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    Many parents have anxiety over their children’s college choices

    More than half would make a financial contribution to get their kids in, study finds

    The recent college admissions scandal, including the arrest of two actresses accused of gaming the system to get their kids into a school, has focused attention on the competitive pressures to get a college degree.

    A new study from Student Loan Hero suggests the scandal might easily happen again. A staggering 90 percent of parents of college-aged children said they would take “any course of action” to get a son or daughter into the college of their choice.

    Actress Felicity Huffman was recently sentenced to 14 days in jail after entering a guilty plea to charges that she paid $15,000 to increase her daughter’s SAT scores. She was the first of 30 parents charged in the scandal to be sentenced.

    The scandal prompted several students to file a class-action lawsuit against universities that were named in the federal investigation, claiming they deprived more deserving applicants of an education. 

    The Student Loan Hero study suggests Huffman is not alone in being willing to do what it takes to make sure her children get into the “right” college. Nearly all the parents questioned in the survey said they would take any course of action to get their son or daughter into a desired college, as long as it “didn’t break the law or sacrifice their ethics,” a qualifier that might possibly be overlooked if it looked like the student would not be admitted.

    Half willing to write a check

    More than half of parents of college-aged children said they would even make a financial contribution to their child’s first-choice school -- which is not illegal but certainly would be made in hopes of improving the odds of admittance. Twenty-five percent of parents said they would be willing to spend at least $10,000 to help their child get into a good college.

    Getting into college isn’t as simple as it once was. Until fairly recently, anyone who wanted to attend college and had the money for tuition could find a school that would be happy to have them as a student.

    That changed when colleges became more selective about who would be admitted as students, which had the effect of making those schools seem more desirable. The Student Loan Hero study found that more than 71 percent of parents think getting into the “right” college will impact their child’s future earning potential, though there is little evidence to support that.

    Interesting, nearly half of parents said they want to be “very involved” in their child’s college admissions process because they don’t think the school “will do enough.”

    The study suggests that the pressures which caused a number of parents to allegedly break the rules to get their children into an elite school are widespread. The findings serve as a reminder for college administrators and law enforcement to remain vigilant when it comes to ambitious parents trying to game the system.

    The recent college admissions scandal, including the arrest of two actresses accused of gaming the system to get their kids into a school, has focused atte...
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    Hot holiday toys for 2019 and where to find them

    Experts say parents should be prepared to shop early

    Parents looking for the season’s most popular toys are getting a hand from RetailMeNot, an online coupon site that has compiled a list of projected must-have toys for the holidays and where to find them.

    Sara Skirboll, a Shopping and Trends expert at RetailMeNot, says the retail landscape has gone through some changes that may come with challenges for shoppers.

    "With Toys ‘R’ Us out of the picture this year, shoppers can look to three big retailers as they are toy hunting this year, Amazon, Target, and Walmart,” Skirboll said. “In fact, according to a recent survey by RetailMeNot, 28 percent of shoppers plan to shop at Amazon with 26 percent of shoppers planning to shop at all 3 locations." 

    All three retailers have their own holiday toy guides that showcase the most popular items for children, with Target releasing its list of hot toys two weeks ago.

    ‘Shop early’

    Skirboll says that holiday shoppers will need to begin early this year in order to get their hands on the biggest toys and products.

    According to RetailMeNot’s list, Owleez is one of the three hottest toys this year. From Spin Master, Owleez is an interactive pet that you can rescue, take care of and teach to fly. The company says the best place to find it is Target, where it lists for $49.99. It’s available for pre-order now and is eligible for cashback on its purchase.

    Also on this list is the Skyrocket Blume Doll, part of the collectible toy category. It comes in a flower pot and sprouts and grows when water is added. There are 22 different toys in the collection, and they’re available at Amazon for $9.88.

    The list also includes Pomsies Lumies, toys that change colors, play games, and make music. RetailMeNot reports Pomsies proved to be one of the most popular toys in 2018 and predicts Lumies will only increase interest. You can find Pomsies Lumies at Amazon for $17.99.

    Product trackers

    As we get closer to the holidays, it may be harder to find the most popular toys. The shopping experts at RetailMeNot suggest using online product trackers, such as zooLert, I4U, and NowInStock. They offer instant updates when toys are available online and in stores.

    It may also be helpful to monitor retailers’ social media accounts, such as Walmart, GameStop, and Target.

    Black Friday -- and pre-Black Friday promotions -- may also provide opportunities. In previous years, Amazon and Walmart have included limited quantities of hard-to-find toys in their doorbuster promotions.

    Parents looking for the season’s most popular toys are getting a hand from RetailMeNot, an online coupon site that has compiled a list of projected must-ha...
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      Boeing’s 737 MAX still on hold while FAA waits for software updates

      If everything goes to plan, the aircraft might be back in the air by the holidays

      What’s going on with Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX?

      After two fatal crashes of the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history -- the 737 MAX 8 aircraft -- in October 2018 and March 2019, aviation regulators around the world grounded the 737 MAX until further notice. That put airlines using the aircraft -- Southwest, American, and others -- into a whirlwind of fits and starts.

      Those fits and starts -- including thorough scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- are still happening, but reports have surfaced that there’s some light starting to appear at the end of this saga’s tunnel.

      In a report from Reuters, FAA chief Steve Dickson met with Boeing officials on Thursday and was on hand to witness a simulated test of the latest version of the plane’s revised software. Dickson’s timeline for a re-launch of the plane holds out the possibility that it could be back in the air in about a month. However, the regulator was adamant he would not “sign off on the plane until I am personally satisfied.”

      “We’ve had conversations about the importance of making sure that we are looking at complete documentation and not piecemeal documentation,” Dickson said. “It’s really better to be very methodical and very detailed rather than try to rush a partially completed product and then say, ‘We’ll get back to you with the rest of it.’”

      The new timeline

      The key component on the FAA’s checklist is Boeing’s “final system description” - a “500-ish page document that has the architecture of the flight control system and the changes that they have made,” Dickson said. Dickson went on to explain that the software changes must be in a “pre-production” code as opposed to a “beta version.”

      After that, the FAA will move on to testing pilot workload management situations. Once that’s given the necessary thumbs-up, the agency feels it will be better able to define a realistic timeline for the actual certification test flight. 

      That pilot workload step is a crucial one. For the benefit of everyone involved -- the consumer, Boeing, and regulators -- the FAA is also asking for input from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as well as Canadian and Brazilian regulators to make sure everything’s as it should be. 

      “We’ve got U.S. and international pilots that have to be scheduled to come out and actually go through the scenarios” and nail down training requirements, Dickson said.

      If Boeing gets its wish, the flying public will see the MAX back in the skies sometime in the fourth quarter. That would be perfect timing for the airlines that would like to have it available for the holiday travel surge. Nonetheless, Boeing has been smart enough not to put the cart before the horse, reiterating on Thursday that it’s “committed to working collaboratively” with the FAA and other federal regulators.

      What’s going on with Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX?After two fatal crashes of the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history -- the 737 MAX 8 aircraft...
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      Fighting climate change could be good for business

      Researchers say ignoring the problem could come with disastrous side effects

      While many consumers have started doing more in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia found that businesses should consider increasing their sustainability efforts. 

      The study revealed that ignoring the issue of climate change will not only create more problems for consumers, but it will also cost companies more money in the long-run than it would have if they had taken more active steps.

      “Acting on climate change has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting,” said researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. 

      Positive return on fighting climate change

      The researchers are concerned about the world at large, but they believe that climate change can be particularly harsh on poorer populations and regions. They want to enlist the help of world leaders to help make a change. 

      The team addressed several facets of climate change that could have a devastating effect on people, places, and animals, including rising sea levels, massive animal extinctions, and rising global temperatures. 

      “This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere,” said researcher Michael Taylor. “That said, people from small island States and low-lying countries are in the immediate cross-hairs of climate change.” 

      Much of the researchers’ findings look at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which focused on reducing the rising global temperature. 

      Though experts previously thought that limiting global warming to just two degrees Celsius would be sufficient, Hoegh-Guldberg and his team say that keeping that figure closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius would actually be the best scenario. However, they say it’s up to lawmakers to put the initiatives in motion that will help slow global warming. 

      “If such a policy is not implemented, we will continue on the upward trajectory of burning fossil fuels and continuing deforestation, which will expand the already large-scale degradation of ecosystems,” said researcher Rachel Warren. “To be honest, the overall picture is very grim unless we act.” 

      The researchers hope that world leaders and policymakers take these warnings seriously and do everything in their power to preserve the environment. 

      “Current emission reduction commitments are inadequate risk throwing many nations into chaos and harm, with a particular vulnerability of poor peoples,” said Hoegh-Guldberg. “To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement.” 

      “Tackling climate change is a tall order,” he continued. “However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being -- and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” 

      While many consumers have started doing more in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the Universi...
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      Kindness is key when consumers think about life partners

      The positive personality trait beat out physical attractiveness

      A new study conducted by researchers from Swansea University found that being kind is the best personality trait when it comes to finding a lifelong partner. 

      Researchers enlisted over 2,700 college students from all over the world to theoretically “buy” the personality traits of their ideal partner choosing from eight possible attributes: 

      • Religiosity 

      • Secure finances 

      • Humor 

      • Creativity 

      • Attractiveness 

      • Kindness 

      • Desire for children 

      • Chastity 

      Participants hailed from western countries like Norway, Australia, and the U.K., and Eastern countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The researchers noted that men and women from either side of the globe had different priorities when it came to their partners. 

      While the women involved in the study spent more on financial security than their male counterparts, male participants spent more on physical attractiveness than female participants. However, kindness ultimately won out across the board, as the trait comprised between 22 and 26 percent of all participants’ “purchases” overall. 

      The researchers believe that having cross-cultural studies of this nature is an effective way to really crack open consumers’ mindsets and provide insights into decision-making. 

      “Looking at very different culture groups allows us to test the idea that some behaviours are human universals,” said researcher Dr. Andrew G. Thomas. “If men and women act in similar ways across the globe, then this adds weight to the idea that some behaviours develop in spite of culture rather than because of it.” 

      Finances could be important down the line

      Other recent studies have looked more deeply at how finances can make it or break it for some couples. 

      While one recent from earlier this year found that almost half of consumers would end their relationship due to excessive spending habits, another found that overall financial compatibility could also be a deal breaker in relationships. 

      "It's probably not a great idea to ask for someone's financial history on the first date," said credit card analyst Mike Cetera. "However, it's better to know if a potential partner has a history of bad financial decisions before the relationship goes too far, especially if you plan on making large purchases together or sharing bank accounts." 

      A new study conducted by researchers from Swansea University found that being kind is the best personality trait when it comes to finding a lifelong partne...
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      Gas prices level off after sharp increase following Saudi oil field attack

      The average price is up about a dime a gallon in the last week

      Less than a week after a drone attack on a huge Saudi Arabian oil field, prices at the pump have jumped and leveled off. At this point at least, it appears the damage to consumers could have been a lot worse.

      The explosions and fires shut down half of Saudi oil production, reducing world oil output by 5 percent. The loss of oil production was felt quickly in world oil markets, with oil prices surging. But after the Saudis predicted full production would resume by the end of the month, oil prices fell again.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular is $2.67 a gallon, about a dime more than last Friday -- the day before the attacks. But the price is only five cents more than it was a month ago and well below last year’s price. The average price of premium is $3.24 a gallon, up eight cents in the last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.00 a gallon, seven cents higher than a week ago.

      What’s next?

      Where do prices go from here? Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says prices could rise a few more cents a gallon. However, he notes that the situation remains in flux.

      “The Saudis said they expect to get production back online sooner than what expectations were, and that helped,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “But but there's some worry now whether they can meet that. So that could be a changing impact on gasoline prices should there be a deviation.”

      .And there’s something else, closer to home, that could keep gas prices rising. DeHaan says anticipated flooding in Houston could threaten to curtail refinery output, reducing supplies of gasoline. But he doesn’t think consumers will feel a huge price shock at this point.

      “I don't think we'll see more than a dime rise, if that, from today unless these situations change from this moment,” DeHaan said.

      There is one bright spot in the gasoline picture; demand from consumers is falling. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports demand for fuel dropped by 900,000 barrels a day last week, taking pressure off supplies.

      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:

      • California ($3.71)

      • Hawaii ($3.66)

      • Washington ($3.21)

      • Nevada ($3.16)

      • Oregon ($3.07)

      • Alaska ($2.98)

      • Arizona ($2.88)

      • Illinois ($2.85)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.81)

      • Michigan ($2.78)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

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

      • Mississippi ($2.31)

      • Louisiana ($2.31)

      • Alabama ($2.22)

      • South Carolina ($2.33)

      • Arkansas ($2.35)

      • Tennessee ($2.39)

      • Texas ($2.38)

      • Virginia ($2.38)

      • Oklahoma ($2.38)

      • Missouri ($2.39)

      Less than a week after a drone attack on a huge Saudi Arabian oil field, prices at the pump have jumped and leveled off. At this point at least, it appears...
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      BMW recalls MINI Hardtop 2-Door Cooper, Cooper S and JCW vehicles

      The rear side trim panels may not have a crash pad

      BMW of North America is recalling 683 model year 2020 MINI Hardtop 2-Door Cooper, Cooper S and JCW vehicles.

      The rear side trim panels may have been assembled without a crash pad.

      As a result, rear seat passengers would have an increased risk of injury in a side impact crash.

      What to do

      MINI will notify owners, and dealers will install crash pads free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 16, 2019.

      Owners may contact MINI customer service at (866) 825-1525.

      BMW of North America is recalling 683 model year 2020 MINI Hardtop 2-Door Cooper, Cooper S and JCW vehicles.The rear side trim panels may have been ass...
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      Perdue Foods recalls Simply Smart Organics frozen chicken

      The product contains wheat, an allergen not declared on the label

      Perdue Foods of Perry, Ga., is recalling approximately 495 pounds of frozen ready-to-eat chicken.

      The product, which is labeled as gluten free, contains wheat, an allergen not declared on the label.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

      The following item, produced on August 30, 2019, is being recalled:

      • 22-oz. resealable plastic bags containing “Simply Smart Organics CHICKEN BREAST TENDERS GLUTEN FREE” with “Best By: 08 29 20,” UPC Bar Code: 0-72745-80489-2, and time stamps of 00:30 to 01:00 (inclusive).

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-33944” on the package label, was shipped to distributors and retail locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Perdue consumer care at (866) 866-3703.

      Perdue Foods of Perry, Ga., is recalling approximately 495 pounds of frozen ready-to-eat chicken.The product, which is labeled as gluten free, contains...
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      Kichler Lighting recalls pendant lights

      The light sockets can overheat, melt or catch fire,

      Kichler Lighting of Cleveland, Ohio, is recalling about 1,000 Elan Shayla Mini Pendant Lights sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      The light sockets can overheat, melt, or catch fire, posing a fire hazard.

      The company has received about 84 consumer reports of burnt fixtures, wires or sockets, including three reports of fixture fires. No property damage or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Elan Shayla Mini Pendant Lights, models 83162, 83163 and 83164.

      They are chrome multi-light modern/contemporary clear glass cylinder pendant lights with one, three or nine pendant lights.

      The recalled chrome and clear glass multi-light fixtures each have their model numbers and date codes printed on stickers located on the inside of the ceiling canopy and on the product packaging.

      The product date codes are comprised of a 2-digit month and 2-digit year, for example 0513 (May 2013) through 0514 (May 2014).

      The lighting fixtures, manufactured in China, were sold at lighting showrooms nationwide from May 2013, through March 2015, for between $45 and $350.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled lighting fixtures and contact the store where they were purchased or Kichler Lighting directly for a free replacement lighting fixture.

      Consumers may contact Kichler Lighting toll-free at (866) 558-5706 from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.kichler.com and click on “Safety Information” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Kichler Lighting of Cleveland, Ohio, is recalling about 1,000 Elan Shayla Mini Pendant Lights sold in the U.S., and Canada.The light sockets can overhe...
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      Trump administration revokes California’s ability to set its own emissions standards

      Trump says the plan would make cars ‘far safer and much less expensive’

      On Wednesday, President Trump revoked a waiver that allows California to set its own vehicle emissions standards. Trump tweeted that keeping California’s emissions rules the same as the federal government’s will help make cars cheaper and safer.

      "The Trump Administration is revoking California's Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER," Trump tweeted.

      “There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be far safer and much less expensive,” he added. 

      Critics argue otherwise

      The Trump administration reasons that the numerous new car models that would be turned out as a result of the rule change would be safer than their older counterparts. However, EPA officials have reportedly expressed concern that the move could increase highway deaths because automakers will have to raise prices in order to adhere to the tougher efficiency rules. 

      Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has published an analysis suggesting that rolling back California’s waiver would increase auto sales and fuel costs for consumers in the long run. 

      “All evaluated proposals to weaken fuel-economy standards would result in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses to consumers, substantial increases in fuel consumption, and decreases in new vehicle sales,” the report authors concluded. “Additionally, they would not decrease—and may slightly increase—traffic fatalities.”

      Strengthening fuel economy and greenhouse standards, on the other hand, would “save an additional 33 billion gallons of fuel and save an additional $40 billion on top of the already large benefits of the existing standards,” the report said. “Meanwhile, new vehicle sales would increase, and highway safety may slightly improve.”

      California plans to fight

      California officials say they intend to challenge Trump’s effort to introduce a “new and uniform standard” in the U.S. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Trump had “no basis and no authority” to revoke the waiver.

      "We're ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend,” Becerra said.

      "You can't get serious about climate change unless you are serious about vehicle emissions, said California Governor Gavin Newsom. "This is such a pivotal moment in the history of the climate change debate."

      In July, four automakers -- Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, and Honda -- agreed to follow California’s stricter mileage rules instead of those proposed by the Trump administration. The same month, leaders from Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, and General Motors were called to the White House to discuss getting on board with the administration’s policy, the New York Times reported

      On Wednesday, President Trump revoked a waiver that allows California to set its own vehicle emissions standards. Trump tweeted that keeping California’s e...
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      Pennsylvania AG joins effort to block T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

      The deal is now opposed by 18 state attorneys general

      Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced he will add his name to the list of states lobbying to block T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, bringing the total number of state attorney generals who have expressed their opposition to the merger to 18. 

      In a statement published Wednesday, Shapiro pledged his commitment to protecting Pennsylvanians’ access to “affordable, reliable wireless service.” 

      “The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would severely undermine competition in the telecommunications sector, which would hurt Pennsylvanian consumers by driving up prices, limiting coverage, and diminishing quality,” he said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleague Attorneys General in opposing this merger and advocating on behalf of Pennsylvania consumers.”

      Growing list of opponents

      Shapiro joins the following other states in seeking to block the “anticompetitive megamerger”: New York, California, Texas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. 

      In July, the Department of Justice approved the merger on the condition that the carriers sell some of their assets to Dish Network. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also said it supports the deal. 

      However, pushback from so many state attorneys general threatens to derail the merger of the nation’s 3rd and 4th largest mobile wireless networks. State officials argue in the suit that the merger will harm competition and raise prices for consumers. Following news that the deal had received DOJ approval, New York AG Letitia James reiterated her concerns on Twitter. 

      “I remain deeply concerned about the T-Mobile/Sprint megamerger & the irreparable harm it will cause to millions across the country,” she wrote. “Despite approval from the DOJ, the deal is bad for consumers, innovation, and workers.” 

      Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced he will add his name to the list of states lobbying to block T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, bringi...
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