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      FDA approves new gene therapy for fighting childhood cancer

      The new treatment could transform how we fight life-threatening diseases

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new gene therapy that may be able to treat, or even cure, a pervasive form of childhood cancer.

      The approval allows for Kymriah -- the name that the cell-based gene therapy will be sold under -- to be used by children and other young patients up to the age of 25 who suffer from B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The approval extends to forms of the disease that are refractory or in second or later relapse. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says that the new treatment method is a game-changer that can help save countless lives.

      “We’re entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses.”

      Promising treatment

      Unlike many other therapies, Kymriah works by genetically modifying a patient’s own T cells to fight off disease. The T cells are collected by researchers and sent to a manufacturing center where they are modified to include a new gene that targets and kills leukemia cells. After being altered, the cells are sent back and infused in the patient where they go to work.

      The treatment could prove to be monumentally important in fighting ALL, the most common form childhood cancer which affects a patient’s bone marrow and blood. The National Cancer Institute says that approximately 3,100 patients under the age of 20 are diagnosed with the disease ever year.

      The FDA says that Kymriah will only be intended for patients who have not responded well to initial treatments or who have suffered a relapse, which occurs an estimated 15-20% of the time.

      “Kymriah is a first-of-its-kind treatment approach that fills an important unmet need for children and young adults with this serious disease,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER). “Not only does Kymriah provide these patients with a new treatment option where very limited options existed, but a treatment option that has shown promising remission and survival rates in clinical trials.”

      Costs and side effects

      Despite its great promise, the FDA warns that Kymriah does have the potential for severe side effects. Experts say it could lead to high fever, flu-like symptoms, and neurological events that can be life-threatening.

      Other serious side effects include infection, acute kidney injury, and hypoxia, which may appear within the first three weeks of infusion. The FDA is requiring hospitals and clinics to be specially certified in order to use the treatment.

      Another major drawback of Kymriah may be its cost. Bloomberg cites analysts as saying that the treatment could cost $500,000 or more, though the Switzerland-based company producing the treatment did say that the U.S. government would only need to pay for the drug if patients responded to treatment by the end of their first month.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new gene therapy that may be able to treat, or even cure, a pervasive form of childhood cancer....
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      Young people not doing enough to protect their hearts

      Researchers say awareness, treatment, and control are all low in adults aged 18-34

      It’s important to set good habits for ourselves when we’re young, especially when it comes to staying healthy. But a recent study conducted by the American Heart Association shows that many young people, and particularly young men, are dropping the ball when it comes to regulating their cardiovascular health.

      Senior study author Andrew Moran York points out that heart-related issues like high blood pressure cost the U.S. public around $110 billion in 2015, and that improving heart conditions in young people could go a long way towards reducing that burden.

      "While hypertension awareness, treatment and control have improved overall since the early 2000s, all three remain worse in young adults -- those aged 18-39," he said.

      Focusing on cardiovascular health

      The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing data on 41,000 people who took part in eight national health surveys between 1999 and 2014. Among the key findings, they say that:

      • Only half of 6.7 million young adults with high blood pressure in 2013-2014 received treatment, while only 40% managed to lower their blood pressure to safe levels;
      • Among young men, rates of awareness, treatment, and control were lower compared to young women (68.4% vs. 86% for awareness, 43.7% vs. 61.3% for treatment, and 33.7% vs. 51.8% for control); and
      • Nearly 75% of young adults who had high blood pressure were obese, compared with 57% for middle-aged adults and 42% for older adults. The researchers say this indicates that young adults with high blood pressure are twice as likely to be obese.

      Lead author Dr. Yiyi Zhang said that the findings highlight several shortcomings among young people when it comes to screening and managing their cardiovascular health. The researchers recommend that this demographic renew their focus on their health in order to improve outcomes.

      "The first step for young adults is to have their blood pressure measured, whether in a doctor's office, pharmacy or other place in their community. Young adults with consistently high blood pressure need a link to clinical care to verify the diagnosis and receive regular monitoring and possibly treatment," said Zhang.

      The full study has been published in Hypertension.

      It’s important to set good habits for ourselves when we’re young, especially when it comes to staying healthy. But a recent study conducted by the American...
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      IRS extends filing deadline for some Harvey victims

      Taxpayers who filed for an extension will have until Jan. 31 to file their return

      The Internal Revenue Service is extending the filing deadline for Hurricane Harvey victims who had earlier filed for an extension. 

      This includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on Oct. 16, and businesses with extensions that run out on Sept. 15.

      "This has been a devastating storm, and the IRS will move quickly to provide tax relief to hurricane victims," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "The IRS will continue to closely monitor the storm's aftermath, and we anticipate providing additional relief for other affected areas in the near future."

      The IRS is now offering this expanded relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance. Currently, 18 counties are eligible, but taxpayers in localities added later to the disaster area will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.

      The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on Aug. 23, 2017. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until Jan. 31, 2018 to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This includes the Sept. 15, 2017 and Jan. 16, 2018 deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments.

      For individual tax filers, it also includes 2016 income tax returns that received a tax-filing extension until Oct. 16, 2017. The IRS noted, however, that because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief.

      The Internal Revenue Service is extending the filing deadline for Hurricane Harvey victims who had earlier filed for an extension. This includes an add...
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      Domino's, Ford testing self-driving pizza delivery

      Customers will have to walk outside to retrieve their orders

      The kid racing up and down the block in a battered old car with a Domino's Pizza sign on the roof may soon be a thing of the past. Ford and Domino's are working on a self-driving pizza delivery vehicle.

      Of course, the pizzamobile won't be able to deliver the pizza to your door. Instead, what would normally be the right rear passenger window will open to a storage compartment containing your pizza.

      A prototype pizza wagon, using a Ford Fusion hybrid, will soon be deployed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There will be a Ford engineer driving the car but customers will have to dash out and get the pizza themselves, just as though there was no human driver.

      Domino's says the test isn't so much to prove the concept of a self-driving delivery car but rather to see how customers react to the idea. Randomly selected pizza eaters in Ann Arbor will soon be able to specify automated delivery when they place their order.

      Last 50 feet

      "We're interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA, according to Automotive News. "The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food?"

      Weiner said Domino's wants to be sure that self-driving pizza delivery is "as seamless and customer-friendly as possible."

      In the Ann Arbor test, customers will be able to track their orders through GPS and will receive a text message with instructions on unlocking the storage compartment and retrieving their pizza.

      The idea certainly has promise. Besides eliminating the often-cited problem of exuberant young drivers speeding through neighborhoods, it would also eliminate the equally annoying problem of pizza delivery workers being held up at gunpoint. 

      It also eliminates the question of how much to tip. 

      The kid racing up and down the block in a battered old car with a Domino's Pizza sign on the roof may soon be a thing of the past. Ford and Domino's are wo...
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      Poll shows consumers want Net Neutrality law

      Large majority would like to take the issue out of the hands of the FCC

      Net Neutrality can be something of a complex subject, but another poll shows consumers not only understand what it is, they want to keep it.

      In short, Net Neutrality holds that internet service providers (ISP) have to treat all web content the same. That means they can't charge extra to sites that use more bandwidth, and they can't favor the content of one site over another.

      Some ISPs have protested, saying they've spent millions of dollars building out their networks and should be allowed to manage them as they see fit.

      In the latter years of the Obama Administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established Net Neutrality as policy, over the protests of some ISPs.

      Change in policy

      President Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a long-time critic of Net Neutrality, and under his leadership the FCC has taken steps to reverse the policy. But it might not be either good business or good politics.

      A new poll of U.S. consumers has found 74% supporting legislation that enshrines the principals of Net Neutrality -- namely a law enabling consumers to use the internet free from government or corporate censorship, while setting up one set of rules that applies to all internet companies.

      The poll suggests consumers are comfortable with Congress taking the issue out of the hands of the FCC and setting the policy in stone.

      Permanent Net Neutrality law

      "Americans overwhelmingly favor a permanent net neutrality law over FCC regulations that can be changed from administration to administration," said Mike Montgomery, Executive Director of CALinnovates, a non-partisan tech advocacy group based in San Francisco, which conducted the survey.

      Previous research has suggested consumers are growing more concerned about Net Neutrality issues, such as potential throttling, blocking, and the creation of so-called fast lanes.

      Younger consumers appear to feel more strongly about the legislative route than their older counterparts. In fact, 18 to 29 year-olds were almost twice as likely to support making Net Neutrality the law of the land than continuing to leave the issue up to the FCC.

      Net Neutrality can be something of a complex subject, but another poll shows consumers not only understand what it is, they want to keep it.In short, N...
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      Uber gets a new CEO

      Expedia chief Dara Khrosrowshahi is the reported choice

      If you're waiting for an Uber driver to pick you up, the identity of the company's CEO is probably the farthest thing from your mind. But selection of a CEO to replace the ousted Travis Kalanick could be a vital element in how the company fares in the future.

      Kalanick, you'll recall, quit under pressure in June following various allegations of sexual harrassment in the ranks. The board of the high-flying on-demand ride service has been searching for a replacement ever since.

      Various well-known names have been floated publicly but today, press reports say the final choice is Dara Khrosrowshahi, since 2005 the head of Expedia. While not exactly a household name, Khrosrowshahi is credited with turning Expedia around, pulling it out of a sales slump and repositioning it to deal with intensifying competition.

      Service providers

      Seen in that light, Khrosrowshahi's selection becomes more understandable. Both Expedia and Uber are, after all, transportation service providers. Neither owns large fleets of airplanes or cars but both manage millions of trips per year, taking a small slice of each transaction.

      The selection process -- which at times included Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt, and numerous others -- was particularly chaotic because of internecine warfare in the board room, where one group of investors led Kalanick's ouster while other directors objected and pursued their own agendas.

      Khrosrowshahi's selection, reported by today's Wall Street Journal, had not at last word been publicly confirmed and it was not known whether he had formally accepted the job.

      If you're waiting for an Uber driver to pick you up, the identity of the company's CEO is probably the farthest thing from your mind. But selection of a CE...
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      Amazon's Whole Foods acquisition wins approval from the FTC, shareholders

      The agency chose not to block the deal based off speculation

      Back in June, Amazon announced that it would be acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Critics were quick to respond that the deal was a huge threat to competition in the grocery industry and that it shouldn’t receive approval from regulators.

      Nevertheless, it looks like the deal will likely close by the end of 2017. Both Whole Foods shareholders and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cleared the acquisition on Wednesday, according to a Reuters report.

      “The FTC conducted an investigation of this proposed acquisition to determine whether it substantially lessened competition under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, or constituted an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act,” the agency said in a statement. “Based on our investigation we have decided not to pursue this matter further.”

      Winning approval

      At the end of its statement, the FTC asserts that it “always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted,” butErik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan, said that it was always likely that the deal would win government approval.

      “[The FTC] declined to block the deal based on a fear that a big, powerful company could use its muscle in some markets to reduce competition in another market. If Amazon actually does that, the commission can step in,” he said.

      Bitter pill

      However, despite this line of reasoning, the decision is still a bitter pill for opponents of the deal. Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group that had pressured the FTC to block the merger, expressed its disdain for how things turned out.

      “Apparently the only way to hold Amazon accountable for its abuse of consumers is at the state level,” the organization said in a statement.

      Whole Foods' union workers were also dismayed. 

      “Amazon’s reach will ultimately reduce the number of grocery competitors that consumers can choose from,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, in a July statement. “Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allows them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.”

      Back in June, Amazon announced that it would be acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Critics were quick to respond that the deal was a huge threat to c...
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      'Clean meat' start-up corrals some big-time investors

      Food industry behemoth Cargill sees the potential to produce meat without killing animals

      Mempis Meat isn't in Memphis and the meat it manufactures doesn't come directly from animals, but that hasn't stopped it from landing $17 million from such well-known investors as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and food industry giant Cargill. 

      The beefy investment was announced yesterday, setting off a burst of excitement in "clean meat" circles. 

      "Today is a watershed day for our environment, for sustainable food production, for global health, and for animals," said Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute.  

      What is this clean meat anyway? It's sort of a way to have your meat and eat it too -- it's meat that has the same chemical composition as dead-animal meat. The difference is that instead of being raised on the hoof, so to speak, clean meat is made in the lab, using self-reproducing cells identical to those found in living animals.

      The process is touted as beneficial because it reduces the pollution produced by large herds of animals. Also, in a world increasingly populated by consumers who want to promote kindness to animals, it doesn't require raising and slaughtering living creatures. Of course, it also means that fewer animals will get to experience life on earth, but that's perhaps a question for another day. 

      “We’re going to bring meat to the plate in a more sustainable, affordable and delicious way,” said Uma Valeti, M.D., co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, in a press release. “The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions.

      "Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves. However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health," Valeti said.

      "Protein market"

      For its part, Cargill says the investment "is an exciting way for Cargill to explore the potential in this growing segment of the protein market."

      You won't find clean meat at the supermarket quite yet, though. Memphis Meats is very much a start-up and is still working towards bringing down the price of its product and clearing regulatory hurdles.

      Valeti says it now costs the company less than $2,400 to make a pound of meat -- still a pretty hefty price but a lot less than the $18,000 it cost last year.

      Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department will have to sign off on the process. Before doing that, they'll need to be convinced that clean meat is fit to eat.

      Mempis Meat isn't in Memphis and the meat it manufactures doesn't come directly from animals, but that hasn't stopped it from landing $17 million from such...
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      Solar eclipse blamed for salmon farm bust-out

      Thousands of farmed fish escaped, putting native Washington State salmon at risk

      The solar eclipse didn't cause the mass havoc some had feared. There were no massive traffic pile-ups, unruly sun-watchers, or epidemics of damaged retinas. Ah, but then there are those salmon.

      Washington State officials are urging the public to catch as many salmon as they can after it was discovered that high tides resulting from the eclipse damaged a net pen holding 305,000 farm salmon at a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cypress Island, allowing an unknown number to escape, the Seattle Times reported.

      The prison pen bust-out was discovered by fishermen over the weekend when they pulled up spotted, silvery salmon instead of the chinook they were expecting.

      No one knows how many fish made the big break, but officials from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) say it's at least 4,000 to 5,000. The fish are about 10 pounds each. 

      "High tides and currents"

      Cooke is blaming the escape on “exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse” although the pen apparently collapsed on Saturday, a few days before the eclipse.

      “It appears that many fish are still contained within the nets,” Cooke said in the statement. “It will not be possible to confirm exact numbers of fish losses until harvesting is completed and an inventory of fish in the pens has been conducted.”

      Fishermen and wildlife officials are worried about the effect the farmed salmon will have on the native Atlantic salmon that inhabit the waters in the area.

      WDFW officials are urging licensed fishermen to catch as many of the farmed salmon as they can. 

      “Catch as many as you want,” the WDFW's Ron Warren said. “We don’t want anything competing with our natural populations. We have never seen a successful crossbreeding with Atlantic salmon, but we don’t want to test the theory.”

      The solar eclipse didn't cause the mass havoc some had feared. There were no massive traffic pile-ups, unruly sun-watchers, or epidemics of damaged retinas...
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      American Express pays redress to Spanish-language customers

      The company discriminated against consumers in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, feds say

      American Express is paying $96 million in redress to Spanish-speaking consumers in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and elsewhere as part of an agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

      The bureau said that two American Express banking subsidiaries discriminated against the Spanish-language consumers by providing them with credit and charge card terms that were inferior to those available in the 50 states.

      “Consumer financial protections are not confined within the 50 states,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “American Express discriminated against consumers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories by providing them with less-favorable financial products and services."

      Cordray said that no civil penalties were being assessed because American Express discovered the problem, reported it, and "fully cooperated" with the CFPB's investigation.

      Over the course of at least ten years, more than 200,000 consumers were harmed by American Express’ discriminatory practices, which included charging higher interest rates, imposing stricter credit cutoffs, and providing less debt forgiveness, the CFPB said.

      American Express has already paid approximately $95 million in consumer redress and today’s order requires it to pay at least another $1 million to fully compensate harmed consumers.

      The full text of the CFPB’s consent order is available here.

      American Express is paying $96 million in redress to Spanish-speaking consumers in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and elsewhere as part of an agreem...
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      Walmart shoppers can soon order on Google Assistant

      Retailer seeks to counter Amazon voice ordering through Alexa

      In the world of retail, Walmart is viewed as the most formidable challenger to Amazon, and that company has just made another move on the retail chess board.

      In an obvious answer to Amazon's voice ordering capability through the Echo device, Walmart has signed a deal for voice ordering through the Google Assistant.

      What makes this deal unique -- other retailers have the ability to take voice orders through Google -- for the first time Google will sync up with Walmart accounts. This could make reordering much easier, since Google Assistant will know what products consumers purchased in the past.

      Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, says the partnership integrates Walmart's Easy Reorder feature into Google Express. With it, he says consumers can build a basket of previously ordered items. Because of Google's technology, Lore said it just made sense to team up with the tech giant.

      'Transparent shopping universe'

      "They’ve made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience," Lore wrote in the company blog. "We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be. An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers."

      He also hinted that Walmart plans additional features and services related to voice shopping -- plans that leverage Walmart's brick and mortar stores and fulfillment network.

      Consumers currently can use Google Assistant to order from Costco and Target, but Walmart says it is the first to make account histories accessible.

      "If you’re an existing Walmart customer, you can choose to link your Walmart account to Google and receive personalized shopping results based on your online and in-store Walmart purchases," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president for ads & commerce. "For example, if you order Tide PODS or Gatorade, your Google Assistant will let you know which size and type you previously ordered from Walmart, making it easy for you to buy the right product again."

      The Walmart-Google connection will start in late September.

      In the world of retail, Walmart is viewed as the most formidable challenger to Amazon, and that company has just made another move on the retail chess boar...
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      Back-to-school shopping on the back burner

      Many parents still have a lot of purchases to make

      Even though a lot of kids are already back in the classroom, the annual survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by Prosper Insights & Analytics shows many families still have a lot of shopping left to do.

      According to the survey, the average family with children in grades K-12 had completed only 45% of their shopping as of early August compared with a peak of 52% at the same time in 2013 and 48% last year.

      “Parents this year have been taking longer than usual to finish buying the clothing and supplies their children need for school,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Many kids are already getting on the bus and millions more will be back in class in another week or two, so anybody who hasn’t finished shopping by now is cutting it close.”

      The art of putting it off

      Of parents surveyed August 1-9, only 13% had completed all their shopping, and 23% hadn't even started. These results come despite the fact that 27% of parents had said they planned to start shopping at least two months before the start of the school year, an increase from last year's 22%.

      NRF projects families will spend $83.6 billion on back-to-school this year -- including $29.5 billion on K-12 and $54.1 billion on college.

      K-12 shopping

      Among K-12 parents, 79% said they still needed to buy basic supplies such as pencils and paper, followed by 75% who need to buy apparel and 58% who still need to buy shoes.

      To wrap up their buying, 55% planned to head to department stores, 49% to discount stores, 39% to clothing stores, 35% to office supply stores, and 33% online.

      According to the survey, 61% of school supply purchases were influenced by school requirements, while 41% of electronics purchases were dictated by what schools required.

      “Similar to recent years, some of the big-ticket items are being significantly influenced by school requirements,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “That is why we are seeing many parents take their time in tackling their lists so they can take advantage of any special promotions that can help them save on items such as laptops and computers.”

      Shopping for college

      Overall results for college students were largely the same, with students and their parents saying they, too, had completed 45% of their shopping, down 3% from last year and the lowest level since the 44% reported in 2011.

      Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they still needed to purchase school supplies, followed by clothing (51%) and shoes (33%).

      The survey, which asked 7,248 consumers about both back-to-school and back-to-college shopping plans, was conducted August 1-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

      Even though a lot of kids are already back in the classroom, the annual survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by Prosper Insights & Ana...
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      Mortgage rates move mostly lower

      Both the Freddie Mac and Bankrate surveys show little substantial movement

      The cost of financing a home purchase showed little change over the last week.

      The Primary Mortgage Market Survey taken by Freddie Mac shows the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.89% for the week ending August 17, versus 3.90% the week before. A year ago, it averaged 3.43%.

      The 15-year FRM was down two basis points this week to 3.16% from 3.18%. At this time last year, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.74%.

      The rate for the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)rose two basis points to 3.16%, versus an average of 2.76% the year before.

      “Following a mild decline last week, the 10-year Treasury yield rose 1 basis point this week,” said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti “The 30-year mortgage rate similarly remained relatively flat, falling just 1 basis point to 3.89%. Mortgage rates are continuing to hold at low levels amidst ongoing economic uncertainty."

      Bankrate survey

      Bankrate.com's weekly national survey put the 30-year FRM rate at 4.05%, up one basis point from a week earlier percent, and both the 15-year FRM and 5/1 ARM unchanged at 3.27% and 3.49%, respectively.

      At the current average 30-year FRM rate of 4.05%, the monthly payment for a $200,000 loan is $960.60.

      Analysts at Bankrate note that what they call, “the placidity of financial markets,” transformed into more of a subtle yo-yo action in the past week, with markets responding first to heightened tensions with North Korea, then to an easing of those tensions.

      With the unpredictability in Washington, financial markets and mortgage rates could quickly find themselves at the whim of geopolitical worries, a forthcoming debt ceiling debate, or the expected initiation of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet reduction.

      The cost of financing a home purchase showed little change over the last week.The Primary Mortgage Market Survey taken by Freddie Mac shows the 30-year...
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      Would repealing Net Neutrality hurt small businesses?

      An analysis by a business outplacement firm says it would

      An analysis of internet rules by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas concludes that rolling back Net Neutrality rules would not just hurt consumers, but small businesses as well.

      In 2015 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a set of guidelines that bars Internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking any content, applications, or websites. In other words, all content must be treated equally.

      The reasoning behind Net Neutrality is one company's content shouldn't get preferential treatment, just because the company pays a big fee to the ISP.

      ISPs have argued that they spend a lot of money building and maintaining their networks, and it's only fair that companies like Netflix, which requires huge amounts of bandwidth, pay extra for the use of that capacity.

      Pre-Net Neutrality actions

      Challenger, Gray & Christmas said it reviewed internet policies prior to 2015 and found many ISPs, both domestic and foreign, engaged in actions that unfairly affected smaller companies.

      It points to the period of 2011 to 2013, when it says AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon blocked Google Wallet, which happened to compete with a service in which the ISPs held a stake.

      In 2012, it says AT&T announced plans to disable the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers' iPhones unless they subscribed to more bandwidth, at a higher price.

      Internet Privacy Bill

      The 2015 Net Neutrality Rule prevents those kinds of actions, but from the start the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has targeted Net Neutrality for reversal. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, notes that President Trump recently signed the "Internet privacy bill," which he says will repeal vital internet-related consumer protections. In the end, he says that hurts businesses.

      "The slicing up and selling of the Internet will make it vastly more difficult for companies to remain innovative,” Challenger said. “Not to mention the cost to small businesses and entrepreneurs to have access to the Internet."

      Challenger also maintains there is no demand, except from big ISPs, to rollback Net Neutrality. He says polls consistently show that a large majority of people, both Republicans and Democrats, support the concept of Net Neutrality.

      An analysis of internet rules by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas concludes that rolling back Net Neutrality rules would not just hurt co...
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      BRIO recalls baby rattles

      The wooden rings on the rattles can crack, posing a choking hazard

      BRIO of Sweden is recalling about 1,700 BRIO soft hammer rattles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The wooden rings on the hammer rattles can crack, posing a choking hazard to children.

      The firm has received seven reports of the wooden ring cracking. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves BRIO soft hammer baby rattle toys. They have a wooden handle with a white plastic teething ring at one end and a red, yellow, white and green hammer head at the other end.

      BRIO is stamped on the hammer head. The rattle is about five inches long.

      The rattles, manufactured in China, were sold at Home Goods, Kidding Around, Nordstrom and other specialty toy and mass retailer stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com from March 2015, through June 2017, for about $13.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled baby rattles and contact BRIO for instructions on how to receive a full refund or a replacement product of similar value.

      Consumers may contact BRIO, through North American distributor Ravensburger, at www.brio.us and click on Recalls at the bottom of the page or call 800-886-1236 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for more information.

      BRIO of Sweden is recalling about 1,700 BRIO soft hammer rattles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The wooden rings on the hammer rattles can crack, posing a...
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      Deaths from lightning strikes on pace for record low

      Consumers are being more proactive about staying safe when a storm rolls in

      In past decades, it wasn’t completely uncommon for consumers to be struck by lightning. Nearly 330 people died each year from this tragic, natural phenomenon in the 1940s, but experts say that those numbers have dropped significantly over time.

      Courthouse News reports that only 13 people in the U.S. have died after being struck by lightning this year, which is on track to be the lowest recorded number ever. So, what changed? Researchers say that consumers are now much more aware of the dangers of lightning and are more proactive in taking steps to avoid it.

      “We’ve equipped the public by saying, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors .’ Three-year-olds can remember that,” said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, professor emerita of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

      Less time outside

      Of course, going inside when a storm is coming only explains part of the reason why lightning deaths have dropped. Harold Brooks, a scientist with the National Weather Service’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, points out that as a society we generally spend less time outside altogether.

      That’s especially true of professions that have typically required spending a lot of time outdoors, such as farmers. National Weather Service lightning safety specialist John Jensenius Jr. says that in the past, farmers were often the tallest object in fields, which made them much more likely to be struck.

      But advances to agricultural technology have cut the amount of time that farmers are exposed to dangerous conditions. Other developments, such as vehicles with metal roofs, also play a part in keeping consumers safe when they’re not safely indoors.

      On top of all that, experts say that improvements to medical care have played a big role in reducing the number of lightning-related deaths. Devices such as defibrillators are now much more commonly used, and more bystanders are trained in CPR. Additionally, doctors are now much more focused on neurological damage caused by lightning strikes than they were in the past.

      Still dangerous

      Despite improving outcomes, experts still warn that being struck by lightning is a serious risk to those who don’t take proper precautions. Two men vacationing in Florida just last month were struck by lightning on a beach, killing one of them.

      “We ignored it. We were just thinking it was going to pass over soon,” said survivor Andre Bauldock. “We could see the sun in the distance. I was admiring the lightning out in the ocean and I thought it was far away.”

      “Our victims are at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jensenius. "The wrong place is anywhere outside. The wrong time is anywhere that you can hear thunder."

      In past decades, it wasn’t completely uncommon for consumers to be struck by lightning. Nearly 330 people died each year from this tragic, natural phenomen...
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      Dan Post Boot Company recalls safety boots

      The boots and shoes can fail to protect feet from heavy or sharp objects

      Dan Post Boot Company of Clarksville, Tenn., is recalling 7,200 pair of safety boots and shoes.

      The boots and shoes can fail to protect feet when heavy or sharp objects fall on them, posing an injury hazard to consumers.

      The firm has received one report of a tire falling onto a consumer’s foot while he was wearing his safety boots, resulting in a broken foot.

      This recall involves McRae Industrial brand steel toe boots, static dissipative shoes and composite boots. There are seven styles of the McRae Industrial brand shoes included in the recall.

      The model numbers are MR85300, MR85394, MR47321, MR47616, MR87321, MR43002, and MR83310 printed on a tag on the lining of the boot or the tongue of the shoe.

      The following boots and shoes are being recalled::

      Style

      Color

      Style Description

      Safety Attributes

       Price

      MR85300

      Brown

      Men’s pull-on waterproof boot with rubber foot

      Steel toe, EH

      $120

      MR47321

      Brown

      Women’s hiker shoe

      Composite toe, met guard

       $103

      MR47616

      Brown

      Lad hiker shoe

      Composite toe, met guard

       $107

      MR87321

      Brown

      Men’s hiker shoe

      Composite toe, met guard

       $104

      MR85394

      Brown

      Men’s pull-on waterproof boot

      Steel toe, EH

       $127

      MR43002

      Grey/
      Purple

      Women’s hiker shoe

      Composite toe, met guard, static dissipative

       $92

      MR83310

      Black

      Men’s hiker shoe

      Composite toe, static dissipative

       $82

      The boots and shoes, manufactured in China, were sold at Gerler and Son Inc., Grainger Inc., Safety Solutions Inc., Standup Rancher and other independent safety stores nationwide and online at Kohls.com, Steel-Toe-Shoes.com, Thewesterncompany.com, Workboots.com, from October 2013 through June 2017 for between $80 and $130.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop wearing the recalled boots and shoes and return to firm to receive a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Dan Post Boot Company return department toll-free at 866-301-4488 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at dpreturns1@danpostboots.com or online at www.danpostboots.com and click on the recall tab located at the middle of the page for more information.

      Dan Post Boot Company of Clarksville, Tenn., is recalling 7,200 pair of safety boots and shoes.The boots and shoes can fail to protect feet when heavy...
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      Entertainment landscape shifting to consumers' benefit

      More streaming content, cheaper movies the result of ongoing disruption

      The disruption that has occurred in the entertainment industry in the last weekend shows no signs of slowing down. Consumers stand to gain.

      Last week, Disney announced it was setting up its own streaming services and would pull its content from Netflix. This week, Netflix responded by signing a huge content deal with producer Shonda Rhimes to produce shows for the streaming service.

      Daily Variety reports Netflix may also reach an agreement with Disney for rights to Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” and Marvel Entertainment titles after 2019. At the same time, it says the approximately $200 million it had been paying Disney for content will be plowed back into creating new movies and series for the streaming site.

      CNN has added up all the Netflix commitments and estimates the streaming service will spend nearly $16 billion on new content in the coming years, as it fights off an increasing number of competitors.

      Netflix model at the movies

      Meanwhile, entertainment start-up MoviePass has more or less adopted the Netflix model as a way to help Hollywood's sagging box office numbers.

      The company has announced on its website that for a reduced monthly membership fee of $9.95, members can go to as many movies they want, as long as the theater accepts debit cards. The theaters get reimbursed the full price of the ticket.

      It works on the same principal as Netflix. Instead of charging a movie-goer for each ticket, the monthly subscription allows them to watch as many movies as they want, limited to one movie per day. Some screens, such as IMAX, are excluded.

      Lifeline for theaters?

      Still, it may be a hopeful sign for movie theaters, which have seen audiences decline over the summer. Last weekend, ComScore reported the top grossing movie in the U.S. was Annabelle: Creation, which brought in just $35 million, followed by Dunkirk at $11.4 million.

      During the same weekend in 2014, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles raked in $65 million and Guardians of the Galaxy followed at $42 million.

      Last December, MoviePass co-founder Stacey Spikes said the company's research showed a subscription model for theaters would help small, independent films find an audience faster since consumers were more likely to wait for these films to show up on streaming services if they had to pay for each movie theater ticket.

      The disruption that has occurred in the entertainment industry in the last weekend shows no signs of slowing down. Consumers stand to gain.Last week, D...
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      A resurgence of builder confidence

      Shortages and rising costs continue to be a concern, though

      After falling in July to its lowest level since last November, builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes is on the rise again.

      The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) shot up four points in August for a reading of 68.

      “The fact that builder confidence has returned to the healthy levels we saw this spring is consistent with our forecast for a gradual strengthening in the housing market,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “GDP growth improved in the second quarter, which helped sustain housing demand. However, builders continue to face supply-side challenges, such as lot and labor shortages and rising building material costs.”

      The builders' view

      The NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI, which is derived from a monthly survey, gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.”

      In addition, the survey 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.

      August saw all three HMI components post gains. The component gauging current sales conditions was up four points to 74, while the index charting sales expectations in the next six months jumped five points to 78. The component measuring buyer traffic inched up a single point to 49.

      A look at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores shows the Northeast rose one point to 48, while the West, South and Midwest were unchanged at 75, 67 and 66, respectively.

      “Our members are encouraged by rising demand in the new-home market,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald. “This is due to ongoing job and economic growth, attractive mortgage rates, and growing consumer confidence.”

      After falling in July to its lowest level since last November, builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes is on the rise again....
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      Judge turns aside pleas for cheaper phone calls for prisoners

      Nothing gives prisoners the right to reasonably priced calls, the court finds

      Back in the last millennium, Congress tried to increase competition in the telephone industry and passed a gigantic bill that, a few decades later, has created a patchwork in which some types of consumers enjoy plenty of companies competing for their business while others enjoy nearly none.

      Residents in affluent areas, for example, often have multiple broadband carriers offering high-speed fiber connections at competitive prices while rural consumers are stuck with slow-speed telephone lines.

      But of everyone affected by the legislation, no one has fared worse than prisoners and their families. Local and state governments, seeing an opportunity to make a few bucks off the backs of prisoners, have cut deals with private providers who operate the jailhouse phone systems, charging exorbitant rates to those unlucky enough to place or get a call from prison.

      You might think the courts would outlaw the practice, but despite a few limited actions, that hasn't been the case so far. Just yesterday, a federal judge in California pitched four lawsuits challenging the price-gouging, according to a Courthouse News Service report. 

      "Grossly excessive" rates

      Plaintiffs had charged that Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties had contracted with Global Tel Link Corp. and Securus Technologies, allowing them to charge "grossly excessive" rates to inamtes and their families.

      The plaintiffs had argued the Ninth Circuit has recognized a First Amendment right to telephone access, and that the commissions amount to unconstitutional taxes on that right.

      But U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted a motion by the counties to dismiss the suits.

      “That the commissions charged may result in higher phone rates, which, in turn, may reduce the frequency and length of phone calls made, does not constitute a governmental restriction on plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” Gonzalez Rogers wrote in a 26-page order.

      Gonzalez Rogers said the Ninth Circuit ruling applied to prisoners who were denied access to a telephone and did not deal with pricing issues.

      The judge also turned aside the claim that the counties were in violation of antitrust laws, noting that state law bars antitrust action against governmental units.

      Back in the last millennium, Congress tried to increase competition in the telephone industry and passed a gigantic bill that, a few decades later, has cre...
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      Questions to ask before considering a 'pension advance'

      Signing away your pension for a lump sum payment may be an expensive proposition

      Retirees who are trying to make ends meet may be tempted to sign up with a company that promises to turn pension payments into lump-sum cash.

      Instead of getting a check every month, the retiree essentially agrees to sell his or her right to the pension to the company in return for the single big payment.

      Officials in Pennsylvania, which has one of the largest populations of seniors in the country, is warning consumers to get all the facts before considering such a proposal.

      'Thinly-disguised loans'

      The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities calls these pension advances nothing more than “thinly-disguised loans with no contractual or financial relationship with the consumer's pension or pension plan.”

      It points out that the company making the advance may collect a lot more in terms of pension payments than what it pays the retiree.

      “In almost all cases, the payments made by the consumer are more than a lender can legally charge on a loan to a Pennsylvania resident,” the department said in a press release.

      It intervened in May to stop one company from operating a pension advance business, citing it for not being licensed.

      FTC's advice

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that pension advances aren't cheap. They can carry fees that can push the effective annual percentage rate (APR), the cost of credit on a yearly basis, over 100%. In many cases, it says these companies also require consumers to purchase life insurance, with the pension company as the beneficiary.

      There are several questions you should ask before considering a pension advance proposal.

      • Are you eligible? It might be against the law to sign over your pension to someone else. Check with your pension administrator.
      • How much does it cost? Do the math, measuring the amount you get against the number of payments the company will collect. The difference is the interest and fees the company is collecting.
      • Do you have to buy life insurance? If so, the premiums will be an extra expense.
      • What are the tax implications? A lump sum payment could push you into a higher tax bracket.
      • Can you cancel the deal if you change your mind? Maybe not, some of these agreements are binding.

      The FTC says there are better alternatives for seniors who need extra cash. A personal loan from your bank or credit union might actually be cheaper.

      If money problems are persistent, consider working with a non-profit credit counselor to find ways to reduce expenses.

      Retirees who are trying to make ends meet may be tempted to sign up with a company that promises to turn pension payments into lump-sum cash.Instead of...
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      Facebook wants you to watch Watch, its new video channel

      Instead of cat videos, Watch will be professionally produced content

      There is apparently a dire shortage of video in the world today, but don't worry -- big companies are rushing to fill the imagined void with, you guessed it, even more video.

      The latest light and nimble entrepreneurial venture to wade into video is none other than Facebook. It's starting something called Facebook Watch -- clever, no? 

      Watch will be just what you expect -- a video distribution platform that we're told will be chockfull of scintillating, original video. And, of course, like everything else these days, it will be "personalized," meaning you'll be shown videos that Facebook thinks you want to see. Or, to be a bit more precise, videos that Facebook's advertisers want you to see.

      Like everything else on Facebook, it will also be driven at least partly by what your friends -- and your "Friends" -- are watching and raving about. We're told you will find it on the Facebook menu bar, replacing the tab that currently says "Video."

      "Watch is personalized to help you discover new shows, organized around what your friends and communities are watching," said Daniel Danker, Facebook Director of Product. "For example, you’ll find sections like 'Most Talked About,' which highlights shows that spark conversation, 'What’s Making People Laugh,' which includes shows where many people have used the 'Haha' reaction, and 'What Friends Are Watching,' which helps you connect with friends about shows they too are following."

      Professional content

      It's important to note that, unlike videos of cute cats and bouncing babies posted by your supposed friends, Watch will be the real thing -- you know, professional content: movies, series, and even sports. Facebook says it will live-streaming one Major League Baseball game each week and has several other attractions up its sleeve.

      Not everyone will have Watch right away. It's being rolled out, in usual Facebook fashion, on a staggered basis. So let's just say you'll be seeing it soon -- and, Facebook hopes, watching it ever after.

      There is apparently a dire shortage of video in the world today, but don't worry -- big companies are rushing to fill the imagined void with, you guessed i...
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      Good Food Concepts recalls raw intact and non-intact beef

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O26

      Good Food Concepts of Colorado Springs, Colo., is recalling approximately 1,290 pounds of raw intact and non-intact beef.

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O26.

      The following items, processed and packaged on August 3 – 4, 2017, are bring recalled:

      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Filet Mignon,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Brisket Flat,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Sirloin Tip,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Ribeye,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Stew Meat,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, New York Strip,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Skirt Steak,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Various weights of individual packages of “CALLICRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate life, Top Sirloin,” with lot code 170731CC.
      • Cases of 14.60-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT GROUND BEEF 80/20 BEEF,” with lot code 170804.
      • Cases of 6.40-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT GROUND BEEF 80/20” BEEF, with lot code 170803.
      • Cases of 6.40-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT PHILLY MEAT BEEF,” with lot code 170803.
      • Cases of 6.40-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT TOP SIRLOIN STEAK 8oz BEEF,” with lot code 170803.
      • Cases of 40-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT GROUND CHUCK BEEF,” with lot code 170804.
      • Cases of 6.40-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT GROUND BEEF (73/27),” with lot code 170803.
      • Cases of 40-lb of “RANCH FOODS DIRECT FLAT IRON BEEF,” with lot code 170804.
      • Cases of “FAMILY BUNDLE, 4-GROUND BEEF 80% LEAN 20% FAT, 1-LONDON BROIL, 2-PKGS CUBE STEAKS, 6-FLATIRON STEAKS, $91.99” with lot code 170804.
      • Cases of “STEAK BUNDLE, 4-RIBEYE STEAKS, 4-NEW YORK STRIP STEAKS, 4-TOP SIRLOIN STEAKS, 4-FILET MIGNON $174.99” with lot code 170804.
      • Cases of “RIBEYE STEAK BUNDLE, 10-RIBEYE STEAKS, $117.99” with lot code 170803.
      • Cases of “COLORADO BUNDLE, 4-SKIRTS STEAKS, 4-CHUCK EYE STEAKS, 4-TOP SIRLOIN, 2-CHUCK ROAST, 15-GROUND BEEF 80% LEAN 20%FAT, $199.19” with lot code 170804.
      • Cases of 20-lb of “GROUND BEED, 90% LEAN, 10% FAT $125.99” with lot code 170804.
      • Packages of “ALL NATURAL CALLIGRATE BEEF, Celebrate goodness, Celebrate Life, GROUND BEEF.”

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 27316” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations, wholesale locations, and restaurants in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Dave Anderson, at (719) 473-2306.

      Good Food Concepts of Colorado Springs, Colo., is recalling approximately 1,290 pounds of raw intact and non-intact beef.The products may be contaminat...
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      New dating site aims to connect dog lovers

      The creators of Hotdiggiddy believe dog people are usually warm, loving individuals

      Whether you’re looking to meet someone who shares your political views or hates the same things you hate, there’s likely a dating app out there to help you find your ideal match.

      Now, there’s a dating site specifically geared toward those who love dogs. Hotdiggiddy, the new "Social Dating Site" for Dog Lovers, is centered around the idea that those who care for dogs are usually warm, loving, and responsible people.

      The creators of the site say finding romance or friendship with a dog lover won’t only be a boon to your happiness, it’ll be a positive influence in the life of your four-legged friend as well.

      Romantic or platonic relationships

      "Have you ever invited someone over for a visit and as soon as they walked in the door your dog immediately reacted to them? Not in a nice way. Well, we have time and again,” said Scott Murray, CEO of Hotdiggiddy.

      “We find that the people who our dogs like are usually people who we can trust and get along with; even if they are not dog owners themselves. These people just seem to give off good vibes that you and your dog can feel."

      But you don’t have to own a dog to use the Canadian based dating site and app -- a love of dogs is all that’s required.

      Dog lovers in relationships

      In addition to giving off good vibes, dog lovers may also be better communicators. According to a University of Buffalo study, couples with pets have closer relationships and interact more than couples without pets.

      The researchers explained that dogs make people want to seek out more social contact. As a result, they tend to form stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

      Another potential perk of dating a dog lover: they may be more empathetic. A 2014 study found that dog owners are more engaged with their communities, likely as a result of being tapped into their empathetic, understanding side from all the hours spent caring for their pet.

      Hotdiggiddy says it’s looking for people who are living life to the fullest. And while you only need to be over the age of 18 to use the site, its key demographic is 30 years of age and older.

      Whether you’re looking to meet someone who shares your political views or hates the same things you hate, there’s likely a dating app out there to help you...
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      Study predicts significant future job growth

      But many of those new jobs may be at the lower end of the pay scale

      Today's college students can look forward to healthy job prospects when they are ready to enter the job market, according to a new study by CareerBuilder.com.

      But not surprisingly, some sectors of the economy will see rapid growth while others may actually lose ground.

      The analysis predicts more than 8 million new jobs will be created over the next five years while just 302,000 will be eliminated. Broken down by pay levels, the numbers suggest all levels will see job growth over that time but that middle-wage workers will get the least benefit. That sector should see the largest job loss and smallest job creation.

      "Middle-wage workers are at the greatest risk for displacement especially as rapid advancements in technology reshape labor requirements," said Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder's CEO. "Their only choices are adopting new skills for a higher-paying job, being underemployed in a lower-skill job or leaving the workforce altogether."

      Significant economic challenges

      Those latter options, says Ferguson, present significant economic challenges. To overcome them, he suggests increased efforts to help affected workers gain new skills.

      Among the study's key findings, STEM-related jobs will grow fastest while jobs in the manufacturing and construction trades will continue to decline. The biggest growth in employment will be in jobs that pay low wages. Around half of the jobs that disappear over the next five years will be middle-wage jobs.

      Jobs in health care may also continue to increase. The study projects demand for personal care aides will increase 16%, paying an average of $10.89 an hour. Home health aid positions are also projected to grow 16%, paying about the same.

      Tech jobs will also expand, according to the study, with increased demand for web developers, computer systems analysts, and software developers. Endangered jobs include switchboard operators, printing press operators, bank tellers, and sewing machine operators.

      Today's college students can look forward to healthy job prospects when they are ready to enter the job market, according to a new study by CareerBuilder.c...
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      A big jump in July employment

      The jobless rate inched down a notch last month

      The nation's job-creation machinery got cranking in July.

      The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 209,000 new nonfarm payroll positions created last month, with the unemployment rate ticking down from 4.4% to 4.3%.

      As it released the July figures, the government revised its May estimate of new jobs down from +152,000 to +145,000, and its June calculation up from +222,000 to +231,000. That works out to a net gain of 2,000 jobs in May and June from what was reported previously.

      For the year thus far, employment growth has averaged 184,000 per month.

      Who's on the job

      Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.0%), adult women (4.0%), teenagers (13.2%), Whites (3.8%), Blacks (7.4%), Asians (3.8%), and Hispanics (5.1%) showed little or no change.

      The number of long-term unemployed -- those out of work for 27 weeks or more -- was little changed at 1.8 million in July and accounted for 25.9% of the unemployed.

      The labor force participation rate (62.9%) showed little change in July and has been fairly steady over the past year. The employment-population ratio (60.2%) was also little changed in July but is up by 0.4% year-over-year.

      Where the jobs are

      Employment in food services and drinking places rose by 53,000 in July, while professional and business services added 49,000 jobs. Health care employment increased by 39,000, while mining, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation & warehousing, information, financial activities, and government showed little change.

      Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 9 cents in July to $26.36 and are up 65 cents, or 2.5%, over the year.

      The complete report may be found on the BLS website.

      The nation's job-creation machinery got cranking in July.The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 209,000 new nonfarm...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls smart fortwo and smart fortwo Cabriolet vehicles

      The left front axle steering knuckle could fail, increasing the risk of a crash

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 110 model year 2017 smart fortwo and smart fortwo Cabriolet vehicles.

      Casting imperfections may result in the failure of the left front axle steering knuckle and affect vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the left front axle steering knuckle, replacing any from the affected batch, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in September 2017.

      Owners may contact smart customer service at 1-877-496-3691.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 110 model year 2017 smart fortwo and smart fortwo Cabriolet vehicles.Casting imperfections may result in the fai...
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      YouTube provides update on its war against extremist and terrorist content

      Company officials say that progress is being made on all fronts

      Back in June, Google announced that it was going to be taking a tougher stance on terrorist and extremist content on platforms like YouTube.

      Among the changes, the company said that it would be using machine learning systems to detect and remove terrorist videos, hiring more experts to review problematic content, and cracking down on videos that don’t necessarily violate its policies but still contain offensive, extremist, and inflammatory religious and supremacist messages.

      Now, the company has released an update on how those efforts are paying off. In a blog post released on Tuesday, company officials said that progress is being made on all fronts.

      “Altogether, we have taken significant steps over the last month in our fight against online terrorism. But this is not the end. We know there is more work to be done," the company said.

      "With the help of new machine learning technology, deep partnerships, ongoing collaborations with other companies through the Global Internet Forum, and our vigilant community we are confident we can continue to make progress against this ever-changing threat.”

      Making progress

      When it comes to its machine learning systems, YouTube says that they are faster, more accurate, and more efficient than ever before. The company notes that over 75% of videos showcasing extremist content were taken down after receiving a single human flag in the past month.

      Additionally, the systems have more than doubled both the number of videos removed for violent extremism and the rate at which YouTube has taken those kinds of videos down. Officials say that they are encouraged by the improvements, but that the company will continue to invest in experts and technical resources to improve outcomes.

      Speaking of experts, YouTube says that it has added 15 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and institutions to its Trusted Flagger program to help identify hate speech, radicalization, and terrorism in videos that are used to recruit extremists. Some of the groups include the Anti-Defamation League, the No Hate Speech Movement, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

      “We will…regularly consult these experts as we update our policies to reflect new trends. And we’ll continue to add more organizations to our network of advisors over time,” officials said.

      “Limited state”

      Finally, YouTube says that it has taken several steps in the past month to impose tougher restrictions on videos that are not technically illegal but are flagged by users for showcasing hate speech and violent extremism.

      The company says that although these videos will not be taken down from its site, they will be placed in a “limited state."

      “The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes,” the company said, adding that this new treatment will soon be rolled out to videos on desktop versions of YouTube. 

      Officials say that further updates on its progress will continue to roll out in the coming months.

      Back in June, Google announced that it was going to be taking a tougher stance on terrorist and extremist content on platforms like YouTube.Among the c...
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      Gas prices up a dime a gallon in the last month

      Much of the increase is centered in Midwestern states

      Gasoline prices have risen in the last four weeks, pushed higher by a rise in oil prices and a larger than expected drop in gasoline stockpiles.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is $2.33 a gallon, a dime a gallon higher than a month ago. Half of that increase has come in the last seven days.

      The average price of premium gas is $2.85 a gallon, up seven cents in the last month. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.49 a gallon, five cents more than last month.

      Midwest leads prices higher

      Motorists in Indiana saw prices at the pump surge 26 cents a gallon in the last month. Prices are up 20 cents in Ohio, 17 cents in Michigan, 15 cents in Kentucky, 13 cents in Florida and Oklahoma, and 11 cents in South Carolina and Kansas.

      “As summer moves forward, the days of dropping summer gas prices appear to be behind us for now,” said AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “U.S. crude inventories are moving in the opposite direction of demand – a perfect storm for continued price increases heading into August.”

      After flirting with the $40 a barrel mark, oil prices are back around $50 a barrel, increasing the cost of making gasoline. But motorists who have watched the mid-summer rise in prices at the pump probably should not be too concerned. As oil prices get back to $50 a barrel, U.S. production usually increases, bringing prices back down again.

      Stable West Coast

      West Coast gasoline prices, among the most expensive in the nation, remained stable last week, with the exception of California. AAA says drivers there saw prices jump due to an equipment breakdown at Phillips 66’s Wilmington, Calif., refinery and ongoing planned maintenance at Tesoro’s Golden Eagle Refinery in Martinez.

      Even so, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports West Coast gasoline inventories actually rose after a significant one-week drop. Prices there should not go much higher.

      States with the cheapest gas this week include South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Virginia, and Texas.

      States with the most expensive fuel include Hawaii, California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Idaho.

      With another month left in the summer driving season, gasoline prices could well drift slightly higher in the coming weeks. However, prices normally start going back down after Labor Day, when demand falls and refineries switch over to producing winter grade fuel, which costs less.

      Gasoline prices have risen in the last four weeks, pushed higher by a rise in oil prices and a larger than expected drop in gasoline stockpiles.The AAA...
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      Panelcraft recalls children’s building sets

      Exposed magnets can create a choking hazard

      Panelcraft of Dearborn, Mich., is recalling about 2,000 children’s magnetic building sets.

      The building sets corner welds can break, allowing the panels and frames to separate and release magnets during play. When released, exposed magnets can create a choking hazard.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves two styles of Panelcraft Rainbow magnetic building sets: Rainbow Dream Builder and Rainbow Solid Builder.

      The solid builder set includes 19 pieces: 11 solid panels in red, yellow, green, blue and purple and 8 white windows that measure 9 inches by 9 inches.

      The rainbow dream builder set includes 19 windows in red, yellow, green, blue and purple colors that measure 9 inches by 9 inches.

      The building sets, manufactured in China, were sold at Discount School Supply, Kaplan Early Learning Company, Panelcraft and Tout About Toys from November 2016, through January 2017, for between $120 and $150.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled building sets and take them away from children. Contact the firm to receive a prepaid shipping label for returning the recalled sets for a free replacement set including shipping.

      Consumers may contact Panelcraft toll-free at 888-288-7615 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.panelcraft.com and click on Contact Us for more information.

      Panelcraft of Dearborn, Mich., is recalling about 2,000 children’s magnetic building sets.The building sets corner welds can break, allowing the panels...
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      Model year 2016 smart fortwo vehicles recalled

      The parking brake lever may have to travel farther before the parking brake engages

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 5,061 model year 2016 smart fortwo vehicles.

      The lock nut that secures the parking brake cable to the parking brake lever may loosen over time, resulting in increased parking brake lever travel before the parking brake engages.

      As the parking brake lever travel increases, the holding force may decrease to a point where the vehicle is no longer safely secured in all parking situations, allowing the vehicle to unexpectedly move when parked on a slope, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the parking brake cable lock nut, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early September 2017. 

      Owners may contact smart customer service at 1-877-496-3691

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 5,061 model year 2016 smart fortwo vehicles.The lock nut that secures the parking brake cable to the parking bra...
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      Teens become riskier drivers as they get older, study finds

      Overconfidence in driving abilities can lead to risky driving behaviors among older teens

      A nationwide survey of 2,800 teen drivers conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) finds that teens become riskier drivers as they rise up the ranks.

      Despite only having been behind the wheel a year or two longer than their younger peers, older teen drivers perceive themselves as safer drivers. The study suggests older teens may be overly confident in their driving abilities, as 57% of high school seniors have experienced an accident or near miss compared to only 34% of sophomores.

      Older teen drivers tend to engage in riskier behaviors such as using their phone, having three or more passengers, and speeding. And often, older teens’ risky driving behaviors aren’t followed by a parental reprimand.

      Lack of consequences

      The study suggests parents may be doing too little to dissuade their older teens from engaging in risky driving behaviors.

      Nearly 70 percent of younger teens (ages 15 and 16) said they would lose their driving privileges if they were to get into an accident, but only half (55 percent) of teens 18 and older believed they would experience the same consequence.

      "Older teens are still inexperienced drivers -- even if they feel otherwise -- as they only have one to two years of real-world practice under their belts,” said Mike Sample, lead driving safety expert at Liberty Mutual. “That's why it is important to continue to emphasize the effects and potential consequences of phone use while driving to this age group."

      Encouraging safe driving  

      Teens are often tethered to their devices, but using an app behind the wheel -- even for just a second -- can “set off a chain reaction that could lead to a near miss or crash,” says Sample.

      He recommends reminding teens to always pull over before using their phone. “It’s just not worth the risk of crashing,” he says, adding that parents are key influencers when it comes to their kids’ behaviors behind the wheel.

      Parents should strive to continually encourage safe driving habits, even as teens get older and gain driving experience and confidence.

      What parents can do

      The following tips can help parents encourage safe driving habits:

      • Keep practicing. Driving practice shouldn’t stop once your child gets their license. Parents should continue to drive with their teens and remind them of safe driving behaviors, says Liberty Mutual.
      • Hold each other accountable. Help set a good example for your teen by using driving behavior monitoring technology right along with them. The HighwayHero app can help to hold the whole family accountable for their driving behavior with its ability to track behind-the-wheel phone usage, hard braking, speeding, and other risky behaviors.
      • Reward safe driving. Practice positive reinforcement of good driving habits rather than negative consequences for bad driving behavior. Parents can use rewards like a break from a specific chore or a $10 gift card to remind teens to think about their actions while driving.
      • Set expectations. Create a Teen Driving Contract to help teens stick to family driving rules.
      A nationwide survey of 2,800 teen drivers conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) finds that teens become r...
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      Solar sales, used car leasing a new source of consumer complaints

      Consumer Federation of America compiles list of fastest-growing issues

      Sales of solar energy equipment have increased in recent years, so it's not that surprising that consumer complaints related to these sales have also risen.

      The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) surveyed 39 consumer agencies in 23 states and found that solar energy sales emerged as a new area of concern for consumers. As the industry grows, so do the complaints.

      “Solar energy is good for the environment and for consumers’ pocketbooks, but there are starting to be complaints concerning misleading sales practices, confusing contracts, and shoddy installation” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at CFA. “Consumers should check out the company and make sure they understand the terms of the agreement before they sign on the dotted line for solar contracts.”

      An analysis of reviews of solar purchases posted at ConsumerAffairs revealed a number of different kinds of complaints, ranging from the installation under-delivering to the addition of solar equipment making it difficult to sell the house.

      Used car leasing

      The CFA survey found that solar panels aren't all consumers have to worry about, though. The agency says that used car leasing -- a new financing option that has emerged in the wake of a growing number of new car leases -- is also emerging as a new area of consumer complaints.

      It's true that monthly payments are lower, but CFA found that interest rates can be high and that state lemon laws and some other consumer protections might not apply when a used car is leased instead of purchased.

      “Consumers who lease used cars may be stuck with lemons or be on the hook for costly repairs,” Grant said.

      Fraud complaints on the rise

      Lastly, state officials have told CFA that fraud complaints are becoming a quickly growing problem for consumers.

      Amber Capoun, a legal assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas, says imposter scams, where the scammer pretends to be from some government agency, are among the worst -- and most effective. These criminals either try to scare victims into sending money with a gift card or promise thousands of dollars in grants, as long as the victim pays a small upfront fee.

      The state consumer agencies have recommended new laws to better protect consumers. In particular, they suggest that telephone companies should be required to take additional steps to block illegal robocalls and other scam calls.

      CFA says the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a rule to allow phone companies to block calls when the Caller ID appears to be spoofed.

      Sales of solar energy equipment have increased in recent years, so it's not that surprising that consumer complaints related to these sales have also risen...
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