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      America New York RI Wang Food Group expands sausage recall

      The products contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label

      America New York RI Wang Food Group of Maspeth, N.Y., is expanding its earlier recall of Heat Treated but Not Fully Cooked-Not Shelf Stable pork sausage products and beef products.

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

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

      The recall now includes an additional 9,850 pounds of items produced from Jan. 5, 2016, through June 29, 2017. The following additional products are being recalled:

      • 25-lb. institutional pack of “Beef Balls,” with the following lot codes and package dates:
        • lot code “0418272” and package date “4/3/2017.”
        • lot code “1117011” and package date “12/22/2016.”
        • lot code “1117033” and package date “11/30/2016.”
        • lot code “1117048” and package date “11/15/2016.”
      • 25-lb. institutional pack of “Beef Tendon Balls,” with the following lot codes and package        dates:
        • lot code “0618185” and package date “6/29/2017.”
        • lot code “0618209” and package date “6/5/2017.”
        • lot code “0618212” and package date “6/2/2017.”
        • lot code “0618213” and package date “6/1/2017.”
        • lot code “0518229” and package date “5/16/2017.”
        • lot code “0518244” and package date “5/1/2017.”
        • lot code “0418247” and package date “4/28/2017.”
        • lot code “0418271” and package date “4/4/2017.”
        • lot code “0418272” and package date “4/3/2017.”
        • lot code “0318306” and package date “3/2/2017.”
        • lot code “0318307” and package date “3/1/2017.”
        • lot code “0218315” and package date “2/21/2017.”
        • lot code “0118339” and package date “1/26/2017.”
        • lot code “0118340” and package date “1/25/2017.”
        • lot code “0118360” and package date “1/6/2017.”
        • lot code “0118361” and package date “1/5/2017.”
        • lot code “1217010” and package date “12/23/2016.”
        • lot code “1217011” and package date “12/22/2016.”
        • lot code “1117033” and package date “11/30/2016.”
        • lot code “1117034” and package date “11/29/2016.”
        • lot code “1117048” and package date “11/15/2016.”
        • lot code “1117049” and package date “11/14/2016.”
        • lot code “1017069” and package date “10/25/2016.”
        • lot code “1017089” and package date “10/5/2016.”
        • lot code “1017090” and package date “10/4/2016.”
        • lot code “0917117” and package date “9/7/2016.”
        • lot code “0817125” and package date “8/30/2016.”
        • lot code “0807145” and package date “8/10/2016.”
        • lot code “0717181” and package date “7/6/2016.”
        • lot code “0717185” and package date “7/1/2016.”
        • lot code “0617199” and package date “6/17/2016.”
        • lot code “0417263” and package date “4/12/2016.”
        • lot code “0317297” and package date “3/9/2016.”
        • lot code “0317298” and package date “3/8/2016.”
        • lot code “0217313” and package date “2/22/2016.”
        • lot code “0217331” and package date “2/4/2016.”
        • lot code “0217332” and package date “2/3/2016.”
        • lot code “0117341” and package date “1/25/2016.”
        • lot code “0117345” and package date “1/21/2016.”
        • lot code “0117355” and package date “1/11/2016.”
        • lot code “0117358” and package date “1/8/2016.”
      • 25-lb. institutional pack of “Pork Patty Balls,” with the following lot codes and package            dates:
        • lot code “0618199” and package date “6/15/2017.”
        • lot code “0518228” and package date “5/17/2017.”
        • lot code “0717159” and package date “7/27/2016.”

      The additional products, bearing establishment number “EST. 40200” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were sold for institutional use in New York.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact Karen Tam at (718) 628-8999 or by email at Karenp@riwangusa.com.

      America New York RI Wang Food Group of Maspeth, N.Y., is expanding its earlier recall of Heat Treated but Not Fully Cooked-Not Shelf Stable pork sausage pr...
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      College binge drinkers more likely to wind up unemployed, study finds

      Researchers say each instance of binge drinking lowers a graduate’s chance of employment

      A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology finds that college graduates who binge drink multiple times per month are less likely to be hired.

      Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Cornell University say that applicants are 1.4 percent less likely to land a job for each instance of binge drinking throughout any given month. They define “binge drinking” as having four or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for women, or five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for men.

      "The manner in which students drink appears to be more influential than how much they drink when it comes to predicting the likelihood of getting a job upon graduation," said study co-author Professor Peter Bamberger.

      The study analyzed 827 participants who graduated from Cornell, the University of Washington, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan between 2014 and 2016. The researchers found that non-binge pattern drinking didn’t affect prospective employment, but the likelihood of negative outcomes built quickly as soon as drinking behaviors hit binge levels.

      "A student who binge-drinks four times a month has a 6 percent lower probability of finding a job than a student who does not engage in similar drinking habits. Those students who drank heavily six times a month increased their unemployment probability to 10 percent," said Bamberger.

      While the study results may be shocking to some, previous studies suggest that binge drinking among college students is actually declining overall. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says that binge drinking declined every year from 2005 to 2014 among college students; however, excessive drinking was still found to be problematic among non-college students.

      A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology finds that college graduates who binge drink multiple times per month are less likely to be hire...
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      Model year 2017-2018 Jeep Cherokees recalled

      Tire and rim size information are missing from the certification label

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 22,242 model year 2017-2018 Jeep Cherokee.

      Tire and rim size information required on the certification label was omitted during manufacturing, which may result in an incorrect tire and rim combination being installed on the vehicle.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, "Tire Selection and Rims."

      The missing information could lead to an incorrect combination of tire and rim being installed on the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners and will provide a corrected certification label, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 20, 2017.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T53.customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 22,242 model year 2017-2018 Jeep Cherokee.Tire and rim size information required on the certification label was omit...
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      Gas prices falling but still higher than normal

      National average price down five cents in the last week

      Gasoline prices are drifting lower from their post-Hurricane Harvey spike, but remain significantly higher than this time last year.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is around $2.57 a gallon, down five cents from a week ago but 37 cents higher than fall 2016.

      Prices rose quickly after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast last month, forcing many refineries to curtail production. That created supply shortages, raising the price of gasoline nationwide. After topping out close to $2.70 a gallon, gasoline prices have been going down over the last two weeks.

      "That downward momentum is starting to pick up steam," Gasbuddy senior analyst Patrick DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. "Gasoline inventories are continuing to recover after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and that's helping to put downward pressure on gas prices."

      Big drop in prices in Delaware

      Consumers in some states are seeing gas prices fall faster than the nation as a whole. DeHaan says prices seem to be falling faster in the Midwest and in the East; Delaware leads all states with a decline of around 10 cents a gallon in the last week.

      Prices remain higher than normal in the Southeast, which normally enjoys some of the lowest fuel prices in the nation.

      "We're still seeing some supply problems as a result of that temporary partial shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline after Hurricane Harvey," DeHaan said. "We're still getting back on our feet in the Southeast."

      Both Florida and Georgia have statewide gas price averages of $2.66 a gallon, the highest in the region. But inventory issues are still affecting prices in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia.

      South Carolina, normally the state with the cheapest fuel, has a current statewide average gasoline price of $2.46 a gallon. A month ago (before Hurricane Harvey), it was $2.07. Tennessee's average price of $2.50 a gallon is still 37 cents higher than a month ago.

      Most expensive gas is in the West

      In the West, California has the most expensive gasoline. The statewide average for regular is $3.12 a gallon -- but it's 13 cents higher at San Francisco area gas stations.

      Hawaii and Washington are seeing slightly lower gas prices this week and are the only states besides California where the average price has eclipsed the $3 per gallon mark.

      Autumn is normally a time when gasoline prices fall a bit faster, since oil refineries have switched to producing cheaper winter-grade gasoline.

      The EPA requires stations to sell summer blends between June 1 and September 15, but it has allowed earlier sale of winter grades because of the hurricanes. That may have helped bring down prices a bit, but DeHaan says there are other economic forces at work that may limit the benefit to consumers.

      "Oil prices are now $51 a barrel, so gasoline prices may not get as low as they were before the hurricanes, when oil was selling for around $47," he said.

      Gasoline prices are drifting lower from their post-Hurricane Harvey spike, but remain significantly higher than this time last year.The AAA Fuel Gauge...
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      Airbnb adds restaurant reservation feature to its app

      Users can book a table at nearly 650 restaurants

      Travel industry giant Airbnb is continuing to expand its reach with a new app feature allowing users to reserve a table at nearly 650 restaurants in 16 U.S. cities.

      "The ability to book reservations at a curated selection of restaurants is part of our ongoing commitment to focus on the entire trip, not just homes, and follows the launch of Experiences last year," the company said in a statement.

      So Airbnb, the app that matches lodgers with people renting a spare room, condo, or house, is taking what it calls the next logical step. Effective immediately, consumers can use the Airbnb app to reserve a table at nearly 650 restaurants in the U.S.

      Among the top-shelf restaurants included in the app are Thip Khao in Washington, D.C., Petit Crenn in San Francisco, Kismet in Los Angeles, and Bateau in Seattle.

      Especially handy for international travelers

      Airbnb says the restaurant feature will prove especially handy for international travelers. While in a different country, guests might not be familiar with local reservation sites or be able to translate online systems into their own languages, the company says.

      The new feature is powered by Resy, a restaurant booking app. There is now a dedicated restaurant tab on both the Airbnb website and app, allowing users to search by a number of different parameters. You can sort restaurants by the cuisine they serve, or break them down by which meal you want -- breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

      Resy picks the available restaurants, judging them on overall quality and making note of which ones are local favorites or have won awards or other recognition.

      Airbnb's Restaurant Spending Report shows its guests spent over $6.5 billion at restaurants last year in 44 markets around the world.

      Travelers' survey

      An accompanying survey shows nearly half of travelers from the U.S. prefer restaurants that have been recommended by the local population. More than half said they would like to have the option of dining out or cooking in when they travel.

      Thirty percent of U.S. travelers who have traveled outside the country said they find it difficult to find good restaurants that are favorites among locals -- not just tourists -- when they travel.

      Currently, about half of Americans who eat at restaurants when traveling say they usually choose a restaurant by asking the hotel concierge.

      Travel industry giant Airbnb is continuing to expand its reach with a new app feature allowing users to reserve a table at nearly 650 restaurants in 16 U.S...
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      Model year 2017 Dodge Durangos recalled

      The rear axle halfshafts may be too short

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling four model year 2017 Dodge Durangos that may have been assembled with rear axle halfshafts that are too short.

      If a halfshaft is too short, it may disengage from the differential causing a loss of drive and increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will replace both halfshafts, free of charge. The recall began on September 18, 2017.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T55.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling four model year 2017 Dodge Durangos that may have been assembled with rear axle halfshafts that are too short.If a h...
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      DEMDACO recalls infant bib and bootie sets

      Rattles sewn into the booties can detach, posing a choking hazard

      DEMDACO of Leawood, Kan., is recalling about 1,500 infant bib and bootie sets.

      Rattles sewn into the booties can detach, posing a choking hazard.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves the following Story Time bib and bootie sets for infants, ages 3 through 6 months:

      5004700491

       Dragon Bib & Bootie Set

      5004700492

       Sea Creatures Bib & Bootie Set

      5004700493

       Unicorn Bib & Bootie Set

      5004700494

       Princess Bib & Bootie Set

      5004700495

       Pirate Bib & Bootie Set

      5004700496

       Rocketship Bib & Bootie Set

      The multi-colored pastel sets were sold in six different child themes and have serial numbers ranging from 5004700491 to 5004700496. The serial number can be found on the side of the bib. The sets were sold under the brand name Nat & Jules.

      Rattle attachments sewn into the booties coordinate with the theme.

      The infant bib and bootie sets, manufactured in China, were sold at Christus Health Retail Systems, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, More Than Words, The Mole Hole of Peddlers Village & Eash Sales from June 2017, through August 2017, for about $25.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bib sets, take them away from children and return them to any store that sells DEMDACO’s products for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact DEMDACO toll-free at 888-336-3226 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.demdaco.com and click on Recall Info for more information.

      DEMDACO of Leawood, Kan., is recalling about 1,500 infant bib and bootie sets.Rattles sewn into the booties can detach, posing a choking hazard.No...
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      Mortgage applications post first loss in three weeks

      Contract interest rates were mixed

      Mortgage applications fell last week, negating nearly all of the previous week's advance.

      After rising 9.9% previously, applications plunged 9.7% in the week ending September 15, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) latest survey. The previous week’s results had included an adjustment for the Labor Day holiday.

      The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index plunged 11% from a week earlier, while the Refinance Index was down 9%. The refinance share of mortgage activity rose to 52.1% of total applications from 51.0% the previous week.

      The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity accounted for 6.8% of total applications, the FHA share was unchanged at 9.9%, the VA share dropped to 10.1% from 10.3% the week before, and the USDA share remained at 0.7%.

      Contract interest rates

      The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) inched up one basis point -- to 4.04% from 4.03% -- with points unchanged at 0.40 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

      The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) slipped to 3.99% from 4.00%, with points decreasing to 0.23 from 0.24 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

      The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA rose three basis points to 3.97%, with points unchanged at 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

      The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs jumped to 3.35% from 3.30%, with points increasing to 0.44 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

      The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs shot up 13 basis points to 3.30%, with points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.36 (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.

      Mortgage applications fell last week, negating nearly all of the previous week's advance.After rising 9.9% previously, applications plunged 9.7% in the...
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      Florida victims of Hurricane Irma get tax filing relief

      The IRS is providing a variety of breaks for those affected by the storm

      Taxpayers in Florida who were hit by Hurricane Irma have more time to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments.

      The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says this includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on Oct. 16, as well as businesses with extensions that ran out on Sept. 15.

      Any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as qualifying for either individual assistance or public assistance in Florida is covered by the extension.

      What it means

      The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on September 4, 2017 in Florida. Affected taxpayers will now have until January 31, 2018 to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period.

      This includes the September 15, 2017 and January 16, 2018 deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. It also includes 2016 income tax returns for individual tax filers who received a tax-filing extension until October 16, 2017.

      However, because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, the IRS says those payments are not eligible for this relief.

      A break for businesses

      A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected by the decision, including the October 31 deadline for making quarterly payroll and excise tax returns.

      Several other groups will also benefit from the extended deadlines, including calendar-year partnerships whose 2016 extensions run out on September 15, 2017 and calendar-year tax-exempt organizations whose 2016 extensions run out on November 15, 2017. The disaster relief page has details on other returns, payments, and tax-related actions qualifying for the additional time.

      The IRS is also waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due during the first 15 days of the disaster period. Check out the disaster relief page for the time periods that apply to each jurisdiction.

      What to do

      The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief.

      However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment, or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, they should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

      The IRS says it will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area.

      Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

      Those who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2017 return normally filed next year), or the return for the prior year (2016). See Publication 547 for details.

      Taxpayers in Florida who were hit by Hurricane Irma have more time to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments.Th...
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      Retailers gearing up for the holiday shopping season

      Not all seasonal hiring will be in stores

      The retail industry may be closing stores and consolidating, but those looking for a seasonal job opportunity will have lots of options thanks to fierce competition among bigger store chains.

      Global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts a high demand for seasonal employees as retailers prepare for the holidays.

      “The competition among major big-box retailers will incentivize consumers to spend more this holiday season. These stores will need to add staff in order to meet demand,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger.

      Target has already announced it's hiring 100,000 seasonal workers for the holidays -- up by more than 22,000 from last year. The retailer also indicated it will be lowering prices in all stores in response to Amazon and Walmart’s price-slashing practices.

      Since 2012, holiday hiring announcements have averaged 604,000 per year, according to Challenger tracking, with some of it by non-retailers, such as FedEx and UPS.

      Seasonal retail employment increased by 641,000 during the final three months of last year, the lowest number since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with job gains down 9.6% from 2008.

      Changing times

      In fact, BLS data show retail-related transportation and warehousing employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 246,700 workers in the final quarter of the year, up 8% from the final three months of 2015. In 2007, the seasonal job gains for this sector measured just 24,300.

      “As holiday shopping habits turn virtual, retailers are responding by hiring more warehouse and transport workers,” said Challenger. “While retail hiring has fallen over the last couple years, major announcements indicate workers will still be needed for customer-facing positions, as retailers attempt to give consumers an experience they cannot receive online.”

      In addition to Target’s announcement, Michaels has announced it will add 15,000 holiday workers, and 1-800-Flowers will increase its staff by 8,000 workers for the holidays.

      Challenger's tracking shows retailers have announced over 6,000 store closures and 67,000 job cuts in the first eight months of the year. Despite these numbers, many retailers projected the highest number of hiring announcements for any industry, with over 248,000.

      Most of those hiring announcements came early in the year, as retailers like Walmart and Dollar General expanded. The Home Depot announced plans to hire 80,000 workers for the summer season in March. Meanwhile, Amazon has been steadily boosting employment rolls after a January announcement of over 100,000 hires in the next 18 months.

      The bulk of holiday hiring announcements occur in September. In fact, between 2011 and 2016, September hiring announcements have averaged over 415,000.

      The retail industry may be closing stores and consolidating, but those looking for a seasonal job opportunity will have lots of options thanks to fierce co...
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      Ford recalls model year 2017 Focus vehicles

      An insufficient weld may have reduced the strength of the rear left side seat back

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 698 model year 2017 Focus vehicles.

      The rear left side seat back frame may have an insufficient weld between the outboard pivot bracket and the pivot nut joint, resulting in the seat back having reduced strength.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 207, "Seating Systems," and 210, "Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages."

      The reduced seat back strength may increase the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the rear second left side rear seat back as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2017.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17C13.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 698 model year 2017 Focus vehicles.The rear left side seat back frame may have an insufficient weld between the outboar...
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      Consumers piled on credit card debt in second quarter

      WalletHub study projects $60 billion in new debt by the end of the year

      Consumers are putting more spending on credit cards, which is fine if it's paid off in a reasonable timeframe. But when the balances are allowed to grow, that can be trouble.

      The folks at personal finance site WalletHub keep track of consumers' credit card habits and report we all did a pretty good job of paying down balances during the first three months of the year. After a record-setting year debt-wise, we paid off more than $30 billion in the first quarter.

      But in the second quarter, the plastic came out of our wallets again. WalletHub reports consumers charged $33 billion in new debt.

      "So it’s not a question of whether consumers are weakening financially, but rather how long this trend toward pre-recession habits will last and just how bad it will get," the authors write.

      $60 billion in new debt

      The report projects consumers will end up adding more than $60 billion in new credit card debt by the end of the year, pushing the total well past the $1 trillion level. This is a problem for three reasons.

      First, a lot of credit card purchases are for things that aren't lasting -- things like meals in restaurants or vacations. When these bills are not paid off completely and allowed to build up, you're spending today's and tomorrow's money for things you consumed yesterday.

      Second, debt cuts into your monthly cash flow so that you don't have as much money in your budget. If you are making $250 minimum payments on your credit card bill, you can't spend that $250 on things you need this month and you aren't making much progress on paying off your balance.

      That brings us to the third problem: the interest rate is-sky high. The average interest rate is over 16% and will go even higher if the Federal Reserve continues to hike interest rates.

      Staying out of trouble

      The best way not to get in trouble with your credit card is to pay off the balance in full when the bill arrives. That way you aren't adding to your total. If you don't think you can pay for everything in one month, don't charge as much.

      From time to time you might take two or three months to pay for a major purchase, like a new water heater, but make sure you pay for all the smaller purchases, plus a portion of your major expenses, with your monthly payments until the balance is back at zero.

      If you are already in trouble and struggling to pay off your credit card balance, apply for a balance transfer credit card with a generous introductory period in which you pay 0% interest. If you can avoid double-digit interest for a year or more, then 100% of your monthly payment goes against the balance.

      Just make sure you continue to pay for all your monthly purchases -- plus a payment on the balance -- each month.

      Consumers are putting more spending on credit cards, which is fine if it's paid off in a reasonable timeframe. But when the balances are allowed to grow, t...
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      Children with asthma are often prescribed unnecessary antibiotics, study finds

      Researchers say the practice is dangerous because it increases antibiotic resistance

      In many cases it's difficult to diagnose and treat a child who suffers from asthma, since the symptoms can vary and may only appear under certain conditions. But a recent study shows that children who are diagnosed with the condition are often prescribed unnecessary antibiotics.  

      Researchers working with the European Lung Foundation say that many asthma cases are being mistaken for respiratory tract infections, and that overprescribing antibiotics is only increasing the number of drug-resistant infections.

      "Asthma is a common and ongoing condition, and it has symptoms that could be mistaken for a respiratory tract infection,” said researcher Dr. Esmé Baan. “However, international and national guidelines clearly state that antibiotics should not be given for a deterioration in asthma symptoms, because this is rarely associated with a bacterial infection.”

      “Inappropriate use of antibiotics can be bad for individual patients and the entire population, and makes it harder to control the spread of untreatable infections."

      Unnecessary prescriptions

      The study analyzed 1.5 million children from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to see how closely antibiotic guidelines were being adhered to. They found that antibiotic prescription rates were 1.6 times higher for children with asthma compared to children without asthma in the UK; findings showed they were over 1.5 times higher in the Netherlands.

      The researchers say it’s likely that these prescribing practices extend to other countries as well, and that the situation in countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece could be far worse since antibiotic use is much higher.

      "Antibiotics should only be given when there is clear evidence of a bacterial infection such as for pneumonia. However, we saw that, in children with asthma, most of the antibiotic prescriptions in children were intended for asthma exacerbations or bronchitis, which are often caused by a virus rather than bacteria,” said Baan.

      "Of course, sometimes antibiotics are needed, but we should be careful and only prescribe them when they are really required. In general, we should discourage [general practitioners] from prescribing unnecessary antibiotics or run the risk of more drug-resistant infections in the future."

      The researchers will be presenting their results at European Respiratory Society International Congress 2017.

      In many cases it's difficult to diagnose and treat a child who suffers from asthma, since the symptoms can vary and may only appear under certain condition...
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      Ford recalls F-150, F-250 and F-350 trucks with crew cabs

      The left rear seat occupant may be be not be protected adequately

      Ford Motor Company is recalling recalling model year 2015-2017 F-150, and model year 2017 F-250 and F-350 trucks equipped with crew cabs.

      The left rear inflatable seat belt buckle assembly may be inadequately attached to its mounting bracket.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 210, "Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages."

      If the left rear inflatable seat belt buckle separates from it's mounting bracket, the seat occupant may not be adequately restrained, increasing their risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the seat belt assembly, replacing the attaching rivet as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2017.

      Owners may contact Ford Customer Service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17C12.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling recalling model year 2015-2017 F-150, and model year 2017 F-250 and F-350 trucks equipped with crew cabs.The left rear...
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      How new airline boarding procedures could curb the spread of diseases

      Researchers say reducing the amount of contact between passengers could be the key

      When major disease epidemics strike, airlines are often forced to shut down travel between countries to stop outbreaks from spreading. But a recent study by Florida State University (FSU) researchers shows that changing boarding procedures could drastically reduce transmissions rates.

      Ashok Srinivasan, a computer science associate professor, and his team found that the current zoned boarding procedures used by many airlines plays a major role in the spread of disease. To fix the problem, Srinivasan suggests sacrificing some efficiency to reduce clustered contact between passengers.

      "There's been a lot of boarding and deplaning research framed in terms of speed and efficiency, but we aren't looking for efficiency. We're looking to decrease the spread of disease," he said. "It turns out that procedures that are generally good at getting people onto a plane very fast are also very bad at preventing infection."

      Reducing spread of infection

      Using sophisticated computer simulations and algorithms, the researchers analyzed how airline travel procedures affected the spread of infection for major diseases. They found that deplaning tended to be much less dangerous than boarding because passengers weren’t forced to congregate in large groups.

      "While deplaning is a fairly fast and efficient process in terms of avoiding the spread of infection, our model shows that boarding the plane is the big problem. When you have many zones, people in the same zone tend to come very close to each other, close enough to easily transmit infections," said Srinivasan.

      So, how can we avoid spreading diseases during the boarding process? The researchers suggest that airlines adopt a two-zone system that divides the plane lengthwise and lets passengers board randomly. Doing so, they say, would help reduce the amount of time that travelers are in contact with each other and cut transmission rates.

      Worth the wait

      In a model of the system, the researchers found that the probability of an Ebola outbreak spreading to 20 new people per month was reduced from 67% under the currently used system to 13% under the suggested system.

      "When you have passengers board randomly, people are less likely to spend extended periods of time close to each other," Srinivasan said. "On the whole, random boarding does take longer, but if passengers had to choose between getting Ebola and being seated a few minutes later, we suspect they'd prefer the latter."

      "When outbreaks occur, there are often calls for wholesale flight cancellations, but this can harm countries that are already reeling under the onslaught of an epidemic," he continued. "Our research provides insight on the tradeoffs involved in the different policy options. Decision makers need to consider which policies are best, the practical steps that need to be taken and which tradeoffs they're willing to make."

      The full study has been published in Physical Review.

      When major disease epidemics strike, airlines are often forced to shut down travel between countries to stop outbreaks from spreading. But a recent study b...
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      Another 2017 low for the 30-year mortgage rate

      This week's decline was the third in a row

      Financing a home purchase continues to be more economical with the rate for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) at a year-to-date low for the third straight week.

      According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year (FRM) averaged 3.78% with an average of 0.5 point for the week ending September 7, down four basis points from last week when it was 3.82%. A year ago at this time, it was 3.44%.

      The 15-year FRM averaged 3.08% with an average 0.5 point, versus the previous week's average of 3.12% and 2.76% a year earlier.

      The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) inched up one basis point from the week before to 3.15% week with an average 0.4 point. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.81%.

      Bankrate

      Bankrate.com's weekly national survey also found the 30-year FRM dropping to a fresh 10-month low -- 3.95%, down two basis points from the week before.

      At the current rate of 3.95%, the monthly payment for a $200,000 loan is $949.07.

      The larger jumbo 30-year FRM was unchanged at 3.99%, while the 15-year FRM fell 3.17% -- a new 10-month low. ARM were slightly lower, with the 5-year ARM ticking at 3.45% and the 7-year ARM at 3.63%.

      Renewed tensions surrounding North Korea and its nuclear activities spurred a selloff on Wall Street at the beginning of the week, according to analysts at Bankrate, with money moving from stocks to bonds.

      Mortgage rates are closely related to the yields on long-term government bonds.

      Additionally potential economic fallout from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are helping keep bond yields and mortgage rates at low levels. 

      Financing a home purchase continues to be more economical with the rate for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) at a year-to-date low for the third strai...
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      Volkswagen recalls Audi A3 Cabriolets and A3 Sedans

      An air/fuel mixture adjustment may result in an engine stall

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 8,383 model year 2017-2018 Audi A3 Cabriolets and A3 Sedans.

      The Engine Control Unit (ECU) software may misinterpret the flywheel rotation on engine start-up as a "knocking" condition, and the adjusted air/fuel mixture may result in an engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the ECU software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 29, 2017.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 24DF.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 8,383 model year 2017-2018 Audi A3 Cabriolets and A3 Sedans.The Engine Control Unit (ECU) software may misinte...
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      Study says most tap water contains plastic particles

      Researchers say the environment is now filled with plastic

      An international study has claimed that 83% of tap water samples tested contained tiny particles of plastic.

      The study, published by Orb Media, says the health implications are not clear, but probably aren't good. It notes that microplastics -- the name given to these tiny particles -- have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals.

      While the world-wide average of water samples containing plastic was more than 80%, the U.S. and Lebanon had the highest rate -- 94%. Europe was among the lowest, at 72%.

      How it gets in the water

      So, how does this plastic get into our water? The authors say it's not that surprising, given how prevalent plastic is in the world. They say synthetic clothing like fleece, acrylic, and polyester shed thousands of microfibers with every wash. An estimated million tons of these microfibers are discharged into waste water each year, the authors contend, making their way into the environment.

      And that's just one source. The researchers say styrene butadiene dust from rubber tires are constantly released into the environment as cars and trucks are driven. There are even microplastics in paint.

      And then there is all the plastic that is simply discarded. Plastic doesn't degrade but it does get smaller and, over time, can break down into smaller and smaller particles. The authors contend the world has produced more plastic in the last ten years than in the entire 20th century.

      Orb Media describes itself as an organization that produces journalism covering eight core issues, many of which are environmental in nature.

      An international study has claimed that 83% of tap water samples tested contained tiny particles of plastic.The study, published by Orb Media, says the...
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      Impact of Hurricane Harvey sends jobless claims surging

      The services sector continues to grow

      Hurricane Harvey smashed into Texas last week, helping produce an upward spiral in first-time jobless claims.

      The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial applications for state unemployment benefits shot up 62,000 in the week ending September 2 to a seasonally asjusted total of 298,000.

      That's the highest level since April 18, 2015.

      The four-week moving average, considered a more accurate hauge of the labor market, jumped by 13,500 to 250,250 from the previous week.

      The full report is available on the DOL website.

      Non-manufacturing economy on the rise

      August was another month of growth of economic activity in the non-manufacturing - or services – sector for a total of 92 months in a row.

      The nation’s purchasing and supply executives, in the latest Non-Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Report On Business, say the non-manufacturing index (NMI) was up 1.4% last month registering 55.3%.

      A reading above 50 indicates growth, while anything below that suggests contraction.

      Looking inside the NMI, the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index came in at 57.5%, up 1.6% from July, reflecting growth for the 97th consecutive month, at a faster rate in August.

      The New Orders Index rose 2% to 57.1%, the Employment Index increased 2.6% to 56.2%, and the Prices Index increased added 2.2% for a reading of 57.9%, indicating prices increased in August for the third consecutive month.

      Industry performance

      The 15 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in August were:

      1. Retail Trade;
      2. Information;
      3. Management of Companies & Support Services;
      4. Real Estate, Rental & Leasing;
      5. Other Services;
      6. Wholesale Trade;
      7. Utilities;
      8. Mining;
      9. Educational Services;
      10. Accommodation & Food Services;
      11. Finance & Insurance;
      12. Public Administration;
      13. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services;
      14. Construction; and
      15. Health Care & Social Assistance. 

      Two industries reported contraction:

      1. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; and
      2. Transportation & Warehousing.
      Hurricane Harvey smashed into Texas last week, helping produce an upward spiral in first-time jobless claims.The D...
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      In largest cities, low-wage workers can't afford the rent

      Zillow reports rents are rising much faster than incomes

      One of the most persistent housing trends of the last decade has been steadily rising home prices.

      Since the housing crash of 2008, home values have rebounded and are now higher than they were at the height of the housing bubble. This has had the obvious effect of making it harder to buy a home, but it has also put increasing financial pressure on renters.

      Home prices have risen sharply because there are more buyers than there are homes for sale. Rents have risen because there are more renters who can't buy a home and are competing for rental properties.

      While it has placed a hardship on just about everyone, real estate marketplace Zillow reports the burden has fallen hardest on low income wage earners, who are finding themselves priced out of many of the nation's top rental markets. In the nation's largest metro areas, workers in the bottom third of the pay scale can't afford even the cheapest apartments.

      Rents rising more than incomes

      A Zillow analysis found that from 2011 to 2016, rents rose much more than incomes did, especially at the lower end of the market. In cities where low-wage workers saw bigger increases in pay, they were faced with even larger jumps in rental costs.

      In San Francisco, one of the most expensive housing markets, low-wage workers increased their pay by about $485 over a five-year period. Meanwhile, apartment rents rose by about $1,145.

      "Any renter can tell you how difficult it is to save up extra cash while spending an increasing portion of their income on rent, but it's much worse for those who make the least," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "There are several factors at play here, including wage growth dampened by the recession and increased demand on the rental market. Without a long-term solution to affordable housing, the gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to widen."

      The 30% rule

      It's generally accepted that people shouldn't spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The reason for that is simple -- a household has lots of other monthly costs and should be able to save a little money each month for emergencies.

      But in the largest 25 metro areas, Zillow says the typical rent requires a much larger share of monthly income, leaving little left over for necessities, much less for savings. According to Zillow, 69% of low-wage workers don't have enough saved up to cover three months of living expenses.

      Gudell says the study suggests that income inequality is growing and that high housing costs are magnifying its effects.

      One of the most persistent housing trends of the last decade has been steadily rising home prices.Since the housing crash of 2008, home values have reb...
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      Young women are still struggling to get jobs

      New analysis finds Millennial women have yet to recover from the Great Recession

      In the wake of the Great Recession, Millennial women seem to be having a particularly tough time finding jobs. Although it’s been a decade since the start of the Recession, many young women are still feeling its effects.

      According to a new analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), many young women (especially those ages 25 to 34), are experiencing unemployment at higher rates than in 2007.

      "While the overall unemployment rate for American workers is now lower than it was just prior to the Great Recession, Millennial women, especially Millennial women of color, have still not fully recovered from the recession," said IWPR Senior Research Scientist Dr. Chandra Childers.

      Skill development paused

      The analysis found that young Black women’s unemployment rates were higher in 2016 than young White women’s unemployment rates were at their peak in 2010 (8.8 percent compared to 7.7 percent).

      "These are women who were just entering the workforce or early in their careers when the recession hit, and the ensuing high unemployment paused the development of their skills and work experience,” Childers said.

      A separate report, titled “The lost generation: recession graduates and labor market slack,” says Millennials in general are struggling to get jobs.

      Effects longer lasting than average

      "Data on youth unemployment rates show a sharp rise during and after the 2008-09 recession – both on an absolute and relative basis," wrote Spencer Hill, economist at Goldman Sachs.

      Currently, Millennial unemployment rates stand at more than double the national average (12.7 percent compared to 5 percent as of September 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

      "While youth underperformance is typical of recessions, the effects of the most recent downturn appeared larger and more long-lasting than average," Hill added.

      Reasons for the trend

      In addition to stalled development of job-related skills, the trend may be driven by the generation’s high expectations for the type of job they hope to land. Millennials tend to look for “dream jobs” that afford them work-life balance, with flexibility, breaks and time to focus on personal development. 

      Statistics support the idea that Millennials are an overconfident bunch. But for those lacking experience, this quality may shrink the pool of potential jobs. It could also make the idea of continuing to live with mom and dad sound like a more appealing option than trudging onward with the job search.

      The high price of a college education might also be making it more difficult for Millennials to enter the job market. On the heels of the 2008 economic crash, Millennials may find it more difficult than ever to scrape together the funds to obtain a college degree and find an entry point into the job market.

      In the wake of the Great Recession, Millennial women seem to be having a particularly tough time finding jobs. Although it’s been a decade since the start...
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