Here's a little-known fact about the U.S. Postal Service: Since 2001 it has participated in what's called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program,...

Consumers paying attention to the price of crude oil this spring may have wondered why gasoline prices were slow to fall while oil prices were plunging. ...

Consumers paying attention to the price of crude oil this spring may have wondered why gasoline prices were slow to fall while oil prices were plunging.

After regaining stability in May and June oil prices are falling again, with some analysts predicting they could touch $30 a barrel before the end of the year. But if they do, it doesn't necessarily follow that gasoline prices will go below $2 a gallon as many consumers would like.



For crude oil to become gasoline it has to pass through refineries, and that's where bottlenecks tend to occur. When refineries don't keep up with the demand for gasoline, for whatever reason, the price tends to go up.

But dirt cheap oil, and gasoline that's only relatively cheap, translates into fat profit margins for refineries.

Major refiner Valero Energy reported a quarterly profit of $2.66 a share Thursday, blowing away the Zacks Equity Research estimate of $2.41. Zack's reports the company's profit margin on a barrel of oil rose from $9.84 to $13.71, year-over-year, a 39% increase.

It's against that backdrop that IHS Inc., a business intelligence company, has issued a report making a case for lifting the ban on U.S. oil exports. Congress enacted the ban in the 1970s, when the U.S. imported much of its oil and was suffering from periodic shortages that spiked prices.

It's a very different environment today, the report argues, pointing out that the U.S. now produces more oil than it can use. That, it says, creates inefficiencies in the supply chain, further decoupling the price of gasoline from oil prices.

The study found that the wholesale price of gasoline in the inland Chicago market continued to track those in other markets in recent years, even when when U.S. oil production grew and prices relative to international oil prices declined.

The gasoline price in that market continued to track prices in other domestic and international hubs rather than weaken with the U.S. crude price.

“This latest analysis further confirms what IHS research has consistently shown – that the fear that lifting the ban on U.S. crude exports would raise U.S. gasoline prices is unfounded,” said Kurt Barrow, IHS vice president, downstream energy.

Barrow says that's because U.S. gasoline is a global commodity. It's traded on the international market and international prices influence what American motorists pay.

U.S. crude oil is not an international commodity, since it can't be exported. If it could, the report claims there would be more oil available on the world market, which would bring down gasoline prices in nearly every country.

“Removing the crude export ban would actually lower U.S. gasoline prices by increasing the supply of crude on the global market that is central to determining the price of gasoline the world over,” Barrow said.

The IHS report says removing the export ban on U.S. oil would lower the retail price of gasoline by about 8 cents a gallon. It says such a move would also revive the U.S. oil industry, which has been forced to curtail production in the way of the Saudi Arabia-engineered supply glut.

Will it happen? Probably not anytime soon. Neither party has expressed much of an appetite for lifting the ban and, with an election year looming, neither is likely to propose it.

Every computer, including those in modern automobiles, is vulnerable to malware. And every Internet connection, including those involving modern automobile...

Every computer, including those in modern automobiles, is vulnerable to malware. And every Internet connection, including those involving modern automobile computers, is hackable. Therefore, if you can remotely control a computerized device such as your car with your tablet or smartphone, a hacker potentially can do the same.

The hypothetical danger of hackers hijacking highway drivers has been known for as long as vehicles have been outfitted with wireless connections, but especially over the past year those hypotheticals have too-often become real.

Last August, when security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek attended that year's Black Hat USA convention in Las Vegas, they presented the results of a study listing the most and least hackable automobiles currently available on the U.S. market.

The following February, the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee released a report showing that “Nearly 100 percent of vehicles on the market include wireless technologies that could pose vulnerabilities to hacking or privacy intrusions.”

Last week, Miller and Valasek made headlines again when they demonstrated their discovery of a software flaw affecting up to half a million late-model Fiat/Chrysler vehicles in America (and the company recalled a total of 1.4 million vehicles over it a few days later).

Specifically, Miller and Valasek showed that any hacker who knows a vehicle's IP address could seize control of it from anywhere in the U.S. — or at least, anywhere in the U.S. with a reliable cell phone signal. As proof, they remotely hijacked a Jeep Cherokee driven by a willing reporter for Wired, and cut the transmission and other controls while the reporter drove on a nearby Interstate.

Just yesterday, another security researcher named Samy Kamkar posted an online video demonstrating how easily he could remotely take control of General Motors' OnStar systems by using a device he calls OwnStar (get it?) to exploit a flaw in OnStar's mobile app, thereby unlocking the cars and starting their engines.

Granted, that's far less severe than the previous week's Fiat/Chrysler security flaw: although OwnStar let Kamkar start a vehicle's engine, he still couldn't drive it anywhere without the key - and the engines will shut down 10 minutes after starting if the vehicle hasn't moved. Still, it doesn't take too much imagination to picture reasons it's bad for a hacker to be able to secretly track a vehicle's location and unlock its doors at will.

The good news is that after Kamkar posted the video yesterday, General Motors responded by promptly issuing an automatic fix requiring no action from OnStar drivers. The bad news, as Kamkar soon discovered, is that the fix doesn't work to completely solve the problem and patch the vulnerability.

As of press time, the security problem still exists and is still hackable, and General Motors is working to solve it.

CarHop is a used-car dealer with locations all over the country, advertising low-priced cars and financing for,customers with bad credit. This may sound li...

CarHop is a used-car dealer with locations all over the country, advertising low-priced cars and financing for, customers with bad credit. This may sound like a godsend to low-income consumers who need a car to get around but it may not always turn out as planned.

Scott bought a van with a bum air-conditioner, took it back the next day and is still waiting for his refund.

"Nothing but problems for the past year with this car. This is my second car with CarHop coz the first one couldn't be fixed. I've had nothing but problems with this car. There are battery caps and tape holding things together under the hood," said Jeannie of North Highlands, Calif., in a ConsumerAffairs review. "When I called their corporate office one of the ladies told me that the car was going to have problems because it's an old car. My question is then why did you sell it to me? These people try to take you for your money and sell you cheap unreliable cars."

"The day that I drove it home, the check engine light came on. The ABS brakes didn't work, and the air bags were disabled. I called them about the check engine light, and they told me they couldn't have anyone look at it until the day after their 3-day return period," he said. "They didn't say that exactly, they just made sure it was the day after, and then they said it was not covered under their 'warranty.'"

In fairness, not everyone's unhappy. Jeff of Stanchfield, Minn., said everything went well for him: "Had a great experience. I feel our sales associate went above and beyond. We very much appreciate it."

"The salesman picked it out for me because, well, I am 68 and have a lady brain. ... I felt trapped and when presented with the paperwork to sign the salesman's hand covered most of the legalese while his other hand pointed to the dotted line."

Oddly, Patricia said that she did not even know what car she was buying when she signed the paperwork.

"Now mind you I have not seen a car yet. This particular lot does not come out to help you, you are made to go into their building and well you are basically held captive til you agree to buy a car and get this they don't even tell you what you can qualify for."

Patricia said wound up with a 2002 Elantra that cost her $12,000. "Yes it did break down and the warranty did not cover a radiator which had to be replaced," she added.

Of course, many if not all of these problems could probably have been avoided if the consumers had followed the advice laid out by Stephanie Moore in her classic ConsumerAffairs article, "How not to buy a car."

Though it's even older than many of the cars CarHop is selling, it's as true today as ever, even if you don't get past Stephanie's 8 Thou Shalt Nots:

The next three weeks will be prime vacation time in the U.S., when families hit the open road or head to the beach. It can be a dangerous time for consumer...

The next three weeks will be prime vacation time in the U.S., when families hit the open road or head to the beach. It can be a dangerous time for consumers who carry big credit card balances.

It's very convenient to charge gas, meals, and lodging to a credit card, but unless there is a plan to pay for all those things when the bill arrives, that big credit card balance can get even bigger.

After conducting an online survey, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) was pleased to learn that many consumers have already gotten that message. It found a surprising number of consumers have been saving all year for that vacation and plan to pay for it with cash or a debit card.

“It is natural to be concerned about overspending when planning a vacation,” said Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs for the NFCC. “While using cash or a debit card is a great way to avoid going into debt, there are some additional considerations that should be made before making them the only options for travel.”

One big consideration should be security. While many banks and credit unions have improved security options for debit cards, NFCC says lost or stolen cards can give thieves access to checking and savings accounts. Who is liable and for how much often depends on when the card is reported lost or stolen. It can also vary, depending on who issued the card.

In some cases a cardholder who waits three days before reporting a missing card can face a liability of up to $500.

Then, there is the matter of how long it takes the bank to replace the stolen money. If you are vacationing with a debit card, it is best to have fast access to the card issuer’s fraud center and a very secure place to store the card.

Carrying cash can be even riskier. NFCC advises small amounts are okay, but avoid carrying a bankroll to pay for everything.

Businesses often treat debit and credit cards differently. When you pay for gasoline with a debit card or to reserve a hotel room, be aware that there could be a hold placed on the card beyond the amount of the purchase.

Suppose your balance isn't quite enough to cover the hold. That could result in either overdraft fees or a rejection of the card – something you don't want when you're traveling.

The fact is, a credit card is made for paying for things while you are traveling. It's more secure and limits your liability. It's only a problem when consumers run up a bill they can't pay in full and end up padding their credit card balance.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution. Simply set aside the money you've saved for your vacation and put it in a place where it won't get spent on other things. Then, use it to pay for all your vacation spending when the bill arrives.

It will be easier to manage if you limit vacation spending to one credit card and keep a record of your spending during your trip. Think of it as if you were actually just spending cash. 

Not surprisingly, Google is resisting a demand that it broaden the "right to be forgotten" by censoring search results worldwide, saying that allowing one...

Not surprisingly, Google is resisting a demand that it broaden the "right to be forgotten" by censoring search results worldwide, saying that allowing one country to censor the Web worldwide would start a "race to the bottom."

"We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access," global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer says on Google's blog.

Privacy advocates say that an individual's right to privacy is well-established principle in American law.

"In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place," Fleischer writes, noting that content that is legal in one country might be illegal in another. "Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be 'gay propaganda.'"

Google has been struggling with the European Union since last year's court ruling that search engines must allow Europeans to request removal of links about themselves. In June, France demanded that Google remove results from all of it results pages -- even in the U.S. -- rather than simply from results pages in Europe.

In the U.S., Consumer Watchdog, a California group, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission saying that Google's refusal to let Americans ask it to remove information about themselves was "unfair and deceptive."

Today, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) came to Google's defense. In a letter to the FTC, the group said the "terms suggested in the complaint are extraordinarily broad, vague and elusive and would create dangerous precedents adversely impacting numerous other U.S. companies in addition to Google."

The advertisers group argued that there is,"absolutely no legal basis, and in fact, it would be unconstitutional to allow the U.S. government to compel companies to give to these types of demands."

“Allowing ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ policies to be enforced in the U.S. would cause serious and undue harm to the public’s right to determine for itself what is important and relevant information,” said Dan Jaffe, ANA’s Group Executive Vice President for Government Relations. “Such a rule would force American companies to edit the past under the supervision of federal regulators. Consumer Watchdog’s costly, onerous censorship proposal runs contrary to consumers’ interests, and is certainly not constitutional in the U.S.”

"There is a lot that is incorrect in the ANA statement," said,Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in an email to ConsumerAffairs, "But my favorite is this: 'Consumer Watchdog is clearly confusing the right to privacy with the right not to be embarrassed.'"

Said Rotenberg: "No, actually, Consumer Watchdog is describing the right to privacy set out by [former Supreme Court Justice] Louis Brandeis in the famous 1890 law review article. That right is, not surprisingly, the cornerstone of privacy law in the USA."

Rotenberg and other privacy advocates note that no one is suggesting newspapers should remove articles or not publish them in the first place.

"In Google v. Spain, the European Court of Justice ruled that the European citizens have a right to request that commercial search firms, such as Google, that gather personal information for profit should remove links to private information when asked, provided the information is no longer relevant. The Court did not say newspapers should remove articles," EPIC said in a recent posting on its website.

"The Court found that the fundamental right to privacy is greater than the economic interest of the commercial firm and, in some circumstances, the public interest in access to Information," EPIC said.

A recently leaked version of a Google transparency report found,that the vast majority of requests for delisting concern private matters of private individuals, EPIC said.

Scientists from Uppsala University have investigated the disease thoroughly, and believe that a certain protein found in the body could provide a cure....

Diabetes comes in a variety of different forms. The most common form of the disease, type 2 diabetes, results from cells in the body not using insulin as well as they should. Type 1 diabetes (T1D), however, is much rarer, and results when the body simply can’t produce its own insulin at all. People who have this condition must take part in insulin therapy and other treatments in order to live a full and healthy life.

Scientists from Uppsala University have investigated the disease thoroughly, and believe that a certain protein found in the body could potentially provide a cure.

The protein in question is called interleukin-35 (IL-35), and it is made of immune cells. Dr. Kailash Singh, who is a PhD student at Uppsala University, began studying this immune cell when she was examining T1D in rat models. In her research, she found that immune regulatory T-cells in the models were producing pro-inflammatory destructive proteins instead of IL-35, which is an anti-inflammatory protein.

This reversal is the exact opposite of what should be happening in a normal body, and Singh believes that it may be something that is prompted by T1D.

“This suggests that the good guys (the anti-inflammatory proteins) have gone bad in early development of Type 1 diabetes and therefore our immune cells destroy the beta cell,” she said.

As a result of this destructive process, Singh found that the levels of IL-35 that should have been present in the models were much lower than they should be. These low levels indicate that the protein may play a crucial role in stopping T1D.

The research team that Singh was a part of, which was led by Professor Stellan Sandler, set out to find if IL-35 could suppress or reverse T1D, even if the disease was already established. The team utilized mice who had been injected with a chemical that induced symptoms of T1D. After the symptoms had been established for two days, the researchers injected them with IL-35 to see if their blood glucose levels normalized.

Their findings show that the blood glucose levels in the mouse models stabilized after they were given the injections. In addition to this finding, the researchers were also able to test IL-35 injections against a specific model of T1D, called non-obese diabetic mouse (NOD). Even after the IL-35 treatments were stopped, diabetic symptoms did not return in any of the subjects.

"To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to show that IL-35 can reverse established Type 1 diabetes in two different mouse models and that the concentration of the particular cytokine is lower in Type 1 diabetes patients than in healthy individuals. Also, we are providing an insight into a novel mechanism: how immune regulatory T cells change their fate under autoimmune conditions", said Singh.

Two for-profit colleges in Massachusetts have agreed to pay a collective $2.3 million to hundreds of former students in order to settle allegations that th...

Two for-profit colleges in Massachusetts have agreed to pay a collective $2.3 million to hundreds of former students in order to settle allegations that the schools used unfair recruitment tactics and inflated job numbers to convince students to enroll.

The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced the arrangement with Kaplan Career Institute and Lincoln Technical Institute on Thursday. Healey said “We allege these for-profit schools lured hopeful students into enrolling in their vocational programs by promising certain careers, but only left them with substantial debt. Students trying to better their lives through education are instead being left financially ruined. These settlements will provide the relief these students deserve and prevent deceptive practices that put taxpayer dollars at risk.”

Kaplan will have to pay a total of $1.375 million to eligible graduates of its medical vocational programs, possibly paying off the students' federal student debts. Lincoln will pay $850,000 to eligible graduates of its criminal justice programs in the cities of Somerville and Lowell, and must also forgive an additional $165,000 worth of private student loans.

The questionable tactics allegedly used by Kaplan and Lincoln are similar to those used by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges chain. In April, only a few weeks before Corinthian finally closed its doors and declared bankruptcy, the Department of Education levied a $30 million fine against Corinthian-owned Heald Colleges, and also forbade Heald from enrolling any new students, after a DoE investigation “confirmed cases” that Corinthian had misrepresented the schools' job placement rates to current and prospective students.

For example, one Heald student who graduated with a degree in accounting had a food-service job at Taco Bell – which Heald listed as an “in-field” job in its job-placement statistics.

However, Kaplan and Lincoln both denied engaging in similar actions in Massachusetts. Kaplan Higher Education LLC said in a prepared statement that “its actions were compliant [with regulations] and in the best interests of students, who were well-served by the institution.” The statement went on to say that the company, which no longer operates schools in Massachusetts, agreed to the settlement only to avoid litigation costs.

Lincoln Educational Services Inc. said in its own prepared statement that the attorney general's investigation started in 2008, when the bad economy was to blame for difficulties graduates might've had in finding jobs. The statement also suggested that the job-placement standards might be too stringent, since graduates who work for temp agencies or outside their chosen field of study are not considered valid in-field placements.

For the most part, anybody wishing to pursue a two-year college degree is better off enrolling in a state community college rather than a for-profit school.

The first successful face transplant was carried out in 2008. In the future, doctors say this delicate surgery will be improved through the use of an innov...

The first successful face transplant was carried out in 2008. In the future, doctors say this delicate surgery will be improved through the use of an innovative computer platform.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center worked to build a computer system that provides real-time feedback before and during facial transplant surgery, with the goal of improving face-jaw-teeth alignment between donor and recipient.

Since the first surgery seven years ago, there have been nearly 30 more, during which the surgeons had to rely of visual judgment in the jaw alignment. While these operations have been pretty amazing in and of themselves, the current methods can leave patients with some undesired residual deformities and abnormalities in function.

With the assistance of a computer, doctors may be less likely to misalign the new set of bones, jaw, and teeth. Doctors believe the new system could make these operations more successful, less costly, and more accessible to a wider selection of patients who might benefit from them.

To date, the new platform has been tested in mock surgeries performed on plastic models and human cadavers. Called the computer-assisted planning and execution (CAPE) system, the platform is first used to help plan surgery once a donor has been identified for transplantation.

The surgeons use data from CT scans to match the donor’s anatomy to the recipient’s. It syncs up form and appearance, as well as more subtle functions, like chewing and breathing.

The execution portion of the system’s name refers to the technology used during the surgery that provides the surgeon with precise measurements and angles related to ideal jaw-teeth positions. The surgical team also gets instantaneous visual feedback in the operating room.

“Every time the donor’s jaw-teeth segment moves during facial transplant inset, the computer recalculates its movements in comparison to the face transplant recipient, meaning the surgical team can have unprecedented visual data in achieving ideal alignment of the face, jaw and teeth,” said Chad Gordon, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He says because the technology is so precise, a patient is much less likely to need to undergo additional corrective operations, which is the case now.

People with severe facial burns or trauma may be candidates for facial transplants, whereas in the past their only option was facial constructive surgery.

The first U.S. face transplant was done at the Cleveland Clinic in 2008, when surgeons completed a near-total face transplant for a woman with severe facial disfigurement from a gunshot wound.

According to the Clinic, the patient regained her ability to eat, smell, and open and close her eyes, as well as her ability to express emotion.

While doctors are excited about the new technology, its practical use may be years away, since it must go through a series of clinical trials. Meanwhile, the research team that developed it has applied for eight patents in connection with it.

Talk about bad timing. For the first time since the financial crisis there has been a surge in first time homebuyers looking for homes. But according to re...

Talk about bad timing. For the first time since the financial crisis there has been a surge in first time homebuyers looking for homes. But according to real estate marketing site Zillow, there are fewer homes on the market.

Residential inventory fell in June for the fifth straight month, giving sellers additional leverage as the 2015 real estate season reaches its peak.

Zillow reports the biggest decline in inventory came in entry-level housing, the homes usually sought by first time buyers.

The total number of homes listed for sale on Zillow in June was down 6.5% year-over-year but was up 2.1% on a monthly basis. Not surprisingly, the hot real estate markets drew the most sellers, with inventories posting double-digit increases in Austin, Atlanta, and Washington, DC.

"Historically low mortgage rates continue to keep overall ownership affordability very good by historical standards, making it a great time to buy a home, especially with rent becoming increasingly unaffordable," said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. "Finding a house is the last hurdle for many buyers who have saved a down payment and gotten pre-approved for a mortgage. But low inventory levels like those we're seeing across the country can bring the home-buying process to a screeching halt. In many markets, there just isn't a lot to choose from in terms of homes on the market."

U.S. home building activity declined sharply in the wake of the financial crisis and has not kept pace with new household formation over the last six years. Much of the residential construction has centered on apartments, since more people were renting and fewer were buying.

For someone to decide to sell their home, a seller has to be able to buy something else. He or she may not be able to qualify for a mortgage under today's tighter underwriting standards and, because of stagnant incomes, might not be able to afford to move up.

As we reported in June, a huge segment of homeowners might want to sell their homes but can't, because they are still under water – owing more on mortgages than the homes are worth. While rising home values have returned many homeowners to positive equity, about half of those still underwater are in so deep that they may never be able to sell.

Home values are rising, but pretty slowly. The Zillow reports show U.S. home prices were up 3.3% year-over-year in June, with a median price of $180,000.

As values continue to rise, Zillow says buyers are faced with more challenges in a tighter market, especially in hot markets like Denver, which saw the highest home value appreciation from last year, surpassing even San Jose and San Francisco.

For those priced out of the housing market or unable to qualify for a mortgage, the alternative is continuing to rent. And here the news gets worse.

Zillow reports rents are rising faster than home values, with the Zillow Rent Index rising 4.3% in the second quarter, to $1,369.

Some dogs just won't hunt. And a lawsuit in Texas says that includes the supposed low-blood-sugar alert dogs sold by Drey's Alert Dogs for as much as $15,0...

The supposed nonprofit sold the dogs to consumers suffering from Type 1 diabetes with the promise that the dogs could smell the fluctuating blood sugar levels that can lead to blackouts, seizures and comas and alert their owners so they could take corrective action. 

But a lawsuit filed by Sahayonara Carachure and 11 others says her dog Hero and the others sold by Drey's don't do the job, according to Courthouse News Service.

"Hero does not alert when Ms. Carachure's glucose levels drop. He is terrified to be in public. And he has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder, patellar luxation, causing him severe pain in his knees," the suit charges. "Certified service dog trainers have told the Carachures that Hero is untrained and does not have the temperament to work as a service dog. The Carachures had no choice but to 'retire' Hero as a diabetic alert dog," according to the complaint.

Stefanie Huff says her family paid $30,000 for two diabetic alert dogs because her 7-year-old twin sons both have diabetes. They never got a dog, Huff says.

Sixteen dogs were taken into custody after police went to the Jasper, Texas, home of Roann and Timothy Pearson last July. Police said the dogs were unattended and living in unsanitary conditions. They were turned over to rescue organizations.

Imagine, if you will, a company blocking consumers’ attempts to save their homes from foreclosure. You don't really have to imagine that because it's exa...

You don't really have to imagine that because it's exactly what Residential Credit Solutions is accused of doing.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the mortgage servicer failed to honor modifications for loans transferred from other servicers, treated consumers as if they were in default when they weren’t, sent consumers escrow statements falsely claiming they were due a refund, and forced consumers to waive their rights in order to get a repayment plan.

As part of a settlement with CFPB, Residential Credit Solutions has agreed to pay $1.5 million in restitution to victims and a $100,000 civil money penalty for its illegal actions.

“By failing to honor loan modifications already in place, Residential Credit Solutions put consumers through more headaches but in some cases cost consumers their homes,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Residential Credit Solutions must now compensate its victims $1.5 million as a result of our action.”

The Fort Worth, Texas-based mortgage servicing company has about $95 million in total assets. Since 2009, approximately 75,000 borrowers have had their loans transferred to Residential Credit Solutions, which specializes in servicing delinquent loans and “credit-sensitive” residential mortgage loans, where the borrower is at high risk for default.

As a servicer, it is responsible for, among other things, creating and sending monthly statements to borrowers, and collecting and processing payments. For troubled borrowers, it administers short sale and foreclosure relief programs provided by the owner of the loan. These “loss mitigation” programs provide alternatives to foreclosure.

According to a consent order, Residential Credit Solutions engaged in illegal practices when servicing loans that it acquired from other servicers. On a number of occasions, the company failed to honor trial loan modifications that consumers had entered into with their prior servicers. Instead, it insisted that the consumer re-prove that they qualified. This effectively set consumers back as though they had not received a trial modification.

It also prolonged many people’s loss mitigation plans. The company put consumers in loan modification trial period purgatory and confused consumers about the status of their modifications, making it difficult for them to take appropriate action. In many cases, the company delayed or deprived borrowers of the opportunity to save or sell their homes.

Residential Credit Solutions’ failures as a mortgage servicer hurt homeowners. In many cases, the company deprived borrowers of the ability to make an informed choice about how to save or sell their home, caused borrowers to drop out from the loss mitigation process entirely, and drove borrowers into foreclosure. In violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the company has --since January 2009 -- specifically:

You can’t really go into a grocery store anymore without seeing a magazine rack full of covers with weight loss tips on them. There is a good reason for th...

You can’t really go into a grocery store anymore without seeing a magazine rack full of covers with weight loss tips on them. There is a good reason for this though: more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese, and this fact may be translating to our pets; an estimated 57.9% of U.S. pet dogs and cats are overweight or obese as well.

Perhaps we, as loving pet owners, need to start thinking about what, and how much, we are feeding our animals. During this year’s American Dairy Science Association & American Society of Animal Science (ADSA-ASAS) meeting, five pet nutrition experts explained how not properly controlling portion size, or choosing wrong foods, can affect our cats and dogs.

In short, they said that obesity occurs in pets when the amount of energy they use does not match how much food they are taking in. Scientists in the field of bioenergetics, which specifically deals with the correlation between food intake and energy use, have been looking into this problem in relation to pets.

Dr. Kelly Swanson, who is a professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois, says that the first step to getting your pet to be healthier is recognizing that they are obese. Oftentimes, owners will think that their animal is just “chubby”, and that it isn’t a big deal. However, being obese will inevitably lead your pet to a shorter lifespan.

“Lean, healthy pets not only live longer, but more importantly, have a better quality of life,” said Swanson.

Making sure that your pet eats the right kinds of food can be a completely different challenge. Dr. Dennis Jewell, who is a research scientist at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, believes that owners need to change their pet’s diet to account for a variety of factors.

“Each pet has unique genetics that determine, for example, if they’re going to use more calories to maintain their body weight than other animals,” he said. “We can design feeding programs for specific pet populations – based on factors like age, size, et cetera – but feeding regimens still come down to the individual pet.”

Regardless of the diet your pet is on, there are always certain substances that will need to be incorporated. Dr. Katherine Kerr, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Florida, believes that natural foods that provide nutrients, like fiber and protein, play an important role in health maintenance, disease prevention, and obesity in domesticated pets.

Although researchers will continue to strive to figure out the best nutrition regiment, you do not have to rely on their answers for your pet to be healthy. Doing something simple, such as laying off the dog treats after a certain time or making a more regulated feeding schedule, can go a long way towards preventing obesity in your pet. 

Greenland Trading of Paterson, N.J., is recalling approximately 12,672 pounds of squab (domesticated pigeon). The products, imported from France, were not...

Greenland Trading of Paterson, N.J., is recalling approximately 12,672 pounds of squab (domesticated pigeon).

The products, imported from France, were not presented at the U.S. point of entry for inspection. Without the benefit of full inspection, a possibility of adverse health consequences exists.

The following products, imported on June 21, 2014; August 16, 2014; and February 16, 2015, from a French establishment not eligible to export meat or poultry product to the U.S., are being recalled:

The recalled products bear the establishment number “79.213.004 CE” on the box containing the individual packages, and were shipped to port #4601, Port Newark, New York, N.Y.

NVIDIA Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., is recalling about 88,000 NVIDIA SHIELD tablet computers in the U.S. and Canada. The lithium-ion battery in the tabl...

NVIDIA Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., is recalling about 88,000 NVIDIA SHIELD tablet computers in the U.S. and Canada.

The company has received 4 reports of batteries overheating due to thermal runaway, including 2 reports of damage to flooring.

This recall involves NVIDIA SHIELD tablet computers with 8-inch touch screens. Model numbers P1761, P1761W and P1761WX and serial numbers 0410215901781 through 0425214604018 are included in this recall.

NVIDIA and the model and serial numbers are etched on the left side edge of the tablets. The SHIELD logo is on the back of the tablets.

The computers, manufactured in China, were sold at GameStop stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, GameStop.com, NewEgg.com, TigerDirect.com and other websites from July 2014, through July 2015, for between $300 and $400.

Consumers should immediately stop using the tablets and contact NVIDIA for instructions on receiving a free replacement tablet.

Consumers may contact NVIDIA toll free at (888) 943-4196 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online at www.nvidia.com and click on “NVIDIA Tablet Recall Program” at the bottom center of the page in green letters.

Continental Tire the Americas (CTA) is recalling a total of more than 8500 ContiProContact tires in 2 separate actions. The first involves 4,884 ContiProC...

Stork Craft Manufacturing USA of Las Vegas, Nev., is recalling about 18,500 foam crib mattresses. The mattresses fail to meet the mandatory federal mattre...

The mattresses fail to meet the mandatory federal mattress flammability standard for open flames, posing a fire hazard.

This recall involves Stork Craft foam crib and crib/toddler mattresses with model numbers 06710-100 and 06710-200 and a date of manufacture between August 2014, and January 2015. The mattresses have a zippered white fabric cover and measure about 28 inches wide, 52 inches long and have a 5 inch thick foam core.

The model number, date of manufacture and “Stork Craft Manufacturing (USA) Inc.” are printed on white federal label attached to the white mattress cover. The mattresses’ box has a Graco logo.

The mattresses, manufactured in China, were sold at Walmart stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, EChannel.com, ToysRUs.com, Walmart.com and Wayfair.com from August 2014, through April 2015, for between $38 and $50.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled crib mattresses and contact Stork Craft for a free, zippered mattress barrier cover to be placed over the mattress foam core and under the white mattress cover provided with the mattress.

Consumers may contact Stork Craft at (800) 274-0277 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. (PT), by email at parts@storkcraft.com, or online at http://storkcraftdirect.com and click on Product Recall near the bottom of the page for more information.

Ford Motor Company is recalling 7,165 model year 2015 Ford Taurus, Ford Flex, and Lincoln MKS vehicles manufactured May 4, 2015, to May 23, 2015; Lincoln M...

Ford Motor Company is recalling 7,165 model year 2015 Ford Taurus, Ford Flex, and Lincoln MKS vehicles manufactured May 4, 2015, to May 23, 2015; Lincoln MKT vehicles manufactured May 4, 2015, to May 21, 2015; and 2015-2016 Ford Explorer vehicles manufactured May 4, 2015, to May 23, 2015.

The recalled vehicles have a parking brake that may not fully engage when applied. As such, they fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 135, "Light Vehicle Brake Systems."

If the parking brake does not fully engage and the transmission is left in a gear other than 'Park' while on a slope, the vehicle may roll away, increasing the risk of a crash.

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will test the operation of the parking brake system, and if necessary, replace the parking brake control assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 31, 2015.

Most states require immunizations for children, but nearly all allow for exemptions. These range from religious and philosophical reasons to medical ones....

Most states require immunizations for children, but nearly all allow for exemptions. These range from religious and philosophical reasons to medical ones.

It's a contentious subject that rose to the surface in January when health officials blamed a new outbreak of measles on parents opting their children out of recommended vaccinations.

The controversy may pick up where it left off now that the summer meeting of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians (ACP) has backed elimination of all vaccination exemptions, except those for medical reasons.

"Allowing exemptions based on non-medical reasons poses a risk both to the unvaccinated person and to public health," said Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president of ACP. "Intentionally unvaccinated individuals can pose a danger to the public, especially to individuals who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons."

"Physicians should help educate patients and parents about the risks of vaccine preventable diseases and the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,” Riley said. “Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases have been linked to communities of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated individuals."

Riley maintains that the easier it is to receive an exemption, the higher the rate of exemptions in a particular state.

“As the number of exemptions increases, the risk of vaccine-preventable disease has been found to increase,” he said. “Exemptions from evidence-based immunization requirements should be limited to medical indications in order to protect the public's health."

That point of view faces stiff opposition from organizations that oppose mandatory vaccinations. The National Vaccine Information Center points out that medical exemptions are hard to come by.

It says that in 2014, all 50 states allowed a medical vaccine exemption; 48 states allowed a religious vaccine exemption, and 17 states allowed a philosophical, conscientious, or personal belief exemption.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Aging Research has issued a report, calling for greater vaccination efforts for seniors. Although influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus, and shingles vaccines are routinely recommended for older adults, the report says they are under-utilized.

"Vaccinations are available for many of the most common and deadly infectious diseases in older Americans and can save countless lives and health care dollars," said Susan Peschin, president and CEO of the Alliance. "Unfortunately, vaccination rates in seniors fall far short of target rates recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."

The group says vaccinations for seniors are cost-effective, covered to varying degrees by health insurance, and prevent conditions that have relatively high incidence rates and disease burdens.

The obesity epidemic has become a global problem. Worldwide trends have gone steadily upward in the past few years; nearly 2 billion adults over the age of...

The obesity epidemic has become a global problem. Worldwide trends have gone steadily upward in the past few years; nearly 2 billion adults over the age of 18 were classified as overweight in 2014. Of that number, nearly 600 million fell within obese ranges, according to individual body mass index scores.

In the hopes of reversing this negative trend, scientists have started developing a new set of compounds that can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb fat particles. If successful, this can be a major step toward decreasing weight gain for at-risk individuals.

The compounds that scientists are working with are known as “micelle sequestrant polymers” or MSPs. These polymers work by targeting the body’s ability to absorb fat. When in the body, the substances capture micelles, which are fat particles, and make your body unable to digest them. Since your body is not absorbing the micelles, they simply travel through your intestines and are excreted.

Researchers have already begun testing these compounds on mice, and the results have been promising. Mice who ingested the MSPs were found to have 9-10 times as many triglycerides in their feces when compared to mice who did not take them. Triglycerides are the main type of dietary fats. Finding an increased number of them in excretions means that these fats were not being absorbed by the mice; instead, they were simply passed through their bodies.

Scientists hope that the use of MSPs can reverse the terrible trend of obesity that is beginning to affect people worldwide. As of 2014, about 13 percent of the world’s population was classified as obese. Rates among women are slightly higher than those among men, with each group having an obese population of 15 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Obesity is a serious health risk, and can be a primary factor in causing many different diseases and conditions. Some of these include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, and osteoarthritis. It can also lead to stroke, reproductive problems, and a shortened lifespan.

The full study on MSPs was conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, and has been published in the journal Biomacromolecules. 

If you pay any attention to any news stream, you'll see a near-constant flow of articles warning you about the latest scam to prey on unwary individual con...

If you pay any attention to any news stream, you'll see a near-constant flow of articles warning you about the latest scam to prey on unwary individual consumers: advance-fee job scams, Facebook like-farming scams, jury-duty or notice-to-appear scams, IRS scams, phishing scams, and more.

With all this focus on scams targeting individual people, it's sometimes easy to overlook the scams that target businesses. But that would be a mistake. Indeed, from a scammer's perspective, a business (or non-profit) of a certain size can be easier to fool than an ordinary billpayer – mainly because businesses typically have a lot more bills to pay.

In January, for example, we warned you about a then-new variant of the “invoice scam,” a classic form of fraud wherein the scammer sends out fake bills or invoices in hope that the victim will pay those fraudulent bills in addition to real ones. At the time, the U.S. Postal Service estimated that American businesses lose millions if not billions of dollars to such scams every year – though the exact amount is probably impossible to determine, because the scam's very nature means many of its victims have no idea they're being victimized.

At any rate, that new variant of the “fake invoice scam” might be called the “real invoice scam” — although the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (or IC3) dubbed it the “Business E-Mail Compromise.”

Here's how it works: let's say you own (or have a job handling payments for) a candy-making company. If so, there are many suppliers to whom your business makes regular payments: candy-makers need to buy massive quantities of sugar, corn syrup, chocolate liquor, and/or other raw ingredients used to make candies.

If I'm a modern invoice scammer, chances are I needn't even bother with an invoice. All I have to do is send an official-looking email to your @candymaker.com business address, while pretending to be one of your suppliers: “Hello, this is SugarCorp writing to inform you that we've recently switched banks. Please update our information in your payment database: instead of sending SugarCorp payments to account Y at bank Z, send future payments to account A at bank B.” Then I relax, have a drink, and watch the money roll in – at least until the real SugarCorp contacts your Accounts Payable department to ask why they haven't been paid.

And if my scamming self has actual hacking skills, rather than the mere ability to write a convincing-looking fake email, then so much the better: instead of waiting for one of your employees to fall for my scambait and divert payments to me, I can simply hack into the right account and make those arrangements on my own.

In January, the IC3 issued a report saying that from Oct. 1, 2013 through Dec. 1, 2014, it received complaints about this scam from every U.S. state and 45 other countries, totaling 1,198 American victims who lost a combined $179,800,000, and 928 non-Americans who lost a combination of non-U.S. currencies worth $35,220,000 – worldwide losses across 46 nations totaling $215 million in 14 months.

And either the pace of such scams is quickening, or vastly more victims have come forward, since that January report. Yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal ran an article about such email business fraud, it said “Companies across the globe lost more than $1 billion from October 2013 through June 2015 as a result of such schemes, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The estimates include complaints from businesses in 64 countries, though most come from U.S. firms.”

Compare that to what the FBI said in its January IC3 report: from October 2013 through last December, worldwide losses were less than a quarter-billion dollars – and only seven months later that total had more than quadrupled to over a billion dollars.

One recent victim profiled in the Journal lost $100,000 to such a scam in April, only instead of a candymaker losing money to a bogus sugar producer, it was a scrap-metal producer scammed by a fake titanium vendor. David Megdal, vice-president of a Phoenix-based scrap processing company called Mega Metals, said that the company had wired $100,000 to a German vendor (or so it thought) as payment for 40,000 pounds of titanium shavings. But sometime after Mega Metals made that April wire transfer, the real titanium vendor let the company know it still hadn't received payment.

Turns out that an unknown “third party” had managed to compromise the email account of a broker who works for Mega Metals. An inspection of the malware on the broker's computer shows that the thieves managed to steal the passwords to the broker's email, then used that access to make alterations to legitimate payment arrangements.

Bad as this loss was, it could've been much worse – $100K is a relatively small transaction for Mega Metals, which pays up to $5 million for some (legitimate) shipments. In order to avoid future repeats of this scam, the company now verifies email wire transfer instructions with a phone call to the company receiving payment – and does not call any number provided in the email itself.

Mega Metals has basically adopted an anti-phishing rule we've repeated here often: “Don't call me; I'll call you.”

In other words, be suspicious of any unsolicited email (or text, or phone call) you get reporting problems or changes with your accounts – even if that email does seem to be from a legitimate business, financial or government institution. If you're worried about a problem with your Netflix account, bank account, or anything else, it's okay if you contact Netflix or your bank, but be wary when Netflix or your bank allegedly contacts you.

If you're a business owner, it's fine for you to contact your suppliers about issues regarding payment arrangements – but if someone claiming to represent your supplier contacts you to request a change, you must verify this on your own rather than taking that unsolicited message at its word. You didn't call them; they called you, and in today's world that's a warning sign of a scam.

Debt was major factor in the collapse of the housing market and the resulting financial crisis. People paid too much for houses and, more importantly, borr...

Debt was major factor in the collapse of the housing market and the resulting financial crisis. People paid too much for houses and, more importantly, borrowed too much money – in some cases more than 100% of the purchase price.

In other cases, people who had owned their homes for years and had manageable mortgages kept borrowing against their equity as home values skyrocketed. When the bubble popped they owed all that money but had no way to pay it back. It is classic example of toxic debt.

Deleveraging – getting rid of debt – was the primary focus for both corporations and consumers in the years immediately following the Great Recession. How much progress have we made? The Pew Charitable Trusts conducted a study to find out, concluding that 80% of consumers still hold some debt.

But some debt is not necessarily a bad thing. The Pew study attempted to dig deeper, to see how consumers in general, and among specific groups, are managing that debt.

The study raises some significant concerns. It found that while some households have paid down debt, others have increased their debt load since the end of the recession.

Of the 80% who have debt, a home mortgage is the most common form. A mortgage is one of the most benign forms of debt because there is always a cost associated with maintaining a residence. If you were not paying a mortgage you would be paying rent.

In many markets, rent can cost just as much, or even more, than a monthly mortgage payment. As long as the payment is affordable, mortgage debt can provide stability – since it doesn't go up every year – and helps a home owner build some equity over time.

The study found that Gen Xers have higher mortgage debt than other generations at similar ages, in part because of when they purchased their homes. During the run-up in housing prices before the Great Recession, Gen Xers were in their prime homebuying years.

The typical Gen Xer is in his or her mid-30s, and has more than twice the mortgage debt that Baby Boomers had at the same age. But older consumers have a troubling amount of debt themselves.

“Eight in 10 Baby Boomers hold some form of debt, and nearly half are still paying on their homes,” the authors write. “Boomers who are still paying mortgages typically owe $90,000 on their homes.”

Among the oldest Americans, those in the generation born between 1928 and 1945, 90% report being retired and, presumably, on fixed incomes. But more than half – 56 percent – of these retirees have debt.

“Because most older Americans are not eliminating debt before retirement, they may be at greater risk of financial insecurity in their golden years,” the authors conclude.

The report expresses concern for the younger generations, but says at this point the effect of debt on Millennials and GenX can't be determined. However, it does end on a hopeful note when it suggests that the right kind of debt, well-managed, can lead to greater wealth-building in the future.

When Whole Foods Markets reported its latest quarterly earnings this week, it missed hitting Wall Street expectations. Traders punished the stock, with the...

When Whole Foods Markets reported its latest quarterly earnings this week, it missed hitting Wall Street expectations. Traders punished the stock, with the price down more than 10% in early Thursday trading.

In Wednesday's conference call, company co-CEO Walter Robb attributed the less-than-stellar showing to some recent negative publicity.

“Comps dropped sharply in week 11, after our New York City weights and measures audit received national media attention, and averaged just 0.4% for the last two weeks of the quarter,” Robb said on the call. “We have seen a slight improvement in trends fourth quarter to date; however, comps are still well below our 2.5% average for the 19 weeks prior to the negative publicity.”

If you'll remember, New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) in late June accused Whole Foods stores in New York City of “routinely” overcharging customers by, in effect, putting its thumb on the scale and inflating the weights of its pre-packaged products – including meats, dairy, and baked goods.

After initially denying it, Whole Foods said that some price miscalculations had taken place, but that it was inadvertent and caused by human error. It promised to improve employee training at all its stores. On the call Tuesday evening, Robb addessed the controversy in detail.

“I want to emphasize these were not systematic, but rather caused by inadvertent human error,” he said. “The audit includes errors that were favorable to customers as well. We have taken immediate steps to address these issues, including improving our training regarding in-store packing, weighing, and labeling processes; and expanding our third-party auditing process Company-wide. We've built our business on the core value of satisfying and delighting our customers; it is what our customers have grown to love and expect from us.”

But lately, Whole Foods hasn't been feeling love from all of its previous supporters. On Monday, the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group, once again took Whole Foods to task for its new “Responsibly Grown” labeling program. The group states that the program often promotes conventionally-grown food over certified organic.

The Institute said its researchers analyzed the criteria for winning a “Best” rating from Whole Foods and found “a number of highly disturbing agrichemicals were not on the relatively short list of toxins that Whole Foods prohibits their top-rated conventional produce suppliers from using.”

Whole Foods built its business by offering a wide assortment of organic products, working closely with organic producers and their advocacy groups. Now, the romance appears to be cooling a bit.

In fact, the Institute's principal beef with Whole Food's “Responsibly Grown” campaign is the points it gives conventional producers who engage in socially popular things, like being nice to their employees and using alternative energy.

“There is nothing wrong with farmers implementing good employment practices or putting solar panels on the roof of their barn – practices that win them points in Whole Foods’ rating scheme,” the Institute said in a statement. “But the prerequisite – the 'ante,' if you will – to get into the Whole Foods’ Responsibly Grown game should be a supplier’s certified organic status.”

You've got a fairly new car and plenty of time on your hands. Why not pick up some extra cash being an Uber or Lyft driver?Before you sign up and start...

You've got a fairly new car and plenty of time on your hands. Why not pick up some extra cash being an Uber or Lyft driver?

Before you sign up and start transporting people around town, better update your auto insurance policy. Unless you are already a commercial driver, your auto insurance policy isn't going to provide all the protection you need.

As soon as Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber started rapidly growing, insurance companies expressed alarm. Non-professional drivers using personal vehicles were essentially jumping into the livery business without changing their consumer-grade auto insurance.

“Private-passenger auto (PPA) insurance is not designed, underwritten, or priced for commercial ride-sharing,” the Insurance Information Institute (III) warns on its website. “Private-passenger motorists transport themselves, family members, and friends, with average annual travel reaching about 12,000 miles per year. No money is made from these private trips.”

III says that if you read the fine print in your auto insurance policy, then you'll see that it probably explicitly prohibits using the vehicle for commercial purposes. When you obtained the policy, the underwriter also based the rate on the estimated number of miles driven each year. Using a vehicle for ride-sharing most likely pushes the mileage well beyond that.

State insurance commissioners have also expressed concern about the explosive growth in ride-sharing. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) notes that the major TNCs require drivers to have personal auto insurance, then the company provides additional commercial auto insurance.

NAIC says before signing up with a TNC, drivers should talk to their insurance company about what a personal auto policy would cover in an accident.

“Be aware that some providers may not insure you if you choose to conduct commercial business with your personal vehicle,” the group advises. “Others may offer to provide coverage for additional premium.”

Uber says it requires its drivers to maintain a personal auto insurance policy. In addition, it provides $1 million in commercial auto coverage on each ride-share trip with special commercial insurance specifically designed for ride-sharing.

But when a driver's app is turned off – when the driver isn't accepting riders – the personal coverage is in force. If the app is on but he or she isn't carrying a passenger, Uber's contingent liability coverage is in force.

GEICO is among the personal auto insurance providers that has adapted to the ride-sharing environment. It offers a ride-sharing policy, and says that it covers all the gaps. The policy covers the driver and vehicle whether the app is on or off.

Still, if you are considering becoming a ride-sharing driver, educating yourself on the ins and outs of insurance is a prudent first step. NAIC suggests that you ask these questions when talking to your insurance provider:

Also, find out what is covered by the TNC's commercial policy if you are involved in an accident in each of the following circumstances:

Depending on the TNC you drive for, you may need to consider buying a commercial policy that provides liability insurance as well as comprehensive, collision, medical payments, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This will ensure that you are properly protected if you get into an accident while you are driving for hire.

Everything you heard about economic growth during the first 3 months of the year -- forget it. As it issued the “advance” estimate of second quarter real ...

As it issued the “advance” estimate of second quarter real gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the production of goods and services in the U.S., adjusted for price changes, the Commerce Department revised its final figure for the first quarter. Instead of declining by 0.2%, GDP actually expanded 0.6%. Not a lot, but better than a decline.

Now for the current stuff: The government reports that the GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.3% in the April-June quarter. Keep in mind, though, that this estimate is based on source data that is incomplete or subject to further revision.

The stronger second-quarter showing comes from growth in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) or consumer spending, exports, state and local government spending, and residential fixed investment. Those gains were partly offset by declines in federal government spending, private inventory investment, and nonresidential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, edged lower from 1.6% in the first quarter to 1.4% in the second three months of the year. Stripping out the volatile food and energy categories, the “core” price index for gross domestic purchases shot up 1.1% after inching ahead 0.2% in the first quarter.

PCE jumped 2.9% in the second quarter, versus an an increase of 1.8% in the first. Spending on durable goods, such as cars, computers, and major appliances, rose 7.3%, compared with a minuscule gain of of 2.0% in the previous quarter. Spending on nondurable goods was up 3.6%; it rose just 0.7% from January through March. Services spending increased 2.1%, the same increase as in the first quarter.

After falling to a 42-year low a week ago, first-time applications for state unemployment benefits have moved higher.

According to the Labor Department (DOL), initial jobless claims were up by 12,000 in the week ending July 25 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000. Analysts at Briefing.com had expected the total to come in a bit higher -- 272,000.

The 4-week moving average, which smooths out the volatility found in the weekly tabulation, was 274,750, down 3,750 from the previous week -- a level economists say suggest a labor market that is close to full employment.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reached settlements with a group of scammers who falsely promised consumers new Medicare cards in order to obtain th...

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reached settlements with a group of scammers who falsely promised consumers new Medicare cards in order to obtain their bank account numbers and debit their accounts.

The settlements, resolving charges the FTC filed last year against Benjamin Todd Workman and Glenn Erikson and their companies, ban the schemers from selling healthcare-related products and services.

Telemarketers falsely told consumers they needed their bank account numbers to verify their identities before sending a new Medicare card, promising they would not take money from the accounts. In fact, they took several hundred dollars from each consumer’s account and provided nothing in return. In some cases, the telemarketers falsely promised to provide consumers with identity theft protection services.

Under the settlement orders, the defendants also are banned from selling identity theft protection-related products and creating or depositing remotely created checks or remotely created payment orders, which are used to make bank account debits.

They also are prohibited from billing or charging consumers without their consent, misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and selling or otherwise benefiting from customers’ personal information.

The orders impose a judgment of more than $1.4 million, which will be suspended upon payment of $35,000 by Workman and the surrender of certain bank accounts. In each case, the full judgment will become due immediately if either defendant is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.

The defendants are Workman, Sun Bright Ventures LLC and Citadel ID Pro LLC, and Erickson and Trident Consulting Partners LLC.

Call it a tale of 2 pickups. The 2015 F-150 crew cab, which Ford calls the SuperCrew, earned good ratings for occupant protection in all 5 Insurance Insti...

The 2015 F-150 crew cab, which Ford calls the SuperCrew, earned good ratings for occupant protection in all 5 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crashworthiness evaluations -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations -- and earned a 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award.

However, the extended cab, or SuperCab, earned good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations but just a marginal rating for occupant protection in a small overlap front crash.

The Institute picked the F-150 to test first because it is not only the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. but also the first mass-market vehicle with an all-aluminum body.

“Consumers who wondered whether the aluminum-body F-150 would be as crashworthy as its steel-body predecessor can consider the question answered,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.

Both the crew cab and extended cab F-150 pickups are rated basic for front crash prevention when equipped with Ford’s optional forward collision warning system, which meets performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The F-150 crew cab isn’t eligible for TOP SAFETY PICK+ because it lacks an autonomous braking system. Vehicles that earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK.

To earn TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also must have an available autobrake system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

For vehicles with multiple body styles, IIHS typically evaluates the one with the biggest sales. Initially, only the F-150 crew cab was on the schedule.

“After we tested the crew cab in the spring, questions were raised about the extended cab’s ability to match the crew cab’s good small overlap performance'” said Zuby. “We did some initial analysis and decided to test the extended cab, too,”

“For starters, there’s been lots of buzz around the release of the first aluminum-body pickup and how it would perform in crash tests,” Zuby says. “What’s more, even the lower-selling extended cab sales top those of many of the passenger vehicles we rate.”

In the small overlap front test, each F-150 traveled at 40 mph toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier. Twenty-five percent of the pickup’s total width struck the barrier on the driver side, where a Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man was positioned at the steering wheel. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

“In a small overlap front crash like this, there’s no question you’d rather be driving the crew cab than the extended cab F-150,” Zuby says.

The crew cab’s occupant compartment remained intact. The front-end structure crumpled in a way that spared the occupant compartment significant intrusion and preserved survival space for the driver.

Measures recorded on the test dummy indicated low risk of injuries to the dummy’s head, chest, legs and feet.

The front and side curtain airbags worked together to keep the dummy’s head from contacting injury-producing stiff interior structures or outside objects. The dummy’s head loaded the front airbag, which stayed in place until the dummy rebounded.

The extended cab is a different story. Intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s survival space, resulting in a poor structural rating. The toepan, parking brake and brake pedal were pushed back 10-13 inches toward the dummy, and the dashboard was jammed against its lower legs.

Measures recorded on the dummy indicated there would be a moderate risk of injuries to the right thigh, lower left leg and left foot in a real-world crash of this severity. The steering column was pushed back nearly 8 inches and came dangerously close to the dummy’s chest. The dummy’s head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off to the left and hitting the instrument panel.

“Ford added structural elements to the crew cab’s front frame to earn a good small overlap rating and a TOP SAFETY PICK award but didn’t do the same for the extended cab,” Zuby noted. “That shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab. It doesn’t.”

Hercules Tire & Rubber Company is recalling 90,000 All Trac A/T tires, sizes 235/70R16 106T, 235/75R15 109T XL, 245/70R16 107T, 255/70R16 111T, 265/70R16 1...

Hercules Tire & Rubber Company is recalling 90,000 All Trac A/T tires, sizes 235/70R16 106T, 235/75R15 109T XL, 245/70R16 107T, 255/70R16 111T, 265/70R16 112T, 265/75R16 116T and 275/70R16 114T.

The affected tires may experience a tread separation which could result in sudden air loss, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

Hercules will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in August 2015.

Owners may contact Hercules customer service at 1-888-943-2402. Hercules number for this recall is 01-2015.

Another day, another discovery of a massive security flaw in the majority of computerized devices on the planet. But this latest one, an exploit named “Row...

Microsoft officially launched its new Windows 10 operating system last night, offering free upgrades to current Windows 7 and 8 users who make the switch w...

Microsoft officially launched its new Windows 10 operating system last night, offering free upgrades to current Windows 7 and 8 users who make the switch within the next year.

Before the rollout, Microsoft trumpteted the various new security features that Windows 10 would offer, so it's arguably ironic that the operating system comes pre-installed with a security flaw touted as a connectivity advantage: a feature called Wi-Fi Sense which, unless you deliberately opt out of the default setting, automatically shares your Wi-Fi network password with all of your contacts in Outlook, Hotmail, and Skype. (You can also share your network password with Facebook “friends,” but that's not automatic; it requires you to opt in.)

More specifically, it doesn't actually hand out your password to your contacts; it “merely” shares an encrypted version of your password and stores it on Microsoft's servers, thus allowing anyone in your contact list to use your Wi-Fi network when they visit you at home, or merely happen to be in range of it. Or maybe when they're breaking into your house.

Wi-Fi Sense's FAQ page claims to offer “answers to some questions you might have about Wi-Fi Sense.” Unfortunately, it does not answer the question “Where the hell did Microsoft get the idea that if I exchange an email with someone, this means I want that someone to have access to my home Wi-Fi network?”

According to Microsoft, the only way to opt out of Wi-Fi Sense is by changing the name of the network to include the phrase _optout (note the underscore symbol before the word). Microsoft offered as an example the name mynetwork_optout. However, Microsoft also says that “It can take several days for your network to be added to the opted-out list for Wi-Fi Sense. If you want to stop your network from being shared sooner than that, you can change your Wi-Fi network password. For more information about how to do that, check the documentation for your router or access point.”

Don't forget that if you change your Wi-Fi network name, you and everyone in your household will then have to re-connect your devices to the newly named network.

Security expert Brian Krebs, who called the automatic password-sharing “a disaster waiting to happen,” noted that, although Wi-Fi Sense has been a feature on Windows Phone for quite awhile, that was “less of a concern” because Windows Phone has only a tiny share of the mobile device market, which is largely dominated by Android and Apple iOS. However, “embedding this feature in an upgrade version of Windows makes it a serious concern for much of the planet.”

If you intend an upgrade to Windows 10 but have not yet done so, make sure you change the name of your Wi-Fi network to include _optout before you make the upgrade. Krebs also recommends that “While you’re at it, consider keeping Google off your Wi-Fi network as well. It’s unclear whether the Wi-Fi Sense opt-out kludge will also let users opt-out of having their wireless network name indexed by Google, which requires the inclusion of the phrase “_nomap” in the Wi-Fi network name.”

Alzheimer’s and diabetes are two diseases that are becoming more and more widespread, even though they are very different from one another. Now however...

Alzheimer’s and diabetes are two diseases that are becoming more and more widespread, even though they are very different from one another. 

Type 2 diabetes cases are on the rise, in part because of the huge increase in obesity – a major risk factor for the condition. Alzheimer’s cases are increasing, in large part because of the huge Baby Boom generation getting older. Age is a major risk factor for that illness.

An Iowa State University study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory function decline, which is a dominant symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

In May, researchers at Washington University at St. Louis reached a similar conclusion. They found that elevated sugar levels in the blood, which is a halmark of diabetes, can increase levels of amyloid beta, which shows up in brain plaques in Alzheimer's patients.

According to Auriel Willette, a research scientist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State, insulin resistance is common in people who are obese, pre-diabetic, or have type 2 diabetes.

To explore a possible link, Willette and co-author Barbara Bendlin, of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, closely examined brain scans in 150 late middle-aged adults. Each of them were at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but had shown no sign of memory loss.

What the researchers were looking for was evidence that people with higher levels of insulin resistance used less blood sugar in areas of the brain most susceptible to Alzheimer’s. If that were the case, they theorized, the brain would have less energy to carry out its cognitive functions.

“If you don’t have as much fuel, you’re not going to be as adept at remembering something or doing something,” Willette said. “This is important with Alzheimer’s disease, because over the course of the disease there is a progressive decrease in the amount of blood sugar used in certain brain regions. Those regions end up using less and less.”

The area of focus was the medial temporal lobe, specifically the hippocampus. That's a region of the brain critical for learning new things and sending information to long-term memory. Willette says it's one of the most affected parts of the brain when someone develops Alzheimer's.

If there is a link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease, that could be a huge step toward prevention. But Willette says difficulty regulating blood sugar may impact cognitive function at any age, not just those at risk of Alzheimer's. That means young people who are obese or who are developing insulin resistance could face cognitive impairment at an early age.

The first step, however, is testing for insulin resistance in obese patients and taking corrective action through improved nutrition and moderate exercise.

“We are terrible at adjusting our behavior based on what might happen in the future,” Willette said. “That’s why people need to know that insulin resistance or related problems with metabolism can have an effect in the here and now on how they think, and it’s important to treat.”

He says even people with mild or moderate insulin resistance who don’t have type 2 diabetes might have an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease because they’re showing many of the same sorts of brain and memory relationships.

Understanding the progression of cognitive decline and how it relates to insulin resistance will take additional research. Willette says following those who are at-risk through the different stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s will offer insight as to what happens as their cognitive function declines.

U.S. food companies have discovered that a guaranteed way to boost sales of a particular product is to make a gluten-free version of it. Consumers will sna...

U.S. food companies have discovered that a guaranteed way to boost sales of a particular product is to make a gluten-free version of it. Consumers will snap it up.

According to a new report from Packaged Facts, it's all part of a trend that has consumers increasingly rejecting artificial additives, long ingredients lists, and unpronounceable food ingredients.

In the latest Packaged Facts' Online Consumer Survey, 55% of the respondents favored packaged food with fewer and simpler ingredients.

As we have noted earlier, a lot more consumers are avoiding gluten than those who do so for medical reasons. For example, only about 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease. When these people eat something with gluten, it can damage internal organs.

So why do so many other consumers scrupulously avoid gluten, a simple protein found in wheat, rye and barley? Many say they “feel better” if they avoid gluten, although they consumed it for years with no complaint. Now that they want to avoid it, food manufacturers are only too happy to oblige.

The Packaged Facts data reveals that 37% of survey respondents say gluten-free/wheat-free is an important factor when they are shopping for food, and for 13% it is very important. The survey discovered that nearly a quarter of participating consumers purchased food products labeled as gluten-free in the last three months.

Fully 25% of these consumers said they did so because of the perceived superior healthfulness of gluten-free foods. This perception has been a particularly strong driver for sales of gluten-free salty snacks—especially tortilla chips.

"Even those who are not gluten-sensitive are attracted to gluten-free salty snacks because they seem to add another check mark to the list of perceived requirements for better-for-you salty snacks," said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.

By product segment, salty snacks top gluten-free sales by a huge margin. Its share of the market is 61%, compared to 16% for crackers and 7% for pasta.

When you add up total gluten-free sales for food manufacturers, it represents a big boost to profits. In an October 2014 article, The Economist observed that gluten-free has now replaced vegetarianism as a food enthusiasm.

“The food industry is finding that there is no longer much money to be made in making meat-free products,” the article noted. “Sales of alternatives to meat have flattened in America in real terms since 2008; in Britain they have plunged by a third.”

According to Statista, the gluten-free food market in the U.S. is $1.77 billion and projected to grow to nearly $24 billion by 2020.

Needless to say, food companies love this trend. Once upon a time Coca-Cola made one soft drink – Coke. In the last 50 years it has boosted profits by turning out Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke, Diet Cherry Coke, and on and on. If a manufacturer can turn out a greater variety of products, then it is bound to sell more.

No one thinks the gluten-free craze is going away anytime soon. Food manufacturers hope it lasts for years.

The beginning of the school year can bring plenty of ailments that you didn’t see in your kids when they were on summer vacation. Anxiety, along with an in...

The beginning of the school year can bring plenty of ailments that you didn’t see in your kids when they were on summer vacation. Anxiety, along with an increased pressure to perform, can result in stomach problems, trouble sleeping, or actual sicknesses, like a cold. Researchers have recently found that headaches can also be a major problem for school-aged children.

According to Doctor Nick DeBlasio, a pediatrician at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Pediatric Primary Care Clinic, about 10% of school-aged children and 15-27% of teens experience headaches from time to time.

Children get the same kind of headaches that adults do, but their symptoms might be slightly different. If you have ever had a migraine, then you know how they usually start in the morning and persist through the afternoon. Migraines in children are different in this respect because they usually start in the late afternoon. Adults usually have to endure this pain for at least four hours, but children can get through it in just 2-3 hours.

As a parent, it is easy to believe that your child is faking their headache to try and get out of doing school work or chores. Do not be too quick to judge, though. Kids get headaches for a number of reasons, and they can be triggered by many different things.

When kids play outside or get involved in an activity, they can forget that they need to get a drink. They lose a great deal of their body fluids from sweating, which results in dehydration. The best thing you can do is make sure they have water readily available. Try packing a backpack with water bottles or take a cooler to the park if your kids are going to play there. If they decide to stick closer to home, then using the backyard hose can be a great way of staying hydrated.

It’s not always easy to get little ones to eat, and a lack of food can cause horrible headaches. Make sure your child eats a well-balanced diet and doesn’t consume a lot of caffeine. This drug can be found in many foods and beverages and can trigger headaches if children have too much.

Getting enough sleep during the school year is a problem for many school-aged children, especially as they get older. It is optimal for middle and high school kids to get at least 10-12 hours of rest every night. If they are having a hard time sleeping at night, it will make getting through the school day much harder. Children who lack sleep often have a harder time focusing and functioning, and they will also be more prone to getting headaches.

Not many of us function well under stress, and getting headaches can be one sure sign that your child is overwhelmed. Pressure to perform at school or big changes at home can create stress, and you will find that this usually results in an increased number of headaches. Be sure that you are attentive to your child’s needs if he or she is going through a rough patch.

The beginning of the school year is a great time to get your child’s vision checked. If they are straining to see, then it can easily result in a headache. A vision test will give you the results you need in order to determine if your child’s headaches are simply the result of poor eyesight.

Getting a headache is not always triggered by an outside influencer; genetics can also be a cause. If you find yourself getting headaches often, then it’s very possible that your child is predisposed to getting them as well.

Most headaches that children have are not cause for alarm, but if you find that your child’s headaches have become more frequent, severe, or lead to other physical ailments such as vomiting or passing out, then it is best to see a pediatrician.

In all other cases, over-the-counter ibuprofen can be administered to ease the pain caused by headaches. Be sure to follow the directions on the box to determine what dosage is appropriate for your child. 

Renters continued to get squeezed in the second quarter of the year as rents rose and the number of vacant apartments available for rent declined.A rep...

Renters continued to get squeezed in the second quarter of the year as rents rose and the number of vacant apartments available for rent declined.

A report (PDF) by the U.S. Census Bureau shows the national rental unit vacancy rate dipped to 6.8% in the April to June period, marking the lowest vacancy rate since 1989. The vacancy rate was 7.1% in the first quarter.

With fewer available homes and apartments, landlords were able to charge more in rent. The median advertised monthly rent in the second quarter was $803. That's up about $50 a month since the financial crisis.

The Census numbers show rental inventory is tightest in metropolitan areas, suggesting there are more homes and apartments to choose from in non-urban areas. Regions of the country with the most cities also have the fewest available rentals.

The south and Midwest had the highest rental vacancy rates while things were much tighter in the northeast and west. The vacancy rate in the northeast was 5.4% and 4.9% in the west.

It's no coincidence that home prices are highest in those two regions of the country, meaning more people priced out of the real estate market have no other option than to rent their home. Wall Street economists predict the trend means current rents are set to go even higher.

Meanwhile, the Census report shows that as more people have moved into rentals, the home ownership rate has continued to fall.

In the second quarter, the home ownership rate dipped to 63.4%, down 0.4% from the first quarter and 1.3% from the second quarter of 2014. The downward glide in home ownership began at its all-time high of 69.1% in 2005, just before the housing bubble popped.

Rising rents and harder-to-find apartments could be combining to drive home sales higher. This week's S&P;/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices release shows Home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis in May.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported existing-home sales increased in June to their highest pace in over eight years. At the same time, the lack of inventory helped push the national median sales price to an all-time high. NAR says all major regions of the country experienced sales gains in June and have now risen above year-over-year levels for six consecutive months.

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to buy a house or qualify for a mortgage. Those consumers will pay the cost of rising rents. Real estate marketing site Zillow recently reported that rents rose faster than home values in April, suggesting a “rental crisis” may be deepening.

While home values have been up and down since the housing crash, Zillow says rents have been steadily rising. It creates something of a Catch-22 for renters.

Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist, says while renters are financially motivated to become homeowners, rising rents make it more difficult to save for a down payment.

Two companies that lied to consumers with ads for a mortgage payment program that promised tens of thousands of dollars in interest savings from more frequ...

You can't make an omelet without cracking eggs -- and you can't crack eggs safely unless you wash your hands with soap and water after doing so. But a new ...

You can't make an omelet without cracking eggs -- and you can't crack eggs safely unless you wash your hands with soap and water after doing so. But a new survey finds that fewer than half of us do that. We don't cook the yolks enough, either.

The sorry state of American egg handling comes from research conducted by a team from,RTI International, Tennessee State University, and Kansas State University.

They found that only 48% of consumers wash their hands with soap and water after cracking eggs. Because hands are the primary vehicle for spreading pathogens in the kitchen, USDA and the Partnership for Food Safety recommend that consumers wash their hands before and after handling raw eggs.

Equally disturbing, more than half of participants who fry or poach eggs leave the yolks soft or runny, something discouraged by the Food and Drug Administration.

A team of researchers from RTI International, Tennessee State University, and Kansas State University have just published,the findings of their survey,of handling practices and consumption of shell eggs in U.S. homes. The study was partially funded by the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The survey, conducted in September 2013, also found that 13% reported rinsing or washing eggs before cooking them, another potentially unsafe practice because of the possibility of cross-contamination.

The problem with all of this, of course, is Salmonella enteriditis, commonly spread by eggs. An,estimated,64%,of outbreaks between 1998-2008 caused by,Salmonella,enteriditis were attributed to eggs.

Oh, and one other thing -- stop eating that raw cookie dough and cake batter! Fully 25% of those surveyed owned up to this dangerous practice, and only 5% said they use a food thermometer to be sure baked dishes are fully cooked.

Pending home sales, it appears, have hit a summer slump. The National Association of Realtors reports that after 5 consecutive months of increases, the Pe...

The National Association of Realtors reports that after 5 consecutive months of increases, the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, fell 1.8% in June to 110.3 .

Even with the decline, though, they remained close to May's level, which was the highest in over 9 years, and are 8.2% above June of last year. The June reading for the PHSI is the third highest of the year, and it has now increased year-over-year for 10 consecutive months.

Although pending sales decreased in June, the overall trend in recent months supports a solid pace of home sales this summer.

"Competition for existing houses on the market remained stiff last month, as low inventories in many markets reduced choices and pushed prices above some buyers' comfort level," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The demand is there for more sales, but the determining factor will be whether or not some of these buyers decide to hold off even longer until supply improves and price growth slows."

Yun says strong price appreciation and an improving economy are finally giving some homeowners the incentive and financial capability to sell and trade up or down. "Unfortunately, because nearly all of these sellers are likely buying another home, there isn't a net increase in inventory,” he adds. “A combination of homebuilders ramping up construction and even more homeowners listing their properties on the market is needed to tame price growth and give all buyers more options."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types in 2015 is expected to increase around 6.5% to $221,900 -- matching the record high set in 2006.

Total existing-home sales this year are forecast to increase 6.6% to around 5.27 million, roughly 25% below the peak set in 2005 (7.08 million).

Mortgage applications were on the rise last week, helped along by an increase in refinancings. Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly M...

Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey shows total applications inched up 0.8% in the week ending July 24.

The Refinance Index jumped 2%, taking the refinance share of mortgage activity to 50.6% of total applications from 50.3% a week earlier. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity slipped to 6.6% of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications edged down fro 14.0% to 13.7%, the VA share fell to 10.9%t from 11.3% and the USDA share was unchanged at 0.9%.

Now let's see if we have this straight. Elderly investors were allegedly conned into investing in a company that said it had invented a device that generat...

In recent years researchers have made a case that sitting for prolonged periods is harmful to your health. Some have claimed it is as dangerous as smoking....

In recent years researchers have made a case that sitting for prolonged periods is harmful to your health. Some have claimed it is as dangerous as smoking.

But being on your feet all day might not be so healthy either. A team of international researchers conducted a small study of men and women who worked on their feet for most of each day.

The study's purpose was to determine if there were any long-term fatigue effects in the lower limbs associated with standing work. The researchers attempted to determine if there were any possible age or gender influences as well. 

“The progressive accumulation of muscle fatigue effects is assumed to lead to musculoskeletal disorders, as fatigue generated by sustained low-level exertions exhibits long-lasting effects,” the authors write. “However, these effects have received little attention in the lower limbs.”

The study had 14 men and 12 women from two different age groups simulate standing work for five hours. The five hours included several five minute seated rest breaks and a 30 minute lunch, simulating a work day in a retail environment.

The researchers checked for muscle fatigue through electrically induced muscle twitches (which were used to measure muscle twitch force [MTF]), postural stability, and subjective evaluation of discomfort.

The results showed a significant fatigue effect after standing work that persisted beyond 30 min after the end of the workday. Subjective evaluations of discomfort indicated a significant increase in perception of fatigue immediately after the end of standing work. Age and gender didn't seem to make much difference.

The authors of the study conclude that work activities that require employees to stand for long periods of time are likely to contribute to lower-extremity and/or back disorders.

An unrelated study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists might contain some good news for people who spend their day standing and then suffer from back and leg pain. The study shows that patients who received a novel high frequency form of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy enjoyed significant and long-term relief from both chronic back and leg pain.

“Chronic back and leg pain have long been considered difficult to treat and current pain relief options such as opioids have limited effectiveness and commonly known side effects,” said lead author Dr. Leonardo Kapural, of Wake Forest University. “Given the prevalence of chronic pain, high frequency SCS is an exciting advance for our patients.”

SCS is a fairly common therapy that administers electric pulses to the spinal cord through a small device implanted under the skin. The new treatment, called HF10 therapy, uses proprietary high frequency pulses of 10,000 Hz, compared to traditional SCS which uses frequencies of 40 to 60 Hz.

BMW of North America is recalling 30,456 model year 2014-2015 MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door vehicles and 2015 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop...

BMW of North America is recalling 30,456 model year 2014-2015 MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door vehicles and 2015 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop 2 Door vehicles.

The vehicles do not meet the side impact performance requirements for the rear seat passengers, and thus fail to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 214, "Side Impact Protection."

If the side impact performance requirements are not met, rear seat passengers may be at a higher risk of injury during a crash.

MINI will notify owners, and dealers will install additional energy absorption material between the rear interior side panels and the exterior vehicle body, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 12, 2015.

Arctic Cat is recalling about 2,700 Arctic Cat Prowler 500 HDX off-highway utility vehicles. Fuel can leak from the fuel fitting at the throttle body, pos...

This recall involves model year 2014 Arctic Cat Prowler 500 HDX and model year 2015 Prowler 500 HDX models. The recalled vehicles include vehicle identification numbers (VIN) from 303194 through 305166. The VIN number is located on the rear frame tube under the rear of the box.

The vehicles are green, red, vibrant red metallic, or emerald green metallic. “Arctic Cat” is printed on each side of the hood. Also 500 is printed on each side on the front fenders, HDX on each side of the rear cargo box, and “Arctic Cat” on the cargo box tail gate.

The vehicles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Arctic Cat dealers nationwide from August 2013, to July 2015, for between about $11,000 and $12,400.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled Prowlers and contact an Arctic Cat dealer to schedule a free repair. Arctic Cat is contacting its customers directly.

Kia Motors America is recalling 2,587 model year 2016 Kia Sorentos manufactured October 23, 2014, to December 10, 2014. The vehicles have a front passeng...

Kia Motors America is recalling 2,587 model year 2016 Kia Sorentos manufactured October 23, 2014, to December 10, 2014.

The vehicles have a front passenger seat belt whose buckle latch assembly may prevent the front passenger from fastening the seat belt. If the front passenger seat belt cannot be latched, an occupant sitting in the front passenger seat has an increased risk of injury in the event of a crash.

Kia will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger seat belt buckle cover, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 18, 2015.

Crash tests are used throughout the automotive industry to ensure that drivers are protected if they have an accident. Although watching the crash test dum...

Crash tests are used throughout the automotive industry to ensure that drivers are protected if they have an accident. Although watching the crash test dummies get mangled up can be off-putting, it is all in the name of safety. Now, crash test dummies have been created to test the safety of pet carriers.

The Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit organization, has teamed up with Subaru of America and NASA engineers to create crash test dog dummies. Each one is designed to model the size and weight of a dog that would fit into a specific carrier. Many different carriers were tested by the researchers, but three of them came out on top in terms of safety.

The three types of carriers that performed the best during testing were the Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate with 8’ Tie Down Straps, the PetEgo Forma Frame Jet set Carrier with ISOFIX-Latch Connection, and the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock. All of the other carriers that were tested can be found here.

The safety of a carrier is of the utmost importance for dog owners. If a crash ever occurred with your dog in the car, a good carrier could stop your pet from becoming a projectile. They could strike another passenger in the car, which could lead to multiple injuries. Researching this kind of topic is a great step toward making sure all car passengers remain safe.

“We at Subaru recognize the importance of keeping the entire family safe on the road, including our beloved pets,” said Michael McHale, who is Subaru’s director of corporate communications. “Alongside Center for Pet Safety, we are proud to help lead the charge in identifying the best crates and carriers for pet lovers everywhere, while, more importantly, making pet parents aware of the safety measures they can take and the dangers that can occur if they don’t.”

The researchers have included several tips for pet owners in their study. They state that your dog should fit properly inside the crate so that they are snug, but still have enough room for comfort. Also, pet owners should ensure that pet carriers are secured with stength-rated cargo anchor straps, not with elastic bands or bungee cords. This will ensure that the carrier will not tip over or move around while the car is in motion. 

Yesterday I got an email from a friend offering an amazingly lucrative part-time job opportunity (and who couldn't use extra ...

A coalition of privacy rights advocates and civil-liberties groups opposed to the proposed Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, is urging Americ...

A coalition of privacy rights advocates and civil-liberties groups opposed to the proposed Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, is urging American citizens to wage a fax campaign against it – on the theory that if the government wants to impose Orwellian 1984-style surveillance laws on America, maybe circa-1984 technology is the best way to point out the problems with this.

The “Stop Cyber Surveillance!” website at StopCyberspying.com says that “CISA is fundamentally flawed because of its aggressive spying powers, broad immunity clauses for companies, and vague definitions of key terms. Combined, they make CISA a surveillance bill in disguise. … Congress is stuck in 1984. It doesn’t seem to understand modern technology. So we’re going to communicate with it in a way it’ll understand: With faxes. Thousands and thousands of faxes.”

“Cybersecurity” is actually pretty easy to get if you want it – simply use secure encryption to encode your data, so nobody can see it without the encryption key. Indeed, until a couple years ago, “use encryption” was bog-standard personal-security advice. In October 2012, the FBI's “New E-Scams and Warnings” website published an article telling smartphone users the then-surprising news that their devices were vulnerable to malware, and advised that encryption “can be used to protect the user’s personal data in the case of loss or theft.”

But the FBI changed its mind under current director James Comey, who hates encryption so much, he's asked Congress to make it illegal.

The reason civil-liberty and privacy advocates have a problem with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act is essentially that it has little-or-nothing to do with “cybersecurity” but mostly focuses on “information sharing” – namely, letting private companies and government actors share private information about people without any warrants or constitutional oversight.

As Stop Cyber Surveillance points out, CISA “allows companies to share nearly ANY type of information with the government, including significant amounts of personal information.” The bill would also ensure that the “NSA and FBI automatically get all shared information and can use it for any number of reasons,” not merely those limited to cybersecurity, and private companies would be shielded from any lawsuits over sharing personal information.

The digital-privacy group Fight for the Future has developed and released an online tool for Operation: Fax Big Brother, letting people send faxes to Congress over the Internet (and also says that any tweet hashtagged #faxbigbrother will also be faxed). People can also call Congress at 1-985-222-CISA.

Fight for the Future calls CISA a “dirty deal between government and corporate giants,” which “lets much of government from the NSA to local police get your private data from your favorite websites and lets them use it without due process. The government is proposing a massive bribe—they will give corporations immunity for breaking virtually any law if they do so while providing the NSA, DHS, DEA, and local police surveillance access to everyone's data …. and on top of that, you can't use the Freedom of Information Act to find out what has been shared.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, meanwhile, pointed out another problem with the “incredibly broad immunity” CISA would grant to companies engaged in spying on behalf of the government: “because of the bill’s lack of protection for private information and the ability to launch countermeasures[,] Any company that merely does significant (but not “substantial”) harm to innocent people or machines will not be liable in court.”

From an individual's perspective, the bill would weaken their own cybersecurity while rewarding companies who violate it, all while ensuring the government has pretty much free rein to monitor your communications.

Saving on car insurance is no reason to get married, but new research by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) shows that getting hitched will lower you...

Saving on car insurance is no reason to get married, but new research by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) shows that getting hitched will lower your rates.

The CFA questions the fairness of this practice, arguing that it doesn't seem to have much to do with risk.

Insurers maintain that married people tend to be more responsible drivers, but the CFA says if a woman's husband dies, her rate often rises as a result. Is she suddenly a bad driver because she's a widow, the group asks?

The study focused on 10 cities and 6 major insurers. The authors says four companies – GEICO, Farmers, Progressive, and Liberty – increased rates on state-mandated liability coverage for widows by an average of 20%.

The study found Nationwide sometimes increased rates for widows. The sixth company, State Farm, did not change rates because of marital status. Its price quotes were the same, regardless of whether the driver was single, separated, divorced, widowed, a domestic partner, or married.

“Hiking rates on women whose husbands die seems both unfair and inhumane,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director. “Why don’t insurers instead emphasize driving-related factors such as accidents, traffic violations, and miles driven in their pricing?”

The CFA research was conducted using quotes from insurance company websites for the minimum liability insurance coverage required by states. Everything remained the same except for marital status.

The authors said Farmers, Progressive, Nationwide, and Liberty always charged single, separated, and divorced drivers the same price. It was almost always higher than the premium it charged married consumers.

The study said GEICO’s premium quotes were always lower for married drivers, but varied unpredictably, with single, separated, and divorced drivers often being charged different prices.

“Statistics show that married drivers have fewer accidents than single drivers,” National General Insurance says on its website. “So, if you’re married you’ll probably pay lower auto insurance premiums. This particularly applies to younger drivers.”

Despite these explanations, Brobeck is unconvinced. He notes that most of the rate examples collected by his organization were for 30 year-old, safe, female drivers. When her age was boosted to 50, the price gap persisted.

“One would like to see any evidence that two 50 year-olds with the same characteristics pose considerably different insurer risks because of their marital status,” he said.

Motoring website DMV.org points out that getting married doesn't always lower your car insurance rates. If you have an excellent driving record but your spouse doesn't, your joint rate will be higher than if both parties were good drivers.

There's not as much pepper in those little red and white McCormick pepper cans as there used to be, the National Consumer League charges in a lawsuit.I...

There's not as much pepper in those little red and white McCormick pepper cans as there used to be, the National Consumer League charges in a lawsuit.

In fact, the organization says there's about 25% less pepper and 20% less peppercorn in the containers, yet the price and container size remain,the same, Courthouse News Service reported.

"McCormick sold less product in the same containers and for the same unit price in a manner intended to, and with the tendency to, deceive consumers and the general public," the complaint states. "By maintaining rather than decreasing the tin and grinder sizes, McCormick perpetrates the illusion that it is providing the same amount of black pepper and peppercorn for the same price that it has traditionally charged consumers."

The NCL says it bought a pepper tin at a Giant Foods supermarket in Washington, D.C. that was marked and priced as though it contained two ounces of pepper when it actually contained only 1.5 ounces.

"By misleading consumers in this manner, McCormick is able to offset the high cost of the commodity and growing competitive pressure while preserving its margins and market share," the lawsuit states.

In response to a similar suit filed in Minnesota, McCormick denied it was trying to deceive consumers.

"Due to an unprecedented increase in the commodity costs of black pepper in the global market, we made the decision to reduce the net weight of our black pepper products," the company said. "Our priority was to maintain the integrity and quality of our product while avoiding significant increases in the price."

Only a handful of hours remain until midnight Eastern time (or 9 p.m. this evening in the Pacific time zone), the start of Microsoft's official roll-out of...

Only a handful of hours remain until midnight Eastern time (or 9 p.m. this evening in the Pacific time zone), the start of Microsoft's official roll-out of Windows 10, which is predicted to break Internet traffic records.

Actually, some current Windows 7 and 8 users have already seen version 10 pre-loaded on their computers.

Microsoft formally announced the July 29 roll-out date early last month. Current users of Windows 7 and 8 will be eligible for a free upgrade for one year after the release, while prices for everyone else will range from $110 for Windows 10 Home to $199 for the Pro version.

Also, Microsoft has said that Windows 10 would do away with its old tradition of “Patch Tuesday,” or releasing software updates (including security fixes, as necessary) every Tuesday. The obvious problem with limiting security fixes to a once-a-week schedule is that hackers and malware writers tend not to respect the scheduling needs of their intended victims, so why should security fixes adhere to a regular pattern when security threats do not?

Indeed, shortly before the Windows 10 rollout, Microsoft made a last-minute fix to patch a big problem that caused the Control Panel to crash anytime a user tried uninstalling an application.

Despite the official “midnight” rollout time, only a relative few customers will get a Windows 10 upgrade at that exact time. Some Windows 7 and 8 users have already seen early upgrades, as mentioned before, whereas others who have reserved copies of Windows 10 might not receive their actual upgrades for several days, weeks, or even months.

A Forbes contributor who spoke to Microsoft couldn't get a firm prediction regarding just when the Windows 10 rollout is expected to reach completion. A Microsoft spokesperson said “By Christmas we want to have hundreds of millions of [Windows 10] users worldwide” — but would not guarantee that everyone who's reserved a copy of Windows 10 could get the upgrade by December.

Those who do get their upgrades tomorrow will only be able to install Windows 10 on regular PCs, though Microsoft says that eventually Windows 10 will cross platforms and be available for phones, tablets, and Xbox, too.

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft may be insanely popular with large segments of the consumer population, but businesses appear far from willing to ...

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft may be insanely popular with large segments of the consumer population, but businesses appear far from willing to allow employees to use them on company business.

The GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, has released a study showing rental cars and taxis are the most common methods of business ground transportation, accounting for a combined 60%.

Ride-sharing services actually make up 11% of ground business travel, and that number might be higher if more businesses allowed employees to use ride-sharing while on company business - but businesses haven't exactly been early adopters.

"Our research shows 1 in 4 travel buyers say their company does not allow their business travelers to use ride-sharing companies, by far the highest percentage for any form of ground transportation," said GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael McCormick. "In addition, a large number of companies still have not adopted policies around ride-sharing companies, revealing a need for education about the benefits and the risks. GBTA hopes this study is the start to closing that knowledge gap and we welcome an open and constructive dialogue on this topic."

The issue appears to be one of liability. People behind the wheel of taxis and chauffeured limousines are professional drivers who work for actual companies. Uber and Lyft drivers are not.

When business travelers rent cars they drive themselves, they are taking on the liability with the rental car company responsible for the integrity of the vehicle.

The 2015 Ground Transportation Study also identified the most important factors business travelers and travel buyers consider when choosing ground transportation. Topping the list was traveler and vehicle safety.

It was followed by availability for a timely pick-up and convenience of payment methods. Three-quarters of business travelers and 8 in 10 travel buyers agree that these factors highly important.

In short, safety of business travelers was a major issue. However, the authors say awareness of specific aspects of duty of care is not universal.

For example, only about a third of business travelers have some knowledge of all aspects such as pre-employment driver certification, driver training requirements, and regulations affecting each ground transportation method. Travel buyers have a higher level of awareness but fewer than a quarter are very familiar with all of them.

What stands out in the research is that ride-sharing, despite its popularity and explosive growth among consumers, has yet to catch on in the corporate world.

"Undoubtedly, there is significant market controversy around ride sharing and we felt it was important to have impartial research to create awareness in the industry," said David Seelinger, Chairman and CEO of EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, ride-sharing drivers using their personal vehicles should have commercial insurance coverage, like taxi companies and livery car services. If a rider sues a ride-sharing driver, it wouldn’t be covered if the driver only had a private-passenger auto policy, the organization said.

After showing some improvement in June, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index posted a decline in July. It now stands at 90.9 after rising to 99....

After showing some improvement in June, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index posted a decline in July. It now stands at 90.9 after rising to 99.8 the previous month.

The Present Situation Index dipped moderately from 110.3 last month to 107.4, while the Expectations Index plummeted to 79.9 from 92.8 in June.

“Consumers continue to assess current conditions favorably, but their short-term expectations deteriorated this month,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “A less optimistic outlook for the labor market, and perhaps the uncertainty and volatility in financial markets prompted by the situation in Greece and China, appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence. Overall, the Index remains at levels associated with an expanding economy and a relatively confident consumer.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was somewhat less favorable in July. Those who see business conditions as “good” fell from 26.1% to 24.2%. However, those who believe conditions are “bad” was virtually unchanged at 17.9%.

Consumers were slightly less positive about the job market. Those who said jobs are “plentiful” dropped to 20.7% from 21.3%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” inched up from 26.1% to 26.7%.

Optimism about the short-term outlook was down sharply in July. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next 6 months declined from 17.9% to 14.7%; those who see conditions worsening rose from 10.2% to 10.7%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was even less optimistic. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 17.1% to 13.1%, while those expecting fewer jobs jumped from 15.2% to 20.0%. The proportion of consumers expecting growth in their incomes edged down from 17.6% to 17.0%, while the proportion expecting a decline rose slightly from 10.6% to 11.2%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was July 16.

Home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis in May, according to the S&...

Home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis in May, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

Both the 10-City Composite and National indices showed slightly higher year-over-year gains while the 20-City Composite had marginally lower year-over-year gains when compared with the previous month.

The 10-City Composite posted a year-over-year gain of 4.7%, while the 20-City Composite was up 4.9%. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, covering all 9 U.S. census divisions, recorded a 4.4% annual increase in May; the advance in April was 4.3%.

“As home prices continue rising, they are sending more upbeat signals than other housing market indicators,” said David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Nationally, single family home price increases have settled into a steady 4%-5% annual pace following the double-digit bubbly pattern of 2013.

At the same time though, Blitzer expects the rate of home price increases is more likely to slow than to accelerate over the next two years or so. “Prices are increasing about twice as fast as inflation or wages, “he notes, adding “moreover, other housing measures are less robust. Housing starts are only at about 1.2 million units annually, and only about half of total starts are single family homes. Sales of new homes are low compared to sales of existing homes.”

Denver, San Francisco and Dallas reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities with price increases of 10.0%, 9.7% and 8.4%, respectively. Ten cities reported greater price increases in the year ended May 2015 over the year ended April 2015.

New York and Phoenix reported 6 consecutive months of increases in their year-over-year returns since November 2014. Year-over-year returns in New York increased from 1.3% last November to 3.0% in May. Phoenix climbed from 2.0% to 3.8% in the same period.

Before seasonal adjustment, the National index, 10-City Composite and 20-City Composite all posted a gain of 1.1% month-over-month in May. After seasonal adjustment, the National index was unchanged; the 10-City and 20-City Composites were both down 0.2% month-over-month. All 20 cities reported increases in May before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, 10 were down, 8 were up, and 2 were unchanged.

Blitzer says first time homebuyers are the weak spot in the market, providing the demand and liquidity that supports trading up by current home owners. But he adds, “Without a boost in first timers, there is less housing market activity, fewer existing homes being put on the market, and more worry about inventory.”

Research at the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank argues that one should not blame millennials for the absence of first time buyers. The age distribution of first time buyers has not changed much since 2000; if anything, the median age has dropped slightly.

“Other research at the New York Fed points to the size of mortgage down payments as a key factor,” said Blitzer. “The difference between a 5% and 20% down payment -- particularly for people who currently rent -- has a huge impact on buyers’ willingness to buy a home. Mortgage rates are far less important to first time buyers than down payments.”  

Last week, eBay and PayPal split up, leaving eBay to make it on its own. In its first attempt to rejigger its services, eBay says it is past-tensing eBay N...

Last week, eBay and PayPal split up, leaving eBay to make it on its own. In its first attempt to rejigger its services, eBay says it is past-tensing eBay Now, its same-day on-demand delivery service that has been around, mostly in Brooklyn, on a test basis since 2012.

"While we saw encouraging results with the eBay Now service, we always intended it as a pilot, and we are now exploring delivery and pick-up/drop-off programs that are relevant to many more of our 25 million sellers, and that cover a wider variety of inventory that consumers tell us they want. We will continue to pilot scheduled delivery in the UK," the company said in a statement on its corporate site.

The company had already retired the eBay Now app, a move that it said "significantly reduced our dependency on a separate standalone service." 

Now that it is itself a separate standalone service, eBay has a lot more simplifying to do. It outlined some of the upcoming changes, using its own brand of obscure evangelical corporatespeak.

"We are starting with a focused effort to bring the best of eBay’s features and functionality together in one easy place for our customers. We will do this by retiring some of our vertical mobile apps and migrating the functionality into our flagship eBay app," eBay uttered. "As an early leader in mobile commerce we have created significant business value and insights from these special-purpose apps. Over the years we have integrated many of the insights, learnings [sic], and functionality into our core mobile experiences."

Finally getting to the point, eBay's meandering statement advised its customers "several apps that you may have downloaded will soon go away, and the key functionality from these apps ... will be integrated into the core eBay apps."

1. The eBay Valet app will be shutting down in the coming weeks, with sellers advised to go to ebay.com/valet.

3. The eBay Motors app will be decommissioned later this year. But fear not, eBay added: "We aim to bring the rest of the best of the Motors app magic to the core eBay apps through this transition!"

eBay said the changes are "about empowering our customers and igniting the future of commerce to help eBay become the most inspiring place to shop."

Recent cancer research has focused on using the body's own T-cells to fight the disease, rather than introducing outside elements, like drugs, to attack it...

Recent cancer research has focused on using the body's own T-cells to fight the disease, rather than introducing outside elements, like drugs, to attack it.

For the last few years it's been theoretically possible. Now, researchers say they are a step closer to actually doing it. The report of their research is published (PDF) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Alexander Marson, of the University of California at San Francisco, led a team of researchers that “edited” human genes, replacing components of T-cells with stronger elements that can protect the body against many chronic diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

The scientists say their results may pave the way for a completely new way of fighting – and preventing – these diseases. Instead of introducing drugs into the patient, doctors would extract and edit T-cells, putting them back into the patient's body.

“We aimed to overcome long-standing challenges in genetic manipulation of primary T-cells and establish an efficient genome engineering toolkit,” the authors wrote.

T-cells, or T lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the immune system. They are different from other lymphocytes, such as B-cells, because of the presence of a T -cell receptor on the surface of the cell.

In a disease like HIV/AIDS, the patient loses T cells and, therefore, has a weakened immune system. Researchers have been working for a number of years to find ways of genetically engineering T-cells in a patient's blood.

The theory was simple: the presence of stronger T-cells would provide a strong deterrent against invasive pathogens that cause potentially lethal disease, along with auto-immune conditions like type 1 diabetes.

As we reported in 2013, private researchers in Cambridge, England made huge strides in the area of T-cell manipulation. Researchers working for Immunocore designed a therapy using the body's T-cells to find cancer cells and destroy them.

Months earlier doctors at the University of Pennsylvania used T-cell therapy to successfully treat leukemia patients. The clinical trial participants, all of whom had advanced cancers, included ten adult patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and two children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

At the time of the reporting, three of the first ten  patients treated with the protocol remained healthy and in full remission more than 2 years after their treatment.

Marson and his team have taken the process a step further, using Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR) gene-editing to cut and replace pieces of DNA within the chromosomes of T-cells in a test tube. Their results convince them that the process can be used effectively to treat patients in the near future.

For example, Marson says the process could lead to developing T-cells that are immune to HIV and injecting them back into the body. While he says there is still a lot of work ahead, gene-editing could become a powerful weapon against cancer and other diseases.

Google has conceded what everyone else already knew -- Google+ is sort of a big minus and is not going to knock Facebook and Twitter out of cyberspace. Goo...

Google has conceded what everyone else already knew -- Google+ is sort of a big minus and is not going to knock Facebook and Twitter out of cyberspace. Google says it will no longer require users to have a Google+ account to interact with other users.

In a Google+ post, Google+ manager Brad Horowitz announced that Google will "retire [Google+] as the mechanism by which people share and engage within other Google products." Instead, users will need only a Google email or other type of account.

When it launched "+" -- as it may affectionately be known somewhere in the universe -- four years ago, Google's hope was that it would grow into a huge social network with a billion users. While it had its pluses, including the ability to break groups into categories such as "friend," "family" and "colleague," + actually grew into a big source of frustration for many users.

YouTubers, in particular, were miffed that after years of commenting loudly and vociferously they suddenly needed to sign up for a + account, the most famous outburst coming from YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, who asked "Why the f— do I need a google+ account to comment on a video?”

As Horowitz tells it, the goal was to establish a "platform layer" that would tie all of Big G's services together. But many users saw it as a way for Google to muscle into social media by forcing its users to sign up for G+ whether they wanted to or not. Some critics went so far as to label it downright Microsoftian.

“This was a well-intentioned goal, but as realized it led to some product experiences that users sometimes found confusing,” he wrote.

"What does this mean for Google+ the product?" he asked rhetorically, replying: "Relieved of the notion of integrating with every other product at Google, Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love."

Texas' economy may be booming, but consumers in two of its leading cities lead the nation in credit card debt.When CreditCards.com established a formul...

Texas' economy may be booming, but consumers in two of its leading cities lead the nation in credit card debt.

When CreditCards.com established a formula to determine which major U.S. cities were home to the highest credit card balances, it found San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth occupied the top two positions. Houston is not far behind, in fifth place.

While Texas ended up with 3 of the 5 highest debt burdens in the nation, the Northeast fared very well. The region boasted 5 of the 7 lowest debt burdens in the country.

To compile the list, the authors of the study compared the average credit card debt in the 25 largest U.S. metro areas with each area's median income. It assumed that 15% of median income would go toward credit card debt each month, instead of consumers just making the minimum payment.

Using those parameters, the study determined how long a consumer would have to make those monthly payments in order to reach a zero balance; researchers also took into account how much interest consumers would have to pay to get there. Under that formula, the average San Antonio consumer would take 16 months to pay off the balance and would spend $448 during that time in interest charges.

Consumers in the San Francisco area seem to be handling their credit card debt a little better. The study found it would take Bay area consumers only nine months to reach a zero balance, spending just $234 in interest.

"It's interesting that the metro areas with the highest average credit card debt don't necessarily have the highest debt burdens when adjusted for income," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "For example, Washington, D.C. has the nation's highest average credit card debt, but since it has the highest median income in the U.S., its debt burden is lower than all but two metros."

Unfortunately, many consumers with significant credit card balances don't pay 15% of income but only pay the minimum due each month. Under that payment plan, getting to a zero balance takes much longer.

At the prodding of regulators, credit card companies have raised the amount of minimum payments so that a consumer paying just the minimum won't be stuck in an indefinite debt trap. Still, it is always best to pay as much as possible each month.

One method to stay on top of a credit card debt is to pay the amount of the interest – plus as much extra as possible. That way a consumer not only pays the interest each month but starts whittling down the balance.

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,625 model year 2014-2015 Audi SQ5s manufactured May 22, 2013, to April 14, 2015. The electric power steering a...

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,625 model year 2014-2015 Audi SQ5s manufactured May 22, 2013, to April 14, 2015.

The electric power steering assist system could shut down in cold temperatures due to a steering motor sensor fault. A loss of power steering assist would require extra steering effort at lower speeds, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will update the power steering control module software, free of charge. The recall was expected to begin July 28, 2015.

Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 48M1.

Nature’s Variety is recalling its Instinct Raw Chicken Formula for dogs. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been reporte...

Consumers should discontinue use of the recalled product and should returning it in its original packaging or bring a proof of purchase back to their retailer for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact consumer relations at 888-519-7387 from 8 am to 7 pm (CT) 7 days a week or by email at cservice@naturesvariety.com.

UPPAbaby of Hingham, Mass., is recalling about 79,000 UPPAbaby 2015 CRUZ , 2015 VISTA strollers and 2015 RumbleSeats in the U.S and Canada. The strollers’...

UPPAbaby of Hingham, Mass., is recalling about 79,000 UPPAbaby 2015 CRUZ , 2015 VISTA strollers and 2015 RumbleSeats in the U.S and Canada.

The strollers’ and RumbleSeats’ bumper bar poses a choking hazard when a child bites the bumper bar and removes a piece of the foam covering.

The company has received 22 reports of children biting off a piece of the bumper bar foam. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves 2015 CRUZ and 2015 VISTA strollers and 2015 RumbleSeats. The CRUZ strollers have an aluminum alloy grey or black frame with a black fabric toddler seat with a colored fabric sunshade canopy and a black basket under the seat. The UPPAbaby name and logo are printed on the side of the canopy and “CRUZ” is printed in white lettering on the handlebars of the stroller.

The VISTA strollers have grey or black aluminum frames, colored sunshade canopy and are made to hold one, two or up to three children. VISTA is printed in white lettering on the handlebars of the stroller and UPPAbaby is printed across the bottom diagonal rail of the stroller frame next to a black, fabric basket.

The RumbleSeat is a separate seat attachment that can be attached to the stroller frame. RumbleSeats have manufacture dates stamped on the bottom of the seat from September 2014 through May 2015. It comes in various colors and allows the child to ride rear facing, forward facing or reclined. All of the strollers and RumbleSeats have a foam bumper bar across the middle of the product for the child to hold.

The 2015 VISTA strollers have model number 0101 printed on a sticker on the lower crossbar frame. They also have the following serial number printed on a sticker with a barcode below the rear axle of the stroller frame on the left:

The strollers and RumbleSeats, manufactured in China, were sold at BuyBuy Baby and other juvenile product retailers nationwide and online at Amazon.com from December 2014, through July 2015, for about $500 for the CRUZ stroller, $860 for the VISTA stroller and $170 for the RumbleSeat.

Consumers should immediately remove and stop using the bumper bar on these recalled strollers and RumbleSeats and contact the firm to receive a free bumper bar cover and warning label.

Consumers may contact UPPAbaby customer service toll-free at (844) 540-8694 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or by email at contact@uppababy.com.

Early today, security researchers announced their discovery of six massive software vulnerabilities which leave up to 95% of all Google Android devices at ...

Early today, security researchers announced their discovery of six massive software vulnerabilities which leave up to 95% of all Google Android devices at major risk of being hijacked by hackers. (The 95% number is based on the estimate that there are currently 1 billion Android phones and tablets in the world, with 950 million of them at risk — any device running version 2.2 or later is vulnerable.)

Joshua Drake from Zimperium zLabs discovered the critical flaws inside the source code for AOSP, the Android Open Source Project.

Built on tens of gigabytes of source code from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), the leading smartphone operating system carries a scary code in its heart. Named Stagefright, it is a media library that processes several popular media formats. … [Drake] discovered what we believe to be the worst Android vulnerabilities discovered to date …. multiple remote code execution vulnerabilities that can be exploited using various methods, the worst of which requires no user-interaction.

In other words: Stagefright leaves your Android device so vulnerable that hackers could (at least in theory) hijack your device without your knowledge and without any activity from you.

Most “beware of the hacker” news articles you read advise you to protect yourself by avoiding certain actions: do not download any unsolicited file attachments, do not click on strange links in emails or texts, do not return hang-up phone calls from numbers you don't recognize.

What makes Stagefright so scary is that there's no similar “Avoid this and you'll be safe” action: in order to seize control of your device, a hacker need only send you a file containing malicious code – and can then take control whether you respond to that sent file or not.

“These vulnerabilities are extremely dangerous because they do not require that the victim take any action to be exploited,” Drake said. “Unlike spear-phishing, where the victim needs to open a PDF file or a link sent by the attacker, this vulnerability can be triggered while you sleep. Before you wake up, the attacker will remove any signs of the device being compromised and you will continue your day as usual – with a trojaned phone.”

If this happens, the hacker has pretty much complete control over the device, including camera and audio recording functions – which means the hackers can spy on anything in range of the device. Furthermore, Drake says, “Sophisticated attackers could also create what we call ‘elevated privileges,’ which would provide complete access to the phone’s data.”

The one bit of good news is that so far, there doesn't seem to be any evidence indicating that hackers have taken advantage of Stagefright. Drake said Zimperium has sent the necessary patch to Google.

However, given the structure of the current cell phone industry, Google itself can't really get the patch to customers who need it – the individual phone and tablet manufacturers whose devices run on Android (versions 2.2 or later) do, and as Vice's Motherboard blog noted, “it’s anyone guess when that’ll happen. Historically, some manufacturers have taken months to issue even critical patches. At times, for devices older than a year or 18 months, patches never come.”

Joshua Drake ended his Zimperium post with the suggestion that consumers “contact your device manufacturer and/or carrier to ascertain whether or not your particular device has been updated [with] the requisite patches,” and an additional plea to the makers and sellers of such devices: “If you’re part of any of the various parties that ship derivative versions of Android that might be affected, we encourage you to reach out to obtain the patches from us directly.”

Gasoline prices have begun to drift lower from their summer highs, with the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey showing the national average price has fallen more than 4...

Gasoline prices have begun to drift lower from their summer highs, with the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey showing the national average price has fallen more than 4 cents a gallon in the last week. Three economic trends could push them even lower in the weeks ahead.

All three trends are connected to deflation – an overall trend of falling prices. First, and perhaps most important, is that the price of crude oil has begun to fall again.

Crude oil prices have dropped below $50 a barrel and are projected to go even lower. Lower oil prices don't always translate directly into lower prices at the pump because there is only so much gasoline that refineries can produce. But if their price remains low, then lower crude oil prices will eventually find their way into retail gas prices.

The second trend is a strengthening dollar. The consumer's buying power increases when the currency strengthens, and that means imported commodities become cheaper.

The third trend is the growing economic weakness in China. Despite the government's best efforts, the Chinese stock market has suffered a series of declines.

Unlike in the U.S., Chinese consumers by and large have invested in stocks and reaped huge profits over the last year. But with stock prices falling, many Chinese consumers aren't spending as much money as they have been. That's expected to reduce demand for all sorts of things, including energy.

When U.S. consumers suffered from skyrocketing fuel prices several years ago, it was largely blamed on the huge demand from developing economies like China. With Chinese demand slowing, the supply of fuel available to U.S. consumers is growing.

In the U.S., gasoline prices have been slow to fall because of the system of refineries that produce the fuel. Delivery issues can send prices skyrocketing, as they did earlier this month in California.

At the same time, when supplies are in abundance and there are no interruptions to deliveries, prices can quickly fall. Over the weekend, Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, tweeted that three gas stations in London, Ohio were selling self-serve regular for $1.78 a gallon. The statewide average in Ohio was about $2.45 a gallon.

According to AAA, the cheapest state for gasoline is South Carolina, where the statewide average is about $2.33 a gallon. The average is well over $3 a gallon on the West Coast, in California, Washington, and Oregon.

What to do before you die? That could turn into a pretty long list but we're actually thinking of some rather specific things you should do while alive so ...

What to do before you die? That could turn into a pretty long list but we're actually thinking of some rather specific things you should do while alive so that things go smoothly once you're gone -- specifically, writing a will, putting it someplace handy and telling your loved ones where it is, among a few other very simple steps.

Besides the reviews people submit to our site, we get a daily landslide of emails asking for help with various misfortunes. We really can't deal with individual situations or we wouldn't get our real work done but there are certain questions that come up year after year after year -- and a constant topic is problems resulting from death.

Maybe it's time for a Deadly Do's and Don'ts review? Broadly speaking, there are two classes of consumers when it comes to dealing with decedents: the living and the dead. Here are a few pointers for each.

This, of course, is not legal advice to you. This is general consumer information. Only a lawyer that you have retained can advise you. Every situation is different. You should never make major decisions based on something you read on the Internet, including this. 

Decide what you want. You can leave your assets to anyone you want -- relatives, your old school, your church, the local animal shelter or literally anyone or anything else. Decide now. You can't do it after the funeral. 

Write a will. Discuss it with your family members so they know what's in it. Yes, you can write it yourself from one of those online kits but if you have more than a few sticks to rub together, you should have a local attorney do it for you. You only die once -- don't cheap out.

Pick an executor. This is the person who will be in charge of administering your estate after you have shuffled off. It can be anyone but should be someone you trust who lives in your state and has their wits about them, not crazy Aunt Sally from Berkeley. 

Pick a guardian, if needed. If you have minor children, disabled adult children or others for whom you are responsible, you will need to name a responsible person to be their guardian when you are no longer in the picture. 

Put your will in a safe, accessible place. This does not mean a safe deposit box. When you die, your assets will be frozen pending probate and no one will be able to open your safe deposit box. Keep the will at home, tell a few family members exactly where it is and make a few copies to keep elsewhere. Your lawyer will not want to keep the original and should not (he's not immortal, you know). It should be in your possession.

Stay in touch. You can move to Florida, Arizona or Tahiti but stay in touch with your executor and the loved ones you don't despise. If widowed, give serious consideration to not getting remarried, especially to someone who has a lot less money than you do. It is asking for trouble.

If you move out of state, consult an attorney in your new state to see if you need to revise your existing will to mesh with local laws.

Offer your love and support. Old people need love too, you know, and not just because there may be something in it for you. Most people don't like to think of dying so it's helpful if you can push them get their affairs in order, as the old saying goes. 

Find a good estate lawyer.  Volunteer to go along to the first appointment. By finding and vetting a reputable, experienced local attorney who handles wills, probate, etc., you can help motivate your friend or relative to take the necessary steps.

Do a little research. There is something called "probate." It is the legal process of closing out the deceased's worldly affairs and is managed by the courts. If there is no will, the court will simply divide things up however it sees fit and however local laws dictate. This may not be the way Uncle Al would have wanted it, which is why there should be a will.

If there is a will or, worse luck, several wills, the probate court will decide which one is valid and will follow its dictates.

It's easy enough to read up on probate. Laws vary from state to state but the process is pretty similar everywhere.

Remember what's what. The "estate" is all of the deceased's assets -- property, cash, stocks, bonds, cars, etc. The executor's task is to pay off outstanding debts from the estate's assets -- not from the executor's personal accounts. Don't let any bill collector tell you that you are responsible for the payments on Uncle Al's boat (unless you co-signed the note). If the estate's funds are depleted, you are not responsible for making up any deficit. Feel free to tell Bank of America it's just too damned bad. They lose, for once. 

Likewise, if there is money or other assets left over after outstanding obligations are taken care of, it must be distributed under the terms of the will. 

Don't be shy. If your mother's second husband splits with her car and money the day after the funeral, call the police. Such actions are called "unlawful conversion" -- theft, in plain English.

What sparked this article was an email from a consumer who wanted us and the local news media to tell "her story," which basically was that her widowed mother's second husband took off with her car, money, etc. 

This, sadly, is not really news since it happens all the time. Rather than seeking publicity in hopes of educating future victims, see the "Don't be shy" paragraph above. Action talks, talk just moves the air around.

The world at large doesn't much care what happens to any of us individually. That's where loved ones, executors, friends and family come in. As with all things consumer, the time to protect yourself is before the transaction, not after. 

Water can damage your home in many ways. Most of the time it's an external threat, but sometimes a leak from inside can cause just as much, or even more, d...

It sort of got lost over the weekend but the long-anticipated $49 billion merger of AT&T and DirecTV was completed Friday, when the Federal Communications ...

It sort of got lost over the weekend but the long-anticipated $49 billion merger of AT&T and DirecTV was completed Friday, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve the deal. The Justice Department had signed off on the transaction earlier.

The vote followed a statement earlier in the week from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the deal contained "a number of conditions that will directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace."

No grass grew under AT&T's feet. It closed on the merger just hours after the FCC vote and heralded it as a bonanza for consumers.

“Combining DIRECTV with AT&T is all about giving customers more choices for great video entertainment integrated with mobile and high-speed Internet service,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. “We’ll now be able to meet consumers’ future entertainment preferences, whether they want traditional TV service with premier programming, their favorite content on a mobile device, or video streamed over the Internet to any screen."

“This transaction allows us to significantly expand our high-speed Internet service to reach millions more households, which is a perfect complement to our coast-to-coast TV and mobile coverage,” said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T. “We’re now a fundamentally different company with a diversified set of capabilities and businesses that set us apart from the competition.”

Longtime AT&T watchers will tell you that the telecom giant is uniquely talented at spinning its actions to make them appear to be in the public's best interest, a skill it acquired from the decades it spent under the thumb of state and federal regulators.

Being regulated generally means companies usually get to do whatever they set out to do as long as they couch it in high-blown terms and persuade enough supposed public interest advocates to testify on their behalf.

In this case, however, the promises may come true. The deal will give AT&T access to spectrum space now held by DirecTV which AT&T can use to expand its wireless broadband offerings. That could benefit consumers who now have either no broadband service or have only a single provider in their service area.

The FCC also attached a series of conditions that AT&T must meet over the next four years, including:

Unbundled Internet service for low-income consumers. This is supposed to benefit consumers who can't afford a full service bundle; and

Fiber optic service to 12.5 million new customer locations. Much of the country still lacks super-fast fiber service.

AT&T noted that it is now the largest pay TV provider in the U.S. and the world, providing service to more than 26 million customers in the United States and more than 191 million customers in Latin America, including Mexico and the Caribbean.

Additionally, AT&T has more than 132 million wireless subscribers and connections in the U.S. and Mexico; offers 4G LTE mobile coverage to nearly 310 million people in the U.S.; covers 57 million U.S. customer locations with high-speed Internet; and has nearly 16 million subscribers to its high-speed Internet service.

Current customers of AT&T and DIRECTV do not need to do anything as a result of the merger. Customer account information, online access and billing arrangements remain the same. The integration of AT&T and DIRECTV will occur over the coming months, the company said, adding that "in the coming weeks, AT&T will launch new integrated TV, mobile and high-speed Internet offers that give customers greater value and convenience."

Novartis Pharmaceuticals' new drug Odomzo has gotten a green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of locally advanced basal cell...

Novartis Pharmaceuticals' new drug Odomzo has gotten a green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of locally advanced basal cell carcinoma that has recurred following surgery.

The drug, with the generic name sonidegib, will be used to treat patients who are not candidates for surgery or radiation therapy.

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for about 80% of non-melanoma skin cancers. It starts in the top layer of the skin and usually develops where skin has been regularly exposed to the sun and other forms of ultraviolet radiation.

According to the Mayo Clinic, this form of skin cancer often appears as a waxy bump, though it can take other forms. It shows up most often on areas of the skin that are most exposed to the sun, such as your face and neck. The National Cancer Institute says the number of new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer appears to be increasing every year.

Locally advanced basal cell skin cancer refers to basal cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body, but can't be cured with local treatments, such as surgery and radiation.

This type of skin cancer grows slowly. The American Academy of Dermatology says it rarely spreads to other parts of the body. However, treatment is important because the cancer can grow wide and deep, destroying skin tissue and bone.

In contrast, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation says melanoma develops when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations. Melanoma kills an estimated 10,000 people in the U.S. each year.

In order to treat basal cell carcinoma, Novrtis has developed Odomzo as a pill that can be taken once a day. It works by inhibiting a molecular pathway, called the Hedgehog pathway, which is active in basal cell cancers. By suppressing this pathway, Odomzo may stop or reduce the growth of cancerous lesions.

“Our increasing understanding of molecular pathways involved in cancer has led to approvals of many oncology drugs in difficult-to-treat diseases for which few therapeutic options previously existed,” said Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Thanks to a better understanding of the Hedgehog pathway, the FDA has now approved 2 drugs for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma just in the last three years.”

Erivedge, with the generic name vismodegib, was one such drug that was approved in 2012 to treat locally advanced and metastatic basal cell carcinoma.

Unfortunately, this new treatment will not be available to pregnant women. Odomzo will carry a Boxed Warning alerting healthcare professionals that the drug may cause death or severe birth defects in a developing fetus. Pregnancy status should be verified prior to the start of Odomzo treatment, and both male and female patients should be warned about these risks and advised to use effective contraception.

Over time a wide range of bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi build up a resistance to antibiotic drugs, making these powerful medicines much less effec...

Over time a wide range of bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi build up a resistance to antibiotic drugs, making these powerful medicines much less effective.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a gradual increase in resistance to HIV drugs, although it did not reach critical levels. Since then, further increases in resistance to first-line treatment drugs have been reported, which might require using more expensive ones in the near future.

While a number of theories have been cited to explain this growing resistance, a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to a small group of healthcare providers. The authors says 10% of providers write an antibiotic prescription for 95% of patients who walk in with a cold, bronchitis, or other acute respiratory infection (ARI).

The study makes clear that not all providers are to blame, pointing out that 10% of providers only prescribe an antibiotic in fewer than 40% of such patient visits. The problem is the differences in medical routines of individual healthcare providers.

“We were able to see that even if Dr. A works just down the hall from Dr. B they may practice medicine very differently,” said Dr. Barbara Jones, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah and clinician at the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. “We all receive similar training, but we can practice differently. The extent of this variation has been hard to measure in the past.”

The concern is real. The more antibiotics are present in the environment, the more bacteria can become resistant to them. In recent years, doctors have been cautioned to be more judicious when prescribing antibiotics.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic found that the problem largely stems from using antibiotics for illnesses for which they are not intended. It points out antibiotics treat bacterial infections but not viral infections.

For example, an antibiotic is an appropriate treatment for strep throat, which is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. It's not, however, the right treatment for most sore throats, which are caused by viruses.

The study found that the overall proportion of visits in which providers prescribed antibiotics increased by 2% during the 8-year study period. However, the high proportion of antibiotic prescribing for ARIs is not a new problem, and the study found that 68% of all visits for ARI resulted in an antibiotic prescription.

On the surface, it would seem that this problem isn't that difficult to solve. Why couldn't you just educate providers about the problem and improve their decision-making? That idea has occurred to the authors too.

“We’d like to use this research to start a conversation among providers and patients about antibiotic prescribing for ARIs, and share the approaches of providers who are prescribing antibiotics less frequently with those who may be prescribing too often,” Jones said.

At a family gathering over the weekend, one of my cousins arrived a few hours late after driving from Lincoln, Neb. He was still seething at some of the dr...

At a family gathering over the weekend, one of my cousins arrived a few hours late after driving from Lincoln, Neb. He was still seething at some of the drivers on I-64 who were navigating through extensive road construction.

What set my cousin off was a practice that probably irritates most drivers. There were ample signs warning that the left lane was blocked ahead and drivers should stay to the right, but dozens of cars ignored the signs and whizzed past him in the left lane, pulling in far ahead of him and slowing his, and all the other considerate drivers' progress to a crawl.

That led to a discussion about other inconsiderate driver behaviors – like drivers who realize too late that they are supposed to be in the left turn lane and partially nose their way in, with the rest of their vehicle blocking the through lane.

Left turns tend to be a real sore spot. There were complaints voiced about drivers attempting to make a left turn onto a busy highway, causing a back-up of vehicles behind them.

Then there are drivers who cut you off, turn without signaling, and sit though half a green light because they're too busy sending a text to notice the light has changed.

There really isn't any way to deal with these drivers, which no doubt can lead to road rage incidents that can turn violent.

A couple of entrepreneurs in New Jersey had a pet peeve about people who pull into a crowded parking lot and manage to place their cars straddling two parking spaces. They say that they've developed a product that can give frustrated drivers a confrontation-free outlet.

Jackass Parking Chalk, what the entrepreneurs call "emotional expression utensils," is touted as a product and platform for frustrated drivers to take on this all-too-common social crime.

The product is a simple box of chalk that can be kept in the glove box. When a driver encounters an inconsiderate parking job, he or she can write a message on the pavement in front of the inconsiderately parked car, telling the car's driver – and the rest of the people in the parking lot – what a poor, inconsiderate job of parking it is.

The public shaming doesn't stop there. The company has a social media platform called Chalkyou.com. It is a platform for irritated parkers to upload photographs of inconsiderate parking jobs and post a rant about it if they're really ticked off.

In order to maximize awareness, the company says each photo submitted via the website is automatically hash tagged with #ChalkYou and is then shared across the Jackass Parking Chalk Social Media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

The company cautions that users of Jackass Parking Chalk should not be offensive or use chalk somewhere that it isn't allowed. It's also probably a good idea not to use it to write a rude message if the inconsiderate parker is anywhere close by.

If you’re someone who regularly browses the internet, then you’ve more than likely run across pop-up and banner ads. More often than not they advertise pro...

If you’re someone who regularly browses the internet, then you’ve more than likely run across pop-up and banner ads. More often than not they advertise products and services that you may not even need, but they have recently evolved. By looking through your internet history, ads are now much more tuned into the things that you may be interested in as a consumer. However, researchers are finding that this can either help or severely hurt the chances of you buying what is advertised.

Alexander Bleier and Maik Eisenbeiss, who are marketing professors at Boston College and the University of Bremen respectively, say that the amount of trust that a consumer has in a particular vendor ultimately affects whether or not they will accept or reject a banner ad.

The two professors conducted a study in which they showed consumers personalized ads that were tailored by each participant’s browser history. This information included what websites each person visited, what they had previously shopped for online, and varying information on their interests and hobbies. They wanted to find the point at which consumers became uncomfortable with having their online histories reflected back at them.

Bleier and Eisenbeiss found that consumers were much more likely to be responsive to ads if they had a good history with the company that supported them. “For the more trusted retailer in our field study, we find banner click-through rates to increase by 27 percent,” they said.

Consumers seemed to like personal ads more than general ones, but only to a certain extent. Their negative responses were elicited by ads that made them fear for their privacy. This was especially true for companies that consumers couldn’t recognize or did not have a positive experience with beforehand. It made the ads seem much more invasive.

Bleier and Eisenbeiss stress that it is important for companies to be careful when creating personalized banner ads. If they aren’t, then consumers may flat-out refuse to buy their products and may avoid the company in the future. Their full study, entitled “The Importance of Trust for Personalized Online Advertising”, has been published in the Journal of Retailing. 

The summer travel season isn’t over quite yet, and you still might be looking to take some trips with your family and friends. You can’t always pick up and...

The Kroger Co. is recalling Kroger Ground Cinnamon, Kroger Garlic Powder, Kroger Coarse Ground Black Pepper and Kroger Bac'n Buds sold in its retail stores...

The Kroger Co. is recalling Kroger Ground Cinnamon, Kroger Garlic Powder, Kroger Coarse Ground Black Pepper and Kroger Bac'n Buds sold in its retail stores.

Stores under the following names in the 31 states where Kroger operates are included in this recall: Kroger, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, City Market, Smith's, Dillons, Baker's, Gerbes, Jay C, Ruler Foods, Pay Less, Owen's, and Scott's.

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them and should return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

Briggs & Stratton of Wauwatosa, Wis., is recalling about 2,800 Simplicity riding mowers, garden tractors and mower decks. The chute deflector can fail to ...

Briggs & Stratton of Wauwatosa, Wis., is recalling about 2,800 Simplicity riding mowers, garden tractors and mower decks.

The chute deflector can fail to prevent projectiles from being expelled, posing a risk of injury to consumers.

This recall involves orange Simplicity brand zero turn riding mowers, mower deck attachments and garden tractors. Mower deck sizes range from 44 to 54 inches. The Simplicity logo is on the side of the mower or garden tractor.

The model and serial numbers are located on the frame near the front tires or on the frame rail below the seat.

The lawn equipment, manufactured in the U.S., was sold at Briggs & Stratton dealers nationwide from August 2014, through May 2015, for between $3,600 and $16,000.

Consumers should stop using the recalled products immediately and contact a Briggs & Stratton dealer to schedule a free repair.

Consumers may contact Briggs & Stratton at (800) 227-3798 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday.

Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 4,300 Polaris Youth RZR recreational off-highway vehicles. The vehicle’s fuel pump can leak, posin...

Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 4,300 Polaris Youth RZR recreational off-highway vehicles.

This recall involves Model Year 2015 Polaris Youth RZR 170 EFI recreational off-highway vehicles with model number R15YAV17AA/AF and VINs between RF3YAV170FT000076 and RF3YAV17XFT005141. The VIN is on the left-hand front frame tube.

They were sold in both blue and red. The blue models have a “170 EFI” decal on the right and left side of the hood and an “RZR” decal on the right and left front fenders. The red models have a “170 EFI” decal on the right and left front fenders and a “RZR” decal on the right and left rear fenders.

The vehicles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from October 2014, through June 2015, for about $4,600.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact their local Polaris dealer to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting its customers directly and sending a recall letter to each registered owner of an affected product.

Consumers may contact Polaris toll-free at (888) 704-5290, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday.

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 667,406 model year 2013-2015 Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks manufactured June 20, 2012, to January 26, 2015. The side...

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 667,406 model year 2013-2015 Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks manufactured June 20, 2012, to January 26, 2015.

The side impact sensor calibrations may be overly sensitive, and as a result, the side air bag inflatable curtains and seat air bags may deploy unexpectedly and the seat belt pre-tensioners may activate. Air bags that deploy unexpectedly increase the risk of a crash or injury.

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the Occupant Restraint Control module calibration, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is R23.

Bravo Pet Foods of Manchester, Conn., is recalling select lots of Bravo Chicken pet foods for dogs and cats. The products may be contaminated with Salmone...

Brown Packing Company of South Holland, Ill., is recalling an undetermined amount of beef (veal) trimmings. The products may be contaminated with E. coli...

Brown Packing Company of South Holland, Ill., is recalling an undetermined amount of beef (veal) trimmings.

The products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

The following raw, boneless beef (veal) trimmings, produced from Feb. 21, 2014, through July 17, 2015, are being recalled:

The recalled products bear the establishment number “EST. 167” inside the USDA mark of inspection printed on boxes. Lot code numbers printed on product labels range from “4000” through “4313” and “5167” through “5365.”

The products were shipped to distributors and retail locations in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey and Ohio.

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,060,531 model year 2012-2014 Ram 1500, 2500, 3500, 4500, and 5500 trucks manufactured January 18, 2011, to October 7, ...

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,060,531 model year 2012-2014 Ram 1500, 2500, 3500, 4500, and 5500 trucks manufactured January 18, 2011, to October 7, 2014, and equipped with the Electronic Vehicle Information Center option.

The vehicles have a steering wheel wiring harness that may rub against the driver air bag module retainer spring. This abrasion could result in an electrical short that could cause driver's frontal air bag to unexpectedly deploy. Inadvertent deployment of the air bag may increase the risk of injury and the possibility of a vehicle crash.

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect, repair as necessary, and secure the steering wheel wiring harness. Additionally, protective caps will be added to the air bag retainer spring ends. These repairs will be done free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 19, 2015.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is R36.

Rhino poaching has become more widespread in recent years, and it is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Poachers target these animals because...

Rhino poaching has become more widespread in recent years, and it is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Poachers target these animals because of the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries; the horns have practical medical uses, but many people collect them as a status symbol to showcase their success and wealth. Luckily, a new technology that plants a camera and other technologies inside of the rhino horn may act as a strong deterrent to poachers so that rhino lives can be saved.

At the beginning of the 20th century, rhino populations were at a healthy number; there were an estimated 500,000 rhinos living throughout Africa and Asia. However, as demand for rhino horn has gone up, the worldwide population of the animals has gone down. There are currently only five species of rhino left on Earth, and all of them are classified as a “threatened species” according to the IUCN Redlist. Three out of those five species are further classified as “critically endangered”.

For a while there was an effort made by activists to create a synthetic rhino horn for those who wanted to collect them. Unfortunately, they found that it was only a matter of time before those who bought the synthetic horn would want to trade up for the real thing. After this failure, activists have decided to focus their energies on catching poachers in the act.

The goal of the Protect project is to provide a strong deterrent for poachers who would kill rhinos for their horns. They plan on accomplishing this by putting video cameras, GPS trackers, and heart-rate sensors inside the horns of living rhinos. The system is known as Protect RAPID (Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device).

The whle system was developed at the University of Chester by biologist Dr. Paul O’Donoghue. He created a tracker and heart rate monitor that could be implanted inside the horns of living rhinos. Along with the camera, these pieces of technology are able to transmit health and wellness information to a central control center.

If the rhino is attacked by poachers and its heart rate stops, which it would if the poachers were intent on getting the horn, then a signal would be sent to a security team that could respond to the rhino’s location. It is estimated that the team could be on-site within minutes of getting a distress signal in order to catch the poachers before they could get away. If there are difficulties with catching the offenders, then the camera footage can reveal what they looked like.  

As of right now, there aren’t many anti-poaching agencies doing this type of work. The patrol area for rhino habitats is too large, so conviction rates for poachers have been relatively low. The Protect system can go a long way toward rectifying this and keeping rhinos safe. Researchers have already completed a proof of concept study, but they are still working on refining prototypes for the new technologies. The first of these prototypes should be available within months. If they are successful, then researchers hope to create other versions of the technologies for endangered species such as tigers and elephants. A fully staffed control center is scheduled to be completed sometime in the early part of next year. 

They are so cute and they can fit in a tea cup; that’s what many uneducated owners have been told when they go to buy a teacup or mini potbellied pig. The ...

Fiat Chrysler has agreed to pay a $105 million fine, clean up its recall procedures and buy back some defective vehicles. In a consent order, the company acknowledged that it had violated the Motor Vehicle Safety Act's requirements to promptly repair vehicles with safety defects, something it has stridently denied for years.

"FCA US LLC acknowledges the admissions in its Consent Order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We also accept the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us," the company said in a prepared statement. 

“Today’s action holds Fiat Chrysler accountable for its past failures, pushes them to get unsafe vehicles repaired or off the roads and takes concrete steps to keep Americans safer going forward,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously.”

The enforcement action comes after a July 2 public hearing at which NHTSA officials outlined problems with Fiat Chrysler’s execution of 23 vehicle safety recalls covering more than 11 million defective vehicles. Fiat Chrysler has since admitted to violating the Safety Act in three areas: effective and timely recall remedies, notification to vehicle owners and dealers and notifications to NHTSA.

The company, now officially called FCA US LLC, will agree to assign an independent monitor to monitor its safety and recall operations.

"What you heard here is there's a pattern that's been going on for some time, frankly," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said after the,hearing.

NHTSA said the company has failed to complete,as many as 11 million recalls in a timely manner, sometimes because it took too long to find a remedy and other times because it took too long to make enough replacement parts available

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture.”

The company must pay a $70 million cash penalty – equal to the record $70 million civil penalty the agency imposed on Honda in January. In addition, Fiat Chrysler must spend at least $20 million on meeting performance requirements included in the Consent Order. Another $15 million could come due if the independent monitor discovers additional violations of the Safety Act or the Consent Order.

,FCA may begin offering cash to owners of certain Jeep Cherokees to encourage them to go to their Jeep dealer to carry out a recall that is intended to make the SUVs less prone to burst into flames after rear-end collisions. Jeep owners might also get a cash bonus if they agree to trade in their recalled Jeeps.

Various Jeep Cherokee and Liberty models are covered by the recall, which followed years of controversy during which safety advocates said the Jeeps were dangerous because their fuel tank was behind the rear axle and Chrysler countered that the SUVs were statistically as safe as comparable vehicles.

At the NHTSA hearing, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said Chrysler had failed to notify NHTSA of the defect despite confidentially settling at least 44 lawsuits since the Jeep Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1993.

"When forced to do a recall by NHTSA in June 2013 with a dubious trailer hitch as a remedy, Fiat Chrysler failed to send an interim ... owner notification until January 2014 and a final ... until September 2014," he said, noting that two,two years after the recall started, only 5.9% of the nearly 1.5 million 1993-98 Grand Cherokees and 25% of the nearly 1 million 2002-07 Liberty’s have been remedied.

"People die when manufacturers fail to remedy recalled vehicles," Ditlow said. "On November 11, 2014, Kayla White burned to death in a rear impact in her 2003 Jeep Liberty. Kayla was 8 months pregnant and had tried to get Fiat Chrysler to install the trailer hitch before the fatal crash."

Ditlow charged that there have been at least 20 deaths in the recalled Jeeps since NHTSA recall request on June 3, 2013. A year ago, the Center for Auto Safety reported there had been at least 370 fatal fire crashes of 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees." 

One of the trending exercises on the Internet is taking tests to see how closely your biological age matches your “real” age. Most people taking the tes...

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference, an annual event held in Washington, DC, is usually marked by cautious optimism as pharmaceutical comp...

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference, an annual event held in Washington, DC, is usually marked by cautious optimism as pharmaceutical companies and health researchers report on their latest efforts to treat the memory-robbing disease.

This year has been no exception. While there have been no breakthroughs reported, there are a number of hopeful advances.

Drug company Eli Lily reported that its new drug, solanezumab, might be able to slow the onset of Alzheimer's in the early stages of the disease. According to researchers, the drug can slow down the disease by about 33%.

Solanezumab works by attacking amyloid that builds up in the brain, which is believed to be a major contributor to Alzheimer's. Eli Lily says it plans to launch a new trial of the drug early next year. That trial, it says, should yield more information about the drug's efficacy.

In another development, Avanir Pharmaceuticals disclosed its findings from the dementia/Alzheimer's disease cohort of the PRISM II study, a phase IV study evaluating the safety and effectiveness of Nuedexta in treating Alzheimer's paients.

Specifically, it treats pseudobulbar affect (PBA) in patients with dementia, as well as stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). PBA is a condition characterized by sudden and uncontrollable outbursts of laughing and/or crying resulting from certain neurologic diseases or brain injury.

The study concluded that a patient taking Nuedexta had no loss of effectiveness if they were also taking any anti-depressants.

Researchers also reported positive results of three new randomized controlled trials of aerobic exercise in Alzheimer's disease, vascular cognitive impairment (VCI), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The results provide hope that there may soon be a way that people with dementia can prolong their independence and improve their quality of life. The researchers said they found regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and maybe even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

It reflects similar findings that lifestyle changes can not only help people improve their physical health, but their mental health too.

The latest research suggests physical exercise can improve cognition while reducing symptoms in people with Alzheimer's by positively impacting the physical changes in the brain caused by the disease. Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer's Association Chief Science Officer, says this research is important because it highlights the potential value of non-drug therapies for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

“It reminds us that research ought to adamantly pursue combination and multi-modal approaches to Alzheimer's therapy and prevention," she said.

FCA US LLA -- Chrysler, in other words -- is recalling about 1.4 million vehicles to fix a flaw in their Uconnect softeware that makes it possible for hack...

FCA US LLA -- Chrysler, in other words -- is recalling about 1.4 million vehicles to fix a flaw in their Uconnect softeware that makes it possible for hackers to remotely seize control of a car if they know its IP address.

Customers affected by the recall will receive a USB stick to upgrade their. Alternately, customers may visit http://www.driveuconnect.com/software-update/ to input their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) and determine if their vehicles are included in the recall.

The flaw was revealed earlier this week when cyber-security researchers Charlie Miller of IOActive and Chris Valasek (formerly with the NSA) went public with news of the security vulnerability, which they had discovered nine months earlier.

Miller and Valasek told Chrysler of the problem, then kept quiet about it for nine months while Chrysler figured out how to fix it.

On July 16, FCA made its first (thickly veiled) public reference to the problem, when it published an eye-glazing press release headlined “FCA US LLC Releases Software Update to Improve Vehicle Electronic Security and Communications System Enhancements.”

The announcement that followed made absolutely no mention of “security flaws” or “hackable exploits” or anything negative; instead, it boasted of a new “software update” which “offers customers improved vehicle electronic security and communications system enhancements” at absolutely “no cost to customers.”

Three days after that, on July 24, FCA published another statement which said that the number of affected vehicles is actually closer to 1.4 million. That, at least, is the number of vehicles subject to the “voluntary safety recall” FCA said it is conducting in order to apply a software update, aligning with “an ongoing software distribution that insulates connected vehicles from remote manipulation, which, if unauthorized, constitutes criminal action.”

IKEA North America of Conshohocken, Pa., and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are implementing a repair program that includes a free wall anch...

IKEA North America and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are implementing a repair program that includes a free wall anchoring kit, for their MALM 3- and 4-drawer chests and two styles of MALM 6- drawer chests, and other chests and dressers.

In February 2014, a 2-year-old boy from West Chester, Pa., died after a MALM 6-drawer chest (48 3/8 inches high) tipped over and fatally pinned him against his bed. Then, in June 2014, a 23-month old child from Snohomish, Wash., died after he became trapped beneath a 3-drawer (30 ¾ inches high) MALM chest that tipped over. Neither chest had been secured to the wall.

IKEA and CPSC have also received 14 reports of tip-over incidents involving MALM chests, resulting in 4 injuries. Since 1989, IKEA is aware of 3 additional reports of deaths from tip-overs involving other models of IKEA chests and dressers.

A child dies every 2 weeks and a child is injured every 24 minutes in the U.S. from furniture or TVs tipping over, according to CPSC data.

IKEA is offering U.S. consumers a wall anchoring repair kit free of charge for use with the MALM chests, IKEA children’s chests and dressers taller than 23 ½ inches, and IKEA adult chests and dressers taller than 29 ½ inches.

The kit contains replacement tip-over restraints for use by any consumer who has not secured their IKEA chest or dresser to the wall. The kit also includes complete wall anchoring hardware, instructions and warning labels to be affixed to the furniture.

The MALM chests that are part of the repair program were sold starting in 2002. The price of the chests range from about $80 to $200.

Consumers can receive a free wall anchoring kit at any IKEA retail store, or by calling (888) 966-4532.

CPSC and IKEA urge consumers to inspect their IKEA chests and dressers to ensure that they are securely anchored to the wall. Unanchored chests and dressers should be moved into storage or other areas where they cannot be accessed by children until the chests and dressers are properly anchored to the wall.

2016 Mitsubishi Sport Mitsubishi says it is closing its only U.S. plant in Normal, Ill., cutting its production because of slow sales in Russia and el...

Mitsubishi says it is closing its only U.S. plant in Normal, Ill., cutting its production because of slow sales in Russia and elsewhere.

U.S. sales have actually been up but the company said the recession is Russia has put a big crimp in sales. Production at the plant hit nearly 222,000 vehicles in 2000 but has not rached 100,000 in any year since 2004.

A 17% surge in sales of the Outlander Sport and a 40% spurt in car volume drove U.S. sales up 25% to nearly 50,000 vehicles through June.

The 2016 Outlander received a first place ranking on the Cars.com list of most affordable 3-row crossovers. 

“We designed the 2016 Outlander to be an unmatched value in its segment, so it’s no surprise to us that it leads the way on the Cars.com list of most affordable 3-row crossovers,” said Don Swearingen, Mitsubishi Motors North America Executive Vice President. “From its long list of features, to available advanced safety technologies and a new eye-catching design, the seven passenger Outlander is a leader in value and reliability.”

The plant has approximately 900 hourly workers, represented by the United Auto Workers Union. Mitsubishi is the only Japanese automaker whose hourly U.S. workers are represented by the UAW. 

Once again, a hacker or group of hackers has managed to breach security and access theoretically confidential U.S. government files.Granted, by modern ...

LG Electronics will pay a maximum $1,825,000 civil penalty, settling charges by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff charges that the firm k...

LG Electronics will pay a maximum $1,825,000 civil penalty, settling charges by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff charges that the firm knowingly failed to report to CPSC a defect and an unreasonable risk of serious injury with several models of dehumidifiers.

Due to a defective fan, the dehumidifiers overheated, smoked, melted or caught fire, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers. Federal law required LG to report to CPSC immediately about a consumer product containing a defect that could create a substantial product hazard or presenting a risk of serious injury or death.

Starting in 2003, LG received dozens of reports of the dehumidifiers catching fire and causing extensive property damage to consumers’ homes. By the time the dehumidifiers were recalled in 2012, LG was aware of 107 reports of incidents, with more than $7 million in property damage and three reports of smoke inhalation.

LG manufactured and imported about 795,000 of the defective dehumidifiers under the Kenmore brand name. The dehumidifiers were recalled in 2012 and the recall was reannounced in July 2013.

LG’s conduct occurred before August 2009, at a time when a maximum civil penalty was $1.825 million. In addition to paying a civil penalty, LG has agreed to maintain a compliance program designed to ensure compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Act. Additionally, the firm has agreed to maintain a related series of internal controls and procedures.

The compliance program requires written standards, policies and procedures, including those designed to ensure that information that may relate to or impact CPSC compliance is conveyed effectively to personnel responsible for CPSC compliance.

June was not a good month for firms hoping to sell new single-family homes. Figures released jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing an...

Figures released jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show sales sank 6.8% from the revised May level of 517,000 -- to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 482,000. That's the first decrease in 3 months and the lowest rate since last November.

Sales in the Northeast were robust, rising 28% last month. But that was offset by declines in the West (-17.0%), Midwest (-11,1%) and South (-4.1%).

The median sales price -- the point at which the prices are higher and half are lower -- was $281,800, down $5,200 from a year ago; the average sales price was $328,700 last month, a year-over-year decline of $9,400.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of June was 215,000, representing a supply of 5.4 months at the current sales rate -- the largest supply since November of last year.

If you've been trying to decide between a health insurance policy from Anthem or Cigna, you can stop worrying about it. Anthem is buying Cigna for $54 bill...

If you've been trying to decide between a health insurance policy from Anthem or Cigna, you can stop worrying about it. Anthem is buying Cigna for $54 billion.,

It's the latest in a wave of consolidations that are changing the face of the American healthcare industry. Just a few weeks ago, Aetna snapped up Humana for $37 billion.

If both deals go through, there will be only three major health insurers in the United States, which may be good for the companies but doesn't do much to spur competition. On the other hand, industry watchers say companies need to scale up to operate efficiently under Obamacare.

The combination of Anthem and Cigna would be bigger than a lot of countries, with 53 million customers and revenue of about $115 billion.

If both acquisitions survive scrutiny by regulators, Aetna/Humana will be the largest American health insurer, followed by Anthem/Cigna and UnitedHealthGroup.,

"We believe that this transaction will allow us to enhance our competitive position and be better positioned to apply the insights and access of a broad network and dedicated local presence to the health care challenges of the increasingly diverse markets, membership, and communities we serve," said Joseph Swedish, President and Chief Executive Officer of Anthem in a press release.,

You may not know what lead generation is, which can be part of the problem. In brief, it's one of the most lucrative forms of Internet advertising, produci...

You may not know what lead generation is, which can be part of the problem. In brief, it's one of the most lucrative forms of Internet advertising, producing bonuses for websites that capture the identity of consumers looking for specific goods and services.

Many websites that look like news or comparison-shopping sites are, in fact, little more than giant lead generation engines.

Take insurance, for example. A site that presents itself as helping you find the best insurance policy may do little more than lure you into entering the data insurers want to know and then forwarding it to someone who hopes to sell you a policy.

The site gets a bonus -- sometimes a big one -- and you get yet one more company calling and emailing you. Chances are your information also winds up being sold to one of the Big Data companies that keep track of our every movement.

The Federal Trade Commission wants to get a handle this and has scheduled a workshop on October 30 to peer into the corners of the lead generation business.

The workshop, “Follow the Lead: An FTC Workshop About Online Lead Generation,” will gather a variety of stakeholders, including industry representatives, consumer advocates, and government regulators, to discuss consumer protection issues raised by the practices of the lead generation industry, such as:

The FTC is seeking research, recommendations for discussion topics, and requests for panelists in advance of the workshop. Please email any relevant information to,leadgen@ftc.gov(link sends e-mail),by August 25, 2015. The deadline to submit public comments about the workshop is December 20, 2015.,Comments can be submitted electronically.

The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW.

People usually choose career paths for financial or personal fulfillment reasons. Sometimes, personal safety enters into the equation as well.What are ...

A new highway funding bill has been slowly creeping through Congress, its progress partly slowed by legislators tacking on a wide range of amendments, some...

A new highway funding bill has been slowly creeping through Congress, its progress partly slowed by legislators tacking on a wide range of amendments, some of them having little or nothing to do with highways.

An exception is an amendment introduced yesterday by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced an amendment to ensure that if the length of trailer trucks is increased, it does not endanger U.S. drivers.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an amendment to the transportation funding bill requiring states to allow trucks with two 33-foot trailers on their highways. Current federal law permits double 28-foot trailers.

The Feinstein-Wicker amendment requires a comprehensive safety study and a formal rulemaking process with public notice and comment period before longer trucks are permitted on highways.

“With thousands of deaths a year, our highways are already dangerous enough,” Feinstein said.“Allowing trucks that are the equivalent of an eight-story building on wheels to share the road with our cars runs counter to all notions of highway safety. It’s only logical that we wait to receive all the facts before making sweeping changes to federal law.”

“I believe states are in the best position to make safety decisions about truck size,” Wicker said. “Nearly 40 states, including Mississippi, prohibit twin 33-foot trucks from operating within their jurisdictions. Initial estimates show that longer, heavier trucks could cost an additional $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion in taxpayer funding to repair highways, not to mention $1.1 billion more for bridge repair and reinforcement. Many Americans agree that Congress should not force states to comply with this top-down mandate.”

The amendment is the same one that Feinstein offered in the Appropriations Committee. As the committee considered the measure, the Department of Transportation advised that there is currently not enough data to draw firm conclusions on the safety implications of double 33-foot trailers. The department therefore recommended that no changes to truck size be considered at this time.

Those opposed to twin 33-foot trailers include Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, AAA, the Teamsters Union, several state trucking associations, the National Troopers Coalition and other law enforcement associations throughout the country.

Some commercials try to push the envelope in search of “edginess.” In 2014, Capital One briefly aired a commercial with spokesman Samuel L. Jackson using a...

Some commercials try to push the envelope in search of “edginess.” In 2014, Capital One briefly aired a commercial with spokesman Samuel L. Jackson using a tame swear word in his promotion of the Quicksilver Cash Back Card.

Madison Avenue has turned out other ads with sexual and violent themes. Often they disappear quickly, but not for the reason you might think.

New research from the American Psychological Association suggests G-rated ads are more effective, with the edgier ones impairing the ads' effectiveness and ultimately persuading consumers not to make a purchase.

“We found almost no evidence that violent and sexual programs and ads increased advertising effectiveness,” said Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, and a co-author on the study. “In general, we found violent and sexual programs, and ads with violent or sexual content decreased advertising effectiveness.”

The same was true for ads placed within violent content. In fact, the study determined that violence appeared to have the greatest influence, but not in a good way. Brands advertised during commercial breaks in violent media were remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media.

What about sexual content? The study found products and services advertised during commercial breaks in media with sexual overtones were viewed less favorably than those advertised in media with no sexual content. However, there was little difference in viewers’ brand memory or intention to buy.

“It’s not that people aren’t attracted to sex and violence,” said lead author Robert Lull. “On the contrary, people have been attracted to sex and violence since evolutionary times, when attending to violent cues prevented our ancestors from being killed by enemies or predators and paying attention to sexual cues attuned our ancestors to potential reproductive opportunities.”

So why isn't it effective in attracting eyeballs to ads? It does attract eyeballs, and that may be the problem.

Violence and sex attract attention, but they attract so much of it that viewers sort of miss the commercial message. People pay more attention to the violence and the sex surrounding ads, both in programs and the ads themselves, than to the actual products being advertised. Consequently, memory, attitudes, and buying intentions all decrease, Lull said.

This is why consumers might start seeing a return to the bland, boring ads of the past, inserted into rather tame content. It's why a series like The Sopranos was perfect for HBO, where it ran without commercial interruption – and why neither the series nor the ads would be remotely effective if it aired with commercials.

“Sex and violence do not sell, and in fact they may even backfire by impairing memory, attitudes, and buying intentions for advertised products,” Bushman said. “Thus, advertisers should think twice about sponsoring violent and sexual programs, and about using violent and sexual themes in their ads.”  

Life & More is recalling 783 bottles of Akttive High Performance Fat Burner Gold capsules weight loss supplements. The product contains Sibutramine, desm...

Life & More is recalling 783 bottles of Akttive High Performance Fat Burner Gold capsules weight loss supplements.

The product contains Sibutramine, desmethylsibutramine and Phenolphthalein. Sibutramine is an appetite suppressant that was withdrawn due to increased risk of seizures, heart attacks, arrhythmia and strokes. Phenolphthalein is an ingredient previously used in over-the-counter laxatives, but because of concerns of carcinogenicity, it is not approved for marketing in the United States. These undeclared ingredients make the product an unapproved new drug for which safety and efficacy have not been established.

The product, marketed as a dietary supplement for weight loss, is packaged in aluminum bottles containing 30 gold capsules per bottle and labeled with Lot #000185004400, UPC 859189005005, Expiration 12/17.

The products were distributed from January 2012, until July 2015, directly to distributors, online to consumers at www.akttive.com, and shipped to Nevada, Florida, New York, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and Michigan.

Life & More is notifying its distributors and customers by letter and arranging for return of all recalled products.

Consumers should not consume the recalled product and should return it immediately to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions may contact Life & More at 01157-300-487-0534 or by e-mail at info@akttive.com , Monday through Friday from 9:00am - 5:00pm (EST).

Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 24,000 lawn and garden tillers. The tiller’s transmission shift rod and clip ca...

Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 24,000 lawn and garden tillers.

The tiller’s transmission shift rod and clip can come into contact with the control cable during shifting and cause the tiller to unintentionally move forward or backward, posing a risk of bodily injury and/or laceration.

This recall involves Ariens, Husqvarna, Jonsered and Poulan Pro brand rear tine tillers used for plowing, cultivation and ridging gardens and lawns. The tillers have an engine to power the wheels and the rear tines, an operator handle with forward and reverse transmission and tilling widths ranging from 17 to 19 inches.

The brand name is printed on the side of the tiller. They were sold in red, orange and yellow/black colors. The following model and serial numbers are included in the recall:

The tillers, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at hardware stores, home centers and independent outdoor power equipment dealers from October 2014, through May 2015, for between $600 and $850.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled tillers and return it to the nearest Husqvarna dealer for a free repair.

Consumers may contact Husqvarna toll free at (877) 257-6921 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or by email at recalls@husqvarna.com.

Teavana of Seattle, Wash., is recalling about 56,800 Tristan glass pitchers in the U.S. and Canada. The pitchers can break or leak, posing laceration and/...

The pitchers can break or leak, posing laceration and/or burn hazards to consumers if filled with hot tea.

The company has received 50 reports of the glass pitchers breaking or leaking, including 3 reports of lacerations and 2 minor burns.

The company has received 50 reports of the glass pitchers breaking or leaking, including three reports of lacerations and two minor burns.

This recall involves 64-oz. Tristan glass pitchers for hot or cold tea with a glass handle, stainless steel infuser and a lid and base that are made of flexible black silicone. The pitchers measure about 12 inches tall and 4 inches in diameter. The Teavana logo is printed on the bottom. Style #30593000064 and SKU#11034874 are printed on the pitchers’ box.

The pitchers, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Teavana stores nationwide and online at www.Teavana.com from May 2012, through June 2015, for about $50.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled glass pitchers and return them to a Teavana store location (except for two stores: Columbia Mall, Columbia, Maryland, and Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Texas) or contact Teavana for a free replacement 66-oz. infusion tea pitcher plus a $25 Teavana gift card or for a Teavana gift card for the purchase price plus tax.

Consumers may contact Teavana toll free at (888) 665-0463 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.

Whether or not someone survives cancer often depends on when the disease is diagnosed. If it is caught early then the odds are better, but a late-stage dia...

Whether or not someone survives cancer often depends on when the disease is diagnosed. If it is caught early then the odds are better, but a late-stage diagnosis is often a death sentence.

Now, a research team from Georgia State University and the University of North Carolina has determined where a patient lives can make a big difference in whether their cancer is caught early or late.

The team's study found that individual state regulations for health insurance and practitioners significantly influence when patients receive colorectal or breast cancer diagnoses, especially among people younger than the Medicare-eligible age of 65. This suggests that where a person lives is a strong predictor of whether they will receive potentially life-saving cancer screenings.

Dr. Lee Rivers Mobley, associate professor at Georgia State's School of Public Health, has spent years exploring similar issues. He was the principal author of "United States Health Policies and Late-Stage Breast and Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis: Why Such Disparities by Age?", which was recently published in Health Economics Review.

"Progress has been made in the war against cancer, yet the high proportions of late-stage diagnoses remain a public health concern," the researchers wrote.

Their analysis discovered that 54% to 60% of colorectal cancer diagnoses are late-stage, meaning the disease has spread. The analysis found 24% to 36% of breast cancer cases are caught at the late stage.

The conclusion? A state's regulatory climate is "an important predictor" of late-stage colorectal and breast cancer diagnoses.

The study reached its conclusion after examining individual states' regulatory policies, matching them with their colorectal and breast cancer diagnoses. It used the United States Cancer Statistics (USCS) database and examined data that was reported between 2004 and 2009 in order to determine whether area cancer screening use or accessibility to health care providers affected odds of late-stage diagnosis.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and the risk of developing it rises after age 40. Overall rates of the disease have been on the decline, largely because of endoscopic screenings and polyp removal.

However, rates have been rising since 1998 among those younger than age 50 "for whom screening is not routinely recommended," the authors said.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women and its rates have remained steady since about 2003.

According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, 90% of those diagnosed when the cancer is found at a local stage – confined to colon or rectum – survive more than five years. Unfortunately, the association says only 40% of colon cancers are diagnosed at the early, local stage.

Last Friday, UCLA Health admitted it was the latest American healthcare system to be hit by a massive data breach, this one compromising the medical record...

Microsoft has added itself to the list of tech companies cracking down on revenge porn. In a blog post yesterday evening, Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqu...

Microsoft has added itself to the list of tech companies cracking down on revenge porn. In a blog post yesterday evening, Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere announced that in order to “help put victims back in control of their images and their privacy,” henceforth Microsoft will honor victim requests to remove links to photos and videos from Bing search results, “and remove access to the content itself when shared on OneDrive or Xbox Live.”

Microsoft also set up a new support page (Javascript required) for victims to file reports. Right now that reporting page is only available in English, but Beauchere says other languages will be added in the forthcoming weeks, and “When we remove links or content, we will do so globally.”

As the name suggests, revenge porn is a practice wherein people (usually angry ex-lovers, sometimes criminal hackers who break into strangers' devices to steal images), post identifiable nude, sexually explicit, or otherwise compromising images of victims, along with the victim's name and other identifying information, for the express purpose of humiliating the victims and damaging their personal and professional reputations.

Microsoft's announcement makes it at least the fifth major tech or social media company to crack down on revenge porn this year. Reddit and Twitter announced policy changes in February and March, respectively; Twitter updated its content boundaries to include the clause “You may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent.”

A few days after Twitter made this announcement, Facebook “clarified” its policies to specifically disallow “images shared in revenge or without permissions from the people in the images.”

Then, in June, Google said that it would honor requests from victims to remove revenge-porn images from its search engine, and stop linking to any such results: “going forward, we’ll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results. This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results.”

And now Microsoft is doing the same for its own Bing search engine, plus deleting revenge-porn images entirely when they're shared though OneDrive or Xbox Live. But removing links or deleting files from Xbox Live is not the same thing as removing such images from the Internet altogether, as Beauchere noted in her Microsoft announcement; in that regard, “victims still need stronger protections across the Web and around the world.”

Consumers who use hearing aids can often voice frustration when the devices don't provide the results they expect. The problem is usually not the hearing a...

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is accusing Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. of illegally billing college students and their families millions...

It used to be that just doctors were on call 24 hours a day. Now, it seems that we all are.Employment site CareerBuilder decided to look at how America...

Employment site CareerBuilder decided to look at how Americans work these days. How many of us, it wondered, stick to the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule? Now that technology allows us to work from almost anywhere, the typical workday appears to be changing.

The survey targeted 1,000 full-time workers in information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services – industries that historically have kept more traditional work hours. Harris Poll asked the questions.

According to the results, 63% of workers in these industries believe “working 9 to 5” is an outdated concept, and a significant number have a hard time leaving the office mentally. For example, nearly 1 in 4 – 24% – check work emails during supposed “down time” with family and friends.

Today, work might mean just staying connected. Fifty percent of the workers in the targeted industries said they check or respond to work emails outside of work, and nearly 2 in 5 – 38% – say they continue to work outside of office hours.

It should be noted that very few people who took the survey complain about this new work paradigm. Sixty-two percent say they stay connected by choice because often, it works to their advantage.

“Workers want more flexibility in their schedules, and with improvements in technology that enable employees to check in at any time, from anywhere, it makes sense to allow employees to work outside the traditional nine-to-five schedule,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “Moving away from a nine-to-five work week may not be possible for some companies yet, but if done right, allowing employees more freedom and flexibility with their schedules can improve morale, boost productivity and increase retention rates.”

While we seem to be working longer hours, work also seems to be more loosely defined than in the past. For example, it isn't always about completing a set task – sometimes it's a thought process.

About 20% of those questioned say they think about work issues just before going to bed and 42% say work is the first thing on their mind when they wake up in the morning.

Men are more likely than women to report working outside of office hours, check or respond to work emails outside of work, and check on work activities while they are out with friends and family.

There is one question that the survey does not address– how healthy is this trend? Don't we need to unplug every once in a while?

When Gallup delved into this issue last year, it found that, for the most part, workers don't see working around the clock as a burden.

It's not like they're on a factory assembly line. Instead, they are more apt to be working a problem and exchanging ideas with colleagues.

Obesity trends in children have been on the rise in recent years. Some states have very loose laws when it comes to what they serve their children in schoo...

UPS will bring a case of wine right to your doorstep, assuming you're 21. So will FedEx. But not the U.S. Postal Service. Since 1909, USPS has been prohibi...

UPS will bring a case of wine right to your doorstep, assuming you're 21. So will FedEx. But not the U.S. Postal Service. Since 1909, USPS has been prohibited from home deliveries of beer, wine and liquor. 

That could change, though, as Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is reportedly planning to introduce legislation that would allow your mailperson to become your own personal bartender.

Brewbound, a trade publication, quoted Speier as saying the bill would "tear down the last vestiges of Prohibition."

Wine clubs and vintners have been shipping wine to most states for the last several years but liquor and wine deliveries haven't quite caught up. Beer wholesalers reportedly aren't crazy about Speier's idea though independent brewers expressed interest.

Discover Bank and its affiliates are under fire from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for illegal private student loan servicing practices. ...

Discover Bank and its affiliates are under fire from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for illegal private student loan servicing practices.

According to the agency, Discover overstated the minimum amounts due on billing statements and denied consumers information they needed to obtain federal income tax benefits. The company also engaged in illegal debt collection tactics, including calling consumers early in the morning and late at night.

The CFPB’s order requires Discover to refund $16 million to consumers, pay a $2.5 million penalty, and improve its billing, student loan interest reporting, and collection practices.

“Discover created student debt stress for borrowers by inflating their bills and misleading them about important benefits,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Illegal servicing and debt collection practices add insult to injury for borrowers struggling to pay back their loans.”

Discover Bank's student loan affiliates -- The Student Loan Corporation and Discover Products, Inc. -- are also charged in this action. Beginning in 2010, Discover expanded its private student loan portfolio by acquiring more than 800,000 accounts from Citibank.

As a loan servicer, Discover is responsible for providing basic services to borrowers, including accurate periodic account statements, supplying year-end tax information, and contacting borrowers regarding overdue amounts.

Student loans make up the nation’s second largest consumer debt market. Today there are more than 40 million federal and private student loan borrowers and collectively these consumers owe more than $1.2 trillion. The market is now facing an increasing number of borrowers who are struggling to stay current on their loans.

Earlier this year, the CFPB revealed that more than 8 million borrowers were in default on more than $110 billion in student loans, a problem that may be driven by breakdowns in student loan servicing. While private student loans are a small portion of the overall market, they are generally used by borrowers with high levels of debt who also have federal loans.

According to CFPB, thousands of consumers encountered problems as soon as their loans became due and Discover gave them account statements that overstated their minimum payment. Discover denied consumers information that they would have needed to obtain tax benefits and called consumers’ mobile phones at inappropriate times to contact them about their debts.

House prices in the U.S., as measured by the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) monthly House Price Index (HPI) rose in May. The 0.4% advance, on a s...

Looks like this year won't be quite as good for retailers as they expected. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says unexpected slow growth recorded duri...

The National Retail Federation (NRF) says unexpected slow growth recorded during the first half of the year, similar to the industry’s experience in 2014, has prompted it to lower its retail sales forecast for 2015.

NRF forecasted in February that retail sales would grow 4.1 percent in 2015 over 2014, but today’s revision lowers the forecast to 3.5 percent. However, NRF expects sales will steadily increase through the remainder of the year.

Back in February, the retailing trade organization forecasted 4.1% growth in sales for 2015. The revision lowers it to 3.5%.

“For years consumer spending has been hampered by lackluster growth in our economy,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Much of that blame can be shifted to Washington where too much time has been spent crafting rules and regulations that almost guarantee negative consequences for consumers and American businesses alike.” Until the government and our elected leaders “get serious about enacting policies that lift consumer confidence, create economic growth and spur investment,” he added, “we will continue this trend of solid, but not exceptional, performance in the economy.”

NRF calculated that sales grew 2.9% during the first half of 2015 and are expected to grow at a more positive pace of 3.7% over the next five months. The estimates include general retail sales and non-store sales, and exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants. Revised non-store sales are now expected to grow between 6-and-8%, still within the 7-to-10% range originally forecast.

“A confluence of events, including treacherous weather throughout the United States through most of the winter, issues at the West Coast ports, a stronger U.S. dollar, weak foreign growth and declines in energy sector investments all significantly and negatively impacted retail sales so far this year, and thus have changed how future sales will shape up for the rest of 2015,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Additionally, household spending patterns appear to have shifted purchases toward services and away from goods, though this may be transitory. Additionally, a deflationary retail environment has been especially challenging for retailers’ bottom lines.”  

Who are all these people who are trying to avoid gluten in their food? They may not be the usual suspects -- you know, th...

Who are all these people who are trying to avoid gluten in their food? They may not be the usual suspects -- you know, the Santa Monica yoga instructor who drives a Prius and wears bamboo clothes.

It's been generally known that about one in five Americans -- about 20% -- say they try to avoid gluten while about the same number try to avoid gluten-free foods and the rest don't think much about it either way.

In a July poll, Gallup tried to pin it down a bit more. Researchers asked 1,009 Americans about the foods they include, or avoid, in their diet as part of its annual Consumption Habits poll. "Gluten-free foods" was included in the list this year for the first time.

They found that, while demographic differences were fairly minor, one in three nonwhite Americans, compared with only 17% of whites, said they active pursue gluten-free foods. Age didn't seem to be a major factor. Nor did gender.

More educated and wealthier Americans tend to be less likely to include gluten free-foods in their diet than Americans with no college experience and lower-income Americans, respectively, but these differences are also not large.

Gluten is a former of protein that's found in,wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives. It can damage the small intestine of people with celiac disease, which is estimated to affect 1,in 100 people -- 1% in other words -- worldwide.

Obviously, 1% is a lot smaller than 20% so why are all those non-celiac sufferers avoiding gluten like the plague?

Many Americans say they simply feel better when they avoid gluten, which is often added to bread, cereal and other packaged foods to boost the protein content.,

Consumers who try to pursue a "natural" diet with an emphasis on non-processed foods say gluten is just one of the additives they try to avoid. Some of them believe that foods containing extra amounts of gluten also contain other additives that upset their gastric tract.

You're waiting at a bus stop when the person standing next to clutches his chest and keels over.What do you do? If you have been trained in CPR and adm...

What do you do? If you have been trained in CPR and administer it to the poor fellow, and paramedics quickly arrive on the scene, chances are he'll be okay.

At least that's the conclusion of new research from Duke University, which studied whether CPR administered by a bystander made a difference in whether someone suffering from cardiac arrest survived. They found that it did.

“We were surprised to learn that survival increased only for those who received bystander-initiated CPR, compared with those who did not receive bystander-initiated CPR,” said lead author Carolina Malta Hansen, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. “Also, patients who received bystander or first-responder CPR and defibrillation were more likely to survive compared to those who received CPR and defibrillation once EMS arrived. This suggests that the very earliest intervention is crucial, and is something anyone can do. It saves lives.”

Japanese researchers reached a somewhat similar conclusion in 2013. They found that performing CPR on a heart attack victim for 38 minutes or longer can improve a patient’s chance of survival. It also improves the chances that survivors will have normal brain function, researchers said.

The common thread appears to be the importance of an immediate response. After allowing for other factors that can affect neurological outcomes, the Japanese researchers found that the odds of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest without severe brain damage dropped 5% for every 60 seconds that passed before normal blood circulation was restored.

Sudden cardiac arrest kills an estimated 200,000 people a year in the U.S., making it one of the leading causes of death. Senior author of the Duke study, Christopher Granger, says the data he and the research team examined showed that there has been more bystander-initiated CPR in recent years.

“During the past decade, there has been a focus on increasing bystander CPR,” he said. “Our findings show that survival can be improved by strengthening first-responder programs and encouraging more bystander CPR.”

In recent years doctors have concluded that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is not necessary, that chest-compression CPR is more effective. There are many places to learn the technique, but YouTube is not one of them.

Researchers writing in the October 2014 issue of Emergency Medicine Australasia investigated the accuracy of YouTube videos on CPR, checking them against the 2010 CPR guidelines.

It concluded that the majority of YouTube video clips purporting to be about CPR are not relevant educational material. Of those that are focused on teaching CPR, only a small minority optimally meet the 2010 guidelines, the study found.

That's not to say there isn't reliable, relevant information on the Internet. The trouble is finding it.

You can usually trust CPR instructions from major health institutions like the Mayo Clinic. Your local branch of the Red Cross likely offers free training classes as well.

Fewer people, it would appear, lost their jobs last week. The Labor Department (DOL) reports first time applications for state jobless benefits fell by 26...

The Labor Department (DOL) reports first time applications for state jobless benefits fell by 26,000 in the week ending July 18 to seasonally adjusted total of 255,000. That's the lowest level for initial claims since November 24, 1973, when it was 233,000.

DOL says there were no special factors affecting the claims level. Economists at Briefing.com., who were expecting the claims level to drop to 279,000, say the fact that there were no special factors leads them to believe that the drop will be temporary and that the level will soon be back in the 275,000 – 290,000 range.

The 4-week moving average, considered a better gauge of the labor market that the volatile initial claims, fell by 4,000 to 278,500.

From The Conference Board, word that its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose for a third straight month, increasing by 0.6% on top of gains of 0.8% in May and 0.6% in April.

The upward trend in the LEI, said Ataman Ozyildirim, Director, Business Cycles and Growth Research, at The Conference Board, “seems to be gaining more momentum with another large increase in June pointing to continued strength in the economic outlook for the remainder of the year. Housing permits and the interest rate spread drove the latest gain in the LEI, while labor market indicators such as average workweek and initial claims remained unchanged.”

Technology is creeping its way into every facet of our lives. Smart phones, smart cars, and even smart houses demonstrate how the global community is commi...

Technology is creeping its way into every facet of our lives. Smart phones, smart cars, and even smart houses demonstrate how the global community is committed to technological advancement.

Japan is a country that has given itself over to technology, and it has now developed a hotel that is managed by robots. Though they may seem like something out of science fiction, these robotic hotels could be coming to a city near you in the not-too-distant future.

The hotel in question opened this past week and already has a five-star rating. Humanoid robots greet guests and are able to carry on conversations quite intelligently. Hotel staff, such as bellhops, are androids that perform the functions their human counterparts would see to in a normal hotel. They can carry your luggage, clean your room, and help you store your belongings in safe areas, and they don’t even require a tip.

When construction of the hotel was first announced, Huis Ten Bosch President Hideo Sawada said that he hoped the robots would be able to run 90% of the hotel eventually. He told Japan’s Nikkei News that they are fully committed to the project, and are planning on having 1,000 robotic hotels up and running all over the world.

The company is attempting to implement technology into every facet of the hotel experience. Rooms can be accessed by guests who use facial recognition software, which means their belongings are safer than in other hotels. If guests need anything, they can ask for it by using tablets that come standard with every room. Climate control is tuned specifically to each guest’s body temperature; if sensors detect that the room is too hot or cold, then radiation panels adjust the temperature back to normal.

Guests who visit the hotel should expect varying prices upon check-in. Room rates fluctuate according to demand, and in peak seasons the rooms will go to the highest bidder. This shouldn’t get too out of control though, as the hotel states that opening fees will start at $60 dollars for a single room and can go no higher than $153, for a triple room, through the bidding process. However, if you are interested in a superior or deluxe room then it will cost you a little more. 

Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 144,416 model year 2011-2015 Dodge Journey vehicles manufactured July 19, 2010, to May 26, 2015 and equipped with 2.4L engin...

Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 144,416 model year 2011-2015 Dodge Journey vehicles manufactured July 19, 2010, to May 26, 2015 and equipped with 2.4L engines.

The engine cover may detach from the engine and contact the exhaust manifold, increasing the risk of a vehicle fire.

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will install an improved mounting system for the engine cover, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 26, 2015.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is R32.

Cost Plus Management Services of Oakland, Calif., is recalling about 9,200 Ronan Bistro chairs. The rear metal legs can bend unexpectedly and cause the ch...

The rear metal legs can bend unexpectedly and cause the chair to become unbalanced, posing a fall hazard to the user.

The firm has received 3 reports of bent or fractured or torn rear chair legs. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves metal Ronan Bistro chairs intended for outdoor use. The chairs measure 35 inches tall, have a slatted seat, a 2 horizontal-slat back and were sold in antique white, lagoon blue and Poinciana (red).

SKU number 502281, 502282 or 502283 is printed on the UPC sticker attached to the sales tag at the time of purchase.

The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Cost Plus World Market and World Market stores nationwide and online at www.worldmarket.com from February 2015, through May 2015, for about $60.

Consumers should immediately stop using the Ronan Bistro chairs and return them to any Cost Plus World Market or World Market store for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Cost Plus World Market toll-free at (877) 967-5362 from 7 a.m. to midnight (ET) daily.

The 2015 tornado season turned deadly early, with a 6-day outbreak in Texas and Oklahoma in early May causing deaths, injuries and widespread property dama...

If you have a sellers' account on eBay, be warned: even though the company's online privacy policies claim to have a “commitment to protect your personal i...

College is a lot more competitive and incredibly more expensive for the current generation than when Baby Boomers went off to change the world. Now, Boo...

College is a lot more competitive and incredibly more expensive for the current generation than when Baby Boomers went off to change the world.

Now, Boomers are sending their children, and in some cases grand-children, to college and are seeing the challenges first hand. Gallup Senior Research Consultant Valerie Calderon is sending her son off to college in the fall, and has spent significant time thinking about the challenges he'll face.

Find a mentor: navigating freshman year can be tough, so knowing someone at the school who has been through it all and who can offer some guidance can increase your chance of success. Calderon says what a student can learn from a mentor will stay with them after they graduate and move on to a career.

Start looking for a job right away: It's not that you would actually take a job, but Calderon says talking to hiring managers early in your college careerwill help you find out what they are looking for in a candidate. By your junior year you should be competing for internships, and by senior year you should be sending out resumes.

Calderson says many hiring managers complain that college graduates lack the skills they are looking for. Getting to know what those skills are early in the process can help you be better prepared to meet expectations.

Finish what you start: A lot of students start college but leave without a degree. If you start, Calderon says you should finish. Getting a degree will open a lifetime of doors.

“You may hold many jobs over the course of your lifetime -- a recent report indicated that among baby boomers the lifetime average is 12 jobs -- and completing your degree could increase the chances of finding and crafting the job of your dreams,” she writes.

Avoid debt, pay as you go: This is a biggie. Calderson says higher education has encouraged a “borrow-as-you-go” trend when students should be paying as they go. True, people borrow because college is so expensive. But as we have pointed out in the past, working for the right company or getting your degree online from the right institution can earn a debt-free degree.

By doing this, you can avoid leaving college with a mortgage-sized debt that will limit your economic future, even if you manage to get a good job. Figuring out how you are going to pay for your education should be a major factor in selecting a school.

Find the right fit: And speaking of selecting a school, Calderon advises enrolling in the school that is right for you.

“Attend a school with opportunities for you to do what you do best every day -- one that helps you develop your knowledge, skills and strengths to their fullest potential,” she writes.

AT&T's proposed $48 billion acquisition of DirecTV cleared two hurdles yesterday, as the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission gave ...

AT&T's proposed $48 billion acquisition of DirecTV cleared two hurdles yesterday, as the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission gave their blessings.

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division said it was closing its investigation into the merger and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said ,a final order approving the transaction has been circulated to the Commission.

“After an extensive investigation, we concluded that the combination of AT&T’s land-based internet and video business with DirecTV’s satellite-based video business does not pose a significant risk to competition,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Antitrust Division.,

“Our investigation benefited from the Division’s close and constructive working relationship with the FCC. The commitments that the proposed FCC order includes, if adopted, will provide significant benefits to millions of subscribers.”

Wheeler said the deal contains a "number of conditions that will directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace."

"If the conditions are approved by my colleagues, 12.5 million customer locations will have access to a competitive high-speed fiber connection. This additional build-out is about 10 times the size of AT&T’s current fiber-to-the-premise deployment, increases the entire nation’s residential fiber build by more than 40 percent, and more than triples the number of metropolitan areas AT&T has announced plans to serve," Wheeler said in a prepared statement.

"AT&T will not be permitted to exclude affiliated video services and content from data caps,on its fixed broadband connections. Second, in order to bring greater transparency to interconnection practices, the company will be required to submit all completed interconnection agreements to the Commission, along with regular reports on network performance," Wheeler said.

The deal would create the country’s largest television distributor with about 26 million subscribers, surpassing Comcast, the current leader.

If you drive a late-model (2013 or newer) FCA US LLC (Fiat Chrysler) vehicle, take warning: unless you've updated your vehicle's Uconnect software or had a...

Overcoming depression can be a major challenge for people who experience it every day. There are currently over 120 million people who suffer from it world...

Overcoming depression can be a major challenge for people who experience it every day. There are currently over 120 million people who suffer from it worldwide, and the existing therapies and prescriptions do not work for everyone. Luckily, recent research has found that elevating the levels of a signaling molecule in the brain can alter a person’s response to stress. This discovery could provide a new approach to treating depression.

The study was conducted by researchers from the UT Southwestern Medical Center. They found that mice changed their stress-induced behaviors when cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels in their brains were increased. This is extremely relevant to depression because other studies have showed that depressed people often have impaired cAMP signaling in their brains. Most antidepressants work by attempting to turn this signaling system on.

“This is the first step in the development of a treatment for patients with major depressive disorder using this new strategy,” said Dr. James Bibb, who is the lead author the study and a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern.

The cAMP levels in the brain correlate with feelings of pleasure, motivation, and reward. They are controlled by a variety of other molecules, which include an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4). By disrupting PDE4 levels in the brain, scientists found that cAMP levels were able to elevate higher within the mice, which changed their behavioral responses to different stressors.

The researchers have already developed a drug-like peptide that they hope can selectively block PDE4 function. If successful, it could provide a new way for people with depressive disorders to deal with their condition and the stressors that cause it.  

“These exciting findings could help us develop very novel treatments to reduce stress response and prevent or treat depression effectively in the future," said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, who is the Director of the Center of Depression Research and Clinical Care. The full study has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

It's been almost two years since word first leaked out that the massive data broker Experian had, through a subsidiary known as Court Ventures, allowed a V...

It's been almost two years since word first leaked out that the massive data broker Experian had, through a subsidiary known as Court Ventures, allowed a Vietnamese identity thief to buy access to databases containing the personal and confidential information on up to 5 out of every 6 American adults — 200 million people in all.

A couple days later, on July 17, three plaintiffs filed a federal class action suit against Experian in California, alleging that the company was negligent in allowing an identity thief to buy access to its data for nearly 10 months.

Security expert Brian Krebs (who first broke word of the Experian breach in October 2013) announced the lawsuit yesterday. The 38-page suit, which is available as a .pdf here, seeks statutory damages for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, declaratory and injunctive relief, and reimbursement of the plaintiffs' court costs and litigation expenses.

The suit also claims that “Experian refuses to notify the victims of Ngo's identity fraud operation or provide them with protection even though Experian knows their identities, and its senior vice president promised Congress [that] Experian would 'make sure they're protected'.”

Therefore, the plaintiffs have asked the court to force Experian to notify all consumers who were affected by Ngo's actions. They're also pushing for Experian to provide everyone who was affected with free credit monitoring services.

Incidentally, in American English, the phrase “make a federal case” is a common idiomatic phrase used to indicate that somebody is overreacting: “Dude, he didn't intend to spill your drink! There's no need to make a federal case out of this.” But in other contexts, it's not an idiom but a straightforward description, as in “Apparently you do need to make a federal case out of it, if you want Experian to notify the victims of its own negligence.”

Sales of previously-owned homes rose last month to their highest pace in over 8 years as the median sales price hit a record high. The National Associatio...

Sales of previously-owned homes rose last month to their highest pace in over 8 years as the median sales price hit a record high.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – were up 3.2% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million.

Sales are now at their highest pace since February 2007, have increased year-over-year for 9 consecutive months and are 9.6% above a year ago (5.01 million).

"Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "This wave of demand is being fueled by a year-plus of steady job growth and an improving economy that's giving more households the financial wherewithal and incentive to buy."

Yun says June sales were also likely propelled by the spring's initial phase of rising mortgage rates, which, he said, “usually prods some prospective buyers to buy now rather than wait until later when borrowing costs could be higher."

The median existing-home price for all housing types in June was $236,400, which is 6.5% above June 2014 and surpasses the peak median sales price set in July 2006 ($230,400). June's price increase also marks the 40th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of June inched up 0.9% to 2.30 million existing homes available for sale, and is 0.4% higher than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 5.0-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with 5.1 months in May.

"Limited inventory amidst strong demand continues to push home prices higher, leading to declining affordability for prospective buyers," said Yun. "Local officials in recent years have rightly authorized permits for new apartment construction, but more needs to be done for condominiums and single-family homes."

Results of a recent animal study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggest that carrying a gene variant that affects the rel...

Results of a recent animal study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggest that carrying a gene variant that affects the release of a specific brain protein may put one at greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

Scientists led by Professor Dorit Ron, PhD, Endowed Chair of Cell Biology of Addiction, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, found that mice carrying the Met68BDNF gene variant, which reduces the release of brain-derived neurotrophic (BDNF) factor, would consume excessive amounts of alcohol, despite negative consequences.

BDNF plays a role in the survival of existing neurons and the growth of new neurons and synapses, the junctures through which cell-to-cell communication occurs. The human form of this gene variant, Met66BDNF, leads to a reduction in the normal function of BDNF in the brain and is associated with several psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and depression.

In an animal study reported earlier this year, NIAAA-supported scientists found that adolescent binge drinking was linked to lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and these changes persisted into adulthood.

“Genetic factors play a role in determining who develops alcohol problems,” said Dr. George Koob, PhD, NIAAA Director. “By understanding the genetic underpinnings of alcohol use disorder, we will be better able to develop targeted treatment and prevention strategies.”

In the study, published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers tested the role of BDNF in alcohol addiction by creating a “knock-in” mouse carrying Met68BDNF. In this variant, the amino acid valine (Val) is replaced by methionine (Met) in a specific position within the protein sequence of BDNF, resulting in reduced activity-dependent BDNF release.

These “knock-in” mice drank more alcohol, even when the alcohol was treated with bitter-tasting quinine. This suggests Met68BDNF carriers compulsively drink alcohol despite aversive consequences.

The effect of the genetic mutation seemed to be specific to alcohol consumption since the mice did not differ in their consumption of other fluids, or exhibit differences in levels of anxiety or compulsive behaviors

Significantly, researchers were able to reverse compulsive alcohol drinking in the mice using gene delivery and pharmacology. Increasing levels of BDNF in the ventromedial portion of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in compulsive drug and alcohol seeking, returned the mice to moderate levels of alcohol intake.

In addition, by administering a pharmaceutical compound developed to mimic the action of BDNF, researchers were also able to put a stop to compulsive drinking behaviors. This compound (LM22A-4) may have potential as a therapeutic for humans. It appears to reduce compulsive alcohol drinking without a generalized effect on motivation.

Alcohol use disorder affects about 16.6 million U.S. adults. Knowing whether patients carry a gene that results in decreased BDNF function could help in tailoring alcohol prevention and treatment strategies in the future.

The attorneys general of 45 states are urging the five major telephone companies to offer their customers call-blocking technology to assist them in avoidi...

The attorneys general of 45 states are urging the five major telephone companies to offer their customers call-blocking technology to assist them in avoiding unwanted robo-calls. 

In a letter sent to the chief executives of the carriers, the attorneys general noted that a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule clarification allows telecom companies to offer customers the ability to block unwanted calls.

Telephone companies previously claimed that federal law administered by the FCC prohibited them from implementing existing technologies to block robocalls.

“Robocalls can be annoying and intrusive for those that receive them repeatedly. I am pleased to see that the FCC has made it clear that phone companies can now assist us in our fight against these calls,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. “We will continue to press these phone carriers to move quickly and inform their consumers of these options.”

Electronic cigarettes or "e-cigs" have been touted as a safer tool smokers can use to wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes. But is that really tru...

Electronic cigarettes or "e-cigs" have been touted as a safer tool smokers can use to wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes. But is that really true? After all, e-cig liquid contains nicotine and emits carcinogens, just like tobaco-based cigarettes.

A research team reports in the ACS journal Chemical Research in Toxicology that much of the nicotine in e-cigarettes is the addictive form of the compound.

Although e-cigs don't burn tobacco, they heat and vaporize a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings and other substances. 

Some experts say the nicotine content in e-cigs could lead users to become addicted to e-cigs, or that it could even serve as a gateway to conventional cigarettes and other drugs. But not all nicotine is created equal, and studies had yet to investigate what kind of nicotine was in the liquids.

Out of three forms, scientists believe "free-base" nicotine is the only one that gets absorbed by the body, making it the most addictive kind. Najat Saliba and colleagues wanted to find out which nicotine forms are in e-cigs.

The researchers tested commercial samples of liquids made for the devices and found that, by and large, the nicotine was in the most addictive form. They also determined that the concentration of nicotine varied and often didn't match the concentrations the labels claimed.

Funding for the study came from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

Home sales are rising, which is good news for the housing market. But the downside to that good news is a shrinking inventory.As homes disappear from t...

Home sales are rising, which is good news for the housing market. But the downside to that good news is a shrinking inventory.

As homes disappear from the market, there aren't additional ones to take their place. That tips the balance of power toward sellers and could frustrate the new wave of first-time buyers just starting to look.

By its accounting, online real estate marketplace Redfin says home sales jumped 11.4% year-over-year in June, leaving buyers looking at the lowest inventory of available homes on record.

June was also the fastest month for home sales on record, with median days on market falling to 26, breaking the record of 27 days set in June 2013.

Even with robust buyer demand and low inventory, Redfin reports prices have not responded accordingly. Prices were up, but only by a modest 5.1% year-over-year.

Even 5.1% might be high, since Denver, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are commanding premiums that pushed up the national average. All four cities posted double-digit year-over-year price increases in June.

Prices elsewhere may have been held in check by conservative appraisals, which have become the norm under tighter loan underwriting guidelines.

In fact, some of the hotter markets are showing signs of cooling off over the last couple of months. In San Francisco, one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation, the median sale price fell 2.8% month-over-month, to $1.07 million. But year-over-year, prices were up 16.3%.

Redfin reports new listings in San Francisco declined 10.6% from June 2014. San Francisco hasn’t seen year-over-year growth in new listings since February 2014.

Home values continued to soar in Denver, rising 14.8% year-over-year to a median of $325,000. July was the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year price growth above 10%.

Denver was still the fastest-moving market, with half of all new listings selling in 6 days or less, followed by Seattle at 9, Portland at 10, and Boston and Omaha at 11.

According to Redfin, the pricey San Jose market suffered the biggest year-over-year drop in sales on record going back to 1998, falling by 50.7% since last year. In another bad sign for the market, inventory grew by 13.5% and average days on the market surged from 13 to 33 days.

Richmond, Va., led the nation in year-over-year sales growth, with a massive increase of 35.4% over last June. Boston had the highest increase from May to June at 49.3%.

Consumers choose a car for many different reasons. Safety and fuel economy are two very good ones; price is another.But what about how comfortable it i...

Consumers choose a car for many different reasons. Safety and fuel economy are two very good ones; price is another.

But what about how comfortable it is? For the amount of time you spend behind the wheel, doesn't it make sense that you and your passengers should ride in comfort?

The car experts at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) recently put their heads together to assemble a list of what they consider the 10 most comfortable new 2015 model cars selling for under $30,000.

"Our annual 'comfy cars' list is compiled of vehicles that have a luxury feel without draining the bulk of a consumer's monthly income," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com. "Our choices include vehicles that offer a comfortable driving experience, a roomy interior and the modern technological conveniences of luxury cars, yet at a more wallet-friendly price point."

Now $30,000 may not be your idea of a budget-priced vehicle, but the average transaction price of new cars these days hovers just under $34,000. Luxury models can cost $50,000 on up.

The Kelley staff tried to think about comfortable cars for daily commutes and extended vacation road trips when they put together the list of what the staff considers stand-out vehicles. The staff said it considered features such as a smooth drive, technology, and seat comfort.

The vehicles on the list all have a Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price that starts below $30,000 as of June 2015.

We've always thought of IKEA as sort Walmart with meatballs -- a cavernous warehouse store where the prices are relatively low, with customer service to ma...

We've always thought of IKEA as sort Walmart with meatballs -- a cavernous warehouse store where the prices are relatively low, with customer service to match.

That's perhaps OK if you're ready for it, but not everyone is. We heard recently from one consumer who is temporarily disabled and who found that IKEA is perhaps not very accommodating to those who need a little extra help: 

She's not alone. In Miami, Andy stocked up at IKEA after moving and is still trying to get things straightened out, according to a ConsumerAffairs review he filed last week:

"Short version: driving to Ikea several times for no result, spending hours on a 'hotline' without result, loose doors, no matching colours, no assembly, I am stuck paying for everything Ikea promised me a refund for and the promised compensation for their blunders was simply cancelled. That's customer 'service' a la IKEA."

Annika of Seattle would like to start over: "Man, I really wish I had read all of the reviews here first before buying an Ikea kitchen. At this point I've decided to cut my losses with the Renton IKEA."

Annika said she spent countless hours at IKEA designing a kitchen for a rental house, and it was "truly the biggest waste of time EVER."

Her advice: "Spend the extra money upfront to get it done by Home Depot if you have any kind of schedule you have to stick to."

Actually, if you browse through the Home Depot reviews, you may decide it's better to hire a licensed contractor if you're doing a kitchen remodel. Using any big box store for a home improvement project doesn't always get the job done.

Renting used to be the easier way to have a home without all of the expenses tied to it. Things have changed quite a bit since the renting market went thro...

Renting used to be the easier way to have a home without all of the expenses tied to it. Things have changed quite a bit since the renting market went through the roof and now monthly rent checks could take a good portion of your salary in certain areas.

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies has conducted a study and published some staggering facts about renting in the United States. According to a 2013 report, tenants spend more than 30% of their paychecks on housing in nearly 20.7 million renting households.

Financial advisors counsel that you should spend less than a third of your pay on housing costs, but nearly 11 million renters spend more than half of their paychecks on utilities and rent. That is a 37% increase since 2003.

Historically, cities like New York or San Francisco have always had very high rents, but many other cities are beginning to follow suit.

“The rental housing crisis is everywhere,” says Angela Boyd, Vice President of Advocacy at Enterprise Community Partners. Her organization is active in supporting affordable housing.

Rents have shot up recently in locations like Miami. Nearly 36 percent of renters spent more than half of their pay on rent and utilities in the city in 2013, which is the highest of the 100 metro areas that were examined in the study. People with a median income of $32,000 were paying an average of $1,100 in rent each month. That equates to roughly 41 percent of their total income at the end of the year.

New Orleans is another city with extremely high rents. After Hurricane Katrina, the city was forced into a period of rebuilding that has heavily influenced the economy; 35 percent of renters in the city use more than half of their pay for housing as a result.

Middle class families have been hit hardest by these high prices. People making $45,000-$75,000 who spent more than 50 percent of their income on housing increased by 72 percent in a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013. People making $30,000-$45,000 have been hit even harder in the same time period, with a 69 percent increase in people paying more than half their income on housing.

The most inexpensive apartments are usually grabbed up very quickly. Apartments that cost $800 dollars or less a month may only stay on the market for a matter of days before they are picked up. Metro areas tend to have less of these kinds of listings, and more luxury housing with higher price points.

Higher rent costs make saving for a down payment on a house a real struggle. If so much of your income is devoted to your current living situation, saving up for a house of your own may be quite a long struggle. 

Not much movement last week in the mortgage business. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey, mortgage...

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey, mortgage applications inched up a tiny 0.1% during the week ending July 17.

The Refinance Index was down 1%, with the refinance share of mortgage activity slipping to to 50.3% of total applications from 50.8 % the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity dropped to 7.3% of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications edged up to 14.0% from 13.8% the week prior, the VA share was 11.3%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.9%.

The Federal Trade Commission is charging that Lifelock has violated a 2010 settlement in which it agreed to stop making deceptive claims about its identity...

The Federal Trade Commission is charging that Lifelock has violated a 2010 settlement in which it agreed to stop making deceptive claims about its identity theft protection service.

The commission is asking a federal court to order Lifelock to make refunds to customers affected by the alleged violations.

“It is essential that companies live up to their obligations under orders obtained by the FTC,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If a company continues with practices that violate orders and harm consumers, we will act.”

The 2010 settlement stemmed from previous FTC allegations that LifeLock used false claims to promote its identity theft protection services. The settlement barred the company from making any further deceptive claims; required LifeLock to take more stringent measures to safeguard the personal information it collects from customers and required LifeLock to pay $12 million for consumer refunds.

The FTC charged today that in spite of these promises, from at least October 2012 through March 2014, LifeLock violated the 2010 Order by:

1) failing to establish and maintain a comprehensive information security program to protect its users’ sensitive personal data, including credit card, social security, and bank account numbers;

2) falsely advertising that it protected consumers’ sensitive data with the same high-level safeguards as financial institutions; and

Osamu Corporation of Gardena, Calif., is recalling all of its frozen tuna (loin, saku, chunk, slice, and ground market forms) sourced from one processing p...

Osamu Corporation of Gardena, Calif., is recalling all of its frozen tuna (loin, saku, chunk, slice, and ground market forms) sourced from one processing plant in Indonesia.

The frozen tuna was sold in bulk packaging to distributors who further sold it to sushi restaurants, and grocery stores, which packaged sushi rolls made available for consumers to purchase and take home.

The products, sold at stores throughout the U.S. from May 9, 2014 to July 9, 2015 contain all sequential four digit Purchase Order Numbers (PO#) of 8563 through 8599.

Consumers concerned about whether the sushi they purchased may contain the recalled tuna product should check with the place of purchase. Customers who purchased the recalled products from their distributors should return them to the distributor for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-310-849-8881, Monday through Friday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. (PDT).

The Natural Dog Company of Windsor, Colo., is recalling 12-oz bags of 12-inch Tremenda Sticks pet chews. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella....

The Natural Dog Company of Windsor, Colo., is recalling 12-oz bags of 12-inch Tremenda Sticks pet chews.

The recalled products come in a 12-oz bag without a lot number or expiration date with UPC number: 851265004957. They were sold in retail stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Utah and Washington.

Customers who purchased this product should discontinue use of it and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-888-424-4602 – Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (MST).

Osamu Corporation of Gardena, Calif., is recalling frozen yellow fin tuna chunk meat (Lot #68568) sold to AFC Corporation of Rancho Dominquez, Calif., so...

Osamu Corporation of Gardena, Calif., is recalling frozen yellow fin tuna chunk meat (Lot #68568) sold to AFC Corporation of Rancho Dominquez, Calif., sourced from one processing plant in Indonesia.

The recalled product was shipped to AFC from May 15-26, 2015. AFC has sushi franchises nationwide in many different grocery stores and it is sold from sushi counters.

Customers concerned about whether the sushi they purchased may contain the recalled tuna product should check with the store where they purchased the sushi. That store will be able to determine if it used the recalled product to prepare the sushi.

Customers who have purchased the recalled product should return it to the distributor for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-310-849-8881, Monday through Friday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. (PDT).

After weeks of hype, ecommerce site Jet.com went live early Tuesday, promising the lowest prices on things you buy every day, like toothpaste and shampoo....

After weeks of hype, ecommerce site Jet.com went live early Tuesday, promising the lowest prices on things you buy every day, like toothpaste and shampoo.

The start-up has been compared to Amazon.com and eBay, but it might be closer to an online version of Costco. Consumers pay a $50 a year membership fee to use the site. The fee is being waived for a 3-month trial period.

Jet.com founder Marc Lore says his company is “reinventing the shopping club” as it markets millions of items, at or below cost.

"We have a very simple brand promise," said Lore. "Pay just $49.99 a year and you will save on pretty much anything you want to buy online. Jet guarantees that members will save at least the cost of membership or we will refund the difference."

Jet touts a pricing algorithm that it says finds savings in real time and shows customers the items that bring down costs when bought together. For example, if you order a toaster and decide to add a set of salad bowls, the cost of the bowls might be reduced because it's being shipped with the toaster.

Lore says Jet.com members will also save by making choices that avoid costs normally baked into online retail prices.

"Our platform is engineered more like a financial trading system than a traditional e-commerce marketplace," said Lore. "Because Jet's business model is to only profit from membership fees, not from the products we sell, all cost savings are passed back to the customer."

That business model is drawing plenty of raised eyebrows on Wall Street. When Lore appeared on CNBC Tuesday morning to promote the launch, interviewers pressed him on the economic viability of his business plan, and the fact that the company will lose money on every item it obtains from third party sources.

“So how much are you losing on every sale today and how long can this go on?” asked CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Lore replied that the company has $180 million in the bank but would need capital infusions before it is profitable.

Part of Wall Street's skepticism no doubt is based on Amazon's experience. While Amazon dominates the market and provides what many agree is a good product, it is barely profitable after 20 years.

But Jet says its approach is more than about just saving money. It is staking out territory firmly grounded in Millennial values, as reflected in its humorous approach in its introductory video, featuring stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani.

Jet isn't alone in promising to reinvent commerce in pursuit of Millennial dollars. As we reported last month, Joinem.com is an audacious start-up that plans to use social media to sell its wares.

Led by former Priceline CEO Rich Braddock, the company promises to do to online shopping what Priceline did for the travel business.

"Two billion people around the world have a need for great commercial deals," Braddock told ConsumerAffairs last month. "Everyone is going to be online but our difference is collaborative buying. We tell the customer what the lowest price on the Internet is, which just happens to be our price."

Dermatologists are alarmed by a new fad that they say is jeopardizing health. It's called sunburn tattooing, and doctors say there is nothing “cool” about...

Dermatologists are alarmed by a new fad that they say is jeopardizing health. It's called sunburn tattooing, and doctors say there is nothing “cool” about it.

Some people are creating temporary tattoos by using sunblock or sunscreen to either stencil or freehand designs onto their skin. Then, they bake in the sun, purposefully getting a sunburn on their skin, with the red contrasting with their protected skin.

“When you get any kind of unprotected sun exposure, you are doing damage to the DNA in your skin cells,” said Dr. Michael Ioffreda, a dermatologist at Penn State University Medical Center. “Your skin has memory, so the damage accumulates over time. Eventually, your body’s repair mechanisms can’t keep up and skin cancers erupt.”

True, you may not get skin cancer – at least, maybe not for a couple of decades – but there are more imminent, unappealing side effects of unprotected sunning, dermatologists warn.

Too much sun can bring on early wrinkles. Strangely colored spots and irregular pigmentation of the skin can also occur. Ironically, people often expose themselves to the sun's rays in search of healthy looking, radiant skin. Over the long haul, that isn't what they usually get.

Some people may have some degree of natural pigmentation in their skin and are less at risk for the harmful effects of unprotected sun exposure, but doctors say even they can be harmed by too much unprotected sun.

“As dermatologists, our stance is that there is no safe level of sun exposure,” Ioffreda said. “We can’t say it’s okay to get a tan once a week because we don’t know what the threshold is.”

Even a traditional tattoo parlor is joining in the warnings against sunburn tattooing. Elite Tattoo Gallery of Jacksonville, N.C., says that you can't get a real tattoo if you have sunburned skin. 

“Tattooing breaks down your epidermis, which, if you’re sunburned, is already damaged,” the company says on its website. Your body is already trying to heal your sunburned skin, so more damage will only mean trouble for a fresh tattoo.”

Ioffreda suggests everyone should be using a daily moisturizer containing sunscreen. If you're going to be spending time in the sun each day, he recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Sunscreen should always be applied 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure so it has time to react chemically with your skin to form a protective shield. Ioffreda says it should be reapplied every hour and a half -- unless you are sweating or in water, in which case it should be reapplied more frequently. You can also use a sunblock such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide instead.

“That’s the real white stuff that lifeguards use,” Ioffreda said. “It’s almost like putting paint on your skin but it works immediately to reflect the sun’s rays.”

Ioffreda and other dermatologists worry about this new fad because it's spreading so quickly across social media. If you have to do it, he suggests doing it with a spray-on tanner. You can get the same effect, he says, without causing damage to your skin.

Another temporary tattoo fad has triggered the concern of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency says temporary tattoos marketed as "henna" are applied to the skin's surface and usually last two to four weeks.

Henna is a dark coloring made from a flowering plant that grows in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia. The FDA says henna body artists are using so-called "black henna," which is potentially harmful.

It says inks marketed as "black henna" may actually be hair dye or a mix of henna with other ingredients that can cause dangerous reactions. The FDA says reactions may occur immediately after the application or even up to two or three weeks later.

Reported problems include redness, blisters, raised red weeping lesions, loss of pigmentation, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and even permanent scarring.  

The Defense Department today closed loopholes to protect U.S. men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices, adopting the final version of the...

The Defense Department today closed loopholes to protect U.S. men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices, adopting the final version of the Military Lending Act, which covers all forms of payday loans, vehicle title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit and credit cards.  

“We’re going to keep fighting to give our troops and veterans a chance to enjoy the American freedom you helped defend,” President Barack Obama said this morning as he previewed the measure at the 116th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“There’s already a lot to protect our troops and families against unscrupulous predatory lenders, but some of the worst abusers -- like payday lenders -- are exploiting loopholes to trap our troops in a vicious cycle of crushing debt,” Obama said.

"With this action, the department takes an important stand against companies that can prey on our men and women in uniform,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said in a news release after the president’s announcement.

The new version of the MLA addresses more types of credit products, including many that a three-year study found were often problematic for servicemembers.

Research by the Department of Defense released last year found that as many as one out of every ten enlisted servicemembers continued to be targeted by high-cost credit designed to evade the Military Lending Act.  DoD estimates that the final rule will reduce involuntary separation caused by financial hardship, resulting in a savings of $14 million a year or more

“This new rule addresses a range of credit products that previously escaped the scope of the regulation, compromising the financial readiness of our troops," Work said.

“For nearly a decade, high-cost lenders have exploited loopholes in critical military financial protections so they can continue lending at abusive rates far above the 36 percent rate cap established by Congress,” said Tom Feltner, director of financial services at Consumer Federation of America.  “The final rule published today will ensure that servicemembers and their families get the financial protections they deserve.”

“We applaud the Obama Administration and DoD for finalizing this important rule and ensuring that servicemembers and their families will no longer be put at risk by abusive lending practices,” said Feltner.

Eight Seattle residents, backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, have jointly filed suit against the city, saying that “Seattle is violating the Washington...

Eight Seattle residents, backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, have jointly filed suit against the city, saying that “Seattle is violating the Washington Constitution’s protections for privacy and due process rights by requiring garbage collectors to snoop through people’s garbage, as part of a new ban on throwing food and food waste into the trash,” according to a statement posted by the PLF.

Last September, Seattle's city council voted in favor of a mandatory composting ordinance requiring residents to separate compostable (read: biodegradable) garbage from other kinds.

The Seattle Times noted that the then-new rules say that “[garbage] collectors can take a cursory look each time they dump trash into a garbage truck. If they see compostable items make up 10 percent or more of the trash, they’ll enter the violation into a computer system their trucks already carry, and will leave a ticket on the garbage bin that says to expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.”

The $1 fine applies to residents of single-family homes. Businesses and apartment buildings will be subject to the same 10-percent limit on biodegradable matter, but will be allowed two warnings before any fine is levied. However, their fines will be considerably higher: $50 for a third violation.

The lawsuit filed by Pacific Legal says that “The Ordinance directs garbage collectors and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) inspectors to search both residential and business garbage cans, without suspicion or a warrant, in order to estimate whether compostable materials or recyclables make up a 'significant amount' of a garbage can’s contents.”

Furthermore, there's no way for anyone accused of breaking the 10% limit to challenge it or defend themselves: “The Ordinance offers no avenue for residents to contest a supposed infraction, contrary to the guarantee of due process in Article I, Section 3, of the Washington State Constitution.”

Washington State's constitution actually grants its residents greater privacy rights over their garbage than the U.S. constitution (as interpreted by the Supreme Court) does to most American citizens. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police do not need a warrant to search through people's trash bags or refuse containers once those containers have been placed outside the home for pickup. But two years later, the Washington Supreme Court ruled police in that state must adhere to a stricter standard, and obtain a warrant before searching through someone's garbage.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings are the law of the land and take precedence over any and all lower court rulings and laws enacted by local jurisdictions. However, while states cannot take away individual rights guaranteed by the Supreme Court, they can add to those rights where their own residents are concerned.

Therefore, when the U.S. Supreme Court says “Cops in America can search people's garbage without a warrant,” individual states can say “Not in our jurisdiction, they can't.”

Hence the basis of the Pacific Legal Foundation's lawsuit, filed on behalf of Richard Bonesteel and seven other plaintiffs: it violates state constitutional guarantees of privacy protection as well as due process (since there's no way residents or businesses can defend themselves against accusations of wrongdoing). The lawsuit seeks “a permanent injunction and a declaration that the snooping law is void and unenforceable because it flouts core privacy and due process guarantees,” according to the PLF.

Seattle Public Utilities, one of the defendants in the suit, said in a statement that “SPU believes the instructions we've given to our collectors upholds the Washington State Constitution and civil liberties. There is no intention of opening trash bags. Containers are only tagged if the contamination is clearly visible. The guidelines state: if you can't see, don't report it and don't tag it.”

However, PLF attorney Brian Hodges disputes the utility's claim: “The city may try to put a happy face on the program, with assurances that it’s not nosy and meddlesome, but the internal documents tell another story. Training documents call for ‘zero tolerance’ and show garbage collectors removing bags to inspect a garbage can, peering into translucent bags, and opening torn or untied bags. In short, this program calls for massive and persistent snooping on the people of Seattle. This is not just objectionable as a matter of policy, it is a flagrant assault on people’s constitutional rights.”

For the sake of argument, however, let's assume that Hodges and the PLF are mistaken and Seattle Public Utilities is completely accurate, at least regarding SPU's specific claim that “There is no intention of opening trash bags. Containers are only tagged if the contamination is clearly visible.”

That doesn't necessarily contradict Hodges' claim that “Training documents … show garbage collectors removing bags to inspect a garbage can” (because, obviously, the garbage collectors have to remove bags from their cans anyway, as part of their ordinary routine), and SPU's stated “clearly visible” standard doesn't necessarily contradict Hodges' claim that garbage collectors peer into translucent bags.

But even if you take SPU's assertion at face value — compostable items inside trash bags won't be counted toward that 10% compost limit, only items outside trash bags (but, presumably, still inside the larger garbage can or bin) — that still leaves a serious problem, especially in situations where the accused have no means to protest the charges or defend against them: how can the garbage collectors know those illicit compostables actually belong to the resident in question? Unless residents and businesses stand guard over their garbage, it would be easy for any random passerby (or a spiteful neighbor) to raise the lid of an unattended garbage bin and toss in whatever they want.

Although the PLF's lawsuit focuses on the problems the composting ordinance causes Seattle residents, it's also worth mentioning the strain it must place on Seattle garbage collectors, whose jobs now require them to solve complex geometric algorithms in their heads (whilst hauling oft-heavy bags of oft-stinky garbage through oft-crappy weather) in order to determine whether the garbage-giver has committed a composting violation.

For example: to determine 10 percent of the volume of a cylindrical garbage can you must first calculate the volume of a cylinder using the formula V=πr2h (translation: the volume of a cylinder equals pi times the radius squared times the height of the cylinder). Once you have that number, round up and lop off the last digit, shift the decimal if necessary, and that'll give you 10 percent.

However, determining 10 percent of the volume of a rectangular garbage bin requires the formula for a right rectangular prism V=whl (volume equals width times height times length, then take 10 percent off that). Actually it's more complicated than this simple formula suggests, because few wheeled garbage bins actually are perfect right rectangular prisms; most of them taper a bit and get narrower at the bottom, to make room for the wheels on the outside of the bin. And of course, these equations all assume the ten-percent rule will be enforced by volume, rather than weight.

That said, if Seattle's ordinance stands as is it doesn't really matter whether you know the proper formula to calculate your compost or not, because if you're accused of violating the ordinance you have no means of challenging the claim anyway.

In years gone by, summer was a season for youthful activity. Kids played outdoors all day – swimming, playing baseball and kicking the can after dinner....

In years gone by, summer was a season for youthful activity. Kids played outdoors all day – swimming, playing baseball and kicking the can after dinner.

That doesn't appear to be the case today. Health officials say summer is one of the most challenging times of the year when it comes to preventing childhood obesity.

What's changed? The school year is still the way it always was. A lot of students walk to school, go to gym class, play outside at recess, and participate in after-school sports.

Even though they remain seated at their desks for long stretches of the day, they eat only during designated times. These days, school cafeterias and vending machines have been mostly purged of junk food.

Ironically, it is during the school year, when kids are more confined, that they maintain a more healthy lifestyle.

“In school, you can’t keep snacking while you’re learning history,” said Lara Dugas, a physical activity epidemiologist at Loyola University.

It's children's summer lifestyle that has undergone a change, and not for the better. During the summer months many children have relatively little structure or supervision. This is especially true in low-income households that can’t afford summer camps, says Dugas.

As a result, many children get less exercise during the summer and pass the time eating as much junk food as they want.

“Many children finish the school year in June fitter and leaner than when they go back to school in August,” Dugas said.

This changing summer lifestyle has occurred over the last 30 years, at precisely the time childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported that in 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Dugas says the cycle can be broken, but it will take getting kids up off the couch and outside, involved in summer camps, sports teams, and park activities.

“Such structured activities provide opportunities to benefit both their physical and cognitive development,” she said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of the disabled by requiring public facilities to make provisions for people using wheelchair...

Massachusetts General Hospital takes top spot in this year's U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings, which highlight hospitals that are exception...

Massachusetts General Hospital takes top spot in this year's U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings, which highlight hospitals that are exceptional in numerous specialties. 

Designed to help patients with life-threatening or rare conditions identify hospitals that excel in treating the most difficult cases, Best Hospitals includes consumer-friendly data and information on nearly 5,000 medical centers nationwide.

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is No. 1 in cancer care, the Cleveland Clinic is No. 1 in cardiology & heart surgery and the Hospital for Special Surgery is No. 1 in orthopedics.

Best Hospitals features national rankings in 16 specialties. In the 2015-16 rankings, 137 U.S. hospitals performed well enough in complex care to be nationally ranked in one or more specialties. Just 15 of these qualified for a spot on the Honor Roll by ranking at or near the top in six or more specialties.

1. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 3. (tie) Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore 3. (tie) UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles 5. Cleveland Clinic 6. Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston 7. New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, New York 8. UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco 9. Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian, Philadelphia 10. Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis 11. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago 12. NYU Langone Medical Center, New York 13. UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 14. Duke University Hospital, Durham, North Carolina 15. Stanford Health-Stanford Hospital, Stanford, California

U.S. News also identified 520 Best Regional Hospitals, ranking them by state and metro area based on their performance in both complex and common care.

"Patients deserve high-quality information on hospitals," said Ben Harder, chief of health analysis at U.S. News. "We strive to provide them with the most comprehensive data available so they can make more informed decisions together with their doctor about where to undergo treatment."

Substance abuse can be pervasive at all ages, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State shows that marijuana use is rising amongst teenager...

Substance abuse can be pervasive at all ages, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State shows that marijuana use is rising amongst teenagers. At the same time, other controlled substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, are either remaining stable or declining in use within the same age group.

The war against smoking has been raging on for years. Many anti-smoking campaigns have targeted teens in the hopes that stopping the habit before it starts is the best solution. “Our analysis shows that public health campaigns are working—fewer teens are smoking cigarettes,” said Stephanie Lanza, who is a professor of biobehavioral health and the scientific director of the Methodology Center at Penn State.

Unfortunately, Lanza and her team have discovered that teens are not simply stopping when it comes to smoking. They are just replacing cigarettes with marijuana.

The researchers collected data from surveys that were given to high school seniors over a 37-year period, from 1976 to 2013. Over 600,000 students were questioned about their use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. The study used data that was originally collected by the University of Michigan for their own long-term study.

The statistical findings showed that, as of 2013, nearly 19 percent of white teens smoked cigarettes and 22 percent used marijuana. These numbers shift slightly for black teens, where only 10 percent smoke cigarettes but nearly 25 percent used marijuana. The researchers also found that teens were more likely to use marijuana if they smoked or drank excessively, and vice versa.

When compared to alcohol, though, cigarettes and marijuana still lag behind in teen use. Although these numbers have decreased since the 1970s, alcohol consumption is still more widespread amongst white teens than cigarette or marijuana use. But if abuse trends continue in this manner, then marijuana will likely begin to challenge alcohol consumption as the number one substance that teens abuse.

“What will this look like in a few years?” asked Lanza when looking at graphs that showed black teens’ use of marijuana and alcohol consumption. “All signs point to these two lines crossing within the next few years. This is a decisive shift.”

Lanza and her colleagues will continue to analyze their data to see what else can be learned from it. They hope to see if the legalization of marijuana in several U.S. states will impact their figures in any significant way. The full study has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says Citibank, N.A. bilked roughly 7 million customers through deceptive marketing and billing for debt pro...

For years, the National Children's Leukemia Foundation (NCLF) has claimed to be a charitable operation that operated a bone marrow registry and fulfilled t...

For years, the National Children's Leukemia Foundation (NCLF) has claimed to be a charitable operation that operated a bone marrow registry and fulfilled the last wishes of dying children, among other supposed good deeds.

But New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed a court action to shutter NCLF and to hold its founder and officers accountable for misusing the nearly $10 million it raised from donors.

The suit says NCLF was little more than a one-man operation run by founder Zvi Shor, 64, out of the basement of his Brooklyn home. 

“Nothing is more shameful than pocketing millions of dollars donated by good-hearted people who just wanted to help children afflicted with a terminal illness,” said Schneiderman. “My office will continue to identify, investigate, and shutter so-called charities that use legitimate-sounding names to exploit the generosity of New Yorkers and betray the public’s trust."

The lawsuit alleges that between 2009 and 2013, the NCLF raised $9.7 million from donors across America by:

As the petition charges, between April 2009 and March 2013, NCLF collected approximately $9.7 million in revenue from thousands of donors across the country. Of that, $8.9 million was solicited by professional fundraisers hired by Shor, who were in turn paid approximately $7.5 million – or 83% – of the money raised.

Of the remaining funds, according to the organization’s filings, the organization spent less than 1% – $57,541 – of its income on direct cash assistance to leukemia patients and transferred another 5% – $655,000 – to a shell organization in Israel run by Shor’s sister, allegedly for research purposes. Over the same time period, Shor was paid a salary of nearly $600,000, and awarded himself another $600,000 in deferred compensation.

The Attorney General’s investigation found that NCLF’s president, Yehuda Gutwein, 58, who lives in Brooklyn, was president in name only. Gutwein, a certified public accountant, took over the title in May 2010, when reports surfaced that Shor, who had been president since the organizations 1991 founding, was convicted of felony bank fraud in the Eastern District of New York in 1999.

Shor’s son, Shlomo Shor, 43, also of Brooklyn, stepped in as a director and vice president, but did nothing other than sign checks and forms, as he was ordered to do by his father, Schneiderman charged.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman has sued a group of retailers who sell to military families, charging that they have repeatedly violated Color...

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman has sued a group of retailers who sell to military families, charging that they have repeatedly violated Colorado's consumer lending laws.

“Our military service members are susceptible to scams particularly while serving away from home and we must take aggressive action to protect them.  We must curb the business practices of companies targeting service members and their families for illegal lending practices,” Coffman said. 

In August 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) obtained more than $350,000 in refunds for servicemembers, charging that USA Discounters tricked thousands of servicemembers into paying fees for legal protections servicemembers already had and for services that the company failed to provide. 

USA Discounters operates two locations in Colorado Springs and, according to the suit, focused heavily on credit transactions with members of the military and their families, often locating its stores in close proximity to large military bases, such as Fort Carson Army Base and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

This is Coffman's second major lawsuit in the last several months against retailers targeting military families.  And, as in the Freedom Stores case, USA Discounters was subject to an earlier examination that identified significant problems with its credit practices, including charging of excess fees, charging of improper late fees, failure to provide a mandatory notice of right to cure a default, and extending additional credit on closed accounts without a new or refinanced loan agreement, Coffman's office said. 

Despite its agreement to correct those deficiencies, a follow-up examination by the Attorney General in 2014 revealed that many of those violations were not corrected, Coffman added.  According to the complaint, that exam also revealed that USA Discounters was filing suit against Colorado-based service members in Virginia instead of in Colorado as required by applicable law, and was engaging in unconscionable collection practices.

The complaint filed seeks consumer restitution, a permanent injunction from filing suits against Colorado consumers in foreign jurisdictions, and penalties among other relief.

Companies that sell retail goods to military servicemembers are receiving letters from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) advising them to rev...

Companies that sell retail goods to military servicemembers are receiving letters from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) advising them to review their websites and other advertising for potentially misleading marketing and to review other practices related to payment by military allotment.

Active-duty servicemembers are not permitted to use allotments to pay for personal property such as vehicles, appliances and consumer electronics. The CFPB is concerned that companies that are still advertising repayment by way of military allotment may be violating federal consumer financial protection laws.

“Companies that are still advertising repayment via military allotment may be violating the law,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Companies should give consumers accurate and reliable information so they can make the best decisions for their own financial situations. We will continue our work protecting servicemembers and promoting a fair and transparent marketplace for all consumers.”

The military discretionary allotment system allows servicemembers to automatically direct a portion of their paycheck to financial institutions or people of their choosing. However, military personnel using the allotment system instead of other automatic payment options like ACH (Automated Clearing House) can end up losing out on certain legal protections.

To better protect servicemembers, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced changes to the allotment system last year. The updated regulations, which took effect in January, prohibit new allotments to purchase, lease or rent personal property such as vehicles, appliances and consumer electronics.

The regs do allow allotments made for the purpose of savings, insurance premiums, mortgage or rent payments, support for dependents or investments. Military retirees and DoD civilian employees were not affected by the changes.

Offering servicemembers misleading information about payment options and allowing servicemembers to pay by allotment when prohibited by DoD regulations could violate the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s prohibition against unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in consumer financial products or services.

The letters advise the recipients that their advertisements may violate federal law, and that they should review their advertising and practices relating to military allotments. However, these letters are not a finding or ruling that the recipients have actually violated the law.

Huxtable’s Kitchen of Fife, Wash., is recalling approximately 778 pounds of salad products. The bacon in the products may contain nitrites, allergens not ...

The recalled products bear the establishment number “P-11079A” or “EST. 11079” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to retail locations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

It used to be parents who worried about their children being picked up by unsavory types in bars and other seedy hang-ou...

Here's some good news for divorce lawyers, though probably bad news for anyone else involved: this weekend, hackers broke into the adultery-dating website ...

Here's some good news for divorce lawyers, though probably bad news for anyone else involved: this weekend, hackers broke into the adultery-dating website “AshleyMadison” and leaked personal details about some of its clients, including credit card details.

AshleyMadison (registered motto: “Life is short. Have an affair.®”) is owned by Avid Life Media, which owns other hookup sites including “Established Men” and “Cougar Life.”

ALM chief executive Noel Biderman confirmed the hacking to security expert Brian Krebs late Sunday evening, and said the company was “working diligently and feverishly” to take down as much of that information as it could. Biderman also suggested that the hacker might be someone who has or had legitimate access to ALM's servers – in other words, a current or former employee or contractor.

The hacker or hackers behind the breach self-identify as The Impact Team. The team is threatening to release all of the information it stole from AshleyMadison unless the site is taken down. According to its own statements, The Impact Team's main complaint with AshleyMadison isn't that the website promotes or facilitates adultery, but that it allegedly lies to its clients.

Specifically, people with dating profiles on AshleyMadison are also offered the chance to pay $19 for a “full delete” function – basically scrubbing your complete profile and activity history from the site.

But according to the hacker or hackers who comprise The Impact Team, AshleyMadison's “full delete” service is a lie:

Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie. Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed. Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online. …

ALM today released a statement saying, in part, that: “We have always had the confidentiality of our customers’ information foremost in our minds, and have had stringent security measures in place, including working with leading IT vendors from around the world. As other companies have experienced, these security measures have unfortunately not prevented this attack to our system.”

The statement did not address the question of whether any of the compromised information was supposed to have been deleted after its owner paid the $19 fee.

It has been six years since the housing bust, and home prices are starting to recover - though more so in some areas than others. This is prompting home-ow...

It has been six years since the housing bust, and home prices are starting to recover - though more so in some areas than others. This is prompting home-owners to consider putting a for sale sign in their front yards. 

Sometimes it's a change in life's circumstances that starts the home-selling process. Sometimes it's activities going on around you.

Our recent story about the renewed rise of “tear downs” in Chicago neighborhoods brought an email from Rebecca, of Austin, Tex.

“We live in a small several-street little neighborhood that was formerly like a quiet accidental cul de sac with houses built in late 1970s, with large mature live oaks sitting in large lots,” she wrote. “Folks seem to be trying to buy up as many houses as possible and use as rentals. These rentals don't get much care/maintenance so we worry it may affect our property values at some point.”

Rebecca says she could sell her home and pocket a profit of $70,000 to $80,000 after owning it just three years. On the other hand, her neighborhood is close to shopping, entertainment, and other amenities that she likes.

That depends on whether she has some other place she would like to go, and can afford. It doesn't sound like the presence of multiple rental homes on the street has depressed property values, so maybe she should wait and see.

Some of these homes might become owner-occupied again. Starting last year, many hedge funds that bought up distressed property and converted them to rentals started selling them. True, the buyers might turn out to be other investors but many may find their way back onto the real estate market.

The point is, Rebecca's neighborhood might take a turn for the better. But her question is a relevant one – how do you know when it's time to sell?

One of the main reasons to sell is when your home just doesn't fit your lifestyle any longer. Maybe the 2-bedroom bungalow you purchased with your spouse as newlyweds is a bit crammed now that you have a couple of children. It might be time to look for a 3-bedroom ranch close to a good school.

By the same token, if you are a Baby Boomer couple whose oldest child has finally moved out of the basement, a 2-bedroom bungalow with a small yard might be just the way to downsize.

Another reason to sell is when all the numbers add up. When you've got plenty of equity in your home, and prices in the neighborhood have rapidly appreciated, then you can benefit greatly from putting it on the market.

There are plenty of people who bought homes in 2003 who wish they had sold them in 2006, before prices came crashing back to earth. That's not likely to happen again, but if your neighborhood has enjoyed rapid price appreciation, it may flatten out for a while. Sometimes it's better to sell when a neighborhood is hot.

Of course, you've got to live somewhere. Before selling your home think about what you can afford to buy in order to replace it. Yes, you could become a renter, but keep in mind that rents are rising faster than home prices in many markets.

Before deciding whether to sell your home, Realtor.com advises potential sellers to make sure they understand all the costs associated with the sale and the amount of money they are likely to walk away with.

A typical real estate sales commission is 6% of the sale price. Other assorted costs could end up making you lose a couple thousand more dollars on top of that, so plan accordingly.

You may love summer, but you probably don’t love that it always comes with a lot of bugs. They make you itch and scratch, and if you’re allergic to some of...

You may love summer, but you probably don’t love that it always comes with a lot of bugs. They make you itch and scratch, and if you’re allergic to some of them, then they can really impact your health. There must be some way of getting these pests to stop bugging you.

The best way to avoid bugs is to stay indoors. You’re pretty safe in your house, as long as you keep your windows and doors shut and inspect for any openings that would allow them to get in. But at some point, you’re going to need to go outside and enjoy the summer air. Wearing long sleeves and applying bug spray can definitely help keep bugs from bothering you.

If you are eating outside, be aware that many food aromas will attract insects. Try to avoid doing this unless you want some unwanted dinner guests. If you know that you are allergic to certain insects, be prepared. Carry an emergency kit with any relevant medical supplies in it so that you can treat yourself right away. For example, epinephrine kits can save your life in the case of anaphylaxis.

Most insects are harmless, but there are some that can be dangerous. Bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants can deliver hurtful bites that can be dangerous to your health if you get too many. Mosquito bites can be itchy and annoying, but they can also transmit West Nile virus, which can make you sick. Around 2,200 cases of West Nile were reported in the U.S. in 2014, with flu-like symptoms developing in a majority of people. Less than one percent of cases are fatal, but you should still be very careful.

Ticks can cause Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so make sure to remove them carefully if you find one attached to you. To remove them, put two small drops of soap on a cotton swab and gently apply it to the tick. Lift the tick off carefully after you have swabbed it, and wash the affected area with soap and water. Do not throw away the tick after you have removed it. Keep it in a plastic bag so that you can identify it if a reaction occurs.

Another way that you can protect yourself is to clean your house from top to bottom. Get your carpets professionally cleaned and vacuum and wash your sheets. Make sure all of your pets are free of ticks or other pests. If you find that your pet has fleas, make sure that you deal with the problem right away. These pests can infest your whole house, and they can be very difficult to get rid of.

Check yourself and your loved ones for pests as well. Wash yourself thoroughly and make sure your children are clean too. Be very thorough; check under your arms and in any body crevices, like your belly button, behind your knees, between your legs, and around your waist area. Comb and wash your hair to make sure that no pests have latched onto any follicles.

Be sure to contact your physician if a bite makes you swell up or gives you difficulty breathing. These could be signs of a serious allergic reaction. 

Probiotics have been getting a lot of attention lately for their ability to aid digestion. They come in a variety of different forms, but a recent study sh...

Probiotics have been getting a lot of attention lately for their ability to aid digestion. They come in a variety of different forms, but a recent study shows that consuming probiotics that exist in particular foods may provide the best benefits.

Probiotics are living bacteria that exist naturally in many foods. Products such as yeast, yogurt, soybeans, and certain soft cheeses all contain these good microbes. Your body naturally produces and contains probiotics as well. They aid your digestive system, and help prevent and treat stomach diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as conditions such as cramping, diarrhea, and gassiness.

Researchers from the University of California at Davis wanted to determine whether probiotic supplements or food-based probiotics were more effective after they were ingested. They gave both forms to mice who had colitis, or inflammation of the colon. After they were ingested, the researchers measured which form was more beneficial to each specimen’s overall health. The specific strain of probiotic that was being investigated was Lactobacillus casei, which is found in many products.

They found that food-based probiotics were especially beneficial for the mice with colitis. In particular, dairy products seemed to boost overall health better than supplements or other probiotic-rich foods. This result may indicate that drinking probiotic milk or other dairy products may give the best overall health benefits to humans as well.

Probiotic research is ongoing, but there is still a lot to discover about these kinds of bacteria. “Remarkably, the question of whether it makes any difference to consume probiotics in dairy products rather than other foods or nutritional supplements has not been systematically or mechanistically investigated,” said Maria Marco, who helped conduct the study.

Finding out just how much probiotics affect health will be a primary point of interest for ongoing research. The full study has been published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, which is a journal produced by the American Society for Microbiology. 

It has long been assumed that the combination of Alzheimer's disease and an aging Baby Boom generation will spell trouble. A recent study that was submitte...

It has long been assumed that the combination of Alzheimer's disease and an aging Baby Boom generation will spell trouble. A recent study that was submitted at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference confirms that it will be pretty bad.

The report projects that 28 million Boomers – Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – will develop Alzheimer's at some point. Researchers predict that the cost of treating them will consume nearly 25% of all Medicare spending by 2040.

The report starts with the assumption that there will be no significant advancements in Alzheimer's treatment between now and then. Today, Alzheimer's remains a slowly developing disease that robs its victims of their memory before it is ultimately fatal. There is no known cure.

If nothing is done by 2020, the projected Medicare costs of caring for Baby Boomers with Alzheimer's is projected to be $11.86 billion in 2014 dollars, making up 2.1% of total Medicare spending. By 2040, when Boomers are aged 76-94, the projected Medicare costs are expected to be $328.15 billion in 2014 dollars.

"The risk of Alzheimer's increases with age, and as baby boomers get older, the number of people developing the disease will rise to levels far beyond anything we've ever seen before," said Keith Fargo, Alzheimer's Association Director of Scientific Programs & Outreach.

It's unlikely that medical research will stand still as this disease ravages a generation. Fargo says there is a pipeline of experimental therapies that have the potential to delay the onset of Alzheimer's and perhaps even prevent the disease. Many will get an airing at the association's conference this week in Washington, DC.

In fact, there have been a number of developments in the area of Alzheimer's research in the last few months. One of the more promising ones was revealed in October, when researchers said a novel and complex treatment had restored memory function in 9 out of 10 participants.

The study, conducted jointly by the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, is the first to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and that improvement can be lasting.

The treatment consists of a 36-point therapeutic program involving comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific drugs and vitamins, and many additional steps that affect brain chemistry.

As we reported just last week, scientists in Texas have isolated a biomarker that may help doctors predict who will get Alzheimer's, allowing for early intervention.

Fargo points to recent advances in the treatment of HIV, cancer, and heart disease, saying the same financial commitment made to battling those deadly diseases is needed to tame Alzheimer's disease.

"Alzheimer's is extremely underfunded compared to the magnitude of the problem,” Fargo said. “If we're going to change the current trajectory of the disease, we need consistent and meaningful investments in research from the federal government to ensure a more robust pipeline."  

A new expansion plan by Starbucks will see the company setting up stores in low-income areas. Starbucks will be placing 15 new stores in minority neighborh...

A new expansion plan by Starbucks will see the company setting up stores in low-income areas. Starbucks will be placing 15 new stores in minority neighborhoods, including one in Ferguson, Mo., which was an epicenter of unrest this past year. Starbucks executives are hoping that these new stores will help with job growth.

CEO Howard Shultz has tended to prioritize programs that affect positively effect employees. He was one of the first employers to offer insurance for part-time workers, and has vowed to hire 10,000 young Americans over the next three years who aren’t currently employed or are in school.

Blair Taylor, who is the Starbucks Chief Community Officer, said that new stores can employ as many as 20-25 people from local neighborhoods. Local community organizations will also use the stores as training areas in order to teach job training classes.

““We are really thinking about what a for-profit company such as ours can do in addition to the creation of jobs, and that's where this notion of building this kind of a store in communities that have been disenfranchised — particularly some of the ones that have been the most visible over the last few years — comes into play," said Taylor.

Schultz came up with this idea last April while speaking in Ferguson about his company taking a stand on racism. Starbucks has partnered with a local bakery in Ferguson called “Natalie’s Cakes and More”, and plans on selling their products in its locations.

“The partnership is helping me become a stronger pillar of my community said Natalie DuBose, who owns the bakery. She plans on providing cakes for four St. Louis Starbucks starting next month.

Schultz has taken his idea of partnering with other companies very seriously. He has recruited 16 other major companies to join Starbucks in hiring a total of 10,000 youths by 2018. 

American meat processors were never fully enthusiastic about the Country of Origin Labeling law (COOL), and when the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled i...

American meat processors were never fully enthusiastic about the Country of Origin Labeling law (COOL), and when the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled it violated trade agreements, they were quick to advocate its repeal.

In June North American Meat Institute CEO Barry Carpenter was among those urging the U.S. Senate to repeal the law, which requires labels on fresh meat to inform consumers where the animals had been raised and slaughtered.

But repealing COOL might ultimately work against the U.S. meat industry, according to marketing researchers at the University of Arkansas.

Consumers, they say, want to know where meat came from and they would actually prefer to purchase U.S. meat.

Researchers found that consumers preferred meat from the United States when provided only with information about where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered – and not given information about country-specific meat-processing standards.

“The country-of-origin requirement appears to provide consumers with additional information that has both direct and indirect effects on purchase intentions,” said Scot Burton, a professor of marketing. “The requirement impacts inferred attributes, meaning that meat products from the United States are perceived to be safer, tastier and fresher than meat products from Mexico. Of course, these attributes, in turn, have positive effects on purchase decisions.”

Burton and his colleagues reviewed 3 studies to arrive at their conclusion. In 2 of the 3 studies consumers, when given a choice, preferred meat from the United States.

Congress passed COOL in the 2002 Farm Bill and expanded it in 2008. It requires U.S. retailers to provide country-of-origin labeling for most meat and poultry products.

The law also requires meat labels to identify the country where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The legislation had the backing of farmers and ranchers who raise the livestock but not so much the meat packers, who are responsible for applying the labeling.

In a blistering editorial over the weekend, the Rapid City Journal, a newspaper covering much of South Dakota's cattle country, took Congress to task for rushing to consider a repeal of COOL, or to make it a voluntary program.

“Voluntary COOL failed because big meatpackers don’t want to disclose the origins of meat,” the newspaper wrote. “In 2013, they sued the USDA claiming that COOL violated their First Amendment free speech rights by forcing them to provide COOL labels against their will. Our federal courts repeatedly rejected their claims.”

Consumer groups, who were in the forefront of lobbying efforts on behalf of COOL, are also among those urging lawmakers not to repeal it. A coalition of 283 farm, rural, consumer, manufacturer, labor, faith and environmental groups from across the U.S. issued a statement last month, calling for Congress to refrain from repealing the consumer legislation.

“If Congress repeals COOL, then the next time consumers go shopping for a steak or chicken for their families, they won’t be able to tell where that product came from,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “That's completely unacceptable. Consumers want more information about their food, not less.”

The House of Representatives quickly approved a repeal of COOL in late May. Similar legislation is now before the U.S. Senate.

It's been said that “sitting is the new smoking” – that sedentary behavior that is becoming more common in American life is taking a toll on public health,...

It's been said that “sitting is the new smoking” – that sedentary behavior that is becoming more common in American life is taking a toll on public health, shaving years off the expected lifespan.

Previous research – and there's been plenty of it in recent years – has suggested that people who spend a lot of time sitting and watching television usually eat a less healthy diet. The question is why.

A study by American Cancer Society investigators, in collaboration with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition and the University of Texas School of Public Health, suggests the sitting has little to do with it, instead attributing it to exposure to commercials for high calorie foods and distracted eating.

When the researchers outfitted test subjects with accelerometers – devices that measure physical activity – they were able to more precisely measure how sedentary the individual test subjects were. With that objective data, they hoped to learn if there is some kind of link between sitting around and engaging in other unhealthy behavior, like eating an unhealthy diet, drinking too much alcohol and smoking.

According to many previous research, a link does in fact exist. According to the new research, it doesn't.

“While every minute of additional moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity was related to a higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score, eating more fruits, and consuming fewer empty calories, more minutes per day spent in sedentary time was not significantly associated with overall dietary quality (HEI) and fruit and vegetables intake,” the authors conclude.

In fact, they write that people who spend more sedentary time are significantly less likely to consume empty calories.

The researchers say almost no one has approached the question the way they have – relying on accelerometer data to objectively measured sedentary time in relation to dietary quality. Their takeaway is that maybe there should be a decoupling of sedentary behavior and dietary guidelines.

People are going to sit, they argue. They should be encouraged to get up and move around once in a while and they should also be encouraged to consume a healthy, balanced diet. But the two things don't necessarily need to be tied together.

So why have so many health researchers in recent years targeted sitting as bad for your health? One of the earliest warnings came in 2011 from the American College of Cardiologists, which compared the health effects of prolonged sitting to smoking cigarettes.

The cardiologists pointed out your body doesn't burn as many calories when you are seated. Your body goes into storage mode and stops working at peak efficiency. Standing up, even if you aren't moving about, helps, they said.

It sounds like the authors of this latest study don't really disagree with that. They're just saying there is nothing inherent in a sedentary lifestyle that would cause you to consume lots of junk food.

If you're working at your desk all day, try to take frequent breaks and when you stop for lunch, have a salad every once in a while.

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it will be mailing out 3,133 checks with a combined worth of over $87,000. These checks will go to consum...

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it will be mailing out 3,133 checks with a combined worth of over $87,000. These checks will go to consumers who were defrauded by Your Yellow Book, a phone-directory publisher which, according to the FTC, “allegedly bilked money from small businesses, doctors’ offices, retirement homes, religious schools, and charitable organizations, by charging them for unwanted listings in an online 'yellow pages' directory.”

Such yellow-pages scammers have been operating for years. As early as 2007, ConsumerAffairs heard complaints from small business owners who received bills – or even harassment from collection agencies – for yellow pages listings they never consented to buy.

At the time, we warned you that such companies are notorious for using “activation check” schemes to ensnare people: you receive a check that, when deposited, triggers an automatic monthly payment for “advertising” costs. (In some cases, the advertising was described as being a series of Internet ads, which the business owner cannot even see.)

Activation-check scams are still around, and not just for phone-directory listings either. However, according to the FTC, Your Yellow Book operated primarily by faxing fake invoices to consumers who had no previously existing relationship with Your Yellow Book, asking the consumer to “update” or “verify” their current directory-listing information, and send payment of up to $487.

When the FTC first filed suit against Your Yellow Book last August, it said that the scam's victims included religious schools, retirement homes, doctors' offices, and various small businesses.

The FTC has designated Gilardi & Co. LLC to be the “refund administrator” for check-distribution purposes. Customers who receive such a check should cash it within 60 days, and call Gilardi & Co. at 1-888-339-0960 with any questions.

Bear in mind that, as the FTC itself reiterated today: “The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or to provide information before refund checks can be cashed.” If you receive an email, text message, phone call or any other communication allegedly from the FTC or Gilardi requesting that you hand over money or information in order to collect your refund check, delete that message or hang up on the caller, because it's just another piece of scam bait.

In her statutorily mandated mid-year report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson says the IRS ran a generally successful filing season un...

In her statutorily mandated mid-year report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson says the IRS ran a generally successful filing season under difficult circumstances.

“With funding down about 17% on an inflation-adjusted basis since FY 2010, and with the IRS having had to implement large portions of the [ACA] (Obamacare) and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) this year without any supplemental funding, sharp declines in taxpayer service were inevitable,” she wrote.

Olson likened the 2015 filing season to “A Tale of Two Cities” saying, “For the majority of taxpayers who filed their returns and did not require IRS assistance, the filing season was generally successful. For the segment of taxpayers who required help from the IRS, the filing season was by far the worst in memory.”

Olson says the decline in taxpayer service imposes increased compliance burdens on taxpayers and may lead to erosion in taxpayer trust. “For a tax system that relies on voluntary self-assessment by its taxpayers, none of this bodes well,” she wrote. “In fact, there is a real risk that the inability of taxpayers to obtain assistance from the government, and their consequent frustration, will lead to less voluntary compliance and more enforced compliance.”

The report says the most significant new challenge the IRS faced during the 2015 filing season was the processing of tax returns reflecting two central provisions of the ACA -- the Premium Tax Credit (PTC) and the Individual Shared Responsibility Payment (ISRP).

Overall, the report credits the IRS with doing a commendable job implementing those provisions, including by developing or updating information technology systems, issuing guidance, and working with other federal agencies.

The report says there were some significant glitches that occurred during the filing season, but most were not attributable to IRS error. The most significant was the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ issuance of erroneous Forms 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, to about 800,000 individuals who had purchased health insurance from the federal Exchange.

The Treasury Department addressed the mistake by issuing taxpayer-favorable guidance informing taxpayers who had already filed returns based on the incorrect information that they did not need to file amended returns and pledging that the IRS would not pursue the collection of any additional tax based on the updated information in the corrected forms.

The IRS answered about 68% of taxpayer telephone calls on ACA issues that were routed to telephone assistors, which far exceeded the overall average on its customer service lines of about 37%.

The report says a primary ACA focus for TAS during the upcoming year will be to train its Case Advocates to better assist taxpayers requiring assistance, notably on ACA collection activities and the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment provision.

TAS will also continue to participate on internal IRS working groups to present a taxpayer perspective on ACA issues and raise concerns it identifies through its casework and other sources.

Olympus America of Center Valley, Pa., is recalling about 1,200 Olympus VG 170 digital cameras An improperly installed part can touch the camera’s circuit...

An improperly installed part can touch the camera’s circuit board, posing an electric shock risk to the user.

The recall involves the Olympus VG-170 Digital Point-and-Shoot Cameras. The VG-170 measures about 4 x 2.5 x 1 inches, weighs 5.1 ounces and comes in white, black or red. “VG 170” is printed on the top of the camera, on the side opposite the shutter button.

“Olympus” is printed on the upper right hand corner of the front of the camera,“5 X Wide” is printed on lower left hand corner of the front of the camera. The camera has a 3-inch digital LCD screen on the back.

The cameras, manufactured in China, were sold at HHGregg Appliance stores and online at www.hhgregg.com from September 2013, to December 2014, for about $120.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled digital camera and contact Olympus for a free inspection and repair.

Bexco Enterprises of Montebello, Calif., is recalling about 11,700 DaVinci cribs in the U.S and Canada. A metal bracket that connects the mattress support...

Bexco Enterprises of Montebello, Calif., is recalling about 11,700 DaVinci cribs in the U.S and Canada.

A metal bracket that connects the mattress support to the crib can break, creating an uneven sleeping surface or a gap. If this occurs, a baby can become trapped in the crib, fall or suffer lacerations from the broken metal bracket.

The firm has received 10 reports of the mattress support brackets detaching. No injuries have been reported.

The recall includes DaVinci brand full-size cribs including the Reagan crib (model #M2801), the Emily crib, (model #M4791), the Jamie crib (model #M7301), and the Jenny Lind crib (model #M7391) manufactured from May 2012 through December 2012.

The model number, serial number and manufacture date are printed on a label affixed to the bottom right hand side panel of the crib.

Cribs included in the recall have serial numbers that begin with “N00,” followed by one of the following numbers:

The cribs, manufactured in China, were sold at Target and juvenile products stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com from May 2012, to December 2013, for between $150 and $250.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled cribs and contact Bexco for a free replacement mattress support which includes replacement brackets. In the meantime, parents are urged to find an alternate, safe sleeping environment for the child, such as a bassinet, play yard or toddler bed depending on the child’s age.

Consumers may contact Bexco toll-free at (888) 673-6652 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday. 

It's lithium ion batteries that power the iPhones, iPads and other iStuff that have come to be regarded as the essentials of l...

It's lithium ion batteries that power the iPhones, iPads and other iStuff that have come to be regarded as the essentials of life. Only problem is, they tend to catch fire, leading Boeing Co. to warn airlines that loading up their planes' cargo compartments with bulk battery shipments pose unacceptable fire hazards.

There've been plenty of cases of individual phones and other devices catching fire, both on the grund and in the air. Just one blazing phone is a problem; think what a blazing pallet of burning batteries could do.

That, says the Wall Street Journal, is what led Boeing to issue a formal warning to its customers, urging them to stop accepting large shipments of lithium batteries until safer packaging and fire protection efforts can be worked out.

It's hardly a new problem. There have been many case over the years of cell phones igniting in people's pockets, on airplanes and in other inconvenient locations.

Last August, an airplane was evacuated in Tel Aviv after an iPhone 5 caught fire and filled the cabin with smoke. Last July, a smartphone caught fire under a 13-year-old girl's pillow in Dallas. And way back in 2008, a laptop computer caught fire in a vintage pickup truck in Nevada, destroying the truck, a Remington rifle and setting off two boxes of ammunition.

Boeing has reportedly been giving the no-big-battery-cartons advice to airlines who asked but has now issued a formal warning to all of the world's carriers, who are expected to comply. Airlines that disregard the warning would be on shaky legal ground in the event of a disaster attributed to flaming batteries.

Boeing at least beat the U.S. government, which has been considering rules limited lithium batteries in carry-on luggage since 2007. In March 2007, the Department of Transportation said there had been five fires in airplane passenger cabins or cargo holds since 2005, a period of only two years.

Lithium metal batteries were banned from the cargo holds of U.S. airliners in 2004 but lithium ion batteries -- which are much more common -- are still good to go.

Lithium metal batteries are nonrechargeable while the lithium ion type is the one we're all familiar with -- requiring frequent plug-ins to keep the juices flowing.

The problem is that other things can get the juices flowing as well. Both types of batteries contain chemical-infused metals that get very hot very quickly if they come into contact with each other due to a short circuit or leaking seal. The result is a fast-spreading, very hot fire that is very difficult to extinguish.

While a single battery catching fire in a phone or laptop may start a small fire, a battery catching fire in a shipment of thousands of batteries could start a blaze that would quickly become catastrophic. 

Many airlines have already stopped accepting battery shipments and Boening's warning may push the recalcitrants to act as well. While Boeing's warning doesn't have the force of law, airlines nearly always comply with formal warnings from manufacturers, so Boeing may have accomplished what governments so far have not gotten around to.

Bank of America's (BOA) announcement this week that it would close some more of its branches underscores a new reality for the banking industry -- consumer...

Bank of America's (BOA) announcement this week that it would close some more of its branches underscores a new reality for the banking industry -- consumers are doing more of their banking business online.

During a conference call to discuss the company's second quarter earnings report, BOA CEO Brian Moynihan mentioned the bank had closed nearly 20% of its branches in the last 5 years, dropping the number from 6,100 to about 4,800. He said more closures would follow, without attaching a number.

BOA is not alone in cutting its overhead. In June Fifth Third Bank announced plans to close 100 branches, the largest branch closing in the bank's history.

It's been going on for some time. SNL Financial reports U.S. banks closed a net 1,487 branch locations in 2013, the most since the research firm began collecting the data in 2002.

Industry analysts agree the reason has nothing to do with declining business. In fact, business for banks has never been better. It's just that banks are convinced they no longer need branches because “everyone” is adopting mobile banking.

While mobile banking no doubt is growing by leaps and bounds, this trend will work against consumers who like to conduct their banking business with a human being.

Traditional branch-based banking practices are undergoing transformation into smart banking, according to Frost & Sullivan, a research firm.

“Banks are now focusing on integration of futuristic technologies and applications to explore new opportunities for higher customer engagement and improving customer experience,” the company said in a recent report, which focused on technology and application innovations that are enabling the transformation.

Each bank's smart or mobile banking system is different but most offer similar functions. BOA's mobile banking lets customers deposit checks from a mobile device, check account balances and send money to just about anyone.

During this week's conference call Moynihan said the bank would save money by closing branches but that isn't the only motivation. They're doing it, he said, because customer behavior is changing. The number of BOA's mobile customers has more than doubled in 4 years to 17 million. The company says 13% of the check's deposited in the bank are coming in by mobile.

If you have fewer branches you need fewer employees. BOA has been steadily cutting staff. Although the bank is beefing up its corps of financial advisors, it has cut more than 70,000 jobs since 2011.

Google may be applying the "right to be forgotten" to its own activities. The company revealed in a blog post yesterday that one of its self-driving cars w...

Google may be applying the "right to be forgotten" to its own activities. The company revealed in a blog post yesterday that one of its self-driving cars was rear-ended in an accident that sent three employees and the driver of the other car to the hospital for check-ups.

The accident happened July 1 and Google gave no reason why it took 16 days for it to get around to mentioning it.

Of course, one could argue that Google is not obligated to reveal details of its internal operations, but since it is using public roads for its experimental commutes and trying to persuade regulators and the public that autonomous cars will be safe, cover-ups aren't exactly helpful.

The accident happened with one of Google's Lexus RX450h prototypes was rear-ended by another car in Mountain View, Calif., where Google autonomous cars ply the streets regularly.

The Googlemobile had a green light but the cars in front of it had slowed down to avoid getting stuck in the intersection in an upcoming light change, according to a blog account by Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving project. 

The three Google employees in the car and the long occupant of the car that plowed into it all complained about neck pain and were checked out and then released from a local hospital.

Google says it's the first injury accident in a self-driving car. It's the 14th accident overall involving Google's fleet of self-driving cars. In 11 of those incidents, the Google car was rear-ended.

"Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road," wrote Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, in the blog post. "The clear theme is human error and inattention" in those incidents.

Proponents of self-driving cars, as well as some scientists, say there will likely be fewer accidents when computers replace humans at the controls. We'll see.

The pharmacy chain CVS took down its CVS Photo website today and replaced it with a warning that “customer credit card information collected by the indepen...

The pharmacy chain CVS took down its CVS Photo website today and replaced it with a warning that “customer credit card information collected by the independent vendor who manages and hosts CVSPhoto.com may have been compromised.”

The company is shutting down access to online and mobile photo services “as a precaution” while the investigation goes on.

Security expert Brian Krebs, who first called attention to the breach this morning, also noted that Walmart Canada discovered a similar breach in its online photo site last week.

The announcement on CVSphoto.com says that “Customer registrations related to online photo processing and CVSPhoto.com are completely separate from CVS.com and our pharmacies,” and that transactions in-store or at CVS.com don't appear to be affected.

The company promises to offer updates as more information becomes available, and in the meantime, anyone seeking more information is invited to call 1-800-SHOP-CVS.

A Senate committee has rejected a,measure that would have allowed car dealers and rental companies to rent,recalled cars to consumers. Instead, the committ...

A Senate committee has rejected a measure that would have allowed car dealers and rental companies to rent,recalled cars to consumers. Instead, the committee adopted a provision that expressly forbids such rentals.

"We are now one step closer to permanently keeping recalled rental cars off the road, and I commend Senator (Claire) McCaskill (D-Mo.) and others on the committee for moving this legislation forward," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Boxer's bill -- the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act -- was adopted unanimously by the committee, rejecting a measure that car-rental industry sources said was backed largely by car dealers, who frequently rent cars to customers whose vehicles are being serviced.

Boxer's bill is named for two sisters who were killed near Santa Cruz, Calif., in their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser. The car had been recalled for a power steering hose defect that had not been repaired.

Boxer first introduced her bill in 2011. The Senate Commerce Committee yesterday adopted it as part of the DRIVE Act, which incorporates numerous transportation programs.

The Houck bill was endorsed by all the major rental car companies -- who say they already withhold recalled cars until repairs are made -- as well as,the American Car Rental Association, Honda,and General Motors, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, and a broad coalition of auto safety, labor and consumer groups.

The National Automobile Dealers Association and affiliated groups were seen as leading opposition to the measure.

NADA President Peter Welch testified in 2013 that Boxer's bill was "overly broad,in that it regulates auto dealerships that operate small rental or loaner fleets in the same manner as multi-national rental car giants."

"Unlike large rental car companies that maintain a wide array of vehicle makes and models in their fleets, many dealers only maintain a single vehicle model in their loaner pools," Welch said, saying the Boxer bill "could cause an economic hardship for small dealers if a part necessary to fix a dealer’s only loaner vehicle model is unavailable."

Committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) had been backing the,NADA-backed measure, which would have allowed dealers and car rental companies to rent recalled cars as long as consumers signed a waiver in advance.

Thune did not respond to a request for comment but Frederick Hill, communications director for Thune's committee, said the measure was intended to be "pro-consumer."

UCLA Health is the latest healthcare organization to be hit by a data breach. The Los Angeles hospital and healthcare network says it discovered on May 5 t...

UCLA Health is the latest healthcare organization to be hit by a data breach. The Los Angeles hospital and healthcare network says it discovered on May 5 that hackers had penetrated the parts of the UCLA Health system that contain personal information, like name, address, date of birth, social security number, medical record number, Medicare or health plan ID number, and some medical information (e.g., medical condition, medications, procedures, and test results).

UCLA said it notified the FBI but didn't say why it took it took more than two months to notify the 4.5 million patients whose records may have been accessed.

"We take our responsibility to protect personal information entrusted to us very seriously," UCLA said as it said the attacks may have started as early as September 2014.

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said the breach may pose a risk of sensitive information being compromised, including Social Security numbers (SSNs), separate health insurance IDs, diagnosis and treatment records, and payment information. Medical identity theft can affect both the victim’s finances and medical records.

Potentially impacted individuals should closely watch the Explanation of Benefits statements they receive from their health insurer. If the statement includes a service or product you did not receive, contact the insurer and ask for details. For more information, see First Aid for Medical Identity Theft.

1. PLACE A FRAUD ALERT. Contact the three major credit bureaus and place a 90 day “fraud alert.” This helps protect you against the possibility of an identity thief opening new credit accounts in your name. When a merchant checks the credit history of someone applying for credit, the merchant gets an “alert” that there may be fraud on the account.

You will reach an automated telephone system. You will also be sent instructions on how to get a free copy of your report from each of the credit bureaus. Order the reports.

2. REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORTS. Look through each one carefully. Look for accounts you do not recognize, especially accounts opened since December 2014, when the Anthem breach occurred. Follow the instructions in the report for disputing any questionable information.

3. CONSIDER A SECURITY FREEZE. Placing a security freeze on your credit files offers longer-term protection. For information on how to do this, see “How to Freeze Your Credit Files” at www.oag.ca.gov/privacy/ info-sheets.

4. BE WARY OF PHISHING ATTEMPTS. If you get an email or call from someone claiming to be from Anthem and asking for your personal information, do not provide it. Scammers often take advantage of breaches by offering to help and actually seeking to steal your information. Check with Anthem through the phone number you usually use or one from the phone book, if you want to confirm that such a contact is legitimate.

Many parents have held fast to the belief that their parenting style has to change with each successive child that they have. This is based on the idea tha...

Warning -- annuities can be hazardous to your financial health, as a fraud case in California illustrates. Palm Desert insurance agent John Slawinski, 60, ...

Even though there are plenty of email and Internet-based scams out there, plenty of scam artists still use old-fashioned telephones to ensnare their victim...

Even though there are plenty of email and Internet-based scams out there, plenty of scam artists still use old-fashioned telephones to ensnare their victims.

In fact, one particular type of (usually) phone-operated scam is called the “grandma scam” or “grandparent scam” because its stereotypical victim is an elderly person tricked into sending money to a con artist. The victim is often called by someone pretending to be a beloved grandchild who is in trouble. 

One reason it's so difficult to crack down on phone scammers is that current technology arguably gives them an advantage over their victims. For example, spoofing tools make it very easy for scammers to send fake identifying information to a victim's caller ID.

Granted, spoofing caller ID for the specific purpose of committing fraud has been illegal since the 2010 Truth in Caller ID Act, but that doesn't help victims who have been defrauded and don't know how to identify the scammer.

So this week, Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bill Nelson of Florida introduced a new piece of legislation called the Phone Scam Prevention Act. 

According to a press release by Klobuchar's office, the new law would build on the Truth in Caller ID Act by “requiring the FCC to detail where consumers can access technology to combat scams, establish a plan to develop caller ID authentication standards, and extend the prohibition on caller ID spoofing to include calls from abroad and text messaging services.”

The lawsuit, available in .pdf form here, alleges that “Beginning in late September 2014, and continuing through June 2015, Defendant.....

It's only been a bit more than a week since a Manhattan federal judge ruled that Time-Warner Cable must pay $229,500 in damages to a Texas woman who received 153 automated calls on her cell phone in less than a year, even after she told Time-Warner they were calling the wrong person. (Indeed, TWC made 74 of those calls after the woman had already filed a lawsuit asking them to stop.)

Now, Philadelphia resident Kia Elder has filed a similar complaint against Comcast. The lawsuit, available in .pdf form here, alleges that “Beginning in late September 2014, and continuing through June 2015, Defendant [Comcast] repeatedly called Plaintiff [Elder] on her cellular phone …. us[ing] an automatic telephone dialing system and automated and/or pre-recorded messages.”

In late September, the lawsuit says, Elder spoke with a human Comcast representative, who told her the company was calling to collect a $527 bill. But Elder had actually paid the debt in 2011, and said so. Despite this, Comcast continued robocalling her: “From late September 2014, Defendant placed cellular calls to Plaintiff an average of once or twice each day. Calls continued at least through June 18, 2015.”

Like the suit against Time-Warner Cable, Elder's suit against Comcast is based on the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (a law intended to reign in abusive telemarketing practices, including robocalls), and asks for damages of $1,500 per call. The TCPA establishes a fine structure of $500 per call, with triple damages awarded for knowing or willful violations. Since Elder told Comcast last September that she'd paid off her debt three years earlier and did not consent to receive any more calls about the matter, she's seeking triple damages for every robocall Comcast made afterward.

If she's awarded the full $1,500 for every call she alleges Comcast made, the total damages could exceed $900,000.

In its monthly employment report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a snapshot of what people who have non-farm jobs are earning, and whether i...

In its monthly employment report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a snapshot of what people who have non-farm jobs are earning, and whether it's going up or down.

In the June report, released July 2, BLS reported that average hourly earnings were stagnant, remaining unchanged for the month. Over the previous 12 months, BLS says wages went up by 2%.

If you didn't see any of that meager increase in your pay, it might be explained by the latest report from a private compensation data firm. They found wages were not only stagnant, but actually lost ground in the second quarter of the year.

PayScale, Inc., which tracks compensation trends, reports that national wages in the second quarter of 2015 dropped 0.5%. The PayScale Index predicts wage growth will remain low in the current quarter, rising just 0.2% and 0.4% on an annual basis.

PayScale breaks down wages across a number of different industries and in several different cities. After all, some regions of the country, and some professions, do better than others. At least, that's normally the case.

“Unlike previous quarters where we observed some bright spots in wage growth for a subset of industries, metros or jobs, wages in Q2 2015 were stagnant, if not down, across the board,” said Katie Bardaro, lead economist at PayScale.

If that weren't bad enough, the report finds real wages are down more than 8% when compared to 2006, the last year before the Great Recession. While the economy may have recovered from that event, wages haven't.

“This means today’s worker is able to buy less goods and services with their paycheck due to a combination of lackluster wage growth and increasing inflation,” Bardaro said. “And, unfortunately, our wage growth forecast doesn’t offer much optimism for the immediate future.”

Another trouble spot has emerged in STEM professions – jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. There has been a huge emphasis in education recently to encourage more students to pursue these in-demand professions.

But the PayScale Index found the pay for previously hot-performing STEM jobs fell for the second quarter in a row. Wages declined by 0.4% in IT, by 0.1% in engineering, and by 1.1% in science and biotech.

However, IT and engineering jobs are still near the top of the list for wage growth since 2006 at 10.3% and 10.8% respectively, but with most of that growth in previous years.

Ironically, the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry – not known for lavish salaries, experienced the largest annual wage growth in the second quarter at 1.5%. Wages in this industry are largely tied to consumer demand, PayScale said.

People working in the construction industry did better in the second quarter too, with wages growing by 1.4%. People working in real estate saw their paychecks grow by 1.2%

In terms of geography, paychecks grew the most in Tampa, Seattle, and Minneapolis. They suffered the biggest declines in New York, Washington, DC, and Boston.

Two salesmen have been sentenced to prison for their part in a vending machine scam -- and we are not talking about a machine that takes your dollar but do...

Common sense would tell you that it would be hard to attain a normal weight once you are obese. Researchers at King's College in London have figured out ju...

Common sense would tell you that it would be hard to attain a normal weight once you are obese. Researchers at King's College in London have figured out just how hard.

For an obese man, the odds of getting back a normal body weight is 1 in 210. Obese women face slightly better odds – 1 in 124.

The study, written up in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests current weight management programs that focus on dieting and exercise are not effective in tackling obesity at the population level.

First, it might help to understand what is obese and what is normal body weight. The terms are defined by each individual's body mass index (BMI) score. BMI is a measure of body fat that is based on a person's height and weight.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides this BMI calculator to help you find where you fit. You enter your weight and height using either standard or metric measures and the calculator gives you a number, which is your BMI.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal body weight. If your BMI is 25 to 29.9, it classifies you as overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher puts you in the obese category.

The Kings College researchers wanted to find out how likely it was for someone who was obese to lose enough weight to return to normal weight. They tracked the weight of 278,982 participants – 129,194 men and 149,788 women – using electronic health records from 2004 to 2014.

The study measured the probability of obese patients attaining normal weight or a 5% reduction in body weight through diet and exercise, excluding patients who received bariatric surgery.

The chance obese patients could achieve a 5% weight loss within a year was 1 in 12 for men and 1 in 10 for women. But for those who were able to lose 5% of their body weight, 53% regained the weight within 2 years and 78% had regained the weight within 5 years.

Out of the nearly 300,000 subjects, only 1,283 men and 2,245 women with a BMI of 30-35 reached their normal body weight, equivalent to an annual probability of 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women.

The study concludes that current obesity treatments aren't working for the majority of obese patients.

“Once an adult becomes obese, it is very unlikely that they will return to a healthy body weight,” said Dr. Alison Fildes, the study's first author. “New approaches are urgently needed to deal with this issue.”

Fildes says obesity treatments should focus on preventing overweight and obese patients from gaining more weight, while also helping those that do lose weight to keep it off. More importantly, she says, there needs to be more emphasis on preventing weight gain in the first place.

According to NIH, bariatric surgery currently is recommended for people categorized as severely obese – with a BMI greater than 40.The surgery restricts food intake, which promotes weight loss and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. It has been shown to be effective, though like any surgery, there are risks associated with it.

There are also benefits from going from Obese to simply overweight. The Mayo Clinic points out that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity.  

Statins, drugs used to lower cholesterol, are among the most widely used medications in America. A study from Harvard health researchers concludes that the...

The cost of living moved moderately higher in June, with gasoline, food and shelter prices all contributing to the increase. According to the Bureau of La...

The cost of living moved moderately higher in June, with gasoline, food and shelter prices all contributing to the increase.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3% last month and over the last 12 months is up a miniscule 0.1%.

Food prices, which were unchanged in April and May, rose 0.3% last month. The food at home category -- things you buy at a grocery store -- jumped 0.4% after declining in each of the 3 previous months. Over three-fourths of that increase came in the price of eggs, which rose 18.3% -- the largest increase since August 1973. Also posting gains were for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (+1.4%), and cereal and bakery products (+0.5%). In contrast, prices for dairy and related products fell for the sixth consecutive month (-0.6%), and the fruits and as did the cost of vegetables (-0.4%. Food at home costs are up 1.0% over the last 12 months.

Energy prices were up 1.7% following a surge of 4.3% in May, due largely to an advance of 3.4% in gasoline costs. Electricity prices rose 0.2%, and natural gas prices advanced 0.3% -- the first increase since December. Fuel oil was the only major energy component index to decline, falling 1.9%.

The core rate of inflation -- all items excluding the volatile food and energy categories -- rose 0.2% in June. The cost of shelter, which rose 0.3%, accounted for over two-thirds of the increase. Other increases include prices for recreation, airline fares, personal care, tobacco, and new vehicles. Those advances more than offset declines in the prices of medical care, household furnishings and operations, used cars and trucks, and apparel. The core rate of inflation is up 1.8% over the past 12 months.

The Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development report privately-owned housing shot up 9.8% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,174,000 -- 26.6% above the same month a year ago.

Construction of single-family housing was up 0,9% to an annual rate of 685,000, while the rate for units in buildings with 5 units or more was 476,000 -- up 116,000 from May.

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,343,000 in June -- 7.4% from May.

Permits for single-family construction rose 0.9% to a rate of 687,000; authorizations of units in buildings with 5 units or more were at a rate of 621,000 -- a gain of 86,000 from May.

Stifel Fixed Income Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza says the housing market continues to take steps in the right direction. But, she adds, "growth remains far from robust; as we have seen in the recent decline in retail sales, consumers continue to struggle to afford purchases -- particularly large ticket items -- amid stagnant income growth. Still, with the threat of rising rates on the near horizon, some homeowners are jumping in to lock in low rates."

The Sausage Factory of Carson City, Nev., is recalling approximately 5,960 pounds of sausage products. Although produced under USDA inspection, some packa...

The Sausage Factory of Carson City, Nev., is recalling approximately 5,960 pounds of sausage products.

The recalled products, which should bear the establishment number “EST. 6236” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distribution locations in California and Nevada.

Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 6,680 pedal axle extenders in the U.S. and Canada. The extenders can break and t...

Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 6,680 pedal axle extenders in the U.S. and Canada.

There have been 10 reports of the pedal extenders breaking, including 2 reports of minor injuries, involving scrapes and bruises.

This recall involves Specialized Body Geometry Pedal Axle Extenders that are used to extend the outward reach of the pedals. They are sold in pairs and mount directly into the bicycle crank arms. Pedal extenders are made of stainless steel and fit a 9/16 inch pedal thread. They are labeled with an “L” and an “R.”

The extenders, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Specialized retailers and online at www.specialized.com from January 2009, to June 2015, for about $40.

Consumers should stop using the recalled pedal extenders immediately and return them to an authorized Specialized retailer for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Specialized at (800) 722-4423 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday.

Ferrari North America is recalling 814 model year 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia, 458 Spider, 458 Speciale, 458 Speciale A, California T, FF, F12 Berlinetta, and ...

Ferrari North America is recalling 814 model year 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia, 458 Spider, 458 Speciale, 458 Speciale A, California T, FF, F12 Berlinetta, and LaFerrari vehicles manufactured December 19, 2014, to April 29, 2015.

The vehicles may be equipped with a driver side air bag module that was improperly assembled, which can cause the air bag to deploy in a rotated orientation. In the event of a crash, the deployment of the driver's air bag in a rotated orientation increases the risk of injury.

Ferrari will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front Driver's Side Air Bag Module, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on July 30, 2015.

Owners may contact Ferrari customer service at 1-866-551-2828. Ferrari's number for this recall is 57.

Aspen Foods of Chicago, Ill., is recalling approximately 1,978,680 pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken products. The products may be contam...

Aspen Foods of Chicago, Ill., is recalling approximately 1,978,680 pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken products.

Working in conjunction with Minnesota State Departments of Health and Agriculture, the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined that there is a link between the recalled products and this illness cluster.

Based on epidemiological evidence and traceback investigations, 3 case-patients have been identified in Minnesota with illness onset dates ranging from May 9, 2015, to June 8, 2015.

The recalled items were produced between April 15, 2015, and July 10, 2015 with “best if used by” dates between July 14, 2016, and October 10, 2016. The products bear the establishment number “P-1358” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped to retail stores and food service locations nationwide.

You can put on a brave face for family and friends, but your phone knows. It can tell when you're depressed, according to researchers at Northwestern Medic...

You can put on a brave face for family and friends, but your phone knows. It can tell when you're depressed, according to researchers at Northwestern Medicine.

By tracking the number of minutes you use your phone, the researchers claim they can get a clue about your emotional well-being. If you're a normal, well-adjusted person, you use your phone about 17 minutes a day. If you're depressed, you're on it 68 minutes a day on average.

The researchers also get a clue from tracking your phone's location. For example, if you spend most of your time in just a few locations, researchers say it increases the likelihood you're depressed. The same holds true for irregular schedules, where an individual leaves the house and goes to work at different times each day.

Unlikely you say? Well, the Northwestern researchers put their theory to the test. Based on the phone sensor data which was collected, they said they could identify people with depressive symptoms with 87% accuracy.

"The significance of this is we can detect if a person has depressive symptoms and the severity of those symptoms without asking them any questions," said senior author David Mohr. "We now have an objective measure of behavior related to depression. And we're detecting it passively. Phones can provide data unobtrusively and with no effort on the part of the user."

It's important, says Mohr, because it could ultimately help doctors monitor people at risk of depression and enable health care providers to intervene more quickly.

The smart phone data was actually more accurate in detecting depression than asking people about how sad they were feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. Lead author Sohrob Saeb says that when you ask people that question, their answers are unreliable and not very precise. Their phone, on the other hand, doesn't lie.

"The data showing depressed people tended not to go many places reflects the loss of motivation seen in depression," said Mohr, who is a clinical psychologist and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern. "When people are depressed, they tend to withdraw and don't have the motivation or energy to go out and do things."

The phone data doesn't tell doctors what subjects were doing with their devices. Mohr suspects people who spent the most time on them were either surfing the web or playing games, rather than talking to friends.

"People are likely, when on their phones, to avoid thinking about things that are troubling, painful feelings or difficult relationships," he said. "It's an avoidance behavior we see in depression."

To arrive at the team's conclusions, Saeb analyzed the GPS locations and phone usage for 28 individuals, average age 29, over two weeks. The sensor tracked GPS locations every five minutes.

Half the participants had been diagnosed with some level of depression – half had not. Saeb developed algorithms using the GPS and phone usage data collected from the phone, and correlated the results of those GPS and phone usage algorithms with the subjects' depression test results. The results matched up in 87% of cases.

Though privacy issues would need to be addressed, the findings may one day be used to monitor people who are at risk of depression and offer them interventions if the sensor detected depression. It could also be used to deliver the information to their clinicians.

It might have been dismissed as a marketing gimmick, wrapped in a lot of hype, but when the cash register receipts were recorded, Amazon.com says Wednesday...

It might have been dismissed as a marketing gimmick, wrapped in a lot of hype, but when the cash register receipts were recorded, Amazon.com says Wednesday's Prime Day sales shattered records, exceeding even its best Black Friday ever.

The achievement is a bit more impressive because consumers had to be members of Amazon Prime to take part. While it costs $99 a year to be a Prime member, Amazon allowed anyone to sign up for a 30-day free trial membership and take part in the sale.

Amazon said consumers did in droves, with more new members trying Prime worldwide than any single day in Amazon history. When all was said and done, the company reported members ordered 34.4 million items across Prime-eligible countries, breaking all Black Friday records with 398 items ordered per second.

“Worldwide order growth increased 266% over the same day last year and 18% more than Black Friday 2014 – all in an event exclusively available to Prime members,” said Greg Greeley, Vice President, Amazon Prime.

July 15 was selected since it was Amazon's anniversary. Greeley said the company went into the promotion expecting it would be a one-off thing. But after getting the attention of rival Walmart and setting sales records, Greeley said Prime Day will likely become an annual event.

Among the milestones set during the promotion, Prime Members ordered tens of thousands of Fire TV Sticks in one hour, making it the fastest-selling deal on an Amazon device ever. Fire tablet sales exceeded sales on Black Friday last year.

The company sold 47,000 television sets in a single day, a 1300% increase over July 15 last year. It sold 51,000 Bose headphones, compared to the 8 it sold the previous Wednesday.

In the midst of Amazon's victory lap, there are a few voices of dissent. CBS Moneywatch interviewed a number of consumers who said they were disappointed at what was on sale and the depth of the discounts.

“I was frustrated to see that only a certain amount of users could claim each deal," Doug Messer, a Prime member from Westchester, N.Y., told CBS. "We found a TV we wanted and when we went to claim it, we were added to a waitlist. Not really a deal if only a certain percentage of visitors can take advantage of it."

On Twitter, a consumer named Thomas Nguyen said he tried to buy a selfie stick but was number 293 on the wait list.

Walmart, which took up the Amazon challenge by launching price “rollbacks” of its own, has released no sales figures from yesterday. Instead, it is still offering digs at its online rival, proclaiming on its website “No 1-day sales here! Just savings every day.”

Here are two unavoidable facts of modern life: every computerized device is vulnerable to malware, and anything connected to the Internet can be hacked. In...

Here are two unavoidable facts of modern life: every computerized device is vulnerable to malware, and anything connected to the Internet can be hacked. In other words, any “smart” device (read: anything computerized and connected) is vulnerable -- including smartphones, smart TVs, smart thermostats, smart cameras, smart home security systems and smart cars.

Indeed, the vehicle hacking problem is bad enough that researchers already rate new cars not only according to their fuel efficiency or safety records, but also by how easily hackers might gain control of their key systems, including steering and brakes.

In February, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee released a committee report titled Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk.

To produce the report, Markey's office asked 19 different vehicle manufacturers about their cars' vulnerabilities, and 16 of them responded.

The results were dismal: “The responses from the automobile manufacturers show a vehicle fleet that has fully adopted wireless technologies like Bluetooth and even wireless Internet access, but has not addressed the real possibilities of hacker infiltration into vehicle systems. The report also details the widespread collection of driver and vehicle information, without privacy protections for how that information is shared and used.”

In other words, “unauthorized” access by hackers isn't the only problem with those vehicles; there's also the huge amount of information made available to “authorized” agents of the manufacturers. Or, in the dry language of senatorial press releases: “Additional concerns came from the rise of navigation and other features that record and send location or driving history information.”

If consumers are worried about privacy or hacking-security matters, can they vote with their wallets, and buy vehicles without such vulnerabilities? Probably not: as of mid-2015, nearly 100% of new vehicles on the market are hackable – and over 50% transmit data. Where do you travel and when, how fast do you drive and where do you stop along the way … of course your car “knows” these things about you already, and there's a good chance the car's manufacturer and/or any sufficiently motivated hacker knows this too.

Earlier this week, we warned you about a common privacy-protection mistake made by rental-car drivers: if you connect your phone or other smart device with the car's systems, whoever rents the car after you can potentially find your personal information, unless you remember to delete it all.

And of course, automobiles and their related systems aren't the only modern necessities designed to be hackable – a long-running but only recently discovered security breach at the federal Office of Personnel Management (which handles the hugely important national-security task of vetting security clearance holders) put the personal (and often blackmail-worthy) information of over 22 million current and former clearance-holders into the hands of hackers believed to have Chinese government backing (though China's government has consistently denied this).

Those hackers are also believed to be responsible for the four major medical-themed hackings discovered in the past year: last August's hacking of a for-profit hospital network, and the health-insurance hackings that hit Anthem, Premera Blue Cross, and CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

In late May, Larry Ponemon, of the Ponemon Institute, and Rick Kam, of ID Experts, wrote an op-ed going so far as to suggest that these “escalating cyberattacks threaten U.S. healthcare systems. … Imagine a hostile nation-state with your psychiatric records. Or an organized crime ring with your child’s medical file. Or a disgruntled employee with your medical insurance information.”

Indeed, if you're an American, the four medical hackings uncovered this past year mean there's already a 1 in 3 chance your health records have been hacked – and remember that Anthem, Premera, and CareFirst almost certainly are not the only health-insurance providers to have been hacked, merely the only ones to have discovered and admitted it thus far. And of course, it's not just medical records at risk; Internet-connected “smart” medical devices can be hacked, too.

Perhaps none of this is surprising. After all, the Internet (formerly known as the “information superhighway”) was originally designed for research scientists at different universities to share data with each other – in other words, making it easier to share information in a high-trust environment.

The problem is that this same tool is now regularly used in low-trust environments to handle everything from personal finance to national security, even though that tool still isn't remotely secure (evidence: the near-constant stream of “major hacking” stories you see if you pay any attention to the news).

There is one fairly easy way to make the Internet more secure: use encryption to encode your files so that decoding them is impossible without the encryption key. Until 2012, the FBI recommended that all Americans use encryption to keep the data on their mobile devices safe from hackers; but when James Comey took over as FBI director the following year the Bureau changed its tune. Comey thinks that encryption will only benefit criminals, and has gone so far as to ask Congress to make it illegal.

An old adage says that installing belated security measures is like “locking the barn door after the horse is already stolen.” But for today's insecure-Internet era, maybe the cliché needs a little updating:

“Locking the barn door? That might be a good idea. Maybe we can assign a Task Force to study the matter during the next fiscal quarter. But first, we need to focus on replacing all those missing horses. And while we're at it, why not store even more of our valuables in the horse barn? Sure would be a shame to waste all that newly vacant stable space, after all.”

For Honda, the long airbag nightmare just keeps getting worse. The Japanese automaker has already recalled 20 million cars made with Takata airbags, blamed...

For Honda, the long airbag nightmare just keeps getting worse. The Japanese automaker has already recalled 20 million cars made with Takata airbags, blamed for killing at least eight people, and now the company says it used inflators made by ARC Automotive Corp.

The National Highway Traffic Safeway Administration (NHTSA) said earlier this week that it was opening an investigation into a couple of recent accidents involving ARC airbags.

Honda said it used ARC inflators from 2000 to 2001 and is checking how many vehicles are involved and whether there is a need to recall them. ARC Automotive, based in Knoxville, Tenn., said it is cooperating with investigators.

“This shows the difficulty of making safe inflators,” said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at researcher Carnorama in Tokyo, according to a report in Automotive News. “The authorities and the industry have also become more sensitive about the matter of airbag safety due to the Takata issue.” 

NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) said Tuesday that it received a complaint back in 2009 involving a driver's side airbag in a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. The inflator reportedly ruptured, spraying bits of metal into the cabin. ODI found no other incidents at that time.

Then last month, Korean automaker KIA notified ODI that it was a target of a lawsuit claiming that the inflator in the driver's side airbag in a 2004 Optima had ruptured. ODI said it went back to the 2009 report and found the inflators in the airbags in both the Town and Country and the Optima were manufactured by ARC Automotive.

The inflator in both airbags was a hybrid design that relies on two different sources of energy. The inflator fills the air bag cushion by releasing an inert gas stored in the inflator at high pressure. This gas mixture is augmented by an ammonium nitrate based propellant.

“Preliminary analysis indicates that the exhaust path for the inflation gas mixture may have been blocked by an object of indeterminate origin,” ODI said in a document filing. “This blockage appears to have caused high internal pressure and subsequent rupture of the inflator assembly.”

All the publicity surrounding the Takata airbag recall has many consumers worried about whether they may be driving around with an explosive device in their dashboard that's just waiting to spray them with metal fragments.

After all, many recalled cars are never taken in to dealers and used car owners, in particular, can't be sure their car is up to snuff.

To check specifically on airbags, see the Center for Auto Safety's website. It has a 45-page .pdf list of U.S. airbag recalls arranged by auto manufacturer.

There is no conclusive test that can predict who will develop Alzheimer's disease as they age. However, it is information doctors would like to know, since...

There is no conclusive test that can predict who will develop Alzheimer's disease as they age. However, it is information doctors would like to know, since it would allow earlier treatment and, perhaps, a delay in the onset of the fatal condition.

Researchers in the field are constantly looking for biomarkers that could offer a more complete picture of who is most at risk. They think they may have identified one in amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI).

Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas have noticed that people with aMCI appear to be at twice the risk of developing Azheimer's disease when compared to others in their age group.

In findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers identify a specific variation in brain waves of people with aMCI. Specifically, they think a delayed neural activity in aMCI patients that shows up in a word-finding task may indicate an early dysfunction that points to the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

One of the main symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is the inability to retain new memories about recent conversations, events, or upcoming appointments.

While mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the recognized clinical state between healthy aging and Alzheimer's disease, aMCI is a specific type of impairment marked by deficits in episodic memory.

"This is a promising start at looking at a group of MCI patients. The long-term goal is whether this can be applied to individual patients one day," said study principal investigator John Hart.

If the method proves reliable, it could provide a more affordable and non-invasive alternative to other available methods, such as MRI or a spinal tap, to measure neural responses.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been studying brain scans and looking for biomarkers that could help with earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. In this study, scientists have found that changes in the spinal fluid during middle age may help doctors identify people at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life.

"It's too early to use these biomarkers to definitively predict whether individual patients will develop Alzheimer's disease, but we're working toward that goal," said senior author Anne Fagan, PhD, a professor of neurology. "One day, we hope to use such measures to identify and treat people years before memory loss and other cognitive problems become apparent."

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's Association recently released research suggesting lifestyle changes in middle age can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

"The research on cognitive decline is still evolving," said Angela Geiger, who is the chief strategy officer of the Alzheimer's Association. "But there are actions people can take.”

For example, certain healthy behaviors known to combat cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline. These healthy behaviors include staying mentally active, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a heart-healthy diet that benefits your body and your brain.

“There is also some evidence people may benefit from staying socially engaged with friends, family and the community," she said.

If you’re looking to sell your house, you can expect to be filling out a lot of disclosure forms in the near future depending on where you live. Each state...

If you’re looking to sell your house, you can expect to be filling out a lot of disclosure forms in the near future depending on where you live. Each state can have very strict standards when it comes to gathering information about a house that is going onto the market.

For example, there are a number of different forms that the California Association of Realtors wants you to fill out. The questions are diverse, and ask about a variety of different topics. Some of these include if you have had any claims on your homeowners insurance in the last five years; if you have painted any room of the house in the last 12 months; if you have neighboring dogs that bark incessantly; and if any livestock or wildlife, including insects or other pests, frequent your back yard.

Another form will want to know if you have made any alterations to the house. Any remodeling that you have done must be documented- including replacements to windows and doors, additions that you’ve added, or patch jobs that you’ve had to perform while living there.

California is an earthquake state, so you must explain any damages that may have been caused by natural disasters. These can include flooding, damage sustained due to hail, fires, and many others. All of this information goes down on the “Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement”.

Each state has its own regulations, so always research what you will have to disclose when buying or selling a house. These disclosure rules can often border on the ridiculous; in New York, sellers have to provide buyers with a full list of defects, including intangible ones such as hauntings.

Sellers are often burdened with having to identify problems that they may not even be aware of. If your house is sold and some problem is discovered after the fact, you may be brought to court and forced to compensate the buyer for something that you didn’t even know about.

Buying a home may be one of the biggest steps you take in your life, and selling it may be even bigger one. It can create a tremendous amount of anxiety due to all of the state and real estate disclosure laws that you have to follow. Be prepared and research what you have to do in order to make a smooth transition. 

Once banished to oblivion, bed bugs have been making quite a comeback in the U.S. since 2004. When you ask the Centers for Disease Control and Preventio...

Aches and pains are bound to develop in each of us as we age, but some people have a harder time with them than others. Arthritis can be agonizing for thos...

Aches and pains are bound to develop in each of us as we age, but some people have a harder time with them than others. Arthritis can be agonizing for those who have to endure it, but recent research conducted at Queen Mary University of London has found that a common mental health drug may help prevent this condition.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis out there. It affects millions of people around the world, and occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones degrade, often resulting in intense pain and lack of mobility. This process usually happens over a long period of time, which is why osteoarthritis is seen mostly in people who are 40 or older.

There are currently no guaranteed treatments for osteoarthritis, but researchers have found that lithium chloride, which has been used to treat patients with mental health problems, can actually prevent the degradation of these at-risk cartilage areas.

Scientists from Queen Mary University and the University of Otago in New Zealand collaborated in order to see how beneficial the compound could be. They took cartilage samples from cows and exposed them to inflammatory molecules in order to simulate arthritic progression. After treating these areas with lithium chloride, they noticed that the cartilage was not degrading as quickly.

There has been a lot of controversy over lithium’s effect on the body, so further testing will be required before humans will be able to utilize it. Figuring out a safe dosage will be important for researchers to focus on going forward.

“Osteoarthritis has a devastating impact on the lives of many people in the UK and it’s vital that we look for novel ways to prevent it…While we’re still at an early stage in researching lithium’s effects on cartilage and its suitability as a treatment, the possibility that an already widely available pharmaceutical could slow its progress is a significant step forward,” said Professor Martin Knight, who co-authored the study.

Recent studies show that individuals on the autism spectrum are more likely to suffer from malnutrition. Children who suffer from the disorder are especial...

You could be seeing a lot more new home construction in the months ahead. Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family hit a level of 6...

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family hit a level of 60 in July, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). At the same time, June's reading was revised upward 1 point to 60 as well. The HMI hasn't seen that level since November 2005.

“This month’s reading is in line with recent data showing stronger sales in both the new and existing home markets as well as continued job growth,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “However, builders still face a number of challenges, including shortages of lots and labor.”

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” It also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.”

Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

Two of the 3 HMI components posted gains in July. The component gauging current sales conditions rose 1 point to 66 and the index charting sales expectations in the next 6 months increased two points to 71. Meanwhile, the component measuring buyer traffic dropped a single point to 43.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the West and Northeast each rose 3 points to 60 and 47, respectively. The South and Midwest posted respective 1-point gains to 61 and 55.

“The fact that builder confidence has returned to levels not seen since 2005 shows that housing continues to improve at a steady pace,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “As we head into the second half of 2015, we should expect a continued recovery of the housing market.”

In a separate report, the government says first-time applications for state unemployment benefits fell sharply last week.

Figures released by the Labor Department (DOL) show initial jobless claims plunged by 15,000 in the week ending July 11 to seasonally adjusted 281,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000.

The 4-week moving average, which is considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market than the volatile weekly tally, rose 3,250 – to 282,500.

It has often been said that “you are what you eat.” Mark Heiman, vice president and chief scientific officer at MicroBiome Therapeutics, believes that whol...

It has often been said that “you are what you eat.” Mark Heiman, vice president and chief scientific officer at MicroBiome Therapeutics, believes that wholeheartedly.

In a speech given at the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago, Heiman advanced a simple theory about the proliferation of chronic disease and obesity, not just in the developed world but in developing nations, which have little or no access to fast food and high-calorie snacks.

Heiman believes that evolving diets over the last 50 years, with people eating fewer types of food on a regular basis, is playing havoc with our gastrointestinal (GI) systems. He calls it a loss of “dietary diversity.”

Heiman said diet is the principal regulator of the GI microbiome, the ecosystem of the human GI tract. The microbiome is a sophisticated and delicate combination of nutrients that ultimately creates new signaling molecules that allow it to communicate with a person's metabolic and GI regulatory system.

To operate properly, Heiman says the microbiome needs a diverse diet. Over the years, he says humans have narrowed that diversity considerably.

For example, about 75 percent of the world's population eats just 5 animal species and 12 plant species. Of those 12, rice, maize, and wheat contribute 60% of all the calories, he said.

"Like any ecosystem, the one that is most diverse in species is the one that is going to be the healthiest," Heiman said. "In almost every disease state that has been studied so far, the microbiome has lost diversity. There are just a few species that seem to dominate."

But what does that have to do with the obesity epidemic and the explosive growth of type 2 diabetes? Maybe a lot.

Heiman says people with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes have a different microbiome makeup than people without those health conditions. To test his theory he created a formulation of inulin, beta glucan, and antioxidants called NM504, and tested it among a group of 30 individuals.

Half of the group received the formulation twice a day. The remainder received a placebo. Heiman says the difference in the 2 groups was stark.

The group getting NM504 saw a shift in the makeup of their microbiome and, consequently, health benefits that included improved glucose control, increased satiety, and relief from constipation. The other group didn't.

With the growth in population, food producers naturally emphasize food that can be grown efficiently and economically – providing more bang for the buck. In the process, some foods common in the past fall out of favor and fall out of diets.

Heiman says he is studying these so-called “heirloom” foods and whether returning them to our diets would make any difference. He developed a substance he calls MT303, derived from whole soybean pods, which hardly anyone, anywhere eats these days.

But maybe we should. Heiman says when he tested the compound on obese mice, the rodents benefited by being protected from colon inflammation and decreasing their weight gain.

Actually, Heiman isn't recommending anyone add soybean pods to their diets. He just wants you to think more about what you eat day in and day out.

For one, avoid fad diets that require you to eliminate certain kinds of food from your diet. They may provide some short term results, but over the long haul, the more diversity in your diet, he says, the better.

General Motors is recalling 10 model year 2014-2015 Chevrolet Cruzes manufactured November 8, 2013, to March 12, 2015, and 2015 Chevrolet Volts manufacture...

General Motors is recalling 10 model year 2014-2015 Chevrolet Cruzes manufactured November 8, 2013, to March 12, 2015, and 2015 Chevrolet Volts manufactured April 11, 2014.

The inner tie rod may not be tightened to specification, allowing the tie rod to separate from the steering gear. This could result in the loss of steering, increasing the risk of a crash.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering gear assembly, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in July 2015.

Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 15386.

Murry’s, Inc., of Lebanon, Pa., is recalling approximately 20,232 pounds of gluten-free breaded chicken nugget product. The product tested positive for S...

Murry’s, Inc., of Lebanon, Pa., is recalling approximately 20,232 pounds of gluten-free breaded chicken nugget product.

The following product, bearing establishment number “P-516” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and shipped to an establishment for distribution nationwide, is being recalled:

Honda is recalling 1,358 model year 2016 Pilots manufactured May 4, 2015, to June 5, 2015. Due to an assembly issue, the third row seatbelt may be trappe...

Due to an assembly issue, the third row seatbelt may be trapped between the rear seat and the rear sideliner. If the seatbelt is trapped, the occupants may not be restrained properly, increasing the risk of injury.

Honda will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair the rear third row seat belt, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on August 6, 2015.

Nissan North America is recalling 14,595 model year 2014 Versa Sedan vehicles manufactured July 16, 2013, to January 29, 2014; 2013-2014 Cube vehicles manu...

Nissan North America is recalling 14,595 model year 2014 Versa Sedan vehicles manufactured July 16, 2013, to January 29, 2014; 2013-2014 Cube vehicles manufactured July 3, 2013, to October 21, 2013; and 2013-2014 Juke vehicles manufactured July 3, 2013, to October 22, 2013.

When exposed to hot temperatures, the engine start/stop button may stick inside the button housing. If the engine start/stop button gets stuck in the housing, road vibrations may cause the engine to shut off unexpectedly while the vehicle is being driven, increasing the risk of a crash.

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will modify the start/stop switch housing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin by late-August 2015.

General Motors is recalling 45,785 model year 2014-2015 Chevrolet Sparks manufactured April 30, 2014, to May 20, 2015, and 2015 Chevrolet Sonics manufactur...

General Motors is recalling 45,785 model year 2014-2015 Chevrolet Sparks manufactured April 30, 2014, to May 20, 2015, and 2015 Chevrolet Sonics manufactured June 18, 2014, to June 10, 2015.

In the recalled vehicles, equipped with the base radio and OnStar, the radio may lock up due to a software issue, causing the display to go blank and all audio functions to cease. Because of this, there may be no warning chimes such as the reminder to buckle the seat belt and the key being left in ignition when the driver goes to exit the vehicle.

Without audible indicators, the driver may leave the key in the ignition, increasing the risk of theft. If a driver or front passenger does not buckle his seat belt, there would be no chime to remind him to do so. Failure to buckle up increases the risk of injury in a crash.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will update the radio software, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 15504.

Amazon and Walmart are going at it today in a battle of high-profile sales, trying to win over consumers who don't normally go on a shopping spree in the m...

Amazon and Walmart are going at it today in a battle of high-profile sales, trying to win over consumers who don't normally go on a shopping spree in the middle of July.

When Amazon announced its Prime Day for July 15, it boasted that its one-day deals for its Prime members would beat those offered on Black Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season.

BestBlackFriday.com, operated by Jones-Dengler Marketing, threw down a challenge of its own, listing some of last year's Black Friday specials and challenging Amazon to beat those prices. After viewing the Prime Day deals at midnight, BestBlackFriday.com's Philip Dengler had to admit, Amazon did what it said it would do.

“To our surprise, they are beating Black Friday 2014 prices on some of the most sought-after items,” Dengler told ComsumerAffairs in an email.

Dengler and his associates reached that conclusion after doing a side-by-side comparison of last year's Black Friday deals and Amazon's Prime Day prices.

“While Black Friday wins in a few areas, Prime Day is winning where it counts,” Dengler said. “They have the lowest price on the very popular 32" and 40" televisions.”

Dengler said Amazon is also winning on the Kindle Fire 7, Kindle Fire 7 Kids Version, Crucial MX100 Drives, VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch, Bose SoundTrue Headphones On-Ear Style and many other items.

“Judging by the information available to us now, we think Amazon was right in their Prime Day comparison to Black Friday,” Dengler said.

These prices, of course, are only available to consumers who have paid $99 a year to be Prime members, a point Walmart has made in its none-too-subtle promotion of its own sale. Visitors to Walmart.com are greeted with a bold banner declaring “thousands of new rollbacks, no upfront fees!”

Why would these two retail giants be duking it out in the dead of summer with seemingly little at stake? As we reported yesterday, consumers were sitting on their wallets last month, resulting in disappointing retail sales.

Amazon's motivation probably lies in a desire to boost Prime memberships. Walmart's response may be driven by a determination not to let its rival get out in front on anything. Both are taking the opportunity to try to win over consumers who do most of their shopping online.

"Increased e-service quality is associated with increased customer satisfaction, which then leads to higher repurchase intentions," said Vikas Mittal, professor of marketing at Rice University. "In other words, increasing e-service quality enhances customer satisfaction and the likelihood of customer repurchase. If Amazon and Wal-Mart want to keep their customers coming back, they must focus on increasing satisfaction via e-service quality."

Mittal and an international team of colleagues have completed a study of what makes up e-service quality. Price is only one part of it.

Their analysis identified four core dimensions of e-service quality: website design, fulfilment, customer service and security/privacy. Together, these four dimensions strongly impact overall e-service quality, the authors conclude. And they should be there 365 days a years – even when the sale prices aren't.

Earlier this year, the California-based cybersecurity firm Bromium issued a warning about a then-new strain of ransomware called TeslaCrypt, which primaril...

Earlier this year, the California-based cybersecurity firm Bromium issued a warning about a then-new strain of ransomware called TeslaCrypt, which primarily focused on attacking game files and game platforms including Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Diablo, several ES sports titles, and many more (though after encrypting a victim's game files, it would then spread to encrypt Word documents, Excel files, PowerPoint presentations and various image files, too).

Now TeslaCrypt is back, after the research firm Kaspersky warned about the updated TeslaCrypt 2.0, which has been refined, strengthened, and also disguised as an older form of ransomware called CryptoWall.

As its name suggests, ransomware is a type of malware that lets attackers hold a victim's device and/or files for ransom, by encrypting the files and refusing to decrypt them unless the victim pays money (usually via Bitcoin or wire transfer, both of which are untraceable).

Like all cybersecurity threats, ransomware appears in many forms. In January, investigators in Tennessee discovered a particularly nasty variant: after taking control of a victim's smartphone, the hackers would then plant child pornography on the device and refuse to remove the images or otherwise relinquish control unless the victim paid $500. The phones' owners cannot delete the pictures, and they're usually afraid to contact police for fear they'll be arrested for possession of illegal images.

A teenager in Washington State apparently fell victim to child-pornographic malware last month. The Renton Reporter's police blotter from July 12 said that:

A 16-year-old boy viewed pornography on his phone discovered it was infected with “ransomware” when he tried to free up space.

He and his mother went to the Police Department on June 17 to report the ransomware, which was activated when he attempted to delete a URL.

An officer scrolled through the screens on the phone, noticing sexually explicit photographs of people, some of whom looked younger than 18.... With permission, the officer tried to remove the ransomware but the fix didn’t work.

The boy told the officer he didn’t download any photos. Because of the boy’s age, the officer placed the phone into evidence so the boy wouldn’t get into trouble for possessing pornography. The boy said OK.

In Texas, the Austin Police Department issued a July 15 warning about another ransomware strain, this one snaring victims by initially pretending to be messages from law enforcement agencies: “Forms of ransomware which impersonate law enforcement agencies have been on the rise. These forms of the malware typically show a notification page from either a federal law enforcement agency or from the victim’s local law enforcement agency informing the user that they have committed illegal activity online and have been given a fine.”

Ransomware is another form of malware and is spread like any other kind: through spammy emails or text messages, virus-riddled file attachments, and similar techniques. Even if you have the bad luck to be infected, it generally won’t be a problem if you have backup copies of all your files; rather than pay the ransom, you can wipe your device clean and use your un-infected backup files to restore it.

If you don't already have backup copies of all your important files – not just on your home computer, but also your tablet, smartphone, and anything else holding important data you don't want to lose – you should make copies right away, and keep them on a dedicated thumb drive, flash drive, or burn copies onto a disc.

In addition to these physical media storage options, you also have the option of hiring a backup service — though that brings the usual risks that come with entrusting your data to anyone other than yourself.

Don't mention this to consumers in California, but the U.S. is enjoying the lowest summer gasoline prices in years.While Los Angeles area motorists are...

Don't mention this to consumers in California, but the U.S. is enjoying the lowest summer gasoline prices in years.

While Los Angeles area motorists are paying well over $4 a gallon for gas this week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the average retail price for gasoline this summer – April through September – is expected to be $2.67 a gallon, a dime less than the current national average.

The prediction is based on EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook and the $2.67 figure is the lowest since 2009.

California's woes are the result of inefficiencies in the supply chain. For example, the state received no imports of gasoline in early July, leading to acute shortages in the state.

EIA's report suggests supplies are holding up well elsewhere, in spite of increased consumption. EIA expects travel and gasoline consumption to be higher this summer compared to last year. Motor gasoline consumption is expected to increase by 194,000 barrels per day, up 2.1% from last summer, reflecting a number of positive factors.

Not only are prices at the pump substantially lower, EIA says consumers have higher real disposable income, more employment opportunities, and growing consumer confidence. The lower fuel prices, the agency says, are largely the result of the projected 41% year-over-year decline in the average price of North Sea Brent crude oil, the U.S.'s main source of imported oil.

EIA arrives at its predictions by measuring the product supplied, which reflects refinery and blender output, inventory change, and net imports, as a proxy for consumption. Net refinery output is expected to increase by 208,000 barrels per day, staying slightly above growth in consumption.

The main inventories of gasoline and gasoline blending components began the summer season 10.7 million barrels above the previous 5-year average and should end the season 3.7 million barrels above the previous 5-year average.

Consumers drew 8.4 million barrels on inventories last summer. This summer, that should grow to 14.3 million. Supplies should remain fairly tight but not enough to affect retail prices.

California motorists may soon get some relief from high prices, but no doubt are getting tired of the constant price roller coaster. According to AAA, the California Energy Commission is now investigating what's behind the volatility.

California refineries are putting out plenty of gasoline but the state still has to import fuel from other areas to meet its needs. As AAA observes, suppliers often operate in “just-in-time” gasoline inventories, with supply delivered only as demand requires it. It limits storage costs but can lead to significant spikes in price when supply and demand are out of balance.

“Upward pressure is likely to remain on prices in the region until supply issues are resolved,” AAA said.

Lingering supply issues in the Midwest have mostly been resolved and motorists are reaping the benefits. AAA says the average retail price of a gallon of regular gas has fallen 12 cents in Indiana and 11 cents in Michigan.

Recognizing that you are overweight is usually the first step to getting healthier. Unfortunately, this admission is not always the easiest to make. A new ...

Recognizing that you are overweight is usually the first step to getting healthier. Unfortunately, this admission is not always the easiest to make. A new study shows that adolescents have a particularly hard time recognizing that they have a weight problem.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Georgia Southern University, was based on findings from two separate surveys. One survey was given over roughly six years, from 1988 to 1994. The second survey was given over five years, from 2007 to 2012. All participants from both studies were between the ages of 12 and 16 and were classified as obese, overweight, or normal weight through their body mass index (BMI) scores.

The surveys attempted to gauge how each era’s young people viewed their own weight. After adjusting for certain variables, such as age, race, sex, and socio-economic standing, the researchers found that the more recent generation was 29% less likely to classify themselves as overweight or obese.

So what do these numbers mean? Well, the researchers believe that self-perception has changed over the last 20 years, and there are a couple of ways that this could have affected the survey results.  

“In the wake of the obesity pandemic, the media, weight loss industries, and medical communities have encouraged adolescents to maintain slender frames. Facing harsher messages, more and more overweight and obese adolescents may be increasingly reluctant to admit that they are overweight,” said Dr. Jian Zhang, who led the study.

This seems to make some sense. With the amount of pressure that adolescents face to “fit in”, along with the media and peers venerating people who are thin, many teens may not be willing to admit that they don’t belong.

To offer a completely contrary explanation, many overweight or obese teens may not feel that they should be classified as such because of who their friends and family are. This is explained by the “Social Comparison Theory”. In short, the theory suggests that people compare their weight with those around them, rather than with any actual number or scale. As such, a teen who has a lot of friends or family members who are overweight may feel that they are perfectly normal for being overweight too.

Regardless of the cause, the researchers believe that it is extremely important for adolescents to be clearly informed about their own weight status. By being aware of how healthy they are (in terms of weight), adolescents can begin to make choices that will help them adapt healthier behaviors. This, in turn, will help reduce obesity numbers in adolescents and contribute to healthier living.

"Becoming conscious of one's excess weight is the precursor to adopting behavioral changes necessary for appropriate weight control. The declining tendency of correctly perceiving overweight status presents a vast challenge to obesity prevention among adolescents, making the overweight and obese adolescents less motivated to actively engage in effective weight loss behaviors,” said Dr. Zhang

The term "rogues gallery" can refer to Superman's enemies, a police collection of mugshots or an out-of-the way spot where pickpockets and other criminals ...

The term "rogues gallery" can refer to Superman's enemies, a police collection of mugshots or an out-of-the way spot where pickpockets and other criminals gather.

It could also refer to computer hacking forums like Darkode, a worldwide forum where hackers and other cyber-criminals convened to buy, sell, trade and share information, ideas, and hacking tools.

“Of the roughly 800 criminal internet forums worldwide, Darkode represented one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world and was the most sophisticated English-speaking forum for criminal computer hackers in the world,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Darkode has now been dismantled in a worldwide bust involving law enforcement agencies from the U.S. and 20 other countries. Criminal charges have been filed against 12 individuals associated with the forum.

“Hackers and those who profit from stolen information use underground Internet forums to evade law enforcement and target innocent people around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “This operation is a great example of what international law enforcement can accomplish when we work closely together to neutralize a global cybercrime marketplace.”

“Through this operation, we have dismantled a cyber hornets’ nest of criminal hackers which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”

“This is a milestone in our efforts to shut down criminals’ ability to buy, sell, and trade malware, botnets and personally identifiable information used to steal from U.S. citizens and individuals around the world,” said Deputy FBI Director Mark F. Giuliano.  “Cyber criminals should not have a safe haven to shop for the tools of their trade and Operation Shrouded Horizon shows we will do all we can to disrupt their unlawful activities.”

Before becoming a member of Darkode, prospective members were allegedly vetted through a process in which an existing member invited a prospective member to the forum for the purpose of presenting the skills or products that he or she could bring to the group. 

Darkode members allegedly used each other’s skills and products to infect computers and electronic devices of victims around the world with malware and, thereby gain access to, and control over, those devices.   

The charges announced today are part of a coordinated effort by a coalition of law enforcement authorities from 20 nations to charge, arrest or search 70 Darkode members and associates around the world.

Protein is an essential part of every person’s diet. While most of us get this vital nutrient through eating meat, vegetarians and vegans have to acquire i...

Protein is an essential part of every person’s diet. While most of us get this vital nutrient through eating meat, vegetarians and vegans have to acquire it through alternative methods. Many food experts are now saying that algae, quinoa, and pulses are the next best available sources of protein.

Choosing to eat algae, quinoa, and pulses over other forms of protein comes with several advantages. Eating these foods cuts down significantly on food waste, which is a big problem when it comes to eating meat or other foods that spoil quickly. Their preparation allows them to be much less processed as well, which contributes to the overall health of those who eat them.

Algae is becoming a preferred protein source for vegans, since it has a greatly reduced carbon footprint and provides comparable protein to other vegan favorites, such as rice or soy. The total composition of algae consists of 63% protein, 15% fiber, 11% lipids, 4% carbohydrates, 4% micronutrients, and 3% moisture. These numbers indicate that algae is a food that is rich in nutrients and very healthy.

Some consumers may be cautious to eat algae, but food scientist Beata Klamczynska explains that people are slowly beginning to recognize how good it can be. “Are consumers ready for algae as an ingredient? Yes, they are ready and excited about algae…The more they learn, the more excited they get. Just a little education eliminates any doubts….There are thousands of algae strains to choose from for a variety of products,” she said.

Like algae, quinoa and pulses also exist in many different forms. There are currently over 1,400 quinoa products on the market, all of which are rich in protein. “Pulses” is just a general term that encompasses legumes, beans, chickpeas, and lentils, and the number of these products is also large. According to Anusha Samaranayaka, who is a scientist at POS Bio-Sciences, pulses are known to be high in protein, vegetarian, gluten-free, non-allergenic, non-GMO, and sustainable.

Supplementing any of these different foods into your diet is a great way to increase your protein intake. A presentation on these three foods was recently shown at IFT15, which is hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago. 

Amidst all the controversy and hand-wringing about student debt and the cost of college, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that dealing with Sallie M...

This has not been a good week for TeleBrands, the New Jersey-based promoter of “As Seen on TV” products including the Olde Brooklyn Lantern, Pocket Hose, a...

For most college students, parents are a major partner. They help shape college choices, career paths, and are likely to help foot the education bill. So w...

For most college students, parents are a major partner. They help shape college choices, career paths, and are likely to help foot the education bill. So what parents have to say about the process matters.

A survey of parents by HSBC finds that parents are growing more pessimistic about higher education. Nearly three quarters of those surveyed – 71% – now believe higher education is unaffordable for the majority of Americans.

At the same time, almost two thirds – 60% – consider a college degree to be essential in enabling their children to achieve important lifetime goals.

No doubt skyrocketing tuition costs have fueled parental pessimism. The cost of a college education has risen many times faster than the rate of inflation over the last few decades.

Some critics of higher education have blamed the increased availability of student loans and financial aid, and a new report from the New York Federal Reserve Bank lends some ammunition to that argument.

“When students fund their education through loans, changes in student borrowing and tuition are interlinked,” the report concludes. “Higher tuition costs raise loan demand, but loan supply also affects equilibrium tuition costs—for example, by relaxing students’ funding constraints.”

The authors said they found colleges and universities more exposed to changes in the subsidized federal loan program increased their tuition disproportionately around these policy changes, with a sizable pass-through effect on tuition of about 65%.

“We also find that Pell Grant aid and the unsubsidized federal loan program have pass-through effects on tuition, although these are economically and statistically not as strong,” they wrote.

The analysis found that the subsidized loan effect on tuition is most pronounced for expensive, private institutions that “are somewhat, but not among the most, selective.”

The Fed report explores an interesting parallel between the rising cost of college tuition and the rapid increase in home prices during the housing bubble. It examines the argument that one big reason home prices escalated so quickly is because so many consumers had access to so much credit they were able to bid up prices beyond what was justified.

While noting there is little empirical evidence linking credit availability and rising tuition, the report notes that the two events occurred at about the same time.

“Yearly student loan originations grew from $53 billion to $120 billion between 2001 and 2012, with about 90% of originations in recent years occurring through federal student aid programs,” the authors write. “Against this backdrop of increased borrowing, average sticker tuition rose 46% in constant 2012 dollars between 2001 and 2012, from $6,950 to $10,200, resembling the twin house price and mortgage balance booms.”

Parents, meanwhile, are squeezed between daunting costs and the desire to see their children succeed. The HSBC survey suggests they will continue to go into debt to reach that goal. And the debt may spread across two generations.

Sixty-five percent of parents with children under the age of 5 expect that their children will personally contribute toward their own tuition, and 59% admit their child will need to take on debt in order to do that. Around 3 in 10 – 29% -- of parents surveyed whose children are yet to begin their college education anticipate that grandparents will also share the financial burden.  

Corporate wellness programs are usually valued for keeping people healthy. The idea being, if someone stays in good shape, sees a doctor regularly, and eat...

Corporate wellness programs are usually valued for keeping people healthy. The idea being, if someone stays in good shape, sees a doctor regularly, and eats a nutritious diet, they are sick less often and spend less on health care.

But a survey by HealthMine has uncovered another benefit. It found that 28% of the people in the survey had been diagnosed with a chronic condition in the last two years. Nearly half – 46% – discovered their chronic illness through a wellness program.

Chronic conditions are not at all uncommon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they affect nearly half of all Americans. When it comes to healthcare spending, $3 out of every $4 is spent on patients with at least one chronic disease.

Conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure are examples of chronic diseases. The problem with these ailments is that many who suffer from them are completely unaware they have them.

For example, one third of people with diabetes have not been diagnosed, according to the CDC. Other cases of chronic disease are diagnosed, but not well controlled.

HealthMine says 34% of adults with hypertension treat but do not control their condition. Another 11% are aware of their high blood pressure but don't get any treatment for it.

Participants in a wellness program often get regular screenings and have their vital signs checked on a regular basis. This can uncover a problem before it progresses and gets worse.

The HealthMine survey suggests consumers like the idea of these screenings. In fact, 74% of respondents said they would participate in vision screenings; 73% would complete a blood pressure screening; and 69% want a cholesterol screening.

Consumers have also expressed interest in knowing their health risk. Some large insurers have already begun to incorporate genetic testing into their wellness programs, even though regulations are still being drafted to cover privacy and other protections.

More companies, large and small, have embraced wellness programs as a way to promote the overall welfare of the work force as well as a way to cut costs. The Harvard Business Review profiled the case of Johnson & Johnson, which credits its wellness plan with reducing the percentage of employees who smoke by more than two-thirds and reducing the number who have high blood pressure or who are physically inactive by more than half.

That all benefited the bottom line, as the company credits its wellness program with $250 million in health care cost savings over a 10-year period.

"Plan sponsors can and do utilize wellness programs to beat the numbers – one member at a time," said Bryce Williams, president and CEO of Healthmine. "To succeed, wellness programs must enable people to learn their key health facts, and connect individuals to their personal clinical data anytime, anywhere.”  

In calculations that included and adjustment for the Independence Day holiday, mortgage applications decreased 1.9% percent in the week ending July 10, acc...

In calculations that included an adjustment for the Independence Day holiday, mortgage applications decreased 1.9% percent in the week ending July 10, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.

At the same time, the Refinance Index was up 4%, raising the refinance share of mortgage activity to 50.8% of total applications from 48.0% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 7.4%.

The FHA share of total applications inched up to 13.8% from 13.7%, the VA share was unchanged at 10.8%, as was the USDA share at 0.9%.

Producer prices for final demand (PPI), the cost of goods and services one step shy of the consumer level, were up in June for the second month in a row. ...

Producer prices for final demand (PPI), the cost of goods and services one step shy of the consumer level, were up in June for the second month in a row.

Led primarily by surging energy costs, the PPI rose 0.3% last month on top of the May increase of 0.5%, according to the Labor Department (DOL).

Almost two-thirds of the June increase is the result of a 0.7% increase in the cost of goods. Services prices rose 0.3%

The 0.7% gain in the cost of goods was the result of a 2.4% surge in energy prices. Within that category, the cost of gasoline was up 4.3%. Food prices were up 0.6%, with the cost of eggs higher, and fresh and dry vegetables lower.

Thirty percent of the 0.3% gain in services costs last month can be attributed to prices for loan services, which climbed 2.4%. Prices for machinery and equipment wholesaling, fuels and lubricants retailing, truck transportation of freight, deposit services and portfolio management also advanced. Margins for food and alcohol wholesaling were down 3.7%.

The core PPI, which excludes the volatile food, energy and trade services categories,rose 0.3% in June after edging down 0.1% the month before. For the 12 months ended in June, core PPI was up 0.7%

Subaru of America is recalling 32,400 2012 model year Subaru Impreza 4-Door and Station Wagon vehicles (except WRX/STI models) manufactured April 21, 2011,...

Subaru of America is recalling 32,400 2012 model year Subaru Impreza 4-Door and Station Wagon vehicles (except WRX/STI models) manufactured April 21, 2011, to February 16, 2012.

The Occupant Detection System (ODS) may deactivate if a front seat passenger operates a device that is plugged into the power outlet such as a music player or cell phone, or touches a metal part of the vehicle such as the forward/rearward seat adjuster lever.

If the ODS deactivates, the front passenger air bag will be turned off and the front passenger air bag will not deploy in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury to the seat occupant.

Subaru will notify owners, and dealers will replace the Occupant Control Unit with a modified one, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Subaru customer service at 1-800-782-2783. Subaru's number for this recall is WQT-55.

Honda is recalling 106,439 model year 2014-2015 Acura MDX and MDX AWD vehicles manufactured April 23,2013, to December 16, 2014. The vehicles' air condit...

Honda is recalling 106,439 model year 2014-2015 Acura MDX and MDX AWD vehicles manufactured April 23,2013, to December 16, 2014.

The vehicles' air conditioning compressor clutch drive bolts may not have received the proper anti-corrosion coating. If a bolt was not coated, it may corrode and break, allowing the compressor clutch plate may separate from the vehicle, possibly becoming a road hazard.

Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the air conditioning compressor clutch drive bolt and install a new clutch plate if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 31, 2015.

Toyota Motor Sales USA is recalling approximately 109,000 Model Year 2012-2014 Prius v hybrid. The software settings for the motor/generator control ECU...

The software settings for the motor/generator control ECU and hybrid control ECU could result in overheating in certain transistors, potentially causing them to become damaged. If this happens, various warning lights will illuminate and the vehicle can enter a failsafe mode. In rare circumstances, the hybrid system might shut down while the vehicle is being driven, resulting in the loss of power and the vehicle coming to a stop.

Toyota dealers will update the software for both the motor/generator control ECU and hybrid control ECU.

Hot on the heels of recalls of millions of cars equipped with Takata airbags, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun a...

Hot on the heels of recalls of millions of cars equipped with Takata airbags, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun an investigation of another brand of airbag component that may have a similar defect.

NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) reports it received a complaint back in 2009 involving a driver's side airbag in a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. The inflator reportedly ruptured, spraying bits of metal into the cabin.

ODI said it searched for similar incidents but found none. Fast forward to last month, as recalls of cars equipped with Takata airbags piled up.

In June, Korean automaker KIA notified ODI that it was a target of a lawsuit claiming that the inflator in the driver's side airbag in a 2004 Optima had ruptured. ODI said it went back to the 2009 report and found the inflators in the airbags in both the Town and Country and the Optima were manufactured by ARC Automotive.

The inflator in both airbags was a hybrid design that relies on two different sources of energy. The inflator fills the air bag cushion by releasing an inert gas stored in the inflator at high pressure. This gas mixture is augmented by an ammonium nitrate based propellant.

“Preliminary analysis indicates that the exhaust path for the inflation gas mixture may have been blocked by an object of indeterminate origin,” ODI said in a document filing. “This blockage appears to have caused high internal pressure and subsequent rupture of the inflator assembly.”

ODI said that as far as it knows, the two incidents – one in Ohio and one in New Mexico – are the only ones to have been reported. It also says the root cause of the rupture is not known.

ODI said it is opening the investigation to collect the facts and learn if there is a widespread flaw in inflators. It says there are approximately 420,000 2002 Chrysler Town and Country vehicles on the road and 70,000 2004 KIA Optimas.

Japanese manufacturer Takata has recalled more than 40 million vehicles in the U.S. because of exploding airbag inflators. The pieces of metal blasted into passenger compartments are blamed for more than 100 injuries and eight deaths.

The Takata-related recall drama has played out throughout 2015. The problem first came to light late last year, but from the start NHTSA found the manufacturer's cooperation lacking. In February it leveled a $14,000 a day fine against the firm until it provided additional documentation.

Honda will pay $24 million to resolve charges that its finance arm charged higher interest rates to minority car buyers. But dealers groups say the agreeme...

This has been a spectacularly bad week for Adobe Flash or fans thereof – over the past several days, many previously unknown security flaws have been uncov...

This has been a spectacularly bad week for Adobe Flash or fans thereof – over the past several days, many previously unknown security flaws have been uncovered in the program. Security experts and major tech companies alike are either recommending that individual users disable the program in their devices, or are outright refusing to enable Flash until the problems are fixed.

On Sunday, Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said on Twitter that “It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day.” And today Mark Schmidt, the head of Firefox support at Mozilla, tweeted the announcement that “All versions of Flash are blocked by default in Firefox as of now.” The Daily Mail claims that Google has made a similar decision regarding its Chrome browser.

Firefox or Chrome users can still choose to allow Flash if they wish; it's just that such permissions must be granted individually, rather than have the browser allow it automatically.

Adobe says that updates for the Flash player are now available online. A posting on the company's blog says the updates will resolve the latest vulnerabilities.

Here's a bit of background: in Italy, there's a company called Hacking Team whose business model allegedly entails making spyware and other surveillance technology and then selling it to various governments (some of its more notable clients allegedly include the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Russia — and the United States of America).

The company has not confirmed its business practices or clientele. Such details came out recently when Hacking Team itself got hacked by people who stole hundreds of gigabytes' worth of Hacking Team documents and released them online.

Among other interesting details, those documents also revealed the existence of not one, not two, but three separate zero-day flaws in Adobe Flash (as of this writing; more Flash security flaws may yet be revealed).

“Zero-day” is tech-speak for a threat discovered to be exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability; since nobody (other than bad-guy hackers) knew about the security hole, nobody's had time to patch it, and so zero days pass between the discovery of the vulnerability, and the first time that vulnerability is attacked.

Where news headlines are concerned, “Zero-day exploit discovered in Adobe Flash” has become only slightly less commonplace than “Baby born at area hospital.” But after the triple play uncovered in the Hacking Team cache, the Internet collectively decided “This is the last straw.”

For example, when security expert Brian Krebs blogged about the third Hacking Team Flash exploit, he warned, “We are likely to continue to see additional Flash zero day bugs surface as a result of this breach. Instead of waiting for Adobe to fix yet another flaw in Flash, please consider removing or at least hobbling this program.”

Executives at Facebook and Firefox went even further, as mentioned already. When The Verge reported Mozilla's blocking of Flash today, it said the block is “temporary, but we hope it's permanent.” Computerworld gave its story on the matter the headline “Adobe Flash must die, die, DIE.”

Apple Insider advised Mac users to uninstall Flash from their computers, and provided instructions how.

Over in the United Kingdom, The Register advised its readers “It's time to flush Flash back to where it came from – Hell” (although The Register actually said this last February, several months before the Hacking Team document dump).

Regardless of when Adobe releases security patches for its various flaws, you're probably better off disabling or removing Flash from your browser altogether, even though this means you'll be unable to see Flash animations (or Flash ads), and also be unable to play various Flash games. But that's a small price to pay, compared to leaving your device and all data on it vulnerable to the always-growing list of ways hackers can exploit Adobe for their own purposes.

The agreement announced Tuesday between six world powers and Iran, to slow that country's nuclear program, will result in the lifting of economic sanctions...

The agreement announced Tuesday between six world powers and Iran, to slow that country's nuclear program, will result in the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran that have been in place for years.

Among other things, that means Iran can start exporting its oil again. When it does, it will find very different market conditions.

Iran's oil ministry has promised it can quickly ramp up to 1 million barrels of oil a day on the world market, but with an existing oil glut from over production and consistent declines in worldwide consumption, it will make much less per barrel than it once did.

With the announcement of an Iranian deal, the price of crude oil dropped more than 1.5% to $51.32 a barrel. Before the sanctions, Iran was getting around $100 a barrel.

“Iran’s efforts to raise oil exports could not have come at a worse time, given the market’s lingering oversupply,” Michael Cohen, an energy analyst at Barclays, told The Wall Street Journal.

Ordinarily, this would be great news for U.S. motorists, sending prices at the pump lower. But there appears to be a limit to what effect falling crude oil prices have on what motorists pay for gasoline.

The national average price of regular gasoline has been below $3 a gallon for months now. Lower oil prices, due to a building over-supply, will have a muted effect because the crude oil has to be turned into gasoline at refineries, and there is a finite refinery capacity.

But while the Iran deal might not send U.S. gasoline prices lower, it should keep them from going up, even with the country using more fuel.

“The demand for gasoline has been impressive over the last few months,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, told ConsumerAffairs. “This summer demand for gasoline has been the highest in years, most likely due to the lower price.”

As long as demand does not outstrip refineries' ability to produce gasoline, pump prices should remain stable. The addition of Iranian oil to the world supply guarantees the glut of oil isn't going away anytime soon.

Currently, the national average price for self-serve regular is about $2.78 a gallon, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey. As we reported last week, prices have shot up in California due to supply issues.

The average price in California is $3.80 a gallon, up 37 cents in the last week. Consumers in the Los Angeles area are feeling the most pain, paying an average of about $4.20 a gallon for gasoline.

It turns out there are a number of interested parties following the Justice Department's investigation into possible collusion among U.S. airlines.In p...

It turns out there are a number of interested parties following the Justice Department's investigation into possible collusion among U.S. airlines.

“We applaud the Department of Justice for its interest in protecting air travel for consumers,” the Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) said in a statement. “There is less competition in air travel due to carrier consolidation. As a result, it is more important than ever that consumers continue to have the ability to effectively shop for transparent travel options across suppliers.”

The Travel Technology Association represents many of the websites consumers use to book travel, including Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport, Skyscanner, Airbnb, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, CheapOAir, and Vegas.com.

As such, it has a bone to pick with airlines that it says have adopted policies that restrict the availability of fare and schedule information in the marketplace.

“Limiting access to airline content through the independent channel – which provides travelers with the transparency and choice they demand – negatively impacts consumer welfare,” the group said.

In a study it released in May, the association claims that if airlines are successful in efforts to restrict access to flight information, ticket prices would rise more than 11% for leisure and unmanaged business travelers. That, I says, would translate into about $30 more for the average ticket.

“Preserving the competitive benefits of consumers’ ability to access comparative and transparent information on prices and schedules of major U.S. airlines is more important than ever,” writes Scott Morton, author of the study. “At a time when independent, transparent comparison shopping is most needed, some airlines are attempting to restrict access to their fare and schedule information, reduce the ability of consumers to easily compare prices, and drive travelers to their own websites, which do not offer price comparisons with other airlines.”

The association has also expressed concern about recent statements by airline executives during a June round table discussion in Miami, hosted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The group of airline CEOs reportedly talked approvingly of recent actions by a U.S. airline to implement new discriminatory surcharges on consumers who choose to book travel through third-party channels.

“The events at the Miami IATA meeting may suggest a coordinated effort by the airlines present – and by the larger trade group – to promote and potentially collectively impose the surcharge,” Travel Tech said. “Those events raise serious questions as to whether the airlines and IATA departed from their obligations to compete, not coordinate, when it comes to the imposition of fares, fees and surcharges on their customers.”

Travel Tech is not the only trade group unlikely to volunteer as character witnesses should the Justice Department eventually bring anti-competitive charges against United, America, Delta and Southwest airlines – the objects of the probe. Others in the travel industry might prove reluctant as well.

Earlier this month the U.S. Travel Association expressed “alarm” at the government's announcement of the airline investigation. Association CEO Roger Dow worried that the traveling public is already “jaded” about flying and hoped that, where the Justice Department sees smoke, there is no fire. Still, he says the airline industry has invited much of this unwelcome scrutiny.

"If not for the radical consolidation we have seen in the airline industry in the last few years, we probably would not even be having this conversation,” Dow said. “Now that 4 carriers control 85% of domestic routes, 'collusion' is a thought that's constantly going to be in the back of the minds of federal regulators.”

Dow says Congress could increase airline competition by making it easier for airports to raise funds for expansion. Many Wall Street analysts disagree, however. They says airlines have only recently become profitable by consolidating and, in essence, reducing competition.

Professional baseball pitchers put an incredible amount of strain on their bodies in order to perform well in their sport. Being able to throw the ball 90-...

Professional baseball pitchers put an incredible amount of strain on their bodies in order to perform well in their sport. Being able to throw the ball 90-100 miles per hour comes at a price; many of the ligaments in their elbows degrade over time, which eventually culminates into a serious injury.

Tommy John surgery, which repairs and reconstructs ligaments in the elbow, has saved many pitching careers by allowing players to come back from career-ending issues. Unfortunately, it seems that a high number of high school pitchers are electing to have this surgery done as well, and it may not be the best thing for them.

A recent study, which was conducted by researchers at the University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, has shown that high school players account for the majority of Tommy John surgeries across the nation. Brandon Erickson, who led the study, explains that this trend is increasing at an alarming rate.

"Our results showed that 15-19 year-olds accounted for 56.7 percent of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR) or Tommy John surgeries performed in the U.S. between 2007-2011. This is a significant increase over time with an average increase of 9.12 percent per year," he said.

Many of these young people are getting this surgery in the hopes that they can achieve a professional baseball career. Many big-league pitchers who have had the surgery come back to the field throwing harder and better than ever. The researchers caution that this is not typical or advisable.

"The research numbers suggest that more young athletes believe that having an UCLR procedure performed earlier in their career may lead to the big leagues or a scholarship, even though only one in 200 kids who play high school baseball will make it to the MLB. This paradigm shift needs to be evaluated further to help prevent overuse injuries in kids from the beginning of the season when most issues arise," said Erickson.

There are countless stories from young pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery, only to have their careers ended before they even began. One young man named Kellen Sillanpaa, who had dreams of making it to the Major Leagues, regrets ever having the surgery.

“I can honestly tell you that I worked harder than anybody else…I can’t hit 80 (mph), I play like crap and have a second surgery on my arm. It’s like, ‘Is it worth it?’”, he said. This goes to show that hard work may amount to nothing if an arm is overused at a young age. 

Google accidentally revealed more than it intended to in its latest transparency report. The Guardian reported today that it discovered “new data hidden in...

Google accidentally revealed more than it intended to in its latest transparency report. The Guardian reported today that it discovered “new data hidden in source code on Google’s own transparency report that indicates the scale and flavour of the types of requests being dealt with by Google – information it has always refused to make public. The data covers more than three-quarters of all requests to date.”

Those “requests” the Guardian mentioned are link-takedown requests invoking the so-called “right to be forgotten,” a legal [privilege and/or burden, depending who you ask] covering people and organizations in the European Union, but not in the United States (though some U.S.-based consumer groups would like to see that change).

The European “right to be forgotten” dates back to May 2014, when the E.U. Court of Justice ruled that Google and other search engines are, in at least some circumstances, legally obligated to stop linking to old news stories about various people — true and accurate news stories about people — if the people in question request it.

The original case was brought by a Spanish national, Mario Costeja González, whose house was auctioned off for unpaid taxes back in 1998. A Spanish newspaper printed legal notices about the proceedings — standard operating procedure for a local paper, in Spain or in America — and then in 2009, Costeja asked the newspaper to remove the stories from their online archives and also asked Google to stop linking to the stories, on the grounds that those 11-year-old news pieces about his debts were no longer relevant, since the debts in question had been settled.

Google and the newspaper refused, so Costeja sued them both. The court sided with the newspaper – so it is not required to remove the stories from its website. But the court also sided against Google – the stories can stay online, but Google has to stop linking to them when people search for the name “Mario Costeja González.” Specifically, Google and other search engines must honor certain takedown requests which involve “irrelevant and outdated” search results.

As soon as the European court announced its decision, Google was inundated with takedown requests. Within two days of the court ruling, the BBC mentioned three of them: a politician running for re-election asked Google to stop linking to old news stories about his behavior while in office, a pedophile wanted Google to stop linking to news articles about his previous criminal conviction for possession of child pornography, and a doctor wanted to take down links to negative reviews written by his patients.

But that was only during the first two days of Europe's “right to be forgotten.” That right is now 14 months old and, according to the Guardian, “Less than 5% of nearly 220,000 individual requests made to Google to selectively remove links to online information concern criminals, politicians and high-profile public figures … with more than 95% of requests coming from everyday members of the public.”

Not that you'll find this statistic in the transparency report itself. The Guardian figured it out by analyzing previously archived versions of older transparency reports. The data “details the numeric breakdown of each request and associated link by country and issue type. The underlying source code has since been updated to remove these details.”

Information about specific takedown requests doesn't seem to be available, but the Guardian said that “Of 218,320 requests to remove links between 29 May 2014 and 23 March 2015, 101,461 (46%) have been successfully delisted on individual name searches. Of these, 99,569 involve 'private or personal information'.”

Although some consumer or privacy groups want Google to honor a similar “right to be forgotten” in America – and even asked the Federal Trade Commission to require it – it's not certain whether such a law would even be constitutional. Unlike Europeans, Americans have First Amendment guarantees to free speech and a free press, which sometimes means that laws allowable in the E.U. wouldn't pass constitutional muster in the United States (and, conversely, that certain U.S. laws and practices violate privacy laws in the E.U.).

For example: in Europe, you won't find many websites like ConsumerAffairs or Yelp, for the simple reason that businesses can bring libel charges against anyone who speaks ill of them and have a reasonable certainty of winning, even if the criticism is accurate. (And now, even if websites like ConsumerAffairs did operate in Europe, it might be illegal for Google to link to our stories anyway.)

That said, European supporters of the “right to be forgotten” will likely view the accidental Google data dump as evidence favoring their cause. The Guardian quoted Dr. Paul Bernal, a lecturer in technology and media law at the University of East Anglia, as saying that the data suggests the right to be forgotten is a legitimate law (in the United Kingdom): “If most of the requests are private and personal ones, then it’s a good law for the individuals concerned. It seems there is a need for this – and people go for it for genuine reasons.”

It might have been enough that this year marked the the 40th anniversary of the movie “Jaws”, but then there was a rash of shark attacks along North Caroli...

It might have been enough that this year marked the the 40th anniversary of the movie “Jaws”, but then there was a rash of shark attacks along North Carolina's Outer Banks.

All of a sudden long-dormant fear of an ocean predator was top of mind among the public. It wasn't just “Shark Week” on a popular cable TV channel – it was shark summer.

All of this makes conservationists uncomfortable and worried that the U.S. is about to declare war on sharks. That would be a mistake, they say.

"We don't necessarily have to see conservation and public safety as at odds with each other,” said Fiorenza Micheli, a Stanford researcher and co-author of a new study tracing the history of shark attacks in California. “This is also true of coastal economies. People can coexist with predators."

Micheli and fellow researcher Francesco Ferretti say they found that the risk of a great white shark attack for individual ocean users in California has fallen by over 91% since 1950. To arrive at that figure they looked at the number of reported great white shark attacks that caused injuries on the California coast from 1950 to 2013, as recorded by the Global Shark Attack File.

During that time there were 86 attacks, with 13 of them being fatal. They weighted the numbers with information on coastal population growth and seasonal and weekly beach-going, surfing, scuba diving, abalone diving, and swimming.

The number of attacks has actually increased over the years, but the scientists attribute that to the fact that there are a lot more people in the ocean – not necessarily more sharks.

For example, they argue that three times as many people live in coastal California now than in 1950. The 7,000 surfers in 1950 became 872,000 by 2013. Certified scuba divers grew from about 2,000 at the beginning of the 1960s to about 408,000 in 2013.

The study also looks at when and where shark attacks take place, offering guidance for swimmers who want to avoid them.

"Doing this kind of analyses can inform us on hot spots and cold spots for shark activity in time and space that we can use to make informed decisions and give people a way to stay safe while they are enjoying the ocean,"

For example, in the fall there is a higher chance of finding big white sharks on the California coast than in the spring, when they migrate to Hawaii, said Ferretti. He points out that the chance of a shark attack increases at night. 

The authors say that in Mendocino County, Calif., it is 24 times safer to surf in March than in October and November. If surfers choose the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego in March, they can be 1,566 times safer than they would be during the fall months in Mendocino.

Meanwhile, the reason for eight shark attacks along North Carolina's beaches this summer remains a mystery. According to National Geographic, warmer water and ocean currents may have attracted smaller fish, which in turn attracted sharks. But the magazine states that it's probably due to more humans being in the water.

In North Carolina, evidence is piling up that suggests there are also a lot more sharks in the water. Charter boat captains interviewed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch say there is now an over-population of sharks off the Carolina coast that has been building for years.

Some tuna fishermen say they are only able to boat half their catches before they are at least partially eaten by sharks.

A healthy immune system is important to maintaining overall health, but sometimes it can also cause problems in the body instead of helping you heal. Resea...

A healthy immune system is important to maintaining overall health, but sometimes it can also cause problems in the body instead of helping you heal. Researchers have discovered that there are two types of immune cells in the heart: ones that helps you heal and recover, and ones that cause inflammation and cause problems for sustained heart health.

 These two different immune cells are called macrophages. Up until now, the medical and scientific communities believed that all macrophages were the same, but researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found otherwise.

 “Macrophages have long been thought of as a single type of cell…Our study shows there actually are many different types of macrophages that originate in different places in the body. Some are protective and can help blood vessels grow and regenerate tissue. Others are inflammatory and can contribute to damage,” said Slava Epelman, who led the study. 

The long-standing idea was that all macrophages were developed in bone marrow. They would then travel to different areas of the body depending on what job needed to be done, such as helping to fight off disease or digesting dead cells.

“Now we know it’s more complicated,” said Epelman. “We found that the heart is one of the few organs with a pool of macrophages formed in the embryo and maintained into adulthood. The heart, brain and liver are the only organs that contain large numbers of macrophages that originated in the yolk sac, in very early stages of development, and we think these macrophages tend to be protective.”

Epelman and her team made this discovery through studying mice. They found that when the mice went through types of cardiac stress (i.e. high blood pressure, heart attack, etc.) then macrophages in the blood would come to the heart and overpower the embryonic macrophages that were already there. This can be dangerous, since macrophages from the blood can often lead to inflammation, whereas the embryonic macrophages help with healing.

“Now that we can tell the difference between these two types of macrophages, we can try targeting one but not the other,” said Epelman. “We want to try blocking the adult macrophages from the blood, which appear to be more inflammatory. And we want to encourage the embryonic macrophages that are already in the heart to proliferate in response to stress because they do things that are beneficial, helping the heart regenerate.” 

Epelman and her colleagues explain that embryonic macrophages promote healing because they were formed before birth and contributed to the healthy formation of different organs and other parts of the body. Macrophages found in the blood formed well after this time and are better equipped at fighting foreign contaminants. They cause inflammation since that is the body’s natural reaction to dealing with infection.

Researchers believe that this discovery may provide an answer for why some people are able to heal better than others after a heart attack. People with diabetes, for example, have macrophages that have been altered by their disease. As a result, their hearts often do not heal as well after cardiac events.

Although the discovery may open new avenues for rehabilitation after heart trauma, Epelman and her colleagues want to stress that macrophages are not a cure-all for cardiac problems. “Long established heart failure doesn’t recover…But in the first few months after injury, there’s a real potential to impact the heart’s recovery,” she said. 

Rexulti (brexpiprazole) tablets have won approval from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adults with schizophrenia and as an add-on treatme...

The foreclosure inventory plummeted 27.4% in May while completed foreclosures were down by 19.2% from the same time a year ago, according to the CoreLogic ...

The inventory of homes in foreclosure plummeted 27.4% in May, while completed foreclosures were down by 19.2% from the same time a year ago, according to the CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report .

Additionally, the provider of property information reports the number of foreclosures nationwide decreased year over year from 51,000 in May 2014 to 41,000 in May 2015, representing a plunge of 64.9% from the peak of completed foreclosures in September 2010.

Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 5.7 million completed foreclosures across the country; since home-ownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 7.8 million homes lost to foreclosure.

As of this past May, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 491,000, or 1.3%, of all homes with a mortgage compared with 676,000 homes, or 1.7%, in May 2014. This is the lowest foreclosure rate since December 2007.

CoreLogic also reports that the number of mortgages in serious delinquency (defined as 90 days or more past due, including those loans in foreclosure or REO) fell 22.7% from May 2014 to May 2015, with 1.3 million mortgages, or 3.5%, falling into this category. This is the lowest serious delinquency rate since January 2008. On a month-over-month basis, the number of seriously delinquent mortgages dipped 3.4%.

“With three million jobs created during the past year, the improving labor market has helped more borrowers stay current on their mortgage loan,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Because fewer loans are becoming seriously delinquent, the foreclosure inventory has come down to its lowest level in more than seven years, with only 1.3% of loans in foreclosure proceedings.”

“While the nation’s seriously delinquent rate -- 0 3.5% -- is at its lowest level since January 2008, it remains very high in several big markets,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The greater New York City region and central Florida continue to have some of the highest serious delinquency rates, almost doubling the national level. Default rates remain elevated in the Chicago and Baltimore metro areas as well.”

Retail sales fell in June after rising for 2 consecutive months Figures released by the Census Bureau show sales, adjusted for seasonal variation and holi...

Figures released by the Census Bureau show sales, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, totaled $442.0 billion. While that's down 0.3% from May, it's up 1.4% from the same time a year ago.

Major declines were seen in furniture and home furnishing stores (-1.6%), clothing and clothing accessories stores (-1.5%) and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-1.3%). Sales at auto and auto parts dealers were down 1.1%.

Gainers included electronics & appliance stores (+1.0%), gas stations (+0.8) and general merchandise stores (+0.7%).

Core sales, which strip out 3 volatile categories -- auto and auto parts dealers, building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, and gas stations -- were down 0.1%.

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 128,804 model year 2015 Sonatas manufactured April 25, 2014, to December 4, 2014. The front passenger seat belt's buck...

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 128,804 model year 2015 Sonatas manufactured April 25, 2014, to December 4, 2014.

The front passenger seat belt's buckle latch assembly may prevent the passenger from fastening the seat belt. As a result, the occupant of the front passenger seat runs an increased risk of injury in the event of a crash.

Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will repair or replace the front passenger seat belt buckle free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 21, 2015.

Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-671-3059. Hyundai's number for this recall is 130.

NatPets, doing business as "I and love and you," of Boulder, Colo., is recalling 1,299 cases of cow-boom! strips -- beef gullet. The product may be contam...

NatPets, doing business as "I and love and you," of Boulder, Colo., is recalling 1,299 cases of cow-boom! strips -- beef gullet.

The recall involves cow-boom! Strips – beef gullet packaged into 2.0-oz bags, with the lot numbers C20130-1994T1 and C20130-2024T1, a best-by-date of 07/2016 and UPC number 8 18336 01134 4.

The Company has notified its distributors and retailers and is taking this voluntary action as a precautionary measure. No other products of the company are affected by this recall.

Routine sampling by an inspector for the Colorado Department of Agriculture revealed the presence of Salmonella, which prompted this voluntary recall. This product is supplied by a U.S. supplier.

Customers who purchased this product should dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call at 855-ILY-LOVE Monday – Friday between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM (MT) or by email at service@ilypet.com.

General Motors is recalling 47,042 model year 2011-2013 Chevrolet Caprice vehicles manufactured October 15, 2010, to October 22, 2013, and 2008-2009 Pontia...

General Motors is recalling 47,042 model year 2011-2013 Chevrolet Caprice vehicles manufactured October 15, 2010, to October 22, 2013, and 2008-2009 Pontiac G8 vehicles manufactured July 25, 2007, to February 18, 2009.

The flexible steel cables that connect the seat belts to the vehicle at the outside of the driver seat and the front passenger seat may be bent from being sat on while entering the vehicle. This repeated bending may result in the cable breaking.

If the cable breaks, the seat occupant may not be properly restrained in the event of a crash, increasing their risk of injury.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the seat belt tensioner assembly which includes the steel cable, free of charge. These replacement parts reposition the tensioner cable out of the path of entry into the vehicle and uses a more flexible cable, set at a more upright angle. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020 or Pontiac customer service at 1-800-762-2737. GM's number for this recall is 15206.

Photo © Robert Wilson -- FotoliaShould rental car fleets have to perform safety recalls on the cars they rent to customers? Sen. John Thune thinks it...

Should rental car fleets have to perform safety recalls on the cars they rent to customers? Sen. John Thune thinks it should be left up to the customer. He has inserted language into a pending transportation funding bill that would allow rental car companies to keep renting recalled cars without bothering to fix them, as long as they notified renters in writing in advance.

But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who earlier introduced a measure that would prohibit renting recalled cars, objects.

"This bill would give companies the federal government's blessing to rent out dangerous vehicles and shifts the liability onto consumers if something goes wrong," Boxer said Friday. 

Most rental car companies have voluntarily agreed to stop renting recalled cars to consumers until they are fixed and the major companies say they support Boxer's bill. 

But that didn't help Jewel Brangman, 26. She was driving a rented Honda Civic last Sept. 7 when she was involved in a collision. The Takata airbag spewed shrapnel-like metal into the car, inflicting a severe neck laceration and killing Ms. Brangman, who became the eighth person known to have died from Takata-caused injuries. 

The car had been recalled back in 2009 but its owner, Sunset Car Rental of San Diego, had never bothered to have the car, which had been bought at auction with a salvage title, fixed, a lawsuit filed by Ms. Brangman's family alleges. Sunset Car Rental is now out of business. 

Car rental industry sources point the finger at NADA, the National Automobile Dealers Association. NADA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, NADA President Peter Welch testified in 2013 that Boxer's bill was "overly broad in that it regulates auto dealerships that operate small rental or loaner fleets in the same manner as multi-national rental car giants."

"Unlike large rental car companies that maintain a wide array of vehicle makes and models in their fleets, many dealers only maintain a single vehicle model in their loaner pools," Welch said, saying the Boxer bill "could cause an economic hardship for small dealers if a part necessary to fix a dealer’s only loaner vehicle model is unavailable."

Sources within the car rental industry suspect that one or more manufacturers are supporting the NADA effort because of "loss of use" concerns.

If a rental company is required to take hundreds of cars out of service for weeks or months waiting for parts needed to perform a recall, they can under some circumstances sue the manufacturer for the rental revenue they lose while the car sits idle on their lot. 

Last summer, the spike in recalls left rental companies with many cars out of service, putting a dent in revenue and causing inconvenience and frustration for consumers whose reservations could not be honored.

Thune's measure would make it easier for rental companies to keep recalled cars rolling down the road and ringing up revenue, partially relieving manufacturers' concerns.  

Thune, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, inserted the language permitting rentals of recalled cars into S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, a comprehensive measure commonly known as the "Highway Bill."

Under the provision, besides notifying customers in advance that their vehicle had been recalled, rental companies would also have 24 hours to notify customers if a recall notice was received during the time that the customer was using the car. 

But Thune's language makes clear that rental companies would be permitted to rent recalled cars: "Nothing in this subsection may be construed to prohibit a rental company from offering a motor vehicle for rent."

Thune did not respond to a request for comment but Frederick Hill, communications director for Thune's committee, said the measure is intended to be "pro-consumer." 

“Most rental companies do not rent vehicles under recall and some states also prohibit the practice. But in places where rental of vehicles under recall does occur, this provision would establish a new pro-consumer requirement that the recall status of a vehicle must be disclosed before renting a vehicle. This new requirement does not in any way preempt stronger state laws or stricter voluntary policies of individual rental companies,” Hill said.

Modern technology makes renting a car far more complicated than it used to be, especially if you want to protect your own personal privacy.For example:...

Soccer has been growing in popularity in the U.S. for many years. Hundreds of thousands of school-aged athletes participate at varying levels of competitio...

Soccer has been growing in popularity in the U.S. for many years. Hundreds of thousands of school-aged athletes participate at varying levels of competition across the nation. Unfortunately, the increasingly physical nature of the sport has led to a high number of concussions.

Many of these concussions can be attributed to the high volume of players that the nation produces. From 1969 to 2014, the number of schools that offered a soccer program increased from 2,217 to 11,718. Boy players increased from roughly 49,593 to 417,419 in the same time span; there were no girls playing soccer in 1969, but that number had increased to 375,564 in 2014. The sheer increase in numbers would naturally lead to more injuries, including concussions.

It would be easy to leave it at that, but researchers believe that there are other factors that contribute to the high concussion rate. R. Down Comstock, of the Colorado School of Public Health, and other researchers examined concussion data from 2005 through 2013, which comprised over three million athlete exposures (school-sanctioned soccer practices and competitions).

They found that instances of player-on-player contact were among the highest causes of concussions. For boys, 68.8 percent of all concussions resulted from player contact. This number decreased to 51.3 percent for girls, though that number is still very high.

Researchers were also able to focus on what players were doing when they were sustaining these concussions. Unlike other sports, soccer requires a player to actually use their head to strike the ball. This impact, along with collisions that occurred between players who contested for the same ball in the air, contributed to the largest number of concussions (78.1 percent for boys and 61.9 percent for girls).

Even though the researchers were able to determine why concussions were so widespread, it does not mean that they are likely to decrease. Soccer, especially in the U.S., is becoming more and more physical as time goes on. Even if leagues were to ban heading the ball, the numbers would not likely decline.

“We postulate that banning heading from soccer will have limited effectiveness as a primary prevention mechanism (i.e. in preventing concussion injuries) unless such a ban is combined with concurrent efforts to reduce athlete-athlete contact throughout the game,” the researchers said.

For now, the most important thing that players and coaches can do is practice and teach proper technique when heading or contesting the ball. Players should be sure to avoid heading the ball on unsafe areas of the head (usually right on top of the skull). Using one’s arms to secure an area (without pushing out) can also reduce dangerous athlete-athlete collisions.

By declaring Wednesday, July 15 “Prime Day,” Amazon.com has unleashed the competitive juices of American capitalism. Walmart, America's largest retailer...

By declaring Wednesday, July 15 “Prime Day,” Amazon.com has unleashed the competitive juices of American capitalism.

Walmart, America's largest retailer, isn't taking the challenge lying down. While Amazon is promising huge one-day savings for members of Amazon Prime, Walmart is having a sale of its own. And in a dig at its online rival, Walmart says you don't have to pay a membership fee to save money.

“We’ve heard some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale,” Ferbando Madeira, president and CEO of Walmart, wrote in a blog. “But the idea of asking customers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us.”

With the holiday shopping season still months away, Wamart said it will lower the purchase threshold for free shipping and promises to unveil a slew of discounts on Wednesday, when Amazon hopes to reap a bonanza in sales.

Earlier this month Amazon announced Prime Day as a challenge to Black Friday, the official start to the holiday shopping season – a day famous for dramatic mark-downs at retail stores. On Wednesday, new and existing Prime members will have access to a series of Black Friday style bargains, with new deals posted as often as every 10 minutes.

Amazon says Prime Members can shop thousands of Lightning Deals, 7 popular Deals of the Day and receive unlimited fast, free shipping. The promotion may not just be about moving merchandise, but also signing up prime members.

It costs $99 a year to be a Prime member but you get free second-day shipping on purchases and access to video content, as well as the ability to borrow Kindle ebooks at no charge.

As we reported earlier, Amazon's challenge to Black Friday promotions caught the attention of a Black Friday deal site, BestBlackFriday.com. The folks at Jones-Dengler Marketing, which operates the website, responded to Amazon by issuing a challenge of their own.

“Since Amazon is claiming Prime Day will surpass Black Friday in items and prices, we issued them a challenge,” BestBlackFriday.com's Phil Dengler said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “We listed the prices for the most popular items in their sale, and across other retailers, on Black Friday 2014 and dared them to go lower.”

All of this, no doubt, is good for consumers who don't want to wait until the holidays to find good deals. But it goes without saying it's pretty good for Amazon too. Every time a rival challenges Prime Day, it simply calls more attention to Amazon's Christmas-in-July promotion.

Good news for former students of Corinthian Colleges, the now-defunct chain of for-profit schools that operated under the names Everest, WyoTech and Heald:...

Good news for former students of Corinthian Colleges, the now-defunct chain of for-profit schools that operated under the names Everest, WyoTech and Heald: as a result of court documents filed last Friday, the Department of Education will temporarily halt collection efforts against students in default, until at least November 6.

Corinthian declared bankruptcy in May after years of trouble with state and federal-level legal authorities. To offer a small sampling of those troubles: in Corinthian's last year of operation, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued the company for predatory lending (ultimately resulting in a collective $480 million in debt relief for former students); the Department of Education levied tens of millions of dollars in fines against it after an investigation “confirmed cases” that the company misrepresented the schools' job placement rates to current and prospective students; and the attorneys general of multiple states went so far as to urge the feds to relieve all Corinthian student debt on the grounds that Corinthian misled students about pretty much everything: the quality of its educational programs, transferability of credits, likelihood of job placement afterwards, the availability of internships … pretty much everything a student needs to consider before choosing a school.

Under ordinary circumstances, suspending Corinthian-related student debt would be a no-brainer: the company was essentially running a scam, with students as the victims. But the federal government has so far been reluctant to offer a broad-sweeping debt amnesty, because that would leave the feds on the hook for the money: like most for-profit schools, Corinthian was almost entirely dependent on federally backed student aid (especially student loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy) for its operating costs and profit margins.

That's probably why, as the Huffington Post noted earlier this month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is “'thrilled' to close Corinthian Colleges, not so ready to help its former students.”

Indeed, during Corinthian's final year of operation, even as various state and federal agencies suspended aid or levied fines against the company, the Department of Education bent over backwards to try keeping the company afloat. In June 2014, for example, when the DoE temporarily suspended all federal aid for Corinthian students, Corinthian initially protested that the action could put it out of business (possibly the only 100% truthful statement the company ever made about its operations). But Corinthian was able to hang on a few months longer, after reaching a “memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Education that maintains uninterrupted daily operations at its schools.”

The federal government spent years financing a harmful scam, and thus far the victims of that scam are still left holding the bag. Who will pick it up after this November remains to be seen.

Airbnb is a lodging app for travelers, but in a partnership with real estate site Reator.com, it's moving into the real estate marketing space with a promo...

Airbnb is a lodging app for travelers, but in a partnership with real estate site Reator.com, it's moving into the real estate marketing space with a promotion called “Try Before You Buy.”

The idea is to allow a prospective buyer to check out a neighborhood before making the huge commitment of buying a home there. Spending a night or two in the environment you're considering as a home might give you a whole new perspective.

It's always been possible to check into a hotel for that purpose, but hotels are usually in commercial areas, whereas airbnb rentals are normally in residential neighborhoods.

Now, when you click on a listing on Realtor.com, you are given a Try Before You Buy option, just above the map. For example, let's say you were interested in this condo in the West Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Among the three airbnb Try Before You Buy offerings is this Hollywood Hills guest suite for $145 a night. According to the listing, the room is in a house in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, 5 minutes from the Sunset Strip, 10 minutes from shopping on Rodeo Drive, 15 minutes from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Dolby Theater, and 20 minutes from Universal Studios.

Realtor.com says its just one of the ways prospective buyers can carry out neighborhood reconnaissance, helping to make good buying decisions and avoiding bad ones. For example, the site suggests doing a little cyber-sleuthing, consulting websites like City-Data, which collects and analyzes data from a wide variety of sources to create detailed profiles of U.S. cities. You'll find information about everything from crime rates to weather patterns.

Homefacts includes similar information, but goes further by listing neighborhood statistics such as median home price, homes for sale, and foreclosures.

If you are concerned about potential crime in a neighborhood, check out My Local Crime. By typing in an address, you get a map showing reported crimes in the vicinity.

AreaVibes is another site that can help you narrow down a search. Just type a ZIP code or city and adjust metrics that are important to you – amenities, crime, cost of living, and housing prices, for example. You'll then get a list of neighborhoods that match your “livability” needs.

Not sure what you should be looking for? Realtor.com suggests scoping out potential neighborhoods, taking note of the number of homes for sale, the overall appearance, and proximity to shopping or business areas. In urban areas, parking and public transit may also be important considerations.

Photo © kasto - FotoliaThe future, when we are teleported great distances or fly around like the Jetsons, cannot get here soon enough.But until t...

The future, when we are teleported great distances or fly around like the Jetsons, cannot get here soon enough.

But until that time comes we must all rely on commercial airlines, and the evidence suggests that isn't going to become any more pleasant than it is right now. The latest evidence comes in the form of a patent application filed by a French aircraft equipment manufacturer.

Zodiac Seats France has devised a way to cram even more passengers aboard a commercial aircraft. Drawings submitted with its patent application (PDF) show the reconfigured cabin, with the middle seat in each row facing backward. The company says that will allow current planes to hold additional passengers.

“Described are seating arrangement with at least one row having at least one forward-facing seat and at least one aft-facing seat,” the company said in its filing. “The at least one forward-facing seat and the at least one aft-facing seat are arranged adjacent to one another so that a shoulder space on one side of the at least one forward-facing seat overlaps with the adjacent shoulder space of the at least one aft-facing seat.”

In other words, you'll get to know the person sitting next to you on a flight a little better than you ordinarily might.

Just because such a thing is being patented does not necessarily mean that airlines will implement it, but it is hard to believe that at least some won't. Airlines have rarely overlooked any possible means to add more passengers to planes without having to increase flights.

Restrooms are another area airlines have targeted for cost-cutting. While on-board facilities are vital to passenger comfort, they do not make a dime for an airline.

Marketwatch recently reported that Boeing is shrinking the size of restrooms on the 777-300ER jetliner. Doing so might reduce comfort for the 400 passengers but it will allow airlines to add 14 seats – whose occupants will have to compete for the smaller lavatories.

Airbus is reportedly planning to install smaller restrooms on its A320 to make more space for luggage.

Airlines clawed their way back to profitability after the 2008 financial crisis by adding fees for everything from checked bags to blankets and pillows. Now that the economy is recovering and demand for air travel is increasing, airlines are searching for ways to accommodate the demand without adding flights.

There is little thought, apparently, to raising fares because travel experts seem to agree that travelers are entirely too focused on price when they select a flight. Consumers want to pay as little as possible to fly, and are apparently willing to sacrifice comfort to save a few dollars.

Everyone loves animals these days but cuddling up with baby chicks and ducklings isn't a great idea. It's being blamed for a major salmonella outbreak that...

Everyone loves animals these days but cuddling up with baby chicks and ducklings isn't a great idea. It's being blamed for a major salmonella outbreak that has infected at least 181 people in 40 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the outbreak is largely caused by consumers bringing live poultry into their homes, cudding with them, kissing them and generally getting up close and personal with their flocks.

The CDC said that 86 percent of the infected people who were interviewed said they had been in close contact with live poultry. No deaths have been reported but at least 33 people were hospitalized.

If you must handle poultry, the CDC suggests washing your hands thoroughly and cleaning up any inside area where the creatures may have been. Better yet, CDC says, keep barnyard animals in the barnyard.

Salmonella is endemic in U.S. chicken populations and both eggs and raw poultry can be sources of infection.

Onset time for salmonellosis is usually 6 to 48 hours. Acute symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, minal diarrhea, fever, and headache. Arthritic symptoms may follow 3-4 weeks after the onset of acute symptoms.

Acute symptoms may last for 1 to 2 days or may be prolonged, again depending on host factors, ingested dose, and strain characteristics.

Salmonellosis can cause severe and even fatal illness in small children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

The incidence of salmonellosis appears to be rising both in the U.S. and in other industrialized nations. The strain known as S. enteritidis has shown a dramatic rise in the past decade, particularly in the northeast United States, and the increase in human infections is spreading south and west, with sporadic outbreaks in other regions.

Consumers who travel in foreign countries often get a nasty surprise when they return home – a cell phone bill of $1,000 or more.That's because roaming...

American Express has rolled out a new online payment platform it says makes it easier and safer for both consumers and merchants to conduct business. At...

Crayons: they make the color of the rainbow and you can make anything you want with them. They are the secret element in making a child’s world come to lif...

Crayons: they make the color of the rainbow and you can make anything you want with them. They are the secret element in making a child’s world come to life, but a new study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group says some crayons may contain asbestos. Most crayon boxes say that the product is non-toxic, but this study indicates they could pose a serious risk to small children.

The researchers found that asbestos could be released into the air while the crayon products are being used. Sonya Lunder, EWG's lead researcher on the study, cautions parents to be careful about what they expose their children to. “The lesson here is that parents can’t just read labels and choose safer products by looking at the labels themselves,” she said.

Members of the Office of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OHSHA) and Richard Lemen, the Ex-U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, echo this sentiment from Lunder. They explain that exposure to asbestos, however brief or small, is potentially dangerous.

So what exactly is asbestos and how can it be so harmful? Well, asbestos is made of long, thin mineral fibers that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. If they are inhaled by humans, it can lead to scarring and inflammation of the lungs, breathing impairment, lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma (which is a cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdominal cavity).

These terrible medical problems have led to asbestos being banned for many uses around the world. Now that it has been found in crayons, many people are panicking that it may already have affected their loved ones. It was discovered in 2000 that three out of eight crayon brands contained asbestos, according to a Seattle Post Intelligencer study. Although crayon companies are not required to keep asbestos out of its products, families everywhere are calling for its removal.

“Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children, today as it did in 2000 and 2007, the last time tests found the deadly substance in these children’s products,” says Dr. Phillip Landrigan, who is a professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing penalties totaling $1.23 million against SkyWest Airlines for 2 separate cases of regulation violati...

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing penalties totaling $1.23 million against SkyWest Airlines for 2 separate cases of regulation violations.

In the first, in which the penalty is $911,000, the St. George, Utah-based carrier allegedly operated 2 aircraft that were not in compliance with federal aviation regulations. According to the agency, SkyWest failed to inspect the cargo door skins on two Bombardier CL-600 jets at required intervals. The inspections were required by an Airworthiness Directive (AD) issued in 2006 after cracks were discovered in the aluminum cargo door skin of a CL-600 during fatigue testing.

The FAA determined that regular inspections of that type of aircraft for similar cracking could help prevent a situation in which a cracked skin could lead to an accident or unsafe condition. SkyWest is said to have operated the aircraft on a total of 15,969 flights when the inspections were overdue.

The FAA is also proposing a penalty of $320,000 on grounds that SkyWest failed to inspect certain main landing gear components on four Bombardier CL-600 jets at required intervals for wear that could lead to an unsafe condition or failure of a component. SkyWest allegedly operated the aircraft on more than 6,700 flights when the inspections were overdue.

“Safety is our top priority,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We expect operators to comply fully with all FAA regulations and directives.”

Some people think high-voltage power lines cause cancer while others are convinced that wi-fi is a threat to human health. Others worry about cell phones. ...

Some people think high-voltage power lines cause cancer while others are convinced that wi-fi is a threat to human health. Others worry about cell phones. And don't even think mention non-stick skillets.

But wind farms? Oh sure, the giant blades may slice through a buzzard now and then but how would a wind farm be harmful to humans?

Well, a new German study suggests that the very-low-frequency sounds generated by the windmill's rotor blades and windflow may be detected by the human brain, contradicting the assumption that the sounds are below the threshold of human hearing.

Researchers at the European Meteorology Research Program (EMRP) found that humans can hear sounds lower than previously thought. Also, the mechanisms of sound perception are much more complex than expected, the researchers said.

People living in the vicinity of wind farms have reported experiencing sleep disturbances, a decline in performance, and other negative effects, apparently from the "infrasound" generated by the turbines. Infrasound refers to very low sounds, around 16 hertz, generally thought to be below the limit of hearing.

Earlier studies have come to similar conclusions. In 2014, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that the low-frequency sounds could cause panic, sleep disturbances, stress and elevated blood pressure.

The wind power industry dismisses such complaints, saying that the sounds generated by the wind farms are too low and too faint to be detected by humans. But Christian Koch, the lead researcher in a study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, says it's not that clear-cut.

"Neither scaremongering nor refuting everything is of any help in this situation. Instead, we must try to find out more about how sounds in the limit range of hearing are perceived," Koch said.

Koch and his team used brain imaging to tell when test subjects were aware of very low sounds and found that humans hear sounds as low as 8 hertz -- a full octave lower than previously thought. The test subjects confirmed that they heard something and MRI-type devices showed a reaction in parts of the brain that play a role in emotion.

"This means that a human being has a rather diffuse perception, saying that something is there and that this might involve danger," Koch said. "But we're actually at the very beginning of our investigations. Further research is urgently needed."

Carnivore Meat Company is recalling select products and lots of Carnivore Vital Essentials pet foods. The products may be contaminated with Listeria monoc...

Carnivore Meat Company is recalling select products and lots of Carnivore Vital Essentials pet foods.

The "Best By" date code and lot # are located on the back of the package. The recalled products were distributed in Washington, California, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio and Vermont.

Customers who purchased the recalled products should call 920-370-6542 Monday-Friday 9:00AM-4:00PM (CST) for assistance in obtaining replacement or a full refund. Open packages should be disposed of in a covered trash receptacle.

Maya Overseas Foods of Maspeth, N.Y,, is recalling approximately 8000 lbs. of Cashew Split. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses...

The recalled product was distributed between February 18, 2015, and March 20, 2015 to retailers and restaurants in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Florida, in 7-oz. (UPC 020843230389), 14-oz. (UPC 020843230716), 28-oz. (UPC 020843230327) and 5-lb. (UPC 020843230303) clear plastic pouches. It was also sold in bulk 50-lbs. tins.

Customers who purchased Maya brand Cashew Split should not to consume it, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 88,346 model year 2008-2010 Dodge Challengers manufactured September 19, 2007, to October 29, 2010. The dual-stage driver ...

Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 88,346 model year 2008-2010 Dodge Challengers manufactured September 19, 2007, to October 29, 2010.

The dual-stage driver front air bag that may be susceptible to moisture intrusion which, over time, could cause the inflator to rupture. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver's front air bag, the inflator could rupture with metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front air bag inflator, free of charge. Parts to remedy the vehicles are not currently available. Interim notices will be mailed to owners beginning August 14, 2015. Owners will be sent a second notice when remedy parts become available.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is R37.

Gourmet Culinary Solutions of Statham, Ga., is recalling approximately 495 pounds of turkey sausage product that is part of a frozen entree that also conta...

Gourmet Culinary Solutions of Statham, Ga., is recalling approximately 495 pounds of turkey sausage product that is part of a frozen entree that also contains French toast sticks and peaches.

8.25-oz. compartment trays of “Golden Gourmet French Toast Sticks with Turkey Patty & Peaches” with “Use by Date: 11/14/16.”

The package bears establishment number “P-21200” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Individual entrees were distributed to older adults in Georgia as part of the Meals on Wheels program.

General Motors is recalling 686,287 model year 2008-2012 Buick Enclaves manufactured January 3, 2007, to February 29, 2012; 2009-2012 Chevrolet Traverses m...

General Motors is recalling 686,287 model year 2008-2012 Buick Enclaves manufactured January 3, 2007, to February 29, 2012; 2009-2012 Chevrolet Traverses manufactured July 6, 2008, to February 29, 2012; 2007-2012 GMC Acadias manufactured September 15, 2006, to February 29, 2012; and 2007-2010 Saturn Outlooks manufactured August 17, 2006, to March 18, 2010.

The vehicles, equipped with the power liftgate option, have gas struts that hold the power liftgate up when open. These struts may prematurely wear and the open liftgate may suddenly fall. If the open liftgate unexpectedly falls, it may strike a person, producing a risk of injury.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will update the software for the power liftgate actuator motor control unit so that the motor will prevent the rapid closing of the lift gate, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300, Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020, GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782, and Saturn customer service at 1-800-553-6000. GM's number for this recall is 15240.

Doctors have long suspected that there is some causal relationship between a pregnant woman's use of a class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective s...

Doctors have long suspected that there is some causal relationship between a pregnant woman's use of a class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and the increased risk of birth defects.

A major U.S. government study, published in the British Medical Journal, has indeed found a link (PDF).

While the authors of the study said they found an increased risk, it is still fairly low. They suggest a need for additional studies “to enable women and their healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about treatment.”

This isn't exactly a new issue, and numerous studies over the years have reached conflicting conclusions. That's led to a lot of uncertainty around the safety of antidepressant use during pregnancy.

A team of researchers, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, specifically looked at the types of birth defects previously reported by women who had been taking SSRIs. The researchers combined results from independent published analyses with data from the US National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) to give a more balanced estimate of any association between individual SSRIs and birth defects.

The study was a major one, analyzing 17,952 mothers of infants with birth defects and 9,857 mothers of infants without birth defects, born between 1997 and 2009. Drugs under review included the brand names Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.

To be included, a woman had to take one of these drugs at least once in the time period between one month before conception and the third month of pregnancy. Women who reported taking antidepressants other than SSRIs or reporting pre-existing diabetes were excluded.

Zoloft was the most commonly used SSRI, but none of the five previously reported associations between Zoloft and birth defects were confirmed. The authors say that's good news because about 40% of women reporting use of an SSRI in early pregnancy used that drug.

For nine other previously reported associations between maternal SSRI use and birth defects in infants, findings were also consistent with no association.

Where a link did emerge was between the use of Prozac and two birth defects - heart wall defects and irregular skull shape. Five birth defects associated with Paxil were also observed. They included heart defects, problems with brain and skull formation, and abdominal wall defects.

The main takeaway, the authors say, is there is some reassurance that some SSRIs have no association with birth defects, but that others carry a concern, albeit a small one.

“Although our analysis strongly supports the validity of the associations that were observed, the increase in the absolute risks, if the associations are causal, is small,” the authors concluded.

For example the risk of a particular birth defect might rise from 2 per 10,000 to 7 per 10,000. The researchers say physicians should take their findings into account when making treatment decisions.

Gasoline prices always tend to be higher on the West Coast, but motorists in California are almost dizzy because of how prices have jumped in the last coup...

Gasoline prices always tend to be higher on the West Coast, but motorists in California are almost dizzy because of how prices have jumped in the last couple of days.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) report on Wednesday showed almost no gasoline was imported into California in the previous week. With refineries in the state already operating under maintenance schedules and trying to meet growing demand, the market immediately reacted to the growing shortfall.

“In the next 48 hours prices in California are expected to jump 25 to 50 cents a gallon,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, told ConsumerAffairs. “In some cases we're already seeing people on social media reporting gas stations raising prices 80 cents in one day.”

The price escalation began Wednesday when the implications of the numbers became clear. Refineries increased shipments to California weeks ago because prices were rising.

When the gasoline market became saturated, the wholesale price began to fall and suppliers started looking elsewhere. As a result California got shortchanged.

“Because there were no imports into California, gasoline inventories on the West Coast declined by 42 million barrels in one week,” DeHaan said. “That's a huge drop and it put California's supply of gasoline below what I would consider a healthy level.”

Wholesale prices went through the roof in the moments and hours after the EIA report became public; on Thursday they surged even more. DeHaan says there could even be temporary shortages.

“It's becoming very hard to find gasoline in California and don't be surprised if some stations there decide not to fill their tanks,” he said.

That's because these sky-high prices won't last. Because of the current shortage, shipments will likely surge in the next few days, bringing the wholesale price back to earth. If a station has paid the current high price for fuel, it will be stuck with overpriced product when competitors are selling it for much less. If stations can wait a few days, the price might be much less.

“It's a game of roulette,” DeHaan said. “If prices go up a buck a gallon, they'll eventually come back down by that amount.”

With market forces in play, California will go from having virtually no imported gasoline to being flooded with the stuff.

“You now have refineries throughout the globe trying to secure tankers to send gasoline to California because of the absolute insanity and the lofty prices they can lock in,” DeHaan said.

And that will continue the vicious circle. A huge influx of supply will bring down prices. In the meantime, however, consumers will feel some pain at the pump.

In the meantime, DeHaan says the refineries that are producing gasoline in California “are making a windfall.”

California and other West Coast drivers may be particularly irked that their fuel prices are surging at a time when crude oil prices are falling even more, but the excess supply of petroleum isn't helping because the refineries first have to turn it into gasoline. At the present time, they lack the capacity to do that, DeHaan says.

At least 8 deaths and scores of injuries have been attributed to faulty inflators in Takata airbags, prompting the recall of millions of vehicles worldwide...

At least 8 deaths and scores of injuries have been attributed to faulty inflators in Takata airbags, prompting the recall of millions of vehicles worldwide.

The company has apologized numerous times but it seemed logical to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that the company set up a fund to compensate victims and their families. Blumenthal aired that opinion during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“I am astonished and deeply disappointed by Takata's refusal to establish a victim’s compensation fund – even after 100 injuries and eight deaths attributed to its defective airbags, numbers almost certain to rise,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Takata is apparently unwilling to acknowledge its responsibility for these tragic deaths and injuries, or do justice for victims and their loved ones.”

Blumenthal, formerly Connecticut's consumer-friendly attorney general, said he would press Takata to reconsider what he calls a “callous misjudgment and do right by the innocent victims of its harm.”

In a letter to Blumenthal, Takata Executive Vice President Kevin Kennedy once again expressed regret for the deaths and injuries. But the reason for declining the suggestion to compensate victims now appears to be grounded in a policy of providing compensation only when forced to do so.

“As you may know, Takata has already resolved a number of claims involving airbag ruptures, and we intend to continue to discuss settlement of claims in appropriate cases going forward,” Kennedy wrote. “At the present time, given the limited number of claims filed and the MDL procedures in place that permit the efficient coordination of related claims, Takata believes that a national compensation fund is not currently required.”

Kennedy did say the company would give Blumethal's suggestion further study and would let him know if its thinking changed.

Takata only agreed to a recall in May under vigorous prodding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agreement between Takata and NHTSA came after Takata at first denied the airbags were defective and at one point even questioned NHTSA's authority to order a recall.  

Archuleta (OPM Photo) Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta quit today amid widespread criticism of her office’s handling of a m...

Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta quit today amid widespread criticism of her office’s handling of a massive data breach that exposed the personal records of more than 22 million people. 

Members of Congress had been calling for Archuleta's resignation since June, when the OPM, which handles security clearances for government employees and contractors, admitted that for the second time in a year, hackers had managed to breach their own security and steal data on up to four million current or former holders of security clearances.

Those four million people in June were presumably in addition to the five million federal employees whose data had been compromised when hackers breached the OPM the previous July.

But in a statement released yesterday, the OPM admitted that the extent of the breach was vastly greater than originally believed:

The team has now concluded with high confidence that sensitive information, including the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of 21.5 million individuals, was stolen from the background investigation databases.  This includes 19.7 million individuals that applied for a background investigation, and 1.8 million non-applicants, predominantly spouses or co-habitants of applicants.  As noted above, some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and approximately 1.1 million include fingerprints.  

That innocuous statement about “findings from interviews” presumably includes a lot of blackmail-worthy information, though no further details have been provided. OPM says that the data of anyone who applied for a security clearance since 2000 (or the spouse or roommate of any such person) is probably at risk. Even pre-2000 data is not guaranteed safe, though it's far less likely that the hackers have it.

Security investigators familiar with the case say the evidence suggests the hackers had backing from the Chinese government – though China's government has consistently denied having any role in the attacks, and pointed out that hacking is illegal under Chinese law.

The OPM hackers aren't the only ones suspected of having Chinese connections. The same hackers are also believed to be behind:

last November's breach of the United States Postal Service database (800,000 USPS employees' records compromised, and possibly information about USPS customers as well);

last February's breach of Anthem health insurance company (80 million current and former customers compromised, many of whom work for the federal government or various defense contractors);

last May's breach of CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield (“only” 1.1 million that time, but they're mostly residents of D.C. or its suburbs which, like the Anthem breach, means a large percentage of them probably worked for the federal government in some capacity).

On Thursday, when the OPM announced the newly discovered extent of the breach, it also said it would provide credit and identity monitoring services for affected individuals. The OPM also established what it calls an “online incident resource center” as a clearinghouse for information about the breach, and said that “We will begin to notify people affected by the background investigation incident in the coming weeks. At that time, you will be auto-enrolled in some services and will need to take action to enroll in others.”

In fine print at the bottom of the page, the OPM also said that you can email cybersecurity@opm.gov with any questions, or call 866-740-7153 for an “automated message on the incidents.” As of press time, that automated message doesn't offer any information you can't find more readily on the OPM's “incident resource center” – if you want generalized information about the breach information, clicking this link is a better bet than calling the number.

Bad news for fans of zoos – it looks like hackers managed to breach the payment card point-of-sale (POS) systems operated by Service Systems Associates, wh...

Bad news for fans of zoos – it looks like hackers managed to breach the payment card point-of-sale (POS) systems operated by Service Systems Associates, which serves restaurants and gift shops at zoos and other cultural centers across the country.

Security expert Brian Krebs reports that his sources in the banking industry have detected a pattern of fraudulent charges on payment cards sharing a common point of purchase: all had been used at a zoo gift shop with a Service Systems Associates POS.

SSA confirmed the problem in a written statement. “The violation occurred in the point of sale systems located in the gift shops of several of our clients. This means that if a guest used a credit or debit card in the gift shop at one of our partner facilities between March 23 and June 25, 2015, the information on that card may have been compromised.”

The company did not name the exact locations affected by the hacking, but Krebs' sources think the breach hit facilities in at least two dozen cities across the nation (list alphabetized by state):

Birmingham, Alabama Tucson, Arizona Fresno, Palm Desert, Sacramento, and San Francisco, California Colorado Springs, Colorado Miami, Florida Honolulu, Hawaii Boise, Idaho Fort Wayne, Indiana Louisville, Kentucky Baltimore, Maryland Battle Creek, Michigan Apple Valley, Minnesota Cincinnati, Ohio Tulsa, Oklahoma Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Columbia, South Carolina Dallas, El Paso, and Houston, Texas Nashville, Tennessee Salt Lake City, Utah

If you visited a zoo in one of those cities between March 23 and June 25 of this year, and used your card to pay, check your balance more carefully than usual to see if you can spot any fraudulent charges.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are very effective pain relievers, providing relief from headache, backache, and arthritis. People with high ...

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are very effective pain relievers, providing relief from headache, backache, and arthritis. People with high blood pressure or heart disease have always needed to be careful when taking these products, though, because of the increased medical risk they pose.

Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that even healthy consumers should be careful when taking them. The agency is strengthening an existing warning on prescription drug labels and over-the-counter (OTC) Drug Facts labels to warn that NSAIDs can increase the chance of a potentially fatal heart attacks or strokes.

The OTC drugs in this group include popular brand names like Advil, Aleve, Motrin, and Nuprin. Prescription NSAIDs include Cox-2 inhibitors like Celebrex. Aspirin is also an NSAID but is not included in the revised warning.

Because many prescription and OTC medicines contain NSAIDs, the FDA says consumers should avoid taking multiple remedies with the same active ingredient.

“Be careful not to take more than one product that contains an NSAID at a time,” said Dr. Karen Mahoney, deputy director of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products.

To know if you are taking more than one NSAID at a time, you'll need to check the list of active ingredients in the Drug Facts label.

Labels on both prescription NSAIDs and OTC NSAIDs already have information on heart attack and stroke risk. In the future, the FDA will require manufacturers of prescription NSAIDs to update their labels with more specific information about heart attack and stroke risks. The FDA will also request that the manufacturers of OTC NSAIDs update the heart attack and stroke risk information in Drug Facts labels.

The FDA has required warning labels on NSAIDs since 2005. In 2004, a highly popular prescription NSAID called Vioxx was pulled from the market after the FDA linked it with more than 27,000 deaths.

OTC NSAIDs are mostly used for occasional pain relief, but some people take them regularly to deal with chronic conditions. The FDA says it wants these consumers to know that new research shows heart attack and stroke risks have materialized very early during prolonged use.

“There is no period of use shown to be without risk,” said Dr. Judy Racoosin, deputy director of the FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products.

The agency is adding information to the drug label for people who have already had a heart attack. The latest research suggests these people are at increased risk of having another heart attack or dying of heart attack-related causes if they’re treated with NSAIDs.

But Racoosin says there is also increased risk for people who don't have a history of cardiovascular disease.

“Everyone may be at risk,” she said. – even people without an underlying risk for cardiovascular disease,” Racoosin adds.

NSAIDs are an effective way to treat pain, inflammation, and fever. The FDA says consumers can still take them but should be aware of this increased risk of heart attack or stroke, especially at higher doses.

“As always, consumers must carefully read the Drug Facts label for all nonprescription drugs,” Mahoney said.

Consumers should also carefully consider whether the drug is right for them, and use the medicine only as directed. Mahoney recommends taking the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible.

For people with heart disease or high blood pressure, talk to a health care provider before using an NSAID. A healthcare professional can help you balance the benefits of NSAIDs with the possible risks and weigh your options.

If you take low-dose aspirin for protection against heart attack and stroke, you should know that some NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, can interfere with that protective effect.

The Justice Department has filed a civil complaint against the dietary supplement company Iowa Select Herbs LLC, along with its president and a co-owner, “...

The Justice Department has filed a civil complaint against the dietary supplement company Iowa Select Herbs LLC, along with its president and a co-owner, “to prevent the distribution of adulterated and misbranded dietary supplements” according to an official DOJ statement.

Iowa Select Herbs makes and sells a product called “Cold BeGone,” plus a variety of other supplements made primarily from plant extracts including echinacea, elderberry, papaya leaf, and nettle leaf.

The DOJ's complaint, which it filed on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration in Iowa's Northern District, alleges that these products are “manufactured under conditions that are inadequate to ensure the safety of its products, and also make unlawful claims to treat or prevent diseases.”

The complaint says that the FDA inspected the company last August, and discovered that the its products are “adulterated within the meaning of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act” because their manufacture, preparation, packing, or holding do not meet Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices.

Among other things, the complaint alleges that the company did not test ingredients to verify their identity before using them to make the supplements. Furthermore, the company claimed its products could treat or prevent various diseases, including cancer, malaria, and heart disease, even though the products “have never been submitted to the FDA for approval, and have never been found safe and effective for those purposes.”

Four months before that August inspection, in April 2014, the FDA sent a letter to Iowa Select Herbs, specifically criticizing that the company's “Flax Seed, Holy Basil, Papaya Leaf Extract, and Ginkgo Leaf Extract products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs,” and that “therapeutic claims” for those products were allegedly posted on the company's website.

That letter includes examples of claims which the FDA says Iowa Select Herbs made, including “Flax Seed, and the omega-3’s contained within it, have been credited with preventing, curing, and treating a number of diseases and conditions. Everything from cancer to diabetes to constipation to heart conditions to arthritis” and “Holy basil can be used for the common cold, influenza (“the flu”), H1N1 (swine) flu, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, earache, headache, stomach upset, heart disease… viral hepatitis, malaria, and tuberculosis.”

The Justice Department's announcement of the complaint ends by noting that a civil complaint is not a criminal charge, but “merely a set of allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government would need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence.”

People who abuse illegal drugs and/or prescription medications are much more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers; that is what researchers from the...

People who abuse illegal drugs and/or prescription medications are much more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers; that is what researchers from the University of Georgia have determined after conducting a nationwide study on this egregious issue.  However, this abuse is not specific to one age bracket. People of varying ages have different strategies for obtaining these drugs.

The study, which originated in the UGA School of Social Work, revealed that people who use drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine within a year of taking prescription pain relievers are much more likely to abuse them. This similarity spread across all socioeconomic strata and racial lines.

"Male or female, black or white, rich or poor, the singular thing we found was that if they were an illicit drug user, they also had many, many times higher odds of misusing prescription pain relievers," said Orion Mowbray, who is the study’s lead author.

One difference that the researchers could identify amongst the abuse cases was how the drugs were obtained. They found that people who were aged 50 years or older usually went to several doctors in order to get prescriptions filled out for the pain relievers. This varied greatly with people who were younger, who relied mostly on friends, family, or drug dealers to obtain them.

Prescription pain reliever abuse has increased radically over the past few years. Emergency room treatments for abuse cases rose by 183 percent from 2004 to 2011. The most common drugs that are abused include codeine, oxycodone, and morphine.

Although the researchers do not know why the drugs have increased in popularity, they do think there are ways in which these case numbers can be reduced.

"If we know how people come to possess the pain relievers they misuse, we can design better ways to lower that likelihood," said Mowbray. "This study gives us the knowledge we need to substantially reduce the opportunities for misuse."

Mowbray and his colleagues recommend that doctors make it clear to older individuals that there is a lot of risk associated with taking the drugs. Friends and families should also be attentive to any family member who may have developed an addiction or dependency.

Mowbray and his team based their research on more than 13,000 surveys collected by the U.S. Department of Health. The full study has been published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. 

Going out into nature and “getting away from it all” can be very therapeutic for those that need to take a step back from their work and home lives. It all...

The cosmetics business isn't what it used to be, at least not for Procter & Gamble, which is unloading 43 of its beauty product brands to Coty Inc. for abo...

The cosmetics business isn't what it used to be, at least not for Procter & Gamble, which is unloading 43 of its beauty product brands to Coty Inc. for about $12.5 billion. 

The deal will make Coty the world leader in fragrances and give it a bigger share of the color cosmetics market -- you know, lipstick, blush and so forth.

P&G will retain some brands, including Olay, Pantene and SK-II while it unloads its global salon and retail hair care, cosmetics and fine fragrance businesses, along with some hair styling brands.

Brands reportedly being jettisoned include CoverGirl and Max Factor cosmetics, Clairol hair color, Wella shampoo, and fragrance brands Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Hugo Boss.

Coty's warehouse is currently stocked with beauty and fragrance brands including Calvin Klein, Sally Hansen, Chloé, Davidoff, Marc Jacobs, OPI, Philosophy, Playboy and Rimmel. It also owns Adidas and Guess, which aren't exactly beauty items but are big sellers anyway.

P&G has been trying to slim down a bit and has sold off about 15% of its portfolio of brands. It is retaining successful brands in such categories as toilet paper, disposable diapers and dish soap. 

"There is no question that with the broader offering of leading brands, strong brand support, the development of a better pipeline of innovative products and the much broader geographical reach and scale, Coty will strengthen its competitive position and ability to capitalize on revenue and profit growth opportunities over time," said Coty's chairman and interim CEO, Bart Becht.

The European Union's quibbles with Google are well-known and now it's taking on another symbol of American domination -- MasterCard. EU regulators say the...

The European Union's quibbles with Google are well-known and now it's taking on another symbol of American domination -- MasterCard. EU regulators say the credit card giant overcharges travelers for their purchases.

The EU for two years has been conducting an antitrust investigation into whether MasterCard stifles competition by charging "arrtificially high" interbank fees that stifle competition (and tourism) by driving up the total cost of purchases made by tourists.

The fees are not paid directly by tourists but are passed on to retailers, who in turn build them into the prices paid by consumers, even those who pay with cash.

"We currently suspect MasterCard is artificially raising the costs of card payments, which would harm consumers and retailers in the EU," said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, according to Courthouse News Service. "We have concerns both in relation to the rules MasterCard applies to cross-border transactions within the EU, as well as the fees charged to retailers for receiving payments made with cards issued outside Europe. MasterCard now has an opportunity to respond to our charges."

MasterCard said it is "working with the European Commission on the issue" and promised to release a formal response soon.

Photo credit: Volvo New parents usually go out and buy the latest child safety seat, along with a crib, high chair, and other paraphernalia. In the fu...

More workers were standing in line to file first-time applications for state jobless benefits last week than at any time since February. The Labor Departm...

More workers were standing in line to file first-time applications for state jobless benefits last week than at any time since February.

The Labor Department (DOL) reports initial unemployment claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 297,000 in the week ending July 4, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week.

While the government says there were no special factors affecting the claims level, the Independence Day holiday did fall within the week.

The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile than the weekly figure and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, rose 4,500 -- to 279,500.

General Motors is recalling 164,933 model year 2006-2010 Hummer H3 vehicles manufactured February 5, 2005, to May 24, 2010, and 2009-2010 Hummer H3T vehicl...

The front fork can break or detach, posing a crash hazard. No incidents or injuries have been reported. This recall involves Ohlins RXF 48 mm front bike f...

This recall involves Ohlins  RXF 48 mm front bike forks for motocross bikes. The fork legs are yellow with a large white “O” and a small “TTX” on the front. The fork legs measure about 37 inches long.

The following product and batch numbers are included in this recall and stamped on the silver-colored front fork bottom piece:

Ohlins USA of Hendersonville, N.C., is recalling about 50 Ohlins RXF 48 front forks for motocross bikes.

Consumers should stop using motocross bikes with these front forks immediately and contact  Ohlins for free replacement and installation of a new cartridge kit in the fork.

If you're expecting a new arrival in your family, you'll no doubt be shopping around for the best price on a crib, car seat and other necessities. A new st...

If you're expecting a new arrival in your family, you'll no doubt be shopping around for the best price on a crib, car seat and other necessities. A new study suggests you may also want to shop around for the most affordable hospital. 

The study by Yale School of Medicine researchers found that the cost of having a baby can vary by almost $10,000 depending on which hospital is chosen.

Childbirth is the leading cause of hospital admission in the United States, but there has been little research on the cost of delivery in hospitals across the country. To seek some answers, the Yale research team, led by Xiao Xu, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, studied data from the 2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample of 463 hospitals across the country. 

The team found that there is a large variation in the average estimated hospital facility cost per maternity stay.

"The average estimated facility cost per maternity stay ranged from $1,189 to $11,986 with a 2.2-fold difference between the 10th and 90th percentile," said Xu. "Our results could inform discussions on potential cost-saving opportunities."

Xu and her team also found that hospitals with higher rates of cesarean delivery or serious maternal complications had significantly higher costs.

However, adjustments for conventional hospital characteristics, such as teaching status, urban/rural location, volume of births, and the cesarean section rates, only explained a small proportion of the wide variation in estimated hospital facility costs for low-risk childbirths.

"Hospital practices might be an important contributor to the variation in costs, and there may be opportunities for cost reduction," said Xu. "These may include safely reducing cesarean deliveries, increasing the coordination of care, and emphasizing the value of care through new payment and delivery systems.

On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the Constitution guaranteed a nationwide right to same-sex marriage and today, Attorney Ge...

On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the Constitution guaranteed a nationwide right to same-sex marriage and today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that federal marriage benefits are being made available to eliglble same-sex couples nationwide.

The action affects federal employees and retirees, veterans, seniors, disabled persons and anyone else who, by virtue of marriage, is eligible for federal benefits.

The action affects federal employees and retirees, veterans, seniors, disabled persons and anyone else who, by virtue of marriage, is eligible for federal benefits.

Previously, spouses of a federal employee, for example, were not eligible for spousal benefits if the couple's same-sex marriage was not recognized by their state.

Previously, spouses of a federal employee, for example, were not eligible for spousal benefits if the couple's same-sex marriage was not recognized by their state.

The Supreme Court ruling takes precedence over any conflicting state or local laws, leading to Lynch's announcement today that the process of extending benefits to same-sex couples was underway.

“Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Obergefell that every couple has the same right to participate in the institution of marriage, whether the partners are of the same-sex or opposite sexes, I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government,” Lynch said at a news conference in Washington this morning.

“Thanks to their leadership and the quick work of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, today I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognize those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide,” she said.

Lynch said that federal benefits "will be available equally to married couples in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories."

"The department will continue to work across the administration to fulfill our commitment to equal treatment for all Americans, including equal access to the benefits of marriage that the Obergefell decision guarantees,” she said.

Despite the Supreme Court decision in Overgefell v. Hodges, some localities have refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses in recent weeks. Late last month, Texas AG Ken Paxton told county clerks that they could deny marriage licenses based on religious beliefs. This led to an ethics complaint being filed against him.

Is the Apple Watch destined to be the next big iFlop? According to a report by California-based market researchers Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales ha...

Is the Apple Watch destined to be the next big iFlop? According to a report by California-based market researchers Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales have dropped 90% in the United States since the watches first went on sale in April.

These are unofficial estimates, as Apple generally doesn't release its sales figures. Slice based its estimates on e-receipts from shoppers who have allowed access to their inboxes for such data.

Slice's most recent report is very different from what it said in mid-June, when it told Reuters that it estimated Apple had sold about 2.79 million watches since April — and that Apple likely stood to make even higher profits off the sale of watchbands and other accessories.

Apple sold an estimated 1.5 million watches during the first week it was available, according to Slice – about 200,000 per day. But now, Slice estimates Apple is selling fewer than 20,000 watches per day in the U.S. sometimes less than 10,000.

Apple itself has not commented on the report, but some Apple fans are taking umbrage on the company's behalf. Apple Insider said that “Widely publicized study data reported by clickbait sites as evidence that Apple Watch sales have 'plunged' and 'are tanking' actually shows something completely different: that Apple has launched the most successful smartwatch product by a vast margin.”

Apple Insider didn't specify which “clickbait” sites were saying such things, but tech-news sites reporting the plunging-sale statistics did nonetheless point out that even if the 90% drop is true, the Apple Watch still remains the best-selling smartwatch to date.

Daily Tech, for example, said “Indeed, the Apple Watch is a blockbuster -- but in smartwatch terms. Last year all Android OEMs combined only summed up to roughly 720,000 sales of Android Wear smartwatches. When the Apple Watch went on sale on April 10 via a preorder, it quickly racked up 1.5 million orders, in a week doubling Android's entire sales total for the last year.”

So even pessimists agree Apple Watch is a smashing success by smartwatch standards; it's just that in tech-company-sales terms, circa mid-2015, “the best seller on the smartwatch market” is kind of like being “the most maturely behaved student in preschool” — impressive in some contexts, but not necessarily a standard which a 39-year-old adult (or 39-year-old best-selling multinational tech company) should brag about surpassing.

Of course, even if the Apple Watch does prove a failure, that doesn't necessarily say anything about the current or future market for wearable tech devices; it could simply mean there's not much of a market for a wearable device that's completely useless on its own, but works only as an accessory to another expensive device (in this case, an iPhone 6).

Facebook has introduced a new tool called "See First" that's supposed to let you prioritize who and what you see in your Feed – and also what you don't. ...

Facebook has introduced a new tool called "See First" that's supposed to let you prioritize who and what you see in your Feed – and also what you don't.

The algorithms Facebook uses to make such determinations remain proprietary secrets, of course, but See First essentially lets you tweak the algorithm used to make these decisions for your Feed. See First will let you tell Facebook that you do want to see posts from certain people (or certain businesses), so Facebook will put their posts at the top of your Feed.

See First will also let you choose what you don't want to see. Facebook already has an “unfollow” option – wherein someone remains your “Friend,” but you don't see their posts. See First will gather all of your “unfollowed” friends and pages into a single list, making it easier for you to decide to follow them again, if you choose.

Another new feature will suggest pages you might want to follow based on your previous activity. (Facebook already has a feature showing you related posts or articles anytime you click on one, but that feature doesn't offer entire pages for your perusal.)

For now, the See First function is only available for iPhone and iPad users, but Facebook says it will eventually be made available for all platforms.

Adam Mosseri, the Facebook product management director who oversees News Feeds, said that See First was initially tested in Spain. “We didn’t promote it very heavily and it’s organically growing on its own,” he said.

The selfie phenomenon, which involves taking a self portrait with your smartphone camera, has spawned a product – the selfie stick. The monopole allows ...

The selfie phenomenon, which involves taking a self portrait with your smartphone camera, has spawned a product – the selfie stick.

The monopole allows a camera user to grip the device and hold it a further distance from his or her body, allowing for a more natural photograph. As annoying as some people think selfies are, these people tend to view selfie sticks with even more contempt.

Disney made news recently when it imposed a ban on selfie sticks at all its theme parks, apparently because their use posed risks to users and other guests. Eric Olson, assistant professor of event management at Iowa State University and former Disney employee, said Disney at first planned to only prohibit selfie sticks on specific thrill rides and attractions, but it has since announced a park-wide ban.

“I was recently talking with some of my colleagues at Disney and there have been quite a few incidents where guests were pulling the selfie sticks out on attractions and rides,” Olson said. “I think a lot of families, as well as the cast and employees will be thankful for the decision. I do know attractions were being stopped if a guest pulled one out on a ride or attraction to take a photo. So it really caused an inconvenience for all guests.”

Olson said he and many consumers will be pleased with the ban. Not only that, he predicts that other theme parks and public venues will follow Disney's lead and ban the selfie stick.

But the popularity of the selfie stick suggests that there will be plenty of people who are not happy with the theme park's new policy. Olson says Disney is taking steps to communicate the change through its website, at its hotels, and at park entrances.

It's not a big deal, he says. The ban on selfie sticks is no different than the list of other items, such as coolers and lawn chairs, you can't bring into the park. Olson expects the response to be similar to a decision Disney made during his time there, to only allow smoking in designated areas.

“Initially, there was a little uproar, but I think it was just a matter of communicating the policy change and now it’s not an issue,” Olson said. “Initially, some guests will be upset, but long-term, as with any policy change, guests will accept it.”

Olson thinks keeping selfie sticks out of public venues is a good idea and one that is catching on. On his recent rip to China he noticed the Shanghai Museum does not allow visitors to use selfie sticks either.

As for why everyone seems to feel the need to visually document their every move, Olson defers to his Iowa State colleague, Zlatan Krizan, an associate professor of psychology.

“The modern culture of self-promotion certainly fuels such use of selfies, with social media sites providing a sort of a competitive race to whose life is more interesting,” Krizan said.

But isn't that just a wee bit nascissistic? Krizan says it might indicate some narcissism, but that the standards for how we self-present have shifted, so that most selfie behavior is now considered normal.

Use of selfie sticks may not be as dangerous as using a chain saw, but plenty of users have mishaps. Time magazine reports a family in Massachusetts got pulled into a rip tide and nearly drowned this week while recording a video with a selfie stick.

Women who wear high heeled shoes for long periods of time may be compromising their health. That's more or less been a consensus view for years, but a new ...

Women who wear high heeled shoes for long periods of time may be compromising their health. That's more or less been a consensus view for years, but researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte adds more evidence.

Tricia Turner, associate professor of kinesiology and athletic training coordinator in the College of Health and Human Services, says the harm doesn't show up right away. In fact, high heel wearers may get some initial benefits, according to a new study by Korean scholars.

“Initially when wearing heels the muscles that surround the ankles have to continuously contract to keep you upright and walking,” she said. “Over time you need less muscle contraction as the lower leg muscles adapt to the changes in footwear. Once that occurs less muscle contraction occurs.”

But with prolonged use Turner says there is muscle shortening in the back of the leg and muscle lengthening in the front of the leg. These changes in muscle length can alter muscle strength, and not for the better.

As a means to test the hypothesis, the UNC Charlotte report looked at ankle strength and balance in women training to be flight attendants, collecting data for each class year. Turner said high heels can cause problems because they force the foot into a naturally unstable position.

“In sneakers or flat shoes, the foot is positioned in neutral where the bones of the ankle are under the bones of the lower leg, creating a more stable joint and a decreased likelihood of injury,” she said. “High-heeled shoes also change the normal walking or gait cycle, with the ultimate result being a less fluent gait cycle.”

The result can be damage to both ligaments and nerves in the ankles. It's not uncommon for pain to occur in the legs and back.

The American Osteopathic Association has found that women who wear heels are also more prone to falls. Its research has found 10% of women wear high heels at least 3 days a week and a third have fallen while wearing them.

Dr. Natalie A. Nevins, an osteopathic physician from Hollywood, Calif., warns that too much time in heels can lead to permanent health problems.

"Extended wear of high heels and continually bending your toes into an unnatural position can cause a range of ailments, from ingrown toenails to irreversible damage to leg tendons,” she said. "High heels have also been linked to overworked or injured leg muscles, osteoarthritis of the knee, plantar fasciitis, and low back pain."

Nevins isn't suggesting women have to give up heels. She does, however, offer these six tips for improved comfort and avoiding injury:

1. Choose sensible heels. Select shoes with low heels - an inch and a half or less - and a wide heel base; a slightly thicker heel will spread the load more evenly. Narrow, stiletto-type heels provide little support and three inch or higher heels may shorten the Achilles tendon.

3. Make sure your shoes are the right size so the foot doesn't slide forward, putting even more pressure on the toes.

Self-driving electric cars have been drawing a lot of attention in recent months as the next step in transportation. There is a lot of testing left to be d...

Self-driving electric cars have been drawing a lot of attention in recent months as the next step in transportation. There is a lot of testing left to be done before they roll out en masse, but many people are thinking of how this new technology could be used to benefit society.

In particular, the introduction of self-driving taxis may not be too far away. A new study conducted from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that this could not only be a cost-effective means of public transportation, but that it could be a very green option as well.

These taxis have the potential to be much more efficient than the ones that are currently being used. By utilizing a concept called “right-sizing,” customers would be able to call for a taxi based on its size. So if you have a party of four people that need to get somewhere, a taxi that could accommodate all of you would pick you up. However, if you were riding alone then a smaller taxi could come for you.

Self-driving electric cars also have the added benefit of being much more cost-effective. Because taxis put on so many miles every year, using vehicles that run on an alternative fuel source, such as electricity, would save a lot of money in the long run. Other factors may end up costing more, such as maintenance, insurance, and the cost of the vehicle, but they would be offset by the amount of money that would be saved yearly on gas.   

The cost of running the taxis would also go down due to the vehicles’ ability to run without a driver. By cutting this large expense, companies would be able to lower fare prices, which directly benefits the consumer. The researchers estimate that autonomous taxis would be much cheaper than their manual counterparts by the year 2030.  

While this new technology would certainly save consumers money, that is nothing compared to the environmental impact that they could potentially have.

"When we first started looking at autonomous vehicles, we found that, of all the variables we could consider, the use of autonomous vehicles as part of a shared transit system seemed to be the biggest lever that pointed to lower energy use per mile," said Jeffery Greenblatt, who co-authored the study.

By utilizing right-sizing principles, autonomous taxis would be able to cut down on energy use and reduce emissions. The researchers calculated that the emissions of an autonomous taxi in 2030 would be 63 to 82 percent lower than a hybrid vehicle, and 90 percent lower than a gas powered vehicle, of the same time period.

Another environmental factor to consider is the advent of a cleaner electric grid. Power plants are becoming more and more involved in using renewable energy sources, and by 2030 this will mean that electricity will emit fewer greenhouse gases. This will make electric vehicles an even greener option in the future.

Self-driving taxis would also allow companies to stop using fuel sources that negatively impact the environment. The researchers calculated that if five percent of taxis became autonomous by the year 2030, then over seven million barrels of oil could be saved annually. This could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 to 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

A lot of research is left to be done in order to see just how beneficial these vehicles can be in the future. In particular, scientists are hoping to create vehicle designs that optimize battery life. They would also like to create simulations that could accurately determine how self-driving taxis could react to city driving conditions.

Entire industries and companies have gotten on the “green” bandwagon by supporting technologies that minimize impact on the environment. In the past 10 yea...

Now that marijuana is sort of legal in some cities and states, there's growing pressure on local regulators to make sure the stuff that's being sold is saf...

Now that marijuana is sort of legal in some cities and states, there's growing pressure on local regulators to make sure the stuff that's being sold is safe and that its potency is clearly indicated on the packaging.

Trying to stay ahead of the curve, the desert resort city of Palm Springs, California, next week begins testing the marijuana sold in local dispensaries, according to local media reports.

The tests will be conducted by SC Labs of Santa Cruz, Calif., which already tests about 8,000 samples per month for 200 dispensaries in California. 

“People who are taking any type of drug need to know the amount of active ingredients,” said Josh Wurzer, president of SC Labs, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “When you take a (marijuana) brownie, let’s say you don’t know if there’s 10 milligrams or 100 milligrams in it. Your day or the next couple of days are ruined.”

Palm Springs officials say they're concerned mainly with ensuring that the products sold by local dispensaries are safe.

“Right now, we’re just taking baby steps,” said Jay Thompson, Palm Springs chief of staff who’s coordinating the pilot program. “Hopefully, as we get down the line, we can develop standards, but right now we’re just doing it for patient safety and for patient information.”

There are no state regulations covering marijuana in California and the federal government still regards it as illegal so for the time being, it's up to cities to oversee the quality of the local weed. Wurzer testing is necessary if marijuana is to grow out of its current cottage-industry status.

“For everyone involved, it would just be easier if there were set rules,” he said, according to the Sentinel. “Vague rules allowed the industry to innovate and find itself. Now is the time that we know what we’re getting into and what we need for rules and regulation.”

Building the motivation to exercise can be very challenging for many people. Although we all would like to have the drive to get up and become active, some...

Building the motivation to exercise can be very challenging for many people. Although we all would like to have the drive to get up and become active, sometimes we get stuck in our habits and it never materializes. The key is to make exercise a part of your daily routine so that you can do it automatically and without as much effort.

Researchers at Iowa State University have been studying a concept called “instigation habits”. Basically, an instigation habit is a cue or prompt that you can incorporate into your regular routine that will signal that it is time to exercise.

“From a health perspective, we want people to engage in physical activity frequently, and so instigation habit is the type of habit to promote that to happen,” said Alison Phillips, who is an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State. “Regardless of the type of exercise you’re going to do on a particular day, if you have an instigation habit, you’ll start exercising without having to think a lot about it or consider the pros and cons.”

The cues that trigger instigation habits do not have to be complex in order for them to be effective. In fact, some of the best prompts are things that you experience every day. For example, the end of a work day can be the cue for individuals to begin their workout. When this time comes, get into the habit of simply driving to the gym after work. After it becomes a routine, you will exercise much more frequently. For others, the sound of an alarm clock going off in the morning can be a cue. As soon as they turn it off, they get into the habit of getting up and going for a run immediately.

The two cues mentioned above are examples of external prompts. Phillips and other researchers state that these are the most common types of interventions to stimulate instigation habits. An internal cue can be just as, or perhaps even more, effective. It is just a little bit harder to establish them.

Internal cues are often associated with emotions or physical feelings that you have throughout the day. For example, if you are sitting down for a prolonged period of time, or not moving around very much, some people start to feel like they need to get up and move around. This feeling, or cue, is what motivates an instigation habit.

The key to establishing an instigation habit is finding a cue that works for you. Not everyone will be motivated by the same thing; this is especially true for internal cues. Researchers at Iowa State stress that following the same routine can help build confidence in your new habit so that it’s easier to keep doing.

Do not be discouraged if you do not feel motivated right away. Research shows that it can take over a month before a cue can consistently trigger a desired behavior. If you can push through this initial phase, exercise will come much easier to you in the future. A full study that was conducted by Phillips and her colleagues at Iowa State has been published in the journal Health Psychology. 

General Mills has established a new policy entitled the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. Basically, it’s a set of principles that monitors.....

General Mills has some good news to cluck about. It has recently decided to join some other large corporations, such as Starbucks, Hilton, Kellogg, Nestle, Aramark, Compass Group, and Walmart, in not selling eggs that come from caged hens.

Animals that are involved in agribusiness have been forced into some of the worst conditions over the last century. Chickens, in particular, are often crammed into cages so small that they can barely move. They are stored in overcrowded warehouses where they are used solely for egg production. General Mills, and the other companies listed above, have pledged to transfer their egg purchasing away from farms that keep their chickens in such conditions.

“We commit to working toward 100 percent cage free eggs for our U.S. operations,” said a General Mills spokesperson. This will mean that all General Mills brands, such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Progresso Soups, and Hamburger Helper, will be changing what kinds of eggs they buy in the near future.

General Mills has established a new policy entitled the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. Basically, it’s a set of principles that monitors the welfare of animals in its supply chain. The company has also promised to look into other forms of animal mistreatment that are practiced by their suppliers, such as tail docking, de-horning, and castration without the use of pain killers.

The move comes at a time when the poultry industry has been hit especially hard by Avian flu. The disease hurt both suppliers and consumers, as egg prices nearly doubled in price due to shortages. Analysts hope that moving away from caged hens will help prevent diseases in the future.

Free range chickens are much less likely to spread diseases like Avian flu because of their ability to move around and stay away from other animals. Caged hens spread the disease rapidly due to their close proximity to each other in overcrowded warehouses. This can ruin whole stocks of eggs in a very short time period.

Other animals are benefitting from this cage-free movement as well. The veal industry is slowly beginning to eliminate the use of cages to store their animals, and pork producers are eliminating gestation crates. As a result, the welfare of all livestock animals is beginning to gradually improve.

If you want to start an argument at Thanksgiving dinner, suggest that older drivers might not be the safest out there. Seniors usually take offense at such...

If you want to start an argument at Thanksgiving dinner, suggest that older drivers might not be the safest out there. Seniors usually take offense at such a suggestion – perhaps rightly so.

But a survey by Caring.com, a seniors-oriented webstite, shows that nearly 14 million drivers between the ages of 18-64 were involved in a "road incident" with a driver over age 65 in the last 12 months. Millennials – drivers between the ages of 18 and 29 – were most likely to be involved in a senior mishap.

The survey turned up a few surprises. Despite seniors' reputation for diminishing driving skills, all age groups but one ranked them ahead of drunk drivers, teenagers, and drivers distracted by their cell phones.

The one group that believes elderly drivers are more of a threat than drunk drivers is older drivers themselves – those 65 and older. Even so, the whole subject of driving can be a sensitive topic for older Americans, says Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com.

"Driving is often associated with independence and freedom, which is why many senior citizens are reluctant to give up their car keys," Cohen said.

Because of that, families are not likely to talk to older family members about becoming passengers. According to a past Caring.com survey conducted with the National Safety Council, 40% of Americans would prefer to discuss selling a home or making funeral arrangements.

Yet the new survey shows many older drivers are waiting for someone to start the conversation. Nearly a third of 65-plus drivers said they would prefer a family member determine whether they should still have a drivers license.

"No one wants to be the one to take away Mom or Dad's keys, but sometimes it can be crucial for their safety," said Cohen. "Plus, many seniors would actually prefer to hear it from a family member than from a police officer on the road. There are numerous online resources that people can use to make the conversation go as smoothly as possible."

As we reported last year, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine are training police officers in ways to recognize warning signs of impaired driving skills and to take appropriate action. They also urge doctors to think more about their patients’ ability to drive safely as they age.

In fact, doctors are being trained to assess their patients for age-related driving impairments – such as issues with vision, loss of mobility, fragility, and dementia.

If you are concerned about an older family member's safety behind the wheel, here are a couple of ideas for broaching the subject:

Make a first-hand observation: Take a ride with your parent and observe their driving. If it really is unsafe, then you have an example to cite and your case carries more credibility.

Be prepared: Before suggesting your parent surrender their car keys, look into alternate transportation solutions and be prepared to discuss options. Remember what driving represents – freedom.

When you were a teenager, earning your driver's license was a major milestone in your life. Having access to a car gave you freedom and independence. For your parents, handing over the keys is also a major milestone – the reverse of what you felt at 16.

There may have been a time when people talked openly about religion but never mentioned sex or politics in polite company. Then again, maybe not. But today...

There may have been a time when people talked openly about religion but never mentioned sex or politics in polite company. Then again, maybe not. But today, religion is the subject least likely to come up in clinical discussions with social workers.

This may be a little odd, since a new Baylor University study finds that licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) believe that discussions about their clients' religion and spirituality can often lead to improved health and mental health but don't bring the subject up in their counseling sessions.

"It's that big elephant in the room," said Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor's Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. "If we ignore it, we're ignoring a huge component of their lives that may be tied to the clinical issue."

Oxhandler worked with a team of researchers from the University of Houston. They surveyed 442 LCSWs across the United States for the study, which is published in the latest edition of the journal Social Work.

The survey found that the vast majority of LCSWs have positive attitudes regarding the integration of their clients' religion and spirituality into their discussions; are confident in their abilities to assess and discuss their clients' beliefs; and find it feasible to do so. But they're not doing it.

"I'm still boggled by the fact that they are so disconnected between their views and their behaviors," Oxhandler said. "The fact that they're so confident in their abilities to do this -- and they have such positive attitudes about it, and they don't see many barriers -- yet they're not integrating it into practice."

Oxhandler offered a few possibilities for the disconnect, based on the survey, her research and her experience:

1. Both the practitioner and the client are willing to talk about religion and spirituality, but neither addresses it.

"Clients want to talk about it, but feel it's taboo, so they wait on the practitioner to bring it up. Practitioners are willing to talk about it if the client brings it up," she said.

2. Social work students are not being trained adequately in the integration of religion and spirituality.

Oxhandler explained that from the 1920s to the 1970s, there was a push for what's called the "medical model" of practice, which she said had no mention of religion or spirituality because there was no research to support the discussion about clients' faith and practice during that time.

"It wasn't until the 1980s when some researchers were saying, 'Well, it's kind of an important area of their clients' culture that we need to be considering in clinical practice,'" Oxhandler said.

Oxhandler said there also is some documentation of negativity around religion and spirituality in the classroom.

"Social work educators who maybe weren't trained in how to talk about clients' religion and spirituality, or have strong feelings against religion and spirituality, may come into the classroom, and if a student brings it up, they will shoot it down very fast and say, 'No, we don't talk about that in here,'" Oxhandler said. 

LCSWs may also fear that they might be seen as proselytizing, or don't know how to talk about their clients' beliefs.

"We always have to be mindful and aware of what our beliefs are, but we need to bracket them and focus on where the client is and what their beliefs are," Oxhandler said. "This isn't about me. This isn't about my beliefs. This isn't about my religion. This is about the client and where they're coming from, their journey and how I can best identify areas of strength they can tap into and help them cope with the presenting issue, or areas of struggle that are tied to their belief system."

Oxhandler said the survey showed that those practitioners who were most willing to assess for and engage in the discussion of religion and spirituality were those who showed higher levels of intrinsic religiosity - the degree to which their religious or spiritual beliefs carry into all dealings of their lives.

It's important for social workers to be trained to learn about religions other than their own, she said.

"It's important that we teach students how to do this from an evidence-based practice perspective, a perspective that really looks at what the research is saying about clients' religion and spirituality and what the research says about health and mental health outcomes," she said.

The Greek financial crisis has focused attention on sovereign debt and the fact that it's not just businesses that can go bankrupt – so can governments....

The Greek financial crisis has focused attention on sovereign debt and the fact that it's not just businesses that can go bankrupt – so can governments.

Bringing it closer to home, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is also struggling under an unsustainable debt load. It owes $73 billion in debt it says it can't pay.

Bringing it even closer is the state of Illinois, where lawmakers have been unable to pass a budget. The state's governor and legislature are at odds over how to address growing shortfalls.

It is against that backdrop that Eileen Norcross of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has analyzed the finances of each U.S. state, ranking its financial health based on long-term or short term debt.

Why should you care what kind of financial shape your state is in? For one thing, a state struggling financially will likely be looking for ways to reduce services and might be more open to raising taxes.

Beyond that, if you are a current or retired state employee, your pension could be on the table at debt-reduction time.

And at an extreme, if you have invested in a state's municipal bonds to get a tax advantage, you want to be confident it won't one day pull what Greece is doing – telling its bond-holders, “sorry, we're not paying you back.”

First, let's look at pensions. Notably, Norcross says nearly all states have unfunded pension liabilities – meaning the money coming in, and expected to come in, doesn't match up with the money it has promised to pay current and future retirees.

These imbalances are large when measured against state personal income, suggesting potential trouble down the road. Norcross says another financial crisis could mean serious trouble for many states that are otherwise fiscally stable.

For the ranking, Norcross analyzed each state's audited financial reports, looking for revenues, expenditures, cash, assets, liabilities, and debt. Not surprisingly she found states rich in natural resources, such as oil and natural gas, are in the best shape financially. The 10 strongest states are:

These states are fiscally healthy relative to other states because they have significant amounts of cash on hand and relatively low short-term debt obligations, but Norcross says each state faces substantial long-term challenges with its pension and health care benefits systems.

The 10 states in the worst financial shape include those with large populations and a large number of services, as well as traditionally poor states:

The good news, Norcross says, is that most states have just about recovered from the Great Recession. The bad news? There are troubling signs that many states are still ignoring the risks on their books, mainly in underfunded pensions and health care benefits.

Arthur Schuman Inc. of Fairfield, N.J., is recalling 30,200 lbs. of Bella Rosa Grated Parmesan Cheese. The product may contain egg, an allergen not listed ...

Arthur Schuman Inc. of Fairfield, N.J., is recalling 30,200 lbs. of Bella Rosa Grated Parmesan Cheese.

The recalled product (UPC 088231410041) was sold exclusively through BJ's Wholesale Clubs in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Ohio.

The product is packaged in 1.25- lb. PET jars with "sell by" dates (July 13, 2015, August 17, 2015, and September 10, 2015) printed on the side of the jar just below the lid.

Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to any BJ's Wholesale Club store for full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact Arthur Schuman directly at 973-787-8840, Monday – Friday 8am - 5pm (EST).

​Continental is recalling approximately 3,800 Continental ContiProContact P205/65 R15 95T XL passenger vehicle tires produced in February 2015 and sold in ...

Continental is recalling approximately 3,800 Continental ContiProContact P205/65 R15 95T XL passenger vehicle tires produced in February 2015 and sold in the replacement market only.

Continental says it has not received any reports of accidents or injuries resulting from this condition.

The recalled tires can be identified with the Department of Transportation (DOT) code VY UR 471B 0615. Only the production DOT week 0615 is affected.

The company is in communication with its tire distributors and dealers to identify consumers who purchased these tires.

Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 99,436 model year 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee vehicles manufactured January 4, 2013, to February 18, 2015 and equipped with a Po...

Chrysler (FCA US) is recalling 99,436 model year 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee vehicles manufactured January 4, 2013, to February 18, 2015 and equipped with a Power Liftgate option.

Water may enter the Power Liftgate Control Module and cause a high resistance short circuit in the module, possibly resulting in a fire.

Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will inspect the power liftgate control module and connectors for corrosion, substitute a bolt for the threaded grommet installed to seal an attachment point used in non-power liftgate vehicles and cover the power liftgate control module in a foam water shield, free of charge. The recall began on June 19, 2015.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is R27.

A few years ago, you couldn't go a day without hearing someone arguing about stem cells. But that argument revolved around using other people's stem cells ...

A few years ago, you couldn't go a day without hearing someone arguing about stem cells. But that argument revolved around using other people's stem cells for research purposes.

There's another, rapidly growing, use of stem cells that more and more parents are taking advantage of. It's called cord blood banking and, very simply, it involves saving a tiny amount of blood from your newborn's umbilical cord just in case your child needs it sometime later in life.

That may sound odd but there are millions of stem cells in the cord blood that would otherwise be thrown away as medical waste, and as new uses are found for stem cells, there's a very real possibility that at some point those "banked" stem cells could be used to save your offspring's life, even if it's 40 or 50 years from now.

Stem cells are already being used to fight cancer and other diseases. The advantage of your child having access to his or her own stem cells, of course, is that it eliminates the rejection problems that can occur when using another person's cells. 

This is, it just so happens, National Cord Blood Awareness Month, and ConsumerAffairs has produced this short video that explains what cord blood banking is and why it may be something you want to consider if you're expecting an addition to your family in the near future.

Cord Blood Banking: What expecting parents should know about the collection process from ConsumerAffairs on Vimeo.

Every year health officials roll the dice when they assemble the annual flu vaccine. The vaccine is engineered to protect against the strains of flu most l...

Every year health officials roll the dice when they assemble the annual flu vaccine. The vaccine is engineered to protect against the strains of flu most likely to hit the U.S.

If they guess wrong, the flu vaccine ends up being much less effective. Wouldn't it be better if there could be some sort of all-purpose, universal flu vaccine?

Scientists at Rockefeller University thought so, and went about trying to harness a previously unknown mechanism within the immune system to create vaccines that would protect against this constantly-mutating virus.

“While the conventional flu vaccine protects only against specific strains, usually 3 of them, our experiments show that by including modified antibodies within the vaccine it may be possible to elicit broad protection against many strains simultaneously,” the authors wrote. “We believe these results may represent a preliminary step toward a universal flu vaccine, one that is effective against a broad range of the flu viruses.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies the effectiveness of each year's vaccine to guard against the flu. Overall estimates for each season range from a low of 10% to a high of 60%. Last year's effectiveness was closer to the bottom – 23%.

The Rockefeller University researchers' work revolved around chemical modifications to antibodies to make them more potent against the flu virus. A successful vaccine that proves effective against more strains of the flu would not only result in fewer illnesses, but fewer deaths too.

The flu kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year. These victims, usually elderly, may have been vaccinated, but the predominant strain that infected them happened to be one not covered in the vaccine.

Vaccine makers' task is more difficult because flu strains can be so diverse and new ones are constantly emerging.

Types A and B cause seasonal flu epidemics. Influenza A viruses are further broken down into subtypes based in part on their surface proteins, which include hemagglutinin, the “H” in H1N1, for example. The subtypes are further divided into strains.

Today, when vaccine makers assemble a flu vaccine, they create a formula that targets 3 or 4 viral strains, along with a few influenza B strains. They base their selections on public health experts’ predictions for the coming flu season. When they're wrong, millions of people who get the shots may also get the flu.

Because of that, researchers everywhere have sought a universal flu vaccine. Have the Rockefeller University researchers found it? They say the early results are encouraging.

“The new mechanism we have uncovered...could potentially be harnessed to reduce the tremendous morbidity and mortality caused by seasonal influenza virus infections,” said Taia Wang, a member of the research team. “We are now looking into applying this strategy toward improving existing vaccines; ideally, this would result in a vaccine that provides life long immunity against flu infections.”

Around 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) because of what the NYSE has called “an internal technical problem...

Around 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) because of what the NYSE has called “an internal technical problem.”

The exchange said that all open orders would be canceled before the resumption of trading, so any orders placed but not filed prior to the interruption will have to be refiled.

Trading was not interrupted on other exchanges, where most trading takes place anyway. Because of the rise of electronic trading, only about 20% of transactions take place on the NYSE.

Analysts are attempting to calm investors, who are already slightly rattled by Greek's impending debt default and the huge sell-off in China's stock market.

Prejudice is a human trait in which different types of people are treated differently. There have been countless laws and amendments to the Constitution to...

Prejudice is a human trait in which different types of people are treated differently. There have been countless laws and amendments to the Constitution to address it.

The last place you would expect to find discrimination is in the cold, dispassionate digits of a computer algorithm.

That's why researchers at Carnegie Mellon University were flabbergasted when their experiments showed that when male and female computer users searched on Google, men were shown a lot more ads promising help in getting high-paying jobs than women were.

The researchers used a tool called AdFisher that conducts experiments with simulated user profiles. Anupam Datta, associate professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering, says the results are clear – online gender discrimination is real.

"This just came out of the blue," Datta said of the gender discrimination finding, which was part of a larger study of the operation of Google's Ad Settings Web page, formerly known as Ad Preferences.

He says the bigger question is “why.” Was it the preference of advertisers or was it the unintended consequence of machine learning algorithms that drive online recommendation engines?

AdFisher created hundreds of simulated users, enabling researchers to run browser-based experiments to identify various effects from changes in preferences or online behavior. The program uses a set of other machine learning tools to analyze the results and perform statistical analyses.

"Many important decisions about the ads we see are being made by online systems," Datta said. "Oversight of these 'black boxes' is necessary to make sure they don't compromise our values."

In the case of the job ads, the differences were profound. Specifically, the experiment looked at who was shown ads for high-paying jobs when visiting employment sites.

AdFisher was used to create 1,000 simulated users - half male, half female - and had them visit 100 top job-listing sites. AdFisher then reviewed the ads that were shown to the simulated users and found the site most strongly associated with the male profiles was a career coaching service for executive positions paying more than $200,000.

The researchers say male users were shown the high-paying job ads about 1,800 times, compared to female users who saw those ads about 300 times. Drilling deeper, the researchers found the ads most associated with female profiles were for a generic job posting service and an auto dealer.

"We can't look inside the black box that makes the decisions, but AdFisher can find changes in preferences and changes in the behavior of its virtual users that cause changes in the ads users receive," said Michael Carl Tschantz, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

The Carnegie Mellon researchers are quick to point out that they have no evidence that Google is doing anything illegal or that it violates its own policies. While they say Adfisher can identify discrepancies, it can't explain why they occur without a look inside the black box.

However, they add that the discrepancies they found could come from the advertiser or Google's system targeting males.

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered all United Airlines flights grounded worldwide because of what the FAA called an "automation issue."The...

United Airlines flights were getting back into the skies Wednesday morning after being grounded for a few hours because of what the Federal Aviation Administration called an "automation issue."

The airline requested the action, reports said. It resulted in hundreds of flights being delayed or canceled worldwide. A United spokesman said a "connectivity issue" was to blame.

United has been struggling to complete the integration of Continental after the carriers merger last year. 

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Time Warner Cable must pay $229,500 to a Texas woman who received 153 automated calls on her cell phone...

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Time Warner Cable must pay $229,500 to a Texas woman who received 153 automated calls on her cell phone in less than a year, after she'd already told Time Warner it was calling the wrong person.

Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that Time Warner Cable (TWC) violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and must pay triple damages of $1,500 per call to Araceli King, an insurance claims specialist in Irving, Texas.

King's troubles began when TWC started calling her cell phone in hope of reaching Luis Perez, who once had the same number. The calls were automatic and made through the “interactive voice response” system TWC uses for customers who are late paying bills.

Coincidentally – or perhaps not – a search for that term in our archives here at ConsumerAffairs yields an interesting statistic: 100% of all experiences with “interactive voice response” systems were downright miserable from the consumers' point of view.

For example: in August 2014, when New Jersey's attorney general sued an “As Seen on TV” promoter for overcharging and other forms of fraud, the AG's office said the company used automation to make it impossible for callers to cancel or control their orders: “The state’s complaint alleges that consumers calling the company’s toll-free numbers were generally connected to the Telebrands Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System, an automated phone ordering system, rather than a live customer service representative. The state’s complaint further alleges that through its Telebrands IVR System, the company subjected consumers to a lengthy ordering process, sometimes lasting over half an hour ….”

The following March, another “As Seen on TV” promoter paid to settle similar charges brought by New York's attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission. Once again, customers were herded through an IVR, which the FTC called “deceptive and misleading.”

And back in 2011, a reader wrote to complain that he'd found massive errors on his Experian credit report. He couldn't fix it through Experian's website and, after Experian's site advised him to call a phone number instead, he said he “received an interactive voice response (IVR) system that wouldn’t accept the information. I went on the Internet and found other Experian phone numbers to call but those kept connecting me to the same IVR. Is there a way to talk to a human being?” (There was, but it required making a trans-Atlantic call to Ireland.)

So it's no surprise to hear that Time Warner Cable's interactive voice response system proved troublesome for Araceli King. She contacted an actual human Time Warner Cable representative and spent seven minutes discussing the situation to make it clear that she, Araceli King, was not Luis Perez and should not receive messages intended for him.

But the cable company continued robocalling King's cell phone even after this discussion. (The 153 calls Judge Hellerstein counted as actionable were all made after King's seven-minute human-to-human chat.)

In March 2014, King filed suit against TWC, saying that their robocalls constituted harassment. Time Warner Cable countered that under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (a law intended to reign in abusive telemarketing practices, including robocalls), it wasn't liable to King because TWC believed it was actually calling Perez, who had consented to receive calls at that number.

But Judge Hellerstein rejected this argument, saying that “a responsible business” would have tried harder to contact the real Perez to solve this problem.

Furthermore, Hellerstein noted, 74 of those robocalls to King were made after she filed suit in March 2014, and it would be “incredible” to believe that Time Warner Cable still didn't know about King's objections to the calls. “Defendant harassed plaintiff with robo-calls until she had to resort to a lawsuit to make the calls stop, and even then TWC could not be bothered to update the information in its IVR system,” he wrote, and those 74 post-lawsuit calls were “particularly egregious violations of the TCPA and indicate that TWC simply did not take this lawsuit seriously.”

A trial is scheduled for July 27. A spokesperson for Time Warner Cable said the company is “reviewing the ruling and our options to determine how we are going to proceed.”

There'll be a bit more oil in the next Olay product you buy. Procter & Gamble has settled a suit brought by California prosecutors who said the company was...

The popular ride-sharing app Uber announced this week that it will cease operations in Broward County, Florida, at the end of the month, saying that the co...

The popular ride-sharing app Uber announced this week that it will cease operations in Broward County, Florida, at the end of the month, saying that the county's new rules for Uber drivers are too “onerous.” Uber will still operate in nearby Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, and can still drop off passengers in Broward County, but will no longer do in-county trips.

Among other things, Broward's new rules would require each Uber driver to get a chauffeur's registration with the county, a car permit, a county-run background check, and also carry state-required commercial insurance.

In a written statement, Uber said that “Broward County officials implemented one of the most onerous regulatory frameworks for ridesharing in the nation. We have no choice but to suspend operations on July 31. We hope the Board of County Commissioners will revisit the issue when they return from break and work with us to bring Uber back to Broward.”

However, as the Orlando Sun-Sentinel reports, Broward's mayor Tim Ryan said he found the news “surprising and disappointing,” since he'd thought the county and the company were working toward a compromise. “To me it's clear that Uber provides a very good service that people want,” Ryan said. “The regulations Broward County imposed are very reasonable. The county only asked that Uber have safe drivers, safe vehicles, and insurance.”

But the South Florida Business Journal noted that business owners (with the probable exception of taxicab companies) worried the move might harm the local tourism industry.

A Twitterer going by the handle “Commercial Taxi Guy” tweeted in support of the move, saying “Fort Lauderdale did the right thing pedestrians and property must be protected 24/7 by insurance this is America #ubergate.”

But most of the social media response was negative. One woman said “It's a shame that @Uber is leaving #Broward County … how am I supposed to get around!?!”

The Sun-Sentinel, meanwhile, spoke to locals and retirees who complained about the cost and quality of taxicab service in Broward. Retiree Steve Machoian, an occasional visitor to Fort Lauderdale who is planning to relocate from Maryland to south Florida, said he refuses to use traditional cabs in the area. “Not only are they rude, [the] A/C rarely works, they take you for long rides, most claim not to speak English, the cars are filthy, and most cases old and broken down. “If I can't get an Uber ride, I'm going to take my second choice and move to Delray Beach.”

Another potential problem from a tourist's perspective is that, unlike Uber, many taxicabs still do not accept credit cards but require payment in cash.

As of press time, Uber's main competitor Lyft, which also operates in Broward County, has not announced any plans to cease operations there, but did say in a statement that “We are still reviewing our options, but continue to urge the Commission to revisit the regulations and work toward a solution that preserves Lyft's safe, affordable rides and flexible economic opportunity for residents.”

Procera AVH may have lifted the moods of its promoters but the Federal Trade Commission says claims that the supplement improves memory, mood and cognitive...

JPMorgan Chase faces more than $200 million in penalties and refund payments for selling "zombie debts" and illegally robo-signing court documents as a res...

JPMorgan Chase faces more than $200 million in penalties and refund payments for selling "zombie debts" and illegally robo-signing court documents as a result of enforcement actions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and 47 states.

Chase allegedly sold bogus debts to third-party debt buyers -- accounts that were inaccurate, settled, discharged in bankruptcy, not owed, or otherwise not collectible. Many of the debt buyers then began hounding consumers in an attempt to collect the non-existent debts.

“Chase sold bad credit card debt and robo-signed documents in violation of law,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today we are ordering Chase to permanently halt collections on more than 528,000 accounts and overhaul its debt-sales practices. We will continue to be vigilant in taking action against deceptive debt sales and collections practices that exploit consumers.”

The order requires Chase to document and confirm debts before selling them to debt buyers or filing collections lawsuits. Chase must also prohibit debt buyers from reselling debt and is barred from selling certain debts. Chase is ordered to permanently stop all attempts to collect, enforce in court, or sell more than 528,000 consumers’ accounts.

Chase will pay at least $50 million in consumer refunds, $136 million in penalties and payments to the CFPB and states, and a $30 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in a related action.

The CFPB found that Chase violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s prohibitions against unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices. Chase sold faulty and false debts to third-party collectors, including accounts with unlawfully obtained judgments, inaccurate balances, and paid-off balances.

Chase also sold debts that were owed by deceased borrowers. Chase also filed misleading debt-collections lawsuits against consumers using robo-signed and illegally sworn statements to obtain false or inaccurate judgments for unverified debts.

Springtime is always full of promise. You can enjoy the bright, sunny days with nothing but a light jacket on to keep you comfortable. Then summer comes al...

Springtime is always full of promise. You can enjoy the bright, sunny days with nothing but a light jacket on to keep you comfortable. Then summer comes along with days of full of sunlight and heat that makes you question whether or not you want to be outside at all.

As it gets hotter and more humid, the appeal of digging on your hands and knees in the garden seems to fade. Your garden is still calling your name no matter how hot it is outside, and it needs your attention.

There are several things that you will need to tend to this month. Your container plants will need to be refreshed, and your hanging plants need to be trimmed to keep them looking good.

Some insects love the heat and humidity, and they can really take a toll on your garden. Handpicking these pests off of your plants is the best method of control so that they don’t eat up all of your green, leafy plants. After they are picked off, toss each bug into a container of soapy water to keep them from coming back. If you are scared to death at the prospect of touching insects, just use a stick to knock them off into the bucket.

Proper lawn care is also extremely important at this time of the year. Certain diseases can actually kill your grass if you don’t take care of them right away.

Brown grass and slime molds, although unsightly, are pretty common and rarely pose any kind of threat. Light brown patches that extend for several feet usually indicate that you have had a lot of rain or that you are overwatering your lawn. Adjust accordingly to make sure everything is looking good.

If you have any turf areas around your house, then you will also have to maintain them throughout the summer. Turf disease experts from Ohio State University offer weekly updates on how to best maintain these tricky areas.

Ensure that all of your produce plants are free of parasites and other plants that could cause them harm. Suckers are shoots that grow in the crotch area of your tomato plants. If they are allowed to cultivate, they end up competing for nutrients in the main stem where your tomatoes get their water. Removing them will allow the main stem to thrive.

Any beds that you have landscaped will be in full bloom during this time of the year, so it’s a good time to examine which parts of your garden are bare or have weaker plants growing there. Make a note with a picture for next year so that you will know which areas need filling in during the next planting season. 

Nothing better to do this summer? The IRS is offering tax tips to help you get a jump start on this year’s taxes. The agency says more than 660,000 subscri...

The IRS is offering tax tips to help you get a jump start on this year’s taxes. The agency says more than 660,000 subscribers already receive them.

Starting July 1, the IRS began offering its Summertime Tax Tip series which include useful information in English and Spanish. Subscribers receive a new Tip via email three times a week during July and August, and a Tax Tip each weekday during the tax filing season.

IRS Tax Tips are plain language messages that are easy to understand and cover a wide range of topics. They often include links to helpful IRS.gov references, IRS YouTube videos and podcasts.

You can sign up to receive IRS Tax Tips automatically each day via email through a free service on www.irs.gov. From the Subscriptions link on the top right of the IRS website, choose “IRS Tax Tips” on the drop-down menu, and then click on “Subscribe.” Click on “more” to subscribe to the IRS Tax Tips in Spanish.

The MV Adonia (Photo credit: Carnival) For decades, Cubans chafing under the Castro regime set sail for the United States. Now that relations between ...

For decades, Cubans chafing under the Castro regime set sail for the United States. Now that relations between the countries are thawing, the flotilla will be going the other way, as Carnival launches cruises to the island nation next year.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce have granted approval for the company to begin travel to Cuba beginning in May 2016 under its newly launched "fathom" brand, which Carnival says will provide "purpose-oriented, social impact experiences," initially in the Dominican Republic, which has recently been threatening to deport hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

The D.R.'s attempt at ethnic cleansing has been condemned by human rights activists and could mar the country's reputation among tourists.

"We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society," said Arnold Donald, Carnival CEO. 

Under federal law, tours to Cuba are supposed to be organized to provide cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens, possibly influencing Carnival's decision to set up fathom as a new brand.

"Carnival Corporation is in active discussions and plans to work with the appropriate authorities in Cuba so that Cuban approval is granted," the cruise line said in a statement.

Beginning in April 2016, fathom will embark on weekly seven-day voyages from Port Miami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation's P&O Cruises (UK) brand. fathom's first impact destination will be the northern region of the Dominican Republic, where Carnival's new port of call, Amber Cove, will serve as home base.

Following the inaugural April month of voyages to the Dominican Republic, fathom intends to offer both Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a regular basis.

"We're very interested in exploring the prospects of expanding our partnership with fathom to include Cuba, building new impact programs and lending our assistance to strengthen existing initiatives that will help educational, cultural and humanitarian efforts already going on in Cuba," said David Luther, founder and executive director of IDDI, a non-profit organization with the mission to help alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas in the Caribbean.

"IDDI has long-standing relationships in Cuba and more than a decade of experience working on the ground side-by-side with local officials to make a positive impact in Cuban communities. Nothing else like fathom exists to bring hundreds of like-minded travelers a week to communities of people who need ongoing support," he said.

Black Friday has the reputation – undeservedly so – for having the lowest prices of the year on the things consumers seem to want most.So when you are ...

Black Friday has the reputation – undeservedly so – for having the lowest prices of the year on the things consumers seem to want most.

So when you are trying to become king of the hill, you take on the champ. That appears to be the reasoning behind Amazon.com's Prime Day, declared for July 15.

On that day the online retailer says its Prime members will be able to purchase top consumer items at deeper discounts than will be found on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season.

“Prime Day is a global shopping event, offering more deals than Black Friday, exclusively for Prime members,” Amazon said in a release. “On Wednesday, July 15 new and existing members will be able to shop thousands of Lightning Deals, Deals of the Day, and will receive unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping. Members will find deals starting at midnight PDT, with new deals starting throughout the day, as often as every ten minutes.”

The Christmas in July promotion is aimed at signing up new Prime members, no doubt, but the folks at Jones-Dengler Marketing, which operates the website BestBlackFriday.com, couldn't let that go without issuing a challenge of their own.

“Since Amazon is claiming Prime Day will surpass Black Friday in items and prices, we issued them a challenge,” BestBlackFriday.com's Phil Dengler said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “We listed the prices for the most popular items in their sale, and across other retailers, on Black Friday 2014 and dared them to go lower.”

In order to be considered a better buy than a Black Friday deal, Dengler says Amazon will have to beat these prices:

And those are prices from last year's Black Friday. Presumably, the deals will be even greater 4 months from now when the holiday shopping season begins.

Dengler says the point is that Amazon already has some of the lowest prices on products, meaning it will be very difficult for it to reduce prices even more on its one-day promotion.

A Prime membership costs $99 a year and includes free 2-day shipping on all orders. As an added bonus Prime members get access to a library of digital content, including movies and TV shows.

Comedian Louis C.K. does a funny bit about a guy on an airplane upset about the quality of the on-board Internet service, not the least bit impressed that ...

Comedian Louis C.K. does a funny bit about a guy on an airplane upset about the quality of the on-board Internet service, not the least bit impressed that such a thing is even possible at 30,000 feet.

And since the majority of passengers tend to be like that guy, Virgin America is taking steps to improve its in-flight Internet service. It is teaming with ViaSat to increase the speed of the broadband service to the airline's 10 new A320 aircraft deliveries, beginning in September.

The Virgin America Wi-Fi will come from ViaSat-1, ViaSat's high-capacity Ka-band satellite that provides 140 gigabits-per-second Wi-Fi connectivity service.

Virgin America says that the new technology will deliver Internet speeds that are typically 8 to 10 times faster than any other in-flight Wi-Fi system, so that travelers will experience speeds similar to what they have at home. That should provide access to more content, including streaming videos.

The airline says it will be the first to offer an in-flight Wi-Fi service that can operate in both Ku- and Ka-band satellite networks on the same aircraft. By deploying ViaSat's new hybrid Ku/Ka-band antenna, Virgin America says it can keep travelers connected virtually anywhere they fly, ensuring guests always have the best available connection in any given location.

"The idea behind our in-flight entertainment and connectivity offerings has always been to offer travelers more content, more interactivity, and more of the choices they have access to on the ground," said Ken Bieler, Director of Product Design and Innovation at Virgin America. "Since 2009, our guests have come to rely on and expect Wi-Fi access on every flight, and we've continued to improve our Wi-Fi product offering over the years.”

Installation will begin immediately, with the first Ka-band antenna equipped aircraft beginning service in the continental U.S. in September. During the beta period rollout the service will be offered free on the first ViaSat equipped aircraft. Pricing for the service will be disclosed next year.

ViaSat developed and tested its Ku/Ka band switching last year. The test flights, conducted in July and August on a commercial 757-200 aircraft, demonstrated the communications with the aircraft transitioning among multiple satellite beams from six satellites and three Ku- and Ka-band networks.

“For enroute airborne missions, seamless roaming on the best available broadband network can assure our customers continuous operation on a resilient enterprise network,” said Ken Peterman, who is the VP of ViaSat Government Systems..

Virgin America has been beefing up its entertainment package lately. In June it announced a new beta version of its Red in-flight entertainment system. That system includes higher resolution touch screens, Android-based software that will allow for faster, real-time updates, three times more content – including full seasons of favorite television shows, more interactive maps, and videogames which include classics like Pac Man and Asteroids. All of these features are available on a surround-sound audio system.

Mortgage applications have regained nearly all the ground they gave up in late June. Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage ap...

Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage applications Survey show applications increased 4.6% in the week ending July 3,  including an adjustment for the July 4th holiday.

While the Refinance Index was up 3%, the refinance share of mortgage activity fell to 48.0% of total applications -- the lowest level since June 2009. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 7.1% of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications dropped to 13.7% from 14.0% the prior week,the VA share was unchanged at 10.8% and the USDA share of total applications inched down to 0.9% from 1.0% a week earlier.

If you were in a hurry to get out of Texas by air during May, there’s a good chance you were frustrated. Airlines reported 14 tarmac delays of more than t...

If you were in a hurry to get out of Texas by air during May, there’s a good chance you were frustrated.

Airlines reported 14 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and 2 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights in May, according to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT)  Air Travel Consumer Report.

Ten of the reported tarmac delays involved flights departing from Houston on May 25 during severe weather. DOT is investigating all the delays.

Airlines operating international flights may not allow tarmac delays at U.S. airports to last longer than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to deplane. There is a separate three-hour limit on tarmac delays involving domestic flights.

Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.

On the other hand, the nation’s largest airlines posted an on-time arrival rate of 80.5% in May -- better than the rate of 76.9% in May 2014, but somewhat worse than the 81.8% mark a month earlier.

The consumer report also includes data on mishandled baggage, cancellations, chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays.  

In addition, it contains statistics on aviation service complaints filed by consumers regarding a range of issues such as flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, consumer service, disability, and discrimination.

Additionally, there are reports of incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of animals traveling by air.

Bassett & Walker International of Toronto, Canada, is recalling approximately 1,540 pounds of beef lip products produced in Australia. The products were n...

Bassett & Walker International of  Toronto, Canada, is recalling approximately 1,540 pounds of beef lip products produced in Australia.

The products were not presented at the U.S. point of entry for inspection. Without the benefit of full inspection, a possibility of adverse health consequences exists.

The following products, produced and shipped between March 2, 2015, and April 7, 2015, and distributed to retail outlets and restaurants in the San Diego, Calif., area, are being recalled:

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Maria Fortuna at (416) 363-7070 ext. 265 or by email at mfortuna@bassettwalkerinc.com.

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog today filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, saying that Google's failure to offer U.S. users the same “...

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog today filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, saying that Google's failure to offer U.S. users the same “right to be forgotten” enjoyed by citizens of the European Union is “unfair and deceptive.”

John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, wrote that “Google’s refusal to consider such requests in the United States is both unfair and deceptive, violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

Europe's “Right to be Forgotten” dates back to a May 2014 ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (the E.U.'s equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court, more or less). That ruling regarded a case brought before the court in 2010, by a Spanish national named Mario Costeja González. But the start of Costeja's complaint dates back to 1998, when some of his property was auctioned off to pay back taxes. 

In Spain as in America, property auctions for tax settlements are public information and thus count as legitimate news, so the Spanish daily newspaper La Vanguardia published legal notices of the proceedings in January and March 1998.

In 2009, those 11-year-old notices still turned up in Google searches for Costeja's name, so Costeja asked La Vanguardia to take the stories down and also asked Google to stop linking to them, on the grounds that old stories about his debt issues were no longer relevant since his debts had been resolved.

Google and the newspaper both refused Costeja's request, so in 2009 he took his complaints to the Spanish Data Protection Agency which, in July 2010, ordered Google to remove the links but did not order La Vanguardia to remove the stories.

Google challenged the order, the E.U. Court of Justice agreed to hear the appeal, and in May 2014 it ruled against Google. The E.U. “right to be forgotten” essentially says that, while information does not have to be deleted from the Internet (meaning: websites like La Vanguardia can keep their archives online), search engines might have to obey requests to take down links to certain stories.

Court of Justice rulings are legally binding throughout the European Union just as Supreme Court rulings are legally binding throughout the U.S., so Google has obeyed European law while conducting operations in Europe, and U.S. law for its business in the United States.

But Consumer Watchdog's complaint to the FTC (which is available as a .pdf here) criticizes Google for not honoring E.U.-style takedown requests in the United States, specifically:

…. Google’s failure to offer U.S. users the ability to request the removal of search engine links from their name to information that is inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive. In Europe the ability to make this request is popularly referred to as the Right To Be Forgotten. As [FTC] Commissioner Brill has suggested it may more accurately be described as the Right Of Relevancy or the Right To Preserve Obscurity.

Consumer Watchdog went on to explain why the “right of relevancy” is a necessary consumer-privacy protection:

Before the Internet if someone did something foolish when they were young – and most of us probably did – there might well be a public record of what happened. Over time, as they aged, people tended to forget whatever embarrassing things someone did in their youth. They would be judged mostly based on their current circumstances, not on information no longer relevant. If someone else were highly motivated, they could go back into paper files and folders and dig up a person’s past. Usually this required effort and motivation. For a reporter, for instance, this sort of deep digging was routine with, say, candidates for public office, not for Joe Blow citizen. This reality that our youthful indiscretions and embarrassments and other matters no longer relevant slipped from the general public’s consciousness is Privacy By Obscurity. The Digital Age has ended that. Everything – all our digital footprints – are instantly available with a few clicks on a computer or taps on a mobile device.

However, the letter goes on to point out that U.S. law already recognizes a “right of relevancy” in certain cases, such as credit reports – the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that information about debt collections, civil lawsuits, tax liens, and similar matters becomes “obsolete” after a certain period of time (usually seven years) and must henceforth be removed from consumers' credit reports.

Consumer Watchdog offered examples of cases where a “right to be forgotten” might prove useful, including:

A guidance counselor was fired in 2012 after modeling photos from 20 years prior surfaced. She was a lingerie model between the ages of 18-20, and she had disclosed her prior career when she first was hired. Despite this, when a photo was found online and shown to the principal of her school, she was fired.

Arguably, in cases such as that – the counselor openly admitted her previous career when she was hired, which clearly caused no problems until the principal took umbrage at a photograph from half a lifetime before – what the woman needed wasn't a “right to be forgotten” so much as “protection from a hypocritical employer.”

But Consumer Watchdog also offered examples of European link-removal requests, those honored by Google under the “right to be forgotten” and also those requests Google did not honor: “A woman in Italy requested that Google remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name. The page was removed from search results for her name.  A Swiss financial professional asked Google to remove more than 10 links to pages reporting on his arrest and conviction for financial crimes. Google did not remove the pages from search results.”

Last month, Google did implement a policy change in the United States, specifically to crack down on the practice of “revenge porn” — the practice wherein people (usually angry ex-lovers) post identifiable nude or sexually explicit photos of their partners, along with the partners' names, links to their social media accounts and other identifying information, with the intention of humiliating them and/or damaging their careers.

On June 19, Google said that henceforth, the company would honor requests from victims to remove “revenge porn” images from its search engine, and stop linking to the results. Consumer Watchdog mentioned this in its complaint to the FTC, and said “Google's approach to removals in the United States underscores the unfairness of offering the Right To Be Forgotten to Europeans, but not to Americans. As clearly demonstrated by its willingness to remove links to certain information when requested in the United States, Google could easily offer the Right To Be Forgotten or Right to Relevancy request option to Americans. It unfairly and deceptively opts not to do so. … Americans deserve the same ability to make such a privacy-protecting request and have it honored.”

Of course, Americans (unlike Europeans) have First Amendment guarantees of free press and free speech, which sometimes means that laws allowable in the E.U. wouldn't pass constitutional muster in the United States (and, conversely, that certain U.S. laws might fall short of privacy protections in the E.U.).

For example: in Europe, you won't find many websites like ConsumerAffairs or Yelp, for the simple reason that businesses can bring libel charges against anyone who speaks ill of them and have a reasonable certainty of winning, even if the criticism is accurate.

It is true, as Consumer Watchdog pointed out, that the so-called “right to relevancy” exists regarding some forms of personal information: you generally aren't expected to repay a credit card debt if it's more than seven years old, for example, and even a declaration of bankruptcy will eventually drop off your credit report so that you'll once again be able to apply for fresh lines of credit.

But should individuals be required to “forget” these things about other individuals, too? Here's an example Consumer Watchdog did not include in its complaint to the FTC: in 1998, a man named Mario Costeja González (remember him?) fell so far behind on his taxes, the authorities ended up auctioning off some of his real estate holdings to settle the debt — and now the European courts agree he has the right to expect everyone else to forget about it.

If Costeja does business in the United States, he already has that right, at least in financial matters — a debt resolved in 1998 would've dropped off his credit report seven years later, and wouldn't affect his ability to get a mortgage or other loan in mid-2015.

Now suppose that after getting that loan, he celebrates and drinks excessively at a nearby bar where he meets an attractive single woman (or man, if that is his preference). They get to talking and decide to start dating. Things start getting serious and at some point she types his name into a search engine because that's what people do nowadays when dating someone new.

Love alone is not enough to make a happy marriage: you also must share compatible values, especially in financial matters. So, if a woman who is very prudent and careful with money starts dating a man who, as an adult, once let his affairs get in such disarray that the authorities auctioned off his property to settle tax debts, whose rights take precedence here – the man's presumed right for everyone to forget how irresponsible he once was, or the woman's presumed right to get an accurate answer to such questions as “Has my potential partner ever been spendthrifty enough to make headlines?”

In the European Union, the man's rights take precedence here. Under current U.S. law, it's the reverse. Whether that status quo needs changing, and by how much, is shaping up to be the next big privacy-rights battleground in America.

In the government's most recent Consumer Price Index (CPA), the index for food consumed at home was up 0.6% over the last 12 months. Four of the 6 major gr...

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) today announced the establishment of the Martin H. Bosworth Memorial Advocacy Fund, made possible by an in...

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) today announced the establishment of the Martin H. Bosworth Memorial Advocacy Fund, made possible by an initial donation from James R. Hood, founder and former CEO of ConsumerAffairs.com. Bosworth was the managing editor of the site at the time of his death in 2010.

“Martin Bosworth was passionate about protecting consumers’ privacy rights, as are we,” said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of EPIC, a Washington, D.C., non-profit that works to protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet.

“This grant will help support our efforts before the Federal Trade Commission as we work to protect the privacy rights of American consumers,” said Rotenberg.

EPIC has brought successful complaints to the Federal Trade Commission concerning the business practices of Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, among others.

EPIC recently filed an FTC complaint charging that Uber’s plans to track users and gather their contact list data is an unfair and deceptive trade practice. EPIC asked the FTC to halt the proposed changes.

“Martin was like a force of nature in his zealous reporting on behalf of consumers,” he said. “He was an outstanding researcher and reporter and a powerful champion of consumers’ need and right to enjoy secure and private transactions in all areas of their lives.”

If you're looking for work in this economy you know you must be careful, because there exist plenty of scammers, thieves, and con artists using fake job of...

For those of us who have the occasional headache, aspirin can be a real live-saver; the latter part of that statement could be more accurate than you think...

Plenty of people have come to the defense of U.S. airlines after it was disclosed last week that American, United, Delta, and Southwest are targets of a Ju...

Plenty of people have come to the defense of U.S. airlines after it was disclosed last week that American, United, Delta, and Southwest are targets of a Justice Department investigation.

All four carriers have confirmed that they are cooperating with a government probe into charges that they have colluded with one another on routes and fares, in a bid to boost profits.

It's true that the airlines are now turning a profit, thanks in large part to a host of new fees, but industry analysts insist the profits are hardly excessive.

"For the first time in history we've had air fares rising in real terms on a consistent basis," Airline Weekly Managing Partner, Seth Kaplan told CNBC last week.

Kaplan says airlines' profit margins only look rich compared to how awful they performed in the past. Still, for consumers who have found air travel has become more uncomfortable and expensive as the number of airlines has declined, it's not hard to believe government investigators might be onto something.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said he finds news of the probe “alarming,” and worries that “jaded” consumers will look for alternate transportation or just stay home.

"If not for the radical consolidation we have seen in the airline industry in the last few years, we probably would not even be having this conversation,” Dow said. “Now that 4 carriers control 85% of domestic routes, collusion is a thought that's constantly going to be in the back of the minds of federal regulators.”

As the federal investigation gets cranked up, it has been revealed that three of the airlines – United, American, and Delta – have asked the U.S. government to block expansion into U.S. markets of three Persian Gulf Airlines – Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airlines.

In an interview with NPR Monday, U.S. airline officials charged that the three foreign carriers are subsidized by their governments and enjoy an unfair advantage against U.S. airlines – a charge denied by the Persian Gulf carriers.

Timothy Clark, CEO of Emirates Airlines, told the network the way to win in the marketplace is not to stifle competition but to provide better service.

“Investing in product, investing in comfortable seats - it's not difficult, gentlemen, making the consumer enjoy their products,” Clark told NPR.

Part of the path to profitability for U.S. carriers has involved reducing the number of flights, cramming more seats into existing flights and requiring passengers to pay extra for things that were once provided as a courtesy. Dow believes there is a better way and it involves more competition, not less.

"Congress has a remedy at its fingertips: make adjustments to airport financing so that individual airports can raise funds to expand terminal space and allow new carriers into their markets,” he said. “More competitors significantly lessens the possibility that collusion can occur, and the pressures upon prices and service would be tremendously favorable to travelers, and therefore the broader economy.”

Smart phones have made staying connected and accessing information easier than ever before, but are they causing too many distractions for people going thr...

Smart phones have made staying connected and accessing information easier than ever before, but are they causing too many distractions for people going through college? A new study conducted by researchers at Rice University and the U.S. Air Force has found that smart phone users believe that the devices may be detrimental to the learning process.

The goal of the study was to determine how much smart phones impacted the educational process. It took place over a year (from 2010 to 2011) and gathered results from 24 participants who had never had a smartphone before.

“Smartphone technology is penetrating world markets and becoming abundant in most college settings,” said Phillip Kortum, who co-authored the study and is an assistant professor of psychology at Rice. “We were interested to see how students with no prior experience using smartphones thought they impacted their education.”

Before the study began, participants were asked a series of questions about how they thought smartphones would affect their academics. They were then given their phones and their activity was observed for a year. At the end of the study, the same set of questions were asked to the students again.

The answers were rated on a score of 1-5, with one expressing strong agreement and five expressing strong disagreement. The questions and average answers of the questions at the beginning and end of the study are shown below:

The results of the poll clearly show that the new smartphone users did not benefit as much from the devices as they originally thought they would. Students found themselves much more distracted than they thought they would be, and the smartphones did not help with their studies in most cases.

The researchers want to clarify that their study was not conducted to show that smartphones are bad for students to have. In fact, they think that they can be very useful in classroom settings if used with proper guidance.

"Previous studies have provided ample evidence that when smartphones are used with specific learning objects in mind, they can significantly enhance the learning experience," Kortum said. "However, our research clearly demonstrates that simply providing access to a smartphone, without specific directed learning activities, may actually be detrimental to the overall learning process."

The Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General are charging a New York company, Lifewatch, with using illegal and deceptive robocalls to tri...

The Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General are charging a New York company, Lifewatch, Inc., with using illegal and deceptive robocalls to trick older consumers into signing up for medical alert systems with monthly monitoring fees ranging from $29.95 to $39.95.

Last year one of Lifewatch’s telemarketing firms, Worldwide Info Services, agreed in a settlement to be banned from making robocalls or engaging in other deceptive conduct.

Now the FTC and Attorney General allege that Lifewatch knew of, and is responsible for, the illegal activities in that case, and that Lifewatch simply continued its telemarketing campaign using a variety of other telemarketers after Worldwide was shut down.

“Some scammers won’t take a hint,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When we sued Lifewatch’s telemarketers for making deceptive robocalls, they just continued the same illegal practices with new telemarketers. The FTC and the Florida Attorney General won’t be deterred, and will continue to work together to stop illegal robocalls.”

Lifewatch, Inc., is not affiliated with Lifewatch Services, Inc., of Rosemont, Ill., officials of that company noted.  

According to the joint complaint, since 2012 Lifewatch has been bombarding consumers – primarily elderly ones – with millions of unsolicited robocalls.

These calls are often placed to consumers whose numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry, and typically use fake, “spoofed” caller ID information. They also use pre-recorded messages, including one supposedly from “John from the shipping department of Emergency Medical Alert,” to falsely tell the consumers that a medical alert system has been purchased for them, and they can receive it “at no cost whatsoever.”   

Consumers who press a number to speak with a live operator are told that even though the system costs over $400, they will get it for free. However, the telemarketers refuse to answer questions about who bought the system for them, and tell consumers the offer is only good for one day. Telemarketers often use the well-known phrase, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” or tell consumers they may have seen the product on television, to add an air of legitimacy to the sales pitch.

Eventually, consumers are told they will be responsible for a monthly monitoring fee and that they must provide their credit card or bank account information. They often also are told that they will not be billed until they receive and “activate” the system, although they actually are charged almost immediately.

Those who later realize they have been tricked discover that it is very difficult to cancel, and are told they have to pay to return the system or pay a $400 penalty, according to the complaint.

Many of the consumers the defendants called have fixed or limited incomes or rely on family members or health professionals to make financial decisions on their behalf, the complaint states.

The agencies are seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the defendants’ use of illegal robocalls and deceptive telemarketing claims, as well as funds for eventual restitution to victims.

American servicemen and women dealing with student loan servicers continue to be denied the rights and protections guaranteed to them under the Servicememb...

American servicemen and women dealing with student loan servicers continue to be denied the rights and protections guaranteed to them under the Servicemembers Credit Relief Act (SCRA) and other programs, a report by the the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds.

Congress enacted the SCRA and other measures to reduce the financial strain on military men and women but today's report finds -- just as an earlier report did -- that many loan servicers are refusing to grant servicemembers the rights they have earned through their service. 

The report, “Overseas & Underserved: Student Loan Servicing and the Cost to Our Men and Women in Uniform,” highlights servicers’ continued mistakes handling servicemembers’ student loan repayments, resulting in improper denials of legal benefits, negative credit reporting, and shoddy follow-through on legal protections for military families.

Complaints also include frustrations from grieving parents seeking to discharge a co-signed loan following the death of their child.

“We continue to receive complaints from military student loan borrowers detailing a range of breakdowns and roadblocks,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Our deployed servicemembers should be able to focus on their military mission and spend precious free time talking with loved ones, not wrangling over problems with student loan servicers.”

The SCRA includes an interest rate cap for men and women in uniform who acquired student loan debt before they went on active duty. And, among other protections, there are special loan deferment programs, Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Programs, and loan forgiveness on certain federal loans for public service. In addition, some private student lenders advertise that they offer loan discharge, military deferment, and other protections for military families.

But a 2012 report outlined the unique servicing obstacles reported by servicemembers.The report emphasized complaints from military borrowers, including those in combat zones, who were wrongly denied interest-rate protections they were entitled to under the law. 

The CFPB has handled more than 1,300 complaints from military borrowers related to the servicing or collection of student loans since the publication of the last report.

Today’s report makes it clear that servicemembers continue to struggle to obtain the rights they have earned and it describes how general servicing issues become even more difficult as a result of the realities of military life.

Servicemembers continue to report difficulties in obtaining the SCRA interest rate cap of 6 percent, despite action by federal law enforcement officials last year against one servicer.

Many active-duty servicemembers’ loans are sent to collections due to servicer errors. The report documents how student loan servicers’ failures to adequately inform servicemembers and process completed requests can lead to surprise delinquencies, defaults, and debt collection efforts.

Disabled veterans and families of deceased servicemembers continue to encounter frustrations. There are protections available for some disabled veterans, whose service-related wounds are so severe that they qualify for a discharge of their remaining federal student loan debts.

Parents of deceased borrowers also report disgust and dismay with servicers of private student loans, after unsuccessful attempts to discharge debts they co-signed for their child.

The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers have been put out of business. According to the Federal...

The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers have been put out of business.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Timothy A. Coppinger, Frampton T. Rowland III, and their companies targeted online payday loan applicants and -- using information from lead generators and data brokers -- deposited money into those applicants’ bank accounts without their permission.

The defendants then withdrew reoccurring “finance” charges without any of the payments going to pay down the principal owed. The court subsequently halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets pending litigation.

The FTC’s complaint charges that the defendants told consumers they had agreed to, and were obligated to pay for, the unauthorized “loans.” To support their claims, the defendants provided consumers with fake loan applications or other loan documents purportedly showing that consumers had authorized the loans. If consumers closed their bank accounts to stop the unauthorized debits, the defendants often sold the “loans” to debt buyers who then harassed consumers for payment.

The defendants also allegedly misrepresented the loans’ costs, even to consumers who wanted the loans. The loan documents misstated the loan’s finance charge, annual percentage rate, payment schedule, and total number of payments, while burying the loans’ true costs in fine print.

Under the proposed settlement orders, the defendants are banned from any aspect of the consumer lending business, including collecting payments, communicating about loans, and selling debt. They are also permanently prohibited from making material misrepresentations about any good or service, and from debiting or billing consumers or making electronic fund transfers without their consent.

The orders extinguish any consumer debt the defendants are owed, and bar them from reporting such debts to any credit reporting agency, and from selling or otherwise benefiting from customers’ personal information.

The settlement orders impose consumer redress judgments of approximately $32 million and $22 million against Coppinger and his companies and Rowland and his companies, respectively. The judgments against Coppinger and Rowland will be suspended upon surrender of certain assets.

In each case, the full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

Be it ever so humble or not, the price of a home was up once again on both a year-over-year and month -over-month basis. CoreLogic reports its Home Price ...

Be it ever so humble or not, the price of a home was up once again on both a year-over-year and month -over-month basis.

CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) which shows that home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, rose 6.3% in May from the same month in 2014. This represents 39 months of consecutive year-over-year increases in home prices nationally.

On a month-over-month basis, home prices nationwide -- including distressed sales -- increased by 1.7% from April.

“Mortgage rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans remained below 4% through May, helping to fuel home-purchase activity,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Our homes-for-sale listing data shows that markets with high demand and limited supply, such as San Francisco, are recording double-digit appreciation rates over the past year."

Including distressed sales, 33 states and the District of Columbia were at or within 10% of their peak prices in May. Ten states and DC reached price peaks not seen since January 1976. They include Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices were up 6.3% in May 2015 compared with May 2014, and 1.4% month-over-month. Only Massachusetts and Louisiana (both -0.2%) showed year-over-year depreciation May.

“The rate of home price appreciation ticked up in May with gains being fairly widely distributed across the country. Importantly, higher home prices over the past couple of years have spurred increases in new single-family construction,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Sales of newly built homes during the first five months of 2015 were up 23 percent from a year ago, and as rising values build equity for homeowners, we expect to see more existing homes offered for sale in the coming year.”

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices -- including distressed sales -- will increase by 0.9% month-over-month from May 2015, to June 2015, and by 5.1% on a year-over-year basis from May 2015, to May 2016. Excluding distressed sales, home prices are projected to increase by 0.8% month-over-month from May 2015, to June 2015, and by 4.7% year-over-year from May 2015- to May 2016.

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast is a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.

Drugs prescribed by doctors to relieve pain often end up becoming the object of abuse as users quickly become addicted. It is estimated that between 26....

Drugs prescribed by doctors to relieve pain often end up becoming the object of abuse as users quickly become addicted.

It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012. By contrast, about 467,000 are addicted to heroin.

The problem is opioids perform an important function in healthcare. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, they reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion.

Since almost all addiction to painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet start with a legitimate prescription, doctors at the Mayo Clinic wondered how many first-time users of an opioid drug went on to become long-term users. When they investigated, they discovered it was 25%.

The researchers found some patients are more likely than others to develop a dependency on prescription painkillers. Past or present nicotine use and substance abuse are top risk factors for long-term use of opioids, but lead author Dr. W. Michael Hooten, an anesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic, says all patients should proceed with caution when offered opioid painkiller prescriptions.

“From a patient perspective, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with these medications. I encourage use of alternative methods to manage pain, including non-opioid analgesics or other non-medication approaches,” he said. “That reduces or even eliminates the risk of these medications transitioning to another problem that was never intended.”

To reduce addiction, Hooten says it's important to identify who is most likely to end up using painkillers for long periods of time and prescribe alternatives for dealing with their pain.

Because nicotine use and substance abuse are top risk factors for long-term use of opioids, Hooten suggests that physicians should be particularly careful about prescribing the painkillers to patients with these histories.

The interesting question is what causes this apparent connection. Hooten says that the science shows it’s all in our heads.

He points out the neurobiology related to chronic pain, chronic opioid use, and addiction is similar. For example, when nicotine hits the brain it activates receptors in a way very similar to how opioids and chronic pain may activate them.

When people start taking opioid drugs for long periods of time, Hooten says it can actually make them more sensitive to pain and increase their dependence.

The risk of addiction is not the only health threat from opioid dependence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses of prescription pain relievers like Vicodin, methadone, OxyContin, and Opana. The agency says the death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade.

"The increased use of prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons, along with growing sales, has contributed to the large number of overdoses and deaths," the CDC said.

A new law that has been passed in Florida will make it much harder for people to get away with having their dogs falsely registered as “service dogs”. Busi...

The number of job openings held fairly steady during May. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 5.4 million on the la...

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 5.4 million on the last business day of May -- the highest since the series began in December 2000, and the same as the month before.

The job openings rate for May was 3.6%, with the number of openings little changed for total private and government. Job openings increased in nondurable goods manufacturing and in state and local government. Job openings were little changed in all 4 regions.

The number of job openings (not seasonally adjusted) rose over the 12 months ending in May for total nonfarm, total private and government. Industries that saw the largest increases were retail trade, professional and business services, and health care and social assistance. Job openings decreased over the year in mining and logging and in arts, entertainment, and recreation.

The number of hires was 5.0 million, the same as April, with the hires rate at 3.5%. The number of hires was little changed for total private and government in May, with little change in the number of hires in all industries and regions over the month.

Over the 12 months ending in May, the number of hires (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. At the industry level, hires increased in federal government. Among the industries, the number of hires fell over the year in mining and logging.

Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Total separations is referred to as turnover. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Other separations includes separations due to retirement, death, and disability, as well as transfers to other locations of the same firm.

There were 4.7 million total separations in May, about the same as in April. The separations rate was 3.3%. The number of total separations was little changed for total private and government, and in all industries and regions over the month.

There were 2.7 million quits in May, unchanged from April. The quits rate in May was 1.9%. The number of quits was little changed for total private and government over the month.

The number of quits was little changed in all industries and in all four regions in May. The number of quits (not seasonally adjusted) increased over the 12 months ending in May for total nonfarm and total private, and was little changed for government. Over the year, quits increased in health care and social assistance and in accommodation and food services.

There were 1.7 million layoffs and discharges in May, about the same as in April. The layoffs and discharges rate was 1.2%. The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed over the month for total private and government, and in all four regions. Seasonally adjusted estimates of layoffs and discharges are not available for individual industries.

The number of layoffs and discharges (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed over the 12 months ending in May for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The number of layoffs and discharges increased over the year in federal government, but decreased in real estate and rental and leasing.

In May, there were 391,000 other separations for total nonfarm -- about the same as in April. Over the month, the number of other separations was little changed for total private at 324,000 and for government at 67,000. Seasonally adjusted estimates of other separations are not available for individual industries or regions.  

Over the 12 months ending in May, the number of other separations (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. Other separations increased in federal government, but decreased in accommodation and food services and in state and local government.

What kind of employee are you? Slacker? Tardy? Slovenly? A freak? Or, do you come in early and leave late, hit every deadline and loved by your clients? ...

Your answers may explain while you languish in your cubicle, while those around you are movin' on up.

A national survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder found that provocative clothing, a disheveled appearance and unprofessional haircut are just a few of the things that cause employers to think twice before promoting workers. Behaviors such as exhibiting a negative attitude, consistently arriving late or gossiping can also work against them.

When asked which aspects of a worker’s physical appearance would make them less likely to promote that person, employers were most out of favor with provocative attire (44%) and wrinkled clothes or shabby appearance (43%). Other answers include:

Employers said certain behaviors hurt an employee’s chances for promotion, with poor attitudes and consistent tardiness taking the top spot. Among them:

“In addition to on-the-job accomplishments, employers also take attitude, behavior and appearance into consideration when deciding who deserves to move up in the ranks,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “While your work performance may be strong, if you’re not presenting yourself in a professional manner, it may be preventing your superiors from taking you seriously.”

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 62 model year 2015 Passat manufactured May 18, 2015, to May 21, 2015. The brake line at the left rear wheel area...

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 62 model year 2015 Passat manufactured May 18, 2015, to May 21, 2015.

The brake line at the left rear wheel area may not have been properly tightened. As a result, it may leak brake fluid, causing a reduction in braking performance, lengthening the distance needed to stop the vehicle and increasing the risk of crash.

Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will tighten the brake line fitting, free of charge. The recall began on June 11, 2015.

Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-822-8987. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 47M3.

Stella & Chewy's is recalling some of its dog and cat food products. The recall was prompted by a positive test confirming Listeria monocytogenes in Chew...

The recall was prompted by a positive test confirming Listeria monocytogenes in Chewy's Chicken Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties for Dogs, 15-ounce, Lot #111–15.

While the following cat food products have not tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, the company says they are being recalled “in an abundance of caution:”

Customers who purchased these products should dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact Stella & Chewy’s customer service, at 888-477-8977 M-F 8:30 am - 5 pm (CST), or by email at info@stellaandchewys.com.

Last month's announcement from federal regulators that they are ending the use of trans fats in food products brought a cheer from health advocates. But ho...

Last month's announcement from federal regulators that they are ending the use of trans fats in food products brought a cheer from health advocates. But how do companies that produce food products plan to cope?

Food scientists say the food industry should be able to make a smooth transition away from the substance.

On June 16 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final determination, removing partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed food, from the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) list of human food ingredients.

Food manufacturers will have three years to completely phase it out. The FDA said it took the action based on a review of the scientific evidence.

“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said FDA's Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. "This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

There has always been some trans fat in food because small amounts form naturally in meat and dairy products. The natural form is not the issue.

Instead, the new regulation is aimed at the artificial trans fats that the food industry has used for decades to keep food from going bad and add to a product's shelf life, both in the supermarket and in consumers' pantries.

"If you take oils naturally found in nature, especially the ones that have a lot of unsaturated fats, they are unstable in food products and get rancid," said Fadi Aramouni, professor of food processing and food product development at Kansas State University. "Years ago, the food industry developed a process to hydrogenate these fats.”

By adding hydrogen to oils at high temperatures, the process makes the oil more solid and a lot more stable, and in the process forms what we call trans fat.

“The trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are used in a lot of formulations and actually give the food product a little better texture and better taste," Aramouni said.

As a result, food manufacturers began using trans fat in more and more processed foods like baked goods, frozen foods, and snack foods. Then, in the 1990s, clinical studies began to show that trans fat raises the "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowers the "good" HDL cholesterol in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Subsequent research found that trans fat also stiffens arteries and may increase the risk of diabetes.

While food companies now have three years to remove trans fat from their products, Aramouni says most companies have already made the adjustment. In other words, the food you buy today doesn't contain much trans fat.

"When the FDA required labeling of trans fat in 2006, a lot of companies moved away from using the product," Aramouni said. "Many big oil suppliers developed types of oils that are stable without being hydrogenated, which is done by changing the fatty acid composition of these oils.”

The American Bakers Association says its member companies have been dropping trans fat from its products over the last decade. Still, the trade group was pleased the FDA is giving it three years to complete the process.

“This action provides bakers and other food makers adequate time to further formulate to other, healthier alternative[s], as well as address a number of practical challenges including packaging changes and availability,” the group said in a statement.

Food companies are still adding oil to their products, but many of the types now in use are stable without having trans fat in them. Some companies started using unsaturated fats or natural oils again, incorporating antioxidants to help maintain the shelf life.

As a result, Aramouni says he doesn't think the ban will be much of a problem for the food industry, since most companies have already made the transition. At the same time, he says consumers should be aware of what they're getting.

Under current nutrition labeling regulations, a product containing less than half a gram of trans fat can claim zero trans fat in the product. That requires a closer reading of product labels. Aramouni says consumers need to read the ingredients list, which requires the food to list any partially hydrogenated oils it contains.

During the dog days of summer we're constantly warned about leaving children and pets in hot cars and staying hydrated when spending time outdoors.We d...

AOL has come a long way from the 1990s, when it was little more than a dial-up Internet service. Then it subsisted largely on the $30 monthly subscriptions...

It's an unavoidable fact of modern life that online companies know a lot about your online activity – buy stuff on Amazon, and of course that means Amazon ...

Would you climb Mt. Everest if you weren’t in shape? How about taking a long run if the temperature and humidity were high? It probably wouldn’t be a good ...

Would you climb Mt. Everest if you weren’t in shape? How about taking a long run if the temperature and humidity were high? It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to do either of those things, and in the same way it would not be good for your dog. It is important to remember that if something is physically challenging for you, then it certainly is for your dog as well.

Just last week, in North Vancouver, B.C., a dog collapsed while hiking with his 20-year-old owner. He became so tired that he was unable to keep up, despite his best efforts. Thankfully, a helicopter crew flew down and rescued him with a stretcher, but they still had to carry the dog three miles before they could airlift him out.

The lesson to be learned from this is that you have to keep your dog’s health in mind when walking, running, or hiking. Here are some things you should know before you decide to do get active with your pet:

First, you must determine that your dog is physically capable of taking part in the intended activity. If you have any concerns or doubts, be sure to consult your veterinarian. It is not recommended that you take a puppy under 18 months out for any kind of rigorous activity.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, be sure that your pet is up-to-date on all of their vaccinations and medications to prevent fleas, ticks, ear mites, worms, and other parasites from harming them. This will save you a lot of money in the long run on vet bills. You should also be sure to microchip your dog in case they get away from you or become lost.

Always make sure you bring a few snacks and plenty of water; you can never have too much. This will ensure that your dog stays refreshed. Dehydration is a big concern for all hikers and their dogs.

Check to see if your dog can handle the terrain that you are hiking or walking on. Environmental hazards, like cactuses or large rocks, can be dangerous if your dog has never experienced them before. If there are streams or rivers, make sure that your dog can swim if they have to. Not all of them are born with the ability.

Sometimes it is a hassle to use a leash, but it is really important to keep your curious dog from eating things that are poisonous. It can also keep them from aggressing onto other animals that you may come across; this includes wildlife and other hikers and their pets. Larger animals such as horses, or even cyclists, can be intimidating for your dog, so having them on a short lead will keep them safe from injury.

When you get home, be sure to check your dog closely for ticks, burrs, and other things that may stick to them. You may want to bathe them, or at least wash their paws, to ensure that there are no residual plants or other natural elements stuck in their fur. Stay safe, and enjoy the great outdoors with man’s best friend. 

The bottom of the spare tire well is not exactly the brightest place to store the vital electronic components that keep a car running but that's what a cla...

If you've been on Facebook over the long holiday weekend, you might've seen posts promising 500 lucky people the chance to win a year's worth of free fligh...

If you're planning a hotel stay this vacation season (or for business travel), remember that it puts you at risk of what might be called the “front desk sc...

Advancements in technology continue to flourish, and the current generation of millennials are taking full advantage of all that it can offer. Information ...

It wasn't by much, but economic activity in the non-manufacturing, or services sector, of the economy posted its 65th consecutive month of growth in June. ...

It wasn't by much, but economic activity in the non-manufacturing, or services sector, of the economy posted its 65th consecutive month of growth in June.

According to the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, the Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI) registered 56% last month, up 0.3% from May.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index rose 2.0% to 61.5%, reflecting growth for the 71st consecutive month at a faster rate. The New Orders Index was up 0.4%, while the Employment Index fell 2.6%. Still the reading of 52.7% indicates growth for the 16th consecutive month. The Prices Index was down 2.9% to 53%, indicating prices increased in June for the fourth consecutive month.

Committee Chairman Anthony Nieves says the majority of respondents’ comments are “positive about business conditions and the economy.”

Dollar stores are big business, and discount retailers Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will be even bigger now that the Federal Trade Commission has approved...

Dollar stores are big business, and discount retailers Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will be even bigger now that the Federal Trade Commission has approved Dollar Tree's proposed $9.2 billion acquisition of Family Dollar.

But 330 Family Dollar stores will be spun off to private equity firm Sycamore Partners to mollify the Federal Trade Commission, which charged that the deal as originally proposed would be anticompetitive.  

The stores to be sold will be re-named “Dollar Express” and will become a part of a chain of deep discount stores being launched by Sycamore Partners.

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar sell deeply discounted general merchandise items – including food, home products, apparel and accessories, and seasonal items – at prices below $10 (in the case of stores under the “Dollar Tree” banner, all items are priced at $1.00 or less).

The stores currently compete head-to-head in terms of price, product assortment, and quality, as well as location and customer service in local markets nationwide. The FTC identified 330 stores in local markets from 35 states where competition would be lost if the acquisition went forward as proposed.

Seventeen states joined in the action, including Vermont, ​where Attorney General Bill Sorrell said: “It is important to maintain competition in Vermont. The sale of two Family Dollar stores, one in in Newport and the other in Morrisville, to Dollar Express will insure a competitive market because those areas will now be served by two independently owned stores.” 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wages a never-ending war against drugs that consumers sometimes buy on the online black market, due to shortage...

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wages a never-ending war against drugs that consumers sometimes buy on the online black market, due to shortages or high costs.

But sometimes the FDA finds unapproved drugs distributed through normal channels that are even being prescribed by physicians.

The FDA says it plans to take enforcement action against companies that are making or distributing certain unapproved prescription ear drops, known as otic products. They are usually taken to relieve ear pain, infection, and inflammation and are often given to children.

The problem with these drugs, the agency says, is that they contain active ingredients such as benzocaine and hydrocortisone, that have not been evaluated for safety, effectiveness, and quality.

Consumers are in the dark about this because the labels on these products do not disclose that they lack FDA approval. In fact, the FDA says health care professionals may not be aware of their unapproved status.

In a public notice, the FDA has informed the companies that they must stop manufacturing these unapproved prescription otic products or be subject to enforcement actions, including seizure, injunction, and/or criminal proceedings.

The agency makes clear, however, that the crackdown does not apply to FDA-approved prescription otic products, or other legally marketed otic products sold over-the-counter.

Consumers should be aware that the unapproved prescription otic drug products are anything containing the following ingredients:

“Taking enforcement actions against these unapproved products will protect patients from unnecessary risks,” said Cynthia Schnedar, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

There is no reason for consumers to be using these unapproved ear drops, Schnedar says, because there are plenty of ear drop products the FDA has approved. For that reason, she says she doesn't expect any impact on patients from the FDA action.

The FDA said it is especially concerned because unapproved prescription otic drug products are frequently used to treat young children suffering from ear infections and other conditions that cause ear pain and swelling.

Like any unapproved drugs, people using them may be exposed to greater risk because there is no proven safety or effectiveness information. The drugs could be contaminated or manufactured incorrectly, which could result in patients receiving the wrong dose, even when administered according to the labeled directions for use.

That's not to say that the unapproved ingredients in these drugs are harmful. The FDA just doesn't know if they are. The agency says the companies that make the unapproved ear drugs may submit them for approval.

As for consumers who believe they are using unapproved prescription ear drops, the FDA says they should contact their health care provider to discuss alternatives.

Since the housing bust gathered momentum in early 2009, buyers paying cash instead of taking out a mortgage have made up a bigger share on each month's hom...

Since the housing bust gathered momentum in early 2009, buyers paying cash instead of taking out a mortgage have made up a bigger share on each month's home sales.

Generally, these buyers are investors – either “mom and pop” investors flipping one house at a time or hedge funds buying up large blocks of homes and converting them to rental property.

In May, the trend appeared to shift. RealtyTrac, a foreclosure marketing company, reports 24.6% of all single family home and condo sales in May were all-cash purchases, down from 28.5% in the previous month and down from 30.4% a year ago.

It's the lowest percentage of all-cash buyers since November 2009 and well below the 42.2% level of February 2011. In fact, it was very close to the long-term average going back to 2000 – 24.8%.

What's the significance? The numbers suggest fewer investors are in the housing market and are being replaced by people who are taking out mortgages and who plan to live in the houses they buy. Industry professionals say it suggests that balance is beginning to return to the market.

“For the potential first time homebuyer or move up buyer this is a good time to move ahead,” said Craig King, COO at Chase International brokerage, covering the Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada, markets. “Interest rates remain historically low, and the outlook for price appreciation is great.

"The competition in the marketplace is also different. While inventory is tight many investors have dropped out of the market and cash deals are not as prevalent as they were. Even in multi-offer situations much has been equalized. This is great news for first time buyers,” King said.

But home prices have continued to rise in recent months, a product of tighter-than-normal inventory and fewer foreclosures, which tend to drag down the average price. According to RealtyTrac, the median sale price of residential properties — including both distressed and non-distressed properties — that sold in May was $173,900, which is up 4% from the previous month.

“Distressed sales in May represented a significantly smaller share of a growing home sales pie as an increasing number of non-distressed sellers continued to cash out on the equity they’ve gained over the last 3 years of rising home prices,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

But distressed sales are still out there and represent a significant savings for buyers. Blomquist says a distressed property sells at a median discount of 43% to a non-distressed property.

Blomquist also says the transition from an investor-driven, cash-is-king market to one more dependent on traditional buyers is a healthy sign.

“Sales volume has been increasing over the last few months and is on track in 2015 to hit the highest level we’ve seen since 2006,” he said.

As sales rise, prices are beginning to level off because the number of homes for sale has slowly begun to increase. RealtyTrac says that tips the market balance more in favor of buyers – at least those who can qualify for a mortgage.  

Ford Motor Company recalling approximately 433,000 model year 2015 Focus vehicles from June 17, 2014, through June 12, 2015; 2015 C-MAX vehicles built from...

Ford Motor Company recalling approximately 433,000 model year 2015 Focus vehicles from June 17, 2014, through June 12, 2015; 2015 C-MAX vehicles built from April 22, 2014, through June 12, 2015; and 2015 Escape vehicles built from April 1, 2014, through June 12, 2015.

It could be possible for the engine to continue to run after turning the ignition key to the “off” position and removing the key, or after pressing the Engine Start/Stop button.

Lombardi Brothers Meats of Denver, Colo., is recalling approximately 26,975 pounds of tenderized steak and ground beef products. The products may be conta...

Lombardi Brothers Meats of Denver, Colo., is recalling approximately 26,975 pounds of tenderized steak and ground beef products.

The following tenderized steak and ground beef products with generic labeling, produced between June 12 and June 30, 2015, are being recalled:

The recalled products bear the establishment number “EST. 772” inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were shipped for hotel, restaurant and institutional use in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Barber Foods of a Portland, Maine, is recalling approximately 58,320 pounds of frozen, raw stuffed chicken product. The product may be contaminated with S...

Barber Foods of a Portland, Maine, is recalling approximately 58,320 pounds of frozen, raw stuffed chicken product.

The following Chicken Kiev item, produced on January 29, 2015; February 20, 2015; and April 23, 2015, is being recalled:

The recalled product recall bears the establishment number “P-276” inside the USDA mark of inspection and was shipped to Sam’s Club retail stores in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

While the product subject to recall has not been available for retail sales since June 26, 2015, it is suspected that consumers may have this item in their freezers.

Ford Motor Company is recalling 182,520 model year 2014-2015 Ford Escape vehicles manufactured May 19, 2014, to February 6, 2015, and Transit Connect vehic...

Ford Motor Company is recalling 182,520 model year 2014-2015 Ford Escape vehicles manufactured May 19, 2014, to February 6, 2015, and Transit Connect vehicles manufactured May 13, 2014, to December 10, 2014.

Due to a software incompatibility issue, the instrument panel cluster be inoperative including a blank multiple functional display (MFD), and non-functional warning chimes, messages and warning lights.

If the instrument cluster is inoperative, the driver of may not be warned of safety related issues such as low tire pressures or disabled air bags, increasing the risk of personal injury or a crash.

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will update the instrument panel software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 10, 2015.

Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets of Lakewood, Colo., is recalling one lot of Natural Grocers brand Caribbean Nut & Fruit Mix. The product may be conta...

Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets of Lakewood, Colo., is recalling one lot of Natural Grocers brand Caribbean Nut & Fruit Mix.

The product was distributed to Natural Grocers’ 97 stores in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at (303)-986-4600, ext. 531, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MST).

FCA is accused of botching 23 safety recalls and being slow to recognize and report safety defects to NHTSA, as federal law requires....

The long July 4th weekend was even longer for executives of FCA US LLC, formerly known as Chrysler. After a hearing Thursday, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said he would take action against the automaker soon, possibly sometime this month.

FCA is accused of botching 23 safety recalls and being slow to recognize and report safety defects to NHTSA, as federal law requires.  

"What you heard here is there's a pattern that's been going on for some time, frankly," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said after the hearing.

NHTSA has already "tentatively concluded" that the company has failed to complete as many as 11 million recalls in a timely manner, sometimes because it took too long to find a remedy and other times because it took too long to make enough replacement parts available.

This is a problem that is not limited to FCA. As we reported recently, car owners complain constantly that dealers are slow to carry out recall remedies, frequently blaming shortage of parts. 

But NHTSA has zeroed in on FCA, saying that it performed poorly in 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles and NHTSA is expected to hit the Italian-American automaker with stiff penalties.

“Fiat Chrysler takes a long time to produce the parts needed to get vehicles fixed," said Scott Yon, chief of the vehicle integrity division at the agency’s Office of Defect Investigations, according to Automotive News. "Their dealers have difficulty getting parts for recalls. Their customers have trouble getting recall repairs done. Fiat Chrysler’s recall remedies sometimes fail to remedy the defects they are supposed to fix."

NHTSA could fine the company up to $35 million for shortcomings in each of the 23 disputed recalls, for a possible total of $805 million. It could also order FCA to buy back some of the recalled vehicles and it is almost certain to order that the company take steps to improve its defect detection and reporting processes. 

At the hearing, Jennifer Timian, acting director of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation, singled out recalls involving fuel systems catching fire in rear-end collisions, defective ignition switches which disable air bags and defective air bags that "can unexpectedly go off."

"There are times when intervention is warranted," Timian said, saying there have been fatalities and injuries from repairs not being made in a timely fashion. the Detroit Free Press reported.

Witnesses testifying at the hearing buttressed Timian's contention. Center for Auto Safety Director Clarence Ditlow pointed to the recalls of 2006-07 Jeep Commanders, 2005-07 Grand Cherokees and 2008-10 Chrysler Town & Country, Grand Caravan and 2009-10 Journey for ignition switches that can get knocked out of the run position, similar to the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion defect.

"One year after the recalls were announced, not a single vehicle has been repaired," Ditlow said. "Fiat Chrysler treats the ... owner notification as a get-out-of-jail free card which can put the actual recall on hold forever."

Ditlow said the recall involving allegedly fire-prone fuel tanks in Jeep Cherokkes "represents the worst of Fiat Chrysler," labeling it "the recall Fiat Chrysler never wanted to do."

Ditlow said the company failed to notify NHTSA of a defect despite confidentially settling at least 44 lawsuits since the Jeep Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1993.

"When forced to do a recall by NHTSA in June 2013 with a dubious trailer hitch as a remedy, Fiat Chrysler failed to send an interim ... owner notification until January 2014 and a final ... until September 2014," he said, noting that two two years after the recall started, only 5.9% of the nearly 1.5 million 1993-98 Grand Cherokees and 25% of the nearly 1 million 2002-07 Liberty’s have been remedied.

"People die when manufacturers fail to remedy recalled vehicles," Ditlow said. "On November 11, 2014, Kayla White burned to death in a rear impact in her 2003 Jeep Liberty. Kayla was 8 months pregnant and had tried to get Fiat Chrysler to install the trailer hitch before the fatal crash."

Ditlow charged that there have been at least 20 deaths in the recalled Jeeps since NHTSA recall request on June 3, 2013.

In its defense, Fiat Chrysler points to earlier findings by NHTSA that the Jeeps “do not present an unreasonable risk to safety” and that the fires only occur "in severe, high-energy rear impacts." The company also contends the recalled Jeeps performed similarly to comparable competing models.

Some years July 4 falls on a weekday, making it hard for working families to take in a night of fireworks and make it work the next morning. But this year,...

Some years July 4 falls on a weekday, making it hard for working families to take in a night of fireworks and make it to work the next morning. But this year, it's turned into a three-day weekend, thanks to the holiday being officially observed on Friday, July 3.  

But timing aside, the usual considerations apply this year -- fireworks safety, travel congestion, over-eating and perhaps excessive imbibing.

Thousands of fireworks injuries expected Fireworks are fun but dangerous and injuries are very common. While most are minor -- singed hair, a burned finger -- each year brings a few severe injuries or worse. Read more.  

Higher than expected gas prices Gas prices usually decline slightly in the summer. But this year, although prices are below last year, there's actually been a slight uptick, so don't trade in that hybrid just yet. Read more.

Pet safety Fireworks and cook-outs can be fun for humans and their pets but there are some special steps we need to take to keep pets safe. Read more.  

The great grill debate You probably have a grill already but if not, or if you're thinking of getting a new one, there's always the question -- which is better, gas or charcoal? Read more.

Dangerous buns Believe it or not, there's a been a recall of hamburger and hot dog buns because a terry cloth oven glove may have broken up in the dough, creating a potential choking hazard. Read more. 

Steven got a recall notice for his Ram truck, warning that the electrical connectors on the diesel fuel heater could malfunction, possibly causing a fire. ...

Steven got a recall notice for his Ram truck, warning that the electrical connectors on the diesel fuel heater could malfunction, possibly causing a fire. So he did what safety regulators are always telling consumers to do: he called his dealer, Benoy Motors in Woodstock, Illinois.

But Benoy said there were no parts available, Steven told us. When would they be available? “I have no idea,” the service manager said.

This is a complaint we hear constantly and one that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has lately professed concern about. NHTSA plans to grill FCA US LLC – alias Chrysler – today about how well it has handled several recent recalls but the problem goes much further than any single manufacturer.

Besides GM's alleged food-dragging in recognizing and dealing with its notorious ignition-switch problems, Takata's shrapnel-shooting airbags and FCA's allegedly fire-prone Jeep Cherokees, there are plenty of other recall-related outrages large and small.

In Steven's case, he pressed the service manager at Benoy, asking when the parts for the recall had been ordered. “Chrysler just sends the parts… we do not order them,” the service manager said.

Well, asked Steven, if my truck catches fire while I'm waiting for parts, who's going to pay me for a new truck? The answer was, “That’s a good question.”

Then there's Gustavo, who works at a senior living facility in Memphis. The facility has a small bus that it uses to take seniors to events around town, to doctor's appointments and so forth. Safety is a primary consideration and Gustavo takes it seriously, so when he got a recall notice for the Michelin tires on the bus, he was concerned and called the Ford dealer who had sold the truck.

The Ford dealer said he knew nothing about it. Gustavo contacted Michelin, which told him to contact the Ford dealer. Gustavo then wrote to us and we directed him to the page on NHTSA's site that confirmed his tires had in fact been recalled. We then directed him to Michelin's consumer affairs number.

“I contacted Michelin’s consumer affairs and the recorded message said that any location that sold these tires would take care of it so I contacted Sam’s club and they referred me back to Michelin,” Gustavo reported.

Consumers frequently see recalls for cars that are similar but not identical to theirs and wonder if the recall applies to theirs. The easy way to find out is to check NHTSA's VIN look-up or the vastly superior recall check on the Carfax site. 

Of course, just because a car hasn't been recalled and isn't on the list doesn't mean it shouldn't be. We heard recently from Hung-I who said: “I read your article about Acura is recalling 2014-15 MDX vehicle equipped with the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) in the U.S. … I own a 2012 Acura MDX equipped with CMBS system and I also experienced with the same problem, which often mistakenly assuming a metallic bridge is an object in front of car and engage brakes.”

Hung-I wanted to know what to do. Since he apparently doesn't live in the United States, we don't know the answer. But even for consumers who do live in the U.S. and who are in the same fix, the only obvious answer is that they should go the NHTSA site and file a complaint. If enough people with that particular model do the same, NHTSA may eventually notice, conduct a preliminary evaluation, then an investigation and possibly even order a recall at some point in the future.

But as NHTSA itself recently admitted, it has only a skeleton staff – sometimes just one person – reading incoming complaints as they pour into NHTSA's database, which is organized in a rigid manner that makes it very difficult to spot similar occurrences in different vehicles.

One systems engineer who looked at the NHTSA site said the agency would be better off scrapping the whole thing and simply putting complaints into Google, where they could at least find similar occurrences through a keyword search.

Of course, if a consumer receives an official notification from the manufacturer, that should remove all doubt about whether the car has in fact been recalled. So when Jesse of Terrell, Texas, got a recall notice for ignition repair on her 2005 Malibu, she called the dealer right away.

“I was told this did not apply to my car,” she said. “Should I be concerned? Why did I get a notice if it wasn't necessary?”

There's no easy answer to any of these questions. But a good start might be for NHTSA or an outside auditor to take a top-to-bottom look at its system and figure out if it actually accomplishes much of anything, other than frustrating consumers and annoying dealership service managers who seem to have better things to do.

In 2013, it was estimated that only 70% of recalls are ever completed and the unspoken assumption was that consumers aren't paying attention and aren't taking their cars in for repairs. The emails and complaints we receive, like those cited in this story, indicate that consumers may not be the weak link in the chain and that manufacturers, dealers and NHTSA itself may bear a big part of the blame for the sorry recall completion record. 

Most businesses these days regularly follow up with customers to see how happy they are with a recent transaction. NHTSA might want to try this. It might even want to contact owners of recalled vehicles and see how well -- or if -- the recall-mandated repairs were ever carried out. That would provide an interesting statistic.

Many things may contribute to road rage, but there can be little doubt that traffic signals that are not synchronized are among them.According to the U...

Many things may contribute to road rage, but there can be little doubt that traffic signals that are not synchronized are among them.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, outdated traffic signaling accounts for more than 10% of all traffic delays. Besides adding to driver frustration, it also contributes to excessive fuel consumption and air pollution.

It's not as though traffic engineers haven't known for years how to fix this. “Smart” traffic lights are in place in many areas, allowing signals at intersections to adjust to real-time traffic conditions.

In fact, some form of adaptive signal control technologies have been in use in the U.S. for approximately 20 years, but have been deployed on fewer than 3% of intersections controlled by traffic signals.

Los Angeles and neighboring Orange County have deployed the most adaptive traffic signals, but as Time Magazine recently reported, Bellevue, Wash., is making a major investment in the technology.

Wires have been embedded in city streets to inform the lights how much traffic is moving through the intersection. At times of heavy traffic, the green signal stays on a little longer. During rush hour nearby intersections sync their lights to allow long periods of green.

Adaptive signals are the next generation of newer technology traffic signals that detect the presence of cars at an intersection and adjust the signal accordingly. Some use electromagnetic loops in the pavement.

Cars activate the sensors when they drive over them, causing the light to stay on for a certain period. But oftentimes, the timing at intersections only gets reset every three to five years.

Municipalities have lately been migrating toward more sophisticated signals. While they still use loops, video cameras, and radar to gather data on traffic patterns, they have changed the way they handle that information.

According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, rather than having a traffic engineer set and reset a signal’s timing in a control room, they install adaptive systems that use algorithms that work in real time. The signals essentially figure out how much traffic is coming their way and adapt automatically to change their timing. That requires a lot of technical support.

Engineers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) are using a $100,000 grant from the City of Miami Beach to test two new adaptive traffic signals being considered for one of the busiest corridors in South Beach – Arthur Godfrey Road.

“With better sensing technologies such as wireless communication and personal mobile devices, smarter algorithms, and more processing power, we are moving towards an era of much more efficient, safer and eco-friendly traffic signals,” said Mohammad Ilyas, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

FAU's Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management (LATOM) is ground zero for research and development of smart traffic signals. “Congested roads have long been a headache for contemporary cities and we need to look at innovative ways to deal with traffic,” said Aleksandar Stevanovic, director of LATOM. “While better management of traffic signals won’t reduce the number of cars on our streets, we can do a much better job in adjusting signals to work more efficiently.”

Stevamovic also says smart traffic lights, if timed properly and continually, can both reduce traffic delays and improve public safety.

Since they are relatively new technology, adaptive control systems are still pretty expensive. That's why state and municipal governments are turning to research institutions to pre-test their effectiveness.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, a major barrier to wider use of smart traffic control systems has been their cost. Start up includes initial investments in signal control hardware, communication networks, and comprehensive traffic studies, as well as the cost of periodic updates to adjust systems to changing traffic conditions. Both conventional and adaptive systems require periodic traffic studies and recalibration.  

Last August, California became the second U.S. state (after Minnesota) to pass a law mandating that all smartphones sold in the state come equipped with a ...

Last August, California became the second U.S. state (after Minnesota) to pass a law mandating that all smartphones sold in the state come equipped with a “kill switch” option allowing owners to remotely disable, or “kill,” their phones if they are stolen. The process is also known as “bricking” – transforming the phone from a valuable piece of electronic equipment into a mere plastic brick.

The rationale behind kill switches is to discourage smartphone thefts: thieves won't bother stealing phones if they know the phones' legitimate owners will immediately be able to brick them and render them worthless.

Samsung developed a kill-switch app as early as 2013, yet companies including Verizon, AT&T;, T-Mobile, United States Cellular Corporation, and Sprint responded by preventing Samsung from pre-loading the app. This in turn inspired New York's attorney general in December 2013 to ask those wireless carriers why they wouldn't allow it, and urged carriers to embrace the technology “as a simple yet effective way to protect” smartphone owners from theft.

The following March, the New York AG and San Francisco District Attorney's offices issued a joint statement announcing that Verizon and US Cellular (no mention of the other companies) had decided to allow the apps, which smartphone owners could activate for free.

Why would phone and wireless companies oppose kill switches in the first place? Industry representatives said it was to prevent hackers from exploiting the switches. Cynics speculated the reason might actually be “The phone companies all figure 'Hey, if you can't get your stolen phone back you'll have to buy a new one, which means more money for us. Whoopee!'”

California's kill-switch law only came into force yesterday, yet a study published by Consumer Reports last month suggests that kill-switch technology is already having an effect: in 2013, 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen, but in 2014 that number dropped to 2.1 million.

Consumer Reports noted that “The technology could eventually save U.S. consumers $3.4 billion” (which could also be interpreted as “The technology could eventually cost U.S. companies $3.4 billion in sales to replace stolen phones”).

That said: even if your phone does now have a kill switch, don't make the mistake of thinking that alone is enough to protect your phone and whatever data is on it.

As Consumer Reports' study noted: “Kill switches aside, many phone owners do an abysmal job of protecting their mobile devices …. Among survey respondents, only 46 percent set a screen lock using a four-digit PIN or a stronger method such as a lengthy password or fingerprint. Just 33 percent backed up their data, including photos and contacts, to a computer or online service. Built-in security technology can only get a consumer so far—to reap the benefits, you actually have to use it.”

It's like any other anti-theft device: the best and strongest lock in the world still won't protect your stuff if you forget to shut the door.

Many recent advances in treating diabetes have focused on making the disease more manageable by allowing those affected to measure their glucose levels mor...

Many recent advances in treating diabetes have focused on making the disease more manageable by allowing those affected to measure their glucose levels more quickly and with less pain. Now researchers have developed a new way of doing just that for those suffering from Type 1 diabetes.

They have proposed implanting an “artificial pancreas” into people that can measure their blood sugar levels and automatically release insulin when it is needed.

Type 1 diabetes affects well over one million people living in the United States today, many of which are teenagers or children. The disease results from the immune system destroying pancreatic cells which are responsible for insulin production. In order to make up for this, patients take insulin injections every day to keep their glucose levels normal.

The current method of injecting insulin is less than optimal, since it relies on the user to constantly keep track of their blood sugar levels and the amount of insulin they are taking. This is particularly hard for people who are very young or very old, since they may not be able to keep track of all of the pertinent information.

Even after injecting the insulin, there is still a significant amount of time that needs to pass before it can affect a person’s system. This can be dangerous in cases where the desired effects are needed sooner rather than later. In order to fix this problem, Francis J. Doyle III and his team researched ways in which monitoring and delivering insulin injections would not be so laborious.

Doyle and his team designed an algorithm that keeps track of blood sugar levels in the human body and calculates how much insulin is needed to counteract imbalances. The formula is designed to work with implanted devices, like the artificial pancreas.  

If proven viable, the artificial pancreas would be able to react to insulin needs much faster than someone with Type 1 diabetes ever could. Because it is constantly monitoring the body, it can deliver the correct dosage as soon as a person needed it. The algorithm is even designed to take food intake and sleep periods into account when making its determinations.

Early tests of the artificial pancreas have proven positive. It maintained blood sugar levels within a target range almost 80 percent of the time. The researchers will strive to improve upon that number as time goes on. They hope to begin testing the device in animals in the near future. 

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health have found that extreme weather conditions increase the risk of contracting a Salmonell...

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health have found that extreme weather conditions increase the risk of contracting a Salmonella infection. It is the first study of its kind to provide empirical evidence that the bacteria is connected to powerful meteorological events.

While the results are tied specifically to the coastal regions of Maryland, the research could help prevent outbreaks of the bacteria in the future.

Salmonella is a food or waterborne bacteria that can be found in raw poultry, beef, eggs, or unwashed produce. An infection can cause extreme distress to a person’s digestive system. Symptoms may include vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. There are nearly 1.2 million cases of gastroenteritis caused by Salmonella in the U.S. every year.

Researchers were able to connect salmonella infections, or salmonellosis, with weather conditions after studying data from the Maryland health department and connecting them to extreme heat and precipitation periods from 2002-2012. The data stretched back more than 30 years, so scientists had plenty of information to base their theory on.

“We found that extremely hot days and periods of extreme rainfall are contributing to Salmonella infections in Maryland, with the most dramatic impacts being seen in the coastal communities,” said Dr. Amir Sapkota, who is an associate professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.

Due to their proximity to water, the coastal regions of Maryland did see more Salmonella infections. These areas experienced a 5.1% increase in infection rates after extreme heat events, as compared to 1.5% for non-coastal areas. Large amounts of rainfall made an even heavier impact, with the infection rate increasing by 7.1%, compared with 3.6% for non-coastal areas.

Nearly 10,000 cases of Salmonella infections were recorded in Maryland between 2002 and 2012. The researchers hope that this new information will help people to avoid infections at times when they are most vulnerable. “As we prepare for the future, we need to take this differential burden into account,” said Dr. Sapkota.

A federal judge has ruled that GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump must disclose how much money he made from Trump University as part of a racketeering l...

A federal judge has ruled that GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump must disclose how much money he made from Trump University as part of a racketeering lawsuit that claims Trump defrauded students out of millions of dollars.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel on Tuesday ruled that Trump's financial transactions involving Trump University are relevant and must be disclosed, Courthouse News Service reported.

Plaintiff Art Cohen claims that Trump "devised and executed a scheme to make tens of millions of dollars" by misrepresenting that Trump University was an actual university taught by a faculty of professors at least partly selected by Trump himself.

According to the suit, Trump University promised big things, claiming to be "the 'next best thing' to being Donald Trump's next Apprentice." Indeed, the company's website promised that students could "become the next real estate mogul," "become your own success story," or "learn wealth strategies."

But the plaintiffs say it didn't take long before they realized that "[t]he primary lesson Trump University teaches its students is how to spend more money buying more Trump seminars.

Cohen says that he paid more than $36,000 before deciding the claims were false. Cohen said Trump does not teach students his real estate investing secrets, contribute in any meaningful way to the curriculum, or handpick the instructors.

Trump's lawyers had challenged the demand that they produce records of Trump's profits from the school but Judge Curiel said the evidence is relevant and discoverable.

Curiel agreed with Cohen's argument that evidence that Trump profited from the university is relevant to show motive and bias.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman successfully sued Trump in 2014, charging he was personally liable for running Trump University without a license. Schneiderman accused Trump of fraud, claiming he had defrauded students of $40 million. 

Trump announced recently that he was seeking the GOP nomination for president, taking the opportunity to say that Mexican immigrants are criminals, rapists and drug dealers, setting off something of a crisis in the Republican Party, which has been trying to figure out how to appeal to Hispanic voters. 

Univision cut ties with Trump after the remarks and Trump responded with a $500 million lawsuit, saying the action was illegal. NBC Universal and Macy's have also canceled their business dealings with the hotel mogul and financier, whose poll numbers have been rising in lockstep with the controversy. 

PayPal users will be glad to know that this week, the company backed down from its controversial plan to bombard customers' phones with unwanted spam text ...

PayPal users will be glad to know that this week, the company backed down from its controversial plan to bombard customers' phones with unwanted spam text messages and robocalls. Whether this change was inspired by the company's own better natures, or by a deluge of unwanted attention from customers, the media, and various legal authorities remains up for debate.

Early in June, PayPal posted some intended changes to its online user agreement, changes originally slated to come into force yesterday. Here's an excerpt from the then-new revised rules regarding mobile phone customers (bold print emphasis added):

You consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained.  We may place such calls or texts to (i) notify you regarding your account; (ii) troubleshoot problems with your account (iii) resolve a dispute; (iv) collect a debt; (v) poll your opinions through surveys or questionnaires, (vii) contact you with offers and promotions; or (viii) as otherwise necessary to service your account or enforce this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you.

Translation: PayPal reserves the right to call you for any reason it wants, at any number they can find for you whether you voluntarily gave them the number or not. The user agreement went on to say:

The ways in which you provide us a telephone number include, but are not limited to, providing a telephone number at Account opening, adding a telephone number to your Account at a later time, providing it to one of our employees, or by contacting us from that phone number. If a telephone number provided to us is a mobile telephone number, you consent to receive SMS or text messages at that number. … Standard telephone minute and text charges may apply if we contact you.

In other words, if you so much as call them from your own phone, they reserve the right to bombard that phone with unwanted calls, SMS, or text messages henceforth, and you're responsible for any costs of their phone calls or text messages. (On a limited data plan? You might have to pay for an upgrade, to ensure PayPal's self-serving spam outreach program doesn't exceed your limit.)

And for anyone who didn't want to be pestered by, let alone forced to pay extra for, promotional phone calls or advertising text messages, the only option PayPal offered was to “close your account within the 30 day period.”

A week after that initial announcement, the New York attorney general's office sent PayPal a letter criticizing the proposed policy changes on various grounds, including possible violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.

But this week, less than 48 hours before the planned implementation of these new changes, PayPal backed down. Senior vice-president Louise Pentland posted an online “Update to our User Agreement” starting out with a mea culpa statement:

We value our relationship with our customers and work hard to communicate clearly. Recently, however, we did not live up to our own standards.

In sending our customers a notice about upcoming changes to our User Agreement we used language that did not clearly communicate how we intend to contact them. Unfortunately, this language caused confusion and concern with some of our customers.

The post went on to say that customers would not receive marketing robocalls “without prior express written consent.”

The New York attorney general's office, which sent those initial complaint letters to PayPal earlier last month, responded to PayPal's announcement with a brief statement:

“In response to a letter from the Attorney General’s Internet Bureau PayPal will only robocall consumers in instances of fraud, debt collection or in relation to account activity. In the long term, PayPal has committed to providing additional opt-out features to consumers for even these calls at the point when a consumer discloses her phone number. In the meantime, consumers should contact PayPal directly to express their opt-out preferences.”

Electrolux has already swept up Frigidaire and Tappan and is now closing in on General Electric's appliance business. But the Justice Department wants to p...

Electrolux has already swept up Frigidaire and Tappan and is now closing in on General Electric's appliance business. But the Justice Department wants to pull the plug on the deal, saying that the $3.3 billion acquisition would be anticompetitive.

If the deal goes through, Electrolux would control too much of the market for ranges, cooktops and wall ovens, reducing competition and resulting in higher prices and less choice for American consumers, who spend more than $4 billion annually on major cooking appliances.

“Electrolux’s proposed acquisition of General Electric’s appliance business would leave millions of Americans vulnerable to price increases for ranges, cooktops and wall ovens, products that serve an important role in family life and represent large purchases for many households,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Leslie C. Overton of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. 

“This lawsuit also seeks to prevent a duopoly in the sale of these major cooking appliances to builders and other commercial purchasers, who often pass on price increases to home buyers or renters," Overton said.  

Electrolux North America Inc. is an Ohio corporation headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Electrolux North America Inc. makes and sells major appliances, including those under the brand names Frigidaire, Tappan and Electrolux.  Electrolux’s annual major-appliance sales in the United States total approximately $2.6 billion.  Electrolux North America Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of defendant AB Electrolux.

General Electric Company is a New York corporation headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut.  General Electric’s appliance business is based in Louisville, Kentucky.  It makes and sells major appliances, including those under the brand names GE Monogram, GE Café, GE Profile, GE, GE Artistry and Hotpoint.  In the United States, General Electric’s annual major appliance sales total approximately $3.4 billion.

Some people try to convey emotions in their texts with punctuation, all-caps or emoticons. Soon they may not need to. Eden Saig, a computer science stud...

Some people try to convey emotions in their texts with punctuation, all-caps or emoticons. Soon they may not need to.

Eden Saig, a computer science student at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has developed an artificial intelligence that can detect emotional sentiments expressed in a text message or email based on recognizing repeated word patterns.

That's right. Your digital device will learn what you really mean when you send a text or email and convey it. Saig has submitted a project as part of his course work, entitled “Sentiment Classification of Texts in Social Networks.” He not only got an A, he won the annual Amdocs Best Project Contest, sponsored by Amdocs, a provider of software and services to more than 250 communications, media, and entertainment service providers in more than 80 countries.

Saig said he developed the system at the Technion’s Learning and Reasoning Laboratory, a product of taking a course in artificial intelligence.

When conversing with a friend, voice tone and inflections play an important role in conveying meaning. But in text and email messages, those nuances are lost and writers who want to show sarcasm, sympathy, or doubt have taken to using images, or emoticons, such as the smiley face to compensate.

“These icons are superficial cues at best,” said Saig. “They could never express the subtle or complex feelings that exist in real life verbal communication.”

Saig's project collected all types of comments on web pages and catagorized them. Visitors were invited to submit suggestions for phrases that could be labeled as “stereotypical sayings” for that particular page.

When you look at these posts, Saig says certain patterns appeared. The method he developed enables the system to detect future patterns on any social network.

Saig began collecting this colloquial, everyday language and soon realized the content could provide a good database for collecting homogeneous data that could, in turn, help teach a computerized learning system to recognize patronizing sounding semantics or slang words and phrases in text.

By using algorithms to analyze the content on web pages and using the results to automatically identify stereotypical behaviors found every day in social network communication, Saig was able to teach a computer to identify condescending dialog or slang.

The system focused on key words and grammatical habits that were characteristic of sentence structure implied by the content’s sentiments. Over time the computer learned to recognize the pattern.

“Now, the system can recognize patterns that are either condescending or caring sentiments and can even send a text message to the user if the system thinks the post may be arrogant,” said Saig.

You might be asking yourself what benefit could this provide. Saig says it has many potential pragmatic applications beyond clarifying emotions or feelings in interpersonal communication on social media.

At the extreme, he says it may help detect content that suggests suicidal ideas, what we may consider calls for for help.

At the very least, Saig says he hopes his invention can demonstrate to the writer how his or her words could be interpreted by readers, helping people to better express themselves and avoid being misunderstood.

After vigorously denying charges that it mis-weighed some fresh food products in its New York City stores, Whole Foods Markets has done an abrupt about-fac...

After vigorously denying charges that it mis-weighed some fresh food products in its New York City stores, Whole Foods Markets has done an abrupt about-face, saying some of its employees made mistakes.

Last week the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) disclosed the results of a lengthy investigation, saying it was apparent that Whole Foods, already with a reputation for being expensive, “routinely” overcharged customers in its stores in the city.

The DCA said it tested packages of 80 different types of pre-packaged products and found – not just a few but all – of the products had mislabeled weights.

The federal government sets limits on how much the label of an individual package of food can deviate from the actual weight. DCA officials say that 89% of the packages it tested did not meet the federal standard, with overcharges ranging from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.

The company initially denied the charges. A Whole Foods attorney said the products in question were sold as a unit, not by the pound. The attorney said the company had been working with the DCA since December to resolve the issues and that in some cases, consumers were getting more than their moneys worth.

On Wednesday, that position changed as co-CEOs Walter Robb and John Mackey posted a YouTube video in which they said New York City customers were, in fact, charged the wrong prices for some products.

“Straight up, we made some mistakes,” Robb said . “We want to own that and tell you what we’re doing about it.”

The executives, who blamed some employees in its New York stores for the overcharging, said the company will improve its training in all its stores. It also will begin a third party auditing system to monitor the improvements. And from now on, if a customer finds a pricing error not in the consumer's favor, he or she will get the item at no charge.

The DCA had not yet reacted to the company's mea culpa by Thursday morning. Last week DCA Commissioner Julie Menin said she didn't think the mislabeling was an isolated case. She was also not buying the company's initial denials.

“Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers, which DCA and New Yorkers will not tolerate,” Menin said. “As a large chain grocery store, Whole Foods has the money and resources to ensure greater accuracy and to correct what appears to be a widespread problem – the city’s shoppers deserve to be correctly charged.”

The Allstate Foundation tries to keep tabs on perceptions of driving habits and how those perceptions mesh with reality.

In particular, the foundation measures how well parents are supervising their teenage drivers. The foundation's latest report finds many parents are pretty much out of the loop.

The foundation reached that conclusion after quizzing both parents and their teens. Here's the data the foundation says jumped out at investigators:

The insurance giant says it believes parents have to do a better job of ensuring their children practice safe driving habits.

“Our teen safe driving program has contributed to a nearly 48 percent decline in teen crash fatalities since 2005,” said Steve Sorenson, executive vice president of Allstate. “While there has been progress, we continue to encourage parents and teens to have an open dialogue about driving. It’s also important that parents ensure their teens are wearing their seat belts, obeying speed limits, and eliminating distractions, because these actions help to keep teens safer on the road.”

And something else: the report also found that parents do some of the same risky things behind the wheel as their teens. For example, 84% of parents admit to speeding, slightly more than their children.

And teens aren't the only ones chatting on their phones as they drive. The report found parents admitted to doing it just as much.

“Teens continue to tell us their parents are the number one influence on how they drive, so as parents we have an important responsibility to model good driving behaviors,” Sorenson said. “We must find new and compelling ways to motivate teens and parents to engage in safe driving habits.”

On an encouraging note, the report found that teens are more aware of highway dangers than they were a decade ago. The number of teens age 15 to 17 who worry about financial and legal consequences from car crashes has nearly tripled since 2005.

The foundation has three pieces of advice for parents of teenage drivers; ride with their teen at least 30 minutes a week, especially in the first year after they are fully licensed; follow your state's Graduated Driver Licensing laws; and be a good role model by putting away cellphones, buckling up, and obeying speed limits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 2,650 teens in the U.S., aged 16 to 19, were killed in 2011 and almost 292,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes. That works out to seven teens who died every day from motor vehicle injuries.

The CDC says young people ages 15 to 24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population, but account for 30% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.

The manufacturing sector of the economy continues to barrel along. According to the latest Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Report On B...

According to the latest Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Report On Business, economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in June for the 30th consecutive month, with the overall economy growing for the 73rd month in a row.

"The June PMI registered 53.5%, an increase of 0.7% percentage point over the May reading,” said Bradley J. Holcomb, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. The New Orders Index registered 56%, up 0.2%, the Production Index registered 54%, a dip of 0.5%, and the Employment Index registered 55.5% -- a gain of 3.8% over May.

Meanwhile, inventories of raw materials rose 1.5% to 53%, and the Prices Index was unchanged at 49.5%, indicating lower raw materials prices for the eighth consecutive month.

According to the latest research, young people are being prescribed antipsychotic medications more and more in the early stages of their lives. A combinati...

According to the latest research, young people are being prescribed antipsychotic medications more and more in the early stages of their lives. A combination of ADHD and depression are the usual reasons given for the prescriptions, but researchers are finding that much of the time these patients are not showing the proper symptoms to warrant it.

The study, which was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), found that about 1.5% of boys between the ages of 10 and 18 received a prescription for an antipsychotic drug in 2010. After age 19, that number was cut in half- but many men still received prescriptions. The most common reason for giving the prescriptions was ADHD in males aged 10-18 and depression in those aged 19-24.

All of these prescriptions come with a high risk, though. “Antipsychotics should be prescribed with care. They can adversely affect both physical and neurological function and some of their adverse effects can persist even after the medication is stopped,” said Michael Schoenbaum, who works with NIMH and is a co-author of the study.

But as long as the prescriptions are helping with real problems, it shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? Well, it seems that this was also not the case with many people who received prescriptions. Researchers found that many children who are given antipsychotic medication may be not even be showing symptoms that correlate with its use. In other words, the medications are being given to treat problems that they are not meant to treat.

For example, the FDA does not approve the use of antipsychotics to treat ADHD, but many doctors prescribe it anyway. This off-label use can be very harmful for patients that need other medications to control or treat their symptoms. The study found that giving antipsychotics to teen boys was used to help with impulsivity and aggression, not to treat any actual psychotic problems.

Researchers also studied prescription data that was provided by the IMS LifeLink LRx database. After examining data from 2006-2010, they found that antipsychotic use increased with age in both boys and girls until they reached age 19, after which the numbers began dropping.

Fewer than half of the patients that were examined had any kind of mental disorder diagnosis. Whether or not this stems from primary care providers not wanting to diagnosis patients with these disorders (due to health costs they would need to pay), or because there were not many mental health disorders is uncertain.

One positive takeaway from the study is that around 75% of these young patients have at least some contact with a psychiatrist. It is a bright spot in an otherwise dismally telling study. The full report was published in JAMA Psychiatry on July 1.  

This summer, United Airlines is flying high with a new type of fuel. They are going to be using fuel that is made from farm animal manure and fats. The eff...

This summer, United Airlines is flying high with a new type of fuel. They are going to be using fuel that is made from farm animal manure and fats. The effort is an attempt to curb the greenhouse gas emissions produced by burning jet fuel in commercial aircraft.

Conventional fossil fuels, which airlines have utilized for many years, have been proven to be bad for the environment because they release large amounts of new carbon into the atmosphere. Biofuels are a much better alternative because farm waste and fats have already been exposed to the atmosphere and have absorbed carbon during their lifetime. So, when they are burned as a fuel source, no extra carbon is introduced into the atmosphere.

The first flight powered by animal waste will be pretty short; it will take off from Los Angeles and land in San Francisco. The airline company plans to make several of these short-range flights over the next two weeks to test the effectiveness of the new fuel source. All of these flights will be using about 30 percent biofuel. They will be acquiring it from a California-based company named AltAir fuels.

The commitment doesn’t stop there. United just announced that they made a $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy, one of the largest makers of aviation biofuels. According to the New York Times, this is the largest investment in alternative fuels ever made by a commercial airline. United is hoping to integrate biofuels into its entire fleet of planes soon.

United officials said Tuesday that they expect to begin receiving fuel from Fulcrum BioEnercy Inc. in 2018. They hope to be acquiring 90 million gallons a year by 2021.

United’s managing director for environmental affairs, Angela Foster-Rice, said the airline has greatly reduced emissions by buying more fuel-efficient planes, and it seeks to take the next step by expanding use of alternative fuels.

Biofuels have been proven to be comparable to jet fuel prices, and with United’s commitment to the energy source, this could spell good things for biofuel companies. Fulcrum is planning on building five plants near United hub airports to support their fuel needs. 

We’re getting to the part of summer where many of your plants should have sprouted up. The heat and humidity are keeping things moist and the conditions ar...

We’re getting to the part of summer where many of your plants should have sprouted up. The heat and humidity are keeping things moist and the conditions are ripe for picking. Not to burst your garden bubble, but the conditions are also perfect for disease and bugs. Here are some tips to improve and protect your garden.

Your first line of defense for protecting your garden is to make sure you have healthy, humus-rich soil. This is the kind of soil with a lot of organic substances in it, like compost or other decomposing plants. Clay soil won’t do you much good, since it’s not the best for growing vegetables. By making sure your soil has lots of humus, you’re ensuring that your garden will have proper drainage, soil aeration, and the ability to hold water.

Good soil is one of the most important things that a garden can have. If you are using raised beds to garden in, it will be a little easier because the area is a contained space. Adding more compost, leaves, and grass clippings will help your garden immensely. Ensure that these products are seed-free and pesticide-free if possible.

Fungi is the root of many diseases for plants that have already grown. Plants need their own space, so try and keep them off the ground as much as possible. You want to put stakes or cages around your tomatoes, and have cucumber and bean plants run up trellises or along fences. You can make also make mesh slings to keep watermelons and cantaloupes off of the ground. These strategies and props will keep your plants safe from many fungi.

When you replant next year, try to plant beans near corn and cucumbers near tomatoes. These plants thrive off of each other, so putting them next to each other is very beneficial. Just be sure that each plant has enough room to grow.

Be sure that you are very careful with how much you water your plants. You might think that you’re just keeping them hydrated, but providing too much water invites disease and pest problems. Ideally, the best time to water your plants is in the morning so that they can dry throughout the day. If you water too late in the day, then your plants will remain wet throughout the night.

As you know, insects can completely destroy your crops and all your hard work. Make sure you read the labels on all of your insecticides. They are poisonous and you don’t want to harm yourself when applying it. Don’t think doubling up will help, either. It won’t, and will create more problems in the long run. If you choose an organic pesticide, know that you may have to apply it more often. 

Led by gains in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, the economy created another 223,000 jobs during June. At the same time, the ...

Led by gains in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, the economy created another 223,000 jobs during June. At the same time, the unemployment rate dropped 0.2% -- to 5.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While it was the third straight monthly increase in nonfarm payroll employment, June failed to measure up to the 254,000 jobs created in May.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.8%), adult women (4.8%), and blacks (9.5%) edged lower last month in June, while the rates for teenagers (18.1%), whites (4.6%), Asians 3.8%), and Hispanics (6.6%) showed little change.

The number of long-term unemployed (those out of work for 27 weeks or more) dropped by 381,000 to 2.1 million in June. They account for 25.8% of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 955,000.

The labor force participation rate declined by 0.3% -- to 62.6% in June, the lowest since October 1977. The employment-population ratio, at 59.3%, was essentially unchanged and has shown little movement thus far this year.

The gain in nonfarm payroll employment was led by professional and business services (+ 64,000), health care (+40,000), retail trade (+33,000) and financial activities (+20,000).

Employment in mining fell by 4,000, while construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, information, and government, showed little or no change over the month.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls were unchanged at $24.95. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.0%.

The number of workers filing initial applications for state unemployment benefits moved higher last week.

The Labor Department (DOL) reports first-time claims were up by 10,000 in the week ending June 27 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000. Officials say there were no special factors affecting the claims level.

The 4-week moving average, which lacks the volatility of the weekly tally, and is considered a more accurate barometer of the labor market, was 274,750, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week, and remains near its 15-year low.

Nissan North America is recalling certain model year 2015 Rogue Select vehicles manufactured November 17, 2014, to December 12, 2014 and equipped with seve...

Nissan North America is recalling certain model year 2015 Rogue Select vehicles manufactured November 17, 2014, to December 12, 2014 and equipped with seventeen-inch wheels.

The vehicles have incorrect tire size information on the tire labels. Installing tires of the incorrect size may increase the risk of a crash.

Nissan will notify owners, and will send them new labels with the corrected information, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin by early August 2015.

A decade ago, when the housing boom pushed home prices up 15% a year in some markets, “teardowns” were a controversial phenomenon. The practice involved...

A decade ago, when the housing boom pushed home prices up 15% a year in some markets, “teardowns” were a controversial phenomenon.

The practice involved buying up small, modest homes in older, close-in neighborhoods, tearing them down and building larger, more expensive homes – often derisively referred to as “McMansions.”

In Chicago, a mini home-building boom is underway with construction permits issued for more than 2,000 single family homes in the first 4 months of this year, with teardowns accounting for a hefty number of them. North side neighborhoods are seeing significant teardown activity, according to Deno Jeffries of RE/MAX Exclusive Properties.

“Because there isn't any vacant land in this area, if new homes are built, something old must go,” Jeffries said. “Often it will be an older frame home or a two-unit building. Those properties sell for anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million or more depending on location and lot size."

Through May, 29 new single-family homes were sold in Lake View, Lincoln Park and North Center, with another 66 on the market or under contract. Meanwhile, teardown activity has picked up the pace in the western suburb of Elmhurst, Ill.

"We're seeing quite a few but with a different twist," said Melissa Somone of RE/MAX 1st. "In the past, most teardowns were done by the family who would live in the new home. Now it's often a builder who comes in and buys the existing home confident that a new home will find a buyer, and they've been selling well."

But it has always been developers and speculators who were active in the teardown market in the Washington, D.C., metro, which remained one of the nation's strongest housing markets, even throughout the housing downturn. The Washington Post reported in 2013 that a new wave of teardowns had begun in close-in suburbs, at a pace not seen since the housing bubble.

Some of the ripest properties for demolition, the Post noted, are owned by elderly, longtime residents, who are having to field offers from brokers and builders looking for prime locations for luxury homes that will fetch more than $1 million.

For an older homeowner who might have purchased the property for $40,000 decades ago, the offer might represent a windfall to fund their final years. For others, it isn't welcome.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) observes that people who are passionate about historic homes and adamant about preserving a neighborhood's original character view teardowns as a major threat.

At the peak of the housing boom in 2006 Adrian Scott Fine, director of the Northeast Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, counted more than 300 communities in 33 states that were experiencing widespread demolition. There are a lot fewer now but it's clear the trend is picking up momentum again.

And it's not always looked at as a negative. Real estate site Zillow devotes a page to teardowns, arguing that teardowns, if carried out properly, can breathe new life into older neighborhoods and discourage suburban sprawl.  

The Obama Administration today puts its foot down on the metaphorical hose through which federal funds flow to for-profit colleges, likely leading to anoth...

The Obama Administration today puts its foot down on the metaphorical hose through which federal funds flow to for-profit colleges, likely leading to another round of bankruptcies and campus closings.

Choking off the flow of federal dollars to schools whose graduates don't do well in the job market is intended to save taxpayers money and protect students from spending their time and money on degrees that do them little or no good -- and that often wind up costing much more than students expect.

"The student advisor said the degree I was interested in would be $16k total for tuition, with payments of $50.00. Upon graduation, the total for tuition turned out to be $34k with a combined payment of over $400.00 a month," a Payson, Utah, student said in a ConsumerAffairs review of Everest University last year. 

It was only a few years ago that for-profit schools were seen as a growth industry and were touted as more efficient and responsive than traditional nonprofit public and private colleges. But then a hard truth emerged: graduates of the for-profit schools were having trouble finding jobs.

Students found that many employers simply didn't equate a degree from a for-profit college with one from a public or nonprofit private school.

That was the situation Gina of Seattle encountered when she graduated from ITT: "ITT basically made many promises but never came true. I have a BA in criminal justice and can not find a job to save my life. None of my fellow students have either. It's been almost two years. My student loans are around $80,000," Gina said in a ConsumerAffairs review.

In October 2014, after issuing the new rules, the White House listed shortcomings of for-profit schools:  

The weapon being wielded by the Obama White House is the Education Department's "gainful employment" rule, which was upheld by a federal court last week. It requires colleges to track their students' success in finding jobs and shuts down funding for those with poor placement records.

The rule applies to nonprofit schools as well but in the vast majority of cases, graduates of traditional nonprofits have a much better record of finding jobs in the field for which they trained and also have a much better record of paying back their student loans. 

The department has estimated that the rule will result in the closure of 1,400 programs that enroll more than 840,000 students, nearly all at for-profit schools. 

Many of the nation's larger for-profit chains have already severely cut back or gone out of business. Corinthian Colleges, which includes Everest College and several others, shut down in April. 

Besides the Education Department initiative, large for-profit schools like ITT are facing lawsuits by students as well as federal and state agencies. Just last month, Education Affiliates agreed to pay $13 million to resolve a Justice Department claim that it had submitted false claims to the Education Department for federal student aid.

In January, Kaplan Higher Education -- once owned by The Washington Post Company -- agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a Justice Department suit that it employed unqualified instructors.

Online shopping was supposed to be the death of brick-and-mortar retail. When consumers could find what they want online, comparing prices from dozens of d...

Online shopping was supposed to be the death of brick-and-mortar retail. When consumers could find what they want online, comparing prices from dozens of different retailers, why would they make the effort to go to the mall?

And for a while, it seemed to be working out that way. A few years ago brick-and-mortar retailers were in a tizzy over “showrooming,” the practice of visiting a store to actually see and hold the desired item, then using a smartphone to find the best price online and ordering it.

After initially trying to discourage the practice, savvy brick-and-mortar retailers learned to adapt to it, offering to meet the lower online price. They also got deeper into the online sales game themselves, expanding their ecommerce presence and trying to make the online shopping experience better aligned with what consumers want.

A new report from Monetate, a company assisting retailers with marketing, finds the conversion rate from consumers shopping online to actually making a physical purchase has been steadily dropping. What makes this worrying for online retailers, the decline has occurred at a time when overall traffic to the sites has risen.

So consumers are looking more but they aren't buying as much. Yet the latest consumer sales report showed rather strong spending, so the money is being spent somewhere.

It would be quite a turnabout if consumers were reversing the showrooming practice – researching planned purchases online and reading recommendations and product reviews before heading off to a brick-and-mortar store to buy it.

There's no existing research showing that's the case, but there have been some interesting trends lately. An early June report by comScore found consumers still like going to brick-and-mortar stores. The report uncovered a preference for picking up items at a store, rather than having them shipped to their home.

Consumers seem to like the ability to read reviews and recommendations that are available online – a study last year found 85% of female shoppers relied on them – but may not always be comfortable with their package being dropped on the doorstep when no one is home.

The Mometate report concludes that the online marketing tactics that are in place are proving to be tempting shoppers enough to click and browse, but not enough to buy. The company believes making this data more relevant to shoppers is critical to converting lookers to buyers.

“Product recommendations are key to driving ecommerce performance,” said Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO, Monetate.

But so is a consumer willing to spend money. The report found overall, average order values (AOV) dropped from $125.15 in the first quarter of 2014 to $122.65 in the first quarter this year.

Neurological disorders can result from a number of different problems in a person’s body. Genetic mutations and injury are just a couple, but scientists ha...

Neurological disorders can result from a number of different problems in a person’s body. Genetic mutations and injury are just a couple, but scientists have now made a connection between a certain molecule and overall healthy brain structure. They have found that a lack of this molecule can lead to a wide array of neurological problems.

The study, which was published in the July issue of The FASEB Journal, proposes that sialic acid plays a major role in how brain cells communicate with each other. It acts as a sort of conductor for brain signals by attaching to cell surfaces.

"Sialic acid is part of the molecular language that cells use to communicate among themselves," explains Ronald L. Schnaar, who is a lead researcher of the study. “As we learn that language, we can use the knowledge to better understand disease and perhaps to thoughtfully intervene.”

Neurological problems can often occur when there is a change in how sialic acid attaches to the cells. The researchers tested this theory by altering mouse genes that were responsible for sialic acid attachment in the brain. Afterwards, they compared these altered mice to ones that had not been mutated.

Schnaar and his team found that the altered mice had substantial neurological problems when compared to the mice in the control group. Some of these included poor motor skills, hyperactivity, and difficulty in learning. It is possible that this results from their brain cells not being able to communicate with each other properly.

“The molecular codes that control the human brain are as yet poorly worked out…This report shows how small molecules such as sialic acid direct cell communication to profoundly affect behavior. With this information, researchers have new ways to work out the mechanisms that determine hyperactivity and other brain disorders,” said Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. 

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, announced an action against two “credit card add-on product vendors” — sellers of services such as...

It looks like customers of Trump Hotel Properties might be the latest victims of hackers who were able to steal credit card and other information from the ...

It looks like customers of Trump Hotel Properties might be the latest victims of hackers who were able to steal credit card and other information from the company. A security breach has recently been discoverd that dates back to at least February.

Security expert Brian Krebs reports that sources at various banks and financial institutions are investigating a pattern of fraudulent charges on debit and credit cards which all seemingly share one trait in common: they'd all been used at a Trump hotel, presumably during or after February 2015. Affected locations may include Trump properties in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Honolulu.

The breach has not yet been confirmed, and the company has not commented on the matter. But if there is indeed a breach, it would be the third major hotel-chain customer-card hacking discovered this year alone. In March, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel group confirmed discovery of a breach that probably started just before Christmas 2014; in April the White Lodging Services Corporation (which owns and operates hotel franchises under brand names including Marriott, Sheraton, Renaissance and Courtyard) discovered hackers had planted malware on the point-of-sale systems used not in the hotels themselves, but in the bars and restaurants attached to them.

If you have stayed at a Trump hotel at any time since February, check your payment card account activity more closely than usual to see if there are any fraudulent charges.

Test drive a 10- or 12 year-old used car on a hot summer day and you might like some of the retro features, but chances are you won't like the air conditio...

Keeping your personal information safe when using the internet is extremely important. People have their identities stolen every day, and much of that is m...

Keeping your personal information safe when using the internet is extremely important. People have their identities stolen every day, and much of that is made possible by online hackers.

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are designed to encrypt users’ internet information so that it is more difficult to gain access to it. Unfortunately, it seems that these networks are not as secure as many people have been led to believe.

A study conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London has shown that many VPN networks leak information about their users. This information could be as broad in scope as the websites users were visiting, and as detailed as the actual content of messages they were sending to other parties.

The cause of these leakages is tied to protocols that many network operators are following in order to run the internet. This new protocol, called IPV6, is an updated version of a previous protocol called IPV4. Many VPNs have not adapted to IPV6 traffic on their networks, so their information is vulnerable to attack.

The researchers tested 14 of the most popular VPN providers to see how susceptible they were to hacking or hijacking attempts. Of that number, 11 of the VPN’s were shown to leak information.

Researchers connected an array of different devices to these networks using WiFi access points. Using techniques that real hackers would use in an attack, researchers were able to collect unencrypted data from users and direct them to web servers that they controlled.

The latter technique is known as DNS hijacking, and is responsible for countless stolen identities and compromised information cases. Researchers also examined how well certain mobile platforms that used VPNs protected their data. They found that Apple’s iOS was much more secure, while Google’s Android platform was much more prone to leakages.

Co-author of the study Dr. Gareth Tyson and his team are deeply troubled by the effectiveness of these “secure” networks. “It’s worrying that [users] might be vulnerable despite using a service that is specifically designed to protect them,” he said.

"We're most concerned for those people trying to protect their browsing from oppressive regimes. They could be emboldened by their supposed anonymity while actually revealing all their data and online activity and exposing themselves to possible repercussions."

The full study is available through the Queen Mary University of London website. A paper entitled “A Glance through the VPN Looking Glass: IPv6 Leakage and DNS Hijacking in Commercial VPN clients” was presented by Tyson and his colleagues at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium on June 30, 2015.

A U.K. advertising standards body has banned the "Beach Body Ready" ad that has had Britons -- well, some Britons anyway -- fuming. The ad shows a very sle...

A U.K. advertising standards body has banned the "Beach Body Ready" ad that has had Britons -- well, some Britons anyway -- fuming. The ad shows a very slender model in a skimpy bikini who is supposedly ready to fling her svelte body onto the nearest sandy beach (not that Great Britain is exactly awash in such things).

Proper Brits were outraged by the ad, which they found not only sexist but also offensive to those whose bones carry a heavier burden of bodily tissue.

They were also put off by the somewhat snippy tweets from the manufacturer of the protein supplements touted in the ads.

One British consumer tweeted that the ads made her feel that she was "not good enough." Came the response: "Why make your insecurities our problem?"

But none of that mattered to the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority, which simply found that the product being advertised -- Protein World -- doesn't really make the pounds fall away like sand through a funnel.

The ads have now crossed the pond and are appearing in subway cars in New York City, where they have gone largely unnoticed.

Tofu, otherwise known as bean curd, may not be your idea of an ideal lunch but if you're looking to lose weight, a new study finds that a vegan diet produc...

Tofu, otherwise known as bean curd, may not be your idea of an ideal lunch but if you're looking to lose weight, a new study finds that a vegan diet produces better results than other weight-reducing plans.

If you can't go quite all the way to eliminating animal products altogether, the primary requirement of a vegan diet, a vegetarian regimen is second best, the study found. Vegetarians can still chow down on eggs, dairy products and fish.

In the study, Ru-Yi Huang of E-Da Hospital in Taiwan found that those on a vegan or vegetarian diet saw better results than those on other plans, often losing more than four pounds in the early stages.

Huang's review includes twelve randomized controlled trials, involving 1,151 dieters who followed a specific eating regimen for between nine and 74 weeks.

It is the first study to combine the findings from various independent projects that weighed up the results of vegetarian diets against other eating plans. These include the Atkins diet, and ones recommended by the American Diabetes Association or the U.S. National Cholesterol Education Program.

Overall, individuals assigned to the vegetarian diet groups lost significantly more weight (around 4.4 pounds) than dieters who ate meat and other animal products.

Vegetarians who followed a vegan diet lost even more weight. Comparatively, they lost around 2.52 kilograms more than non-vegetarian dieters.

Vegetarians who consume dairy products and eggs lost around 1.48 kilograms more than those on a non-vegetarian diet. People following vegetarian diets that prescribe a lower than normal intake of calories (so-called energy restriction) also shed more kilograms than those without any such limitations being placed on their eating habits.

According to Huang, the abundant intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables might play a role in the favorable results seen in vegetarian diets. Whole-grain products and vegetables generally have low glycemic index values and don't cause blood sugar levels to spike. Fruits are rich in fiber, antioxidants, minerals and protective chemicals that naturally occur in plants.

Whole-grain products contain soluble fiber. Such so-called good fiber helps to delay the speed by which food leaves the stomach and ensures good digestion. It also allows enough nutrients to be absorbed while food moves through the intestines. Several studies have reported that fiber consumption helps with weight loss.

As health care costs rise and demand for services increases, we may see growing conflict between physicians who are trying to manage scarce and costly reso...

Employers announced plans to reduce payrolls by 44,842 workers during June, an increase of about 10% from May. The cut total is 43% higher than June 2014, ...

Employers announced plans to reduce payrolls by 44,842 workers during June, an increase of about 10% from May. The cut total is 43% higher than June 2014, marking the fifth year-over-year increase in job cuts in the first six months of 2015.

At the same time, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports heavier-than-expected downsizing throughout the first half of 2015 has pushed the midyear total to its highest level since 2010.

Overall, employers have announced 287,672 job cuts during the first half of the year -- up 17% from the 2014, when the 6-month total of 246,034. The midyear total is the highest since 297,677 job cuts were recorded in the first half of 2010.

The pace of job cutting was virtually unchanged between the first and second quarter of year. The 147,458 job cuts announced between April and the end of June was just 5.0% more than the 140,214 planned layoffs in the first 3 months of 2015. The second-quarter total was up 18% from a year earlier.

The first-half surge was due largely to the decline in oil prices that rippled through the energy and industrial goods sectors. All told, the drop in oil prices was blamed for 69,582 job cuts in the first half of 2015, second only to the 86,978 job cuts attributed to “restructuring.”

The energy sector has taken the heaviest hit, cutting its workforce by 60,500 between January and June. Nearly 95% of those were due to the drop in oil prices. At this point last year, the energy sector had announced just 3,908 job cuts.

Energy is not the only area experiencing increased job cuts. The retail sector ranks second in job cuts for the year, with 45,230 planned layoffs to date -- up 68% from a year ago.

“Retailers should be enjoying the benefits of falling oil prices, as consumers have the money they are saving at the gas pump to spend elsewhere,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “However, it appears that consumers were hording that cash, at least through the first half of the year. The most recent data suggests that consumers are finally starting to loosen up the purse strings.”

Even if consumers start spending consistently, retailers are always vulnerable to changing consumer trends, technology and operational factors. Retail was the leading job cutting sector in June with 17,947 job cuts. Most of those were related to the closure of all Canadian stores by Minnesota-based Target.

“Not all retail cuts are due to frugal consumers,” said Challenger. “In Target’s case, the retail chain simply made significant missteps when entering Canada 2 years ago and never gained traction among Canadian shoppers. The store closures, which resulted in 17,000 job cuts for the American-based employer, was among the first decisions by new CEO Brian Cornell, who is determined to revitalize the store here in America.”

Challenger thinks job cuts in retail will start to decline in the second half of the year as consumers begin to spend more. “We have already started to see a decline in oil-related job cuts as prices have begun to stabilize. Over the past two months, oil prices were blamed for just 1,297 job cuts. In contrast, oil prices caused 20,675 job cuts in April.

“Overall, we expect the pace of downsizing to slow in the final six months of 2015. The factors that were contributing to increased cuts in the first half of the year appear to subsiding,” he concluded.

For the third time in as many months, the U.S. economy has created more than 200,000 private sector jobs. According to the ADP National Employment Report,...

For the third time in as many months, the U.S. economy has created more than 200,000 private sector jobs.

According to the ADP National Employment Report, there were 237,000 new jobs in June on top of the 203,000 created in May.

The report, which is produced by ADP in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, is derived from ADP's actual payroll data, and measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month.

"The U.S. job machine remains in high gear,” said Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. “The current robust pace of job growth is double that needed to absorb the growth in the working age population. The only blemish in the job market is the loss of jobs in the energy sector. Most encouraging is the healthy rate of job growth among the nation's smallest companies."

As in the past, businesses with 49 or fewer employees created the most new jobs last month -- 120,000, the same as May. Employment among companies with 50-499 employees increased by 86,000 jobs, versus 63,000 the previous month. Large companies -- those with 500 or more employees – added 32,000 jobs in June, companies with 500-999 employees gained 27,000 jobs, and firms with over 1,000 employees added 5,000 jobs.

The service-providing sector was far and away the biggest job creator, adding 225,000 jobs. Within that category, professional/business services contributed 61,000 jobs, trade/transportation/utilities grew by 50,000, and financial activities added 12,000 positions.

Goods-producing employment rose by 12,000 jobs, the construction industry added 19,000, and manufacturing grew by 7,000 jobs in June, after losing 2,000 in May.

“June job numbers came in at their highest level since December 2014," said Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP. "Small businesses continue to lead the way adding over half of the total jobs this month."

There are so many different types of containers to plant in. If you are looking to start your garden now and grow as many things as you can in a short time...

There are so many different types of containers to plant in. If you are looking to start your garden now and grow as many things as you can in a short time, pallet gardening might be just the thing for you. They’re the easiest raised garden beds available and are an eco-friendly, time-saving approach to growing flowers or vegetables at home. They cut down on the time spent weeding and make plant identification a breeze.

Begin by checking your local recycling center for information on where to find wood pallets to use as garden frames. When you locate wood pallets, make sure to choose ones that are in good, sturdy condition and have not been treated with pesticides.

Look for a pallet that has “HT” stamped somewhere on it. This means the pallet was heat treated, or kiln-dried, as opposed to chemically treated.

Be sure to scrub down the wood with some bleach and soapy water. You can never be sure if there were chemicals stored on the pallet, and there is always a chance that some bacteria could be on it. Let it dry out before using it to plant anything, and be wary of any rusty nails or staples.

There are two ways that you can set up your pallet garden after the pallets have been cleaned up: hanging vertically or horizontally. To hang it vertically, go ahead and position the pallets against the wall where you’ll want it mounted. Be sure to carefully mark the spots where you want the support brackets to be and make sure it is level. Install L brackets to the wall.

After you have planted the pallets, you will simply slide them into place on these brackets so that the wider openings are facing the wall. Setting up your pallets in this way is great if you are limited on space. With supports, the upward growth gives the vegetables the room they need for healthy vine growth without taking over the small pallet area.

If you would like to set up your pallets horizontally, then you will need to return them to a flat surface. Although you could plant out your pallet with it resting on the ground, placing it on a tabletop makes it easier because you can stand upright. Place the pallet so that the side with the widest openings is facing up. Lay out the landscape fabric or cloth to cover the back and bottom and cut them to size. Pull tautly and secure them with nails or staples.  Some pallets have wood covering the bottom of the pallet, which will help prevent soil from falling through. If not, you may choose to add another piece of wood, like a 2×4.

Either way, you should ensure that the fabric covers the bottom as well as the back to catch any soil that may otherwise fall out. It would probably help to add a thick layer of plastic or some other kind of waterproof barrier. Add a piece of plywood over the barrier.

After your soil has been put into the pallets, all you need to do is plant your seeds and put the pallets where you want them. If you’re keeping them on ground, you should mulch the area beforehand to make it more affable for growing.

This is a great project to get kids involved in gardening because you can give them their own pallet to garden with. Look for vegetable crops and varieties that grow in compact, bush, dwarf or miniature form and produce many fruits per plant. Suitable tomato varieties include "Tiny Tim," "Small Fry," "Patio Hybrid" and "Toy Boy". Bell peppers and eggplants are good choices as well. "Candlelight" hot peppers, bush beans, spinach, cabbage, and bush squash work well in container gardens too.

Be sure to choose pest and disease-resistant varieties of any vegetable you plant. Look for varieties marked as resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus. Because the pallets are confined to a small area, it makes conditions ripe for spreading disease or having bugs ruin your crop. It’s probably best to talk to a nursery about varieties that provide natural resistance to the most common pests in your area. 

Diabetes can be a difficult disease to manage for anyone, but for teenagers it presents a whole new set of challenges. Luckily, researchers from UT Southwe...

Diabetes can be a difficult disease to manage for anyone, but for teenagers it presents a whole new set of challenges. Luckily, researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have found a way to ensure that teens are taking care of themselves and managing the disease more optimally.

By having them associate their own medical care with daily pet fish care, scientists have seen significant improvements to their hemoglobin A1C levels.

“Teenagers are one of the most difficult patient populations to treat, mainly because of the many psychosocial factors associated with that stage of life,” said Dr. Olga Gupta, who is an assistant professor at UT Southwestern. The challenge for researchers was finding a way to get teens to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels. This would ensure that they were self-sufficient and able to manage their disease.

In order to do this, researchers selected 28 adolescent participants who ranged from ages 10 to 17. All of them had Type 1 diabetes mellitus. All participants were provided with a fish, fish bowl, and instructions on how to care for the fish.

They were advised to feed their fish every morning and evening while also recording their own blood glucose levels. Participants were also asked to change a fourth of the water in the fish bowl once a week and review their blood glucose logs with a caregiver.

As a result, many participants became much more active at checking their blood glucose levels. Because they were monitored much more closely, participants were able to adjust to the numbers and improve their glycemic levels. Participants also became much more vocal about their disease.

“Throughout the entire experience we owned two fish that became a part of our family,” explains Jeannette Claxton, the mother of one of the participants. “The first fish was named Bob, and Raymon would feed him, read to him, and even watch TV with him…He didn’t even realize that he was talking about his diabetes more and taking his blood sugar more often…I would recommend this approach to other families because it creates ownership not just of the fish, but ownership of your diabetes.”

After three months, progress was quite evident. The intervention group’s A1C levels decreased 0.5 percent in comparison to their peers in the control group, who experienced a 0.8 percent increase in A1C levels. Parental involvement was very important to the process, but teens were much more responsive to it.

Researchers would like to continue this study by monitoring a group of adolescents for a longer period of time. They will be focusing on specific mechanisms that led to glycemic improvement, such as mood, routine, level of parental involvement and the type of pet that participants are given. 

Up, down, up, down as volatility in the mortgager application business continues to be volatile. After rising last week, applications posted a decline, di...

After rising last week, applications posted a decline, dipping 4.7% in the week ending June 26, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.

The Refinance Index was down 5% to its lowest level since December, with the refinance share of mortgage activity falling to 48.9% of total applications.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 7.0%, the FHA share rose to 14.0% from 13.9%, the VA share of total applications slipped to 10.8% from 10.9%, and the USDA share of total applications edged up to 1.0% from 0.9% the week before.

Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., of Cypress, Calif., is recalling about 200 Yamaha SRViper snowmobiles. The brake line and its components can come in con...

Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., of Cypress, Calif., is recalling about 200 Yamaha SRViper snowmobiles.

The brake line and its components can come in contact with the clutch causing the brakes to fail, posing a risk of injury or death.

This recall involves the 2015 SRViper L-TX (Model name SR10LSFO) and the 2015 SRViper M-TX 162 LE (Model name SR10M62LFO) snowmobiles. The recalled snowmobiles are blue and orange. The model name is on the left and right side of the fuel tank cowling. SRViper and Yamaha are printed on the side of the snowmobiles.

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is stamped on the frame (tunnel) near the right foot well. The letter F in the 10th position of the VIN indicates that the unit was made in the 2015 model year.

The snowmobiles, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Yamaha snowmobile dealers nationwide from February 2015, through April 2015, for between $13,000 and $14,100.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled snowmobiles and contact their local Yamaha dealer to schedule a free repair. Yamaha is contacting all registered owners directly.

Nissan North America is recalling 9,614 model year 2015 Muranos manufactured December 4, 2014, to March 17, 2015. These vehicles are equipped with Anti-L...

Nissan North America is recalling 9,614 model year 2015 Muranos manufactured December 4, 2014, to March 17, 2015.

These vehicles are equipped with Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) actuators which may have contamination in the solenoid valves, potentially affecting the valves' ability to completely close and allow a build up of hydraulic brake pressure, or fully open and allow the hydraulic brake pressure to completely drop.

Under some driving conditions, when the ABS is activated, the malfunctioning ABS actuator could cause a loss of vehicle stability, increasing the risk of a crash.

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the ABS actuator, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin by early August 2015.

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