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    Partial government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion

    About $3 billion is permanently lost, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office

    The partial government shutdown, which President Trump called to a temporary end on Friday, cost the U.S. economy $11 billion, according to an analysis put out Monday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

    That figure encompasses lost output from 800,000 federal workers who were either furloughed or forced to work without pay, as well as delayed government spending on goods and services and reduced demand.

    While most of the financial hit will be recouped after government workers return to their jobs, the CBO said the 35-day shutdown will noticeably hamper economic growth in the first quarter. The CBO estimated that roughly $3 billion in economic activity was permanently lost.

    "Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business," the report said. "Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income."

    The agency said it didn’t estimate indirect losses that stemmed from the five-week shutdown, such as businesses that couldn’t get federal permits or loans.

    “Such factors were probably beginning to lead firms to postpone investment and hiring decisions,” CBO said, adding that the effects of those factors would have become more significant if the shutdown had dragged on longer.

    Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, chairman of the budget committee, and Tom O'Halleran of Arizona, co-chairman of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, requested that the report be written up last week, according to CNBC.

    In a statement, Yarmuth said he’s “hopeful that we have finally reached a turning point with these mindless shutdowns, but this CBO estimate serves as a stark warning to President Trump on the consequences of using American workers as a bargaining chip.”

    The partial government shutdown, which President Trump called to a temporary end on Friday, cost the U.S. economy $11 billion, according to an analysis put...
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    California sues Huntington Beach over lack of affordable housing

    The city is being accused of ‘willfully refusing to comply with state housing law’

    The state of California is suing one of its own cities over its lack of low-income housing.

    On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom filed a lawsuit in an effort to put an end to Huntington Beach’s refusal to meet low-income housing goals, which has reportedly spanned a number of years.

    The Orange County city of Huntington Beach is “standing in the way of affordable housing production and refusing to meet regional housing needs,” according to an announcement from Newsom’s office.

    Newsom’s administration sued the wealthy coastal city by using a new law that grants the state the ability to revoke a city’s or county’s housing plan and refer noncompliance cases to the attorney general for legal action.

    The 2018 law is intended to mitigate the golden state’s housing shortage and homelessness problem. The lawsuit, which marks the first use of the new law, seeks to force Huntington Beach to modify its housing plan to include housing that is affordable to a wider range of residents.

    “California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response,” Newsom said in a statement on Friday.

    Creating affordable homes

    Newsom, a Democrat who only recently took office, vowed to hold cities responsible if they deliberately block affordable housing.

    “Cities and counties are important partners in addressing this housing crisis, and many cities are making herculean efforts to meet this crisis head-on,” he said. “But some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law. Those cities will be held to account.”

    The newly elected governor added that the state “doesn’t take this action lightly.”

    “The huge housing costs and sky-high rents are eroding quality of life for families across this state. California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response,” Newsom said.

    In response to the litigation, Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates said the city “will review all of its options in order to respond to the lawsuit.”

    As of November, the median home price average in Huntington Beach was more than $850,000, according to CoreLogic. In Southern California as a whole, the median home price is around $523,000.

    The state of California is suing one of its own cities over its lack of low-income housing. On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom filed a lawsuit in an effo...
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    Experts rank the top 20 U.S. retirement destinations

    Sioux Falls, S.D. earns the top spot due to affordability and top-notch health care

    What makes a great retirement location can be a subjective thing, since different retirees value different things. But some items have a way of showing up on just about everyone’s list.

    Affordable housing is usually very important, as is access to quality health care. Amenities can sweeten the deal, as can good public transportation. Using those, and other criteria, 55places, an online resource with information about age-restricted communities, has compiled a list of the top 20 locations in 2019 for a successful retirement.

    In something of a surprise, Sioux Falls, S.D., tops the list. Yes, the winters tend to be a little chilly, but the South Dakota city offers a lot for retirees. It has plenty of nice neighborhoods with affordable homes, a low crime rate, and exceptional health care. A recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute ranked Sioux Falls’ health care as the best in the nation.

    As you might expect, Florida cities are well represented on the list, holding down the next five spots after Sioux Falls with a total of eight of the 20 cities.

    Here is 55place’s list of the top 20 retirement destinations:

    1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

    2. Ocala, Florida

    3. Lakeland, Florida

    4. Jacksonville, Florida

    5. Daytona Beach, Florida

    6. Gainesville, Florida

    7. New Castle County, Delaware

    8. South Bend, Indiana

    9. Tampa, Florida

    10. Waco, Texas

    11. Birmingham, Alabama

    12. Memphis, Tennessee

    13. San Antonio, Texas

    14. Ft. Myers-Cape Coral, Florida

    15. Phoenix, Arizona

    16. Melbourne, Florida

    17. Grand Rapids, Michigan

    18. Orlando, Florida

    19. Wichita Falls, Texas

    20. Indianapolis, Indiana

    Noticeably absent from the list are any California cities. Despite the state’s excellent weather and quality healthcare, home prices are among the highest in the nation, as are taxes.

    Retiring outside the U.S.

    Increasingly, Americans are not confining their retirement choices to U.S. cities. Spending your golden years in a foreign country is increasingly popular, and a 2018 report by Forbes notes that Latin America has become a favorite, mainly because retirement savings go farther.

    Costa Rica, in Central America, is number one on Forbes’ list because it has been praised as a “safe, low-stress place” with a growing economy and enticing beaches. The real estate is pretty enticing as well, with a furnished two-bedroom home renting for as little as $500 a month.

    Mexico, Panama, Columbia, and Ecuador are also highly rated but much the same reason.

    What makes a great retirement location can be a subjective thing, since different retirees value different things. But some items have a way of showing up...
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      Jac. Vandenberg recalls fresh peaches, nectarines and plums

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Jac. Vandenberg, Inc., of Yonkers, N.Y., is recalling 1,727 cartons of fresh peaches, 1,207 cartons of fresh nectarines and 365 cartons of fresh plums.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The following products, sold through small retail establishments and select retail stores, are being recalled:

      Retail StoresStatesProduct
      ALDIAlabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, VirginiaNectarines, Peaches, Plums
      CostcoCaliforniaNectarines
      Fairway MarketNew YorkNectarines, Peaches
      HannafordMainePeaches
      Market BasketMassachusettsNectarines, Peaches
      WalmartKentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West VirginiaNectarines (MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WV), Peaches (KY, NJ, NY, OH, PA, WV)

      The peaches and nectarines are sold as a bulk retail produce item with PLU sticker (PLU# 4044, 3035, 4378) showing Chile as the country of origin. The peaches, nectarines and plums sold at ALDI are packaged in a 2-lb., bag with the brand Rio Duero, EAN# 7804650090281, 7804650090298, 7804650090304. The nectarines sold at Costco are packaged in a 4-lb., plastic clamshell with the brand Rio Duero, EAN# 7804650090212.

      What to do

      Consumers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (914) 964-5900 or by email ast compliance@jacvandenberg.com.

      Jac. Vandenberg, Inc., of Yonkers, N.Y., is recalling 1,727 cartons of fresh peaches, 1,207 cartons of fresh nectarines and 365 cartons of fresh plums....
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      Whole Foods recalls foods containing baby spinach

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Whole Foods Market is recalling various prepared foods items in eight states containing baby spinach following an earlier recall by Satur Farms.

      The products, which were sold through January 23, 2019, may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported at this time.

      The following products, labeled with a Whole Foods Market scale label, are being recalled:

      Product

      Product Code 

      begins with)

      Sell by

      Affected

      States

      Chicken

      Florentine

      Panini

      02652491.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Golden Beet

      & Tangerine Salad

      02766511.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Locavore Cheese

      Steak Wrap

      02888331.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Mediterranean

      Stuffed Salmon

      02766401.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Quinoa with Dark

      Leafy Greens

      02766521.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Roasted

      Vegetables

      Panini

      02866681.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Salad Spring

      Berry Power

      02617021.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Smoked Turkey with

      Apple & Cheddar

      Sandwich

      02894361.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Spinach and Vegetable

      Quinoa Salad

      02874101.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Spinach Ravioli Salad with

      Lemon, Tomato

      and Parmesan CC

      02622161.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Strawberry Balsamic

      Quinoa CC

      02262151.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Tofu Shawarma

      Wrap

      02259381/26/2019

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Turkey Avocado Sandwich

      (Turkado Sandwich)

      02685061.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Turkey with Spinach

      & Feta Sandwich

      02781311.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Vegan Spinach Almond

      Ricotta Pizza

      02899271.26.19

      CT, MA

      ME, NH, RI

      Chicken Cordon

      Blue Panini

      02364891.26.19

      CT

      NJ, NY

      New England Cranberry

      Turkey Sandwich

      02365431.26.19

      CT

      NJ, NY

      Paleo Mediterranean

      Tuna Salad

      02787861.26.19

      CT

      NJ, NY

      Spinach, Sauteed

      with Garlic CC

      02622081.26.19

      CT

      NJ, NY

      Avocado Dragon

      Ball Bowl

      02399991.26.19FL

      Bistro Pasta

      Salad

      02702651.26.19FL

      Breakfast Sandwich

      Platter

      02890621.26.19FL

      Chicken Enchiladas

      Dinner

      02680151.26.19FL

      Cilantro & Lime

      Chicken Burrito

      02708781.26.19FL

      Coconut Kiwi

      Butter Bowl

      02514131.26.19FL

      Egg White &

      Spinach Breakfast

      02769831.26.19FL

      Egg White

      Burrito

      02768291.26.19FL

      Eggplant

      Rolantini

      02708711.26.19FL

      Focaccia Vegetable

      Pesto Sandwich

      02606461.26.19FL

      Goat Cheese Salad With

      Mandarin Orange &

      Candied Cashews

      02726811.26.19FL

      I Yam What

      I Yam Bowl

      02519861.26.19FL

      Large Brasserie

      Cheese Goat Salad

      02726801.26.19FL

      Large Goat

      Cheese Green Salad

      02891431.26.19FL

      Large Spinach

      & Mushroom Salad

      02720611.26.19FL

      Maple Glazed

      Acorn Squash

      02840711.26.19FL

      Mesclun Mix With

      Candied Pecans

      & Sun Dried Cranberries

      02720931.26.19FL

      Mesclun Mix With

      Candied Pecans

      & SunDried Cranberries

      02727881.26.19FL

      Mustard

      Crusted

      Salmon

      02713281.28.19FL

      My Big Fat

      Greek Pizza

      02706631.26.19FL

      Orange Lentil V

      egetable Egg Bowl

      02516251.27.19FL

      Pizza Il

      Mediterraneo 

      02292501.24.19FL

      Salad Golden

      Beets Tangerine 

      02710781.26.19FL

      Sandwich Baguette

      Chicken Saltimbocca

      02379291.26.19FL

      Sandwich Baguette

      Turkey Brie 

      02379331.26.19FL

      Sandwich Ham

      Olive Sliced 

      02363981.27.19FL

      Serbian Ajvar

      Vegetable Club

      02200411.26.19FL

      Small Spinach

      & Mushroom Salad

      02727931.27.19FL

      Smoked

      Mozzarella

      Pasta

      02250811.28.19FL

      Spinach Artichoke

      Bleus Pizza

      02713881.26.19FL

      Spinach

      Gorgonzola Salad

      02679821.26.19FL

      Spinach Strawberry

      Goat Cheese Salad

      02601361.28.19FL

      Spinach Walnut

      Bleus Pizza

      02713311.26.19FL

      Vegetable Pesto

      Focaccia

      02449521.26.19FL

      Vegetable Pesto

      Focaccia Sandwich

      02449531.27.19FL

      Watermelon Garbanzo

      Vegetable Bowl

      02519681.27.19FL

      The recalled products were sold at stores in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should discard them and bring a valid receipt into stores for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may call (844) 936-8255 between from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday, or 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

      Whole Foods Market is recalling various prepared foods items in eight states containing baby spinach following an earlier recall by Satur Farms.The pro...
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      Aviation unions express alarm at effect of the government shutdown

      Joint statement warns air safety ‘deteriorating by the day’

      Without taking sides in the standoff, the unions representing various parts of the commercial aviation industry have called on the White House and Congressional Democrats to end the government shutdown, warning that safety in the air is “deteriorating by the day.”

      In a joint statement to leaders in Washington and the traveling public, the unions warned that the human and economic consequences of the government shutdown are increasing and causing greater harm.

      The statement was released by the unions representing air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants. It noted that the impact of the shutdown is being felt most severely within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

      “Most of the FAA staff who certify the safety of aircraft have been furloughed and safety reporting and oversight systems have been suspended,” the union leaders wrote. “This is critical to resolving identified issues.”

      Previous statements from the groups also pointed out that air traffic controller training has been suspended, slowing the integration of new employees into the system. Meanwhile, the current staff of air traffic controllers are performing vital and highly-sensitive safety functions without pay.

      Training suspended

      Training has also been suspended for new pilots, and the FAA is also unable to issue certifications required for current pilots to upgrade their status.

      The union leaders are also concerned about the impact on security, noting that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents aren’t being paid, prompting some to look for other jobs.

      “The situation is changing at a rapid pace. Major airports are already seeing security checkpoint closures, with many more potentially to follow. Safety inspectors and federal cybersecurity staff are not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels, and those not on furlough are working without pay.

      In a sobering statement, the union leaders say that can’t even calculate the level of risk currently at play, “nor predict the point at which the entire system will break.”

      Economic impact

      In addition to safety concerns, the government is also having an economic impact on the nation’s airlines that depend on government employee and contractor travel, both of which have been suspended during the shutdown.

      Earlier this month, Delta Airlines predicted that the loss of government business would reduce revenue by at least $25 million during January. This week Southwest Airlines reported that the ongoing shutdown has cost an estimated $10 million to $15 million in lost revenue during  January.

      Southwest executives also confirmed that plans to expand service to Hawaii are on hold due to a lack of available FAA personnel. The Dallas-based airline had planned to start Hawaii service early this year.

      Without taking sides in the standoff, the unions representing various parts of the commercial aviation industry have called on the White House and Congress...
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      Dueling measures to end partial government shutdown both fail in Senate

      Neither plan garnered the votes needed to pass

      On Thursday, the Senate blocked competing bills to fund the government and end the partial shutdown, leaving federal workers in limbo.

      The partial government shutdown, now in its 35th day, has left 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck since the end of December. Democrats and Republicans are currently at a stalemate over President Trump’s proposed border wall, for which he’s demanding $5.7 billion to build.

      In the run up to the Senate’s vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated numerous times that Democrats will not support any funding for the border wall. Meanwhile, Trump has threatened to block any deal that doesn’t involve wall funding.

      Proposals fall short

      Some senators who voted on the matter Thursday expressed support for a deal to temporarily reopen the government while another deal on border security is formulated. However, neither the Republican-backed plan nor a measure supported by Democrats got the 60 votes needed to pass.

      The Democratic plan to reopen the government without funding for the proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico received slightly more votes, at 52-44. The Republican-backed measure to fund Trump’s border wall and offer limited legal protections for some immigrants also fell short in a 50-47 vote.

      In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a three-week continuing resolution “would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall.”

      The ongoing shutdown has had a major impact on a number of industries. The airline industry has reported a surge in TSA worker callouts, with many workers citing “financial limitations” for their absences. The partial shutdown has also caused food safety inspections to be put on hold and is likely to delay tax refunds.

      On Thursday, the Senate blocked competing bills to fund the government and end the partial shutdown, leaving federal workers in limbo.The partial gover...
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      Another year, another go for MoviePass

      The company is attempting to go back to its original model to win back subscribers

      Here we go again…

      MoviePass is attempting to revitalize itself for the umpteenth time. Since ConsumerAffairs started writing about the subscription service’s woes, we’ve seen a myriad of changes ranging from subscription plans to a fraud investigation to taking out a $5 million emergency loan to keep the wolf away from its door.

      On Thursday, the company decided to return to the core of its original model.

      Here’s the deal

      Through all its ups and downs, the company firmly believes that it’s found a way to, at minimum, break even. And breaking even is a lot better that throwing in the towel, so -- for now -- here’s MoviePass’ new 3-tiered subscription plans:

      • Select: Choose from a selection of available 2D movies in the app. The available movies are published weekly. See up to three movies per month. Prices vary by zip code -- ConsumerAffairs saw a range from $9.95 to $14.95 per month.

      • All-Access: Choose from ALL 2D movies in MoviePass’ theater network. See up to three movies a month. Prices vary by zip code -- ConsumerAffairs saw a range from $14.95 to $19.95 per month.

      • Red Carpet: Choose from ALL movies in MoviePass’ theater network -- with IMAX and REAL D 3D movies included. See up to three movies per month. Prices vary by zip code -- ConsumerAffairs saw a range of $19.95 to $24.95 per month.

      MoviePass claims that it’s beginning to win back subscribers and is feeling a much better vibe than it had in the last year.

      “I feel like we’re turning a corner,” Khalid Itum, executive VP of MoviePass, told Variety. Itum also let the cat out of the bag that, coming next week, there’s “some sort of unlimited program” that will give subscribers the clearance to see all the movies they want.

      Here we go again…MoviePass is attempting to revitalize itself for the umpteenth time. Since ConsumerAffairs started writing about the subscription serv...
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      Millions of loan, mortgage documents exposed online

      A security researcher discovered two troves of leaking data

      Earlier this month, independent security researcher Bob Diachenko discovered that more than 24 million loan and mortgage documents had been exposed in a data breach involving Ascension, a Texas-based data and analytics company.

      The documents came from major financial institutions such as Citigroup, HSBC, Wells Fargo, and Capital One, as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

      “These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as social security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history, and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report,” Diachenko said.

      He described the exposed information as “a gold mine for cyber criminals who would have everything they need to steal identities, file false tax returns, get loans or credit cards.”

      Second leak

      Just days after the initial discovery, Diachenko revealed that he found another cluster of data in a separate exposed Amazon S3 storage server, according to a TechCrunch report. Neither trove of data was protected with a password.

      The security researcher told reporters that he was “very surprised” to find the server. Diachenko said the discovery was particularly alarming since Amazon storage servers are set to private by default, meaning someone had to make its permissions public.

      A spokesperson for Ascension’s parent company, Rocktop Partners, said its systems were not impacted and confirmed that the database was shut down on January 15. The company said one of its vendors, New York-based OpticsML, had mishandled the data and was to blame for the data leak.

      “We are working with the appropriate authorities and a forensic team to analyze the full extent of the situation regarding the exposed Elasticsearch server,” said OpticsML chief technology officer John Brozena. “As part of this investigation we learned that 21 documents used for testing were made identifiable by the previously discussed Elasticsearch leak. These documents were taken offline promptly.”

      OpticsML is “working to notify all affected parties,” Brozenza said.

      Diachenko noted that it’s still not known how long the bucket was open and why it was set to public in the first place.

      Earlier this month, independent security researcher Bob Diachenko discovered that more than 24 million loan and mortgage documents had been exposed in a da...
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      One in five fifth-graders found to experience a violent injury

      Researchers found that 20 percent of young children have been hurt at the hands of guns or knives

      It certainly isn’t uncommon for children to have disagreements, especially as they enter into middle and high school. However, a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found that these altercations tend to become violent more than many people might realize.

      According to the researchers, the likelihood of a violent incident occurring increases as children get older. One out of every five fifth-graders were found to experience a violent injury; however, that number jumped to one out of every three children when those same children got a little older.

      “It’s a first-of-its-kind look at how the injuries are sustained among school-age children and whether these are different for repeat bullying victims and repeat perpetrators,” said researcher Katelyn Jetelina, PhD. “The interviews were conducted privately to improve reliability, but underreporting is still a potential issue, so the problem could be even worse.”

      Understanding the violence

      The researchers collected data from over 4,000 students across three major cities in the United States: Birmingham, Alabama; Houston, Texas; and Los Angeles County, California. All of the students were enrolled in public school and were followed from fifth grade through tenth grade.

      To see the extent of violence among young children, the researchers utilized data from Healthy Passages -- a study of children and their caregivers -- from 2004 through 2011.

      The researchers found that incidents of violence increased as children got older, and bullies themselves were found to get hurt more than other children, as the study found bullies to be 41 percent more likely to be on the receiving end of a violent injury.

      Fifth grade injuries broke down as follows: 3.6 percent were fighting injuries, 8.4 percent were knife injuries, and 16.7 percent were firearm injuries. By the time the children got to high school, firearm injuries increased to over 25 percent of all violent injuries.

      “The biggest surprise was the sheer scale of intentional violent injuries children are suffering, even at elementary school age,” said researcher Katelyn Jetelina, PhD. “It was also unexpected to discover how it’s not bullying victims, but bullies themselves who are most likely to get seriously hurt. This suggests the act of bullying may not necessarily be violent enough for victims to sustain serious injuries, and that bullies may be involved in other harmful behaviors.”

      The numbers were also affected by demographics, as children from low-income families were found to experience violence more frequently. Black children were 30 percent more likely to experience violence than any other racial/ethnic group. Additionally, boys were over 20 percent more likely than girls to sustain a violent injury.

      “Injury is a leading cause of death for schoolchildren and this research reflects the epidemic,” Jetelina said. “It also underlies the importance of early intervention and prevention strategies that target specific groups.”

      Jetelina and her team are hopeful that more research will be done to explore the links between young children and violence, and that the results can help keep children safe.

      Not coming from the movies

      Many people like to point fingers at violent movies or TV shows as a reason for violent incidents happening in society, but based on a recent study, the opposite is actually true.

      Researchers found that watching violent scenes in PG-13 movies does not lead to people taking to the streets and engaging in acts of violence in society. In fact, in years where violence increased on the big screen, violent acts were found to decrease in real life.

      “Evidence suggests that violent and antisocial behavior result from a complicated interaction of numerous factors, but media violence does not appear to be one of those factors,” said researcher Patrick Markey. “This may be because individuals perceive media exposure differently than they do real-life exposure to violence.”

      It certainly isn’t uncommon for children to have disagreements, especially as they enter into middle and high school. However, a recent study conducted by...
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      Financial infidelity is more common than you think

      A survey finds 19 percent of people are hiding financial transactions from a significant other

      What’s more important, love or money? Sometimes the two can be in conflict.

      Romantic partners don’t always tell each other everything, but when they hide financial accounts, be it a bank account or a private credit card, there can be serious emotional repercussions.

      When a partner hides a financial account it’s called “financial infidelity,” and it can be as serious as sexual infidelity. A new survey from CreditCards.com shows it’s more common than you think.

      According to the survey, about 19 percent of people in a relationship are hiding some kind of financial account from their partner. About 20 percent of people in a relationship say a partner hiding a financial account is actually worse than sexual cheating.

      Not a big surprise

      The results may not be that surprising. After all, when a couple is legally joined both people are responsible for one another’s debts. When you go into a marriage with someone who has a large credit card balance, you understand that you’re taking that on, for better or worse. But if your partner is secretly racking up debt, that’s another story entirely.

      “Discovering that your partner has any kind of secret can have a major impact on any relationship,” said Carissa Coulston, a clinical psychologist and author of The Eternity Rose blog. “And the nature of the secret itself isn’t necessarily an issue.”

      The survey found that millennials tended to be the most active when it comes to hiding a financial account from a spouse or partner. Twenty-eight percent of millennials in live-in relationships admitted to hiding a financial account from a partner. In fact, this generation is twice as likely to cheat as older couples.

      Regionally, financial cheaters tend to be clustered in the South and West, much more than in the Midwest and Northeast.

      Not a reason to break up

      While no one likes a financial cheater, hiding an account rarely results in a break-up. Just 2 percent of couples in the survey said they would end a relationship with a partner who was hiding a secret $5,000 credit card balance. Eighty-one percent said they would be angry and upset but would not end the relationship.

      Why do people hide their financial activities? It's complicated. Emily Garbinsky, assistant professor of marketing at Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, says a major reason is to avoid conflict.

      She says people often hide the ways they spend money because they know their partners wouldn’t agree with how they chose to spend it.

      What’s more important, love or money? Sometimes the two can be in conflict.Romantic partners don’t always tell each other everything, but when they hid...
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      Facebook may combine its messaging platforms

      A report suggests Facebook is in the early stages of unifying its Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp chat services

      Facebook is reportedly planning to give users the ability to message users on its other chat platforms, WhatsApp and Instagram.

      "After the changes take effect, a Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that isn't possible because the apps are separate," according to the New York Times.

      Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp would remain standalone apps, but their messaging infrastructure would be unified. In a statement to the Times, Facebook said it’s still mulling the move to combine its three messaging services.

      "As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work," Facebook said.

      Sources familiar with the matter told the Times that the update could arrive by the end of the year or early 2020 if Facebook employees ultimately decide to move forward with the process.

      Cross-platform messaging

      The move to merge the messaging services would apparently involve the addition of end-to-end encryption. Currently, the feature is limited to WhatsApp and available optionally on Messenger.

      The unification of the three chat services could lead to new forms of advertising and enable Facebook to boost its revenue. While Facebook has no trouble pulling in revenue from mobile ads on its main platform, the company is still devising ways to make money from Instagram and WhatsApp,

      The Times said the proposed removal of barriers between Facebook’s messaging platforms is part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s larger goal to “assert his control over the company’s sprawling divisions at a time when its business has been battered by scandals.”

      Zuckerberg also wants to “increase the utility of the social network, keeping its billions of users highly engaged inside its ecosystem” and minimize the draw of rival messaging services, such as those from Google and Apple.

      Facebook is reportedly planning to give users the ability to message users on its other chat platforms, WhatsApp and Instagram. "After the changes take...
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      New study shows why we crave fatty foods when dieting

      Researchers found that cravings can become more intense the longer we avoid certain foods

      While there are dozens of things that are difficult about dieting, managing cravings for junk food could be one of the hardest.

      Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston were looking to tackle this ever-present issue and found a circuit in the brain that seems to be at the core of food cravings.

      “Cravings for food high in fat -- this includes many junk foods -- is an important part of obesity and binge eating,” said researcher Jonathan Hommel. “When trying to lose weight, people often strive to avoid fatty foods, which ironically increases motivation and craving for these foods and can lead to overeating. Even worse, the longer someone abstains from fatty foods, the greater the cravings.”

      A mental process

      The researchers tested their experiment on mice, who were kept on a strict low-fat diet for 30 days.

      In the first part of the experiment, the mice were trained to press a lever that would reward them with a treat that was high in fat. What started out simple became increasingly more difficult, as the mice were soon required to hit the lever several times to get the treat. Eventually, after pressing the lever so many times and not receiving the treat, the mice gave up, effectively curbing their craving.

      The second part of the experiment involved a medical procedure on half of the rats, in which the researchers were hoping to regulate their food intake. The procedure blocked a chemical receptor -- neuromedin U receptor 2 -- in a part of the brain that handles how much we eat.

      Following the procedure, the mice repeated the first part of the experiment and were again required to work for their treats. However, the researchers found that their procedure did the trick, as those with blocked receptors weren’t interested in working as hard for the fatty treats.

      The researchers were encouraged by these results and are hoping to continue their trials to develop a drug that would help humans curb their cravings.

      “While our findings are only the first step in a long process from the scientific lab to the doctor’s office, we are planning to develop new drugs to help curb those cravings,” Hommel said. “Although it may be years before the drug is ready, our research highlights some important features of food craving that may help you set realistic New Year’s resolutions.”

      Fighting cravings

      While one recent study found that withdrawal from junk food can leave consumers with symptoms that addicts feel after quitting drugs, there are ways to help making eating healthy a bit easier. At the end of last year, researchers analyzed over 30 scientific studies to come up with a comprehensive list of ways for consumers to fight food cravings.

      According to the study, frequent exercise was found to increase cravings, whereas losing weight decreases cravings. Moreover, eliminating foods entirely from your diet was found to be more effective than trying to eat things in moderation.

      A study from earlier this month found that surrounding yourself with the smell of fattening foods can also help to reduce cravings.

      “Ambient scent can be a powerful tool to resist cravings for indulgent foods,” said researcher Dipayan Biswas, PhD. “In fact, subtle sensory stimuli like scents can be more effective in influencing children’s and adult’s food choices than restrictive policies.”

      While there are dozens of things that are difficult about dieting, managing cravings for junk food could be one of the hardest.Researchers from the Uni...
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      Gasoline prices have begun to creep higher

      But a surge in supply may keep further price increases in check

      As predicted, gasoline prices have begun to rise. However, they remain lower than they were a month ago and are considerably cheaper than a year ago.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.27 a gallon, up three cents from last Friday. That price is 29 cents less than at this time in 2018. The average price of premium gas is $2.85 a gallon, two cents higher than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.92, the same as last week.

      Prices may continue climbing in the weeks ahead, but the rise may turn out to be slower than usual. The latest report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows gasoline demand rose by 200,000 barrels in the last week. While that would normally push prices higher, the same report shows U.S. stockpiles of gasoline actually grew during the week.

      In fact, gasoline supplies swelled by 4 million barrels, the biggest increase since EIA began keeping records in 1990.

      “Increased levels of gasoline stocks could help to meet rising demand, which means the impact to pump prices could be modest,” AAA said in its latest market update.

      Lower oil prices

      Also helping consumers is the fear of a global economic slowdown, which has weighed down oil prices. Refineries don’t have to pay as much for crude oil, and that tends to keep prices lower.

      As we saw last week, prices continue to slide in the states with the most expensive gas, but they are rising in states where fuel is normally the cheapest. Only two states, Hawaii and California, have average gas prices above $3 a gallon.

      Ohio, meanwhile, fell out of the top 10 states with the cheapest gas with an 18 cent a gallon one week surge in its statewide average price.

      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 ($3.26)

      • California ($3.26)

      • Washington ($2.93)

      • Alaska ($2.90)

      • Nevada ($2.87)

      • Oregon ($2.82)

      • Arizona ($2.53)

      • Connecticut ($2.52)

      • New York ($2.52)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.49)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Missouri ($1.90)

      • Oklahoma ($1.95)

      • Mississippi ($1.97)

      • Alabama ($1.98)

      • Kansas ($1.98)

      • Texas ($1.99)

      • Louisiana ($1.99)

      • South Carolina ($2.00)

      • Virginia ($2.06)

      • Tennessee ($2.06)

      As predicted, gasoline prices have begun to rise. However, they remain lower than they were a month ago and are considerably cheaper than a year ago.Th...
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      Kubota recalls zero turn mowers, compact tractors and ride on mowers

      The coolant reserve tank cap may be blocked

      Kubota Tractor Corporation of Grapevine, Texas, is recalling about 121,000 model year 2014 to 2018 Kubota ZD, ZG, BX, GR diesel and gasoline powered zero turn mowers, compact tractors and ride on mowers.

      The coolant reserve tank cap may be blocked; in the event of an overheat condition coolant can be expelled.

      The company has received two reports (with a possible third) of if injuries from expelled coolant.

      The recalled units come in orange and black, with the model number on the side of the unit and on the data plate on the side of the unit. The serial number is also on the data plate. 

      The lawn equipment, manufactured in the U.S., was sold at authorized Kubota dealers nationwide from 2014 – 2018 for between approximately $5,000 and $35,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled units. Customers will be sent a replacement cap and may in the interim take the unit to an authorized dealer for a repair of the cap at no charge.

      Consumers may contact Kubota at (888) 4KUBOTA from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (CT), Monday through Friday or by email at https://www.kubotausa.com/contact/form.

      Kubota Tractor Corporation of Grapevine, Texas, is recalling about 121,000 model year 2014 to 2018 Kubota ZD, ZG, BX, GR diesel and gasoline powered zero t...
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      Satur Farms recalls Baby Spinach and Mesclun

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Satur Farms of Cutchogue, N.Y., is recalling Baby Spinach and Mesclun that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There have been no reported illnesses.

      The following product lot numbers, sold at retail stores in New York and Florida, are being recalled:

      • Spinach Lot #18494
      • Spinach Lot #18513
      • Mesclun Lot #18520

      The retail product is packed in plastic 5-oz., 10- oz., and 16-oz. plastic clamshell containers with the Satur Farms brand name.

      The Food service product is packed in 2-1/2 lbs, 3#, 4#, 4 x 2.5#, 4 x 3# sealed poly bags.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Paulette Satur at (631) 734-4219.

      Satur Farms of Cutchogue, N.Y., is recalling Baby Spinach and Mesclun that may be contaminated with Salmonella.There have been no reported illnesses....
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