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    Fewer homes are being sold to first-time buyers

    A National Association of Realtors report shows student loans are a major drag

    Single women continue to make up a significant segment of home buyers, but lately there have been fewer consumers buying their first home.

    Those are two major housing trends that emerged in the National Association of Realtors' (NAR) annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

    Single women made up 18 percent of home buyers during the study period, the same as last year. That group was the second-largest segment of the market, right behind married couples.

    But the percentage of homes purchased by first-time buyers fell from 34 percent last year to 33 percent. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says rising home prices and mortgage rates have combined to reduce affordability at a time when inventory levels are extremely low.

    Fewer entry-level homes for sale

    "With the lower end of the housing market – smaller, moderately priced homes – seeing the worst of the inventory shortage, first-time home buyers who want to enter the market are having difficulty finding a home they can afford," Yun said.

    Yun says available homes still sell very quickly, and there are still bidding wars among competing buyers in some markets.

    "These factors contributed to the low number of first-time buyers and the struggles of would-be buyers dreaming of joining the ranks of home ownership," he said.

    Though still low, housing inventory has been slowly climbing in recent months, due in large part to a slowdown in sales in some of the nation's hottest housing markets. But Yun says young buyers, who make up a significant portion of first-time home buyers, are also struggling with student loan debt, limiting what they can afford to pay.

    Thirteen percent of buyers said saving for a down payment was the most difficult part of the buying process, and 50 percent of them said their student loan debt was a major obstacle. Forty percent of first-time buyers said they had student loans, with a median balance of $30,000.

    "Even with a thriving economy and an abundance of job opportunities in many markets, monthly student loan payments coupled with sky-high rents and rising home prices make it exceedingly difficult for potential buyers to put aside savings for a down payment," said Yun.

    Bigger down payments

    The report also shows down payments are getting larger. Buyers made a median down payment of 13 percent of the purchase price, up from 10 percent last year and the highest since 2005, just before the housing bubble burst.

    Even first-time buyers put more money down, at a median of 7 percent -- up from 5 percent in the previous report.

    The report also suggests baby boomers have become more active in the housing market, either by downsizing or relocating. The median age of repeat home buyers increased to 55, an all-time high.

    Single women continue to make up a significant segment of home buyers, but lately there have been fewer consumers buying their first home.Those are two...
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      BMW recalls M3 and M4 sedans, coupes and convertibles

      The vehicles may lose propulsion

      BMW of North America is recalling 2,661 model year 2016-2017 M3 Sedans, M4 and M4 GTS Coupes, and model year 2017 M4 Convertibles.

      The connection between the driveshaft and the flange may fail resulting in a loss of propulsion, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify vehicle owners, and dealers will replace the driveshaft, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 3, 2018.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 2,661 model year 2016-2017 M3 Sedans, M4 and M4 GTS Coupes, and model year 2017 M4 Convertibles.The connection betwee...
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      Multistrada recalls Achilles Desert Hawk tires

      The lower sidewall of the tires may separate

      Pt.Multistrada Arah Sarana, TBK is recalling 6,318 Achilles Desert Hawk A/P LT tires, size LT215/85 R16 115/112R 10PR, with DOT date code 1915 through date code 3618.

      The lower sidewall of the tires may separate, which can cause loss of air pressure, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Multistrada will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 9, 2018.

      Owners may contact Multistrada customer service at achillescare@multistrada.co.id or at corsec@multistrada.co.id, or at (800) 944-8414.

      Pt.Multistrada Arah Sarana, TBK is recalling 6,318 Achilles Desert Hawk A/P LT tires, size LT215/85 R16 115/112R 10PR, with DOT date code 1915 through date...
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      Nashville City Councilman claims Kia car fire nearly took his life

      Safety groups say that non-collision fires in Kia or Hyundai cars have been reported every day for the past four months

      A defect that the Center for Auto Safety recently warned is causing certain Kia and Hyundai cars to randomly catch fire may have nearly killed a representative on the Nashville City Council.

      Councilman Jonathan Hall told a local news channel that he was driving on the highway last week when he heard a strange sound coming from his Kia. He noticed that the car was “acting weird,” but he didn’t think much of it. Then another car in the next lane over started blaring its horn. The driver pulled up next to him.

      “Hey, there’s fire coming underneath the car,” Hall recounts the other driver shouting at him.

      He quickly pulled over, grabbed his items and coat and ran out of the car. Suddenly, he told the news station, he heard a loud “boom” sound. Photographs that Hall posted on social media show the entire car engulfed in flames. It all happened in a matter of seconds, he said.

      “If I had been slower or waited a few seconds longer, I wouldn't be sitting here,” Hall told the station.

      Consistent reports of cars catching fire

      The news report does not clarify what make and model of Kia that Hall was driving, and he has not yet returned messages from ConsumerAffairs. But the report appears to be part of a disturbing trend.

      The Center for Auto Safety earlier this month issued a statement saying that certain Kia and Hyundai cars are at risk of randomly catching fire. According to the advocacy group’s research, consumers have reported non-collision fires in their Kia or Hyundai cars to federal regulators every day for the past four months.

      The group says that Kia Sorento and Optima models and Hyundai Sonata and Sante Fe models from 2011 through 2014, as well as Kia Soul models from 2010 to 2015, could have the defect and should be recalled. A total of 2.9 million cars are at risk, according to the group. One man in Ohio reportedly died in one such fire.

      Kia cites fact-finding mission

      Kia’s press team has not yet commented on the Nashville councilman’s case. The CEOs of both companies were also recently invited to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee, but neither has indicated whether they plan to do so.

      "We are in the process of responding to this recent inquiry regarding vehicle fires,"  Kia CEO Han-woo Park told Automotive News. "The technical finding is the first. The first step is fact finding."

      In an interview with Automotive News, Hyundai CEO Wonhee Lee claimed Hyundai and Kia are “almost at the bottom" of non-collision fire risks.

      “Ironically, Hyundai and Kia, statistically in the U.S. market, are not the companies ranked at the top of vehicle anti collision fires," Lee reportedly said.

      On Monday, Hyundai announced that Lee was stepping down from his role and would serve merely as an advisor to the company. A replacement has not yet been named.

      A defect that the Center for Auto Safety recently warned is causing certain Kia and Hyundai cars to randomly catch fire may have nearly killed a representa...
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      The T-Mobile/Sprint merger catches the ire of New York’s Attorney General

      Critics claim that customers who depend on prepaid services will take the biggest hit if the merger goes through

      T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint has come under scrutiny at New York’s Attorney General’s (AG) office. According to the New York Post, at issue are concerns that the two companies could jack up prices on less expensive prepaid services if their packages are combined.

      This isn’t the first red flag that’s been waved. It was only last month that the FCC pressed the pause button on the merger after the two mobile giants determined that the engineering model was more complex than thought and the companies needed more time to review it as well as respond to the “various economic analyses” in the FCC’s Petitions to Deny.

      The Post reports that New York AG Barbara Underwood began examining the arrangement soon after Sprint and T-Mobile announced their $26 billion merger. According to sources, Underwood’s staff already views T-Mobile’s MetroPCS service and Sprint’s Boost and Virgin Mobile services as aggressive and has asked executives at both companies for clarification on how pricing would be postured.

      President Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has just begun a review of the prepaid markets and has yet to make any conclusions, a source familiar with its thinking told the Post.

      In discussions with federal regulators, T-Mobile’s brass tried to angle that the two services serve different types of customers and, because of that, T-Mobile told the FCC that it didn’t plan to dispose of or consolidate any of the lower-priced, prepaid services if its merger with Sprint gets approval.

      “The business plan calls for aggressive pricing from day one,” said T-Mobile executives according to the Post’s report.

      Would the merger “cut the cord” for people of color?

      Naysayers aren’t biting, however, and say that the companies need to promise the customers who depend on prepaid wireless services that they won’t see their costs go up.

      In reality, this merger would make life harder for everyone — especially low-income communities and people of color, who disproportionately rely on T-Mobile and Sprint for more affordable plans and prepaid services,” wrote Collette Watson of media watcher Free Press.

      “If the merger goes through, the new gigantic T-Mobile will have no reason to compete for low-income customers and others on the margins of society. Three companies -- T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon -- will control the market and call the shots.”

      “The new T-Mobile won’t be the ‘Un-Carrier’ we grew to love. It will be a corporate behemoth like Verizon, with the power to set prices as it sees fit and no pressure to make services affordable,” wrote Watson.

      It’s this or nothing at all for Sprint

      All of this is making Sprint, for one, nervous. The company says it can't promise it’ll make it as a solo act if the merger isn’t approved.

      According to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, Sprint said it is losing customers at a meteoric rate and has had to cut $10 billion from its budget to make ends meet.

      Sprint claims there’s no fat left to trim which, in turn, puts it in a losing position to try and be competitive as technology advances. Its only saving grace appears to be the T-Mobile merger.

      T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint has come under scrutiny at New York’s Attorney General’s (AG) office. According to the New York Post, at issue are c...
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      California net neutrality law put on hold

      The state has delayed its implementation of the law pending the outcome of a lawsuit

      The January 1, 2019 start date for California's net neutrality law has been put on hold. The state has agreed to delay its implementation until a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is settled.

      The law, passed by the California legislature in September, requires internet service providers (ISP) to abide by rules codified by the FCC during the Obama administration. Those rules required all internet traffic to be treated the same.

      The FCC under the Trump administration overturned those rules last December, essentially allowing providers to favor their own content over the content of their competitors. California and a handful of other states took steps to restore net neutrality within their borders, meaning large ISPs like Comcast and Verizon would have to observe net neutrality or lose their customers in those states.

      Multiple lawsuits

      The whole issue has resulted in multiple lawsuits. The Justice Department is suing to block states from implementing their own net neutrality laws, arguing states lack the authority to countermand federal policy.

      But the lawsuit delaying California's net neutrality law is one filed by net neutrality supporters. Technology companies and attorneys general from 22 states are suing the FCC, arguing the agency lacked the authority when it voted to overturn net neutrality.

      The crux of their argument is this: internet traffic travels over a "common carrier," and under law, a common carrier must treat all traffic the same. The FCC counters that, today, broadband traffic travels over networks built by the ISPs. It is an argument that has largely broken down along partisan lines, with Democrats favoring net neutrality and Republicans opposing it.

      No firm timetable

      The lawsuit challenging the FCC is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC but there is no firm timetable for rendering a decision. A ruling against the FCC would eliminate the need for the California law but the Trump administration could always appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, delaying the law even more.

      California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says every step his office is taking has one aim -- the restoration of net neutrality in California.

      California state Senator Scott Wiener, who authored the legislation, expresses confidence the court will uphold the state's right to establish net neutrality within its borders, calling the policy vital to protecting access to the internet.

      The January 1, 2019 start date for California's net neutrality law has been put on hold. The state has agreed to delay its implementation until a lawsuit a...
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      Mothers should wait at least one year after childbirth before getting pregnant again, study suggests

      Researchers say risks increase for women over 35

      With more couples waiting until later in life to start families, staying informed and evaluating risks is an important first step in the family-planning process.

      A new study conducted by Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health provides a great place for new families to start their planning. The researchers explored the risks associated with spacing out pregnancies, as well as the ways these risks affect women of different age groups.

      While perhaps the biggest takeaway was that shorter intervals between pregnancies increases risks for both the mother and baby, the researchers also found that once the mother is over 35, the mother and baby are affected in different ways.

      “Our study found increased risks to both mother and infant when pregnancies are closely spaced, including for women older than 35,” said lead researcher Laura Schummers. “The findings for older women are particularly important, as older women tend to more closely space their pregnancies and often do so intentionally.”

      Worth the wait

      To assess the risks associated with intervals between pregnancies -- and the ways they differ between age groups -- the researchers evaluated hospitalization data, billing codes, birth records, census records, and prescription data for infertility information. In total, they analyzed nearly 150,000 pregnancies, making it the largest study of its kind.

      While waiting more time in between pregnancies proved to be less of a risk for mothers in both major age groups -- 20-34 and 35+ -- the researchers’ findings are important for anyone looking to plan a family.

      For women aged 35 years and older, the risks were more serious for them, as opposed to for the baby. Women in this age group who waited 18 months in between pregnancies reduced their risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity to 0.5 percent, whereas women who waited just six months in between pregnancies were at a 1.2 percent risk.

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe maternal morbidity affected over half a million women in the United States in 2014, and it has been steadily increasing over the last few years, further proving the significance of the researchers’ findings.

      Preterm birth -- delivering the baby before 37 weeks -- was also a concern for women in the 35+ age group, though more time between pregnancies also helped reduce that risk. Those who waited the 18 months were at a 3.4 percent risk of early delivery, while those who waited just six months were at a six percent risk.

      For women in the younger age group, preterm birth was the biggest risk. Women who took more time in between pregnancies -- reaching that 18-month mark -- were found to have a 3.7 percent risk of early delivery, while those who waited six months were at an 8.5 percent risk.

      “Whether the elevated risks are due to our bodies not having time to recover if we conceive soon after delivering or to factors associated with unplanned pregnancies, like inadequate prenatal care, the recommendation might be the same: improve access to postpartum contraception, or abstain from unprotected sexual intercourse with a male following a birth,” said Dr. Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan of Public Health.

      Parents waiting to have kids

      Last summer, researchers at Stanford University conducted a study that found that many consumers are waiting until later in life to have kids.

      The study analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System -- a dataset that tracked births in the country from 1972 through 2015. Over the course of the study, the average age of a father at the time of a child’s birth increased from 27.4 to nearly 31 years old. Additionally, the study found that maternal ages have increased even more so than fathers’ during the same timeframe.

      The researchers chalked it up to the ever-changing social climate and more widespread contraception.

      “We’ve seen a lot of changes in the last several decades,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Eisenberg. “Women have become more integrated into the workforce. This seems to be reflected in an increasing parity in parental ages over the last four decades.”

      With more couples waiting until later in life to start families, staying informed and evaluating risks is an important first step in the family-planning pr...
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      Jet.com to sell Blue Apron meal kits on its site

      The partnership will offer Blue Apron a much-needed new source of revenue

      Walmart-owned Jet.com has teamed up with Blue Apron to start selling Blue Apron meal kits on its site, the companies announced on Monday. The new partnership could be a boon to Blue Apron, which has struggled to keep subscribers since going public last summer.  

      Shoppers in the New York area will be able to choose from four different meal kits for same- or next-day delivery. The selection of meal offerings will be refreshed every six weeks.

      To start, customers can choose from the following four meal-for-two options: seared steaks and peperonata with fregola sarda pasta and grana padano cheese for $22.99; Dukkah-spiced beef and couscous with tahini-dressed broccoli for $20.99; Togarashi popcorn chicken with sweet chili slaw and jasmine rice for $18.99; and Italian farro bowls with roasted vegetables and mozzarella $16.99.

      “Teaming up with Jet enables us to dynamically serve the lifestyle of metropolitan consumers, who will now be able to conveniently fill up their online shopping carts with high quality Blue Apron meals that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less while shopping for other everyday needs,” Brad Dickerson, Blue Apron CEO, said in a statement.

      “This exciting launch is another step forward in our channel expansion strategy and reflects the strength of the capabilities we are developing to readily support a variety of opportunities to broaden our access to consumers.”

      Declining subscribers

      Blue Apron’s subscriber numbers have been dwindling ever since the company went public in June 2017. The company had more than one million subscribers before it went public, but it has had a hard time retaining them. In August, Blue Apron disclosed that it had 717,000 customers -- a 9 percent decrease from the first quarter.

      Through the new partnership, Jet’s customers won’t have to subscribe to Blue Apron’s service in order to make the meals part of their regular grocery order.

      The company’s stock has tumbled more than 70 percent so far this year. News of the partnership sent shares up more than 18 percent in Monday premarket trading.

      Walmart-owned Jet.com has teamed up with Blue Apron to start selling Blue Apron meal kits on its site, the companies announced on Monday. The new partnersh...
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      Sam’s Club to open first cashier-less store in Dallas

      Sam’s Club Now will let shoppers pay for items through a mobile app

      Next week, Sam’s Club will open its first cashier-less store in Dallas, Texas. The store, dubbed Sam’s Club Now, will rely on scan-and-go technology and a new app that enables customers to pay for items on their phones instead of having them scanned by a cashier.

      Sam’s Club Now will be about a quarter of the size of an average Sam’s Club and membership will still be required to shop there. However, instead of cashiers, the store will include “Member Hosts” who will act more like concierges, the Walmart-owned company says.

      "At its core, Sam’s Club Now will be a technology lab that doubles as a live, retail club," said Jamie Iannone, CEO of SamsClub.com, in a statement. "It’s where we will incubate, test and refine technologies to help define the future of retail."

      No registers or cashiers

      In addition to letting customers scan products’ barcodes with their smartphone, the Sam’s Club Now app (which customers are required to download to shop the store) lets customers build shopping lists.

      Using a combination of machine learning and customer purchase history, the app will keep track of users’ frequent purchases and automatically add them to the list. Shoppers can remove selected items from the list if not needed.

      The app can also guide shoppers to where they need to go within the store to pick up the items on their list, as well as let users place an order to be picked up within the hour.

      Sam’s Club Now will officially open its doors to the public in a few weeks, but it’s set to open on an invite-only basis next week. The company said it chose Dallas as the location for its test store because it’s not too far from Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas; there is also an abundance of tech talent in the area.

      Kroger has also started experimenting with the concept of a cashier-less store with its “Scan, Bag, Go” app, which lets shoppers scan and bag products as they shop.

      In September, reports surfaced that Amazon could open up to 3,000 cashier-less Amazon Go stores by 2021.

      Next week, Sam’s Club will open its first cashier-less store in Dallas, Texas. The store, dubbed Sam’s Club Now, will rely on scan-and-go technology and a...
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      Pepsi parent company pledges to increase use of recycled plastic

      The goal calls for 25 percent recycled plastic in packaging by 2025

      PepsiCo has announced a new goal to reduce its use of plastic packaging and increase its use of recycled plastic.

      The food and beverage manufacturer said it aims to use 25 percent recycled content in its plastic packaging by 2025. The pledge comes at a time when businesses are under increasing pressure to curb the use of plastic, which often ends up in the world's oceans.

      The company said it will collaborate with suppliers and partners and try to increase consumer education about curbing plastic pollution. It also said improved recycling infrastructure and regulatory reform are needed to achieve its goal.

      Specifically, PepsiCo has a goal of using 33 percent recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) content in beverage bottles by 2025.

      'Where plastics never become waste'

      "PepsiCo's sustainable plastics vision is to build a PepsiCo where plastics need never become waste," said Dr. Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo's vice chairman and chief scientific officer. "We intend to achieve that vision by reducing, recycling and reusing, and reinventing our plastic packaging."

      But to help reduce plastic pollution, Khan said improvements in global waste collection and investments in recycling infrastructure are needed.

      As we reported in May, the recycling industry is going through some tough times. China, which has been a major importer of U.S. recyclables, has significantly reduced its purchases because it says there's always too much trash mixed in with the products to be recycled. Ongoing trade tensions aren’t helping matters either.

      With the collapse of the market for recyclable bottles and cans, jurisdictions have begun to charge consumers more to recycle. In some cases, The Wall Street Journal reports these recyclables end-up in a landfill anyway.

      “Recycling as we know it isn’t working,” James Warner, chief executive of the Solid Waste Management Authority in Lancaster County, Pa., told The Journal back in May. “There’s always been ups and downs in the market, but this is the biggest disruption that I can recall.”

      Banning plastic straws

      The latest front in the corporate effort to curb plastic pollution is to not use it at all. Many restaurants have begun to phase out plastic straws in favor of paper ones, although straws make up a small part of plastic pollution. In a fast food restaurant that has banned plastic straws, consumers who order salads will still discard containers, utensils, and other packaging made of plastic.

      PepsiCo, meanwhile, says it has already begun to rely more on recycled plastic. Earlier this month, it said it had signed a supply agreement with Loop Industries to incorporate Loop PET plastic, which is 100 percent recycled material, into its product packaging by mid-2020.

      PepsiCo has announced a new goal to reduce its use of plastic packaging and increase its use of recycled plastic.The food and beverage manufacturer sai...
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      Electric grid could increase pollution without appropriate policies, study suggests

      Researchers say the grid will need to be transitioned to clean energy

      The electric grid will need to be changed in order to keep self-driving cars from having a negative impact on society’s sustainability goals, a new study suggests.

      Researchers Peter Fox-Penner, Will Gorman, and Jennifer Hatch analyzed a large body of academic and industry research on autonomous vehicles and found that they will likely greatly increase overall transportation demand.

      “With more options available, more people will take advantage of these autonomous vehicles and ride services,” the researchers noted. The authors say autonomous vehicles could exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions if appropriate policies aren’t put in place before this technology starts taking over.

      Transportation shift

      By 2050, the net increase in electricity demand from converting the light duty vehicle fleet (which currently accounts for 90 percent of motor vehicle travel in the U.S.) to electric, autonomous vehicles will be between 13 percent and 26 percent more than today's total electricity demand, according to the study’s estimates.

      “In the best case, where 95 percent of the electric sector decarbonizes by that time, this scenario would result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 80 percent from 2015 light duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions,” the researchers said.

      In their paper, Penner-Fox and his colleagues assert that society “can only achieve dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by making the electric grid dramatically less polluting.”

      Carbon-free grid

      The researchers conceded that transitioning the grid to 95 percent to 100 percent clean energy won’t be easy.

      “Currently only 37 percent is from wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear. Nor will ensuring that almost all of our light duty vehicles are electric. That’s partly because EVs are not yet cost-competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles,” the authors wrote. “Also, there are a number of infrastructure challenges to updating the grid for a major shift to electric transportation.”

      However, the study suggests that “rapid and complete transport electrification and a carbon-free grid should remain the cornerstones of transport decarbonization policy” in the near-term, while a long-term policy should aim to ensure that autonomous vehicles are electric and “mitigate autonomous vehicles’ potential to increase driving mileage, urban and suburban sprawl, and traffic congestion.”

      And policymakers should not delay. The rise of Uber and Lyft have already dramatically upended business models that have existed for decades, and autonomous vehicle technology, which still has a few years to go before replacing human drivers, is already impacting cities around the country. The question now is whether these trends will reduce or increase our country’s emissions.

      The electric grid will need to be changed in order to keep self-driving cars from having a negative impact on society’s sustainability goals, a new study s...
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      Financial education cited as key to reducing student loan stress

      Researchers say keeping borrowers educated and informed can alleviate concerns

      A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri explored the way informed borrowers can lead to more knowledgeable management of student loans after graduation.

      The study reported that graduates of the University of Missouri graduate with an average of nearly $22,000 in student loan debt, while the average 2016 graduate left school with over $37,000 in student loan debt.

      The researchers, led by assistant professor of personal financial planning Lu Fan, found that many students aren’t aware of the countless options they have to repay their loans, which can lead to a great deal of stress.

      “A majority of borrowers, 55 percent, reported being worried about their student loans; however, only 30 percent of borrowers said that they had received financial education about paying off their student loans,” said Fan. “Moreover, only 40 percent of borrowers reported having financial influence from their parents. Given the number of people who need student loans to attend college, we need to do better at educating borrowers.”

      Managing student loan stress

      While Fan believes that a more comprehensive financial education is imperative to improved management of student loans, she and her team also wanted to gauge the stress student loans put on borrowers.

      The researchers analyzed the National Financial Capability Study dataset from 2015 and examined responses from over 2,600 participants. To get the best sense of where mental stress was coming from, the researchers were most focused on the responses that came from participants who were:

      • Aged 24-65

      • The head decision-makers in their homes

      • Employed

      • No longer a student

      The researchers found that finishing school was a significant indicator of loan-associated stress. For those who completed their degrees, making loan payments wasn’t as stressful when compared to those who didn’t complete their degrees.

      Another big takeaway from the study was the difference in stress based on gender. While men were typically less stressed about their loans -- and more likely to make late payments -- the opposite was true for women involved in the study.

      Moving forward, Fan and the researchers are hopeful that borrowers will get the information they need to make the best choices -- and reduce stress -- regarding their loans.

      “My hope is that policymakers use this information when developing financial educational programs,” Fan said. “Better educational resources created for specific audiences -- parents, young adults, women, and households that have experienced a drop in income -- will lead to more educated borrowers.”

      Importance of education

      Student loans are an important investment, and as Fan’s study shows, preparation and education are key in making the best financial decisions.

      Earlier this year, a study by Student Loan Hero found that many student loan borrowers are unaware of how their loans work, how interest adds up, and which loans are eligible for forgiveness.

      By the end of 2016, over 42 million people nationwide owed $1.3 trillion in federal student loans, excluding credit cards, private student loans, and home equity loans.

      “These myths about student loans can lead borrowers to poorer financial decisions, not to mention trap them in debt for longer than they need to be,” said lead researcher Rebecca Safier. “Borrowers should look to trusted resources to learn about their loans so they can make the right repayment choices.”

      Additionally, interest rates for federal student loans continue to rise. For the 2018-2019 school year, borrowers will pay 0.60 percent more than loans disbursed during the 2017-2018 school year.

      While the increase wasn’t unexpected, experts say borrowers should expect similar incremental increases over the next few years. The biggest change comes to first-time borrowers who took out loans after June 30, 2018, who will now be paying more than they would have previously because more interest will accrue over the lifetime of the loan.

      A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri explored the way informed borrowers can lead to more knowledgeable management of student...
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      GHSW recalls salads with chicken

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes

      GHSW, LLC of Houston, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,786 pounds of ready-to-eat salad with chicken.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following ready-to-eat items, produced from October 1 – 18, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 10-oz. plastic tray packages containing “365 BY WHOLE FOODS MARKET BBQ STYLE CHOPPED SALAD WITH CHICKEN” with “Best if Sold By” dates of 10/18/18 through 10/21/18 (inclusive).
      • 8-oz. plastic tray packages containing “365 BY WHOLE FOODS MARKET CHICKEN FAJITA SALAD” with “Best if Sold By” dates of 10/18/18 through 10/21/18 (inclusive).
      • 13-oz. plastic tray packages containing “TRADER JOE’S BBQ SEASONED WHITE CHICKEN SALAD” with “Best By” dates of 10/18/18, 10/19/18 and 10/20/18.
      • 10.7-oz. plastic tray packages containing “TRADER JOE’S FIELD FRESH CHOPPED SALAD WITH GRILLED WHITE CHICKEN” with “Best By” dates of 10/18/18, 10/19/18 and 10/20/18.
      • 10.7-oz. plastic tray packages containing “TRADER JOSÉ’S MEXICALI INSPIRED SALAD WITH CHILI SEASONED CHICKEN” with “Best By” dates of 10/18/18, 10/19/18 and 10/20/18.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-44056” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may can Shelby Chih at (916) 638-8825.

      GHSW, LLC of Houston, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,786 pounds of ready-to-eat salad with chicken.The products may be contaminated with Salmonell...
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      General Motors proposes nationwide zero-emissions vehicle program

      The program could put more than 7 million ‘long-range’ electric cars on U.S. roads in just over a decade

      On Friday, General Motors submitted a proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that would put a 7 percent zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) requirement in place starting in 2021, increasing 2 percent each year until 2030.

      GM’s proposed program would be based on a current system of ZEV credits, which requires manufacturers to produce enough non-polluting vehicles each year to earn credits; the program is currently used by California and nine several other states. GM is hoping to make all 50 states embrace the program.

      The National Zero Emissions Vehicle Program (NZEV) “has the potential to place more than seven million long-range [electric vehicles] on the road by 2030,” which could potentially save 375 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions between 2021 and 2030 over the existing ZEV program, GM said.

      Nationwide program

      GM’s proposal follows President Trump’s attempt to roll back Obama-era plans to ramp up fuel-economy requirements.

      “We believe in a policy approach that better promotes U.S. innovation and starts a much-needed national discussion on electric vehicle development and deployment in this country,” GM Executive Vice President of Product Development Mark Reuss said in a statement. "A national zero emissions program will drive the scale and infrastructure investments needed to allow the U.S. to lead the way to a zero-emissions future.”

      Reuss said GM is proposing a national zero-emission vehicle program that is modeled after existing programs, such as the one in California, "so that we can cooperatively create policies that help move our country more quickly to an all-electric, zero-emissions future.”

      "A thoughtful, thorough, cohesive, national, 50-state program is the most effective and efficient way to get that done," Reuss said.

      On Friday, General Motors submitted a proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that...
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      After Amazon employees warn of mass surveillance, company pitches facial recognition to ICE

      Employees and others have said that the software is flawed and invasive

      Concerns voiced by hundreds of Amazon employees and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the company is moving toward a future of flawed mass surveillance are apparently not shared by company executives.

      In late July, Amazon met with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and tried to sell them on Rekognition, its controversial facial recognition software.

      In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, an Amazon spokesman said that the company had presented Rekognition at a technology event hosted by the technology firm Mckinsey. ICE was among the government agencies in attendance.

      “As we usually do, we followed up with customers who were interested in learning more about how to use our services,” the Amazon spokesman told the paper.

      Amazon and ICE

      ICE responded that it has used facial recognition software in the past and is continuing “to explore cutting-edge technology to compliment criminal investigations going forward.”

      In July, the ACLU purchased Rekognition and scanned the faces of members of Congress against a database of 25,000 mugshots. The results mismatched 28 lawmakers against people in the mugshots. Six members of the Congressional Black Caucus were among the lawmakers falsely identified as the criminals, according to the ACLU’s test.

      In a blog post, Amazon responded that the ACLU had “misinterpreted” the results and defended Rekognition. An Amazon sales representative letter forwarded a link to the company blog post to ICE, according to emails recently uncovered  by the Project on Government Oversight.

      The link “may be of interest given your ongoing efforts,” the Amazon sales employee wrote to the ICE representative.

      Amazon employees speak out

      Rekognition is already being used by numerous law enforcement agencies. Last week, more than 450 Amazon employees signed a letter addressed to CEO Jeff Bezos and other Amazon executives expressing concerns about Rekognition and Palantir, a separate data analytics firm that works with government agencies.

      The employees said that Amazon should stop selling cloud services to Palantir and be more transparent about Rekognition.

      “Amazon's website brags of the system's ability to store and search tens of millions of faces at a time," the letter says. "Law enforcement has already started using facial recognition with virtually no public oversight or debate or restrictions on use from Amazon."

      Concerns voiced by hundreds of Amazon employees and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the company is moving toward a future of flawed mass sur...
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