Current Events in October 2018

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    New York steps up probe into net neutrality comments

    State attorney general issues subpoenas to groups both for and against the rule

    New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is expanding her investigation into reports that many of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality comments – both for and against – were fake.

    The investigation was begun by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who charged last December that as many as 2 million comments sent to the FCC on the topic were not from individual consumers, but produced in mass by interest groups.

    At the time, Schneiderman said his investigators had found New York, Florida, Texas, and California had each produced more than 100,000 comments purporting to be from real Americans. Since then, the number of allegedly faked comments has skyrocketed.

    This week, Underwood's office sent out subpoenas to nearly a dozen industry and advocacy groups seeking any information they might have about the estimated 22 million letters that hit the FCC's inbox, arguing either for against net neutrality.

    The FCC voted in mid-December to roll back the net neutrality policy, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.

    Red flags

    The New York investigation determined that many of the net neutrality comments used temporary or duplicate email addresses, an easy red flag to spot. It was also highly suspicious, investigators say, that the text of many of the messages was identical.

    Earlier this month, researchers at Stanford University analyzed all of the comments submitted to the FCC regarding net neutrality and identified 800,000 that were genuine. Of those, the researchers said more than 99 percent advocated keeping the policy in place.

    Congressional Democrats have also pushed for investigations into the large number of comments submitted to the FCC and whether any of them actually mattered. Earlier this year 24 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking questions about how the agency dealt with the comments.

    Partisan issue

    Perhaps no issue divides Republicans and Democrats as much as net neutrality. Democrats support the principle the principle that the internet is a "common carrier" and cannot discriminate against content by favoring one type over another through price or speed.

    Though net neutrality was only adopted as a regulation in 2015, they say the standard had been followed from the beginning, since early internet traffic traveled over telephone lines.

    Republicans generally counter that internet traffic today travels over broadband networks created by telecommunications companies that are not public utilities.

    The issue comes to a head in less than three months when California's net neutrality law is scheduled to take effect. The Trump administration is challenging it in court, arguing that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the U.S. if it were allowed to stand.

    New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is expanding her investigation into reports that many of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutra...

    Antibiotic-resistant salmonella from chickens infects nearly 100 people

    The CDC is monitoring the outbreak

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak began spreading from chicken and has since infected 92 people across 29 states.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating the outbreak and reported 21 hospitalizations so far, though no deaths have been reported.

    The CDC interviewed 54 infected people to get a sense of what they ate in the week before getting sick. Based on the responses, there was no one single thing that led to this outbreak, though nearly 90 percent of the people interviewed reported eating or preparing chicken that they purchased raw. The chicken came from several different brands and was purchased at several locations, and one person was infected after a pet ate raw ground chicken pet food.

    Antibiotic resistance

    Though the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) have yet to pinpoint exactly how the outbreak started, the agencies have also discovered that the infection doesn’t respond to several different antibiotics.

    Based on whole genome sequence (WGS) testing of 43 infected people and 68 food samples, the infection didn’t respond to the following antibiotics:

    • Ampicillin

    • Ceftriaxone

    • Chloramphenicol

    • Ciprofloxacin

    • Fosfomycin

    • Gentamicin

    • Hygromycin

    • Kanamycin

    • Nalidixic acid

    • Streptomycin

    • Sulfamethoxazole

    • Tetracycline

    • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

    This is important for doctors to be aware of, as many traditional antibiotics may not work in treating the infection, and an alternate plan of attack may be necessary.

    The CDC and the USDA-FSIS have contacted suppliers in the chicken industry to inform them of the outbreak and will continue to monitor it and update consumers as more information becomes available. The CDC also warns consumers to take extra precautions when preparing raw chicken and has provided several food safety tips to help avoid contracting salmonella.

    Fighting antibiotic resistance

    While antibiotic resistance can be troublesome for physicians trying to help patients fight off infections, much research has been done recently to help make strides in this area.

    Many times doctors prescribe the wrong medications because they’re unsure of which treatment option will be effective, but a study conducted by researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden found a new method that will allow doctors to ensure their patients receive the right antibiotics before leaving the office -- and faster and more efficiently than before.

    Moreover, scientists discovered a new drug -- found in a soil sample from Italy -- that works in killing several strong infections that were thought to be resistant to antibiotics. Stefano Donadio, lead researcher on the study, emphasized the importance of utilizing natural products in antibiotics research, as the drug -- pseudouridimycin -- was found to be highly effective in the testing stages.  

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak began spreading from chic...

    Experts say cardboard baby boxes are dangerous for infants

    Researchers say parents should only use them ‘if nothing else is available’

    Researchers say cardboard baby boxes should not be promoted as a safe alternative to a cot, bassinet, or Moses basket.

    Baby boxes -- which originated in Finland and have often been credited as a factor in the country’s low infant mortality rates -- come stocked with essential baby items, including a mattress that fits inside the box.

    But in a letter published in the medical research journal The BMJ this week, experts cautioned that there is a “scarcity” of evidence that the boxes reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) among newborns who sleep in them.

    “The cardboard baby box should not be promoted as a safe sleeping space, but as only a temporary substitute if nothing else is available," said Peter Blair, a professor at the University of Bristol in England, and colleagues.

    Potential risks

    The letter’s authors say these boxes may put babies in harm’s way. For instance, if a box is placed on the floor, the baby can be easily accessed by pets and siblings. If the box is placed higher up, it could topple and fall. The boxes are also potentially flammable.

    Until studies have helped researchers “better understand how families use the cardboard baby box,” Blair and other experts say the boxes should only be used as a temporary bed for an infant if nothing else is available.

    "We support any initiative that raises awareness of SIDS, including appropriate SIDS risk reduction advice distributed with cardboard baby boxes," Blair and his colleagues wrote. "But this advice can be undermined if the messages given are incorrect or mixed with non-evidence-based messages about the intervention itself."

    Child advocates have concerns

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also expressed concerns over the boxes, primarily due to the fact that they “are not required to meet safety rules like cribs, bassinets, play yards and infant carriers."

    The AAP recommends that babies be placed to sleep on their backs and on a firm, flat surface free of any soft objects or loose bedding.

    The authors of the letter say cribs, bassinets, and Moses baskets are safer than baby boxes because they allow parents to see their baby and promote better air flow.

    For parents who do plan on using a baby box as a sleeping space for their baby, The Lullaby Trust, a charity that focuses on reducing the number of SIDS death by educating parents on safe infant sleep practices, offers the following advice:

    • Use your baby box for daytime naps only and sleep your baby in a cot or a Moses basket next to your bed during the night.

    • Do not lift or carry the box around your home if your baby is in it.

    • Do not put the lid on the box if your baby is in it.

    • Do not place additional bedding on top of the mattress to raise your baby up to a higher level.

    • Ensure the box is placed on a solid surface and cannot topple over.

    • Do not use the box if it gets wet or soiled.

    • Do not put a box on an under heated floor.

    • Do not leave the baby in the box unattended or out of view.

    • Do not use the box once your baby is able to roll.

    • Ensure that you comply with any instructions relating to the maximum age and weight of the infant for which the box can be used.

    Researchers say cardboard baby boxes should not be promoted as a safe alternative to a cot, bassinet, or Moses basket. Baby boxes -- which originated i...

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      MoviePass’ parent company under investigation for fraud

      Fortunately, movie fans have options to replace their subscription with the beleaguered service

      Another week, another MoviePass on-the-ropes story?

      Yep.

      CNBC reports that an investigation into MoviePass’ owners, Helios and Matheson, reportedly deceiving investors is underway.

      The main focus of the New York Attorney General’s office is to ascertain “whether the company misled the investment community regarding the company’s financials.” The attorney general is leveraging New York’s Martin Act, a New York anti-fraud law, widely considered to be the most severe blue sky law in the country.

      The Martin Act has proved to have some mighty teeth; it has served as the basis for a number of high-profile cases, including a 2002 investigation of Merrill-Lynch for alleged conflicts of interest, the 2012 suit against Bank of New York Mellon Corp. for allegedly defrauding customers through foreign currency transactions, and CitiBank’s use of an illegal account sweeping program.

      “We are aware of the New York Attorney General’s inquiry and are fully cooperating,” a Helios and Matheson representative said in emailed statements to members of the press.

      “We believe our public disclosures have been complete, timely and truthful and we have not misled investors. We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that to the New York Attorney General.”

      MoviePass’ never-ending story

      Waking up and seeing the Attorney General’s folks at your front door is just another day for MoviePass. The movie theater subscription service has been underwater for months, trying everything from modifying its ticketing plans to trying to 'restore' users’ accounts without permission.

      The company seems desperate to find something -- anything -- that will stop the bleeding of quarterly losses that amount to hundreds of millions. It was only a month ago that the company’s proposed one-for-500 reverse stock split sent the shares tumbling out of control to little more than a penny in value.

      MoviePass’ subscribers are jumping ship by the score, too. “UR service now officially sucks. For $9.95/mo U went from unlimited 2 3 movies per month.*NOW* I only have *1* movie that shows up N UR app each day that I can C?! #SinkingShip,” tweeted one unhappy subscriber.

      Don’t forget: movie-loving consumers have other choices

      MoviePass isn’t the only movie rodeo in town. While its subscription service continues to stumble, AMC Theatres’ subscription plan seems to be the king-in-waiting. AMC’s deal continues to pick up steam with more than 400,000 members according to Subscription Insider.

      “While we do not plan to issue A-List enrollment statistics on a weekly basis, our hitting more than 400,000 enrolled members only three months and a week after launching the program is an enormous milestone,” said AMC Theatres’ CEO and president Adam Aron.

      “Those who have been following our progress with A-List are aware that we had originally expected 500,000 enrollments at the one-year mark and 1,000,000 enrollments at the two-year mark. Above our wildest hopes, in just 14 weeks, we have achieved 80 percent of our one-year goal and 40 percent of our two-year goal. This all bodes well for the future of increased moviegoing in America.”

      Consumers have other movie plans to choose from besides AMC’s. There’s Sinemia, which offers 3 Movie Tickets for only $9.99, and Cinemark which offers a single ticket for $8.99 a month. The main draw that Cinemark’s plan offers is a “rollover” trigger for those who don’t use their ticket in a month’s time.

      Another week, another MoviePass on-the-ropes story?Yep.CNBC reports that an investigation into MoviePass’ owners, Helios and Matheson, reportedly d...

      Trump says Fed is his ‘biggest threat’

      The president says Chairman Powell is ‘raising rates too fast’

      President Trump said in an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday that the Fed is his “biggest threat,” marking the latest of several criticisms the president has leveled against the nation’s central bank.

      Last week, Trump said the Fed “has gone crazy,” referring to its policy of hiking interest rates. On Tuesday, Trump told Fox Business journalist Trish Regan that the Fed is “raising rates too fast.”

      Trump said he doesn't speak with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell because of the Fed's political independence, but he said he’s “not happy” with what Powell is doing.

      "It's going too fast. Because, you looked at the last inflation numbers, they're very low,” Trump said.

      Raising rates

      Chairman Powell -- who Trump nominated last year to take the place of Janet Yellen, who held the position for four years -- has said policymakers are seeking to restore rates to “normal” levels after the 2008 financial crisis. He has said the economy is strong and can afford to pay higher interest.

      Powell has raised the key interest rate three times by a quarter of a point this year and is expected to raise it a fourth time before the end of the year. When Yellen held the position, she took a more cautious approach in raising rates. She kept the rate artificially low to allow the economy to grow after the financial crisis.

      Acknowledging that he appointed Powell, Trump said, "You know what, can I be honest? I'm not blaming anybody, I put him there. And maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong. But I put him there."

      Trump’s latest attack on the Fed follows a similar criticism last week, when he told reporters, "The Fed is going wild. I mean, I don't know what their problem is that they are raising interest rates and it's ridiculous.”

      President Trump said in an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday that the Fed is his “biggest threat,” marking the latest of several criticisms the presid...

      Feds step up efforts to fight medical device cyber-risks

      Agencies say vulnerabilities in devices can threaten hospital networks

      Hackers not only target healthcare computer networks, they increasingly try to hack into sophisticated medical devices. Just as smart refrigerators and thermostats are often overlooked as cybersecurity vulnerabilities, medical devices don't always get the security attention they need.

      This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to work more closely together to enhance medical device security.

      FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says a growing number of medical devices actually connect to hospital networks, providing a backdoor for hackers if the devices aren't secure.

      "The FDA has been proactive in developing a robust program to address medical device cybersecurity concerns," Gottlieb said. "But we also know that securing medical devices from cybersecurity threats cannot be achieved by one government agency alone.”

      Sharing information on threats

      Gottlieb says that's the reason the two very different agencies, with very different roles, are joining forces. Under the partnership, the two agencies will share information and collaborate on security measures.

      “This agreement demonstrates our commitment to confronting cybersecurity risks and the unscrupulous cybercriminals who may seek to put patient lives at risk," he said.

      Hackers sometimes target hospital and medical office computer networks in order to steal sensitive information about patients. In recent years, however, they've also launched ransomware attacks on these networks, locking up files until the hospital or medical practice pays a ransom in Bitcoin.

      Partnership to protect the public

      Christopher Krebs, Undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, sees the partnership with the FDA as part of its role in protecting the public.

      "DHS has some of the top experts on control systems technology, and we look forward to continuing to leverage this expertise for the sake of improving the lives and safety of people across the country,” Krebs said.

      This isn't the first time that DHS and FDA have worked together. The two agencies have worked to discover and report vulnerabilities in medical devices. The disclosures are passed along to device manufacturers who can then modify their products to reduce or neutralize the threats.

      Hackers not only target healthcare computer networks, they increasingly try to hack into sophisticated medical devices. Just as smart refrigerators and the...

      Changing placement of fruits and vegetables at grocery stores could help sales

      A new study found that no further marketing was necessary to see an increase in sales

      Researchers from the University of Warwick recently got an idea about a new study by accident.

      A local grocery store -- Rootes Grocery -- moved fresh fruits and vegetables closer to the store’s entrance for no other reason than to switch things up in the store. Coincidentally, they began noticing an increase in the sale of the fruits and vegetables following the change.

      Upon hearing of this increase in sales, a group of researchers, led by Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode of Warwick Medical School, wanted to see if there was science behind this phenomenon and set out to conduct a study that would examine consumers’ behavior and shopping choices based on where the fruits and vegetables were located in the store.

      “Making the fruit and vegetables more accessible increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that were purchased,” said Dr. Oyebode. “This exciting because, while we all know eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, supporting people to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption has been more complicated.”

      Change works  

      Rootes Grocery Store is Warwick University’s local, on-campus grocery store, and so this study was aimed at young adults on a college campus.

      Over the course of the study, the store didn’t market the change or inform any of the customers that the fruits and vegetables had been moved. They simply shifted where the fruits and vegetables were throughout the store and let consumers shop as they normally would.

      Rootes Grocery began collecting data from January 2012 through July 2017, which documented sales before, during, and after the store’s changes in product placement. The result was a 15 percent overall increase in purchases of fruits and vegetables. Not only were more items being sold, but consumers were also spending more money per sale.

      “This ‘nudge’ intervention in a young adult population is particularly appropriate because it doesn’t restrict choice, and it doesn’t require any conscious action by the young adult,” said Dr. Oyebode.

      Over the long-term, the researchers believe this technique of simply moving the fruits and vegetables around the store can be effective in helping college-aged consumers make healthier choices.

      Making healthy choices

      The findings from this study complement a recent study that sought to determine if the location of calorie information on menus would lead consumers to make healthier choice.

      The researchers believed that if the calorie information of each item was listed prominently on the menu -- so it would be the first thing consumers’ see -- people would be more likely to choose dishes with fewer calories.

      The researchers’ hypothesis proved to be correct, as they showed customers’ menus with calorie information in three different spots -- to the left of the menu items, to the right of the menu items, or no calorie information. When the calories were to the left of the menu items, making it the first thing consumers saw, they were more likely to choose lower-calorie options.

      Researchers from the University of Warwick recently got an idea about a new study by accident.A local grocery store -- Rootes Grocery -- moved fresh fr...

      GM recalls model year 2018-2019 Cadillacs Chevys and GMC Yukons

      It may not be possible to secure a child seat properly

      General Motors is recalling 15,800 model year 2018-2019 Cadillac CT6s, Escalade ESVs, Chevrolet Suburbans, Volts, and GMC Yukon XLs.

      Certain second-row or third-row rear seatbelt retractor assemblies may not automatically lock when the seatbelt is fully pulled out of the retractor, possibly preventing a child seat from being properly secured.

      If the child seat is not properly secured in the event of a crash, the child may face an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the rear seatbelt retractors and replace them if necessary, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006, Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020 or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM's number for this recall is 18315.

      General Motors is recalling 15,800 model year 2018-2019 Cadillac CT6s, Escalade ESVs, Chevrolet Suburbans, Volts, and GMC Yukon XLs.Certain second-row...

      Spiraledge recalls yoga backless chairs

      The chairs can break at the seat or back welded support rod

      Spiraledge of Campbell, Calif., is recalling about 12,500 Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chairs and Everyday Yoga Tall Backless Yoga Chairs sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The chairs can break at the seat or back welded support rod connecting the back legs of the chair, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received three reports of the chairs breaking, including one minor injury reported.

      This recall involves the Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chairs and Everyday Yoga Tall Backless Yoga Chairs.

      Both are metal folding chairs primarily used for restorative yoga, with a welded support rod on the rear legs (none in the front) and no back support.

      The Tall Backless Yoga Chair, item number 8162640, is about 44 inches high and 19 inches wide. The Backless Yoga Chair, item number 8132666, is about 37 inches high and 18 inches wide.

      The chairs were sold in the following colors: aqua, black, white, plum, and peacock.

      The chairs were also sold under the brand name Sporti Studio and have the brand’s sticker on the back of the seat.

      Items Number

      Product Name

      8132666-001

      Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chair - Aqua

      8132666-002

      Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chair – Black

      8132666-003

      Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chair – White

      8132666-004

      Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chair – Plum

      8132666-005

      Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chair - Peacock

      8162640-001

      Everyday Yoga Tall Backless Yoga Chair - Black

      8162640-002

      Everyday Yoga Tall Backless Yoga Chair – Plum

      8162640-003

      Everyday Yoga Tall Backless Yoga Chair – White

      The yoga chairs, manufactured in China, were sold online at www.YogaOutlet.com and www.SwimOutlet.com from August 2015, through July 2018, for about $30 for the Backless Yoga Chair and $40 for the Tall Backless Yoga Chair.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled yoga chairs and contact Spiraledge to receive a full refund of the purchase price in the form of a store gift card. Spiraledge is contacting purchasers of the yoga chairs directly.

      Consumers may contact Spiraledge at (800) 299-8705 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.swimoutlet.com or www.yogaoutlet.com and click on the Product Recall link at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Spiraledge of Campbell, Calif., is recalling about 12,500 Everyday Yoga Backless Yoga Chairs and Everyday Yoga Tall Backless Yoga Chairs sold in the U.S. a...

      More than half of parents think the flu shot causes the flu, survey finds

      Doctors say many parents are still skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine

      Following one of the most severe flu seasons on record, experts are urging everyone over six months of age to get a flu vaccine before the illness starts spreading.

      However, a new survey by Orlando Health finds that a significant percentage of parents still have misconceptions about the safety and effectiveness of the flu shot, which may be preventing many of them from taking their children to get the shot.

      More than half of parents with children under the age of 18 believe that their children can actually get the flu from the flu shot. A third of parents surveyed said the shot does not work to protect their kids from the flu.

      Flu shot doesn’t cause the flu

      Dr. Jean Moorjani, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, acknowledged that concerns regarding medications and vaccines are normal since “information can come from so many places, from friends and family to the internet.”

      For this reason, Moorjani says it’s important that parents talk to a trusted doctor who can provide “credible information that is based in science and facts.”

      Experts say the idea that the flu shot can cause the flu is a myth -- one which may have been derived from the fact that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in. During that time, people may pick up a respiratory illness or even the flu and mistakenly think the shot itself caused the illness.

      “After receiving the shot, it takes your body about two weeks to build up antibodies to fight the flu, so if you come in contact with the virus during that time, you may still get sick, which is why you should get your flu shot as early as possible,” Moorjani said. “The parts of the virus that are used are completely dead, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot.”

      Safety misconceptions

      The survey also found that many parents question the safety of the flu shot. Nearly 30 percent of parents polled believe that it can cause autism.

      “After years of research, we know that the flu vaccine is safe,” said Moorjani. “The flu shot does not cause autism or any other diseases or illnesses. Doctors recommend the flu shot because it is the best way to protect you and your family from the flu.”

      In the wake of a flu season in which 180 children died of flu-related complications, experts recommend that any healthy person over six months of age get the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available. The vaccine will protect the person who gets the shot, as well as those who can’t be vaccinated, such as infants.

      Following one of the most severe flu seasons on record, experts are urging everyone over six months of age to get a flu vaccine before the illness starts s...

      Colleges offering more scholarships, report shows

      Although tuition costs are rising, fewer students are paying the full cost

      A recent report suggests that colleges are offering more scholarships, which is making an impact on the overall cost of college.

      Although tuition prices are continuing to rise nationwide, the average net cost of attending a public or private college is remaining about the same. That’s according to an annual report on college pricing trends by the College Board, which administers the SAT and the Advanced Placement program.

      The net cost for full-time students enrolled at public four-year colleges in the U.S. is projected to be $14,880 for tuition, fees, room and board for the 2018-19 academic year, down $30 from last year, according to the report. The full price, before deducting grant aid and tax benefits, is $21,370.

      Full-time students at public two-year colleges typically received more than enough grant aid and federal tax benefits in 2018-19 to cover their tuition and fees. After this aid, students had to pay an estimated average of about $8,300 in living expenses out of pocket, the report found.

      More scholarships

      Students attending a private non-profit four-year college are projected to pay a net cost of $27,290, up $130. The published price is $48,510, with the average student getting $21,220 in grants and tax benefits, according to the report.

      Colleges and universities increased their grant aid for undergraduate and graduate students by 24 percent over five years, from $48.4 billion in 2012-13 to $60 billion in 2017-18.

      "Our 2018 reports highlight how much the trends in college financing have changed in recent years," said Sandy Baum, nonresident fellow in the education policy program at the Urban Institute and co-author of the 2018 Trends in Higher Education reports, in a statement.

      "Between 2007-08 and 2010-11, tuition prices rose rapidly, particularly at public colleges and universities. Federal expenditures on student aid increased dramatically, helping a growing student population to finance their education. At the same time, students borrowed more and more. Since 2010-11, all of these trends have reversed."

      The report found that student loans are declining as grants increase. Last year, students and parents borrowed $105.5 billion -- down from $127.7 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2010-11.

      A recent report suggests that colleges are offering more scholarships, which is making an impact on the overall cost of college.Although tuition prices...

      Neglect issues found to be more common among residents at for-profit nursing homes

      A study shows neglect can take many forms

      With nearly 1.5 million Americans residing in nursing homes, residents receiving the proper care should be the primary concern.

      However, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago compared the experiences of residents at for-profit nursing homes compared with those in not-for-profit nursing homes, and according to lead researcher Lee Friedman, the differences were significant.

      The researchers found that those in for-profit nursing homes were twice as likely to experience clinical signs of neglect compared with those in not-for-profit residencies. As nearly 70 percent of nursing homes operate as for-profit businesses, this study proves to be wide-reaching.

      “We saw more -- and more serious -- diagnoses among residents of for-profit facilities that were consistent with severe clinical signs of neglect, including severe dehydration in clients with feeding tubes which should have been managed, clients with stage three and four bed sores, broken catheters and feeding tubes, and clients whose medication for chronic conditions was not being managed properly,” said Friedman.

      A call for better care

      When looking at the ways many residents’ needs aren’t tended to at some for-profit nursing homes, Friedman and his team worked to develop a scale that they could use to put numbers to the various conditions associated with clinical neglect. Using the Clinical Signs of Neglect Scale (CSNS), the researchers were able to quantify over two dozen conditions that range in severity.

      With the scale in place, the researchers evaluated the medical records of over 1,100 patients who had visited one of five major Chicago hospitals between 2007 and 2011. All patients were aged 60 and older and were treated for issues associated with neglectful care.

      The biggest discrepancy between the patients was where they had received the poor quality of care. Friedman and his colleagues found that those in for-profit facilities were more likely to have severe medical issues because of neglect when compared to those in not-for-profit residencies or those living in private homes or with family members.

      Friedman believes this is because of the dynamic between employees in many for-profit institutions. He noted that the residents end up suffering because of the way the money is distributed at many of these institutions -- the higher ups get bigger paychecks, while the staff that cares for the residents are often underpaid. According to Friedman, this can lead to “low morale” among staff members, though the biggest burden ends up on the residents.

      To help correct these issues, Friedman is calling for better care at these facilities, starting with more accountability and higher-quality training.

      “More oversight of these facilities, both for-profit and not-for-profit, needs to occur together with improved screening and reporting of suspected cases of neglect by all parties,” said Friedman. “There needs to be better staffing and training for enforcing these measures.”

      With nearly 1.5 million Americans residing in nursing homes, residents receiving the proper care should be the primary concern.However, a new study con...

      Selfishness linked to fewer kids and smaller paychecks

      A study tackles selfishness from an economic standpoint

      Researchers at Stockholm University, the Institute for Futures Studies, and the University of South Carolina recently conducted a study that aims to explore the effects that being selfish -- and conversely, unselfish -- has on people’s paychecks and how many kids they have.

      The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and is based off of previous research that shows how being unselfish positively affects people’s interpersonal relationships and physical and mental health. This study, however, looks to discover how selfishness affects people’s wallets.

      Fewer kids, smaller paychecks

      The researchers conducted four separate studies that examined how selfishness affected economic standing for both Americans and Europeans. Selfishness was determined partly by self-reported actions and partly by attitudes and beliefs, while unselfishness was defined as helping others because of a genuine interest in their well-being.

      In analyzing the data, the researchers found that unselfish people are more likely to have both higher paychecks and more kids, while the opposite was true for what the study determined were selfish people. The results proved to be different than what many of the participants believed, as many assumed selfish people would have fewer kids, but many thought they’d have higher paychecks as a result.

      “In a separate study we examined the expectations of ordinary people to see if their expectations aligned with our data,” said researcher Pontus Strimling. “The results of this study showed that people generally have the correct expectation that selfish people have fewer children, but erroneously believe that selfish people will make more money. It is nice to see that generosity so often pays off in the long run.”

      According to fellow researcher Kimmo Eriksson, the results were the same across borders.

      “The result is clear in both the American and the European data,” Eriksson said. “The most unselfish people have the most children and the moderately unselfish receive the highest salaries. And we also find this result over time -- the people who are most generous at one point in time have the largest salary increases when the researchers revisit them later in time.”

      Researchers at Stockholm University, the Institute for Futures Studies, and the University of South Carolina recently conducted a study that aims to explor...

      Facebook faces another lawsuit -- this time over video ad metrics

      With the platform’s billion-sized audience, do advertisers suck it up or look for another place to spend their ad dollars?

      Is it better to ask permission or beg for forgiveness?

      In Facebook’s case, the long tail of its history of begging off has grown a little longer. According to a complaint filed Tuesday by advertisers, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Facebook was aware of problems in its measurement of video ads for more than a year before it finally got around to disclosing the issue.

      The backstory of this chess game goes back to 2015 when a group of small advertisers sued Facebook claiming that the company’s business conduct was prejudiced because it published faulty metrics that were appreciably out of whack -- like as much as 900 percent out of whack.

      On Tuesday, the plaintiffs -- who include Crowd Siren, a marketing agency in Las Vegas, and Jonathan Murdough, a Pennsylvania resident who purchased Facebook video ads -- filed an amendment in the lawsuit claiming that Facebook knew in early 2015 that its video-ad metrics had inherent issues but chose to sit on that knowledge for over a year.

      Facebook and marketers butt heads

      Hat-in-hand, Facebook eventually came out of hiding in 2016, saying that it had “recently discovered” the problem. The company told advertisers that its metrics were overestimated by only 60 to 80 percent and then followed up by addressing its video metrics changes in July 2018.

      Despite the candor of its missteps, waiting that long didn’t help matters.

      “In June 2016, a Facebook engineering manager finally followed up on advertiser complaints dating back to early 2015, writing that ‘[s]omehow there was no progress on the task for a year,’" claimed the lawsuit.

      “But even once it was decided to take action on the metrics, Facebook did not promptly fix its calculation or disclose that the calculation was wrong. Instead, it continued reporting miscalculated viewership metrics for another several months, as it developed a ‘no PR’ strategy to avoid drawing attention to the error. The company decided to ‘obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the math’ by quietly retiring the erroneous metrics and replacing them with corrected metrics under a new name. For instance, Average Duration of Video Viewed would be replaced with Average Watch Time,” the plaintiffs said.

      In response, a Facebook said that the allegations were patently false.

      “Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false. We told our customers about the error when we discovered it -- and updated our help center to explain the issue,” a company spokesperson said.

      As companies are wont to do when defending the first volley in a lawsuit, Facebook declares the lawsuit is without merit and has moved to dismiss the fraud claim.

      Let it go?

      The question of credibility will no doubt grow as both advertisers and users continue to weigh the merits of Facebook in their personal and professional lives.

      “Facebook wholly made up the metrics that convinced advertisers to spend on video, and entire media organizations restructured based on that lie, “ tweeted media watcher Joshua Rivera.

      Abandoning Facebook for other social media platforms is a conundrum for advertisers, and -- given the platform’s reach -- “playing ball” with Facebook might be the only way through situations like this.

      “(Brands are) using all 200+ targeting channels, comparing brand databases with Facebook’s, running contests and promotions, and experimenting with different units and page placements, all in an attempt to regain access to the fans they already earned and expand their reach among Facebook’s billion+ users,” writes Danny Flamberg, Managing Director for Digital & CRM Strategy at the Kaplan Thaler Group.

      “There are many cases of successful lead generation and awareness campaigns, though the ROI varies widely.”

      As Bruce Schneier, a fellow with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, quipped in a ConsumerAffairs article about Facebook privacy, “Personalized advertising is how these companies make money, and is why so much of the internet is free to users. We’re the product, not the customer.”

      Is it better to ask permission or beg for forgiveness?In Facebook’s case, the long tail of its history of begging off has grown a little longer. Accord...

      Most burger chains in the U.S. receive F grades in antibiotic policies

      Only two restaurants earned A’s for serving antibiotic-free beef

      When graded on their antibiotic policies, a majority of the biggest burger restaurants in the U.S. earned failing scores, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its allies.

      The fourth-annual “Chain Reaction” report, which focused specifically on burger chains, found that all but 3 of 25 of the nation’s top burger chains earned “F” scores regarding their use of antibiotics in the meat they buy.

      Wendy’s narrowly missed earning an F. The company, which last year made a pledge to reduce one antibiotic in a small portion of its beef supply, scored a D minus. Only two chains -- Shake Shack and BurgerFi -- scored A’s for serving antibiotic-free beef.

      The remaining 22 restaurants -- which included chains like McDonald’s and Burger King -- earned “F” grades “because they lack any time-bound, publicly available policy to restrict antibiotic use in their beef supply chains,” said Lena Brook, lead researcher of the report and interim director of the food and agriculture program at the NRDC.

      “By continuing to use antibiotics routinely on farms, beef producers contribute to the rise and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like this type of Salmonella, which cause infections that are difficult or sometimes impossible to treat,” Brook wrote in a blog post accompanying the report.

      Threat to public health

      The World Health Organization, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all stated that they consider antibiotic resistance a threat to public health.

      Each year in the U.S., at least 23,000 people die and 2 million get sick with antibiotic-resistant infections, according to statistics from the CDC. More than 400,000 consumers in the U.S. get sick from two of the bacteria that are commonly spread through food, salmonella, and campylobacter on an annual basis.

      “Right now, many burger chains are putting burger lovers in a bind. If they want to eat meat raised with responsible antibiotic use practices, chicken is the best choice at many mainstream chains,” Brook said. “But if we are to make headway on antibiotic resistance crisis, the beef (and pork) industry must be part of the solution.”

      In August, the FDA pledged to “launch some new programs” to combat the overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry.

      “For all of these reasons, it’s critical that we implement good antimicrobial stewardship practices in human healthcare and veterinary settings,” the FDA’s Scott Gottlieb said. “We must continue to take new steps to slow the development of resistance and extend the usefulness of these lifesaving drugs.”

      When graded on their antibiotic policies, a majority of the biggest burger restaurants in the U.S. earned failing scores, according to a report released We...

      Target is scrambling to take the place of Toys ‘R’ Us

      But the retailer has plenty of company

      Target has announced an ambitious plan for the holidays to fill some of the gap left by the liquidation of Toys “R” Us earlier this year.

      Since this will be the first holiday season without the stand-alone toy retailer around, competitors like Amazon and Walmart have eyed Toys “R” Us market share. Now Target has joined in the pursuit.

      The company said it is in the process of adding almost a quarter-million square feet of new space for toys in more than 500 stores. The toy departments in another 100 stores will get complete makeovers.

      Target says it is focusing on making toy prices among the most competitive in the space while expanding its inventory. It promises more than 2,500 new and exclusive toys, a nearly 100 percent increase over last season.

      'Reimagining the experience'

      "Our team has spent months preparing for this season, selecting the assortment, deepening our inventory to offer more of the hottest items and reimagining the experience we have for toys in our stores and online,” said Mark Tritton, who presides over Target merchandising.

      Target will have plenty of competition. In August, Walmart announced it was increasing its in-store toy selection by 30 percent. To provide the experience of a stand-alone toy store, the company said it would stage hands-on demonstrations so shoppers can see how a particular toy operates.

      “We are making even bigger investments in the category to ensure we have the widest selection,” Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s vice president of toys, said at the time.

      Walmart also announced it will expand its products for infants, taking the place of the now-defunct Babies “R” Us. It's redesigning its nursery webpage and expanding options for car seats and strollers.

      Kohl's and JC Penney have ambitions too

      Other retailers such as Kohl's and JC Penney announced additions to their toy departments over the summer, all with the same goal in mind – taking the place of Toys “R” Us. But though it has departed the retail scene, Toys “R” Us might be back.

      As we reported earlier this month, the lenders who had planned to auction off the Toys “R” Us assets have decided they may be worth more if they were turned into a retail toy store again. Toys “R” Us assets include licensing agreements with most toy manufacturers.

      By putting the pieces back together -- this time without the debt – the lenders believe they will have a profitable enterprise, though not in time for the upcoming holiday season.

      Target has announced an ambitious plan for the holidays to fill some of the gap left by the liquidation of Toys “R” Us earlier this year.Since this wil...

      Judge reinstates student loan borrower protections

      The Trump administration had blocked the Obama-era rule from taking effect

      The long-delayed Student Loan Borrower Defense Rule took effect at noon Tuesday after a federal judge refused to block it while for-profit schools challenged it in court.

      The Department of Education, which had sided with for-profit schools by halting the Obama-era rule from taking effect. The Education Department said it would not seek a further delay.

      The rule was adopted to protect students who claimed to have been defrauded by for-profit colleges. Among its provisions, it prohibits schools that receive federal funds from relying on forced arbitration clauses and from banning class-action lawsuits.

      It establishes a process for students whose schools are found to have engaged in fraud to be freed from their loan obligations. It requires the automatic discharge of loans for students who cannot complete their education because their school shuts down.

      Government accused of acting improperly

      Attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia sued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos shortly after she blocked implementation of the rule last year. A federal judge sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that DeVos acted improperly.

      “This is our latest victory in court against Betsy DeVos and her efforts to scrap these critical protections for students,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, one of the plaintiffs. “This is a win for thousands of students across the country who were cheated by predatory for-profit schools. With this rule now in place, the U.S. Department of Education can no longer delay giving students and families the relief they deserve.”

      Healey says the rule puts important protections in place immediately, including nearly $381 million in automatic loan discharges for students whose schools closed on or after November 1, 2013, before they could complete their degrees and who did not re-enroll in another school within three years.

      Another immediate effect of the rule is for-profit schools that take federal funds cannot force students into arbitration proceedings.

      'Win for borrowers'

      “Today’s decision is a huge win for defrauded borrowers around the country,” said Julie Murray, a Public Citizen attorney representing the student plaintiffs in the suit. “The rule is finally in effect. No more excuses. No more delays. Industry will continue to challenge the rule in court, but we will work as long as it takes to defeat those corporate interests and an administration beholden to them.”

      The rule was adopted in the bank of the Corinthian College bankruptcy and closing, which left thousands of students with student loan debt but no degree. The Obama administration charged Corinthian had defrauded the government and consumers by providing inadequate career training and falsifying job placement data.

      The long-delayed Student Loan Borrower Defense Rule took effect at noon Tuesday after a federal judge refused to block it while for-profit schools challeng...

      Housing starts drop in September

      Homebuilders aren't increasing the supply of available homes

      Would-be homebuyers hoping for an increase in housing inventory found little to cheer in the latest Commerce Department report on housing starts.

      The number of new homes that began construction last month fell 5.3 percent from an already low number in September 2017. Housing starts were down 4.1 percent in August.

      The lack of new construction matters to people hoping to buy a home. With fewer current homeowners putting out “for sale” signs, new construction is needed to make up the difference. Instead, the lack of new homes on the market has dragged down inventory levels for the last few years.

      Two results

      This lack of inventory has produced two results. It has increased the price of existing inventory and it has caused some homebuyers to keep renting.

      When the National Association of Realtors reported last month that pending home sales had declined once again, NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun said the lack of new construction was partly to blame.

      “The greatest decline occurred in the West region where prices have shot up significantly, which clearly indicates that affordability is hindering buyers and those affordability issues come from lack of inventory, particularly in moderate price points,” Yun said at the time.

      Fewer moderately priced new homes

      In fact, new homes that are being built aren't exactly in the moderate price point category. The median price of new homes has been above $300,000 throughout 2018. Homebuilders have produced more expensive homes because they say tight labor and higher material costs make moderately priced homes less profitable.

      With fewer moderately priced homes to choose from, overall home sales have begun to fall. Real estate broker RE/MAX reports there were fewer closings through September, along with an 11.6 percent drop in year-over-year sales.

      But despite that, homes that sold went for a median price of $241,000 – the 30th straight month year-over-year prices have risen.

      "The big drop in September closings catches your attention,” said RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos. “The market is clearly rebalancing as buyers and sellers continue to process the increasing interest rate environment and what that means to them.".

      But in a hopeful sign for long-term market stability, Cantos said the decline in inventory slowed, a trend he says “signals the ongoing shift toward market equilibrium, and that's healthy in the long-term."

      Would-be homebuyers hoping for an increase in housing inventory found little to cheer in the latest Commerce Department report on housing starts.The nu...

      Volkswagen recalls model year 2019 Jettas

      The passenger side headlight may be incorrectly positioned

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 28 model year2019 Volkswagen Jettas equipped with LED headlights.

      The passenger side headlight may be incorrectly positioned, reducing the driver's visibility when it is dark.

      A reduction in the driver's visibility can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger side headlight, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 25, 2018.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 94L1.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 28 model year2019 Volkswagen Jettas equipped with LED headlights.The passenger side headlight may be incorrect...