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    Youth opioid poisonings have nearly tripled in the past two decades

    A new study finds that the highest risk is among older teens

    Opioid overdose death rates among children and adolescents in the U.S. have risen dramatically in the past two decades, according to a study published Friday in JAMA.

    Between 1999 and 2016, nearly 9,000 youth died of opioid poisoning, either from accidental ingestion, from intentional poisoning, or from using their parents’ prescription painkillers.

    "What began more than two decades ago as a public health problem primarily among young and middle-aged white males is now an epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid abuse that is taking a toll on all segments of US society, including the pediatric population," the researchers wrote.

    "Millions of children and adolescents are now routinely exposed in their homes, schools and communities to these potent and addictive drugs."

    Most overdoses unintentional

    For the study, researchers looked at data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between the time frame of 1999 through 2016. During that 18-year period, 8,986 children and teens died from opioid poisonings.

    Of that number, about 73 percent of those who died were male and about 88 percent were adolescents ranging in age from 15 to 19. Nearly 7 percent of deaths were among children under five.

    The deaths were attributable to either prescription or illicit opioids, and about 40 percent of the deaths occured at home, the researchers found. Most of the deaths (nearly 81 percent) were unintentional.

    There was a slight dip in the number of opioid deaths in 2008 and 2009 due to doctors changing their prescribing habits, lead researcher Julie Gaither noted. However, opioid deaths are climbing again as more teens are using heroin and fentanyl.

    The CDC recently reported that there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017. Opioids were involved in 67.8 percent of those cases.

    Opioid overdose death rates among children and adolescents in the U.S. have risen dramatically in the past two decades, according to a study published Frid...
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    FDA head plans to meet with e-cigarette makers

    The agency’s head wants to discuss commitments made last month and why some manufacturers are ‘changing course’

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to meet with the heads of e-cigarette companies to discuss ways to combat the alarming rise in teen vaping.

    FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has said previously that youth use of e-cigarettes has reached an “epidemic” proportion, said Thursday that he’s contacting e-cigarette makers “to meet to discuss commitments they made last month, and why some are changing course.”

    “There’s no reason manufacturers must wait for [FDA] to more forcefully address the epidemic. Yet some already appear to back away from commitments made to FDA and the public,” Gottlieb tweeted.

    “The vaping community that supports harm reduction for adults should also focus more of their efforts on select manufacturers that are primarily responsible for the youth epidemic if, like [FDA], they seek to preserve these opportunities as a way to transition adult smokers,” he said.

    Last month, the FDA said it planned to roll out new restrictions on flavored e-cigarette products. The new restrictions included a ban on the sale of fruit and candy flavored e-cigarettes at convenience stores and gas stations, as well as stricter age verification rules for online sales of the products.

    Efforts to limit youth access

    Tobacco giant Altria, Juul Labs, and other e-cigarette makers have all said that they support efforts to reduce youth access to e-cigarettes. Juul said in November that it would no longer sell many of its flavored e-cig pods in retail stores, as these products have been shown to appeal to youth users.

    The e-cigarette company also shuttered many of its social media accounts over concerns that teens were spreading and retweeting the company’s messages on platforms like Twitter.

    Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a warning about e-cigarette use among teens, in which he urged aggressive steps to combat the “epidemic” of teen use. Adams specifically singled out Juul in the advisory when he said that it’s critical that strategies to curb tobacco use be applied to products “including USB flash drive-shaped products, such as Juul.”

    In response to the advisory, Juul’s Senior Director of Communications Victoria Davis said in a statement that the company was “committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products.”

    “We stopped the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use,” Davis said.

    “We are committed to working with the Surgeon General, FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort,” she said.

    Earlier this month, Juul Labs announced that it made a $12.8 billion deal with Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and makers of Marlboro cigarettes. The deal brought Juul’s valuation to an estimated $38 billion.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to meet with the heads of e-cigarette companies to discuss ways to combat the alarming rise in teen...
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    Trump mulling executive order to bar usage of Huawei and ZTE equipment

    The order would represent the Trump administration’s latest effort to cut Huawei and ZTE out of the U.S. market

    President Trump is reportedly weighing an executive order that would restrict U.S. companies from using networking equipment made by two of China’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturers, Huawei and ZTE.

    The order, which could be issued as early as January, would direct Commerce Department officials to bar U.S. companies from buying equipment from foreign companies that pose national security risks, Reuters reported.

    The executive order has been under consideration for over eight months, according to Reuters, citing sources familiar with the situation. It would invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

    National security concerns

    China’s ZTE and Huawei have each been accused by the United States of working with the Chinese government and turning out equipment that could be used to spy on Americans. The companies have previously denied that their products are used for spying.

    The order may not name Huawei or ZTE specifically, but Commerce Department officials would interpret it as if it did.

    Four months ago, Trump signed a bill that blocked the U.S. government and its contractors from buying equipment from ZTE and Huawei over security concerns.

    The bill, which was included in the Defense Authorization Act, prohibited the U.S. government from using components or services from the two companies that are “essential” or “critical” to the systems they’re in. At the time, Huawei called the ban "ineffective, misguided, and unconstitutional" and said it would increase costs for consumers and businesses.

    Sources told Reuters that the text for the executive order under consideration hasn’t been finalized.

    President Trump is reportedly weighing an executive order that would restrict U.S. companies from using networking equipment made by two of China’s largest...
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      Cutting back on drinking could help consumers quit smoking

      The study could prove useful to consumers as the new year approaches

      As the year comes to a close, we all start to think about resolutions and goals for the fresh set of days that are approaching.

      Whether it’s to hit the gym more often or eat more vegetables, setting intentions for the new year helps to give us motivation and purpose. However, for those looking to quit smoking in the new year, it could be life-saving on several levels.

      Following a new study conducted by researchers from Oregon State University, consumers looking to kick their smoking habit are being encouraged to also cut back on their alcohol consumption to give themselves a better chance for success.

      “It takes a lot of determination to quit smoking, often several attempts,” said lead author Sarah Dermody. “This research suggests that drinking is changing the nicotine metabolism as indexed by the nicotine metabolite ratio, and that daily smoking and heavy drinking may best be treated together.”

      Kicking the habit

      Dermody and her group focused their study on 22 smokers who were all being treated for misusing alcohol. The results varied between the men and the women involved in the study, but the main takeaway was that reducing alcohol consumption was linked to lower nicotine metabolite ratios.

      “What’s really interesting is that the nicotine metabolite ratio is clinically useful,” Dermody said. “People with a higher ratio have a harder time quitting smoking cold turkey. They are also less likely to successfully quit using nicotine replacement therapy products.”

      For the women in the study, the nicotine metabolite ratio didn’t get as low as the men’s. However, the researchers say that’s because the women weren’t drinking as much as the men when the study began, and the gap wouldn’t have been so wide had the study been larger.

      The men involved in their study were advised to cut their weekly drinks down from 29 to just seven. This allowed their nicotine metabolite ratios to drop, and it lowered their urge for more cigarettes.

      “The nicotine metabolite ratio was thought to be a stable index, but it may not be as stable as we thought,” said Dermody. “From a clinical standpoint, that’s a positive thing, because if someone wants to stop smoking, we may want to encourage them to reduce their drinking to encourage their smoking cessation plan.”

      These promising findings have prompted Dermody to build upon this study and to continue researching the intersection between drinking and smoking in an effort to get consumers healthier.

      Quitting for good

      As Dermody suggests, quitting smoking is no easy feat. And while many experts tout vaping or e-cigarettes as the answer, there are still health risks associated with those devices.

      However, for those who have either quit successfully or are on the road to quitting, doing so has countless positive health benefits, starting with a decreased risk of developing lung cancer years down the road.

      Researchers found that those who quit smoking were found to be nearly 40 percent less likely to develop lung cancer after five years. Despite this promising finding, the researchers emphasize that smokers are always at risk of developing lung cancer, which is why screenings for the disease are so important.

      As the year comes to a close, we all start to think about resolutions and goals for the fresh set of days that are approaching.Whether it’s to hit the...
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      Consumers found to feel joy longer after giving gifts instead of getting them

      Researchers suggest gift-giving as a way to sustain happiness long-term

      The holiday season is full of gift-giving, and while many consumers stress about the perfect gift for everyone on their list, that stress might just be worth it.

      According to a new study conducted by researchers from the Association for Psychological Science, humans feel the joyful effects of giving gifts for longer compared to when they receive them.

      “If you want to sustain happiness over time, past research tells us that we need to take a break from what we’re currently consuming and experience something new,” said researcher Ed O’Brien. “Our research reveals that the kind of thing may matter more than assumed: Repeated giving, even in identical ways to identical others, may continue to feel relatively fresh and relatively pleasurable the more we do it.”

      Power of giving

      The researchers conducted two experiments to show the power of giving.

      In the first experiment, participants that gave to others reaped the personal rewards. One hundred participants were all given $5 and randomly assigned to either spend it on themselves or on someone else for five days.

      While all participants began the experiment with similar self-reported happiness levels, those who spent their money on other people never saw their happiness fade over the course of the five days. However, those that only spent their money on themselves reported lower levels of happiness each day over the course of the experiment.

      The researchers found similar results after conducting an online experiment. After playing 10 rounds of an online puzzle game, winners were awarded a $0.05 prize, which they could either keep for themselves or donate to a charity of their choice.

      Those who donated the money reported feeling joyful for far longer than those that kept the money for themselves.

      As for why the experiments played out this way, the researchers couldn’t pinpoint an exact cause. However, they did note that when donating to charity, each individual donation serves as its own unique moment of giving with no points of comparison, whereas when we get paid for something and use the money for ourselves, we often compare each instance to a previous purchase or spending experience. The researchers say that this outcome-centric mindset can dull our joy over the long-term.

      “We considered many possibilities, and measured over a dozen of them,” O’Brien said. “None of them could explain our results; there were very few incidental differences between ‘get’ and ‘give’ conditions, and the key difference in happiness remained unchanged when controlling for these other variables in the analyses.”

      The holiday season is full of gift-giving, and while many consumers stress about the perfect gift for everyone on their list, that stress might just be wor...
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      Gas prices still dropping ahead of 2019

      Falling prices at the pump are putting more money in consumers’ pockets

      Consumers may find it easier to pay their holiday shopping bills in January because they’ll be spending less for gasoline.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.29 a gallon, down seven cents a gallon from last Friday. The price marks a 2018 low. The average price of premium gas is six cents lower than a week ago, at $2.89 a gallon. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.01 a gallon, down four cents from last week.

      Nine of the 10 lowest-priced states have an average gas price below $2 a gallon. AAA reports that in 83 of the last 90 days, the national average price of fuel has gone down. However, that trend might not last.

      “All eyes are on OPEC to kick off the year,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “Many are waiting to see if they stick to their promise to cut crude production by 1.2-million b/d and if the proposed cuts will be enough to restore balance to the market.”

      If OPEC cuts production, it could increase the price of oil, which has dropped to its lowest point in more than three years. Lower oil prices reduce costs for refiners, and the savings eventually get passed along to consumers.

      Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, reports that 32 percent of the states have gas prices below $2 a gallon. He says 1 percent are selling gas below $1.75 a gallon.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.40)
      • California ($3.38)
      • Washington ($3.13)
      • Alaska ($3.06)
      • Nevada ($2.95)
      • Oregon ($2.90)
      • Arizona ($2.68)
      • Utah ($2.63)
      • Connecticut ($2.64)
      • New York ($2.64)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Missouri ($1.87)
      • Oklahoma ($1.95)
      • South Carolina ($1.96)
      • Alabama ($1.97)
      • Texas ($1.97)
      • Mississippi ($1.97)
      • Louisiana ($1.98)
      • Kansas ($1.98)
      • Iowa ($2.00)
      Consumers may find it easier to pay their holiday shopping bills in January because they’ll be spending less for gasoline.The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey sho...
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      Inspired Organics recalls Organic Almond Butter

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Inspired Organics is recalling Organic Almond Butter that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following product by Inspired Organics, which Lipari Foods began shipping on October 31, 2018, is being recalled:

      ProductLipari Item #SizeBest By DateLot #UPC
      Organic Almond Butter96706716oz02/20239863669742540

      The product was sold in retail stores throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may call customer service at (800) 729-3354, from 8:15 am – 4:30 pm (EST) Monday through Friday.

      Inspired Organics is recalling Organic Almond Butter that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported to date.T...
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      Model year 2019 Mercedes GLC300s recalled

      The power steering assist could be deactivated

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling seven model year 2019 GLC300s.

      An internal sensor within the electric power steering unit may fail, deactivating the power steering assist, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering unit, free of charge.

      An interim letter will be mailed beginning January 25, 2019, to notify owners of the issue. A second letter will be mailed once remedy parts are available.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling seven model year 2019 GLC300s.An internal sensor within the electric power steering unit may fail, deactivating...
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      Apio recalls five Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups

      One sample of the products tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes

      Apio, Inc. of Guadalupe, Calif., is recalling five SKUs of Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups (bowls).

      The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found one random sample of an Eat Smart product tested positive for Listeria Monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been linked by health officials to this recall.

      Products with the following UPC and lot codes are being recalled:

      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Asian Sesame – UPC 7 09351 30241 1, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Avocado Ranch – UPC 7 09351 30177 3, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Raspberry Acai – UPC 7 09351 30178 0, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Sweet Kale – UPC 7 09351 30240 4, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Tropical Lime – UPC 7 09351 30179 7, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Avocado Ranch/Ranch ET Avocats – UPC 7 09351 30195 7, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Raspberry Acai/Framboises ET Acai – UPC 7 09351 30196 4, Lot 112 331
      • Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups – Sweet Kale/Chou Frisé Doux – UPC 7 09351 30243 5, Lot 112 331

      The recalled products were shipped to retail and distributor customers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

      In Canada, the products were shipped to retail and distributor customers in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but discard them or returned them to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Apio toll-free at (800) 626-2746, or online at www.eatsmart.net.

      Apio, Inc. of Guadalupe, Calif., is recalling five SKUs of Eat Smart Single-Serve Salad Shake Ups (bowls).The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) fo...
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      States seek to block new rules that could limit access to birth control

      Fourteen attorneys general have filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the rules from taking effect

      Attorneys general from 14 states have gone to court to try to block new Trump administration rules that they say would limit women’s access to birth control products.

      The final rules are scheduled to go into effect January 14 and would exempt employers who offer health benefits to their employees from providing mandatory coverage for contraception. The states say that provision would overturn the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that employers provide coverage of all 18 FDA-approved birth control methods and counseling for employees and their covered dependents with no out-of-pocket costs.

      Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says 62 million women in the U.S. have benefited from this provision of the ACA, saving an estimated $1.4 billion a year.

      “A woman’s control of her own body and access to critical healthcare services should not be denied by the federal government or her employer,” Madigan said. “I am working with my colleagues around the country to block this effort by the federal government and protect women’s basic rights.”

      Successfully blocked interim rule

      The 14 state officials filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in federal court in Northern California, asking the judge to stop the rule from going into effect as scheduled. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the filing is a follow-up to his state’s successful effort to block the administration’s interim rule on contraceptives.

      “We successfully fought the Trump Administration’s interim final rules because employers have no business interfering in women’s healthcare decisions,” Becerra said. “But the Trump administration is continuing to trample on women’s rights and access to care with this illegal final rule.”

      The state officials point out the provision of the law requiring employer-sponsored health plans to provide contraceptive coverage was adopted with the support of the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

      The administration proposed exemptions to the contraceptive requirement after some employers objected to the requirement on religious grounds.

      Besides California and Illinois, the states seeking the injunction include Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

      Attorneys general from 14 states have gone to court to try to block new Trump administration rules that they say would limit women’s access to birth contro...
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      Consumer holiday spending was the strongest since 2012

      A Mastercard report shows spending jumped 5.1 percent

      Worries about economic weakness have contributed to Wall Street's worst December since the Great Depression, but a new report from Mastercard shows consumers are doing their part to keep the economy going.

      The credit card company reports holiday sales rose 5.1 percent to $850 billion, the biggest increase since 2012. E-commerce sales rose 19.1 percent over last year. In the wake of the report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average scored its largest one-day point gain in history, rising nearly 1,100 points on Wednesday.

      “From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Incorporated. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”

      Analysts also credit a strong economy and low unemployment for the big increase in holiday spending. Amazon added to the holiday cheer as it reported selling a record number of items throughout the holidays this year.

      The company said its best-sellers include Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa VoiceRemote, and Echo.

      “This season was our best yet, and we look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019," said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer. "We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than one billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime.”

      Consumers added to their wardrobe

      Mastercard reports consumers spent heavily on apparel, with that category growing 7.9 percent over last year. In fact, Mastercard said it was the best year for clothing sales since 2010.

      Home improvement spending was up a robust 9 percent while at the opposite end of the scale department store sales dropped 1.3 percent compared to 2017. Electronics and appliances were also lower, falling 0.7 percent. Consumer furniture and home furnishings grew by 2.3 percent.

      Mastercard analysts say spending might actually have been higher if not for some bad weather in many parts of the country during the prime holiday shopping period. They point to cold weather on Black Friday morning on the East Coast and wet weather conditions the weekend of December 15-16, on both the East and West coasts.

      Weather conditions were also poor on Friday, December 21, in the East, with a number of storms that may have impacted the final frenzy of shopping.

      Worries about economic weakness have contributed to Wall Street's worst December since the Great Depression, but a new report from Mastercard shows consume...
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      Net neutrality battle to move to the courts in 2019

      The process could eventually move to the Supreme Court

      Not enough votes were gathered in the House of Representatives by the end of the year to use the “legal loophole” that would make it possible to undo the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules, so the legal battle is headed to the court of appeals.

      The FCC, led by Republican chairman Ajit Pai, voted in December 2017 to roll back the Obama-era rules that would require all internet traffic to be treated the same. The rules were officially repealed in June of this year.

      Since then, lawmakers in several states, including California, have voted to reinstate net neutrality protections at a state level. However, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of California in September charging that the state’s new net neutrality rules law place “unlawful burdens” on the federal government's efforts to deregulate the internet.

      Moving to appeals court

      Now, CNET reports that Democrats were unable to garner enough votes to use the Congressional Review Act as a way to undo the FCC's decision to wipe net neutrality rules from the books.

      “Attorneys general from 22 states, along with several activist groups and tech companies like Mozilla, have filed suit, accusing the FCC of arbitrarily rolling back the rules and overstepping its authority to ban states from passing their own protections,” CNET reports.

      “The heated legal battle could eventually end up at the Supreme Court, where all eyes will be on the newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who questioned the FCC's authority to adopt the original net neutrality protections,” according to the tech website.

      Matt Schettenhelm, a legal analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said he expects the next phase of the legal battle over net neutrality to “be mostly about waiting for litigation." Oral arguments are scheduled to begin on February 1 at the Federal Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

      Not enough votes were gathered in the House of Representatives by the end of the year to use the “legal loophole” that would make it possible to undo the F...
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      Amazon set a record for holiday sales in 2018

      The company said more items were ordered worldwide than ever before

      In a post on its website published the day after Christmas, Amazon said broke holiday sales records once again.

      This year, customers across the globe ordered more items on its site than ever before. The e-commerce giant had the same news to report about its holiday sales last year.

      In this year’s announcement, Amazon said its Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers were among its top sellers this holiday season. Other best-sellers included the Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

      The company said consumers used Alexa to listen to “hundreds of millions more hours of music this holiday season compared to last holiday season.” Amazon’s digital assistant was also instructed to turn on holiday lights “tens of millions of times.”

      Customers also used Alexa to help them create cocktails. Amazon said Alexa helped make “hundreds of thousands of cocktails this holiday season — with eggnog and Moscow Mule being the most requested drinks.”

      In the toy category, some of Amazon’s best-sellers included LOL Surprise! dolls in the Glam Glitter series and Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster. Carhartt clothing and accessories were top-sellers in the fashion category, and Bose QuietComfort Wireless Headphones were popular purchases in the electronics category.

      Record-breaking sales

      Amazon didn’t share any specific numbers on its holiday sales, but dubbed this season its “best yet.” The company said it added “tens of millions” of people who signed up for Prime memberships, both for paid memberships and free trials.

      More than a billion items shipped for free during the holiday period, Amazon said. The company also noted that the online stores of smaller and medium-sized businesses made up more than 50 percent of Amazon’s sales leading up to Christmas.

      “We look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019. We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than one billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer.

      The news of Amazon’s record-breaking holiday sales comes the same week Mastercard put out a report showing an increase in e-commerce sales this year.

      Online sales rose 19.1 percent over last year, according to the credit company. Holiday sales in general rose 5.1 percent this year to $850 billion -- the biggest increase since 2012.

      In a post on its website published the day after Christmas, Amazon said broke holiday sales records once again. This year, customers across the globe o...
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      Millions of workers will see higher wages starting January 1

      A new analysis suggests higher wages may come to 20 states as a result of changing policies

      Over five million Americans will start receiving higher pay on the first day of the New Year, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

      The EPI, which has tracked minimum wage data for the past eight years, analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey and projected that minimum wage increases will come as a result of changing policies across the U.S.

      Policy changes include a five-cent inflation adjustment in Alaska and a $2.00 per hour increase in New York City, the analysis said.

      Early effects of ballot measures passed in Missouri and Arkansas are expected to raise the minimum wage from $7.85 an hour to $12 an hour and $8.50 an hour to $11 an hour, respectively, by 2021. California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, and Maine will also see minimum wage increases as a result of past ballot measures approved by voters in those states.

      Raising the minimum wage

      The EPI said the forthcoming pay bumps will collectively increase wages by about $5.4 billion in 2019. The average worker will earn an extra $90 to $1,300 each year, depending on the size of the wage increase in their state.

      "It's been a long time since we've raised the federal minimum wage, and if Congress isn't going to do it, state lawmakers are feeling compelled to do it, and even local lawmakers," said David Cooper, senior economic analyst at EPI, a left-leaning think tank. “Raising the minimum wage is one of the most straightforward ways to lift pay for the lowest-paid workers in the economy.”

      Advocates say raising the minimum wage can have a range of positive effects, including decreasing the rates of re-offending for ex-prisoners, improving worker mental health, and reducing employee turnover rate.

      The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 since July 2009, and there are 21 states that still use that federal minimum wage.

      “With a new Congress taking office in January, perhaps there is hope that the millions of workers earning low wages in those states will finally get a boost to their paychecks,” Cooper said.

      Over five million Americans will start receiving higher pay on the first day of the New Year, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).The EPI,...
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      Home prices rose again in October

      Sales are slowing down, but buyers find that prices aren’t

      The housing market has cooled in recent months with home sales slowing from their redhot pace, but the prices consumers are paying for homes is still going up.

      The monthly S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index shows home prices rose an average of 5.5 percent in October even as pending home sales, as measured by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), fell 2.6 percent.

      Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said that ten straight months of decline certainly isn’t good news for the housing market.

      “The recent rise in mortgage rates have reduced the pool of eligible homebuyers,” he said.

      But that hasn’t stopped home prices from rising. The Index gauges housing in all nine U.S. Census divisions and found October’s rise in the median home price matched September’s results.

      Las Vegas leads the way

      Prices rose the most in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Phoenix. The median price in Las Vegas was up 12.8 percent, followed by San Francisco at 7.7 percent and Phoenix close behind with a 7.6 percent year-over-year increase.

      Even measured on a month-to-month basis, the price of putting a roof over your head is climbing, albeit at a much slower rate. October home prices were 0.1 percent higher than they were in September.

      Normally, when sales slow down so do prices, but this market is different. Since the recovery from the 2008 housing crash, the number of available homes has steadily declined. There is still enough demand for homes to support the value of those that are available, and in some cases push them higher.

      Mortgage rates are now a factor

      Rising mortgage rates also create headwinds for potential buyers, making monthly mortgage payments that much more expensive. David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says that means homes sales are likely to remain on their downward trend.

      "The combination of higher mortgage rates and higher home prices rising faster than incomes and wages means fewer people can afford to buy a house,” Blitzer said. “Fixed rate 30-year mortgages are currently 4.75 percent, up from 4 percent one year earlier.”

      At the same time, home prices are up 54 percent since bottoming in 2012. Consumers who hope to sell their homes in 2019 may find they have to be more flexible on price. Potential buyers, meanwhile, may have a little more bargaining power.

      The housing market has cooled in recent months with home sales slowing from their redhot pace, but the prices consumers are paying for homes is still going...
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      Model year 2018 Hyundai Elantra GTs recalled

      The sunroof may not detect an obstacle while closing

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 86 model year 2018 Hyundai Elantra GTs.

      The panoramic sunroof motor may be incorrectly programmed, preventing the sunroof from detecting an obstacle while closing.

      If the sunroof does not detect an obstacle while closing and then retract, there could be an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the panoramic sunroof, replacing it as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin February 15, 2019.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 179.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 86 model year 2018 Hyundai Elantra GTs.The panoramic sunroof motor may be incorrectly programmed, preventing the sun...
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