Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2017
  4. April

News in April 2017

Get trending consumer news and recalls

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    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 that in mind, Cheapflights.com, an airfare comparison site, has compiled a list of bargain, but memorable, trips for Mom and the kids, just in time for Mothers' Day.

    Of course, what might be enjoyable for a six-year-old might not hold the same appeal for a teenager, and vice versa. So the site has broken down its trip picks by age group.

    For a mother with young children, it recommends a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. It's a low-stress destination with 62 miles of beaches. Besides kicking back on the sand, Myrtle Beach offers an oceanfront amusement park, and mini golf courses all over town.

    Mom and her teenage kids might enjoy an excursion to Belize. The Belize Barrier Reef is huge and a delicate environmental wonder. On land, there are many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

    Older kids

    Kids in their 20s may have left home, but still might enjoy a trip with Mom. Cheapflights suggests Barcelona, Spain. The city is a relatively inexpensive European destination offering a rich culture, not to mention great food and wine. Attractions include the Picasso Museum and the National Museum of Catalan Art.

    Okay, so maybe the kids have grown up and have families of their own. They still might like to get away with Mom to someplace exotic, like Capetown, South Africa.

    The city is home to Table Mountain, whose summit is reachable by hiking trail or cable car. The city is also known for its pristine beaches, as well as restaurants, cafes, and bars.

    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...

    Nearly a quarter-million Toyota Tacomas recalled

    The rear differential may leak oil

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling roughly 228,000 model year 2016 and 2017 Toyota Tacomas in the U.S.

    The recalled vehicles have rear differentials that may leak oil. Operating the vehicle continuously in this condition could damage the rear differential, resulting in noise and reduced propulsion.

    In some cases the rear differential could seize, resulting in a loss of control of the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Toyota dealers will check the rear differential for any oil leakage. If no leaks are found, all fasteners will be re-tightened. If there is a leak, dealers will replace the rear differential carrier gasket with a new one and install new fasteners.

    If rear differential components are damaged, the rear differential carrier assembly will be replaced with a new one at no cost to customers.

    Toyota will notify all known owners of the recalled vehicles by first class mail starting in the middle of June.

    Owners may call Toyota customer service for more information at 1-800-331-4331.

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling roughly 228,000 model year 2016 and 2017 Toyota Tacomas in the U.S.The recalled vehicles have rear differential...

    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 seated in the carrier can slip through the leg openings, posing a fall hazard to children.

    The firm has received four reports of children falling through the carrier leg openings, resulting in one report of a skull fracture and one report of scratches to the head.

    This recall involves all models of Poco, Poco Plus and Poco Premium child backpack carriers manufactured between January 2012, and December 2014.

    The nylon child carriers were sold in three colors: “Romper Red,” “Koala Grey,” and “Bouncing Blue,” and have a metal frame and a gray padded child’s seat inside. The production date is stamped on a black label sewn into the interior of the large lower zippered compartment on the back of the carrier.

    Recalled carriers have a production date code of S12SBPR1, S12SBPR1B, S12SBPR2, S12SBPR3, S12SBPR4, F12SBPR1, F12SBPR2, S13SB IPO, S13SBPR1, S13SBPR2, S13SBPR3, S13SBPR4, F13SBPR1, F13SBPR2, F13SBPR3, S14SBPR1, S14SBPR2, S14SBPR3, S14SBPR4, S14SBPR5.

    “Osprey” is printed on the fabric above the kick stand. The model name is printed on the back at the bottom.

    The carriers, manufactured in Vietnam, were sold at REI and specialty outdoor stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com from January 2012, to December 2015, for between $200 and $300.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled carriers and contact Osprey for a free Seat Pad Insert for use along with the existing safety straps to secure the child in the carrier.

    Consumers who previously received and installed the free Seat Pad Insert in their carriers are not required to take further action.

    Consumers may contact Osprey toll-free at 866-951-5197 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MT) Monday through Friday, by email at pocoseatpad@ospreypacks.com or online at www.ospreypacks.com and click on “Poco Safety Notices” on the navigation bar at the top right hand corner of the page for more information.

     

     

    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...

    Pending home sales reverse course in March

    Low inventory is blamed for the pullback

    After surging to the highest level in nearly a year during February, pending home sales have slackened a bit.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) dipped 0.8% in March, with only the South registering an increase in contract signings.

    NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun blames sparse inventories for the decline in the forward-looking indicator based on contract signings.

    "Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range," said Yun. "In most areas, the lower the price of a home for sale, the more competition there is for it. That's the reason why first-time buyers have yet to make up a larger share of the market this year, despite there being more sales overall."

    A sellers market

    "Sellers are in the driver's seat this spring as the intense competition for the few homes for sale is forcing many buyers to be aggressive in their offers," said Yun. "Buyers are showing resiliency given the challenging conditions. However, at some point -- and the sooner the better -- price growth must ease to a healthier rate. Otherwise sales could slow if affordability conditions worsen."

    Yun sees existing-home sales at around 5.64 million this year -- up 3.5% from 2016. The national median existing-home price this year, he speculates, will rise around 5%.

    Signings by region

    • The PHSI in the Northeast was down 2.9% to 99.1 in March, but it's still up 1.8% from year ago.
    • In the Midwest, the index dropped 1.2% to 109.6 and is now 2.4% below its March 2016 level.
    • Signings in the West fell 2.9% for an index reading of 94.5, a year-over-year loss of 2.7%.
    • Pending home sales in the South were up 1.2% for an index of 129.4 and are now 3.9% above the same month a year ago. 
    After surging to the highest level in nearly a year during February, pending home sales have slackened a bit.The National Association of Realtors (NAR)...

    Mercedes-Benz recalls G550s, G63 and G65 AMGs

    The vehicles could suffer a loss of steering

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 10,832 model year 2013-2016 G550 and G63 AMGs and 2016 G65 AMGs.

    The steering coupling may have been insufficiently tightened, resulting in the steering connection wearing which could cause a loss of steering, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering coupling, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in May 2017.

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

     

     

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 10,832 model year 2013-2016 G550 and G63 AMGs and 2016 G65 AMGs.The steering coupling may have been insufficient...

    Economic growth slows in 2017's first three months

    A dip in consumer spending fueled the slowdown

    It's not a particularly encouraging picture.

    Growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an anemic annual rate 0.7% in the first quarter after expanding 2.1% in the final quarter of last year.

    According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the deceleration was due to a slowdown in personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or consumer spending, and downturns in private inventory investment and in state and local government spending.

    Those were partly offset by a pickup in exports and increases in both nonresidential and residential fixed investment.

    It should be kept in mind that this is just the first of three estimates of GDP and that the data are incomplete or subject to further revision.

    GDP inflation

    The PCE price index rose 2.4% in the first quarter, versus an increase of 2.0%. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index (core) was up 2.0%, after rising 1.3% in the previous quarter.

    The complete report is available on the BEA website.

     

     

    It's not a particularly encouraging picture.Growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an anemic annual rate 0.7% in the first quarter after e...

    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, posing fall and injury hazards to riders.

    The firm has received three reports of the clamping bolts breaking. No injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves Chromag bicycle stems used to clamp the fork steerer and/or handlebars. The recalled stems include models BZA, Director, HiFi and Ranger. Only stems with a “Z” marked inside the bolt head are included in this recall. “Chromag” and the model name are printed on the stems.

    The stems were sold separately from bicycles. Bolts used in the stems are 6 mm in diameter and 20 mm in length. The stems were sold in various colors including black, red, blue, gold, purple and silver.

    The stems, manufactured in Taiwan and Canada, were sold at Arts Cyclery, Beatchwood Cycles, Beat Cycles, Breadwinner Cycles, Blazin Saddles, Harpers, Quality Bicycle Products, The Bike Hub and Squatch Cycles nationwide or online at www.chromagbikes.com from November 2016, through March 2017, for about $120 for the stem.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using bicycles with the recalled stems and contact Chromag for free replacement bolts for the stem.

    Consumers may contact Chromag Bikes at 800-380-4102 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Thursday, by email at info@chromagbikes.com or online at www.chromagbikes.com and click on Stem Bolt Recall at the top of the page for more information.

     

     

    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,...

    United wants to prevent another passenger-dragging incident

    Employees will be given more power to resolve issues on the spot

    Call it a lesson learned. United Airlines has been subjected to a firestorm of consumer and policymaker wrath since it forcibly removed a Kentucky physician from a flight on April 9.

    Now the airline has announced several policy changes, many of which might have prevented the public relations nightmare of social media videos showing burly security officers dragging a bloodied Dr. David Dao from the airliner so that a United employee could take his seat.

    As you may recall, the flight from Chicago to Louisville was sold out when United suddenly announced the need to get four of its employees to Louisville so they could work the next day. Three passengers aboard the flight voluntarily gave up their seats but when no one else did, a computer picked Dao and airline personnel told him he was being involuntrily bumped.

    But Dao refused, saying he was completing a long trip and had patients to see the next day in Louisville. At that point security personnel were summoned and, after Dao still refused to budge, he was dragged from the aircraft in front of horrified fellow passengers who recorded the scene on their smartphones. Dao's attorney said his client was seriously injured in the encounter, including suffering a concussion and broken nose.

    What's changing

    From now on, United says it will only summon law enforcement to deal with issues of safety and security. It will also not demand a passenger already seated on a plane to give up a seat, unless it's an issue of safety or security.

    For passengers who volunteer to give up their seat when a flight is oversold, the company is raising the compensation up to $10,000. It had been about $800. It also said that it will reduce the amount of overbooking, meaning United flights may have a few empty seats in the future.

    While the Dao incident was generally described as an overbooking issue, it wasn't. Every seat was filled with paying passengers when United decided it needed to get four employees to Louisville and they were going to get there on that flight.

    'Customer solutions team'

    In the future, United says employees taking a flight to get to a work location must be booked at least an hour in advance. In addition, the airline is establishing a “customer solutions team” to come up with creative solutions when these conflicts arise, such as using other airlines, and even other nearby airports.

    Perhaps more important, the policy is being changed to allow airline employees to make decisions on the spot to resolve issues before they escalate. Along with that, United employees will undergo additional training.

    No arguments about lost luggage

    In a final bone to frustrated airline passengers, United said it will cut a lot of red tape when it comes to permanently lost luggage, adopting a “no questions asked” policy.

    "Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz. “Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize.”

    Munoz says a lot of things went wrong in Chicago on April 9, when he said the airline's policies got in the way of doing what's right.

    Call it a lesson learned. United Airlines has been subjected to a firestorm of consumer and policymaker wrath since it forcibly removed a Kentucky physicia...

    Officials consider adding an admissions fee for the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    The move could alienate tourists and generate public backlash

    For many years, lovers of art have been able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see some of their favorite masterpieces at no cost. However, that may be about to change.

    According to a New York Times report, Mayor Bill de Blasio has given his endorsement to allowing the Met to charge admission to visitors who either aren’t native to New York or don't specifically live in New York City. Although this could damage the museum’s reputation as a public institution, the move could shore up a multi-million budget deficit that the museum currently faces.

    “I’m a big fan of Russian oligarchs paying more to get into the Met,” de Blasio said.

    Alienating tourists and residents

    However, critics point out that it isn’t just foreign diplomats who would be hurt by the change in policy. Potentially excluded residents of New York and tourists alike would obviously be taken aback by having to pay to access a public entity that had been free for a century and only now has a “suggested” entrance fee of $25.

    Tourism plays a big part in the Met’s annual income, with 63% of its visitors coming from outside New York. Instituting a fee that appears to “gouge” these consumers could generate backlash, something that could negatively affect de Blasio in his coming re-election campaign.

    “This risks being a classic case of ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’ Revenue is good, but so is our reputation of being a tourist-welcoming city,” said former New York City public advocate Mark Green.

    Mismanagement

    Worse yet, some consumers may see the move as a cover-up for financial and governance missteps that have come to light. Unlike other museums in the city, the Met has been classified as a public museum; the building is technically owned by the city, which appropriates $26 million to the institution every year. However, that figure is far below the $332 million annual operating cost that the museum incurs, and the lack of income has led to a $15 million budget deficit.

    Met leaders have strove to cut costs wherever they can by reducing the number of annual exhibitions and cutting staff, but it hasn’t been enough to turn the financial tides. Proponents of adding an entrance fee say that it could add tens of millions of dollars to the museum’s annual revenue.

    Critics have fired back with concerns that the city might pull some of its funding if the museum starts becoming more self-sufficient. Mayor de Blasio stopped short of saying that any future success wouldn’t jeopardize city support.

    “I don’t think we have an assumption about city funding. It’s about them being able to sustain their operations long term and would actually mean they wouldn’t need additional city funding, in theory. But no, the real issue is just to allow them to defray some of their costs in a way that’s fair to city residents,” de Blasio said.

    "Just exploring" options

    While officials still ultimately have to draft a final admissions fee policy, the groundwork for adding such a fee was laid back in 2013 when Met officials signed an amendment to the museum's lease that would allow it to renegotiate its ticket fee policy.

    City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Tom Finkelpearl said that he had spoken to Met officials about changing its pricing structure and that his department would consider a formal proposal when it was submitted.

    Met President and CEO Daniel H. Weiss acknowledged the issue earlier this week and said that the museum would be “looking at everything to bridge our budget deficit, including the pricing structure we have with the city, which is something we have done throughout our history.”

    “Whatever we do is going to be collaborative and mutually supportive. . . All we’re doing is exploring,” Weiss said. 

    For many years, lovers of art have been able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see some of their favorite masterpieces at no cost. However, that m...

    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 credit card interest rate has risen to 15.74%, an all-time high, according to CreditCards.com.

    That record covers the span that the card comparison website has been conducting its weekly analysis. In the past, long before the internet, credit card rates have been a lot higher. But in recent memory, they haven't.

    CreditCards.com calculates its average by looking at the rates on the 100 most popular credit cards in the U.S., in all types of categories.

    For example, the average rate on credit cards for consumers with bad credit is much higher – 23.20%. But “low interest” credit cards, usually offered to consumers with good or excellent credit, have an average interest rate of 12.50%.

    There are lots of cards in between. The average rate on your cash-back credit card is 15.79%. The rate on business cards is 13.66%. For student credit cards, the average rate is 13.92%.

    What's behind the rate moves

    Why are credit card rates going up when mortgage rates are going down? The answer lies in the things that influence those rates, and they're different.

    Mortgage rates take their cue from the 10-year Treasury bond. When the interest rate on this note goes down, as it has in recent weeks, mortgage rates also fall.

    Credit card rates, however, are directly affected by the Federal Reserve's Federal Funds Rate. The Fed raised that rate in December, and again in March. It has signaled its intentions to raise it again a time or two later this year.

    If you are carrying a large balance on a high-interest credit card, you might consider transferring the balance to a card that offers a year or more of 0% interest. We explain some options here.

    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...

    Do you carry your weight around the middle? Researchers say you could be at risk

    A study finds that consumers with central obesity are at greater risk of all-cause mortality

    It’s easy to lose count of the number of studies that have warned consumers about the dangers of obesity. From increased risk of cardiovascular disease to the prevalence of other conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, researchers have made it clear that being obese is a serious concern.

    But what about consumers who don’t quite fit that “classic” model of being overweight? Maybe your Body Mass Index (BMI) is completely normal but you carry your weight around your middle. If so, then a recent study shows that you may be in danger too.

    Researchers from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences have found that consumers with central obesity have the highest risk of death from all causes compared to others who are overweight or obese and carry their weight elsewhere on their body.

    "It is yet further evidence that even if you are within a 'healthy' BMI range but you carry weight around your stomach your health is still at risk. The message here is that if you do have central obesity, no matter what your BMI, you should take steps to reduce this fat," said professor and researcher Mark Hamer.

    Risks of central obesity

    Previous smaller-scale studies have shown how risky central obesity is, but the findings had yet to be corroborated by research on a larger group. To remedy this, researchers Mark Hamer, David Stensel, and Dr. Gary O’Donovan analyzed over 42,000 participants who took part in 10 different years of the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey.

    The study categorized participants based on their BMI scores and waist-hip ratios into several different weight groups. They included: normal weight; normal weight with central obesity; overweight; overweight with central obesity; obese; and obese with central obesity.

    The findings showed that participants who had central obesity were at increased risk of all-cause mortality when compared to normal weight participants. Specifically, the researchers found that all participants with central obesity, regardless of their BMI, were at increased risk of death due to cardiovascular problems.

    "Our research does back up the findings of previous smaller scale studies which show normal weight people with central obesity are at increased risk for all-cause mortality,” said Hamer of the results.

    The full study has been published in Annals of Internal Medicine

    It’s easy to lose count of the number of studies that have warned consumers about the dangers of obesity. From increased risk of cardiovascular disease to...

    How you can turn that internship into a job offer

    We have some does and don'ts for scoring

    It's a jungle out there.

    An improving economy coupled with hard-to-find talent have driven the number and quality of internship applications higher.

    Add to that labor shortages, competition among undergraduates a change change in the work given to interns and you wind up with the growing importance of internships when it comes to finding a job after graduation.

    “Internships are more important than ever, but not all internship programs are created equal,” according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Vice President Andrew Challenger. “Many employers do not have any type of strategy when it comes to utilizing and educating their interns. In these situations both the employer and the intern lose. It is critical that young people entering an internship program take a proactive approach to managing and maximizing their experience.”

    While statistics about the number of internship positions held each year are difficult to come by, some estimates put the total between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000.

    Currently listed on internships.com are more than 190,086 available positions from 120,288 companies located in 9,288 cities across all 50 states.

    Internships translate to real jobs

    Regardless of how many people participate in internships, the importance of these opportunities to career development should not be overlooked. A 2013 survey of graduates by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 63.1% of those who participated in paid internships received at least one job offer.

    Another NACE survey revealed that 95% of employers said candidate experience is a factor in hiring decisions, and nearly half wanted that experience to come from internships or co-op programs.

    “Obviously, the internship should appear on the resume and mentioned in the cover letter, but first-time job seekers should also create a complete LinkedIn profile,” said Challenger. “Interns should network within the organization and obtain recommendations from those with which they work directly.” 

    “Interns should not just network for recommendations, of course. Networking within the organization can also produce job leads or even an actual job offer,” added Challenger. 

    What to do

    Be open to anything. Don't be set on interning for companies in your field; open up to many different companies across industries. It's important not to be picky with superficial aspects such as brand recognition. Interning for small to medium-sized companies can give you a chance to take on meaningful work and make a significant impact.

    Network, network, network. Ask for informational meetings or coffee with employees that work in the companies or departments that interest you. You can also reach out to employees through LinkedIn or Twitter. If your relationship grows, they may pass your name along to HR or a hiring manager.

    Treat your internship as a real job. Think of your internship as a trial period or extended interview for obtaining the position you want.

    Be on time and meet deadlines. Keep a positive attitude and show that you are eager to learn and succeed by seeking out feedback to improve your performance and develop new skills.

    Take initiative and exceed expectations. Don't be afraid to voice your own ideas, offer solutions and ask questions. Show interest in attending meetings and seek out extra work and new projects. When you go above and beyond the minimum, you demonstrate your commitment level and gain the attention of management.

    Follow the company dress code. While you want to stand out from the pack, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons. By dressing professionally you reinforce the impression that you can adapt to and fit in with the company’s culture.

    Keep track of your contributions and accomplishments. A tangible record of your achievements with the company is a helpful tool in convincing a manager why you should be hired full time.

    Ask about available entry-level positions. Let your employer know that you want a job with that particular organization. Ask about what positions are available and express your interest in them. An employer will be more likely to consider you for a position if she knows you're interested in it.

    Stay in contact. If you don’t get hired for a position immediately after your internship ends, stay in touch. Check-in with your contacts and provide updates on your progress. It'll help to keep you in the forefront for the employer’s mind when a position opens.

    Jobless claims

    Speaking of jobs, the Labor Department (DOL) reports first-time applications for state unemployment benefits headed high in the week ending April 22, rising 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 257,000. The week's level was revised down by 1,000.

    The 4-week moving, generally considered to give a more accurate view of the labor market because of its relative lack of volatility, came in at 242,250 -- down 500 from the previous week.

    The full report is available on the DOL website. 

     

     

    It's a jungle out there.An improving economy coupled with hard-to-find talent have driven the number and quality of internship applications higher....

    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.

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

    The following ready-to-eat hickory smoked and BBQ ham items, packaged on January 16, 2017, are being recalled:

    • 14-lb. vacuum-sealed packages containing “FINEBERG’S Finest Danish Brand BBQ Flavored Ham” with Sell by date 03/26/2017 and case code 17016.
    • 30.6-lb. boxes containing 2 vacuum-sealed packages of “Holly Brand hickory smoked fully cooked HAM” with case code 17016.

    The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 428” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Brad Davis at (901) 458-2622.

     

     

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

    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 Cocolicious Chicken & Beef dog food (Lot #0134E15 237 13, best by August 2019).

    The products may contain pentobarbital.

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

    What to do

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

     

     

    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...

    Mercedes-Benz recalls E300 and E300 4MATIC vehicles

    The roof-mounted spoiler may detach during driving

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 411 model year 2016-2017 E300 and model year 2017 E300 4MATIC vehicles.

    The recalled vehicles have a roof-mounted spoiler that may not be properly attached and thus may detach during driving.

    If the roof-mounted spoiler detaches, it can become a road hazard, increasing a risk of a crash.

    What to do

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the roof spoilers, replacing them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early June 2017.

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

     

     

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 411 model year 2016-2017 E300 and model year 2017 E300 4MATIC vehicles.The recalled vehicles have a roof-mounted...

    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 be contaminated with extraneous materials. Specifically, a metal magnet was found in the beef trim source product of the processed sausage products.

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

    The following items, produced from March 8, 2017, through April 8, 2017, are being recalled:

    • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 26-28 pieces of “GARCIA BRAND SMOKED SAUSAGE, 9˝” with case code 0-54912-20040-9.
    • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 36-40 pieces of “GARCIA BRAND SMOKED SAUSAGE, 7˝” with case code 0-54912-17020-7.
    • 10-lb. bulk boxes containing 26-30 pieces of “GARCIA BRAND BEEF SMOKED SAUSAGE, 9˝” with case code 0-54912-17050-4.
    • 1.75-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND SMOKED SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-20010-2.
    • 1.75-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND SMOKED HOT SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-20050-8.
    • 1.75-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND CHICKEN SMOKED SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-15020-9.
    • 1.75-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND BEEF SMOKED HOT SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-20030-0.
    • 1.75-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND BEEF SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-20020-1.
    • 3-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND BEEF SMOKED SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-21010-1.
    • 5-lb. boxed packages of “GARCIA BRAND BEEF SMOKED SAUSAGE” with case code 0-54912-18020-6.
    • 10-lb. bulk boxes of “EMA’S BEEF & CHICKEN BREAKFAST SAUSAGE Bulk, Manufactured By: Uncle John’s Pride, LLC” with case code 0-41085-01536-7.

    The recalled product bearing establishment number “EST. 9179 or P-9179” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to foodservice and retail locations in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Rick Bernaldo at (813) 685-7745.

     

     

    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...

    FCC head spells out plan to roll back net neutrality

    Ajit Pai wants to give broadband jurisdiction back to the Federal Trade Commission

    Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today unveiled his plans for scrapping net neutrality rules enacted by the Obama-era FCC.

    Pai has made no secret of his distaste for regulations in general and, specifically, for rules enshrining net neutrality, the principle that all users of the internet should have equal access to it. What that means in practice is that big companies can't build high-speed channels for themselves while everyone else is jammed up in the slow lane.

    The Obama FCC enacted the current set of rules in 2015 over the objections of big telecom and cable companies who said the government was overstepping its authority and legislating to fix a problem that did not exist.

    Today during a speech at the Newseum in Washington, Pai said the simplest way to get rid of the existing rule is simply to hand regulatory jurisdiction of broadband providers back to the Federal Trade Commission.

    Pai said he favors net neutrality principles but thinks industry can regulate itself to avoid major problems. 

    “That’s like saying you value math, but you don’t value numbers. We can’t keep the promise of net neutrality without the rules,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), prior to Pai's speech.

    Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today unveiled his plans for scrapping net neutrality rules enacted by the Obama-era FCC.Pai...

    Why your retail job may be in more jeopardy than you think

    Researcher says e-commerce and AI are creating a perfect storm for retail jobs

    There's a common expression, "don't quit your day job," when your new venture doesn't seem quite ready for prime time.

    But if your job is in retail, there are plenty of experts who say quitting might not be bad advice.

    Dr. Keng Siau, chair and professor of business and information technology at Missouri University of Science and Technology, says people with jobs in retail need to be making alternate career plans right now.

    He points to the obvious -- Amazon taking sales away from traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and putting many out of business. But he says there are things going on beneath the surface that will only accelerate that trend.

    Teaching machines to interact with consumers

    Retailers, he says, have embraced artificial intelligence (AI) and are using it to teach machines how to interact with customers.

    “In a face-to-face environment, people may still prefer to interact with another human,” Siau said. “In a virtual environment or a non-face-to-face context, people could not care less about who or what is on the other end of the line or responding to online queries.”

    He says these machines have a number of advantages over humans in the workplace, besides the obvious advantage of not having to pay them. He says sales machines can be programmed to use “Segment-of-One Marketing,” which enables the machine to track and understand individual customer behavior.

    That means retailers will be able to customize products or personalize service to the individual customer, something that humans will have a hard time matching. Siau points out sales robots will be able to instantly access and process to serve every customer in a personalized way.

    Replaceable

    "Humans may become replaceable,” Siau concludes.

    So if you are working in retail, the future might not be so bright. Siau says you don't have to switch careers immediately, because these changes won't reach critical mass overnight. But he does expect that eventually, many retail employees will eventually be replaced by AI.

    In fact, you are already seeing it on a rudimentary scale in large supermarkets, where self-checkout stations have been installed. Instead of waiting in the checkout line, often manned by a union employee, consumers scan and bag their items at one of six to eight stations. These robotic checkout stations total the bill and accept payment.

    If Siau is correct, these kinds of retail interactions are about to become a lot more common, as well as more sophisticated.

    While many people have spent years working in retail, young people may be the biggest losers in this technological transformation. Most young people get their first work experience in short-term retail jobs, which may soon become short in supply.

    There's a common expression, "don't quit your day job," when your new venture doesn't seem quite ready for prime time.But if your job is in retail, the...

    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 week ending April 21, following a 1.8% dip a week earlier.

    The Refinance Index shot up 7% taking the refinance share of mortgage activity to 44.0% of total applications from 42.4% the previous week. The average loan size for refinance applications increased to its highest level since September 2016, $266,900.

    The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 8.7% of total applications, the FHA share fell to 10.0% from 11.0% percent the week before, the VA share of total applications inched down to 10.9% from 11.1%, and the USDA share of total applications went to 0.8% from 1.0% a week earlier.

    Contract interest rates

    • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) slipped two basis points -- from 4.22% to 4.20% -- its lowest level since November 2016, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.35 (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 4.15%, with points increasing to 0.27 from 0.23 (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 fell six basis points to 4.03%, with points decreasing to 0.34 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 went to its lowest level since November 2016 -- 3.46%, from 3.50%, with points increasing to 0.50 from 0.41 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
    • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs fell five basis points to 3.22% -- its lowest level since November 2016, with points decreasing to 0.18 from 0.26 (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.

     

     

    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...

    An IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for redesigned Kia Cadenza

    The vehicle scored well in all five crashworthiness tests

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that the 2017 Kia Cadenza is worthy of it's highest safety award.

    The large-sized car earned good crashworthiness ratings, a superior-rated front crash prevention system, and acceptable headlights.

    The redesigned Cadenza was the first to be tested by IIHS for small overlap front protection. The driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of four inches at the parking brake pedal.

    The airbags and safety belt worked well together to control the dummy's movement, and measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of significant injuries.

    Other test results

    In addition to the good rating in the small overlap front test, the Cadenza scored well in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

    The optional front crash prevention system avoided collisions in IIHS track tests at 25 mph and 12 mph. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

    The LED lights that come with the Limited and Technology trims earn an acceptable headlight rating, with fair to good visibility in all scenarios. However, the halogen lights that come with the Premium trim earn a poor rating.

    To earn the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests, an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating, and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that the 2017 Kia Cadenza is worthy of it's highest safety award.The large-sized car e...

    The rally in new home sales continues

    March marked the third straight increase

    So far, so good for new home sales in March.

    The Commerce Department reports new single-family houses sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 621,000 last month, up 5.8% from February and 15.6% above the March 2016 rate of 537,000.

    "The March sales numbers are the second highest on record since the Great Recession,” said National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz, “which is especially encouraging considering the poor weather conditions throughout many parts of the country."

    Prices and inventory

    The median sales price of new houses sold in March came to $315,100, a gain of 1.2%. The median is the point at which half the houses sold for more and half for less. The average sales price jumped 5.6% to $388,200.

    The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 268,000, or a supply of 5.2 months at the current sales rate.

    "With tight existing home inventory, rising household formations and continued job creation,” Dietz projected, “we can expect further growth in new home sales moving forward."

    The complete report is available on the Commerce department website

    FHFA home prices

    Separately, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has it's own take on the cost of housing.

    The agency reports seasonally adjusted monthly House Price Index (HPI) rose 0.8% in February, and revised it's January report to show an increase of 0.2%.

    For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly price changes from January to February ranged from -0.1% in the South Atlantic division to +1.8% in the East South Central division.

    The year-over-year changes were all positive, ranging from +4.6% in the Middle Atlantic division to +9.5% in the Mountain division.

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

    From February 2016 to February 2017, house prices were up 6.4%.

    The full report may be found on the FHFA website.

    So far, so good for new home sales in March.The Commerce Department reports new single-family houses sold at a seasonally adjusted...

    WFSP Foods recalls ready-to-eat chicken breast products

    The products may be undercooked

    WFSP Foods of Decatur, Ala., is recalling approximately 42,147 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken breast products.

    The products may be undercooked, producing the potential for survival of bacterial pathogens.

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

    The following ready-to-eat grilled chicken breast items, produced on March 29, 2017, and April 7, 2017, are being recalled:

    • 9-lb. foodservice cases containing 8 poly film packages of “CHEF’S LINE ALL NATURAL FIRE GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST” with product code 22586, produced on 04/07/17, and Best by date 06/14/17.
    • 9-lb. foodservice cases containing 8 poly film packages of “saladworks FULLY COOKED FLAME GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST FILLETS” with product code 22500, produced on 03/29/17 and Use by date 06/05/17.

    The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-45411” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to a distribution center in Illinois and further distributed to hotel, restaurant and institution locations nationwide.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Alan Sterling at (678) 450-3092.

     

     

    WFSP Foods of Decatur, Ala., is recalling approximately 42,147 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken breast products.The products may be undercooked, producin...

    Horizon Hobby recalls remote-controlled model vehicles

    The vehicle’s electronic speed control can fail and short circuit

    Horizon Hobby of Champaign, Ill., is recalling about 19,000 ECX Circuit, Ruckus and Torment remote-controlled model vehicles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

    The vehicle’s electronic speed control (ESC) can fail and short circuit, posing a fire hazard.

    The firm has received 19 reports of the ESC in the model truck and cars catching fire. No injuries or property damage has been reported.

    The recall involves the Dynamite 40-Amp FWD REV Brushed ESC – DYNS2201.

    It is the Electronic Speed Control (ESC) that comes in the remote controlled hobby model vehicles ECX 1/10 LiPo Circuit, Ruckus and Torment models with the following models numbers: ECX03130T1, ECX03130T2, ECX03131T1, ECX03131T2, ECX03133T1, ECX03133T2, ECX03154.

    The model numbers can be found on the product box or in the owner’s manual for each vehicle. The model vehicles measure about 18 inches in length and 12 inches in width and are hobby grade remote control models for ages 14 and up.

    The models, manufactured in China, were sold at Horizon Hobby stores nationwide and online at www.horizonhobby.com from October 2016, through December 2016, for about $180.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled product and contact Horizon Hobby for instructions on receiving a free replacement ESC.

    Consumers may contact Horizon Hobby at 800-338-4639 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 P.M. (CT) on Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) on Sunday or online at www.horizonhobby.com and click on Product Recalls at the bottom of the page for more information.

     

     

    Horizon Hobby of Champaign, Ill., is recalling about 19,000 ECX Circuit, Ruckus and Torment remote-controlled model vehicles sold in the U.S. and Canada....

    Consumer confidence down for first time in three months

    Current businesses conditions are seen as less favorable

    After posting solid gain in each of the two previous months, The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index slipped in April.

    The closely-watched barometer of consumer sentiment fell 4.6 points this month to 120.3. Both the Present Situation Index and and the Expectations Index were lower.

    “Consumers assessed current business conditions and, to a lesser extent, the labor market less favorably than in March,”said Conference Boar, Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco.. “Looking ahead, consumers were somewhat less optimistic about the short-term outlook for business conditions, employment and income prospects. Despite April’s decline, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue to expand in the months ahead.”

    A closer look

    Consumers’ assessment of current conditions eased in April. Those who said business conditions are “good” dropped from 32.4% to 30.2%, while those who think conditions are “bad” inched up to 13.8% from 13.1%.

    The view of the labor market was moderately less favorable, as those who believe jobs are “plentiful” dipped from 31.8% to 30.8%, while those who think jobs are “hard to get” was virtually unchanged at 19.1%.

    There was less optimism about the short-term outlook. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months declined from 26.9% to 24.8%; those looking for business conditions to worsen jumped from 8.5% to 10.9%.

    Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also less upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead edged down to 23.0% from 23.8%, while those anticipating fewer jobs went from 12.7% to 13.1%.

    The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase fell from 22.5% to 19.3%, while the proportion expecting a decline held steady at 7.5%.

    The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was April 13.

     

     

    After posting solid gain in each of the two previous months, The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index slipped in April.The closely-watched baro...

    Home prices hit fourth straight all-time high in February

    Low inventories are a major factor

    The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices -- a leading measure of home prices -- posted yet another year-over-year increase in February.

    The National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, was up 5.8% on an annual basis, setting a 32-month high.

    The 10-City Composite jumped 5.2%, while the 20-City Composite reported a year-over-year gain of 5.9%.

    Seattle, Portland, and Dallas reported the highest year-over-year gains in February among the 20 cities. Seattle led the way with a 12.2% year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland with 9.7%. Dallas replaced Denver in the top three with an 8.8% increase.

    Fifteen cities reported greater price increases in the year ending February 2017 versus the year ending January 2017.

    “The S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index and the two composite indices accelerated since the national index set a new high four months ago,” said David M.Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

    “There are still relatively few existing homes listed for sale and the small 3.8 month supply is supporting the recent price increases. Housing affordability has declined since 2012 as the pressure of higher prices has been a larger factor than stable to lower mortgage rates.”

    Month-over-month

    Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.2%. The 10-City Composite increase was 0.3% and the 20-City Composite posted an advance of 0.4%.

    After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.4% month-over-month increase, with the 10-City Composite up 0.6% and the 20-City Composite rising 0.7%.

    Sixteen of 20 cities reported increases in February before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, 19 cities saw prices rise.

    “Housing’s strength and home building are important contributors to the economic recovery,” Blitzer pointed out. “Housing starts bottomed in March 2009 and, with a few bumps, have advanced over the last eight years. New home construction is now close to a normal pace of about 1.2 million units annually, of which around 800,000 are single family homes.”

    The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices -- a leading measure of home prices -- posted yet another year-over-year increase in February.The National Home...

    BMW recalls model year 2017-2018 M760Li xDrive vehicles

    Loose engine oil cooler lines could cause an oil leak in the engine compartment

    BMW of North America is recalling 97 model year 2017-2018 M760Li xDrive vehicles.

    The recalled vehicles have engine oil cooler lines that may loosen causing an oil leak in the engine compartment.

    The leaking engine oil may get onto the front brake disks, lengthening the distance needed to stop the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the engine oil cooler lines, replacing them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 1, 2017.

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

     

     

    BMW of North America is recalling 97 model year 2017-2018 M760Li xDrive vehicles.The recalled vehicles have engine oil cooler lines that may loosen cau...

    Reading skills improve ‘significantly’ among young children

    However, researchers say that gaps still remain across different demographics

    It looks like overall reading skills are trending upwards among our youngest school-aged children. Results from a nationwide study conducted at The Ohio State University show that kids entering first grade in 2013 had “significantly” higher reading skills than similar students 12 years earlier.

    Study co-author Jerome D’Agostino called the findings “good news,” but his colleague and co-author Emily Rodgers points out that there are still some gaps among the lowest-performing students.

    “We have evidence that the increased emphasis on learning important skills earlier in life is having a real impact on helping develop reading abilities by first grade. . . [However,] we’re getting the low-achievement students only part of the way there. They’re doing better at learning sounds and letters and now we have to do a better job helping them put it all together and read text,” the researchers said.

    Better prepared

    The study looked at 2,358 schools from 44 states and assessed the reading skills of 364,738 children during a 12-year study period. Over 313,000 of the students were characterized as low-achieving students who were also selected to take part in a literacy intervention program called Reading Recovery. The remaining students were randomly selected from the same schools.

    All students were assessed at the beginning of their first-grade year before they entered the intervention program to see how well they performed in four basic skill categories: letter identification, word recognition, ability to identify and use sounds, and print awareness. Two higher-level skills – writing vocabulary and text reading – were also measured.

    The average results over the 12-year period showed that children became generally more prepared for first grade over time by using the skills that they learned in kindergarten. "Children are better prepared when they enter first grade than they used to be. Kindergarten is the new first grade when it comes to learning reading skills," said Rodgers.

    Closing the gap

    However, while kindergarten was found to better prepare students’ reading skills, the researchers found that improvements could be made to the larger academic structure. Rodgers explains that focusing too much on basic skills may be detrimental to some students.

    "We're probably spending too much time emphasizing basic skills for the low-achieving students, when we should be giving them more opportunities to actually read text," she said. "There's a missing link between teaching low-achieving students basic literacy skills and having them actually put those skills to use in reading," added D’Agostino.

    The findings suggest that the gap between high- and low-achieving students is still fairly sizable, but parents and educators can take solace in knowing that it is shrinking over time. The researchers attribute much of this success to a renewed focus on learning basic reading skills in preschool and kindergarten, which were partially prompted by two national reports published in 2000 and 2008, as well as the No Child Left Behind law.

    “Those reports and legislation had at least some of the desired effect. But now we need to make sure that low-achieving students don’t fall further behind,” said D’Agostino.

    The full study has been published in Educational Researcher.

    It looks like overall reading skills are trending upwards among our youngest school-aged children. Results from a nationwide study conducted at The Ohio St...

    What to consider before moving to an age-restrictive community

    55-plus housing developments are springing up everywhere

    They're springing up everywhere. Spacious condos in developments with every conceivable amenity and creature comfort. Surrounded by walls and accessible only through gates, just about anyone can visit, but to live there you must be 55 or older.

    At a time when home-building is in steep decline, these developments are keeping builders busy and profitable. Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) issued a very bullish forecast for age-restrictive communities.

    It predicted strength in the segment would continue over the next decade as Baby Boomers seek to downsize or relocate.

    Selling a lifestyle, not homes

    Michigan builder Pinnacle Homes recently launched seven new luxury communities for homeowners in the 55-plus sector. Pinnacle Homes Managing Partner Howard Fingeroot said the company isn't selling homes as much as it is a lifestyle.

    "Traditionally, adults ages 50 and older have either moved to smaller homes with fewer amenities or stayed in the same homes where they raised their kids, dealing with maintenance and remodeling issues as necessary,” Fingeroot said.

    “As more Baby Boomers approach retirement, we're seeing a demand for homes that require little to no maintenance, include modern amenities that support the luxurious look and feel of their lifestyle, and are in or near the areas where they raised their families and made friends."

    Things to consider

    If you're in that age group and thinking about moving to an age-restrictive community, here are some things to consider first: will you like the location? If you currently live near an urban core, will you like the move to the suburbs or countryside, where many of these developments are being built?

    Will you enjoy being surrounded by other people your age and from the same economic background? For many, this is no doubt a selling point, but it might not be for everyone.

    Can you live with the rules? These types of developments tend of have stronger regulations than the typical home owners' association, not least of which are rules determining who can live there. If a son or daughter needs to move back home for a time, they can't if mom and dad are living in an age-restrictive community.

    Dave Hughes, founder of Retire Fabulously, says moving to an age-restrictive community introduces a number of lifestyle factors that aren't present in other situations. He suggests doing your due diligence and gathering as much information as you can before making such a life-changing move.

    They're springing up everywhere. Spacious condos in developments with every conceivable amenity and creature comfort. Surrounded by walls and accessible on...

    Digital advertising company settles charges it deceived consumers

    Turn's privacy policy misled consumers about how they could block tracking, FTC charged

    Turn, a digital advertising company, has bowed to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it continued tracking consumers even after they opted out of online tracking and then misrepresented its actions to those consumers.

    The Redwood City, Calif., company uses technology that enables advertisers to target digital ads to consumers through their mobile devices. Its privacy policy told consumers they could block targeted ads by using their web browser to block or limit cookies.

    But the FTC charges that Turn used unique identifiers to track tens of millions of Verizon Wireless customers, even after they blocked or deleted cookies from websites. The opt-out mechanism also only applied to mobile browsers.

    The FTC consent order bars Turn from misrepresenting the extent of its online tracking or the ability of users to limit or control the company’s use of their data. Turn also must provide an effective opt-out for consumers who do not want their information used for targeted advertising and place a prominent hyperlink on its home page that takes consumers to a disclosure explaining what information the company collects and uses for targeted advertising

    Turn, a digital advertising company, has bowed to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it continued tracking consumers even after they opted out of...

    Sales of existing homes on the rise in March

    The sales pace was the best in more than a decade

    Sales of previously-owned homes jumped in March to their highest pace since February 2007, as severe supply shortages resulted in the typical home being snapped up faster than in the previous month.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops – rose 4.4% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million. That sales pace is 5.9% above a year ago, with the West being the only region to suffer a sales decline.

    "The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does."

    Pricing and inventory

    The median existing-home price -- the point at which half the prices are higher and half are lower -- for all housing types in March was $236,400, up 6.8% from March 2016 and marking the 61st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

    Total housing inventory at the end of the month was up 5.8% to 1.83 million existing homes available for sale. Still, it's 6.6% lower than a year earlier and has fallen year-over-year for 22 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

    "Bolstered by strong consumer confidence and underlying demand, home sales are up convincingly from a year ago nationally and in all four major regions despite the fact that buying a home has gotten more expensive over the past year," Yun added.

    Sales by region

    • Existing-home sales in the Northeast shot up 10.1% in March to an annual rate of 760,000, and are now 4.1% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $260,800 -- up 2.8% from March 2016.
    • In the Midwest, sales surged 9.2% to an annual rate of 1.31 million, which is 3.1% above a year ago. The median price rose 6.2% from a year earlier to $183,000.
    • Sales in the South in March were up 3.4% to an annual rate of 2.42 million, posting an 8.5% year-over-year gain. The median price was $210,600, up 8.6% from a year ago.
    • Previously-owned home sales in the West were down 1.6% to a 1.22 million annual rate but are still 5.2% above a year ago. The median price in the West was up 8.0% from the previous March to $347,500.
    Sales of previously-owned homes jumped in March to their highest pace since February 2007, as severe supply shortages resulted in the typical home being sn...

    Try a Staycation – vacation at home without the hassle and expense of traveling

    Who says you have to go somewhere to relax and try new things?

    Vacations are meant to give us a break from our normal work or school routines; an opportunity to relax and recharge our batteries. Many people choose to travel a distance, exploring new places, peoples, and cultures.

    But travel isn’t anything like it used to be. There are long lines for security, personal scrutiny of ourselves and our belongings, tighter spaces on airplanes and trains, and extensive restrictions. The terrorist attacks abroad and at home have left us shaken and fearful. Travel by itself has become stressful, just when we are seeking to de-stress.

    This might be the right time for a “staycation;” an opportunity to spend time at home in a relaxed routine, exploring your own town and adjacent communities, taking away the pressure and expense of travel. No need to reserve, pack, travel, and quickly adjust to a new environ with the added pressure of “enjoying” oneself.

    There are plenty of ways to stay home and participate in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in your own bed at night. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

    Plan to shut out the world. That might mean putting an away message on your email, canceling the daily paper, holding your mail, silencing your cell phone, and using television judiciously.

    Set a realistic budget. How much will you spend for food, activities, and extras such as splurges?

    Who is sharing the staycation with you? Poll everyone on what they’d like to do, decide who is included in activities, and plan accordingly.

    Determine how you will handle household duties. Make the bed each day or not? Prepare meals, eat out, or take out? Maintain the house or hire a cleaning service? Keep a daily schedule, plan activities, or wing it?

    How will you spend your days? Catching up on your reading, working on a hobby, visiting museums, recreational activities, exploring new areas, or taking in special exhibits?

    Will you try new things? It can be fun to experiment without the time constraints of your daily routine. Shake things up a little with a new sport, exercise class, a new cuisine or restaurant, or discovering local neighborhoods with which you are unfamiliar.

    Plan to capitalize on seasonal offerings; visit a farmer’s market, a picnic breakfast or lunch at the lake, a wine tasting, an outdoor concert, ice skating (indoor or out), or another town all decked out for the holidays.

    Use the time to reconnect with relationships, whether it’s your family, extended family, or close friends.

    Do things you don’t have the time or patience for in your daily schedule. Walks at night identifying the constellations, free programs in your community, sightseeing in a town or city close by, shopping for no reason at all, or people watching at a local or new spot.  

    Decide how you will treat yourself and splurge. Maybe it’s a dinner out, a spa appointment, or a day of childcare or camp so you have uninterrupted time for yourself.

    Whatever you choose to do, take the time to be present, reflect, revel in the companionship, engage in conversation, and enjoy yourself. That’s the best vacation of all.


     

    Vacations are meant to give us a break from our normal work or school routines; an opportunity to relax and recharge our batteries. Many people choose to t...

    Social media users tailor their profiles to best fit in on each platform, study finds

    The researchers found common trends for different demographics across several sites

    What kind of person are you when it comes to your social media persona? Are you the selfie-taker who posts daily? The frequent commenter on others’ posts? The news sharer or poster of cute cat videos? Or do you prefer to remain aloof and not post much at all?

    According to a new study, how you portray yourself online might have a lot to do with fitting in with those around you. Researchers from Penn State and King’s College compiled data on 100,000 consumers who used multiple social media outlets and found that they modified their personality to fit in with the tone of each site.

    “In the social media era, without realizing it, people are leaving their marks. If we can tap into these digital footprints, then we can learn a lot about their behavior,” said researcher Nisanth Sastry. “Social media consumes an increasingly large portion of our lives. Therefore, understanding how we interact with each other on social media is important to understanding who we are in the online world, and how we relate to each other in virtual but still meaningful ways.”

    Common trends

    Using the site About.me, which acts as a social media directory for users who volunteer their information, the researchers analyzed consumers’ profile pictures, biography information, and other ways that they portrayed themselves online. The findings showed some similarities for certain demographics on each site.

    For example, the researchers found that women tended to avoid wearing corrective glasses, like reading glasses, in their profile pictures. Users under the age of 25 were also less likely to be smiling in their profile pictures.

    The researchers said that when presented with the profile description and photo, models could identify the platform it was created for between 60% and 80% of the time.

    The "perfect" profile?

    Sastry and her colleagues don’t believe that users are consciously changing aspects of their profiles to fit a certain norm. Instead, they say that users subconsciously modify different profile aspects to fit in with the users around them.

    “[The data shows that subtly], despite our best efforts, we do still fit stereotypes of gender and age in the way we tailor our personas,” said Sastry.

    The team believes that further research into this area could help social media users tailor their profiles to best fit in with the tone of each site. “We should be able to choose and suggest the best images from their personal collections for putting up on each of these platforms,” said Sastry.

    What kind of person are you when it comes to your social media persona? Are you the selfie-taker who posts daily? The frequent commenter on others’ posts?...

    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 users, leading ad agencies and marketing gurus are expressing support for technology that would block autoplay video ads with sound, ads that feature flashing lights and colors, and perhaps pop-up ads that take over the whole screen.

    Keep in mind, though, it's advertisers talking. They don't want to block all ads -- only the ones they deem annoying, meaning the other guy's ads. They've set up something called the Coalition for Better Ads. 

    "The end game here is to remove these types of ads which are undercutting the consumer internet experience," said Stu Ingis, counsel to the coalition and attorney at Venable LLP, Advertising Age reported. "Truthfully, those ads can potentially and seriously undercut the broader internet ecosystem."

    The coalition is said to include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, WPP's ad-buying giant GroupM, Facebook, Thomson Reuters, The Washington Post, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Association of National Advertisers.

    How annoying?

    It goes without saying that annoying ads are, well, annoying -- but advertisers are nothing if not research gurus, so the coalition conducted a study of 25,000 consumers in the U.S. and Europe to rate 104 different ads on desktop and mobile. Sure enough, the survey found that consumers don't like autoplay video ads with sound, pop-ups, and ads that flash or change colors rapidly.

    Ingis said an independent monitoring group will be needed if the coalition decides to press ahead with using technology to block the offensive ads. 

    "Oversight is needed to make sure the tech is doing what it is supposed to. Oversight is needed so no one company is by themselves in setting or making determinations," he said in the AdAge report.

    Googlopoly

    What one company could Ingis be talking about? A few days before word of the Better Ad Coalition leaked out, there were reports that Google was considering adding a default ad blocker to its Chrome browser.

    The blocker would, of course, block ads deemed by Google to be offensive. Other people's ads, in other words. The notion did not go over well.

    “A monopoly which is already not affected by ad blocking in general because of paid whitelisting having more power is scary,” said Meagan Lopez, global digital business director for The New York Times, according to Digiday. “Owning every aspect of the advertising world from tech to search to exchanges to measurement to servers to ad blocking within the browser just means less control again for everyone else.”

    Or as Digiday put it: "Don’t expect a half page of ads at the top of a search results page to get dinged, no matter the third-party Google officially christens as the standard bearer."

    The coalition stresses that it has not yet firmed up its plans, but Ingis says advertisers and consumers are on the same page when it comes to improving the internet experience.

    "The ad industry has a self-interest to make sure the ad supported internet that consumers love continues," he said. "The incentives of the ad industry, from my view, are exactly right. And they are perfectly aligned with what consumer interest would want."

    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...

    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 eBay to buy his CDs, and now, on the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death, buzz had been generating on the debut of a previously unreleased Prince EP called Deliverance.

    However, it looks like fans will have to wait for the six-song recording. A Consumerist report indicates that the Prince estate has sued music engineer George Ian Boxill, claiming that he doesn’t have the rights to make the songs public. The suit claims that Boxill, who was employed by Prince and Paisley Park Enterprises and worked on the tracks in 2006 and 2008, was never given ownership of the music that he worked on and that the songs belonged to Prince, who never chose to release them.  

    “Any dissemination of the recordings and underlying music compositions, or fixation of the same in any audiovisual work or otherwise, is unauthorized and in violation of the Estate’s rights to the master recordings and musical compositions,” representatives of the estate said.

    Court order blocks release

    The suit prompted a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against Boxill that bars him from publishing or releasing Deliverance in any form. The order also demands that Boxill forfeit “all of the recordings acquired through his work with Paisley Park Enterprises, including original recordings, analog and digital copies, and any derivative works.

    The order is set to expire on May 3, but it could pave the way for a more formal injunction that would stop the release of the EP until the outcome of the lawsuit is decided.

    Fans had already had access to the EP’s title track online, but a letter sent by Boxill’s lawyers stated that the song is no longer available. Other music providers, like Apple’s iTunes, have also been directed to cancel any preorders for the disputed tracks.

    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...

    Health alert issued for Banquet chicken nuggets meal product

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

    The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert regarding the brownie mix dessert included in the breaded chicken nugget meal trays produced by Conagra Brands of Marshall, Mo.

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

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

    The alert, which affects 110,817 pounds of frozen meals, applies to the following breaded chicken nugget, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate brownie meal tray ­produced on January 26, 2017:

    • 7.4 oz. vacuum-packed trays containing “BANQUET Chicken Nuggets with Mac & Cheese” with Code 3100080921 and a “BEST IF USED BY” date of July 20, 2018.

    The product in question, bearing FSIS establishment number “P-9” on the side of the box, was shipped to retail locations nationwide.

    What to do

    Consumers with questions may contact Conagra Brands consumer affairs at (800) 289-6014.

    The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert regarding the brownie mix dessert included in the b...

    Consumers cautioned on the use of insurance company apps

    Consumer group says they might not be appropriate for every claim

    Judging by television commercials for major insurance companies, nearly every one of them now has an app you can use to report a claim.

    Minutes after an accident, you can take pictures of the damage and upload it to the company, getting the claims process started almost immediately.

    At first glance that appears to be a big advantage, and perhaps it is. But the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is beginning to raise questions. Why, it asks, is the policyholder doing all the work?

    "Insurance companies will use industry buzz words like cycle-time and customer satisfaction but the real reason they are going to encourage you to use this technology is because it saves them claims handling expenses,” said Mark Romano, Director of Insurance Claims Projects at CFA.

    According to Ramano, when you call the insurance company to report an accident, the customer service representative is likely to say something like "we can do this together now, if you download the app and I’ll walk you through it or it will take a few days to get someone out to look at the damage.”

    What to do

    CFA doesn't rule out the possibility that this could be useful, but says it's going to depend on the circumstances. If it's just a fender-bender, with limited, isolated damage, a smartphone app might well be an efficient way to handle your claim. It might also come in handy in a liability situation where the adjuster wants to see where someone fell on your property.

    But here's where CFA has some concerns: if the damage is extensive or complex, then it requires a thorough in-person inspection by a professional claims adjuster. It recommends policyholders insist that the insurance company send someone out right away. After all, it points out, you are paying for this service in your monthly insurance premium.

    Watch what you say

    Here's something else to consider when using an app: CFA cautions that if you use the voice capability portion of the software, whatever you say will be recorded and go into your claims file. If you say the damage doesn't appear that extensive, or even that you don't see much damage at all, CFA warns that could affect your claim.

    “It’s recommended that consumers be either very careful what they say or insist upon no voice recording,” Romano said.

    CFA says it's not surprising that technology is impacting the insurance industry, just like it is about every other phase of modern life. CFA says government regulators need to catch up, developing guidelines for the use of insurance company apps.

    Judging by television commercials for major insurance companies, nearly every one of them now has an app you can use to report a claim.Minutes after an...

    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 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."

    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...

    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 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

    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...

    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 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.

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

    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 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.

    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...

    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.

    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

    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.

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

    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” 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.

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

    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 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).

     

     

    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...

    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 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.

     

     

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

    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, 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.

     

     

    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...

    Trans fat cutbacks reduce heart attacks and strokes, study finds

    Researchers say more far-reaching restrictions could produce widespread benefits

    Just a few short years ago, consumers could find trans fats in a variety of food products at the grocery store or in restaurants. But after linking the smallest amounts of these acids to cardiovascular disease, many areas of the country set up restrictions to keep them in line.

    However, current guidelines still seem to be somewhere in the middle of the issue. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently allows up to 0.49 grams of trans fats to be present in a product without having to appear on the label, sending health-conscious food shoppers scrambling.

    To determine what effect trans fats were having on consumers, researchers from the University of Chicago and Yale School of Medicine conducted a study comparing consumers in areas where trans fats were banned in restaurants and areas where they were not. Even with this limited reduction, the researchers found that people who lived in areas with less trans fats had less hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke.

    "The results are impressive, given that the study focused on trans fatty acid bans in restaurants, as opposed to complete bans that included food bought in stores," said senior author Dr. Tamar S. Polonsky. "If we enact a more complete restriction on trans fatty acids, it could mean even more widespread benefits for people long term."

    Fewer heart attacks and strokes

    The study used data ranging from 2002 to 2013 on New York counties that either had trans fat bans in place for restaurants or did not, focusing on hospital admissions for heart attack and stroke.

    The analysis showed that people living areas with bans had significantly fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke three years after the bans were implemented when compared to urban areas that did not have a ban in place. The researchers say that overall decline in combined conditions was an impressive 6.2%.

    "It is a pretty substantial decline. Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population," said lead author Dr. Eric Brandt.

    While the wheels of government are usually slow to turn on these issues, the researchers point out that the FDA has already approved a nationwide ban on partially hydrogenated oils in foods. This could be deeply impactful since the move would essentially eliminate dietary trans fat when it takes effect in 2018.

    The full study has been published in JAMA Cardiology.

    Just a few short years ago, consumers could find trans fats in a variety of food products at the grocery store or in restaurants. But after linking the sma...

    Shoppers finding more sustainable tuna on store shelves

    But Greenpeace charges major tuna producers have made less progress

    As a shopper, if it is important to you that retailers provide more responsibly-produced options, you're in luck.

    The environmental group Greenpeace reports U.S. retailers have made significant strides in offering consumers responsibly-sourced canned tuna.

    But that's mainly because of the proliferation of smaller, "disruptive" niche companies that have embedded responsibility into their culture and brand. The biggest producers, Greenpeace says, aren't doing so well.

    According to Greenpeace, these retailers have made big improvements when it comes to canned tuna:

    • Whole Foods
    • Hy-Vee
    • Wegmans
    • Giant Eagle
    • Albertsons
    • ALDI
    • Ahold Delhaize
    • Kroger

    'Holding industry back'

    But the environmental group charges the three major U.S. tuna brands -- Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee, and StarKist -- are holding the industry back.

    “Retailers are quickly realizing that consumers want canned tuna products that they can feel good about feeding their families,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky. “It’s unfortunate that tuna giants like Chicken of the Sea continue to talk a good game on sustainability and human rights, yet have not made the changes needed to shift a destructive industry."

    Whole Foods joined three other brands, Wild Planet, American Tuna, and Ocean Naturals, in the green category this year, with Greenpeace singling them out as the best canned tuna choices for shoppers.

    Whole Foods recently said it would only offer sustainable canned tuna by early next year. Greenpeace says that sets the bar for the rest of U.S. retailers.

    Wild Planet and American Tuna were tied at the top of the tuna rankings, with Greenpeace calling them "trusted sustainable tuna brands that continue to advocate for positive changes throughout the industry."

    Sustainable tuna

    There are a number of factors that go into sustainable tuna fishing practices, but most have to do with limiting the species caught in the nets to tuna, avoiding other types of fish that might be endangered.

    There are also different types of tuna and environmentalists say the type should be prominently displayed on the can. The three most popular types of canned tuna are Skipjack, Albacore, and Yellow Fin.

    Greenpeace charges the big three tuna brands have shown little improvement in policies and practices in the last 12 months. For the three, Chicken of the Sea ranked highest on sustainability and human rights, but Greenpeace says the company must do more to show its suppliers are meeting those goals.

    As a shopper, if it is important to you that retailers provide more responsibly-produced options, you're in luck.The environmental group Greenpeace rep...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

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

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

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

    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 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.

     

     

    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...

    The income tax filing deadline is approaching and I'm not ready!

    We have some tips to help you get through it

    For some folks, it's that most terrifying time of the year. The federal income tax filing deadline (April 18 this year because of a DC holiday) is just around the corner and they aren't ready.

    No need for despair -- there are some things you can do. First and foremost, if you really need more time, you can get it.

    You can avoid a late-filing penalty by requesting a tax-filing extension. There are several ways to do so, including through the Free File link on IRS.gov or by designating a payment as an extension payment and making it via one of the IRS electronic payment methods, including IRS Direct Pay.

    On the other hand, you can file Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time To File U.S. Income Tax Return. While an extension grants additional time to file, it does not extend the time to pay any tax due. As mentioned, April 18 is the deadline for most to pay taxes owed and avoid penalty and interest charges.

    If you know you're going to owe tax, you can use the aforementioned IRS Direct Pay or any of several other electronic payment options. They are secure and easy and taxpayers receive immediate confirmation of their payment. Or, mail a check or money order payable to the “United States Treasury” along with a Form 1040-V payment voucher.

    Taxpayers who can’t pay by April 18 often qualify to set up a monthly payment agreement with the IRS using the Online Payment Agreement option on IRS.gov.

    The scramble

    If you're moving heaven and earth to finish your taxes so you can file on time, bear in mind that math errors and other mistakes are common on paper returns -- especially those prepared or filed in haste at the last minute. The IRS provides the following tips to help you out:

    Fill in all requested Taxpayer Identification Numbers, usually Social Security numbers, including all dependents claimed. Check only one filing status and the appropriate exemption boxes.

    When using the tax tables, be sure to use the correct row and column for the filing status claimed and taxable income amount shown.

    Sign and date the return. If filing a joint return, both spouses must sign.

    Attach all required forms and schedules, such as Schedule A for people who itemize their deductions. In addition, attach to the front of the return all Forms W-2 and other forms reflecting withholding.

    Mail the return to the right address. Check Where to File on IRS.gov or the last page of the tax instructions. If mailing on Tuesday, April 18, be sure to do so early enough to meet the scheduled pick-up time and ensure a postmark before the midnight deadline.

    Refunds

    If you are among those who overpaid and are expecting a refund, the best and fastest way to get it is to have it electronically deposited into your bank or other financial account. Taxpayers can use direct deposit to deposit their refund into one, two, or even three accounts. See Form 8888, Allocation of Refund, for details.

    Make sure the financial institution routing and account numbers entered on the return are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause a refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account. After filing, whether or not direct deposit was chosen, use “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov or download the IRS2Go Mobile App to track the status of a refund.

    The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. “Where’s My Refund?” provides the most up-to-date information. The tool is updated once per day, usually overnight, so checking more often will not generate new information. Calling the IRS will not yield different results from those available online, nor will ordering a tax transcript.

    More help is available from the IRS Services Guide. Also check the ConsumerAffairs Tax Software section for consumer and expert reviews of popular tax preparation software.

    For some folks, it's that most terrifying time of the year. The federal income tax filing deadline (April 18 this year because of a DC holiday) is just aro...

    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 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.

     

     

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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

    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...

    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 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.

     

     

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

    Civil rights groups fight California bill that exempts students from privacy protections

    The bill would allow teachers and school officials to check students' phones without consent

    School administrators in California are pulling back on a bill that would allow teachers and principals to search through student cell phones after receiving blowback from civil rights groups, according to Courthouse News.

    The proposed Assembly Bill 165 would exempt students from privacy protections guaranteed by the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA), which was passed in 2015. The act prohibits law enforcement officials from tracking or accessing a person’s cell phone or other electronic device without a warrant and provides protections for digital data stored in the cloud.

    However, school officials say that it basically ties their hands when it comes to checking students’ phones to see if they are cheating on tests or cyberbullying other students. “We introduced the bill to try and pull schools out of CalECPA, and you might as well have thought that we started World War III,” said Laura Preston, a lobbyist for the school officials.

    “The dilemma for us is this: If you take CalECPA to the letter of the law, we have to have a warrant in order to access electronic devices, but the types of things that we’re accessing don’t allow us to get a warrant. So what do we do when a student doesn’t volunteer his phone?”

    Harming student privacy?

    Preston and the bill’s supporters said they were “stunned” when their 130-word proposal was met by fierce resistance by civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Media Justice, the First Amendment Coalition, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

    The supporters said that AB 165 is a measure meant to keep students safe and not to invade their privacy, but the groups took umbrage with the bill’s potential implications for student rights.

    “If you care about privacy, then CalECPA is one of the best things since sliced bread,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Lee Tien. “Why would anybody want to amputate protection of privacy of students, parents and teachers that work in the school system?”

    The groups claim that AB 165 could be particularly harmful to the children of immigrants, since any confidential communications found on students’ phones could be turned over to law enforcement or immigration enforcement officials.

    Not dead yet

    One of the authors of AB 165, Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), has spoken out against CalECPA before. When the bill was originally being proposed, he called it a “one-size-fits-all bill that weakens the ability of law enforcement to effectively investigate child exploitation networks and secure evidence.”

    Despite the opposition and their initial pullback on the bill, Cooper and the school administrators have not yet declared AB 165 dead.

    “We’re making it a two-year bill, which means it’s not going to be heard next week. But the conversations are going to continue,” said Preston.

    School administrators in California are pulling back on a bill that would allow teachers and principals to search through student cell phones after receivi...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    Wholesale prices on the decline in March

    Initial jobless claims inched downward last week

    Prices on the wholesale level or -- in governmentese -- the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand fell last month.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a decline of 0.1% following advances of 0.3% in February and 0.6% in January pushed the PPI up 2.3% for the 12 months ended March 2017 -- the sharpest increase since a 2.4% gain during the 12 months ended March 2012.

    Three-fourths of last month's decline came in prices for services, which fell 0.1%. More than half of that was the result of a 0.1% dip for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing. Costs for trade services also edged 0.1% lower.

    Final demand goods prices were down 0.1% as well, led by a 2.9% drop in energy costs. On the other hand, food prices were up 0.9%.

    The complete report is available on the BLS website.

    Jobless claims

    From the Department of Labor (DOL), news that initial applications for state unemployment benefits were lower in the week ending April 8. The decline of 1,000 from the previous week put the total number of first-time jobless claims at a seasonally adjusted 234,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000.

    The less volatile four-week moving came in at 247,250 -- down 3,000 from the previous week's average, which was revised up by 250.

    The full report may be found on the DOL website.

    Prices on the wholesale level or -- in governmentese -- the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand fell last month....

    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 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.

     

     

     

     

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

    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 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.

     

     

     

    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...

    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 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.

     

     

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

    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 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.

     

     

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

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

    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 1.5% 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.

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

    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 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.

     

     

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

    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 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.

     

     

    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...

    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 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.

    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...

    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 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.

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

    Consumers increase credit card use for small purchases

    Survey finds purchases that once went on debit cards now going on credit cards

    When you get to the checkout counter, you have a decision to make. How are you going to pay?

    Let's assume you're like a growing number of consumers these days and you don't pay with cash. That leaves plastic, but what kind of plastic?

    Traditionally, if it's a small purchase, a consumer might be more inclined to use a debit card. But a new report from CreditCards.com finds increasingly, consumers are putting small purchases on credit cards instead paying for the purchase immediately with a debit card.

    The survey found that 17% of consumers with a credit card use that to pay for a transaction under $5, up from 11% a year ago. There was a decline in the number of consumers using a debit card or cash to pay for a small purchase.

    The reason could be important

    The survey doesn't explain why this trend is developing. It may be that more consumers are using cash back or rewards credit cards, and see the benefit of using the card for every purchase. If so, that might not be a bad strategy.

    But if consumers are relying on credit cards for small purchases because there is less money in their checking accounts or their wallets, that's not a good sign.

    "If you pay your balance off in full each month, there's no reason not to use credit cards for these small everyday purchases," said CreditCards.com Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz. "They're convenient, they're safe, and over the course of a year, all of those little cash and debit card payments can add up to a real missed opportunity to collect cash back rewards."

    But if you don't pay off your balance each month, all those little $5 purchases are adding to your debt, costing you 15% or more in interest.

    Big-ticket items

    Credit cards are still the payment of choice for big-ticket items, in part because of potential rewards and in part because it can be paid off over two or three months.

    "Big purchases are a great chance to rack up credit card rewards, as long as you do it responsibly," Schulz said. "Save up for what you want, then sign up for a new credit card to pay for it. If you've got good credit, it's an easy way to bring down the real cost of these big-ticket items."

    Shultz says it's important to have the money in the bank to pay for the big-ticket item, so that you can pay it off in one billing cycle and don't have to pay any interest. To maximize your return, he suggests signing up to a new rewards credit card that provides a bonus if you spend a certain amount in the first three months.

    Consumers made an average of about five purchases of over $500 in the last year. By doing a little planning, those big purchases won't cost quite as much.

    When you get to the checkout counter, you have a decision to make. How are you going to pay?Let's assume you're like a growing number of consumers thes...

    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 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).

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

    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 (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.

    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...

    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 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.

     

     

    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...

    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 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