOT.

The consumer report also includes data on chronically delayed flights and their causes, and a variety of consumer complaints including problems with baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability access, and discrimination.

The complete report is available in the DOT website.

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La Granja recalls mango-flavored ice cream

The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis

La Granja INC of Doraville Ga., is recalling 4000 units of Hand crafted Paleteria, Mango Flavored Ice cream.The product may be contaminated with Salmon...

PhotoLa Granja INC of Doraville Ga., is recalling 4000 units of Hand crafted Paleteria, Mango Flavored Ice cream.

The product may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recalled product comes in a clear bag with La Granja logo, Mango Flavor Ice Cream and with expiration of 210218 (February 21, 2018) and 280218 (February 28, 2018), and the UPC code 0010439212.

It was distributed in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina through retail stores, by direct delivery.

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact La Granja INC at 770-263-1060 Monday through Friday 10 am – 5 pm, (ET).

 

 

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Mortgage applications continue to zig-zag

Contract interest rates drop to five-month low

After posting a modest gain a week earlier, applications for mortgages have again moved lower.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fel...

PhotoAfter posting a modest gain a week earlier, applications for mortgages have again moved lower.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications fell 1.8% in the week ending April 14. The results do not include an adjustment for the Good Friday holiday.

The Refinance Index inched up 0.2%, with the refinance share of mortgage activity rising to 42.4% of total applications from 41.6% a week earlier.

The FHA share of total applications moved to 11.0% from 10.7% the week before, the VA share slipped to 11.1% from 11.3% and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 1.0%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) was down six basis points -- from 4.28% to 4.22%, its lowest level since last November, with points decreasing to 0.35 from 0.38 (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 its lowest level since November -- 4.15%, from 4.24%, with points decreasing to 0.23 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 dropped five basis points to 4.09%, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs slipped to 3.50%, its lowest level since November, from 3.51%, with points increasing to 0.41 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs was at its lowest level since November, falling to , 3.27%, from 3.33%, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.17 (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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Cost Plus World Market recalls Windsor-style dining chairs

The legs on the chairs can break

Cost Plus Management Services of Alameda, Calif., is recalling about 4,700 Stafford Windsor-style dining chairs.The legs on the chairs can break, posin...

PhotoCost Plus Management Services of Alameda, Calif., is recalling about 4,700 Stafford Windsor-style dining chairs.

The legs on the chairs can break, posing a fall hazard.

The firm has received three reports of in-store display chair legs breaking and one report of the chair leg bowing out. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves wooden Stafford Windsor-style dining chairs with four legs. The chairs have a walnut finish and are intended for indoor use.

Purchase order number 200519526, 400519526, 200519525, 400519525, 200524057, 200536057, 200536058 or 400524058 is printed on the UPC label attached to the underside of the chair seat.

The chairs, manufactured in Malaysia, were sold exclusively at Cost Plus World Market and World Market stores nationwide and online at www.worldmarket.com from June 2016, through December 2016, for about $100.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and return them to any Cost Plus World Market or World Market store for a free replacement chair.

Consumers may contact Cost Plus toll-free at 877-967-5362 from 7 a.m. to midnight (ET) daily, or online at www.worldmarket.com and click on “Product Recalls” for more information.

 

 

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Tips for cleaning up digital disorder

Protect your personal information by making sure your digital doors are locked

Your home may be spic and span on the heels of a spring cleaning spree, but is your digital life as clean and secure as it could be? If not, it may be time...

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Lower beef prices point to a great grilling season for consumers

The opening of markets in China have speculators bullish on beef

Plenty of research out there suggests that eating red meat might not be that good for you, but that hasn’t stopped grill masters from serving up steaks and...

PhotoPlenty of research out there suggests that eating red meat might not be that good for you, but that hasn’t stopped grill masters from serving up steaks and burgers to welcome the warming weather.

And they’ll have plenty of room to celebrate if recent price outlooks for beef stay on point. Bloomberg reports that a boom in production will drop the price of beef products in the near future, enough to rival pork and chicken during the coming summer months.

All of that cheap meat is sure to catch consumers’ eyes, as experts predict that Americans will eat 8% more red meat and poultry this year than they did three years ago. Retailers and restaurants will also be getting in on the low prices by stocking up on beef supplies, and exporters will be looking to push beef to other countries.

“If you lower prices enough, you can get products sold not just in the near term, but for the next three to five months… For two or three years we were in a situation where beef went up and up, and it became difficult to run full promotions. Suddenly, the market switched and allowed more operators to do that,” explains consultant Altin Kalo.

Trading with China

One of the countries that will likely be targeted most is China. It is currently the second-biggest buyer of beef in the world, and recent developments suggest that the U.S. is close to restarting trade with the country.

Beef markets had been closed between the two countries since 2003 before being opened again in September. The Trump administration called the restarting of trade between the two countries a “big prize.”

All of these factors have made speculators bullish when it comes to buying beef, but the turn in fortunes may only last for a short time. Bloomberg points out that supplies of beef are actually tighter than they appear, since many cattle aren’t yet ready for market. However, the huge demand and current supply will likely get us through the year until prices begin to normalize.

“I don’t think there’s so much bullishness going into the end of the year. There’s going to be some herd expansion, and there’s the realization that there’s going to be larger pork and poultry supplies. That’s why the bullishness is only near term,” said chief market strategist Donald Selkin.

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New home construction slumps in March

The outlook for the months ahead is mixed

The building of new homes took a hit in March after bumping higher the month before.The Commerce Department reports housing starts fell 6.8% last month...

PhotoThe building of new homes took a hit in March after bumping higher the month before.

The Commerce Department reports housing starts fell 6.8% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,215,000. The February rate was revised was revised up to 1.303 million from 1.288 million.

Even with the decline, the march rate of construction is up 9.2% from the same period a year ago.

Groundbreaking for single-family houses was down 6.2% to a rate of 821,000. Construction of apartment buildings -- buildings with five units or more totaled 385,000, down 6.1%.

Still, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) managed to find something encouraging about the report.

"The three-month moving average for single-family starts has reached a post-recession high, which shows that this sector is continuing to firm," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "We can expect further gains in single-family production throughout the year, while multifamily starts should level off."

Building permits

The construction outlook in the months ahead was fairly encouraging.

Privately-owned housing units authorized by Building permits authorizing new-home construction were up 3.6% from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,260,000, and 17.0% higher than March 2016.

Within that, though, authorizations for single-family starts fell 1.1% 1.9%, while multi-unit permits shot up 18.3%.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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All of a sudden, gold is glittering again

If you plan to buy the precious metal, give careful consideration to how you do it

Last week, the price of gold rose to its highest level in five months. After plunging in the aftermath of last November's election, prices were at their be...

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Airlines tweak policy manuals in wake of United incident

American reportedly ups the ante for bumped passengers

United Airlines' costly public relations disaster has caused several airlines to re-evaluate policies on how they deal with passengers, according to variou...

PhotoUnited Airlines' costly public relations disaster has caused several airlines to re-evaluate policies on how they deal with passengers, according to various published reports citing internal company memos.

Notably, United took the first step, reportedly advising company employees that they are not to involuntarily remove a ticketed passenger to provide room for a United employee in the future.

That's what happened eight days ago, when a 69-year old physician was forcibly removed from a United flight from Chicago to Louisville. Dr. David Dao was not bumped because the flight was overbooked, which had been widely reported, but because United wanted his seat for a company employee.

The reports say United has advised its personnel that company employees who must get to a specific location to work now have to get their request in at least 60 minutes before departure.

In a formal apology to Dao, the airline also said it had changed its policy on the use of law enforcement. It said in the future it will not ask officers to remove a passenger from an aircraft unless it is a matter of safety and security.

Big change at American

American, meanwhile, has reportedly changed its policy to promise never to bump a passenger once they are seated aboard the aircraft. Seth Kaplan, managing partner at Airline Weekly, told ConsumerAffairs last week that incident involving Dr. Dao was probably exacerbated by the fact the passenger was already aboard the aircraft when he was bumped.

"What almost never happens, but happened here, is the guy was already on board and in a seat," Kaplan said. "If a passenger is involuntarily bumped, it's going to almost always happen in the gate area."

Delta, meanwhile, has reportedly upped the ante for passengers who are asked to give up their seats because a flight has been oversold. Published reports cite an internal memo that authorizes Delta supervisors to offer up to $9,950 to a passenger to willingly give up his or her seat.

Incidents will still arise

For consumers, the new environment may mean airlines will be a little kinder and gentler, but it doesn't mean it will always be smooth sailing, as a couple on their way to their Costa Rican wedding aboard a United Airlines flight learned over the weekend.

KHOU-TV in Houston reports Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were asked to leave the flight after the airline said the couple repeatedly tried to move to higher-priced “economy plus” seats.

Hohl told the TV station he asked to pay for the upgrade because the couple found a man sleeping across both of their assigned seats.

United said the couple was booked on a later flight.

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Choosing the right seasonal allergy medicine for kids

Poll finds many parents are confused when it comes to choosing allergy medication for their children

Approximately 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with seasonal allergies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an eff...

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What kids need to know about money

It's never too early to teach your kids how to save and spend money wisely, experts say

Teaching kids about money and key economic concepts can set the stage for a more financially secure adulthood. But new research suggests many children aren...

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Is rent-to-own an answer to today's housing challenges?

It could be, but renters/buyers should exercise caution

Home sales have slowed in recent months for two main reasons. First, there just aren't as many homes for sale.Second, first time buyers who are now ren...

PhotoHome sales have slowed in recent months for two main reasons. First, there just aren't as many homes for sale.

Second, first time buyers who are now renting are having a hard time scraping together the down payment. In a recent report, real estate marketplace Zillow found nearly 70% of renters said the inability to put their hands on a down payment was the biggest thing keeping them from buying a house. Not surprisingly, the homeownership rate is at its lowest point ever.

"With home values close to record highs, it's no surprise renters are concerned about coming up with enough money to buy a home," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Rising rents are also a factor -- it's extremely difficult to save when you're paying record-high rents.

So more and more renters have been turning to a lease-purchase option, known as rent-to-own. It's a rental agreement that gives the renter the option to purchase the home at a later date, at a specified price.

In addition to the rent, the monthly payment carries an extra amount that is applied to the down payment, so that at a specified time the sales transaction can take place.

Zillow says it can be a good option for a would-be buyer who is short of the required down payment, especially if their credit is a little shaky. But the Zillow editors strongly recommend that anyone considering a rent-to-own option get pre-approved for a mortgage first. If you can't get pre-approved, rent-to-own isn't going to be a good option.

Concerns

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), which has never been too keen on the concept, recently raised some concerns. It reports a big increase in these rent-to-own agreements in the aftermath of the real estate market crash, along with an increase in legal disputes over them.

The association points out that many lease-purchase contracts require the tenants to make all repairs to the property, no matter how big, even though they do not yet own it.

Here is another things for tenants to think about: the extra money for the down payment, above and beyond the market priced rent, is not going into an escrow account. If you don't buy the house before the option expires, the landlord may keep the money. That's a major incentive for the property owner to agree to a lease-purchase contract.

Potential pitfalls

Forbes magazine has also listed a number of potential pitfalls for renters/buyers, including the possibility that the owner could lose the property to foreclosure while you are renting it. Forbes recommends that anyone considering a rent-to-own arrangement should check the landlord's credit and look for signs of financial trouble.

Also, make sure the contract lays out clearly who is responsible for maintenance and repairs. The contract should be a “lease-option,” rather than “lease-purchase.” The latter may require you to buy the property at the end of the lease.

Remember, this is a house you may buy. So Forbes recommends having a home inspection before you sign on the dotted line.

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Home selling tips for pet owners

Removing signs of pets can help a home sell faster and for more money, experts say

Traces of Fido or Fluffy around the house -- whether in the form of pet odors, chewed furniture, or scratched-up floors -- can be a major deterrent to woul...

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Builder confidence slips in April

'Hefty' regulatory costs continue to plague the industry

The latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) shows builder confidence in the market for newly-built singl...

PhotoThe latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) shows builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes fell three points to a level of 68 in April after surging to a 12-year high a month earlier.

“Even with this month’s modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald.

The HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.”

The monthly survey used to compile the index also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average,” or “low to very low.”

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

Builders' perceptions

All three HMI components fell in April but remain at healthy levels, according to NAHB. The components gauging current sales conditions fell three points to 74, the index charting sales expectations in the next six months was down three points to 75, and the buyer traffic component inched down one point to 52.

“The fact that the HMI measure of current sales conditions has been over 70 for five consecutive months shows that there is continued demand for new construction,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “However, builders are facing several challenges, such as hefty regulatory costs and ongoing increases in building material prices."

The three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores show the West and Midwest both rose a point to 77 and 68, respectively, with the South holding steady at 68 and the Northeast falling two points to 46.

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Polaris Recalls Ranger 900 ROVs

A heat shield can fall off the vehicle

Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 51,000 Polaris Ranger 900 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).A heat shield can fall off t...

PhotoPolaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 51,000 Polaris Ranger 900 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

A heat shield can fall off the vehicle, posing fire and burn hazards to riders.

The company has received 13 incident reports involving the recalled ROVs, including five reports of fires. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves all model year 2015 Polaris Ranger XP 900, XP 900 EPS, and CREW 900 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

The recalled ROVs were sold in a variety of colors and have either three or six seats and a rear box. “Ranger” is printed on the rear box, and “900” is printed on the hood of the ROVs. All 2015 Ranger 900 models and vehicle identification numbers (VINs) are included in this recall.

The VIN is printed on the frame on the driver’s side towards the rear of the vehicle.

The following vehicles are being recalled:

 

Model Year

Model Number

Model

2015

R15RTA87AA

RANGER 900 XP SAGE GREEN

2015

R15RTA87AR

RANGER 900 XP SOLAR RED

2015

R15RTA87AC

RANGER XP 900 POLARIS PURSUIT CAMO

2015

R15RTE87AA

RANGER XP 900 EPS SAGE GREEN

2015

R15RTE87AR

RANGER XP 900 EPS SOLAR RED

2015

R15RUA87AA

RANGER CREW 900 SAGE GREEN

2015

R15RUA87AR

RANGER CREW 900 SOLAR RED

2015

R15RUY87AA

RANGER CREW 900-6 SAGE GREEN

2015

R15RTE87AK

RANGER XP 900 EPS BLACK PEARL

2015

2015

R15RTE87AM

RANGER XP 900 EPS SUPER STEEL GRAY

2015

R15RTE87AS

RANGER XP 900 EPS SUNSET RED

2015

R15RTE87AW

RANGER XP 900 EPS WHITE LIGHTNING

2015

R15RTE87AX

RANGER XP 900 EPS SANDSTONE METALLIC

2015

R15RTE87AZ

RANGER XP 900 EPS SUNSET RED SILVER

2015

R15RTE87AB

RANGER XP 900 EPS HUNTER EDITION

2015

R15RUE87AC

RANGER CREW 900 EPS POLARIS PURSUIT CAMO

2015

R15RUE87AM

RANGER CREW 900 EPS SUPER STEEL GRAY

2015

R15RUE87AS

RANGER CREW 900 EPS SUNSET RED

2015

R15RUE87AW

RANGER CREW 900 EPS WHITE LIGHTNING

2015

R15RUZ87AC

RANGER CREW 900-6 EPS POLARIS PURSUIT CAMO

2015

R15RUZ87AS

RANGER CREW 900-6 EPS SUNSET RED

2015

R15RUZ87AW

RANGER CREW 900-6 EPS WHITE LIGHTNING

2015

R15RTE87AV

RANGER XP 900 EPS VOGUE SILVER DELUXE

2015

R15RTE87A5

RANGER XP 900 EPS HUNTER DELUXE EDITION

2015

R15RTE87A2

RANGER XP 900 EPS NORTHSTAR DELUXE EDITION

The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico, were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from April 2014, through March 2017, for between $13,400 and $21,300.

What to do

Consumer should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs 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 and Friday, or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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Apple gets permit to test self-driving cars in California

For now, the cars will have a human driver standing by

It there was any remaining doubt that Apple is developing a self-driving car, it was eliminated by today's announcement that the California Department of M...

PhotoIt there was any remaining doubt that Apple is developing a self-driving car, it was eliminated by today's announcement that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted Apple a permit to begin testing autonomous cars.

Apple thus joins Google and a long list of automakers, suppliers and technology companies already allowed to test their creations on California roads.

Apple, which is notoriously secretive about nearly everything except when staging one of its high-profile product announcements, had no comment. Last November, Apple conceded in a submission to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it was “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation.”

The cars Apple will be testing include three 2015 Lexus SUVs, Bloomberg reported. There will be a person behind the wheel at all times, although proposed new rules would "eventually" allow tests without humans at the wheel.

“California has more manufacturers testing autonomous vehicles than any other state and today’s rules continue our leadership with this emerging technology,” said California Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly, in a news release. “These rules protect public safety, promote innovation and lay out the path for future testing and deployment of driverless technology. This rulemaking is the next step in working with stakeholders to get this right.”
 
“These rules expand our existing autonomous vehicle testing program to include testing vehicles where no driver is present,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. “This is the next step in eventually allowing driverless autonomous vehicles on California roadways.”

A 45-day comment period on the new rules ends April 24.

 

 

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What to do if you are involuntarily bumped

Your first step should be to ask for a written explanation of the bumping policy

The outrage directed against United Airlines' handling of Dr. David Dao, on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, has been building for nearly a week.On...

PhotoThe outrage directed against United Airlines' handling of Dr. David Dao, on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, has been building for nearly a week.

On Sunday, Dao refused to give up his seat to a United Airlines employee who needed to get to Louisville, and his attorney says he was severely injured when security personnel dragged him off the plane in front of dozens of smartphone-wielding passengers who recorded the incident and spread it around the world.

In a news conference Thursday, Dao's attorney Thomas Demetrio painted a picture of a callous and sometimes brutal airline industry, and truth be told many regular fliers would not disagree.

But moral outrage aside, it begs the question; just what exactly should you do if you find yourself in Dao's position someday, told by the airline that you must give up your seat? Would you refuse and resist as Dao did?

Bumping will continue

It is almost certain that no airline will ever again subject a passenger to what Dao endured, having learned from United's painful lesson. But make no mistake, airlines have not stopped involuntarily bumping passengers and probably won't, so it could happen to you in the future.

Should it happen, the law is pretty clear. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires the airline denying boarding to a ticketed passenger to give the passenger a written statement detailing his or her rights and the airline's criteria for selecting a passenger to bump.

There is no evidence this was done in the case of Dr. Dao and it isn't clear how many, if any, airlines do this. So as a first step, passengers being involuntarily bumped should politely ask for this document. It signals to the airline that you know your rights and perhaps they will move on to bump some other poor soul.

But if you are handed the document and are still told to get off the aircraft, do you risk physical injury if you refuse? Again, probably not, since airlines will undoubtedly have new procedures in place to prevent future horrific encounters.

Legal risks

But refusing might land you in legal trouble, because your rights aboard a ship or aircraft are not always the same as they are on terra firma. Specifically, the law grants special powers to captains.

The federal aviation regulations (Title 14) also specify that passengers must obey all orders given by the pilot in command. So this is where a passenger must be careful. Should the plane's captain be summoned and order you off the plane, your refusal could be considered “interfering with an airline crew,” a felony.

However, it's something of a gray area if the plane is still at the gate with the door open. Until the aircraft pushes back from the gate, the airline's ground agents may be considered in charge of the aircraft.

Prudence might dictate that you don't want to be the test case. It may be wiser to comply with the order, then seek legal redress once you are safely off the plane.

In some cases, but not all, the airline bumping you involuntarily will provide some compensation. However, Transportation Department rules say that if the airline can arrange alternate transportation and get you to your destination within an hour of the original arrival time, there is no requirement for compensation.

In Washington, bumping may become a hot topic. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is asking the Transportation Department to do more to protect the rights of airline passengers. In a letter to the agency, he's asking that it investigate airline industry practices, including involuntary bumping of passengers.

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Here are 10 attractive new car deals for April

Kelley Blue Book identifies the deals with the most cash back and best lease terms

Maybe you filed your income taxes early and already have your refund. With money in hand, you might be considering a new car purchase.New car sales see...

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Five frozen foods that pack a nutritional punch

Some frozen foods are cheaper and better for you than their fresh counterparts, experts say

With its array of ice cream flavors and a vast selection of TV dinners, the frozen food section may not seem like the place to go if you’re looking for hea...

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Retail sales disappoint in March

Falling auto sales played a role

Not much joy in the retail sector in March.Not only did it revise the February retail sales figure from a 0.1% gain to show a 0.3% decline, but the Com...

PhotoNot much joy in the retail sector in March.

Not only did it revise the February retail sales figure from a 0.1% gain to show a 0.3% decline, but the Commerce Department also reported sales in March were down 0.2% -- totaling $470.8 billion.

Even with that decline, though, sales were 5.2% above the same period the year before.

Ups and downs

Much of the March weakness can be traced to a decline of 1.2% in auto sales. If that category is eliminated, sales were flat. Also contributing to the decline were lower sales at building material and garden equipment & supplies dealers (-1.5%), gas stations (-1.0%), sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores (-0.8%), and restaurants & bars (-0.6%).

What little strength there was came from gains at electronics & appliance stores (+2.6%), miscellaneous store retailers (+1.8%), clothing and clothing accessories (+1.0%), nonstore retailers (+0.6%), food and beverage stores (+0.5%), and general merchandise stores (+0.3%).

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

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Inflation takes a holiday

Consumer prices fell during March

Falling gasoline prices helped push the cost of living lower in March.Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show the Consumer Price...

PhotoFalling gasoline prices helped push the cost of living lower in March.

Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was down a seasonally adjusted 0.3% last month, the first one-month decline since February 2016.

The March decrease held price increases to 2.4% over the last 12 months.

Falling energy costs

Energy prices were down 3.2% in March following February's drop of 1.0%. Gasoline led the decline, plunging 6.2%, followed by natural gas (-0.8%) and electricity (-0.1%).

Over the last year, energy prices rose 10.9%, with gasoline surging 19.9%, natural gas up 10.3%, and electricity gaining 1.6%.

Food prices rise

The cost of food was up 0.3%, with grocery prices rising 0.5% following a 0.2% increase in February.

Four of the six major grocery store food groups rose, with fruits and vegetables gaining 1.6%, and cereals & bakery products and meats, poultry, fish & eggs both up 0.3%. In contrast, the cost of dairy and related products fell 0.6% and nonalcoholic beverage prices slipped 0.1%.

Core inflation

The “core” inflation rate, which strips out the volatile food and energy categories was down 0.1% last month, and up 2.0% over the past 12 months.

The March decline came as communication prices fell 3.5%, along with drops in the costs of used cars and trucks (-0.9%), new vehicles (-0.3%), and clothing (0.7%).

Price increases were registered in housing (+0.1%), medical care (+0.1%), motor vehicle insurance (+1.2%), tobacco (+0.5%), airline fares (+0.4%), and alcoholic beverages (+0.2%).

Recreation, education, and household furnishings & operations costs were unchanged.

The complete report is available on the BLS website

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Sportsman ATVs recalled

The electronic power steering unit can malfunction

Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 3,800 Sportsman 450, 570, 850, 1000 and Scrambler 1000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).The electron...

PhotoPolaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 3,800 Sportsman 450, 570, 850, 1000 and Scrambler 1000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

The electronic power steering unit can malfunction, posing a crash hazard.

The company has received 15 reports of the electronic power steering unit malfunctioning. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves model year 2017 Polaris Sportsman 450, 570, 850, 1000 and Scrambler 1000 model ATVs.

The recalled ATVs have “Polaris” printed on the front grill and “Sportsman 450,” “Sportsman 570,” “Sportsman 850,” “Sportsman 1000” or “Scrambler 1000” 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

2017

A17SEE50A1

SPORTSMAN 450 HO EPS SAGE GREEN

2017

A17SEE57A1

SPORTSMAN 570 EPS SAGE GREEN

2017

A17SEE57A7

SPORTSMAN 570 EPS INDY RED

2017

A17SEF57A4

SPORTSMAN 570 EPS UTILITY EDITION

2017

A17SEE57A9

SPORTSMAN 570 EPS PPC

2017

A17SDE57A2

SPORTSMAN TOURING 570 EPS BRIGHT WHITE

2017

A17SHE57AL

SPORTSMAN 570 SP STEALTH BLACK

2017

A17SHE57AS

SPORTSMAN 570 SP SUNSET RED

2017

A17SHD57AG

SPORTSMAN 570 SP MATTE SAGEBRUSH GREEN

2017

A17SJE57AU

SPORTSMAN TOURING 570 SP SILVER PEARL

2017

 A17SWE57A1

SPORTSMAN X2 570 SAGE GREEN

2017

A17S6E57A1

SPORTSMAN 6X6 570 EPS SAGE GREEN

2017

A17SXE85A9

SPORTSMAN 850 SP PPC

2017

A17SXE85AB

SPORTSMAN 850 SP RADAR BLUE

2017

A17SXE85AM

SPORTSMAN 850 SP TITANIUM MATTE METALLIC

2017

A17SYE85AS

SPORTSMAN TOURING 850 SP SUNSET RED

2017

A17SXE95AL

SPORTSMAN XP 1000 STEALTH BLACK

2017

A17SYE95AK

SPORTSMAN TOURING XP 1000 BLACK PEARL

2017

A17SVE95AM

SCRAMBLER XP 1000 TITANIUM MATTE METALLIC

The ATVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from September 2016, through March 2017, for between $6,900 and $13,300.

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.

 

 

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Hazardous chemicals found on many pool toys and swimming aids

A study finds that some distinctive smells can tip off consumers about whether a product is safe

Summertime is fast approaching, and for many consumers that means plenty of quality family time at the pool. But are your pool toys and swimming aids safe...

PhotoSummertime is fast approaching, and for many consumers that means plenty of quality family time at the pool. But are your pool toys and swimming aids safe for you and your loved ones?

A new study finds that many inflatable toys and swimming aids, like bathing rings and arm bands, may be treated with a range of chemicals that can be hazardous to your health. Researchers say that chemical compounds such as cyclohexanone, phenol, and isophorone may be present in especially high concentrations on children’s toys.

"Modern products such as toys and children's products are sourced from a wide variety of chemical and physical manufacturing processes, and this complexity often makes it difficult for us to identify those containing contaminants and unwanted substances, and to determine their causes," said researcher Christoph Wiedmer.

Follow your nose

Wiedmer explains that many of the chemical substances are dangerous because they have unstable structures. This can result in a host of problems, “such as irriation, smell nuisance, or other physiological and psychosomatic effects,” he said. Cyclohexanone and phenol are known to be harmful when inhaled, and isophorone has been classified as a category 2 carcinogen.

However, the researchers point out that there is a way for consumers to detect these chemicals. All you have to do, they say, is follow your nose. “We found that in a number of cases our noses can guide us to ‘sniff out’ problematic products,” said Wiedmer.

So, which smells should tip you off? Wiedmer and fellow researcher Andrea Buettner tested the molecular make-up of the “distinctive smells” that came from various pool toys and found that between 32 and 46 odors were detected from each sample, with 13 being described as "intense." A panel of volunteers set to smelling each product to see what each product odor reminded them of.

Participants reported that three of the products reminded them of almonds, plastic, and rubber, while a fourth product reminded them of glue or nail polish. Consumers that experience these or other suspicious odors would be wise to research their products to make sure they are safe to use.

The team's full study has been published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

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Why starting classes later would help most college students

A study finds most students' cognitive abilities are at their peak later in the day

Many students who take college courses know the dread of having to wake up for an early morning lecture. While some have to take time to muster their menta...

PhotoMany students who take college courses know the dread of having to wake up for an early morning lecture. While some have to take time to muster their mental faculties (usually with the help of some coffee), others might find the time slot preferable to classes later in the day.

So, which time is better for learning?

That’s the question that researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno set out to answer. And, after conducting a multi-approach analysis, they found that classes conducted later in the day allow most students to perform at peak cognitive levels.

"The basic thrust is that the best times of day for learning for college-age students are later than standard class hours begin. Especially for freshmen and sophomores, we should be running more afternoon and evening classes as part of the standard curriculum,” said co-author Mariah Evans, associate professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Most prefer later classes

The findings aren’t exactly groundbreaking for the scientific community. Previous research conducted at the high school level has also suggested that students would benefit from a later start. Researchers from the current study say this most likely has to do with the biological difference between most young people and adults.

"Neuroscientists have documented the time shift using biological data -- on average, teens' biologically 'natural' day begins about two hours later than is optimal for prime age adults,” said Evans.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers asked participating college students about their preferred sleeping times and to rate their “fitness for cognitive activities” for each hour of a 24-hour cycle. The results showed that twice as many college-aged students rated their ability to learn more highly later in the day, after 11 a.m. or noon.

While the results seem strongly in favor of a later start for college classes, the researchers do admit that there isn’t exactly a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning times. For each start time to the academic day, they say that one or more chronotype is disadvantaged; however, starting later in the day does appear to disadvantage the least number of people.

Changing class times?

The researchers say their work supports the moves by colleges and universities to offer later afternoon and evening classes to their undergraduate curriculums. Still, they do question whether the standard 9 a.m. start time for most institutions is a sustainable path going forward.

"This raises the question as to why conventional universities start their lectures at 9 a.m. or even earlier when our research reveals that this limits the performance of their students," said researcher Jonathan Kelley. "This work is very helpful for asynchronous online learning as it allows for the student to target their study time to align with their personal rhythm and at the time of day when they know they are most effective."

The full study has been published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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Are you using your credit card rewards?

A report finds nearly a third of cardholders are leaving money on the table

In the last decade, credit card companies have stepped up the rewards they offer to cardholders, providing everything from cash back to points toward trave...

PhotoIn the last decade, credit card companies have stepped up the rewards they offer to cardholders, providing everything from cash back to points toward travel discounts.

Surveys have found consumers like these rewards, and the offers often sway a decision on whether or not to apply for a card.

But once you have a card in your wallet, what do you do with the rewards? A new report by financial website Bankrate.com addressed that question and found 31% of consumers with a rewards card have never redeemed the rewards.

In fact, most of us fall into one of two categories: either we are nearly obsessive about redeeming rewards or we don't do it at all. Bankrate's Robin Saks Frankel says it's hard to figure out.

Not gaining value

"Credit card rewards don't usually gain value over time," Frankel said. "In fact, they're more likely to lose value as companies require more points or miles for the same perks. Your best move is to cash them in regularly."

Bankrate found that when consumers do take advantage of their rewards, nearly half prefer to get cash back. That's actually a very savvy choice.

It might be hard to place a quantitative value on other types of rewards, such as airline miles or hotel points. But cash is money in the bank. It can be accumulated to pay for a purchase or can be applied each month to pay a portion of the bill.

Of all the types of rewards, cash seems like the most useful. Millennials favor it over older consumers by a wide margin.

Airline miles a distant second

The Bankrate report found airline miles were a distant second, with only 17% of consumers opting for this perk. Twelve percent of consumers prefer to get their rewards in the form of gift cards.

One drawback to some of the more generous rewards cards is a sometimes hefty annual fee. With so many other rewards cards available with no fee, it's wise to carefully consider all offers before selecting a card that charges a fee.

"The credit card market is very competitive right now, so if you're not happy with a fee, you can either shop around to find another card that doesn't have one or you can see if the issuer is willing to waive the fee to keep your business," Frankel said.

In fact, as we recently reported, a study found more than 80% of cardholders were able to get an annual fee waived or reduced just by asking.

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Baby Boomers relying too much on Social Security

This aging demographic still hasn't shaken off the trauma of the 2008 financial crisis

If you talk to younger consumers about retirement, they more than likely will express doubts about Social Security being around when they stop working....

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The Smokehouse of NY recalls smoked fish products

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

The Smokehouse of NY of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is recalling various smoked fish products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses h...

PhotoThe Smokehouse of NY of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is recalling various smoked fish products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been confirmed to date.

The following products, distributed to markets, restaurants, and hotels in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Alabama, Minnesota and Montana, are being recalled:

Norwegian 4oz & 8oz and whole sidesIrish 4oz & 8ozScottish 4oz & 8oz
Pastrami 4oz & 8ozGravlax 4oz & 8ozTrimmings 8oz
Sturgeon 4ozKippered Salmon 8ozSable 8oz
Whitefish SaladTrout Fillet 8oz 

The recalled product is distributed in black cryovaced bags containing the company logo and name with expiration dates of April 5-19, 2017.

What to do

Consumers with questions or seeking information may contact the company at 914-630-4788 Monday-Friday, 7am-3pm.

 

 

 

 

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Target recalls water absorbing toys

If the small toy is ingested, it can expand inside a child's body

Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 560,000 water-absorbing Easter and Dino toys.If the small toy is ingested, it can expand inside...

PhotoTarget Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 560,000 water-absorbing Easter and Dino toys.

If the small toy is ingested, it can expand inside a child's body and cause intestinal obstructions, resulting in severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration and could be life threatening.

Surgery is required to remove the toy from the body, if ingested. There is a possibility that the toys might not show up on an x-ray.

No incidents or injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs, Easter Grow Toys and Hatch Your Own Dino.

Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs and Easter Grow Toys have model number 234-25-1200 on the back of the product’s packaging. Hatch Your Own Dino Egg has model number 234-09-0016 on the label inserted in the product’s packaging.

The pink, blue, or purple Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs include a white bunny, brown bunny, or butterfly. The Easter Grow Toys include a yellow chick, brown bunny, or white bunny. The Hatch Your Own Dino Eggs are purple or yellow/green and contains one of eleven dinosaurs.

The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at Target stores nationwide from February 2017, through March 2017, for about $1.

What to do

Consumers should immediately take this recalled toy away from children and return it to any Target store for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Target at 800- 440-0680 between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT) Monday through Sunday or online at www.target.com for more information.

 

 

 

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Flamaglo Foods recalls Yoso brand Soygo Fermented Cultured Soy Products

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Flamaglo Foods is recalling Yoso brand Soygo fermented cultured soy products.The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.There hav...

PhotoFlamaglo Foods is recalling Yoso brand Soygo fermented cultured soy products.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

The following products, sold in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, Canada, are being recalled:

Brand NameCommon NameSizeCode(s) on ProductUPC
YosoSoygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Plain440 g17 MA 19 d58 34914 00231 3
YosoSoygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Raspberry440 g17 MA 19 d58 34914 00235 1
YosoSoygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Vanilla440 g17 MA 19 d58 34914 00234 4
YosoSoygo Fermented Cultured Soy - Blueberry440 g17 MA 19 d58 34914 00232 0

 

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the store where purchased.

 

 

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Model year 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 Superduty vehicles recalled

The driveline may vibrate and fracture the driveline components or the transmission

Ford Motor Company is recalling 509 model year 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 Superduty vehicles.Operating the vehicle at highway speeds may cause the drive...

PhotoFord Motor Company is recalling 509 model year 2017 Ford F-450 and F-550 Superduty vehicles.

Operating the vehicle at highway speeds may cause the driveline to vibrate and fracture the driveline components or the transmission.

If the driveline or transmission fractures, the vehicle may lose motive power, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driveshaft and two center bearing brackets, free of charge. Remedy parts are currently unavailable.

Interim notices informing owners of the safety risk were mailed on April 6, 2017. Owners will receive a second notice when remedy parts become available.

Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford recall number 17S08.

 

 

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Congress questions United's forcible removal of passenger

Roughed up passenger, meanwhile, gets a belated apology

The story of United Airlines' forcible removal of a passenger from a flight Sunday isn't going away.On Sunday, United asked Chicago aviation police to...

PhotoThe story of United Airlines' forcible removal of a passenger from a flight Sunday isn't going away.

On Sunday, United asked Chicago aviation police to remove a passenger, now identified as Dr. David Dao of Louisville, from a plane bound from Chicago to Louisville.

Dao had not done anything wrong, the flight was simply overbooked and United had run out of passengers willing to voluntarily give up their seats to United flight crew members who needed to get to Louisville.

A computer picked Dao to be "involuntarily" denied boarding, even though Dao was already in his seat. The doctor declined, saying he was needed at a Louisville hospital the next day.

United then called in aviation police officers, who pulled a limp Dao from his seat and dragging him down the aisle of the aircraft, apparently battering his face against an armrest in the process, as horrified passengers screamed and recorded the incident on smartphones. The video immediately went viral, triggering near universal outrage.

Senate committee wades in

Two days later the Senate Commerce Committee fired off a letter, signed by both key Republicans and Democrats on the panel, to United CEO Oscar Munoz, asking for an explanation.

"We recognize the importance of having passengers comply with the lawful instructions of airline crew and law enforcement, but it is hard to believe that some combination of better planning, training, communication, or additional incentives would not have mitigated this particular incident or avoided it altogether," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter went on to request information about standard operating procedure in cases such as this and what United personnel told the security personnel tasked with removing the passenger.

Belated apology

Munoz, meanwhile, retreated from an earlier position and issued something of an apology on Tuesday, admitting that "no one should ever be mistreated this way." Earlier however, a purported internal memo from Munos to United employees surfaced in the media. In it, Munos told United employees that the passenger was belligerent and they followed proper procedure in removing him from the aircraft.

However, they may not have. According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. law requires "each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't."

There is no account of the incident aboard Flight 3411 that describes Dao being given a written document of any kind.

The social media firestorm that erupted in the wake of the incident has spread to China meanwhile, where United is one of the major international carriers serving the country. The treatment of Dao, who is of Chinese decent, has touched a nerve in that country. Various media sources report that internet chatter in China is building for a boycott of United.

More

Worst-rated sunscreens for babies and kids

The EWG says these 13 sunscreens would be best avoided by parents

Sun safety is a key component of any day of fun in the sun involving kids, and sunscreen can help protect children’s skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviole...

More

Walmart offering incentives to order online

Select items will have a discount if you order online and pick it up at a store

Walmart is wading deeper into online competition with Amazon by offering discounts on more than ten thousand items if consumers order them online and pick...

PhotoWalmart is wading deeper into online competition with Amazon by offering discounts on more than ten thousand items if consumers order them online and pick them up at a Walmart store.

The number of items will expand to one million by the end of June, the retailer said.

Surveys have suggested that consumers like the convenience of ordering something online, then driving to a nearby store to find it waiting for them. It works especially well for big box retailers, saving consumers the hassle of wandering the aisles to find the item, or asking a store associate to help them find it, then waiting in a checkout line.

Walmart CEO Marc Lore says the new system will take advantage of supply chain efficiencies, and the company will pass some of the savings on to consumers. The discounts will start April 19.

More options

"We’re creating price transparency to empower customers to shop smarter and choose what’s best for them," Lore said in a statement. "Now, they can either pick up and save even more money, or ship two-day for free to home, without paying for a membership."

Lore said the discounts are possible because the system will remove the "last mile" delivery costs. In addition, Lore says Walmart cuts costs when it delivers goods from its fulfillment centers directly to stores.

Items eligible for the discount will be flagged that way on the store's website. Walmart lists these examples as typical discounts:

  • Britax B-SAFE 35 Infant Car Seat, Slate Strie – $140.65 after a $7.40 discount.

  • LEGO City Great Vehicles Ferry, 60119 – $21.44 after a $2.55 discount.

  • Coleman 150 qt Heritage XP Marine Cooler – $107.03 after a $4.46 discount.

  • VIZIO SmartCast M-Series 70" Class 4K Ultra HDTV (M70-D3) – $1,648 after a $50 discount.

Free two-day delivery

The pickup discounts follow Walmart's move in January to offer free two-day shipping on more than two million items without requiring customers to sign-up for a membership, a shot at Amazon's Prime membership program.

If the item you purchase is not among the two million covered by the new program, Walmart says it will provide free shipping if the order totals $35, down from $50. Items shipped for pick-up at stores have no price threshold.

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Consumers use more credit cards, but enjoy them less

Harris Poll finds 61% of consumers think their card falls short

If you're like most consumers, every trip to the mailbox it seems leaves you with a handful of credit card solicitations.Most consumers probably have m...

PhotoIf you're like most consumers, every trip to the mailbox it seems leaves you with a handful of credit card solicitations.

Most consumers probably have more than one credit card in their wallet, and use them regularly if ballooning balances are any indication. Eight out of 10 adults say they use or own at least one credit card. On average, cardholders have about three cards they use regularly.

But a new Harris Poll suggests consumers are not all that satisfied with the cards they are using.

In recent years, credit card companies have worked to separate themselves from their competitors by offering more perks and rewards for just about every way you can use a credit card.

Rewards and perks

Some cards provide cash rewards while others build points toward travel perks. But the poll suggests consumers are not that impressed, with 61% expressing some level of dissatisfaction with the credit card they use most.

"In this highly penetrated and competitive industry, a company cannot afford to under-deliver," said Alison Bushell, client director at The Harris Poll.

And it could be because of that intense competition that consumers have a "grass is always greener" view of their credit card. That no matter how good their card may be, they can't help thinking there's a better one out there.

"Consumers are inundated with offers from competitors who are eager to take a precious slot in their wallets," Bushell said. "Issuers need to make promises they can keep, and stay ahead of consumer sentiment to stem off attrition and maximize loyalty."

What's most important to consumers

When consumers were asked to rate benefits many credit cards offer, 58% said merchandise points were "nice to have" but only 7% said they would pay extra for it.

At the same time, cash back appeared to be a highly popular perk. While 49% rate it as "nice to have," 34% rated it a "must have" feature and 10% said they would pay extra to have it.

For consumers, selecting a credit card that best matches needs and spending patterns will likely increase satisfaction levels. For example, if you use a card mostly to buy gasoline and groceries, and maybe an occasional big-ticket item, then a cash back card will likely work best.

But if you travel a lot, especially in your work, then using a card that provides generous travel perks will likely make you happier. Where possible, select a card that doesn't have an annual fee. If the card does carry a fee, make sure the rewards and perks you will receive will pay for it, and more.

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Gasoline prices move sharply higher

Much of the national price rise is centered in the Midwest

After flatlining for much of the early spring, gasoline prices have suddenly started moving higher, reflecting the change-over to summer blends of gasoline...

PhotoAfter flatlining for much of the early spring, gasoline prices have suddenly started moving higher, reflecting the change-over to summer blends of gasoline at the nation's refineries.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is about $2.39 a gallon, up six cents in the last week and nearly a dime in the last 30 days.

The national average of premium gasoline is nearly $2.90 a gallon, up over five cents in the last week and nearly eight cents in the last month.

AAA analysts say oil prices have come back into play in pushing gasoline prices higher. Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East sent crude oil prices sharply higher on world markets in the last week. Prices got another boost Monday when an oil field in Libya was shut down over the weekend because of civil strife.

Sweet spot for oil prices

Some analysts think U.S. production will keep oil prices from going much higher, with a trading range between $40 and $60 a barrel. At that level oil companies can be profitable, but gasoline prices for consumers would remain reasonable.

This week's rise in the national average gasoline price is largely attributable to a price spike in the Midwest region. AAA reports five Great Lakes and Central states experienced some of the nation’s most significant gas price hikes in the past seven days.

In Michigan, the statewide average price jumped 12 cents a gallon. In Indiana, the average price gained 11 cents. Missouri, which normally has some of the cheapest gas in the country, saw the average price climb nine cents. In neighboring Illinois, the average price gained eight cents, and prices rose seven cents a gallon in Wisconsin.

Refinery issues

That's partly due to reduced output at Phillips 66’s Wood River refinery in Illinois, which is still undergoing planned maintenance work. Adding to the reduced supply, BP’s Whiting, Ind., refinery reported a minor issue on its second-largest crude distillation unit, which is affecting normal operations.

Gas prices on the West Coast remain some of the most expensive in the nation, but the good news for drivers there is prices barely moved higher in the last seven days. The cheapest states for gasoline are clustered in the Southeast, with the exceptions of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

More

Mortgage applications post first gain in four weeks

Contract interest rates were mixed

After falling for three consecutive weeks, applications for mortgages have moved higher.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 1...

PhotoAfter falling for three consecutive weeks, applications for mortgages have moved higher.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications were up 1.5% in the week ending April 7 from the week before.

The Refinance Index was unchanged from the previous week, with the refinance share of mortgage activity falling to 41.6% of total applications -- the lowest level since September 2008 -- from 42.6% a week earlier. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 8.5%.

The average loan size for purchase applications reached a survey high of $318,700.

The FHA share of total applications dropped to 10.7% from 11.1% the previous week, the VA share rose to 11.3% from 11.1% a week earlier, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 1.0%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) was down six basis points -- to 4.28% from 4.34%, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.31 (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) was unchanged at 4.24%, with points increasing to 0.28 from 0.24 (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 dipped to 4.14% from 4.15%, with points decreasing to 0.29 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs fell six basis points to 3.51%, with points decreasing to 0.35 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs was steady at 3.33%, with points increasing to 0.17 from 0.13 (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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IIHS tightens criteria for recommended used vehicles for teens

New standards include small overlap front crash protection

Because teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don’t offer adequate protection in a crash, the Insurance...

PhotoBecause teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don’t offer adequate protection in a crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is applying more stringent criteria to its list of recommended used vehicles for teens.

The latest update includes 49 “best choices,” starting under $20,000, and 82 “good choices,” starting under $10,000.

Small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the first time this year for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.

“Just as we are always updating the criteria for our awards for new vehicles, TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+, we can now point used vehicle buyers toward even safer models than before,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “Good crash protection is more affordable than ever, so there’s no need to skimp on safety when it comes to a vehicle for a young driver.”

Prices for listed vehicles are provided by Kelley Blue Book, based on estimates for a private-party purchase near the IIHS Arlington, Va., headquarters.

“Choosing a safe vehicle for your teen is of paramount importance, and settling on a vehicle your family can afford is also very important,” said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Kelley Blue Book provides you with updated vehicle prices and values that are unique to your area, so KBB.com is a great site to visit as you finalize your buying decision.”

What to do

Both lists follow a few basic principles, which should always be taken into account when shopping for a vehicle for a teenager:

  • High horsepower and young drivers don’t mix. Teens may be tempted to test the limits of a powerful engine. Vehicles that come only with powerful engines have been left off the lists, but some recommended models have high-horsepower versions. Stick with the base engine.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are OK; they weigh about the same as a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control is an essential feature. This technology, which cuts single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half, has been required on new vehicles since the 2012 model year. It helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. All listed vehicles have it as a standard feature.

Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash test ratings they can afford.

Models on this year’s good choices list earn good ratings in the Institute’s moderate overlap front, side, and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the best choices list must also have a good rating for roof strength to protect in rollover crashes and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

Before purchasing a used vehicle, it’s critical to check for outstanding recalls. You can enter the Vehicle Identification Number at nhtsa.gov/recalls. It’s also a good idea to notify the manufacturer once you purchase the vehicle, so the company can make sure you receive future recall notices.

Consumers should keep in mind that the continuing recall of Takata airbags affects a large number of vehicles. Since the risk of airbag malfunction increases over time and also depends on the climate where the vehicle is kept for most of the year, not all affected vehicles have been recalled yet. NHTSA recommends checking its recall page every six months or so.

Parents of children who are still years away from driving should plan ahead if they want their future driver to benefit from front crash prevention and good-rated headlights. If possible, when buying the next family vehicle, choose an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ with at least 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA, and consider handing it down to your teenager when the time comes.

The recommendations

Best Choices

 

LARGE CARS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Volvo S80

2007 and newer

$4,000

Toyota Avalon

2015 and newer

$18,800

Infiniti M37/M56/Q70

2013 and newer

$19,800

MIDSIZE CARS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Dodge Avenger

2011-14 

$5,300

Chrysler 200 sedan

2011 and newer

$5,900

Kia Optima

2011 and newer

$7,600

Volkswagen Passat

2013 and newer; built after October 2012

$8,700

Volkswagen Jetta

2015 and newer

$9,200

Nissan Altima sedan

2013 and newer; built after November 2012

$9,500

Ford Fusion

2013 and newer; built after December 2012

$9,600

Volvo S60

2011 and newer; price is for 2012, which had lower trim level available

$9,800

Subaru Legacy

2013 and newer; built after August 2012

$10,700

Chevrolet Malibu

2014 and newer

$10,900

Honda Accord sedan and coupe

2013 and newer

$11,100

Toyota Camry

2014 and newer; built after December 2013

$11,200

Mazda 6

2014 and newer

$11,400

Hyundai Sonata

2015 and newer

$11,900

Acura TL

2012-14; built after April 2012

$12,400

Lincoln MKZ

2013 and newer

$13,300

Subaru Outback

2013 and newer; built after August 2012

$13,600

Chevrolet Malibu Limited

2016

$13,700

Toyota Prius v

2015 and newer

$16,300

Volvo V60

2015 and newer

$18,400

Audi A3

2015 and newer

$18,500

Infiniti Q50

2014-15

$19,100

SMALL SUVS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2011 and newer

$6,900

Mitsubishi Outlander

2014 and newer

$10,700

Chevrolet Trax

2015 and newer

$11,800

Fiat 500X

2016 and newer; built after July 2015

$12,600

Nissan Rogue

2014 and newer

$12,900

Buick Encore

2015 and newer

$13,800

Subaru Forester

2014 and newer

$14,900

Honda CR-V

2015 and newer

$15,600

Hyundai Tucson

2016 and newer

$16,000

Toyota RAV4

2015 and newer

$16,000

Mazda CX-3

2016 and newer

$16,600

MIDSIZE SUVS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Volvo XC90

2005 and newer

$2,500

Ford Flex

2010 and newer; built after January 2010

$7,200

Chevrolet Equinox

2014 and newer

$12,100

GMC Terrain

2014 and newer

$13,300

Nissan Pathfinder

2015 and newer

$15,800

Kia Sorento

2016 and newer

$16,500

Volvo XC60

2013 and newer

$16,500

Ford Edge

2015 and newer; built after May 2015

$17,400

Nissan Murano

2015 and newer

$19,100

MINIVANS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Kia Sedona

2015 and newer

$14,700

Honda Odyssey

2014 and newer

$16,100

Toyota Sienna

2015 and newer

$18,100

PICKUP

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab)

2014 and newer

$15,600

GOOD CHOICES

 

LARGE CARS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Ford Taurus

2009 and newer

$4,300

Mercury Sable

2009

$4,600

Audi A6

2007 and newer

$5,600

Toyota Avalon

2009-14

$6,500

Buick LaCrosse

2010 and newer

$7,500

Lincoln MKS

2009 and newer

$7,800

Buick Regal

2011 and newer

$8,000

Saab 9-5

2010-11

$9,700

Acura RL

2009 and newer

$9,900

MIDSIZE CARS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Saab 9-3

2005-11

$2,000

Suzuki Kizashi

2010-13

$3,600

Volkswagen Jetta sedan and wagon

2009-14

$3,900

Audi A4 sedan and wagon

2007 and newer; built after July 2006

$4,100

Volkswagen Passat sedan and wagon

2009-12

$4,500

Mercury Milan

2010-11

$5,200

Volkswagen CC

2009 and newer

$5,200

Ford Fusion

2010-12

$5,300

Subaru Legacy

2009-12

$5,400

Volvo C30

2008-13

$5,400

Audi A3

2008-13

$5,700

Chevrolet Malibu

2010-13

$5,800

Honda Accord sedan

2008-12

$5,900

BMW 3-series sedan

2009 and newer

$6,700

Lincoln MKZ

2010-12

$6,900

Hyundai Sonata

2011-14

$7,200

Subaru Outback

2010-12

$7,700

Acura TSX

2009-14

$8,300

Acura TL

2009-11

$8,400

Buick Verano

2012-15

$8,600

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

2009 and newer

$8,600

Toyota Camry

2012-13

$9,100

SMALL SUVS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Mitsubishi Outlander

2007-13

$3,900

Nissan Rogue

2008-13

$4,400

Subaru Forester

2007-13

$4,400

Ford Escape

2009 and newer

$4,900

Mazda Tribute

2009-11

$4,900

Mercury Mariner

2009-11

$5,100

Honda Element

2007-11

$5,300

Honda CR-V

2007-14

$5,400

Volkswagen Tiguan

2009 and newer

$5,800

Toyota RAV4

2009-14

$7,000

Hyundai Tucson

2010-15

$7,500

Kia Sportage

2011 and newer

$7,700

MIDSIZE SUVS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Ford Taurus X

2008-09

$3,700

Saturn Vue

2008-09; built after December 2007

$4,000

Honda Pilot

2006 and newer

$4,000

Hyundai Santa Fe

2007 and newer

$4,300

Subaru Tribeca/B9 Tribeca

2006-14

$4,700

Ford Edge

2007-14

$5,200

Dodge Journey

2010 and newer

$5,400

Hyundai Veracruz

2008-12

$5,700

Nissan Murano

2009-14

$5,900

Ford Flex

2009

$6,100

Acura RDX

2007 and newer

$6,900

Chevrolet Equinox

2010-13

$6,900

GMC Terrain

2010-13

$7,100

Lincoln MKX

2007 and newer

$7,100

BMW X3

2008 and newer

$7,300

Mercedes-Benz M-Class

2007-15

$7,700

Toyota Highlander

2008 and newer

$8,100

Honda Crosstour

2010-15

$8,200

Infiniti EX

2008-13

$8,200

Volvo XC60

2010-12

$8,200

Acura MDX

2007 and newer

$8,300

Kia Sorento

2011-15

$8,400

Toyota Venza

2009-15

$8,400

BMW X5

2008-13

$8,600

LARGE SUVS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Saturn Outlook

2008-09; built after March 2008

$5,000

Chevrolet Traverse

2009 and newer

$6,300

GMC Acadia

2008 and newer; built after March 2008

$6,900

Buick Enclave

2008 and newer; built after March 2008

$7,300

Audi Q7

2008 and newer; built after December 2007

$9,100

Mercedes-Benz R-Class

2009-12; built after September 2008

$9,100

MINIVANS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Kia Sedona

2006-14

$2,500

Hyundai Entourage

2007-08

$3,300

Honda Odyssey

2008-13

$4,800

Volkswagen Routan

2010-12

$5,600

Chrysler Town & Country

2010 and newer; built after March 2010

$6,100

Dodge Grand Caravan

2010 and newer; built after March 2010

$6,100

Nissan Quest

2011 and newer

$8,500

PICKUPS

MODEL YEARS

PRICE

Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab)

2007-13

$8,400

Ford F-150 crew cab (SuperCrew)

2009 and newer

$9,800

More

Wholesome Farms brand Sundae Cup products recalled

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Central Smith Creamery of Selwyn, Ontario, Canada, is recalling Wholesome Farms brand Sundae Cup products.The products may be contaminated with Listeri...

PhotoCentral Smith Creamery of Selwyn, Ontario, Canada, is recalling Wholesome Farms brand Sundae Cup products.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

The following products, sold in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, possibly distributed in other provinces and territories, are being recalled:

Brand

Product

Size

UPC

Codes

Wholesome Farms

Vanilla Sundae Cup

115 ml

None

03301

Wholesome Farms

Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae Cup (case)

48 x 115 ml

00074865915427

7382200017033019

2/2/17

Wholesome Farms

Sugar-Free Light Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae Cup

115 ml

None

03301

Wholesome Farms

Sugar-Free Light Vanilla Sundae Cup (case)

48 x 115 ml

10074865932551

7382200023032013

2/1/17

Wholesome Farms

Butterscotch Sundae Cup

115 ml

None

03302

Wholesome Farms

Butterscotch Ice Cream Sundae Cup (case)

48 x 115 ml

00074865915403

7382200020033020

2/2/17

Wholesome Farms

Orange Sherbet Sundae Cup

115 ml

None

03303

Wholesome Farms

Orange Sherbet Sundae Cup (case)

48 x 115 ml

00074865915434

7382200021033036

2/2/17

Wholesome Farms

Lime Sherbet Sundae Cup

115 ml

None

03304

Wholesome Farms

Lime Sherbet Sundae Cup (case)

48 x 115 ml

00074865915090

7382200022033042

2/2/17

Wholesome Farms

Chocolate Sundae Cup

115 ml

None

03305

Wholesome Farms

Chocolate Ice Cream Sundae Cup (case)

48 x 115 ml

00074865915410

7382200019033055

2/2/17

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the store where purchased.

Consumers seeking more information may call Ian Scates of Central Smith Creamery at 1-800-461-1464.

 

 

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Lakeside Foods recalls Season's Choice Frozen Sweet Peas

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Lakeside Foods of Manitowoc, Wis., is recalling 1,568 packages of Season's Choice Brand Frozen Peas.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monoc...

PhotoLakeside Foods of Manitowoc, Wis., is recalling 1,568 packages of Season's Choice Brand Frozen Peas.

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The company says it is unaware of any illnesses associated with the product.

The following product, distributed in poly bags to only Aldi Stores in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin and sold at retail stores in those states, is being recalled:

Season's Choice Sweet Peas, Net Weight 16 oz (1 LB) 454 g UPC code 041498164294
Code:

  • DC27063 PLAA6206 BEST BY 09 2018
  • DC27063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
  • DC37063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
  • DC47063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
  • DC57063 BNAD7266 BEST BY 09 2018
  • DC57063 BNAF6236 BEST BY 09 2018
  • DC57063 BNAF6236 BEST BY 09 2018

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it immediately or return it to their local store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-466-3834, Monday-Friday 8 AM – 3PM.

 

 

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Drug companies nix pleas to hold the line on prices

Survey finds only three companies follow Allergan's promise to hold increases to single digits

When Allergan Pharmaceuticals pledged last September to hold its annual price increases to single digits, there was a slight hope that other drug companies...

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Ratings system shows airlines improving performance

But after the last few days, there are some consumers who might not agree

It has been quite a week for the nation's airlines.Delta struggled since the middle of last week to get its flight operations back on track after sever...

PhotoIt has been quite a week for the nation's airlines.

Delta struggled since the middle of last week to get its flight operations back on track after severe weather in the Southeast resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations.

Some consumers complained that it was difficult to communicate with Delta during that time to reschedule flights and the airline itself admitted the way everything was handled was less than ideal.

Then came United Airlines' public relations disaster, when security personnel dragged a passenger off the plane after he refused to give up his seat as ordered.

So it was somewhat ironic when, during the middle of all this, that the annual Airline Quality Rating (ARQ) came out, showing airlines improved their performance over the last 12 months.

Improved performance in all four categories

The ARQ found airlines performed better in all four categories on which they are measured: on-time performance, rate of involuntary denied boardings, rate of mishandled bags and the rate of customer complaints.

There are 12 airlines in the rating system and the ARQ shows nine of them logged improvement in on-time, baggage handling and customer complaints. Seven of the airlines improved in all four categories.

Alaska, American, Delta, ExpressJet, Frontier, SkyWest, Southwest, Spirit, and United all recorded improvement. At the same time, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Virgin America lost ground, according to the ratings.

“The best-ever overall industry AQR score is largely due to best-ever performance in the rate of involuntary denied boardings and the rate of mishandled bags,” said Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.

'Air travel great again'

And the last week's events not withstanding, Headly says “air travel is great again – that statement can be followed with a period, exclamation point or question mark depending on the individual’s perspective.”

As for individual airlines, Alaska Air jumped to number one while last year's top-rated airline, Virgin America, slipped to number three. Here's the entire list, with the previous year's rank in parenthesis:

  1. Alaska (5)
  2. Delta (3)
  3. Virgin America (1)
  4. JetBlue (2)
  5. Hawaiian (4)
  6. Southwest (6)
  7. SkyWest (7)
  8. United (8)
  9. American (10)
  10. ExpressJet (9)
  11. Spirit (13)
  12. Frontier (11)

Involuntary denied boardings

When it comes to reducing the rate of involuntary denied boardings, Hawaiian and Delta did the best. ExpressJet had the highest involuntary denied boarding rate per 10,000 passengers.

Denied boardings occur because most airlines routinely sell more tickets than the aircraft has seats. It anticipates there will be a few no-shows, so overbooking means it flies with fewer empty seats.

But when everyone who purchased a ticket shows up, the airline then has to bump some passengers from the flight.

More

The latest Millennial moving trend: 'vacation moves'

Survey finds 41% of Millennials make a temporary move to a new city before settling down

Millennials who are considering relocating to a new city might make a temporary -- or “vacation” move -- to the city in question before permanently putting...

PhotoMillennials who are considering relocating to a new city might make a temporary -- or “vacation” move -- to the city in question before permanently putting down roots there. That’s a key takeaway from a new survey conducted by moving company Mayflower.

Findings from Mayflower’s poll of 1,000 Millennials revealed that two in five have moved to a new city without the intention of staying permanently. Upon arriving in their vacation city, 74% of respondents said they had a plan to leave within a certain timeframe.

"Millennials are a generation of what I call 'adventure movers,'” said Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University. “Their motivations for moving are influenced by a sense of adventure, making these moves relatively short-term.”

Top reasons for moving

While 30% of respondents moved in search of a new lifestyle or experience, other “vacation movers” had more practical motives. The survey found that 40% moved to a new city to work at a new job and 26% moved to find a new job.

Twenty-somethings often feel that they have a great deal of freedom and instability, Arnett explained. “This flexibility allows millennials to make moves in search of new job opportunities or adventures, even if they don't plan to stay in the long run,” he said.

So, when do Millennials plan to firm up their plans and settle down? For 78% of Millennials surveyed, age 35 was the magic number. But one in four (27%) said they plan to have a permanent home before age 30.

Where Millennials are moving

Additional findings from the study suggested that where Millennials move could be based on where they were raised.

Young adults who grew up in urban areas tend to fly farther from the nest than their small town-bred counterparts. Thirty-one percent of Millennials raised in urban areas moved 200 to 499 miles from their last home; only 14% of rurally-raised Millennials ventured as far.

Major metropolitan areas continue to attract Millennials. The survey revealed that 69% of respondents were currently residing in a city or an inner suburb near the city. Top moving destinations for the demographic were San Francisco, Calif., followed closely by Los Angeles, Calif., and Washington, D.C.

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When 'fake news' can cost you real money

Fake financial news could cause investors to make poor decisions

Since the last election there has been a lot of discussion of "fake news" and what to do about it.Google and other sites have discussed ways to handle...

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Reducing concussion risk for student athletes

Concussion concerns shouldn't keep parents from allowing their kids to play sports, experts say

Usually, it's a child’s interest in a particular sport that determines whether or not he or she plays it. But some aspiring athletes may be kept off the fi...

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USDA expands meat and poultry hotline hours

The 'Ask Karen' hours have also been increased

The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is making it easier for consumers to obtain safe food handling and preparation infor...

PhotoThe Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is making it easier for consumers to obtain safe food handling and preparation information.

As part of its effort to reduce foodborne illness, the FSIS is keeping the Meat and Poultry Hotline open for two additional hours -- from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET).

“Our hotline provides a valuable service in educating consumers about how to safely prepare food,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. “By keeping the hotline open an additional two hours, we are expanding our reach to allow more consumers -- including those on the West Coast -- to have their food safety questions answered.”

Ask Karen

The hotline is accompanied by Ask Karen, a 24-hour online service that provides answers to frequently asked questions and also lets consumers email or live-chat with a food safety specialist during operating hours.

“Our hotline staff are experts in their field and have backgrounds in nutrition, food technology and public health,” said Almanza. “Experts are available to talk with people in English and Spanish, so we are able to help address the food safety needs of diverse communities.”

Consumers can contact the Meat and Poultry Hotline to speak to a live food expert at 1-888-674-6854, or visit Ask Karen to chat or email (in English or Spanish), Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET)/7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (PT).

More

February sees a slight increase in job openings

Hires and separations showed little change

The number of job openings rose slightly in February -- from 5.625 million a month earlier to 5.743 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (B...

PhotoThe number of job openings rose slightly in February -- from 5.625 million a month earlier to 5.743 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Increases in openings were seen in a number of industries. Health care and social assistance led the way with 73,000 openings, followed by accommodation and food services (+66,000) and finance and insurance (+47,000).

Openings were down by 63,000 in both real estate and rental & leasing, along with a decline in mining and logging (-7,000). Job openings increased in the Northeast region.

Hires

There was little or no change in the number of hires (5.3 million), with the hires rate at 3.6%. What increase there was came in retail trade (+74,000) and mining and logging (+9,000). Federal government hiring was down in February by 13,000, and the number of overall hires was little changed in all four regions.

Separations

Total separations, which includes quits, layoffs & discharges, and other separations, and is referred to as turnover, totaled 5.1 million -- about the same as January. The total separations rate in February was 3.5%.

Total separations decreased in health care and social assistance (-54,000), educational services (-22,000), and federal government (-6,000), but the number of total separations was little changed in all four regions.

Net employment change

Net employment change is the result of the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining.

On the other hand, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising.

Over the 12 months ending in February, hires totaled 63.0 million and separations totaled 60.6 million, for a net employment gain of 2.4 million.

The complete report may be found on the BLS website.

More

Model year 2016 Honda Pilot 2WD and AWD vehicles recalled

The vehicles' fuel tanks may leak

American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 136 model year 2016 Honda Pilot 2WD and AWD vehicles with fuel tanks that may leak.A fuel leak in the presence of...

PhotoAmerican Honda Motor Co. is recalling 136 model year 2016 Honda Pilot 2WD and AWD vehicles with fuel tanks that may leak.

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

What to do

Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2017.

Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is KE8.

 

 

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What's the lesson from United's PR disaster?

And will it change airlines' ability to involuntarily bump passengers?

When United Airlines forcibly removed a paying customer from its Chicago to Louisville flight Sunday, to make room for a United crew member, it set off a f...

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Dog bites up 18 percent last year

Dogs need to be trained but so do children and others who don't know how to approach dogs

Dog bites man isn't usually news, but it's happening so often lately that it's becoming newsworthy. Dog bites were up 18 percent last year, according to an...

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What are the world's best airlines?

According to TripAdvisor's top 10 list, only two are based in the U.S.

Travel site TripAdvisor.com has named what it considers the 10 best airlines in the world. Unless you do a lot of international travel, you might not get t...

PhotoTravel site TripAdvisor.com has named what it considers the 10 best airlines in the world. Unless you do a lot of international travel, you might not get to enjoy most of them.

Coming out on top is Emirates, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It's followed by Singapore Airlines, and then Brazil's Azul.

It's only in the fourth spot that a U.S.-based airline -- JetBlue -- makes an appearance. It's followed by Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, and Thailand-based Thai Smile at number eight.

Alaska Airlines, the only other U.S.-based carrier to earn a spot on the list, is ninth and Garuda Indonesia rounds out the top 10.

Some airlines investing in improved service

"The airline industry is investing billions of dollars in new aircraft and service enhancements to differentiate the flying experience and these awards recognize the carriers offering the very best experiences and value to the traveling public," said Bryan Saltzburg, Senior Vice President and General Manager for TripAdvisor Flights.

In addition to the top 10 list, TripAdvisor rated airlines in different categories of service, such as first class, business class, premium economy and economy. The awards were based on an algorithm that analyzed airline reviews and ratings submitted by travelers worldwide over the last year.

Besides being named number one overall, Emirates took honors for Best First Class and Best Economy Class.

"The fact that the awards are a result of unbiased reviews and feedback speaks to our commitment to deliver a superior travel experience for our customers," said Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airlines.

Russia's Aeroflot was awarded Best Business Class and Air New Zealand was named Best Premium Economy Class.

Special category for U.S. carriers

Since U.S. carriers were not overly represented on the list, TripAdvisor created a category for North American airlines. It named Delta the top major airline in the U.S.

When it comes to mid-size and low-cost North American carriers, it breaks down this way:

  1. JetBlue
  2. Alaska Airlines
  3. Southwest
  4. Virgin America
  5. Westjet (Canada)
More

Are your job prospects getting better or worse?

Last week presented workers with mixed signals

The latest report from the Labor Department on employment was a rude awakening for consumers hoping to find a new job in the months ahead.Government ec...

PhotoThe latest report from the Labor Department on employment was a rude awakening for consumers hoping to find a new job in the months ahead.

Government economists reported employment edged up by only 98,000 last month -- well short of the 180,000 jobs projected by economists at Briefing.com. This was a significant retreat from the 219,000 jobs created in February and 216,000 in January.

At the same time, the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5% from 4.7% in February, the lowest level since May 2007, mainly because fewer people were looking for work.

But what does that mean if you were looking for a job last month? There doesn't seem to be a clear answer.

Likely to cool optimism

The Conference Board says the report was disappointing and is likely to cool the recent rising optimism in the U.S. economy.

"At 4.5%, the unemployment rate is back to 2007 levels," the Conference Board said in a statement. "In such a tight labor market, it becomes harder and more expensive to fill job openings and maintain rapid job growth. Despite the unexpectedly low job growth in March, with its unemployment and inflation targets already being more or less met, the Fed is still likely to stay on its current normalization course of between two and three additional rate hikes in 2017."

But that doesn't necessarily mean your job prospects have diminished. Employment website CareerBuilder.com reports the current conditions for hiring have rarely been better.

Hiring managers still bullish

According to the company's latest survey of hiring managers, 45% of U.S. employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter – a significant jump from 34% last year. It's also the the highest percentage for the quarter dating back to 2007.

Even temporary hiring is expected to experience a huge boost, at a time when there is rising concern that robots are taking over jobs currently held by humans.

"This is the best forecast we have seen for the second quarter since we started doing this survey more than ten years ago," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Nearly half of employers hired full-time employees in the first quarter and that momentum is expected to continue over the next few months."

The survey found 49% of employers expect to hire temporary or contract workers over the next three months, up 12% from the second quarter of 2016. It's nearly double the rate in 2011, when the economy was struggling to overcome the effects of the Great Recession.

What's responsible for the employment optimism? Ferguson says the economy is improving, but it's also true that companies are paying close attention to Trump administration policies that are promoting job creation.

More

Delta passengers voice frustration over flight cancellations

The airline continued to struggle through the weekend to get its planes back in the sky

Delta Airlines and its customers had a nightmarish weekend, a holdover from the severe weather that battered the Southeast during the middle of last week....

PhotoDelta Airlines and its customers had a nightmarish weekend, a holdover from the severe weather that battered the Southeast during the middle of last week.

Flight cancellations continued to affect operations through the weekend. The company said things are beginning to stabliize, but it reported that flight crew availability continued to hamper operations because not enough people were within the federally mandated crew rest and duty day guidelines.

"We know this is extremely frustrating for our customers and we apologize for that," Delta said in a statement. "Delta teams continue to work around the clock to fully reset our operation and keep customers informed."

Passengers sound off

Over the weekend, ConsumerAffairs heard from Delta customers who were experiencing that frustration. It was perhaps made worse that last week was spring break at many schools, with families planning long-anticipated vacations.

John, of Jericho, N.Y., was on his way with his family from New York's JFK Airport to Orlando. When his departing flight was canceled, he was told he could not rebook until April 11. That was just three days before his scheduled return on the 14th.

"Had to cancel entire trip," John wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "My two young sons were crying in the airport."

Loretta, of Anaconda, Mont., wrote to ConsumerAffairs that she spent "many, many hours on hold" or waiting for a return call from Delta as she tried to rebook her flight.

Amy, of Hollis, N.H., said her flight was cancelled twice during the four days she had taken off for a vacation. She too had a frustrating time communicating with the airline.

"Calling Delta requires two to three hours trying to reschedule flights," Any wrote in her ConsumerAffairs post. "We found another airline to direct us to our destination at our expense."

Ticket refunds

That might not have been necessary. Delta says that if a customer's flight is canceled or significantly delayed 90 minutes or more, he or she can request a refund for the unused portion of the ticket. Even if the flight is not canceled, a one-time change to the ticket may be made without a fee. Delta provides more details on that policy here.

Delta said it cancelled about 120 flights on Sunday. Today, Delta customers should continue to check the company's website and the Fly Delta Mobile App for updates on flight status.

Meanwhile, Gil West, Delta's Chief Operating Officer, said he understands Delta's recovery from the outbreak of severe weather "has not been ideal."

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Fresh Express recalls Organic Marketside Spring Mix Salad

A decomposing bat was allegedly found in a container

Fresh Express is recalling a limited number of cases of Organic Marketside Spring Mix.Extraneous animal matter -- a decomposing bat -- was allegedly fo...

PhotoFresh Express is recalling a limited number of cases of Organic Marketside Spring Mix.

Extraneous animal matter -- a decomposing bat -- was allegedly found in a single container of the salad at a Walmart store in the Southeastern U.S.

The following product is being recalled:

BrandPRODUCT NAMESIZEUPCPRODUCTION CODEBEST IF USED BY DATEPOSSIBLE DISTRIBUTION STATES
MarketsideOrganic Spring Mix5 oz.6 8113132897 5G089B19APR 14 2017AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, VA,

The best-if-used-by date is located on the front label, and the UPC code may be found on the bottom of the container.

What to do

Consumers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard it or return it for a full refund to the store where purchased.

Consumers with questions may call the Fresh Express consumer response center toll-free at (800) 242-5472 from 8 a.m. -- 7 p.m. (ET).

 

 

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Our favorite family vacation – travel dollars worth the memories

Sometimes a carriage ride in the snow beats a week at the beach

My family has taken many vacations together, but our all-time favorite was a ski trip to Quebec City.We had considered taking our daughters skiing in W...

PhotoMy family has taken many vacations together, but our all-time favorite was a ski trip to Quebec City.

We had considered taking our daughters skiing in Wintergreen, Virginia and the cost was very high for a long weekend. Pondering what to do for winter break, we wondered how expensive it would be to go to Quebec City, where we had spent our honeymoon. Surprisingly, it was significantly less expensive than renting a condo in Wintergreen.

What a magical five days we had. Quebec City is like a slice of Europe with many residents speaking only French. We stayed in a hotel located in the Old City, the only walled city north of Mexico. The hotel didn’t even have an elevator. We had one large, narrow room with three beds lined up in a row.

The city was like a fairytale with trees lit with tiny white lights. There was snow on the ground and it continued to snow off and on. What a sight to see them shovel the snow off the rooftops so they wouldn’t collapse from the weight of it. Around the corner from our hotel was a creperie with a large crepe machine in the front window. We had breakfast there each morning, savoring different types of crepes and the girls loved the hot chocolate. For dinners, sad to say, the girls preferred the McDonald's across from the hotel while we sampled the local French cuisine.

The girls had ski lessons in French in Stoneham, a short drive from Quebec City. It was bitter cold and they were the only students in their class. For two consecutive days, my husband and I sat it out with hot chocolate while the girls tumbled and skied. Despite the freezing temperatures, we walked all over the old walled city, the best way to take in the sites. We were surprised to see the residents ice skating all over town, somehow managing with the cold.

We wanted to take Jerry home

The highlight of our visit was an open-air carriage ride through the Old City. Our driver carefully tucked us in with a fur blanket to keep us warm. Our horse, Jerry, led us through the cobblestone streets while the girls had grins from ear to ear, distracted from the cold. To this day, we still talk about Jerry. How could we forget him? We took Jerry home with us in our memories. All our clothing from that day, especially our warm coats, were covered in Jerry’s hair. Everything had to be dry-cleaned once we were back home.

My favorite memory of the trip was an afternoon after we returned to our hotel room. I got into bed along with my husband to warm up and read. When I looked to my right, both girls were also in bed reading, the four of us with covers pulled up to our chins, all in a row.

Family vacations are so important. The experiences we have stay with us forever. We’ve taken the girls on many vacations since, but we always reflect on Quebec City. Family memories are priceless.

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Google takes more steps to root out fake news

It will display a fact-check flag on selected stories in its news feed

Google built its empire around keywords and made much of its ability to sort through gazillions of files without any boring old human editors, but it's now...

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YouTube changes policy for monetizing videos

Content creators will now have to accrue 10,000 lifetime channel views before collecting money

For around five years now, consumers have been able to start a YouTube channel and automatically enroll in the site’s partner program. Basically, it’s the...

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Amazon to add 30,000 part-time positions over the next year

Flexible positions in warehousing and virtual customer service are being added

Back in January, Amazon promised that it would be creating 100,000 U.S.-based jobs by mid-2018. The announcement was partly a reaction to President Trump’s...

PhotoBack in January, Amazon promised that it would be creating 100,000 U.S.-based jobs by mid-2018. The announcement was partly a reaction to President Trump’s stance on promoting domestic business, but already the company seems well on its way to achieving its goal.

In February, the company announced plans to build a $1.5 billion cargo airline hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, a venture which would reportedly create 2,700 positions, with 600 being full-time. At the same time, the company said that it was looking to open more warehouses in Texas, Florida, California, and New Jersey, which would also require more workers.

Now, Amazon has announced yet another plan to create 30,000 part-time fulfillment center and customer service jobs, according to Business Wire. If brought to fruition, the move would increase the company’s part-time work staff by approximately 75%.

Flexible conditions

The majority of the part-time workers will be stationed at warehouses and distribution centers across the U.S., but the company said that 5,000 workers will have the opportunity to work from home as virtual customer service agents.

Those who secure one of the latter positions are guaranteed benefits – including disability, life, dental, and vision insurance – if they work at least 20 hours per week. For those seeking an education, Amazon’s Career Choice program will also pay 95% of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, even if those skills don’t apply to relevant jobs at the company.

Tom Weiland, Amazon’s vice president for worldwide customer service, points out that these part-time positions can be ideal for those who need adaptable work conditions that fit their lifestyle.

"There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job — whether they're a military spouse, a college student or a parent — and we're happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live," he said.

“We’re finding that roles with Virtual Customer Service are particularly attractive to military spouses who want to continue working and parenting, even if their spouse is deployed or the family is relocated, as often happens with military families. Wounded, injured or ill military veterans and others with mobility challenges are also enjoying these opportunities to work from home with Amazon. Both active duty and retired service men and women support our country and we are happy to support them.”

Amazon has stated that all 30,000 jobs will become available over the next year. Consumers can find a job with the company by visiting its website here.

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KFC makes new antibiotics pledge

Will phase out drugs used on chickens that are also medically important to people

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has announced that, by the end of 2018, all of its chickens will be raised without the use of antibiotics medically important...

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Simple tool warns of pre-diabetes risk

Simply timing glucose test results can alert doctors

Millions of people have diabetes and almost all of them first had a condition known as pre-diabetes.Now, federal medical researchers have discovered a...

PhotoMillions of people have diabetes and almost all of them first had a condition known as pre-diabetes.

Now, federal medical researchers have discovered a simple tool to alert doctors that a patient is at risk for pre-diabetes and on the path to the full disease.

The tool is simple and costs nothing. A patient is administered an oral glucose tolerance test and the time it takes to reach maximum sugar level is recorded. Those who take longer to reach that maximum threshold are at greater risk of pre-diabetes, the researchers found.

“Our research may help clinicians and public health officials guide patients to better and more cost-effective decisions about risk for pre-diabetes” said Stephanie Chung, M.B.B.S., the study’s first author and an assistant clinical investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The implications

The implications are fairly clear. By giving the glucose test and noting the time to reach maximum levels, doctors can get a heads-up that the patient is at risk for developing pre-diabetes, placing them at even greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Simply put, having pre-diabetes means your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type-2 diabetes. It's not a given that pre-diabetes turns into full-blown type-2 diabetes, but it happens a lot.

However, with significant lifestyle changes – eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of exercise – a patient can return his or her blood glucose levels to normal. In fact, there have been cases where people with type-2 diabetes have actually reversed the disease with radical lifestyle changes.

Early damage

However, the Mayo Clinic warns that if you have developed pre-diabetes, you may already be suffering the long-term damage of diabetes.

Unfortunately, pre-diabetes has no obvious symptoms. However, Mayo Clinic doctors say subtle signs include darkening skin in certain parts of the body. You may be at risk for pre-diabetes if you are overweight, eat an unhealthy diet, and get little exercise.

Type-2 diabetes is a serious condition. It's triggered when your body starts having trouble using insulin, which transports glucose into cells. When that happens you are at risk of building up too much glucose in your blood.

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Dating site focuses on couples' credit scores

Premise is that couples who think alike about money have a better chance

Okay, when it comes to dating sites, this might actually be a good idea.While other dating sites use various methods to match people looking for a part...

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The IRS is hiring debt collectors

Raises possibility that scammers will try to impersonate them

If you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) back taxes and despite repeated reminders, still haven't gotten around to writing a check, expect a call from...

PhotoIf you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) back taxes and despite repeated reminders, still haven't gotten around to writing a check, expect a call from a debt collector.

The IRS has started sending letters to what it calls “a relatively small group” of taxpayers who are severely delinquent. The letters will explain that the IRS has turned the account over to one of four private debt collection agencies.

The IRS says the delinquent accounts are old and multiple attempts have been made in the past to collect them. Still, this effort could pose dangers for a wide range of consumers if scammers seize on this development.

“The IRS is taking steps throughout this effort to ensure that the private collection firms work responsibly and respect taxpayer rights,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS also urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people. In reality, those taxpayers whose accounts are assigned as part of the private collection effort know they have a tax debt.”

How to avoid a scam

That last part is key. Koskinen says the people who will receive calls from these legitimate debt collectors are well aware that they have an unpaid tax debt. They have dealt with IRS personnel on this issue in the past.

That means if you are unaware that you owe the IRS money and get a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector, the IRS says you are being targeted by a scammer and should hang up.

Okay, this bears repeating. If you are unaware that you owe back taxes and someone calls you claiming you do, you don't. It's that simple.

Letter from the IRS

The collection program began this week and the people who owe the money should have received a letter from the IRS, telling them to expect a call. If you didn't get one of these letters, you don't owe any money.

Here's another clue – the IRS says people who owe money will always be contacted by the tax agency first, before they are ever contacted by a debt collector. So if the IRS hasn't contacted you, neither should a debt collector.

The IRS reiterates that taxpayers should be vigilant for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS said it will also be watching for these schemes as the collection program begins.

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March job creation comes up short

The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade.

A loss of positions in the retail sector helped keep March job creation well below expectations.The Department of Labor (DOL) reports employment edged...

PhotoA loss of positions in the retail sector helped keep March job creation well below expectations.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports employment edged up by 98,000 last month -- well short of the 180,000 jobs projected by economists at Briefing.com.

The economy had created 219,000 jobs in February and 216,000 in January.

At the same time, the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5% from 4.7% in February, the lowest level since may 2007.

Gainers and losers 

Employment in professional and business services was up by 56,000 last month -- about in line with the average monthly gain over the prior 12 months. Other fields adding employees include mining (+11,000), health care (+14,000), financial activities (+9,000), and construction (+6,000).

Retail trade lost 30,000 jobs in March, while employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality and government, showed little or no change.

Who's working

The number of people out of a job in March fell by 326,000 to 7.2 million. 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult women (4.0%), Whites (3.9%), and Hispanics (5.1%) declined in March. The jobless rates for adult men (4.3%), teenagers (13.7%), Blacks (8.0%), and Asians (3.3%) showed little or no change.

The labor force participation held steady at 63.0% in March, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.1%, changed little. The employment-population ratio has edged up over the year, while the labor force participation rate has shown no clear trend.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by a nickel in March to $26.14, following a 7-cent increase in February. Over the year, average hourly earnings have are up 68 cents, or 2.7%.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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Xootr recalls adult kick scooters

The steer support can break during normal use

Xootr of Old Forge, Pa., is recalling about 3,000 Xootr adult kick scooters.The steer support can break during normal use, posing a fall hazard to the...

PhotoXootr of Old Forge, Pa., is recalling about 3,000 Xootr adult kick scooters.

The steer support can break during normal use, posing a fall hazard to the user.

The firm has received six reports of breaks in steer supports, resulting in one report of scrapes and bruises from a fall.

This recall involves all Xootr adult kick scooters with the QuickClick push-button latching mechanism.

The silver scooters are 30 inches long by 10 inches wide, and have a handlebar height of 36 inches. The Xootr logo is on the deck and lower section of the handlebar.

The scooters have a plastic, wood or metal deck, and can be identified by a black push button located on the steer support.

The scooters, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Lajolla Swim and Sport, Nyce Wheels, San Francyclo and other sporting goods stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com and Xootr.com from November 2016, through January 2017, for about $270.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled scooters and contact the firm to receive the free repair.

Consumers may contact Xootr at 800-816-2724 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at support@xootr.com or online at www.xootr.com.

 

 

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Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas recalled

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

ALDI and Lakeside Foods are recalling Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.No illnesses related to th...

PhotoALDI and Lakeside Foods are recalling Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

No illnesses related to this product have been reported to date.

The recalled product, packaged in a 16-oz. bag, has the UPC code 041498164294, and contains one of the following packaging codes and best by dates on the back of the bag:

Packaging Codes Best By Date 
DC17038 PLAB6176 08/2018 
DC27038 PLAB6176 08/2018 
DC27038 BNAF7286 08/2018 
DC37038 BNAF7286 08/2018 
DC47038 PLAC6216 08/2018 
DC57038 PLAC6216 08/2018 

The recalled product was sold at ALDI locations in Florida, Illinois

Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it immediately or return it to their local store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Lakeside Foods at 1-800-466-3834, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (CT).

 

 

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Marin Mountain Bikes recalls bicycles

The rigid front forks on these recalled bikes can bend or break

Marin Mountain Bikes of Novato, Calif., is recalling about 380 Pine Mountain bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The rigid front forks on these recall...

PhotoMarin Mountain Bikes of Novato, Calif., is recalling about 380 Pine Mountain bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The rigid front forks on these recalled bikes can bend or break while in use or during jumping, causing the rider to lose control, posing fall and crash hazards.

The firm has received four reports of bent bicycle forks including one report in the U.S., and three in other countries. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves two Marin Mountain bicycle model years and model names: 2016 Pine Mountain 1 and 2017 Pine Mountain bicycles. The bicycles were sold in five frame sizes and in one basic color scheme (silver painted frame with orange painted fork.)

The model name “Pine Mountain 1” (2016) or “Pine Mountain” (2017) is printed on the top tube of the frame and the downtube of the frame has a “MARIN” decal.

The bikes, manufactured in Indonesia, were sold at independent bicycle stores nationwide from December 2015, through February 2017, for about $1,000.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled mountain bikes and contact the firm for instructions on receiving a replacement bicycle fork and scheduling a free repair.

Consumers may Contact Marin Bikes at 800-222-7557 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.marinbikes.com and click on the “recalls/safety” link at the bottom of the page for more information.

 

 

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Here's yet another reason to get into shape

Rising obesity leading to more cases of metabolic syndrome

America's obesity epidemic has brought with it new health problems. There has been a spike in the number of people with high blood pressure and a big incre...

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Twitter to launch lite version of its mobile platform

The service will cater mostly to users outside the U.S. or those with low data limits and poor connections

Consumers who have low data limits need to be careful when it comes to using their devices, but the launch of a new Twitter version may keep the tweets com...

PhotoConsumers who have low data limits need to be careful when it comes to using their devices, but the launch of a new Twitter version may keep the tweets coming.

Reuters reports that the social media platform is launching a faster version of its mobile platform that caters to users with sporadic connections and more restrictive data limits. Twitter Lite, as it is being called, is largely being targeted for individuals in developing areas outside the United States who enjoy fewer connective resources.

“We didn’t feel like we were reaching these other countries well enough, and this will allow us to do it faster, cheaper and with a better experience than we’ve had before,” said Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product.

Up to 70% less data

The company estimates that its new lite version, which runs through a web browser rather than a standalone app, will allow users to use up to 40% less data. Reports indicate that an additional feature that users can turn on may decrease data consumption even more to 70%.

In addition to the savings, users shouldn’t feel like they’re missing too much by switching to the lite version. Previews shown to reporters appear to have the same appearance and functionality as the mobile app version.

While the move may help Twitter expand to a greater audience, the platform has quite a lot of work to do before it catches up to its competitors. At the end of last year, its active monthly user base stood at around 319 million users, but that’s leagues behind the likes of Facebook, which boasts 1.9 billion active monthly users. 

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Why it’s important to get a second opinion

Second opinions can lead to a more refined diagnosis, researchers say

When illness strikes, many consumers head to their doctor seeking a diagnosis. And while they may receive one, a new study suggests it may be in a patient’...

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Classic Beatles album scheduled for re-release

It was 50 years ago today, that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...

Here's a wake-up call for aging Baby Boomers who might not be aware of how quickly time is passing. On June 1, it will be a half-century since The Beatles...

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U.S. home prices on the rise in February

Analysts see no end in sight to the increases

The increases in home prices keep on coming.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows housing prices across the...

PhotoThe increases in home prices keep on coming.

Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows housing prices across the U.S. were up 7% in February from the same month a year ago.

On a month-over-month basis, prices rose 1%.

“Home prices and rents have risen the most in local markets with high demand and limited supply, such as Seattle, Portland and Denver,” said CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft. “The rise in housing costs has been largest for lower-tier-priced homes.”

According to Nothaft, from December to February in Seattle, the HPI shot up 12% and the CoreLogic single-family rent index jumped 6% percent for all price tiers compared with the same period a year earlier.

He notes, though, that when looking at only lower-cost homes in Seattle, the price increase was 13% and the rent increase was 7%.

In the year ahead

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices will increase by 4.7 percent on a year-over-year basis from February 2017 to February 2018, and on a month-over-month basis home prices are expected to increase by 0.4 percent from February 2017 to March 2017.

“Home prices continue to grow at a torrid pace so far in 2017 and these gains are likely to continue well into the future,” said CoreLogic President and CEO Frank Martell. “Home prices are at peak levels in many major markets and the appreciation is being driven by a number of dynamics -- high demand, stronger employment, lean supplies and affordability -- that will continue to play out in the coming years.”

 

 

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Job cuts rise, jobless claims fall

The retail sector was March's biggest job cutter

Photo (c) kikkerdirk - FotoliaThe flurry of pink slips intensified a bit in March.According to the tally by outplacement consultancy Challeng...

Photo
Photo (c) kikkerdirk - Fotolia

The flurry of pink slips intensified a bit in March.

According to the tally by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas announced job cuts by US-based employers rose 17% from the February total to 43,310.

While the month-over-month change is higher, March cuts are down 2% from the same month last year -- the third consecutive month of lower job cuts than the corresponding month a year earlier.

For the first quarter of the year, employers have cut 126,201 jobs -- 38% more than in the final three months of 2016, but down 30% from the same period last year.

A healing energy sector

“Cuts in the energy sector, which started en masse in mid-2014, were still occurring in the first quarter of 2016;” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger, but adds that “the energy industry is no longer bleeding jobs, which is partly why job cut announcements have trended down.”

Through the first quarter of the year, the energy sector has announced 7,880 job cuts, down 84% from the first three months of 2016. Since January 2014, the energy sector has announced 224,265 cuts -- 107,714 of them in 2016.

Retail is the job cut leader so far this year, with 38,464 announced terminations, 4,084 occurring last month. While retailers have cut over 53,000 jobs in the last seven months, the industry has announced over 121,000 new jobs so far this year.

“Retail is typically an industry in flux, but we’ve seen long established companies close stores and cut workers,” said Challenger. “The industry, though, is creating openings just as quickly as they are cutting.”

First quarter retail cuts are up 19% from the same period last year.

Even as companies continue to cut jobs, hiring announcements continue to break records. Challenger tracking shows that in the first quarter, companies announced 289,272 new positions -- the bulk of them in the retail sector.

Home Depot hired 80,000 new seasonal workers in March. Last quarter’s total is the highest first quarter total on record, and the highest quarterly total except for third quarter totals when holiday hiring plans are typically announced.

Photo
 

Jobless claims

The week ending April 1 saw a sold drop in the fining of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits.

The Labor Department (DOL) reports there were a seasonally adjusted 234,000 initial jobless claims, down 25,000 from the previous week's level was revised up by 1,000.

The less volatile 4-week moving fell 4,500 from the previous week to 250,000.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

 

 

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Hyundai recalls model year 2017 Elantras

The vehicle may lose electric power steering assistance

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 99 model year 2017 Elantras.The recalled vehicles may have a damaged Electronic Power Steering (EPS) connector resul...

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Zika infections reported in 44 states

March of Dimes issues new precaution to pregnant women

It's spring and the swallows have returned to Capistrano. Next come the mosquitoes.Mosquitoes are a problem because they tend to carry diseases, and la...

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Which states are the most and least stressed?

WalletHub study finds stress levels soar in some Southern states

Stress can wreak havoc on our health, potentially leading to such issues as insomnia, high blood pressure, and even physical pain. While few are impervious...

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Why staying motivated to achieve a goal can be so difficult

A study shows that our source of motivation tends to change over time

Having plenty of motivation can be great when setting out to achieve a goal, but it’s often hard to maintain. Whether it’s a promise to lose weight, learn...

PhotoHaving plenty of motivation can be great when setting out to achieve a goal, but it’s often hard to maintain. Whether it’s a promise to lose weight, learn something new, or improve your relationship, the drive to keep at it can dissipate as time goes on.

So, what is it that saps our motivation? Part of it may be attributed to willpower, but researchers from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba in Canada say that another factor may be that our motivation changes as we move toward our goal.

In their study, they found that people are often first motivated by the thought of reaching their desired outcome – something they call “promotion motivation.” However, as time goes on, they say that our focus turns to the negative consequences of not reaching their goals, referred to as “prevention motivation.”

"Generally speaking, people in North America are predominantly promotion-focused, so they are good at starting goals, but not as good at accomplishing them," said lead author Dr. Olya Bullard.

Sustaining motivation

To prove these points, the researchers conducted five experiments to see how participants’ motivations changed over time. The results showed that each person was better at sustaining their motivation over the long-term if they shift their prevention motivation mindset to focus on practical things they can avoid to reach their goal.

For example, the researchers say that someone who is trying to save money for a big purchase should focus on positive saving strategies, such as securing a better job or investing their money wisely. Later, consumers can focus on practical avoidance steps, such as not going out to dinner as often or not spending money on other expensive purchases.

The authors say that their findings have some relevance to companies and marketers who are trying to engage consumers. They point out that a gym may approach new members by accentuating the excitement of losing weight and using the latest fitness technology. However, consumers who already go to the gym and are well on their way to reaching a fitness goal may be more affected by “proven technologies” and “satisfaction guarantees.”

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

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Emissions from coal-fired power plant tied to low birth weight

The study looked at emissions from a Pennsylvania plant that drifted into New Jersey

Emissions from coal-fired power plants have previously been tied to health problems, including heart attacks, acute bronchitis, asthma, premature death, an...

PhotoEmissions from coal-fired power plants have previously been tied to health problems, including heart attacks, acute bronchitis, asthma, premature death, and lost work and school days. Now a new study finds that prenatal exposure is also a problem.

Researchers at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., drew on data from a Pennsylvania power plant from 1990 to 2006 and studied live births that occurred downwind of the plant in New Jersey.

Infants born to mothers living as far as 20 to 30 miles downwind from the power plant were 6.5% more likely to be born with a low birth weight (i.e., birth weight below 2,500 grams) and 17.12% more likely to be born with a very low birth weight (i.e., birth weight below 1,500 grams).

"Robust association"

"Identifying this causal effect is not only necessary for proposing regulatory policies on plant emissions, but also essential for inferring the long-term health impacts of such policies," said Muzhe Yang, Associate Professor of Economics at Lehigh. "A robust association has been found in the literature between birth weight and outcomes during adulthood, such as health, educational attainment, and earnings."

The study is not just theoretical. The problem of emissions crossing state borders has long complicated the regulation of power plants in the United States. While each state can regulate plants within its borders, it can't regulate those in neighboring states. The Lehigh study illustrates the impact that uncontrolled emissions can have on public health.

New Jersey tried for years to get emissions from the Portland Generating Station under control, filing petitions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency citing evidence showing that sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the plant had reached four New Jersey counties as far as 20 to 30 miles away.

The EPA eventually ruled that the emissions from this power plant alone caused the violations of the SO2 national ambient air quality standards in the downwind state, New Jersey, and found that the plant ranked fifth among the top 50 "dirtiest" plants in the country.

"In addition to identifying the impacts of the emissions from this particular coal-fired power plant on fetal health, the usefulness of this study's identification strategy is its potential application to other studies examining the impact of upwind states' power plant emissions, which have been the target of a series of environmental regulations, such as the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule," Yang added.

The study titled "The Impact of Prenatal Exposure to Power Plant Emissions on Birth Weight: Evidence from a Pennsylvania Power Plant Located Upwind of New Jersey" will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and is now available online.

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When to book your summer vacation hotel

It's probably going to be different from when you book air travel

Savvy travelers know they can save money by booking air travel at just the right time. Ticket prices fluctuate significantly between the time the flight is...

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Why knowing the price of a product could affect how much you enjoy it

Researchers say focusing on price makes the experience less relaxing

Do you ever find yourself agonizing over the price of something you’ve bought after the fact? Researchers from Vanderbilt University say it’s pretty common...

PhotoDo you ever find yourself agonizing over the price of something you’ve bought after the fact? Researchers from Vanderbilt University say it’s pretty common, and it often affects how much we enjoy the product too.

In a study, lead author Dr. Kelly Haws found that knowing the price of a product affected how much consumers valued it. "Being reminded of the price makes the experience less relaxing. This is due to the fact that we tend to evaluate the experience more critically when it's associated with money," she said.

Hurting the experience

To test their theory, the researchers had participants rate certain products with and without the knowledge of how much they cost. In the first scenario, participants were asked to select five songs online and listen to them three times before rating them on a scale of 1 to 100. While listening to the songs, one group could view the 99-cent price of buying each song, while the other group could not.

The researchers found that both groups gave the songs an average rating of 80 after listening to them the first time. However, after listening to it for the third time, the group that was able to see the song price dropped their average rating to 30, while the group that was unaware of the price only dropped their average rating to 60.

"The negative effect of pricing only emerged over time, not at the beginning," said Haws.

The same effect was observed in another scenario that asked consumers to retrieve M&Ms from a gumball machine. Participants who observed the price of the candies recorded lower overall satisfaction than those who were not aware of the price.

Separating price

So, what do these findings mean for consumers? For one, Haws points out that consumers who want to enjoy a product or experience shouldn’t focus on the price.

"If you are going on a date, don't talk about the cost. Or if you are going to an amusement park where the lines are long, thinking too much about the price of admission will steal away from your enjoyment of the experience," she said.

For marketers, the study could provide insight into how to boost enjoyment of a given product. Separating the price from the product, the researchers say, could lead to less consumer burnout and keep people from switching to another product over time.

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

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Amazon drops appeal of unauthorized charge case

Parents of kids who made in-app purchases in line to get refunds

After a year of appeals, Amazon is finally ready to accept a federal court's finding that it is responsible for in-app purchases made by children.The F...

PhotoAfter a year of appeals, Amazon is finally ready to accept a federal court's finding that it is responsible for in-app purchases made by children.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that the end of the appeals process will mean parents whose children used apps to make unauthorized Amazon purchases will receive refunds.

It was a year ago that a federal court ruled that Amazon charged consumers for in-app purchases made by children who were using mobile apps like online games, downloaded from Amazon's app store.

The court found that Amazon received many complaints from parents about surprise in-app charges incurred by children. The judge in the case said what Amazon disclosed about the possibility of in-app charges within otherwise “free” apps was not sufficient to inform consumers – especially children – about the charges.

The FTC says that because Amazon has dropped its appeal, the refund process will begin “shortly.” The agency says parents stand to get more than $70 million, which was the amount of in-app charges made between November 2011 and May 2016.

“This case demonstrates what should be a bedrock principle for all companies — you must get customers’ consent before you charge them,” said Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers affected by Amazon’s practices can now be compensated for charges they didn’t expect or authorize.”

The FTC previously took action against Google and Apple, related to unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children. Those companies ended up making refunds.

Details on how to secure a refund will be announced soon, the FTC says, so parents should stay tuned.

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Panera Bread sold to German group

JAB Holdings adds Panera to its growing portfolio of U.S. food companies

If you're a fan of Panera Bread, you might not have heard of JAB Holding Company, the German group that is buying the U.S. fast-casual chain for $7.5 billi...

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Mortgage applications drop for third straight week

Contract interest rates were mixed

Mortgage applications were down again for the third time in as many weeks.The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications dipped 1.6% during the...

PhotoMortgage applications were down again for the third time in as many weeks.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports applications dipped 1.6% during the week ending March 31, with the Refinance Index down 4%. That took the refinance share of mortgage activity to 42.6% of total applications from 44.0% the previous week.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 8.5% of total applications, the FHA share rose to 11.1% from 10.8% a week earlier, the VA share of total applications rose 1.1% to 11.1%, and the USDA share of total applications held steady at 1.0%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) inched up one basis point from 4.33% to to 4.34%, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.43 (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) slipped to 4.24% from 4.26%, with points decreasing to 0.24 from 0.26 (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 fell nine basis points to 4.15%, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs was unchanged at 3.57%, with points decreasing to 0.38 from 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs rose to 3.33% from 3.30%, with points decreasing to 0.13 from 0.28 (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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March job growth stronger than February's

Last month's gains were broad-based

The economy continued to crank out jobs in March at a rate that has economists smiling.The ADP National Employment Report, produced by the ADP Research...

PhotoThe economy continued to crank out jobs in March at a rate that has economists smiling.

The ADP National Employment Report, produced by the ADP Research Institute in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, shows private sector employment increased by 263,000 jobs.

Small businesses were the biggest contributor with the creation of 118,000 payroll positions, followed by medium-sized firms (+100,000 jobs) and large businesses (+45,000).

"The U.S. labor market finished the first quarter on a strong note," said ADP Research Institute Vice President Ahu Yildirmaz. "Consumer dependent industries including healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and trade had strong growth during the month."

The bulk of the new employment came in the services-providing sector, where 181,000 people found work. The heaviest job creation came in Professional/business services, with 57,000 new jobs.

In the goods-producing, there were 82,000 new payroll positions, led by construction (+49,000) and manufacturing (+30,000).

"Job growth is off to a strong start in 2017,” according to Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. “The gains are broad based but most notable in the goods producing side of the economy including construction, manufacturing and mining."

 

 

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Model year 2014 Fiat 500Ls recalled

The vehicle may not accelerate as expected

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 25,593 model year 2014 Fiat 500Ls.The Powertrain Control Module (PCM) software calibration maybe incorrect, limiting...

PhotoChrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 25,593 model year 2014 Fiat 500Ls.

The Powertrain Control Module (PCM) software calibration maybe incorrect, limiting the engine to idle speed and torque even when accelerator pedal is fully pressed.

If the vehicle does not accelerate as expected, there may be an increased risk of a crash.

What to do

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the PCM software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 5, 2017.

Owners may the Fiat informationcCenter at 1-888-242-6342. Chrysler's number for this recall is T19.

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A slowdown in the services growth rate

Fifteen industries reported expansion in March

March turned out to be another good month for the non-manufacturing sector of the economy as it grew for the 87th consecutive month.According to the No...

PhotoMarch turned out to be another good month for the non-manufacturing sector of the economy as it grew for the 87th consecutive month.

According to the Non-Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Report On Business, the Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI) came in at 55.2%. While that's down 2.4% from the previous month, the NMI remained above 50 -- the dividing line between expansion and contraction.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index dropped 4.7% to 58.9%, the New Orders Index was off 2.3% to 58.9% and the Employment Index fell 3.6% to 51.6%.

The Prices Index was down 4.2% to 53.5%, showing that prices increase, although at a slower rate for the 12th consecutive month, at a slower rate in March.

Industry by industry

Fifteen non-manufacturing industries reported growth:

  1. Management of Companies & Support Services;
  2. Utilities;
  3. Wholesale Trade;
  4. Mining;
  5. Real Estate, Rental & Leasing;
  6. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation;
  7. Accommodation & Food Services;
  8. Retail Trade;
  9. Health Care & Social Assistance;
  10. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting;
  11. Transportation & Warehousing;
  12. Construction;
  13. Finance & Insurance;
  14. Other Services; and
  15. Public Administration.

The three industries reporting contraction in March were:

  1. Information;
  2. Educational Services; and
  3. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services.

 

 

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New concerns about growing consumer debt

Annual survey finds consumers have more credit card debt, less in retirement savings

Consumers are turning to their credit cards once again, and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) warns that isn't a good thing.The orga...

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Melting snow a toxic brew, researchers find

Urban snow soaks up pollutants and releases them in the spring

As spring brings warmer temperatures, the snow that remains in many areas will begin to slowly melt away. Unfortunately, as it does so it will release a to...

PhotoAs spring brings warmer temperatures, the snow that remains in many areas will begin to slowly melt away. Unfortunately, as it does so it will release a toxic brew made up of car emissions and other pollutants that are unleashed into the environment as the weather warms up.

"We found that snow absorbs certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are organic pollutants known to be toxic and carcinogenic," says Yevgen Nazarenko, a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Department of Chemistry.

"Understanding how these pollutants interact with the environment, including snow, is crucial if we are to reduce the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths caused by mild air pollution in North America. Worldwide, air pollution claims as many as 8 million lives," says Prof. Parisa A. Ariya, senior author of the group's new study, published in Environmental Pollution.   

In some cases, it doesn't take high-tech equipment to sniff out shifting pollution levels.

"When one goes outdoors in winter, and there is fresh snow, one can sense the air has a different smell--it usually smells 'crisper'. Once the snow has been on the ground for some time, the effect goes away. When the weather warms up, the air acquires yet another smell. This is what led us to wonder about how exactly snow interacts with air pollutants," says Nazarenko.

The scientists analyzed how snow takes up pollutants from car emissions by exposing it to engine exhaust in a frozen glass sphere built in the lab. They found that exhaust is affected differently by the cold and snow depending on the type of fuel injection in the engine.

Exhaust particles altered

The new study also found that snow takes up airborne particulate matter and alters the concentrations of different nanoparticles, the smallest particles found in air pollution. These tiny particles have been linked to numerous health problems. Unexpectedly, colder temperatures and interaction with snow increased the relative presence of smaller nanoparticles in the polluted air above the snow.

Once in the snowpack, air pollutants may undergo chemical transformations that create additional pollutants with different toxicity and carcinogenicity. Some compounds, including more toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, may volatilize back into the air, while others accumulate in the snow and are released with meltwater.

"These releases could lead to a higher short-term concentration of certain pollutants in the air, soil and surface water bodies where the meltwater runs to," worries Nazarenko.

 

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The teen job-search could get a little tricky this summer

We have some tips for snagging a job

Industries that usually hire teen workers appear to be scaling back this year even though the economy continues to show signs of strength.What that mea...

PhotoIndustries that usually hire teen workers appear to be scaling back this year even though the economy continues to show signs of strength.

What that means for job-hunters, according to an outlook released Tuesday by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, is that opportunities for teens might appear in unusual places or later in the summer when retailers have had a chance to better gauge consumer demand.

“Retail -- including long-standing clothing and accessories stores -- are pivoting to online sales and continue to cut in-store workers,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “Teenagers will still have many opportunities, but they will not necessarily be in traditional retail stores.”

Rough going for retailers

Retailers have cut over 34,000 jobs in the first two months of the year, according to Challenger tracking. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meanwhile, tracked 26,000 job losses in general merchandise stores; sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores; and electronics and appliance stores in February.

“If retailers do decide to beef up hiring, it will likely be later in the summer for back-to-school season leading up to the winter holiday shopping season,” Challenger noted. “In the meantime, teens who want summer employment should look in non-traditional areas and tap into older, employed contacts to seek out possible positions.”

A strong 2016

Last summer saw the strongest teen employment since 2013, when 1,335,000 teens found jobs. Employment among teens increased by 1,339,000 between May and July in 2016 -- 15.4% more than through the same period in 2015, when 1,160,000 16- to 19-year-olds were added to the employment rolls.

Last year’s total was helped by heavier-than-usual teen employment gains in July. A total of 492,000 would-be workers found jobs in July, according to non-seasonally adjusted data released by the BLS. The July teen job gains were 33% higher than the previous July’s 369,000, and up 25% from the 392,900 July job gains averaged over the previous 10 years.

The strong summer hiring brought last year’s total employment among 16- to 19-year-olds to 6,040,000 -- the highest number of employed teens since August 2008.

Currently, 4,657,000 16 to 19 year-olds are employed, an increase of 49,000 workers from the previous February. If last summer’s trend continues, that number could jump to over 6 million by August.

“Even with the recent gains, though, teen employment is a shadow of its former self,” Challenger pointed out. “The latest figures are well below the employment levels of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it was common to see 7.0 million to 8.5 million teenagers employed at the peak of the summer job surge. In 1978, more than 10 million teenaged Baby Boomers were working in July.”

What to do

Challenger offered the following suggestions to make the job search more productive:

  • Search where others are not. Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs are often not as sought-after by teen job seekers.
  • Look for odd jobs at odd hours. ­Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees. As a job-search strategy, conduct a search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.
  • Become a door-to-door salesman when selling your skills. ­Do what good salesmen do -- start on one block and go from business to business, door to door. Don’t simply ask for an application. Take the time to introduce yourself and build some rapport with the hiring manager.
  • Call friends and relatives. Parents and other relatives are often the best source for information on job leads. However, don’t forget to stay in touch with friends and other classmates, especially those who have been able to find jobs.
  • Be a job-search ninja. Wait outside the store or offices of a prospective employer to attempt to intercept a hiring manager upon his or her arrival.
  • Dress for the part. Even if you are applying to work on a road crew, show up to all interviews in nice clothes. You want the interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not on your ripped jeans and paint-splattered t-shirt.
  • Don’t hesitate to revisit employers. The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees typically have higher-than-average turnover. An employer that did not hire you a couple of months ago might need more workers now.

 

 

 

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Are you worried about rising interest rates?

Consumers with a home equity loan might be

It's been years, it seems, since we've had a serious discussion about interest rates. Until recently, the debate has been over whether rates are too low, n...

PhotoIt's been years, it seems, since we've had a serious discussion about interest rates. Until recently, the debate has been over whether rates are too low, not too high.

Since the financial market meltdown, the Federal Reserve has kept its key borrowing rate near zero. The low-rate environment has allowed home prices to steadily rise back toward their bubble levels, since payments are lower than they would be with higher rates.

Now, however, rates are starting to rise again, as the Fed has declared that the economy is strong enough to deal with it. The Fed hiked its Federal Funds Rate in December and again in March.

Consumers with floating interest rate loans, such as home equity lines of credit (HELOC) might be getting a little nervous. A survey by TD Bank found consumers with loans and those thinking about borrowing are more concerned about rates than any other factor when taking out a loan.

Minimal effect so far

"Although the rate increase may worry some HELOC borrowers, they should keep in mind that a rate increase of .25% is going to have a minimal effect on their monthly payment," said Mike Kinane, General Manager, Home Equity Products, TD Bank.

Kinane says borrowers who are worried about their HELOC payments rising should contact their lender to learn if the balance of the loan can be converted to a fixed rate.

The bank's survey found 46% of consumers named interest rates as the most influential factor when deciding whether to take out a HELOC. In fact, 36% said the HELOC's low rate was the motivating factor in deciding to take out the loan, rather than using some other form of credit.

How a HELOC works

A HELOC is secured by equity in a consumer's primary residence. In effect, it is a second mortgage but the rate is generally little more than the rate on the first mortgage.

The advantage of a HELOC is the interest is tax deductible. Some consumers use the HELOC to pay off a higher interest loan or to finance a major home improvement, since the payments reduce their taxable income.

Like any loan leveraging the equity in your home, consumers should approach this product carefully. Plenty of people got in trouble during the housing bubble because they repeatedly refinanced their home mortgages, taking out equity each time. In some cases, they were left underwater when their home values went down.

"When considering a home equity loan or credit line, shop around and compare loan plans offered by banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and mortgage companies," the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises. "Shopping can help you get a better deal."

It's also important to remember that your home is the collateral. If you can't repay the debt, the lender may be able to force you to sell your home.

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Verizon to name Yahoo/AOL merger 'Oath'

The entity will be created pending a successful acquisition deal

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Four common retirement mistakes

AARP says they all have to do with money

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UPS expands Saturday ground delivery options

The company plans to roll out ground delivery and pick-up options nationwide

Want that package in time for Monday? UPS just might have you covered. The parcel service has announced a nationwide plan for expanding its Saturday packag...

PhotoWant that package in time for Monday? UPS just might have you covered. The parcel service has announced a nationwide plan for expanding its Saturday package delivery option.

The program -- which began nine months ago in the major markets of Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, amongst others – was meant to keep up with consumers’ increased demand for e-commerce shipments, according to a Bloomberg report.

After finding success in the three test markets, the company said it will expand Saturday ground deliveries and pickup options to 15 more markets in the following month, including areas of New York, Chicago, and Boston. The company plans to expand to approximately 4,700 areas by November encompassing 5,800 cities and towns, the company said.

The full list of introductory markets, including the first test markets can be found below [via Consumerist]:

• Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
• St. Louis, MO-IL
• Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
• Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
• San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
• Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
• New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
• Syracuse, NY
• Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
• Pittsburgh, PA MSA
• Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
• Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
• Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO
• Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
• Knoxville, TN

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Conagra recalls Hunt’s Chili Kits

The chili seasoning packet contained in the kit may be contaminated with Salmonella

Conagra Brands is recalling a limited amount of Hunt’s Chili Kits.The chili seasoning packet contained in the kit may be contaminated with Salmonella....

PhotoConagra Brands is recalling a limited amount of Hunt’s Chili Kits.

The chili seasoning packet contained in the kit may be contaminated with Salmonella.

There have been no reports of adverse reactions or injuries due to consumption of this product to date.

The following product, distributed in retail stores, military commissaries and online across the U.S., is being recalled:

Item DescriptionUPCMFG/Lot CodeBest By Date
HUNT’S CHILI KIT 44.8OZ20-0-27000-42063-23534619500Apr 04, 2018
HUNT’S CHILI KIT 44.8OZ20-0-27000-42063-23534622200May 01, 2018
HUNT’S CHILI KIT 44.8OZ20-0-27000-42063-23534619600Apr 05, 2018

The product code information is on the bottom of the kit below the barcode.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume it, but return it to the store where originally purchased.

Consumers with questions may call the consumer affairs hotline at 1-800-921-7404, from 9 am through 5 pm (CDT), Monday through Friday.

 

 

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Mercedes-Benz recalls G550 4MATIC and G63 AMG vehicles

The door may not be opened properly

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 26 model year 2016 G550 4MATIC and G63 AMG vehicles.The cable that unlatches the door when the inner door handle...

PhotoMercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 26 model year 2016 G550 4MATIC and G63 AMG vehicles.

The cable that unlatches the door when the inner door handle is pulled may break if the door is difficult to release, such as could occur after a crash.

As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 206, "Door Locks and Door Retention Components."

If the cable breaks and the door cannot be opened from inside the vehicle after a crash, the occupant is at an increased risk of an injury.

What to do

MBUSA will notify owners and dealers will replace the cable that connects the inner door handle and the door lock on all four doors, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in April 2017.

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

 

 

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Why a tiny house might not be a great investment

Trulia suggests they're a fad, and may be hard to sell later

A growing number of consumers who are convinced "small is beautiful" are embracing the "tiny house" movement.With home prices rising and inventories fa...

PhotoA growing number of consumers who are convinced "small is beautiful" are embracing the "tiny house" movement.

With home prices rising and inventories falling, the appeal of a small, inexpensive dwelling might seem compelling. As we reported back in 2014, these homes of 200 to 800 square feet can often be built quite inexpensively.

But since then, designs have gotten more efficient -- and even exotic -- and the price range has soared higher. These days they can cost around $80,000 -- still cheaper than a single family home and most condos.

People who buy tiny houses often have other reasons for doing so, but the editors at real estate marketplace Trulia caution that the financial part should not be overlooked, and they argue that a tiny house is not a good investment.

'Wildly impractical'

Blake Miller, writing on the Trulia Blog, calls a tiny house "wildly impractical" as a financial investment. If it turns out to be a fad, he says there will be fewer would-be buyers when you get ready to sell.

He also points to supply and demand. At home shows tiny houses get all the attention because they're cool. More builders have started offering products with ever-increasing design efficiencies. But Miller argues there are a lot more tiny homes out there than there are serious buyers.

He maintains the buildings are just too small and eventually, the homeowner will want to have more space. Therefore, he concludes they just aren't a wise investment.

Lifestyle choice

It should be noted that there are plenty of people who take the other side of that argument, and most will point out people don't buy tiny houses to flip them in a couple of years. They buy them because it represents a lifestyle choice.

There are plenty of tiny house blogs, including Tiny House, Giant Journey (THGJ), extolling the virtues of living small. THGJ even maintains that building a tiny house is not expensive, compared to a standard single-family home.

Tiny houses actually have deep American roots. Pioneers who trekked into the wilderness to start new lives had no choice but to build tiny houses, at least to start. Those first frontier homes were usually one-room structures, made from the materials at hand.

Over the centuries houses have gotten much bigger. Today, the average square footage of a U.S. residence is just under 2,500 square feet.

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NetSpend settles with FTC for $53 million

The company was charged with using deceptive practices to sell prepaid card products to consumers

Back in November, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged NetSpend Corporation – one of the largest providers of prepaid debit cards in the U.S. – with...

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Cord cutting may be getting easier

Verizon reportedly planning to launch streaming TV network

Pity the poor cable TV giants. Every day, it seems, brings new challenges in keeping subscribers, not to mention signing up new ones.The problem is an...

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New car prices still going up

But red hot truck and SUV segments are cooling off

Consumers continue to pay more for new cars, purchasing more expensive vehicles with more options.The latest numbers from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) show t...

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Increase in rents slows in March

But renters still face challenges in the months ahead

If you were looking for a home or apartment to rent last month, there wasn't a lot of good news.Overall, the rate of rent increases slowed a bit, to 2....

PhotoIf you were looking for a home or apartment to rent last month, there wasn't a lot of good news.

Overall, the rate of rent increases slowed a bit, to 2.4% year-over-year, and some markets actually saw rents go down. Unfortunately, the markets where rent costs declined are already some of the most expensive rental markets in the nation.

At the same time, some relatively low rent areas saw big increases. Not surprisingly, these communities are on the outskirts of the nation's most expensive markets. Renters who couldn't afford the cost of renting a home in the city simply moved to the suburbs, pushing up demand -- and costs.

In its latest rent report, Apartment List found that the increase in rent nationally slowed from 1% in February to 0.4% in March. While that might sound encouraging if you're a renter, it really isn't.

Rents are rising once again

"Following a sustained stretch of flat to declining rent growth for much of 2016, our national rent index has now increased in each of the past three months," the Apartment List report says.

In other words, rents are moving up again, everywhere except the markets where they are already out of sight. Here's a sample of some of the most expensive rental markets, with the median rent on a one-bedroom apartment.

  • San Francisco, $3,470
  • New York, $3,200
  • Boston, $2,790
  • Washington, DC, $2,180
  • Los Angeles, $1,950

But rents are rising slowly, or not at all, in these cities. Where rents are rising fastest are in markets near these cities. For example, Stockton, Calif., 80 miles outside San Francisco, has seen rents climb 12.5% over the last year.

Housing market imbalance

It all points to a severe imbalance in the nation's housing market that began after the housing bubble popped. With much tighter mortgage underwriting rules, fewer people could buy houses, pushing more consumers into the rental market, pushing up rental costs just about everywhere.

Even now, nearly a decade after the collapse of the housing market, it is harder to purchase a home. If you do manage to qualify for a mortgage and scrape together the money for a down payment, it's more difficult to find a home to buy. Inventory levels are sharply lower, especially in the hot housing markets.

The Wall Street Journal reports this spring's housing market promises to be especially tough for buyers, who face the triple whammy of rising prices, rising mortgage rates and the lowest inventory levels in two decades.

That could produce more renters, sending rents up even more.

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Manufacturing economy grows in March -- but at a slower rate

Seventeen of 18 industries reported expansion

March was another good month for U.S. manufacturing, although not as good as February.According to the Manufacturing ISM Report On Business, economic a...

PhotoMarch was another good month for U.S. manufacturing, although not as good as February.

According to the Manufacturing ISM Report On Business, economic activity in the manufacturing sector as gauged by the Purchasing Managers Index(PMI) registered 57.2% last month, down 0.5% from the February reading.

A reading above 50 signifies growth, while a reading below that indicates contraction.

Also during March, the overall economy grew for the 94th consecutive month.

A closer look

The New Orders Index dipped 0.6% last month to 64.5% and the Production Index came in at 57.6%, a drop of 5.3%. At the same time, the Employment Index jumped 4.7% to 8.9%.

Inventories of raw materials were down 2.5% to 49%, while the Prices Index rose 2.5% to 70.5%, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 13th consecutive month.

Industry performance

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, the following 17 reported growth in March:

  1. Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components;
  2. Printing & Related Support Activities;
  3. Furniture & Related Products;
  4. Textile Mills;
  5. Machinery;
  6. Primary Metals;
  7. Miscellaneous Manufacturing;
  8. Wood Products;
  9. Nonmetallic Mineral Products;
  10. Plastics & Rubber Products;
  11. Paper Products;
  12. Transportation Equipment;
  13. Chemical Products;
  14. Computer & Electronic Products;
  15. Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products;
  16. Fabricated Metal Products; and
  17. Petroleum & Coal Products.

No industry reported contraction in March from February.

 

 

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Menu Del Sol frozen burritos recalled

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Sigma Alimentos Congelados, which produces burritos under the Menu Del Sol brand name, is recalling 201 cases of frozen beans and cheese burritos.The p...

PhotoSigma Alimentos Congelados, which produces burritos under the Menu Del Sol brand name, is recalling 201 cases of frozen beans and cheese burritos.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The following item, distributed in and sold via retail outlets in California and Nevada, is being recalled:

CategoryBrandUPCProduct DescriptionPackLot
FrozenMenu Del Sol45230-05601 BurritosBeans and Cheese2 LbC3018

The recalled product can be specifically identified by locating the black printed code on red background on the front of the package, toward the top, next to the Menu Del Sol logo. This information includes the corresponding lot number (“LOT C3018”) and a best by date of March 1, 2018 (“BEST BY MAR01 18”.)

What to do

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

Consumers with questions may contact the consumer hotline at 1-800-706-8289.

 

 

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Ford recalls more than 441k vehicles

The recalls cover three separate safety issues

Ford Motor Company is recalling more than 441,00 vehicles for a variety of safety issues.The first is for approximately 230,000 model year 2014 Ford Es...

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