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    Less active babies may be getting less sleep

    Researchers suggest keeping infants moving could be the key to more sleep for new parents

    For parents of infants, getting a full night of sleep can be a nearly impossible task. Despite several tips and soothing methods, newborns and their parents are left with many sleepless nights and exhausted mornings.

    Now, new research from Michigan State University found that infants that don’t get enough physical activity could also be sleeping less. These babies could also be at a greater risk for developing obesity if they’re too sedentary.

    “We know physical activity and sleep influence each other and are strongly associated with growth in older children and adults,” said researcher Janet Hauck. “Our findings suggest that this association could emerge as early as infancy, a critical development period.”

    Keeping babies active

    The researchers monitored 22 six-month old infants over the course of 24 hours and evaluated their length, weight, physical activity, and sleeping patterns.

    Hauck and her team found that the babies who had the least amount of sleep over the course of the 24 hours weren’t moving as much during the day and were also getting fed more overnight. Moreover, they found that babies had a better length to weight ratio when they slept for 12 or more hours during the day.

    The team found that napping proved to have no effect on nighttime sleep. Babies that slept more during the day were still not getting enough sleep overnight.

    “Parents can make 12 hours of sleep or more a priority for their baby by creating a bedtime routine and being consistent with it,” Hauck said. “While their little one is awake they should encourage physical activity by interacting with their baby during floor time activities and do supervised tummy time several times a day.”

    Speaking of tummy time, Hauck and the researchers say that ensuring infants are more active during the day can instill better sleeping habits.

    “While we don’t have evidence yet that tummy time directly affects sleep, it increases physical activity and promotes healthy weight gain,” Hauck said. “So, parents who feel their baby isn’t sleeping enough could promote tummy time during the day to boost their baby’s physical activity level.”

    Promoting better sleeping habits

    Ensuring infants sleep through the night is hardly ever easy, and many parents struggle figure out exactly which changes they should make to promote better sleep.

    In a previous study, researchers found that letting babies “cry it out” during sleep training may not be as harmful as many had previously thought.

    The study found that parents that sleep trained their babies -- regardless of the method they chose -- allowed them to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.

    For parents of infants, getting a full night of sleep can be a nearly impossible task. Despite several tips and soothing methods, newborns and their parent...
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    Snoring linked to increase risk of cardiac impairment

    Researchers suggest many people suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea

    For many consumers, snoring is nothing more than a nuisance that disrupts sleep. It can keep others awake during the late nighttime hours, or wake people from a sound sleep.

    But how many consumers have considered the medical implications that could come from snoring?

    Researchers from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) say that snoring may actually be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) -- a condition that often goes undiagnosed in many people and that can lead to compromised cardiac functioning.

    “Our analysis showed that in both genders of the OSA and snoring groups there was an increase in left ventricular mass, meaning that the walls of the heart’s main pumping chamber are enlarged, making the heart work harder,” said lead researcher Dr. Adrian Curta.

    More than just snoring

    The researchers analyzed over 4,800 patients from the UK Biobank, all of whom had received a cardiac MRI. The participants were then broken into three groups: those without OSA or snoring, those with OSA, and those with self-reported snoring.

    The researchers compared the cardiac function of all three groups in an effort to see the ways OSA affects patients.

    One of the biggest findings could be the way that snoring and OSA affect men and women differently. The researchers found that women may be at a greater risk than men. Though they note that the heart had to work harder in both genders, the women in the study saw a larger increase in cardiac impairment.

    “We found that the cardiac parameters in women appear to be more easily affected by the disease and that women who snore or have OSA might be at a greater risk for cardiac involvement,” said Dr. Curta.

    Moreover, the researchers found that many of the self-reported snorers saw a difference in their cardiac functioning, which could be an early sign of OSA. However, they point out that many people think their snoring is nothing more than just snoring, and so OSA oftentimes can go undetected.

    “We also found that the prevalence of diagnosed OSA in the group was extremely low,” Dr. Curta said. “Together with the alterations in cardiac function in the snoring group, it leads us to believe that OSA may be grossly undiagnosed.”

    Symptoms and treatments

    The researchers note that OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea and ultimately blocks the airway while a person sleeps.

    Snoring is one of the most common signs of OSA, though snorers may also wake up gasping for air, have a headache or be irritable upon waking, or wake up with a dry mouth. Many people with OSA wake up feeling tired and not well-rested.

    To help combat OSA, surgery and medication are sometimes required. However, weight loss has also been known to help with OSA symptoms in those who are overweight, while continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines work to keep airways open while snorers sleep.

    Dr. Curta encourages all snorers to get tested for sleep apnea to ensure they receive the proper treatment and avoid any potential health complications.

    “I would encourage people who snore to ask their partners to observe them and look for phases during sleep when they stop breathing for a short while and then gasp for air,” he said. “If unsure, they can spend the night at a sleep lab where breathing is constantly monitored and even slight alterations can be recorded.”

    For many consumers, snoring is nothing more than a nuisance that disrupts sleep. It can keep others awake during the late nighttime hours, or wake people f...
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    Dick’s Sporting Goods to consider dropping hunting gear from stores

    The company has already removed hunting products from 10 of its locations

    Dick’s Sporting Goods is reportedly considering a ban for hunting supplies at all of its stores. The ban would apply to shotguns, ammunition, crossbows, rifle scopes, and other hunting-related items.

    In August, the Pennsylvania-based retailer pulled “virtually all” hunting products from the shelves at 10 of its locations and replaced them with “more compelling assortments in categories such as baseball, licensed products, and outerwear.”

    "We'll have to wait and see how the 10-store test does," CEO Edward Stack said in a conference call on Wednesday, according to CBS News.

    Prior to the removal of the hunting gear, the stores involved in the “10-store test” already had the lowest hunting sales. Now, the company is "looking at a number of stores where the hunt category significantly underperforms."

    Double-digit declines

    In February, the retailer decided to stop selling assault rifles at all 732 of its stores after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. During the shooting, a former student with an AR-15 rifle left 17 killed and 15 injured. Dick’s also raised the minimum purchase age for firearms to 21 following the mass shooting.

    "We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens," Dick's said in a statement earlier this year. "But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us."

    In regards to its existing hunting gear and electronics sector, Stack said that Dick’s is deciding how to proceed based on what strategies are best from a “business standpoint.”

    "Sales continue to be negatively impacted by double-digit declines in hunt and electronics," chief financial officer Lee Belitsky said on the call.

    "Specific to hunt, in addition to the strategic decisions we made regarding firearms earlier this year, the broader industry has decelerated and remains weak, as evidenced by most recent background-check data" for firearms purchases.

    Dick’s Sporting Goods is reportedly considering a ban for hunting supplies at all of its stores. The ban would apply to shotguns, ammunition, crossbows, ri...
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      Dell suffered a ‘cybersecurity incident’ earlier this month

      The company said hackers attempted to extract customer information

      Dell announced on Wednesday that its online marketplace suffered a security breach earlier this month, on November 9.

      The company said it detected an unauthorized attempt to extract customer information from Dell.com. Information that hackers attempted to extract included customer names, email addresses, and hashed passwords. The intruders didn't target payment cards.

      Dell said it has no reason to believe that any information was successfully extracted since it “immediately implemented countermeasures” the same day the attempted extraction happened.

      "Though it is possible some of this information was removed from Dell's network, our investigations found no conclusive evidence that any was extracted," Dell said in a press release disclosing the potential breach.

      Incident still under investigation

      For security purposes, Dell initiated a password reset on November 14 for all customer accounts on Dell.com. The company said it also notified law enforcement and hired a digital forensics team to conduct an independent investigation.

      Dell has not disclosed how many accounts were affected. In a statement to ZDNet, a spokesperson for the company said "it would be imprudent to publish potential numbers when there may be none."

      Dell is urging consumers to review the information they have stored in their Dell.com accounts and monitor the activity on their saved cards.

      “In this age of highly sophisticated information security threats, Dell is committed to doing all it can to protect customers’ information,” the company said. “This includes encouraging customers to change passwords for other accounts if they use the same password for their Dell.com account. Dell will continue to invest in its information technology networks and security to detect and prevent the risk of unauthorized activity.”

      Dell announced on Wednesday that its online marketplace suffered a security breach earlier this month, on November 9.The company said it detected an un...
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      Salmonella outbreak linked to recalled tahini products

      Health officials are urging consumers not to eat tahini sold under 6 brand names

      Fresh on the heels of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey and an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, public health officials have announced that a multistate salmonella outbreak linked to recalled tahini products has sickened at least five people.

      The illnesses were reported as early as June and as recently as October 18. Consumers who became ill told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that they had recently consumed hummus or other foods containing tahini.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has identified salmonella in imported tahini produced by Achdut Ltd, which it said was “highly related” to the strain identified in those who fell ill.

      “[The] CDC identified five ill people in the U.S. infected with Salmonella Concord that had the same genetic fingerprint as the Salmonella Concord found in tahini sampled at the point of import into the United States,” the FDA said.

      “Of the five U.S. cases interviewed, all five reported consuming hummus made with tahini; three people reported eating tahini or hummus made with tahini in a restaurant in the U.S., while the other two people reported consuming tahini or hummus made with tahini during international travel.”

      Six tahini brands

      The FDA is advising consumers not to eat recalled tahini products packaged under the brand names Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, Pepperwood, and Baron’s. The products have expiration dates ranging from April 7, 2020 to May 21, 2020 and lot codes ranging from 18-097 to 18-141, the FDA said.

      The FDA cautioned that some Achdut tahini products might not be clearly labeled with specific dates or may have labels that are written in Hebrew.

      “Consumers who have purchased a tahini product and are uncertain of where the product was manufactured or cannot identify the brand by lot codes or expiration dates should use caution and discard the product or return the food to the store for a refund,” the agency said.

      Salmonella cases tied to the outbreak have been reported in Michigan, New York, and Hawaii. The FDA said Achdut, an Israeli-based manufacturer, has removed the source of the contamination.

      Illness caused by Salmonella typically occurs between 12-72 hours after consuming the contaminated product. Most people experience fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The illness usually lasts for a week, but severe cases can persist for longer.

      Fresh on the heels of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey and an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, public health officials have announced...
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      FTC temporarily halts student loan debt relief operation

      As student loan debt mounts, the agency says struggling borrowers fall for empty promises

      Whenever a company promises it can easily reduce your debt, it's wise to show a little skepticism.

      That advice comes from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has received a temporary injunction halting a California firm from, as the FTC alleges, making false promises that it can reduce student loan debt.

      In this particular case, the FTC successfully appealed to a federal court to freeze the operator's assets and prevent it from doing business until the court can conduct a trial. It said Tuan Duong, the principal operator in the debt relief operation, is no stranger to the FTC.

      In 2015, the FTC sued Duong as part of  Operation Mis-Modification, a joint federal-state operation that targeted companies selling mortgage relief services. The following year the FTC was successful in winning a summary judgment against Duong but claims he never paid restitution as the court ordered him to do.

      Illegal upfront fees

      According to the complaint, Duong's company charged struggling consumers upfront fees of $499 or more. The FTC says charging upfront fees for these types of services is illegal.

      “People struggling to repay their student loan debt are a favorite target for fraudsters,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If anyone promises quick student loan forgiveness or asks you to pay in advance for help with your student debt, tell the FTC because that’s a scam.”

      During the housing market crisis, the FTC went after a number of operators who made empty promises of mortgage relief and protection against foreclosure. As the housing crisis passed, debt relief operators switched their emphasis to student loans and credit card debt.

      Nearly impossible to discharge

      With student loan debt now totaling nearly $1.5 trillion, many borrowers are struggling to make payments while starting a family. The FTC points out that student loan debt is almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. One of the few exceptions is when the borrower's school closes or goes bankrupt before a degree is awarded.

      Companies offering relief from credit card debt often make the process sound easy, but it's not. A credit card company may eventually agree to accept less than the amount owed, but that follows months -- sometimes years -- of the borrower being hounded by debt collectors.

      A year ago, the FTC and the attorneys general from 36 states issued actions against dozens of operators they charged with grabbing more than $95 million in illegal fees from consumers struggling to make their next student loan payment.

      They said their investigations identified several pitch-phrases often employed in ads and on social media. They include statements like “Get rid of student loan debt,” “$0 monthly payments,” and “We can . . . solve your student loan problem. 100% guaranteed!”

      Whenever a company promises it can easily reduce your debt, it's wise to show a little skepticism.That advice comes from the Federal Trade Commission (...
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      Mylan recalls high blood pressure meds

      The products contain trace amounts of an impurity

      Mylan Pharmaceuticals is recalling select lots of Valsartan-containing products, used in the treatment of high bloodpressure.

      The products contain trace amounts of an impurity, N-nitrosodiethylamine, which has been classified as a probable human carcinogen.

      The following batches of products, distributed in the U.S. between March 2017, and November 2018, are being recalled:

      NDCProduct DescriptionStrengthSizeLot NumberExpiry
      0378-1721-93Amlodipine and Valsartan Tablets, USP5mg / 160mg3030660513/19
      0378-1722-93Amlodipine and Valsartan Tablets, USP10mg / 160mg3030795001/20
      0378-1724-93Amlodipine and Valsartan Tablets, USP10mg / 320mg30306198611/18
      0378-1724-93Amlodipine and Valsartan Tablets, USP10mg / 320mg3030797091/20
      0378-1724-93Amlodipine and Valsartan Tablets, USP10mg / 320mg30307761811/19
      0378-1724-93Amlodipine and Valsartan Tablets, USP10mg / 320mg3030797081/20
      0378-5813-77Valsartan Tablets, USP80mg9030637821/19
      0378-5814-77Valsartan Tablets, USP160mg9030713527/19
      0378-5807-93Valsartan Tablets, USP40mg30306116911/18
      0378-5815-77Valsartan Tablets, USP320mg9030814993/20
      0378-5815-77Valsartan Tablets, USP320mg9030800092/20
      0378-5815-77Valsartan Tablets, USP320mg9030800102/20
      0378-5815-77Valsartan Tablets, USP320mg9030792051/20
      0378-6325-05Valsartan and Hydro chlorothiazide Tablets, USP320mg / 25mg50030848862/19
      0378-6325-05Valsartan and Hydro chlorothiazide Tablets, USP320mg / 25mg500309380412/19

      What to do

      Patients should contact their pharmacist or physician who can advise them about an alternative treatment prior to returning their medication.

      Patients who are on valsartan should continue taking their medication, as the risk of harm to the patient's health may be higher if the treatment is stopped immediately without any alternative treatment.

      Consumers in possession of recalled product should contact Stericycle at (888) 406-9305 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (EST) for the return of the recalled product.

      Mylan Pharmaceuticals is recalling select lots of Valsartan-containing products, used in the treatment of high bloodpressure.The products contain trace...
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      Öhlins recalls bicycle forks

      The air cartridge can abruptly spring out of the stanchion tube

      Öhlins Racing AB of Upplands Väsby, Sweden and Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., are recalling about 6,000 front air suspension bicycle forks sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The air cartridge can abruptly spring out of the stanchion tube, posing fall and injury risks to the rider.

      The firms have received four reports in the U.S. of the air cartridge abruptly springing out of the fork stanchion tube, including a report of a bruised shoulder and a broken rib.

      This recall involves Öhlins branded RXF36 Air and RXF34 Air suspension forks sold as aftermarket equipment and as original equipment on some Specialized-branded Enduro, Stumpjumper, Fuse, and Levo mountain bicycles. A bicycle fork is the part that holds the front wheel.

      The recalled forks are black with “ÖHLINS” written in gold on each of the fork lowers. They have “RXF36” or “RXF34” printed across the fork arch.

      RXF36 Coil Forks (no air valve on the right-side top cap and “TTX” and “Coil” written on the back of the left fork lowers) are not included in this recall.

      The bicycle forks, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold as aftermarket accessories through authorized Specialized retailers, independent retailers, including Jenson USA, Fanatik Bike Co. and online at www.backcountry.com for between about $1,000 and $1,250.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact an authorized Öhlins or Specialized retailer for a free repair of the front fork.

      Consumers may contact Öhlins at (877) 922-3877 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.ohlins.com and click on “Recall” at the bottom of the page for more information, or Specialized Bicycle at (800) 722-4423 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.specialized.com and click on “SAFETY NOTIFICATIONS” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Öhlins Racing AB of Upplands Väsby, Sweden and Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., are recalling about 6,000 front air suspension bicycl...
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      Health officials say some types of romaine lettuce are now safe to eat

      The romaine lettuce linked to an E. coli outbreak comes from certain regions of California

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say they have zeroed in on the likely source of the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak.

      The tainted romaine lettuce is linked to growing regions near Northern and Central California, according to health officials.

      “Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the FDA continued to investigate the outbreak,” the FDA said in a statement. “Our investigation at this point suggests that romaine lettuce associated with the outbreak comes from areas of California that grow romaine lettuce over the summer months, and that the outbreak appears to be related to ‘end of season’ romaine lettuce harvested from these areas.”

      The latest statement comes about a week after the agency issued a food safety advisory urging consumers not to eat any brand or form of romaine lettuce after 43 people in 12 states got sick. The warning applied to all types of romaine, including whole heads and hearts of romaine, bagged mixed salads, and baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salads.

      New labels coming

      In light of the results of the investigation, the CDC said on Monday that consumers are cleared to eat some types of romaine lettuce. Romaine recently harvested in Arizona, Florida, Mexico, and California’s Imperial Valley is safe for consumption since romaine from those areas was not shipping when consumers first began reporting illnesses.

      Labels will be added to romaine lettuce products to indicate that they were grown in a “safe” region, however "it may take some time before these labels are available,” the CDC said.

      "If the romaine lettuce is not labeled with a harvest growing region, do not buy, serve, sell, or eat it," the agency said in a statement.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say they have zeroed in on the likely source of the romaine...
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      Record-setting Cyber Monday suggests a strong holiday shopping season

      Amazon reports its best-ever single day

      The record-breaking holiday spending that began on Thanksgiving has spilled into this week.

      Cyber Monday blew the doors off of sales projections as consumers spent $7.9 billion in online transactions, according to Adobe Analytics. That's on top of $6.22 billion spent online on Black Friday and $3.7 billion spent on Thanksgiving Day.

      Amazon said Cyber Monday proved to be the biggest sales day in the company's history with more products purchased globally than any other day. It also said the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday broke sales records in terms of volume.

      “Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to break records on Amazon year-over-year, which tells us that customers love shopping for deals to kick off the holiday shopping season,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer.

      Amazon points out it was not just the only company that benefited from the spending. Sales by small and medium-sized businesses that sell through the Amazon platform grew more than 20 percent on Black Friday year-over-year.

      Among the weekend's best-selling items were Christmas lights -- a favorite of Prime members. The new Echo Dot, the memoir "Becoming" by Michelle Obama, the Amazon Smart Plug, and L.O.L. Surprise Series toys were also top sellers.

      Increasing role of smartphones

      Consumers continued to turn to their mobile devices to make Cyber Monday purchases and stores like Macy's and Target, which have spent heavily to upgrade their mobile apps, benefited in the form of increased sales.

      This year Walmart added store maps to its app in an effort to make in-store shopping easier for consumers. It also deployed roving checkers on Black Friday to make it easier for shoppers to check out with their purchases without standing in the checkout line.

      But mobile shopping appears to be the major story so far this holiday season. Adobe reports transactions made from mobile devices were up 55.6 percent Cyber Monday from last year to reach $2.2 billion in sales.

      Analysts say sales are off to a good start, as expected, this holiday season and point to a still-strong economy and confident consumers.

      The record-breaking holiday spending that began on Thanksgiving has spilled into this week.Cyber Monday blew the doors off of sales projections as cons...
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      Charities concerned about impact of last year’s tax law change

      The increase in the standard deduction has many nonprofits concerned about a drop in year-end donations

      Charities are worried that they may receive fewer donations this holiday season as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year.

      The new law, which went into effect in January, nearly doubled the value of the standard deduction for both individuals and married couples, thereby reducing the tax payoff for donations. Under the tax law change, many taxpayers who used to itemize deductions may find it less necessary to include charitable donations.

      The number of people who claim the deduction for charitable giving is expected to fall to 16 million this year from 37 million last year, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center.

      Donor numbers already declining

      Charities have already noticed a drop in the number of donors this year.

      “Compared with last year, the number of donors dropped 4.3% while the value of donations increased 2.6% through Sept. 30, according to a study released Tuesday by the Association of Fundraising Professionals,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

      The American Red Cross is among the nonprofits bracing for the impact of the new tax law. The organization said it’s concerned that fewer taxpayers will be taking advantage of the charitable deduction due to the increase in the standard deduction.

      “The American Red Cross is disappointed that the new tax law did not contain a universal charitable deduction available to all taxpayers, whether they itemize or not,” said Greta Gustafson, a spokesperson for the organization. “At this point, it’s too early to assess the full impact of the law, but it is certainly an issue we will raise next year with the new Congress.”

      It could take several years to see the implications of the new law in regards to the number of charitable donations, since many people make donations for reasons other than financial benefit.

      “It’s a very individual basis, and we’re not going to know the answer to this until 2020 or 2021,” Robert Sharpe, a consultant who works for nonprofits, told the Journal. “Right now, only the most sophisticated people have talked to their advisers about the impact.”

      Charities are worried that they may receive fewer donations this holiday season as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year....
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      YouTube launches lower-cost YouTube Music and Premium plans for students

      Eligible students can get a subscription for half the price

      YouTube is now offering lower-cost YouTube Music and YouTube Music Premium subscription plans for full-time students at an accredited college or university in the U.S.

      The new student plans for YouTube Music and YouTube Premium give eligible students “discounted access to a world of music, original series and movies —  all ad-free and at a wallet-friendly price,” YouTube said in a blog post.

      YouTube Music Premium plans cost $5 per month for students instead of the usual $10 per month, while YouTube Premium costs $7 per month instead of $12 per month.

      Students who sign up before January 31, 2019 can take advantage of a special promotion that offers YouTube Premium -- a platform on which consumers can watch ad-free videos and get access to YouTube Originals -- for $5.99 per month instead of $6.99. That rate that will remain in place for the length of their student membership (for up to four years, says YouTube).

      With its new plans for students, YouTube is positioning itself to compete with rival Spotify, which is currently promoting a $4.99 per month student package that includes its music service, as well as Hulu with limited commercials and the TV channel Showtime.

      For now, YouTube’s student plans are only available to full-time college students in the U.S., but YouTube says it will extend the offer to more countries in the future.

      YouTube -- which launched its streaming services last year -- revealed in May that it had 1.8 billion logged-in monthly users. It hasn’t yet released an estimate of how many users are paying subscribers to YouTube Premium or YouTube Music Premium.

      YouTube is now offering lower-cost YouTube Music and YouTube Music Premium subscription plans for full-time students at an accredited college or university...
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      Fannie and Freddie agree to purchase larger mortgages

      Realtors hope the move will prop up expensive home prices

      The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced it is raising the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase in 2019 from $453,100 to $484,350.

      It follows years of rising home prices, which has caused the previous maximum to fall below what many homes sell for in the nation's most expensive housing markets. It's the third increase since 2006.

      In some markets, the cut-off will be even higher. In Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., the maximum loan limit will be $726,525, which is 150 percent of $484,350. Meanwhile, limits will rise in all but 47 counties in the country.

      The loan limits define the maximum one-unit single-family mortgage amounts that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can finance. Real estate professionals say they are also used to define loan limits under FHA programs.

      'Keeping the American Dream within reach'

      The move won praise from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

      "The National Association of Realtors is pleased to see the Federal Housing Finance Agency raise its national conforming loan limits for 2019," said NAR President John Smaby. "Today's decision reflects rising or near record high home prices in many U.S. markets, and the move helps keep the American Dream within reach for countless families working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

      Smarby says home prices have risen so much in some markets that the higher loan limits are necessary to keep the market from grinding to a halt.

      "Without this assurance that loan limits keep up with home price growth, borrowers across the country risk being pushed out of the market altogether as mortgage rates and rising home prices continue to hold back potential homebuyers," he said.

      Limits will vary depending upon location

      Conforming loan limits will vary based on property values in certain areas. FHFA has produced this website to assist consumers in learning what the loan limits are in their particular county.

      The update is normally an annual affair. FHFA updates the national and high-cost limits based on the FHFA's national price index.

      NAR says the market for private financing has improved in recent years, but it is still limited by the aftermath of the Great Recession when mortgage lenders implemented more stringent lending standards.

      Consumers who hope to purchase homes usually face more onerous standards if they do not possess excellent credit.

      The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced it is raising the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase...
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      Chrysler recalls Jeep Grand Cherokee Street and Racing Technology and Trackhawk vehicles

      The accelerator pedal may be trapped by the floor mat

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 4,822 model year 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Street and Racing Technology (SRT) and Trackhawk vehicles.

      The driver's floor mat may have insufficient clearance between the mat and the accelerator pedal, possibly preventing the pedal from returning to the idle position.

      If the floor mat prevents the accelerator pedal from returning to idle, the risk of a crash increases.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace any of the affected floor mats, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin December 18, 2018.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is UB3.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 4,822 model year 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Street and Racing Technology (SRT) and Trackhawk vehicles.The driver's flo...
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