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    FDA issues new warnings about giving codeine and tramadol to children

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

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

    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...

    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...

    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...

    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...

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

    Special category for U.S. carriers

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

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

    1. JetBlue
    2. Alaska Airlines
    3. Southwest
    4. Virgin America
    5. Westjet (Canada)
    Travel site TripAdvisor.com has named what it considers the 10 best airlines in the world. Unless you do a lot of international travel, you might not get t...

    Are your job prospects getting better or worse?

    Last week presented workers with mixed signals

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

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

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

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

    Likely to cool optimism

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

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

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

    Hiring managers still bullish

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Delta passengers voice frustration over flight cancellations

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

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

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

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

    Passengers sound off

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ticket refunds

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

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

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

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

    Fresh Express recalls Organic Marketside Spring Mix Salad

    A decomposing bat was allegedly found in a container

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

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

    The following product is being recalled:

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

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

    What to do

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

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

     

     

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

    Our favorite family vacation – travel dollars worth the memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We wanted to take Jerry home

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

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

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

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

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

    Flexible positions in warehousing and virtual customer service are being added

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

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

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

    Flexible conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Simple tool warns of pre-diabetes risk

    Simply timing glucose test results can alert doctors

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

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

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

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

    The implications

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

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

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

    Early damage

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

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

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

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

    The IRS is hiring debt collectors

    Raises possibility that scammers will try to impersonate them

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

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

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

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

    How to avoid a scam

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

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

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

    Letter from the IRS

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

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

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

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

    March job creation comes up short

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

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

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

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

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

    Gainers and losers 

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

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

    Who's working

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

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

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

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

    The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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

    Xootr recalls adult kick scooters

    The steer support can break during normal use

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