MetLife is the largest life insurance company in the United States. About 100 million consumers worldwide rely on it for life insurance, annuities, and oth...

MetLife is the largest life insurance company in the United States. About 100 million consumers worldwide rely on it for life insurance, annuities, and other safety net products. But is it too big to fail?



A federal judge says it isn't and yesterday struck down the U.S. government's determination that MetLife needs to build up its capital reserves and submit to tight regulation to ensure its financial well-being.

"From the beginning, MetLife has said that its business model does not pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States," the company's chief executive, Steven Kandarian, said in a statement.

The decision is seen as a victory for big business, and it was quickly followed by a report that General Electric, which owns Genworth, might be next in line to challenge its designation as "systemically important" to the U.S. economy. Wall Street is also pressing AIG and Prudential to respond. 

The "too big to fail" test was created by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. Instituted after the financial crisis of 2008, it was initially aimed at banks but was later extended to other major companies who were so important to the economy that their collapse could trigger another crisis.

MetLife is one of the few financial powerhouses that did not receive any government assistance during the financial crisis. 

Kandarian has argued that life insurance companies don't carry the same risks as other financial institutions, since in most cases, funds are not subject to immediate withdrawal. Most life insurance policies, for example, pay out only when the policyholder dies.

Kandarian also contends that insurance companies are adequately supervised at the state level. That argument may not sit well with consumer advocates, who just this week formed organizations in Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. They plan to pressure insurance commissioners, attorneys general, and state lawmakers to hold public hearings on the proposed mergers of health insurers, such as Aetna with Humana and Anthem with Cigna.

A U.S. Treasury spokesman took issue with the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer, saying regulators had conducted "a rigorous analysis of MetLife, including extensive engagement with the company, and determined that material financial distress at MetLife could pose ... a threat to the financial system." 

What does all this mean for the consumers who buy insurance? To hear Wall Street tell it, it means that MetLife will be able to price its products more competitively, since it will not be held to tighter capital rules. It would also be more easily able to return more money to shareholders and sell off parts of the company, according to analysts quoted by Insurance Journal.

MetLife's Kandarian has indicated a desire to "separate" one or more retail units, most likely the variable annuity product line. Variable annuities are closely tied to stock market fluctuations and are thus more volatile.

The issue came up at Wednesday's White House briefing, where spokesman Josh Earnest declined to respond to the specific ruling but said that "one core component of Wall Street reform legislation that was passed early in President Obama’s presidency included giving regulators the tools that they need to regulate non-bank financial institutions."

"This is one of the lessons that we’ve learned from the Great Recession — that it’s not just banks on Wall Street that could potentially shake the foundation of our financial system if they make a bunch of risky bets that go bad without proper oversight.  Worse yet, it could also put taxpayers on the hook for bailing them out," Earnest said.

Talcum powder seems pretty inoffensive. It's been around forever, doesn't cost much, and just about everybody uses it at one time or another. But ever sinc...

Talcum powder seems pretty inoffensive. It's been around forever, doesn't cost much, and just about everybody uses it at one time or another. But ever since a St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, a cloud of controversy has swirled around the company's popular Johnson's Baby Powder. 

The jury's award to the family of Jacqueline Fox, of Birmingham, Ala., followed testimony that the company had been aware of concerns in the healthcare community about a possible link between talcum powder and various cancers but had stepped up marketing of the product to Hispanic and black consumers anyway.

Fox had used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder for years. She said in a deposition before her death that she had been "raised up on it" and used it to "stay fresh and clean."

In 2014, a class action sought damages from Johnson & Johnson on behalf of women who did not have cancer but said they should have been warned about the alleged risks. 

"Jury verdicts should not be confused with regulatory rulings or rigorous scientific findings,” Bloomberg quoted Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson Consumer, as saying. “The overwhelming body of scientific research and clinical evidence supports the safety of cosmetic talc.”

Imerys Talc America, which supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson, was named in the suit but was not found liable. It also insists the product is safe. "Our confidence is supported by the consensus view of qualified scientific experts and regulatory agencies,” the company said in a statement.

Talc is the softest naturally occurring mineral. It is composed of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen and absorbs odors and moisture naturally. It also often contains asbestos, which is linked with lung cancer when inhaled. Talc is commonly used to treat and prevent diaper rash and is used in cosmetics, paint, paper, and rubber products.

Fox's case is thought to be the first involving a large damage award although there have been other challenges alleging a link between talc and cancer.

In 2013, a federal jury in South Dakota found that a woman's cancer was at least partly caused by her use of talcum powder. Although it did not award damages, the jury said that Johnson & Johnson should warn consumers of the possible cancer risk. 

A Harvard University physician who testified in the South Dakota trial, Daniel Cramer, said that talc was probably a contributing factor in 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year. Cramer said he has studied the link for 30 years.

Cramer, a gynecologist and epidemiologist, has authored five studies on the possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer and said in a 2014 interview with Lawyers and Settlements that he feels like he's been shouting "Fire!" for years without anyone listening. 

While conceding that studies of talc and cancer have found only a slight link, he says that the "main problem is that most of the studies don’t show a so-called dose response ... That is, the longer you use it and the more times you apply it, the greater the risk.”

So is talcum powder safe to use or not? The answer, according to the American Cancer Society, is that any risk is likely "very small."

"Until more information is available, people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it. For example, they may want to consider using cornstarch-based cosmetic products instead. There is no evidence at this time linking cornstarch powders with any form of cancer," the organization advises.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the use of talc-based body powder in the genital areas as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Under fire from seemingly all sides, daily fantasy sports (DFS) enterprises DraftKings and FanDuel are reportedly dropping all college games and will go pr...

Moving to a new home can be very exciting, but for some it can be a headache. Essentially, you’re packing up your life into a few boxes, so if you’re not o...

Moving to a new home can be very exciting, but for some it can be a headache. Essentially, you’re packing up your life into a few boxes, so if you’re not organized or dealing with a reputable moving company, things can become complicated pretty fast.

Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to simplify the process and make a smooth transition to your new living arrangements. The folks over at Rappler.com have created a step-by-step guide that you can follow in order to make your move hassle-free.

Prepare for the move: Take an adequate amount of time to prepare for your move. If you have a couple of months to go over the details, then it will make things a lot easier when the big day arrives. Be sure to make a budget that includes any expenses you’ll need to incur, including payment to a moving company if you use one. Also be sure to update your address as soon as you can so that all of your bills and mail go to the right place.

Survey the space you’ll be living in: Acquiring information about the amount of space you’ll have to work with in your new place is crucial. A floor plan will let you know how much furniture you can bring with you and let you figure out how you’ll be setting up your space when you get there. Be sure to take into account where the outlets are for plugging in your appliances.

Shop with your new space in mind: Be sure to shop for furniture and appliances that fit into your new space. The last thing you want is to get a new washer and dryer and find out that you have no place to put them. If at all possible, buy appliances that are eco-friendly so you can save money on utilities each month. If all of these considerations seem daunting, you can always contact a professional to help make selections.

Pack efficiently: When packing, it is important to be as organized as possible. Make a list of all of your essential items so that you know you’ll be ok if you leave something behind by mistake. Splitting up the packing process by room may also be helpful so that you can focus on certain items one-at-a-time. Once things are packed away, make sure everything is labeled so you won’t have to go digging through everything when you get to your new place. If you’re expecting deliveries of furniture or appliances, make sure to mark down when they’ll be arriving as well.

Making the actual move: Once everything is boxed up and in the moving vehicles, all that’s left to do is to get it to your new place. Make sure everything is secure for the trip and leave any heavy lifting to the professional movers if you’re using them. Now you can start a new chapter of your life in your new home.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jones Apparel Group founder Sidney Kimmel both wrote checks for $50 million, while a dozen additional supp...

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jones Apparel Group founder Sidney Kimmel both wrote checks for $50 million, while a dozen additional supporters kicked in a total of $25 million.

The money will fund creation of a new cancer center at Johns Hopkins that has the goal of curing cancer.

It isn't the long shot it sounds like. The research will center on the continued development of immunotherapy, which holds great promise against the disease. In fact, it has already shown results.

In one of the highest profile cases, former President Jimmy Carter underwent immunotherapy last August, after being diagnosed with cancer that had spread to his brain. After a brief treatment, the former President was declared cancer-free in December.

ConsumerAffairs has been following these developments closely, asking in 2013 “Are we close to a cure for cancer?” We noted at the time that the groundbreaking work was done at Cambridge.

The Obama administration is making immunotherapy a central part of its effort to cure cancer, saying it has potential to cure all forms of the disease. It works by redirecting the body's T-cells to attack cancer cells.

It marks a departure from current treatment approaches. Instead of introducing outside elements into the body to attack cancer, it uses the body's own defenses.

The new institute will reinforce work that has already taken place at Johns Hopkins, harnessing the efforts of more than 100 scientists and clinicians.

“We are at the forefront of an emerging and promising field of cancer research and treatment,” Dr. Paul Rothman, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said in a statement. “We are grateful for these tremendous gifts which will help us accelerate the already rapid pace of discoveries in immunotherapy.”

The new cancer center will have several functions. First and foremost it will carry on research in the area of immunotherapy. It will develop infrastructure to engineer cellular products, critical to this form of treatment.

Spending will be aimed at recruiting other top-level scientists, developing critical technology, and forging partnerships with biotech and pharmaceutical companies engaged in similar work.

“Ending all cancer would rank among humanity’s greatest achievements, and immunotherapy is bringing that dream within reach,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg credited Vice President Joe Biden with leading the government's “moon shot” approach to the venture, focusing attention on the disease and the potential to cure it.

The war against obtrusive Internet advertising is going from a guerrilla conflict to shock and awe, with no less a titan than Microsoft announcing that it ...

The war against obtrusive Internet advertising is going from a guerrilla conflict to shock and awe, with no less a titan than Microsoft announcing that it will build an ad-blocker into the next edition of its Edge browser, which is included with Windows 10. 

Smaller browsers like Opera and Brave already come with ad-blocking built in and it's easy to add to Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome. Apple allows a third-party ad blocker on its Safari mobile browser.

But no one of the stature of Microsoft has previously offered ad-blocking as a standard feature. It's not only a sign of the impatience of consumers who are fed up with slow-loading pages and intrusive pop-ups but also of the growing awareness of safety risks.

Highly respectable sites including The New York Times and AOL have accidentally distributed ads infected with malware, CNET noted in its report of Microsoft's plans, as revealed at a conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

Many consumers who are sympathetic to publications' need to support themselves through advertising are nevertheless driven to use ad blockers.

"I'm perfectly willing to look at ads when I'm on FiOS or some other fast connection but when I'm stuck with Time Warner in Southern California, all bets are off," a ConsumerAffairs colleague said. "My very expensive connection is so slow it literally takes me twice as long to get my work done." 

Whether it’s warmer weather or tradition that inspires us to tackle spring cleaning, there’s no denying that it’s a refreshing way to begin a new season. B...

Whether it’s warmer weather or tradition that inspires us to tackle spring cleaning, there’s no denying that it’s a refreshing way to begin a new season. But while cleaning may typically be synonymous with chemicals, it doesn’t have to be. There are many natural ways to give your house a good scrub down.

One simple way to get your home sparkling may already be in your pantry. Vinegar is an effective, eco-friendly cleaning agent that can be used in the kitchen, bathroom, and a number of other rooms to eradicate dirt and grime.

And while its odor may have you cringing at the thought of dousing your home in the stuff, there are dozens of DIY recipes online to help you mask its less-than-pleasant scent. You can also buy cleaning vinegar (such as Four Monks) that offers the same cleaning power without the pungent aroma.

Bathrooms can often be laden with unsightly gunk, including lime deposits, drain clogs, and other grime. But consider vinegar to be an eviction notice for these unwanted guests.

The kitchen is a great place to use a natural cleaner such as vinegar as it’s best to avoid using toxic chemicals in places where food is stored.

For many gardeners, one of the joys of growing flowers is having the ability to cut a few blooms to fill a vase. Spring flowers can be an especially welcom...

For many gardeners, one of the joys of growing flowers is having the ability to cut a few blooms to fill a vase. Spring flowers can be an especially welcomed sight after a cold, flowerless winter. And while they’re just as beautiful sitting untouched outside, there’s a certain simple delight in having a vase full of your own colorful blooms to admire in the house.

Studies show that people are healthier when surrounded by flowers and plants. They’re natural stress-reducers, one study finds. The presence of fresh flowers in the house can cause people’s perceived level of happiness to increase, in addition to making them feel more secure, relaxed, and optimistic.

If you’re among those who enjoy snipping a few stems to have inside, it’s likely that you’re interested in keeping them fresh for as long as possible. So what can you do to help extend the life of your cut flowers?

Choosing the right time of day to break out the floral knife or shears is an important first step in prolonging the life of your arrangement. The early morning is an optimal time to cut flowers, as stems will be well hydrated and full of stored sugar; they’ll also be especially fragrant. If you can’t make it outside in the morning, the second best time the cut them is in the late afternoon or at sunset.

A flower’s maturity also affects its keeping qualities, says Marion Owen, PlanTea, Inc, and co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul. Certain types of flowers will thrive best indoors if cut when fully open, and some will adjust better if cut while still closed up.

Flowers that should be cut in the bud stage (or when just starting to open) include poppies, tulips, roses, daffodils, irises, and gladiolas. Flowers that should be cut when open are those that grow on individual stems: sunflowers, marigolds, chysanthemums, dahlias, dianthus, and delphiniums, etc. 

As you're cutting, place freshly cut stems in a bucket of water to help them stay fresh. Plastic buckets can often be a better choice as metal buckets can affect the pH balance of water.

After cutting flowers from the garden, bring them indoors and use a sharp knife to cut the stems again -- this time at a 45-degree angle. Then, remove lower leaves and put them in tepid, lukewarm water. For bulbs, however, you’ll want to use cold water.

Some recommend cutting stems under water before putting them in a vase, either under running tap water or in a basin full of warm water. According to the experts at MasterGardeners.org, this will keep air from getting into the stems.

A lack of proper hydration is one of the main reasons flowers wilt early, so it's important to trim stems and change the water every few days. Most flowers would also appreciate a daily mist.

As plants are living things, they need to eat. Some of the tricks people use to keep flowers fresh include adding crushed aspirin, a penny, clorox, or vodka to the arrangement’s water. But while all of these folk remedies have been tried, none of them have been proven to be 100% true. 

What has been shown to help cut flower arrangements last longer, however, are vase solutions that involve a mix of acid (to improve water flow in stems) and sugar (to help buds open and last longer).

When it comes to gasoline prices, consumers generally ask, “what have you done for me lately?” It's fine that fuel prices these last three months have been...

When it comes to gasoline prices, consumers generally ask, “what have you done for me lately?” It's fine that fuel prices these last three months have been the lowest in 12 years.

According to AAA, consumers have pocketed nearly $10 billion in gasoline savings in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the same period last year. And if you'll recall, gasoline prices were relatively low then.

The next three months should see a steady rise in prices at the pump, but AAA says it shouldn't be anything that will overly stress motorists. It says prices may go up another 25 cents a gallon by Memorial Day, when traditionally prices start to go down again.

But the good news for consumers is the huge oil stockpile the U.S. is currently sitting on. The Department of Energy reported this week that U.S. oil supplies are the largest in 80 years. That suggests plenty of gasoline, as long as the nation's refineries work near capacity.

Analysis by Platts shows refineries are staying busy, with refinery runs surging above 16 million barrels a day. So the outlook for motorists over the next three months, despite the seasonal rise in fuel prices, is pretty good.

Oil prices have rallied off their recent lows and hit $40 a barrel. However, there is no shortage of analysts who think prices will have trouble maintaining that level, as long as supply continues to build and the economy grows only modestly, if at all.

Today, AAA says some 59% of U.S. gas stations are selling gas for less than $2 per gallon. The most common price across the country is $1.999 per gallon. On average, consumers are paying about 36 cents per gallon less than a year ago.

Gasoline prices began their decline in late 2014, and since then consumers have rediscovered the open road. According to AAA, Americans drove 3.1 trillion miles last year – an all time record. The government estimates gasoline consumption is up 5% over a year ago, with hardly any effect on gasoline prices.

Yes, it's a new era in politics. Just look at both the Democratic and Republican presidential races and it's hard to escape that conclusion.And to prom...

Yes, it's a new era in politics. Just look at both the Democratic and Republican presidential races and it's hard to escape that conclusion.

And to promote their ideas, candidates and super PACs are looking beyond traditional print and broadcast media, harnessing social media to reach the masses. But a consumer advocacy group has expressed alarm at where some of these political ads are showing up.

The Digital Citizens Alliance, a Washington, DC nonprofit, says it has found advertisements for candidates, as well as ads placed by super PACs, running on YouTube videos for illegal products, and even on jihadist videos. The group says the fault lies mostly with Google, YouTube's parent company.

"This is not what these candidates wanted when they bought ads on YouTube," Adam Benson, Deputy Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance, said in a statement. "There's no candidate – for President, City Council, or Dog Catcher – who wants their face showing up next to videos with jihadist overtones, pictures capturing private moments of hackers' victims, or stolen credit cards. Right now, candidates can't be sure where their ads are showing up on YouTube. Google needs to take action to stop this immediately."

To drive home the point, the group released a screen shot of a jihadist video that features a banner ad for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

The group documents more examples in a report on its website. In it, the Alliance says ads for Sanders and Republican hopeful John Kasich have shown up in videos produced by hackers, selling stolen credit card numbers. It says a Hillary Clinton ad has shown up during a search for Ketamine, widely known as a “date rape” drug.

"Google is making millions from campaign advertising, and sharing the candidates' money with bad actors posting videos for illegal or illicit activities," Benson said.

And it's just the beginning, Benson predicts. Just wait until the Congressional races ramp up later this year.

Unless Google acts now, he says, money spent by political campaigns will line the pockets of a virtual rogue's gallery – from credit card thieves to terrorist sympathizers.

In early March, Costco announced it had entered into a new credit card agreement with Citi to replace its current co-branded American Express card. Now, Ci...

In early March, Costco announced it had entered into a new credit card agreement with Citi to replace its current co-branded American Express card. Now, Citi has announced that the launch date for its new Costco card will be June 20.

Once issued, the Citi Visa Costco Go Anywhere credit card will serve as the Costco membership card, while providing rewards to users in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Citi says the new Costco Visa cards will be mailed in May. Costco members should follow the directions for activating the card but should keep using their current American Express card until the switch-over on June 20.

Citi says its new Costco card will allow users to earn 4% cash back on eligible gasoline purchases, including at Costco pumps. The 4% reverts to 1% after $7,000 in gas purchases in a given year.

The card will pay 3% cash back at restaurants and eligible travel purchases. It pays 2% cash back on Costco purchases and 1% everywhere else.

Citi says Costco members who currently use the American Express card do not have to apply for the new Visa card. It will automatically be sent to members, who should destroy the Costco American Express card on June 20.

But what about any rewards that members may have piled up from American Express? Citi says customers won't lose them.

“Rewards that were not previously distributed to you will be transferred automatically to your new card on June 20, 2016, so you won’t lose any of the rewards you’ve already earned,” Citi said on its website. “Your February 2017 cash back rewards coupon from Citi will include cash back rewards earned on your Costco card from American Express during 2016 that were not previously distributed to you by American Express.”

However, if your Costco card from American Express earned Membership Rewards points, they will not transfer to your new card.  

If you turned 70½ during 2015 you'd best get a move on.Seniors who have reached that age must -- in most cases -- start receiving required minimum dist...

Seniors who have reached that age must -- in most cases -- start receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by tomorrow, Friday, April 1, 2016.

Under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, owners of traditional (including SEP and SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs, are affected by the deadline. It normally applies to those with various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans.

Keep in mind, the April 1 deadline applies only to the required distribution for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by Dec. 31. So, if you turned 70½ last year (born after June 30, 1944 and before July 1, 1945) and receive the first required distribution (for 2015) on April 1, 2016, for example, you must still receive the second RMD by Dec. 31, 2016.

Affected taxpayers who turned 70½ during 2015 must figure the RMD for the first year using the life expectancy as of their birthday in 2015 and their account balance on Dec. 31, 2014.

The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. Worksheets and life expectancy tables for making this computation can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B.

Though the April 1 deadline is mandatory for all owners of traditional IRAs and most participants in workplace retirement plans, some people with workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMD. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions.

Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals.

Acing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test has helped the 2016 Toyota Prius earn the organization's TOP SAFETY PICK...

Acing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test has helped the 2016 Toyota Prius earn the organization's TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. Additionally, the small hybrid's optional front crash prevention system has improved to earn a superior rating.

To qualify for the top IIHS award, vehicles have to get good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, and must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

The previous generation of the Prius had good ratings in four of the five crashworthiness tests, but rated only acceptable for small overlap protection because its structure didn't hold up well in the test.

In contrast, the 2016 Prius had maximum intrusion of just two inches at the upper door-hinge pillar and at the brake and parking brake pedals. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of injury in a crash of the same severity.

The optional front crash prevention system has improved over what was available on the previous model. The new Prius avoided collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The number of people who found they no longer had their jobs fell in March from the mark set the month before.Outpl...

The number of people who found they no longer had their jobs fell in March from the mark set the month before.

Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that U.S.-based employers announced plans to trim payrolls by 48,207 in March -- the second month in a row that job cuts have declined. The March pace was 21.7% lower than the 61,599 terminations in February and the lowest monthly total since December.

“Job cuts have slowed since surging in the first two months of the year, but the pace is still well above that of 2015,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Even with the decline, the March figure was up 31.7% from the same month a year ago, making it the fourth consecutive year-over-year increase.

Through the first three months of this year, employers have announced 184,920 job cuts, up 31.8% from the 140,241 cuts tracked the first quarter months of 2015, and 75.9% more than in the final quarter of 2015.

Twenty-seven percent of the first-quarter job cuts can be directly tied to falling oil prices, slightly higher than a year ago. While there were fewer oil-related job cuts a year ago, they represented a larger portion of total job cuts, accounting for 34% of first-quarter termination announcements.

It's not just the energy sector that is seeing heavier job cuts, though. The retail sector has also tallied significant gains in job cuts. To date, it has recorded the second highest number of job cuts, with 31,832 -- up 41% from the first three months of 2015.

“What these sectors share in common is that they are all going through transformational changes,” said Challenger. “We, as a nation, and really as a global community, are changing the way we produce and consume energy. We are also changing the way we buy goods and services. Technology is in a constant state of change, and, currently, we are shifting away from computing at our desks to computing on our phones and tablets."

But, while jobs are being lost in some areas, Challenger points out that they are being created in others, including renewable energy, online retailing, and mobile computing.

From the Department of Labor (DOL), word that first-time applications for state unemployment benefits rose for a fourth consecutive week.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, initial claims rose 11,000 in the week ending March 26 to 276,000, but have remained below 300,000 for 56 straight weeks -- the longest streak since 1973.

The four-week moving average inched up 3,500 to 263,250. Because it lacks the volatility of the weekly headcount, the moving average is considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market.

Mortgage applications fell last week for the third week running. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports its Market Composite Index -- a measure ...

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports its Market Composite Index -- a measure of mortgage loan application volume -- was down 1.0% on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ending March 25.

The Refinance Index was down 3% from the previous week, taking the refinance share of mortgage activity to 52.4% of total applications from 53.9% the previous week.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 4.9% of total applications, the FHA share slipped to 11.5% from 11.8%, the VA share inched up to 12.9% from 12.6%. and the USDA share held steady at 0.9%.

Toshiba America Information Systems of Irvine, Calif., is recalling about 101,000 Panasonic battery packs used in Toshiba laptop computers in the U.S. and...

Toshiba America Information Systems of Irvine, Calif., is recalling about 101,000 Panasonic battery packs used in Toshiba laptop computers in the U.S. and Canada.

The firm has received four reports of the battery packs overheating and melting. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Panasonic lithium-ion battery packs installed in 39 models of Toshiba Portege, Satellite, and Tecra laptops. The battery packs were also sold separately and also installed by Toshiba as part of a repair.

Battery packs included in this recall have part numbers that begin with G71C (G71C*******). Part numbers are printed on the battery pack. A complete list of battery pack part numbers included in this recall can be found on the firm’s website at http://go.toshiba.com/battery.

The battery packs, manufactured in China and Japan, were sold at Office Depot, Staples and other electronics stores nationwide, and online at Toshibadirect.com and other websites from June 2011, through January 2016, for between $500 and $1,000 for the laptop and between $70 and $130 for the battery pack.

Consumers should immediately go to the firm’s website and click on the battery pack utility link in the first shadowed box on the page. Consumers can also perform a manual check using the laptop and battery pack’s model, part and serial numbers. If it is part of the recall, consumers should power off the laptop, remove the battery and follow the instructions to obtain a free replacement battery pack. Until a replacement battery pack is received, consumers should use the laptop by plugging into AC power only.

Consumers may contact Toshiba toll-free at 866-224-1346 any day between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. (PT), or online at http://go.toshiba.com/battery or at www.us.toshiba.com and click on “Consumer Notices” under the Support heading at the bottom of the page.

After deliberating for less than a day, a federal jury in New York City has cleared General Motors of liability in a 2014 accident supposedly caused by the...

After deliberating for less than a day, a federal jury in New York City has cleared General Motors of liability in a 2014 accident supposedly caused by the defective ignition switch that led to millions of recalls.

The jurors found that, although the 2007 Saturn Sky involved in the accident had the faulty ignition switch, the switch wasn't to blame for the car's involvement in a 15-car pile-up on the Crescent City Connection Bridge in Louisiana, Courthouse News Service reported.

Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy sued after the accident, saying GM was responsible. But jurors heard testimony that then-Gov. Bobby Jindal had declared a state of emergency because of adverse weather conditions on Jan. 24, 2014, the night Spain and Barthelemy had their accident.

"The jurors studied the merits of the case and saw the truth: this was a very minor accident that had absolutely nothing to do with the car's ignition switch," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement, Reuters reported.

An earlier case against GM ended when the plaintiff, a Tulsa mailman, withdrew his lawsuit after the judge took issue with contradictions in his testimony. 

The Center for Auto Safety has estimated that more than 300 people have died in accidents caused by the ignition switch shutting down the engine without warning, leaving drivers without power steering or power brakes and disabling airbags.

GM at one time faced hundreds of thousands of cases involving the switch, but a bankruptcy giant ruled last year that only cases that postdate the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy could go forward. GM paid $900 million to settle criminal liabilities growing out of the scandal.

A CFA officeTwo nationwide sham cancer charities are being closed and their leader is banned from working for non-profits under a settlement with the...

Two nationwide sham cancer charities are being closed and their leader is banned from working for non-profits under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 49 states.

Cancer Fund of America Inc. (CFA) and Cancer Support Services Inc. (CSS) and their leader, James Reynolds, Sr., claimed to help cancer patients, but, instead, the overwhelming majority of $187 million in donations benefitted the sham charity operators, their families and friends, and fundraisers, prosecutors said.

“The FTC and our state enforcement partners have ended a pernicious charity fraud that syphoned hundreds of millions of dollars away from well-meaning consumers, legitimate charities, and people with cancer who needed the services the defendants falsely promised,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s settlement, along with those announced earlier, shut down the sham charities once and for all and banned the individual perpetrators for life.”

The Cancer Fund's irregularities were highlighted in 2013, when it came in at No. 2 on the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times list of America's Worst Charities, following a joint investigation with The Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN to find the most wasteful charities in the country.

"While Cancer Fund provides care packages that contain shampoo and toothbrushes, the people in charge have personally made millions of dollars and used donations as venture capital to build a charity empire. Less than 2 cents of every dollar raised has gone to direct cash aid for patients or families, records show."

Under the settlement order announced today, CFA and CSS will be permanently closed and their assets liquidated.  Reynolds is banned from profiting from charity fundraising and nonprofit work, and from serving as a charity’s director or trustee.

The order imposes a judgment of $75 million, which will be suspended after Reynolds surrenders personal property including artworks, a pontoon boat and two pistols. 

Ever wish fitness wearables could be a little less bulky? Or maybe you long to be able to take your eyes off your phone without missing important alerts? I...

Ever wish fitness wearables could be a little less bulky? Or maybe you long to be able to take your eyes off your phone without missing important alerts? If so, Ringly’s new Aries bracelet collection may be for you.

The smart jewelry company, which previously only offered smartphone-connected rings, has now added bracelets -- and they’re as useful as they are fashionable.

The new bracelets will allow users to receive notification alerts not only for texts and calls, but also from Slack, Snapchat, Uber, and over one hundred other apps. Ringly has also incorporated a step-tracking functionality in response to customer requests.

"Effortlessly track your steps and monitor your calorie output without sacrificing your style," says Ringly. "Set targets and receive alerts when you reach your goals." (Users can view information such as distance traveled and calories burned on the Ringly app.)

The gold-plated bracelets connect to a user’s phone via Bluetooth, just like the company’s rings which were introduced in January 2015. But unlike Ringly’s bulky, large-stoned rings (the size of which drew user complaints), the bracelets are low-profile and elegant in appearance.

Wearers can customize notification alerts with different lights and various vibrations. A flashing green light, for instance, might let you know you’ve received a message from the nanny or babysitter; a blue light might mean it’s your mother. With these subtle notifications, users can stay up-to-date on potentially important messages even during situations where phone-checking isn’t allowed (or even possible), such as a meeting.

The company says the bracelet works within thirty feet of a user's phone and that a single charge can last up to 48 hours. The Ringly Aries collection is available for preorder now on the company’s website. The smart bracelets ($195) are expected to ship this summer.

What's next for the company? Payments. A new partnership with MasterCard will allow Ringly's next product to handle NFC payments, according to Christina Mercando d'Avignon, the company's founder and CEO. 

"Payments is our roadmap for this year, most likely announcing the designs later this year and shipping in early 2017," d'Avignon tells Wareable.com. Anywhere users can pay with Apple Pay or Android Pay, she explains, they'll be able to simply tap and pay with their ring. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to expand the use of the abortion pill Mifeprex, also known as RU-486, to 70 days of gestation inste...

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to expand the use of the abortion pill Mifeprex, also known as RU-486, to 70 days of gestation instead of the previous 49 days. It also approved reducing the recommended dosage.

The new protocol is intended to make it easier and less expensive for women to terminate an early pregnancy.

Mifeprex was approved by the FDA 16 years ago to terminate early pregnancy. It is given in combination with misoprostol. It has been used by more than 2.75 million women in the United States, according to Danco Laboratories, its manufacturer. 

In U.S. clinical studies, Mifeprex has been shown to be 97% effective in terminating early pregnancy; approximately three percent of women will require surgical intervention for ongoing pregnancy, heavy bleeding, incomplete expulsion, or other complications.

Planned Parenthood said an "overwhelming majority" of women who choose mifepristone for medication abortion are satisfied with the method.

"One study found that 97 percent of women would recommend the method to a friend. Additionally, 91 percent of the women reported that they would choose the mifepristone regimen again if they had to have another abortion," the family planning organization said in a prepared statement.  

Because of the risks of serious complications, Mifeprex is available only through a restricted program called Mifeprex REMS. Requirements include: 

To settle charges that it failed to report defects in its humidifiers, Gree Electric Appliances and its subsidiaries will pay a record $15.45 million civil...

A federal court has blocked a Chicago-area debt collector from allegedly threatening and intimidating consumers into paying "phantom" payday loan debts....

Raising a child who will become a competent, well-adjusted adult is the goal of most parents, but wading through the ever-deepening sea of child developmen...

Raising a child who will become a competent, well-adjusted adult is the goal of most parents, but wading through the ever-deepening sea of child development research can be confusing. It seems as if a new, ‘most effective’ parenting style is introduced every day.

But one study suggests that parents may want to turn their attention toward sensitive caregiving. The study -- led by researchers at the University of Minnesota, the University of Delaware, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- finds that parents who practice sensitive caregiving during the first three years of their child’s life may see them grow into a more successful adult.

The researchers define sensitive caregiving as, “the extent to which a parent responds to a child's signals appropriately and promptly, is positively involved during interactions with the child, and provides a secure base for the child's exploration of the environment.” The study, which appears in the journal Child Development, finds an association between this type of parental attentiveness during a child’s early years and their long-term social and academic success.

Using information from 243 individuals born into poverty combined with data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation, the researchers tracked how maternal sensitivity during the first three years of life affected people as adults (until age 32).

To kick off the study, the researchers evaluated mothers and babies in feeding and play situations during their first years. Later, they looked at their social and academic performance throughout childhood and adolescence. To conclude the study, the researchers had participants discuss their educational accomplishments and romantic relationships when they entered their 20s and 30s.

Those with mothers who were hostile, disengaged, or intrusive early in their childhood displayed lower test scores and poorer peer relationships (less likely to be marked by such qualities as loyalty, commitment, and intimacy). By contrast, the study found that participants who received sensitive caregiving early on functioned better socially and academically during their first three decades of life. 

"Altogether, the study suggests that children's experiences with parents during the first few years of life have a unique role in promoting social and academic functioning -- not merely during the first two decades of life, but also during adulthood," said Lee Raby, co-author of the study in a statement.

More research is needed to determine whether providing mothers with access to programs that support parental care can make a difference in children's long-term social and academic success. But for now, Raby says the study indicates that parents should simply recognize the importance of gentle nurturing and being attentive to their children's needs.

If you’ve ever called a customer service line, then you may be all too familiar with the initial spiel or automated message that you hear before talking to...

If you’ve ever called a customer service line, then you may be all too familiar with the initial spiel or automated message that you hear before talking to a human: “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.”

While companies certainly do use these recordings for training purposes, the statement is also important because it provides a warning for consumers. Wells Fargo may be learning that lesson the hard way. The company has been fined $8.5 million for violating California’s state law which requires that all companies disclose that a call is being recorded.

The suit was filed back in February when the state accused Wells Fargo of violating sections 632 and 632.7 of its penal code. The lion’s share of the $8.5 million will be split up amongst five California counties, with $7.6 million going to Los Angeles, Riverside, Venture, Alameda, and San Diego. Wells Fargo will also pay $250,000 to two organizations – the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund.

The state considers the suit a victory for consumer privacy, saying that it is more important than ever that consumers feel safe in an increasingly technological world.

“This settlement holds Wells Fargo accountable for violating the privacy of its customers by recording calls without providing adequate notification, and ensures that the bank makes the changes necessary to protect the privacy of its customers,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

In addition to the payment, Wells Fargo has stated that it will create an internal compliance program so that calls are no longer recorded without consent. 

When you travel, your credit card may offer a number of rewards, ranging from miles to cash back. A very useful reward is insurance coverage at the car ren...

When you travel, your credit card may offer a number of rewards, ranging from miles to cash back. A very useful reward is insurance coverage at the car rental counter.

Most consumers have been confronted with the question – do you want the rental car company's coverage? It's pricey, often costing $25 or more a day.

Actually, it isn't even insurance. It's technically a “collision damage waiver (CDW),” meaning the rental car company will assume liability, up to a certain amount of money. Usually it's enough money to cover most accidents.

Most credit cards will offer some level of protection, usually secondary protection – meaning it would pay if the costs exceed the primary coverage – either the CDW or the consumer's personal auto insurance.

If you want primary insurance coverage at no extra charge, then it may be to your advantage to pay for the car rental with a card that provides it, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

“Decline the rental company's collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card,” Chase says on its website. “Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.”

The Discover Escape Card also provides primary rental car coverage. Discover says all you have to do is use the card to pay for the rental car and you're covered for damage to the car.

A third option is the Fairmont Visa Signature Card. It provides an Auto Rental CDW benefit that will reimburse for damage due to collision or theft up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles.

It is also primary coverage, which means you do not have to file a claim with your personal insurance carrier.

There is one big caveat, however, to all of these options. As you may have noticed, they all address damage, not personal injuries. Should you be in a rental car accident resulting in injuries, you will need to rely on your personal auto insurance policy.

Before renting a car, it's a good idea to review your policy to see if there are any exclusions that apply to rental cars.

Consumers' tastes continue to evolve when it comes to beverages. They're still thirsty, but not for carbonated sodas.In its year-end report for 2015, B...

Consumers' tastes continue to evolve when it comes to beverages. They're still thirsty, but not for carbonated sodas.

In its year-end report for 2015, Beverage Digest reports overall beverage sales rose 2.2% for the year, but carbonated beverage sales continued their decline, falling another 1.2% to their lowest level in 30 years.

One group cheering that news is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which says consumers are shying away from sugar-sweetened beverages in general because they want to avoid health issues ranging from diabetes to tooth decay.

By the CSPI's calculation, consumers have cut their soda consumption by 26% since 1998, when sales of the beverages peaked. Consumption levels have now fallen to what they were in 1985. The group says it would like to see sales fall even further, noting that in the 1960s, soda was considered an occasional treat, not something to be consumed in large quantities on a daily basis.

“Drinking nine or 10 teaspoons of sugar makes no sense, and most Americans have wised up to what’s really in a single soda,” CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement.

Jacobson says the soft drink industry has spent the last several years lecturing the public about energy balance and moderation, but all the while has been employing a marketing campaign that encourages excessive consumption. He says government policy to discourage soda consumption could improve health and lower healthcare costs.

Local efforts to limit soda consumption have met with mixed results. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg attempted to ban the sale of jumbo-sized sweetened beverages in the city, but the measure was overturned in the courts.

Jacobson says taxing sodas might be a more effective way to discourage their consumption, noting Philadelphia is considering such a tax, and that similar legislation has been proposed in Congress.

About five years ago, the Federal Reserve stepped in and imposed a cap, significantly lowering the “swipe fee” credit card lenders charged for each debit c...

About five years ago, the Federal Reserve stepped in and imposed a cap, significantly lowering the “swipe fee” credit card lenders charged for each debit card transaction.

Mallory Duncan, a senior executive at the National Retail Federation (NRF), says the nation's retailers have passed along two-thirds of the $8.5 billion in annual savings to consumers. But he says the cap should be even lower.

“In most cases, 24 cents per transaction represents a significant savings over the prior non-competitive pricing,” Duncan said in a statement. “However, it is still substantially higher than issuers’ incremental costs.”

The key, Duncan says, is following Congress's stated goal of keeping the transaction fee in line with banks' actual costs of processing the transaction. Looked at that way, he says, 24 cents is still overcharging both retailers and consumers.

Duncan made his comments to the Federal Reserve, which is required to review the swipe fee cap as a normal part of the regulation process.

The cap on swipe fees came about in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The sweeping Dodd Frank law required the Fed to monitor transaction fees, to ensure that they were “reasonable and proportional,” and that banks weren't making up for declining profits elsewhere by jacking up the revenue flowing from the retail sector.

Originally, Federal Reserve staff estimated the average cost of processing a transaction at 4 cents, and recommended limiting the swipe fee to no more than 12 cents.

So how did it get to be 24 cents? Duncan says intense lobbying by the banking industry resulted in a cap of 21 cents, plus 0.05% of the transaction for fraud recovery, allowing another one cent for fraud prevention in most cases.

Last October liability for fraudulent debit and credit card purchases switched from lenders to retailers, with the introduction of the chip-and-signature card system. Duncan says the result has meant the banks' fraud recovery costs have gone down, and that credit card companies “may no longer have a legitimate basis” for collecting the fee dealing with fraud.

Another drug company has found itself under criticism by some members of Congress over the price of one of its drugs.Lawmakers say Xtandi, a drug owned...

Another drug company has found itself under criticism by some members of Congress over the price of one of its drugs.

Lawmakers say Xtandi, a drug owned by Medivation Inc., and used to treat prostate cancer, costs $129,000 a year. That's four times the cost in Canada and three times as much as in Japan. The dozen lawmakers joined non-profit groups in signing a letter to the National Institutes of Heath (NIH), asking the health agency to hold public hearings.

It's not just that the price of the drug is unreasonably high, the lawmakers say. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Xtandi was developed at a U.S. university with U.S. government support. The letter argues that if NIH finds the price to be unreasonable, it can revoke Medivation's patent on the drug.

“When Americans pay for research that results in a safe and effective drug, an unreasonably high cost should not limit their access to it. New treatments are meaningless if patients cannot afford them,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and NIH Director Francis Collins.

The letter was signed by lawmakers from both the House and Senate, including Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)and Peter Welch (D-VT), co-chairs of the Prescription Drug Taskforce, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The letter calls for a public hearing that could lead to overriding the patent on Xtandi to make the drug available as a generic. According to the lawmakers, the law allows NIH to take this step if federal funds were used in a drug’s development and the pharmaceutical company is demanding an unreasonably high price.

Researchers at UCLA developed Xtandi, using taxpayer-supported research grants from the U.S. Army and NIH. Despite that, the drug sells in the U.S. for a lot more than in other countries.

“We do not think that charging U.S. residents more than anyone else in the world meets the obligation to make the invention available to U.S. residents on reasonable terms,” the lawmakers wrote.

“When Americans pay for research that results in a pharmaceutical, that drug should be available at a reasonable price,” said Doggett, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Ways and Means Committee and co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus Prescription Drug Task Force.

Doggett says the Obama Administration has indicated a willingness to use its existing authority to address unreasonable drug costs on a case-by-case basis. He says it should do so now with Xtandi.

“An unaffordable drug is 100% ineffective,” he said. “Americans shouldn’t have to choose between their lives and their livelihoods on this and many other outrageously priced medications.”

In December, the Senate Special Committee on Aging conducted a hearing on drug prices, focusing specifically on four pharmaceutical companies: Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin Inc, and Rodelis Therapeutics. All four owned drugs that had significantly spiked in price.  

March was another good month for job creation, according to the ADP National Employment Report.Produced by ADP in collaboration with Moody's Analytics,...

Produced by ADP in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, the report says private sector employment increased by 200,000 jobs from February to March, with small to medium-sized companies carrying most of the weight.

"The job market continues on its amazing streak,” said Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. “The March job gain of 200,000 is consistent with average monthly job growth of the past more than four years. The only industry reducing payrolls is energy as has been the case for over a year. All indications are that the job machine will remain in high gear."

Businesses with 49 or fewer employees saw their payrolls increase by 86,000 in last month, while employment at companies with 50-499 employees increased by 75,000 jobs.

Large companies -- those with 500 or more employees -- created just 39,000 jobs, about half the number they cranked out in February which is about half of February's 77,000. Companies with 500-999 employees added 20,000 jobs, and firms with over 1,000 employees fell from 63,000 jobs added in February to 18,000 this month.

Nearly all the new jobs -- 191,000 -- were in the service-providing sector. Professional/business services contributed 28,000, trade/transportation/utilities grew by 42,000, and financial activities added 14,000 jobs.

Employment in goods-producing industries rose by just 9,000 jobs in March, with the construction industry adding 17,000 jobs and manufacturing hiring 3,000 new workers.

The headlights are probably the last thing you think about when deciding which new car to buy.However, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Hi...

However, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests you may want to move that up on your list of priorities

According to the first-ever headlight ratings conducted by the IIHS, the Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car out of 31 evaluated to earn a good rating. The best available headlights on 11 cars earn an acceptable rating, while nine only reach a marginal rating. Ten of the vehicles can't be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.

"If you're having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer.

The car's price tag is no guarantee of decent headlights. Many of the poor-rated headlights belong to luxury vehicles.

Among the 44 headlight systems earning a poor rating, the halogen lights on the BMW 3 series are the worst. A driver with those headlights would have to be going 35 mph or slower to stop in time for an obstacle in the travel lane. A better choice for the same car is an LED curve-adaptive system with high-beam assist, a combination that rates marginal.

Curve-adaptive systems don't always lead to better ratings. The Cadillac ATS, Kia Optima, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class all earn poor ratings even when equipped with adaptive low and high beams.

In the case of the Optima, a big problem is glare. Its curve-adaptive system provides better visibility than its non-adaptive lights, but produces excessive glare for oncoming vehicles on all five low beam approaches.

Headlights are evaluated on the track after dark at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. A special device measures the light from both low beams and high beams as the vehicle is driven on five different approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve, and a gradual right curve.

Glare for oncoming vehicles is also measured from low beams in each scenario to make sure it isn't excessive.

If you're a teen who wants a job this summer, 2016 may be your year.According to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&E) annual teen summer job outlook...

According to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&E) annual teen summer job outlook, teenagers seeking summer employment should continue to have more and more opportunities.

“The economy is the strongest it’s been since the recovery began in 2010,” said CG&E chief executive officer John A. Challenger. “The only area that is suffering right now is the energy sector, which was not a fertile sector for teen job seekers, to begin with.”

While the job market may be more welcoming to teenagers, recent trends suggest that may not necessarily translate into increased summer job gains. Last year, 1,160,000 16- to-19-year-olds found employment from May through July, down 11% from the 1,297,000 finding summer jobs in 2014.

That was the third consecutive year in which teen summer job gains declined from the previous year. However, even as summer job gains decline, overall teen employment is still on the rise. And, despite the decline in summer job gains last year, teen employment reached a July peak of 5,696,000, the highest total since 2008.

The numbers suggest that more teenagers are finding employment at other times of the year. “After all, we are approaching full employment,” said Challenger. “Many metropolitan areas are already struggling with labor shortages. This environment opens doors for teen job seekers, as those who may have relegated to retail and restaurant jobs are moving up, which leaves a void that can be filled by teens.”

The percentage of teenagers participating in the labor force has been declining since the 1970s. Currently, only about one-third of teens participate in the labor force (meaning they are working or actively seeking employment).

However, Challenger says this does not mean that teenagers have gotten lazier over the last two decades. “They are simply engaged in more activities that fall under the radar of standard employment measures,” he said. “Many are volunteering. More are participating in summer education programs or in summer sports leagues. Others are in unpaid internships. Many simply may be doing odd jobs, such as baby sitting or lawn mowing.”

Much of this, he believes, is in pursuit of college admissions goals and broader career goals beyond college. “As colleges become more competitive, teens are trying to find activities that stand out on applications,” Challenger concluded, adding, “In this environment, typical summer jobs have fallen out of favor,” he added.

Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 577 Roadmaster RM234 tires, size 295/75R22.5, manufactured August 6, 2015, to September 5, 2015 (weeks 3115-3515). ...

Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 577 Roadmaster RM234 tires, size 295/75R22.5, manufactured August 6, 2015, to September 5, 2015 (weeks 3115-3515).

The recalled tires may have a pin-sized hole in the sidewall that can result in a loss of air which can cause sudden tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.

Cooper will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires including the mounting and balancing, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

After an extended period of protest from privacy advocates and Apple, it looks like the FBI won’t be needing the tech company’s assistance in unlocking the...

After an extended period of protest from privacy advocates and Apple, it looks like the FBI won’t be needing the tech company’s assistance in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. According to a Reuters report, the agency reported on Monday that it had successfully gained access to the phone.

The successful hacking attempt brings to an end a legal battle that had been escalating in the privacy community. Until Monday, Apple had strongly denounced a court order that would have forced engineers to create a backdoor so that the feds could access the phone.

“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a back door into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. . . As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought,” said Apple in a statement.

Unfortunately, the dismissal of this case does not necessarily put consumer fears about privacy to rest. A clear line has been drawn in the sand between law enforcement and tech industry experts; the former believes that not having access to encrypted data will hamper criminal investigations, while the latter believe that undermining security features puts everyone at risk.

Members of the tech industry also believe that giving in to such demands would give the judicial system too much power. In essence, the courts would be able to turn private companies into their agents in order to obtain information.

This isn’t to say that tech companies are completely unwilling to help police investigate crimes – they just aren’t comfortable with lowering their own security features in order to give agencies like the FBI the level of access that it wants.

“We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated,” said Apple.

Paw-shaped car magnets featuring the phrase, ‘who rescued who’ are a common sight on the road, and our canine companions see frequent use as therapy dogs. ...

What a difference three months makes.In December, the Federal Reserve announced a modest quarter-point increase in the Federal Funds interest rate and ...

In December, the Federal Reserve announced a modest quarter-point increase in the Federal Funds interest rate and strongly suggested as many as four additional rate hikes could come in 2016.

The Fed had held rates at near 0% since late 2008, and with employment rising the Fed policymakers said it was time to get rates back to normal.

But in a speech Tuesday to the Economic Club of New York, Fed Chair Janet Yellen backed away from that aggressive move, saying the U.S. economy, while resilient, remains weak and there is no immediate threat of inflation.

“Readings on the U.S. economy since the turn of the year have been somewhat mixed,” Yellen said in her speech. “On the one hand, many indicators have been quite favorable. The labor market has added an average of almost 230,000 jobs a month over the past three months.”

But on the other hand, she noted, manufacturing and net exports have continued to be hard hit by slow global growth and the significant appreciation of the dollar since 2014. These same global developments have also weighed on business investment by limiting firms' expected sales, she said.

Translation: the economy is barely growing, and raising interest rates – normally something the Fed does only when inflation begins to emerge as a threat – doesn't make sense. It especially doesn't make sense when the rest of the world is lowering rates.

As several pundits have pointed out in the wake of the speech, the Federal Funds rate is the only interest rate the Fed really controls. The bond market sets the rates that really matter, and since December's Fed hike, bond rates have all been going lower – suggesting the market's belief that the economy is slowing, not heating up.

Bond rates tend to affect consumers most – from long-term rates on mortgages to shorter term rates on auto loans.

For investors, the Fed action is much more significant. The stock market loves low interest rates, which make it cheaper for companies to buy back their stock, pushing stock prices higher.

With rates staying where they are, current stock valuations may hold up a while longer. The Fed not raising rates can also be expected to boost the price of gold, which has rallied off its lows in recent weeks.

And if the dollar continues to soften because rate hikes have been taken off the table, it will probably lift the price of oil, and in turn make it more expensive for consumers to fill-up at the pump.

Car insurance companies are worried about self-driving cars -- and it's not because they're afraid the self-drivers will cause more accidents. Quite the op...

Car insurance companies are worried about self-driving cars -- and it's not because they're afraid the self-drivers will cause more accidents. Quite the opposite. They're worried about the long-term effect on the insurance industry if autonomous cars turn out to be as safe as everyone expects.

Sure, insurers will be rolling in extra cash for a few years if self-driving cars cause a sharp reduction in accidents. But over the longer term, what would that mean for the insurance industry?

The answer is pretty obvious: if the accident rate declines and stays low, insurers will be under severe pressure to lower their premiums. 

“Widespread adoption of self-driving cars is still decades off, but it raises questions of what an auto insurer’s role will be in a world with far fewer accidents,” Moody's analyst Jasper Cooper said in a statement quoted by Automotive News. “Regulators, lawmakers and courts will have to determine how liabilities are shared among insurers, automobile manufactures and technology companies.”

Even before the transition to autonomous cars is complete, safety features like automatic braking and lane departure prevention are likely to reduce accidents markedly. Any savings could be counter-balanced, though, by the higher cost of repairing today's more complicated vehicles.

Cooper doesn't expect auto insurance to go away completely. There will still be accidents caused by mechanical failures, storms, and the occasional driver who insists on using manual controls. 

Also, if ride-sharing increases as expected, the market for commercial insurance could grow, he said.

Spring is an ideal time to hold a garage sale. Sellers may have found themselves up to their ears in items accumulated over the winter, and buyers have bee...

Spring is an ideal time to hold a garage sale. Sellers may have found themselves up to their ears in items accumulated over the winter, and buyers have been itching to get out of the house and snag some deals. It’s a win-win.

But as anyone who has hosted a yard or garage sale can tell you, they can also be a lot of work. Before you find yourself sitting in the driveway waiting patiently for buyers, you’ll probably have traversed the stairs to the attic many times, lugged heavy furniture, and logged your fair share of hours preparing.

With all that goes into a yard sale, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done everything you can do make it a success. To help you get rid of as many unwanted items as possible, keep these expert suggestions in mind.

Spread the word. The old saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” does not hold for garage sales, says Jim Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Let others in your area know where and when your sale will be and what items will be up for grabs. Advertising your sale in newspapers is fine, says Roberts, but online marketing is hard to beat.

In the weeks before the sale, post pictures, directions, and sale times on such sites as Craigslist, www.gsalr.com, www.yardsales.net, and www.garagesalefinder.com. (A note on posting photos: keep in mind that it’s often better to take individual pictures of your best stuff rather than indiscernible photos of cluttered tables.)

Use the week leading up to the sale to clean items, check electronics, and make sure all items are priced. Many shoppers will avoid buying an item if it’s not clearly priced.

“I make my buying decisions based on the price and do not like asking the owner how much things cost,” says Luci of Richmond, VA, who has staged dozens of yard sales over three decades. “If you don't have the time or desire to price your items, don't have a sale.”

When deciding how much an item should cost, it’s important to remember that items are used -- so price accordingly. Ten cents on the dollar is a good guide, suggests Luci. “Overprice and you will find yourself donating all the unsold items or worse, taking everything back in your house.”

You can add the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the long list of those suing Volkswagen. The agency wants the automaker to be ordered to compensate the 5...

You can add the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the long list of those suing Volkswagen. The agency wants the automaker to be ordered to compensate the 550,000 consumers who bought or leased a TDI "clean diesel" car from VW.

“For years Volkswagen’s ads touted the company’s ‘Clean Diesel’ cars even though it now appears Volkswagen rigged the cars with devices designed to defeat emissions tests,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Our lawsuit seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen’s deceptive and unfair practices.”

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) had asked the agency in September to investigate VW after news of the defeat devices broke. 

“This was one of the most egregious examples of a company deceiving the public,” said Nelson in a statement today.  “Hopefully, the court will provide adequate redress to consumers and send a strong message that this type of corporate behavior won’t be tolerated. ”

VW is struggling to come up with a plan to retrofit the emission control devices on its cars so that they comply with federal and California emission standards. A federal judge in California last week gave VW 30 more days to submit a plan to the court. If it fails to do so, the court could order Volkswagen to buy back the cars or otherwise compensate owners.

The FTC's suit charges that Volkswagen deliberately deceived consumers from 2008 through 2015 with advertisements and promotional materials targeting environmentally-conscious consumers, promising that its TDI-equipped cars produced lower emissions than other diesels while achieving high gas mileage and spirited performance.

In fact, the suit says the cars produced up to 4,000 percent more than the legal limit of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a harmful chemical that damages the environment and causes respiratory problems in humans and other animals.

"Our most important priority is to find a solution to the diesel emissions matter and earn back the trust of our customers and dealers as we build a better company," VW said in a statement.

A recent survey of taxpayers showed just 23% planned to use their income tax refund to pay off debt. Before the financial crisis of 2008, 55% earmarked the...

A recent survey of taxpayers showed just 23% planned to use their income tax refund to pay off debt. Before the financial crisis of 2008, 55% earmarked their refunds for debt reduction.

"Paying down debt can undoubtedly be one of the best ways to put a tax refund to good use," Nick Bryan, Executive Vice President of OpenSky, a financial division of Capital Bank, N.A., said in a release.

Paying off, or paying down a large credit card balance not only reduces interest payments, it can raise a credit score, since the ratio of debt-to-credit is a major component of credit scores.

Bryan says one reason paying off credit card debt might not seem urgent is if you have a no-or-low interest credit card. In that case, it might make more sense to put the refund into savings.

“It makes sense to do the numbers,” Bryan said. “You aren't losing money to let zero interest debt stay where it is for a while."

Putting the refund into savings provides a barrier against future debt. In nearly every month consumers are faced with unexpected expenses, whether it's a trip to the emergency room or an unexpected car repair.

Bryan suggests having what he calls a "life happens" savings account for emergencies. Otherwise, that unexpected expense will likely end up on a credit card balance, costing double-digit interest each month.

Homeowners with an adequate “life happens” account might consider making postponed but necessary repairs and upgrades to a home. Timely minor repairs head off major repairs later on, and can preserve and enhance home values.

Economists, of course, hope taxpayers use their tax refunds to buy things, because that stimulates the economy. In past years, it was reasonable to expect that.

Things are a little different now. Personal income has barely risen in the years since the last recession. Lower gasoline prices have given consumers a little breathing room, but they are hardly flush.

A recent survey from GoBankingRates.com also shows a lower rate for using tax refunds to pay down debt, but it also showed little inclination for consumers to go shopping. Only 5% plan to make a major purchase and only 4% planned to splurge on something like shoes or a new TV.

The final accounting has yet to be done, but from the figures available now, it appears March will be another record month for new car sales.Kelley Blu...

Monday's revised first quarter Gross Domestic Income (GDI) estimate shocked a lot of economists. It probably shouldn't have.Wall Street traders have be...

Monday's revised first quarter Gross Domestic Income (GDI) estimate shocked a lot of economists. It probably shouldn't have.

Wall Street traders have been sharply divided since the start of the year, with some saying the U.S. economy is doing just fine and others warning that the economy is headed for recession – and the market for steep losses.

The GDI estimate revision, to just 0.9%, promises to escalate the debate in the next couple of weeks. Analysts downgraded expectations in the face of evidence that consumers aren't spending that much.

The U.S. may be doing better than the rest of the world, but the fact is, economies everywhere appear to be slowing down. That might not seem like a terrible thing – we haven't had a recession since that really bad one, from 2007 to 2009 – except that a lack of growth right now threatens a lot of things.

For one thing, the Federal Reserve is trying to pursue a policy of gradually raising interest rates. It hiked rates in December for the first time in six years, telegraphing that more hikes are coming. The last thing it wants to do is raise rates heading into a recession.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen may provide some clues about the central bank's plans when she speaks to the Economic Club of New York later today.

The U.S. stock market's valuation is based on growth. People buy stock in companies with the assumption that profits will increase and the value of the company will also go higher. If that assumption is wrong, investors won't continue to buy stocks unless their price goes down.

This is a problem for millions of Baby Boomers and other retirees who have the bulk of their retirement savings in stocks. If the value of those stocks goes down, these retirees will lose a lot of money – at least on paper.

It is worth noting that retirees who did not panic and sell when the stock market suffered steep declines in the wake of the financial crisis did just fine. The market quickly regained all the ground it lost.

But if the economy isn't growing, or threatens to slide into reverse, that threatens to reduce the value of retirees' assets, so they'll spend less. Baby Boomers, who drove the consumer economy for 40 years, are buying fewer “things” anyway, since many are trying to downsize.

Millennials, who are coming along behind them, have a value system that largely frowns on conspicuous consumption. They're even content to share things, like cars and houses, and save their money. At some point that has to have an effect on the economy.

So what may be at work here is a generational and cultural shift that is having profound – but thus far unrecognized – impact on the economy.

Technology is also having a disruptive effect on the economy. Stores in small towns now have to compete with Amazon.com. Etsy has allowed artisans to market their product to a global audience.

The technology effect is about to get even more pronounced. Author John Hornick says 3D printers will make a company's former customers their competitors.

“Presently, the products that can be self-manufactured are limited, but it won't always be that way,” Hornick said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “Given enough time, anyone will be able to make almost anything, away from control.”

He says that means retail outlets that once sold mass-produced products will vanish, just like camera stores vanished when photography went digital.

The disruption to the old economy will increase, as people figure out easier and cheaper ways to do things and companies just won't be able to keep up. In fact, it may just be getting started.

It appears spring has brought with it a little consumer optimism about the course of the economy.The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence I...

The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index has rebounded a bit from its February decline. After slipping to 94.0 last month, the Index now stands at 96.2.

The Present Situation Index dipped from 115.0 to 113.5, while the Expectations Index rose to 84.7 in March from 79.9.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions posted a moderate decline, while expectations regarding the short-term turned more favorable as last month’s turmoil in the financial markets appears to have abated,” said Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators. “On balance,” she added, “consumers do not foresee the economy gaining any significant momentum in the near-term, nor do they see it worsening.”

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions eased in March, with those saying business conditions were “good” slipped from 26.5% to 24.9%. On the other hand,, those who said conditions are “bad” edged down from 19.0% to 18.8%.

Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was mixed. Those who think jobs are “plentiful” rose from 22.8% to 25.4%, while consumers who believe jobs are “hard to get” also rose -- to 26.6% from 23.6%.

Consumers were more optimistic about the short-term outlook than they were in February. The percentage expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months was up moderately to 15.0% from 14.5%, while those expecting business conditions to worsen was down sharply from 11.6% to 9.2%.

The outlook for the labor market was more favorable as well. Those who expect to see more jobs in the months ahead increased slightly from 12.2% to 12.9%, while those who think there will be fewer jobs fell from 17.7% to 16.3%.

The proportion of consumers expecting higher incomes dipped from 17.7% to 17.2%, while the proportion who believe their paychecks will shrink edged up from 11.6% to 11.8%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 17.

Home prices across the country rose over the last 12 months.On a year-over-year basis, the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index (HPI), cover...

Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 110,000 Specialized bicycle headlights and taillights. The headlights and...

Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 110,000 Specialized bicycle headlights and taillights.

The firm has received four reports of Flux headlights or taillights overheating and two reports of Stix headlights expanding and bursting. No injuries have been reported.

The recall includes Specialized Flux and Stix Sport and Comp model bicycle headlights and taillights sold separately as aftermarket equipment. They have rechargeable batteries with USB ports.

The headlights and taillights, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Specialized retailers nationwide and online at www.specialized.com from June 2014, through February 2016, for between $100 and $275 for Flux model headlights and taillights, and for between $30 and $50 for Stix model headlights and taillights.

Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled headlights and taillights. Return them an authorized Specialized bicycle retailer for a free repair for Flux model headlights, or a free replacement for Flux model taillights, and Stix model headlights and taillights. Consumers who bought the bicycle lights directly from Specialized should contact Specialized for return instructions.

Consumers may contact Specialized at 800-722-4423 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at https://sbc-media.s3.amazonaws.com/Lights%20-%20Rider%20Notice.pdf for more information.

Smallbatch Pets is recalling one lot of frozen dog duckbatch sliders. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes....

Eighty cases of the recalled product were sold between February 3 and March 10, 2016, in retail pet food stores in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington States CA, CO, OR, WA through pet food retailers/distributors.

Customers who purchased the recalled product should to stop using it and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund, or dispose of it immediately.

Consumers with questions may contact Smallbatch Pets at 888-507-2712 or by email at info@smallbatchpets.com'

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,561 model year 2015-2016 e-Golf vehicles manufactured May 21, 2014, to March 1, 2016. Oversensitive diag...

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 5,561 model year 2015-2016 e-Golf vehicles manufactured May 21, 2014, to March 1, 2016.

Oversensitive diagnostics for the high-voltage battery management system may falsely detect an electrical surge resulting in the vehicle's electric drive motor shutting down unexpectedly, increasing the risk of a crash.

Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will update the battery management software, free of charge. The recall began March 15, 2016.

Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 93B4.

Gas prices are beginning to ever so slightly edge back up, which may bring renewed interest in electric cars, a topic that seems to ha...

Sadly, tragedies happen everyday. When they hit close to home -- to family, friends, or colleagues -- thoughts ofte...

Sadly, tragedies happen everyday. When they hit close to home -- to family, friends, or colleagues -- thoughts often turn to fundraising. Not too long ago, such efforts might be limited to a bake sale, spaghetti dinner, or other neighborhood effort.

Today, technology and social media extend the reach of volunteer fundraising far beyond what was possible just a few years ago. For example, when veteran Associated Press and UPI journalist Sofia Mannos was paralyzed in an accident at her Washington, D.C., home, friends turned to GoFundMe, hoping to raise $35,000 for a motorized wheelchair.

At last word, 92 donors had kicked in $7,470 in the first month. Contributions have been coming in from journalists and friends around the world who worked with Mannos at one point or another in her extensive career -- a response that would not have been possible without the Internet.

One potential difficulty in raising money through such means is that contributions are not tax deductible, as they are when giving to an established charity, which might dissuade some donors. Also, while immediate friends and acquaintances may keep track of how the efforts turn out, some potential donors may worry about whether their money will be used well.

Experts advise that, besides raising money from friends and family, victims of catastrophic accident or illness should should look to existing charities that offer grants and other types of assistance.

In Mannos' case, this might include the United Spinal Association, which publishes an extensive directory for those seeking financial assistance but which did not respond to a request for comment on this article.

The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation is one of those listed in the spinal group's directory. Besides funding research, It makes charitable grants to paralyzed people and provides scholarships to individuals suffering from paralysis or families with a parent dealing with a neurological disorder. 

In 2015, it made several grants to help purchase wheelchairs, modify vehicles, install stair lifts, and modify homes. 

Named for the onetime Superman star, the Christopher Reeve Foundation provides a New Injury Packet to newly-paralyzed consumers and their families. 

Our point is that those looking to help someone in trouble have more resources available than ever. Besides the traditional bake sales, car washes, etc., there are Internet funding sites and, just as important, search engines that can help locate foundations and non-profits organizations like those mentioned above.

Besides providing direct help, non-profits can also frequently guide consumers to government agencies that offer services, training, and grants. 

But while the Internet can be a boon in raising funds and conducting research, it can also be a pathway to scams, phony offers, and well-meaning but misguided do-gooders, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns.

"These days, charities and fundraisers (groups that solicit funds on behalf of organizations) use the phone, face-to-face contact, email, the internet (including social networking sites), and mobile devices to solicit and obtain donations. Naturally, scammers use these same methods to take advantage of your goodwill," the FTC says in an advisory.

The FTC warns against fund-raisers who ask for an immediate donation, refuse to provide information about their organization and ask you to wire funds. Additional tips from the FTC are located here.

Supposed charitable appeals on Facebook should also set off alarm bells, as many, if not most, are scams. 

Even if you remember to check the weather forecast before heading out, there’s no guarantee that a surprise rainshower won’t find you anyway. Weather forec...

Manufacturers have been moving away from the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) as a plastic hardener in packaging and bottles, over health concerns.Many have...

Manufacturers have been moving away from the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) as a plastic hardener in packaging and bottles, over health concerns.

Many have embraced bisphenol S (BPS) as a substitute. Now, a study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology suggests BPS might have some problems.

“Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism,” the study’s senior author, Ella Atlas of Health Canada, said in a statement.

She says the study is the first to suggest BPS exposure can promote the formation of human fat cells. That could be a problem because the products labeled “BPA Free” often contain BPS.

In their study, the researchers found that exposure to a little or a lot of BPS had the same result – creating the largest accumulation of lipids. Oddly, exposure to moderate amounts of BPS has less of an effect.

The scientists say exposure to even very small amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals can disrupt hormones. That's because small changes in hormone levels are supposed to make adjustments in metabolism, respiration, heart rate, and other bodily functions.

The search for a BPA substitute gained traction after some 100 epidemiological studies linked BPA to health problems. Retailers like Walmart dropped plastic bottles and cups for children if they contained the chemical.

That led to a host of BPA-Free products, many of which contain BPS. From the start, researchers wondered if the similarities between the two chemicals might mean they could share potential health concerns.

“Since BPS is one of the replacement chemicals used in consumer products that are marketed as BPA-free, it is important to examine whether BPS acts as an endocrine-disrupting chemical,” Atlas said.

The Canadian study concludes that BPS and BPA have similar effects on fat cell formation, lipid accumulation, and expression of genes important for lipid metabolism. And it isn't the first to suggest the substitute for BPA might have problems.

Researchers at UCLA recently reported that BPS may be linked to early puberty and a rise in breast and prostate cancers.  

Ideally, one should leave a nail salon feeling better than when they arrived and sporting a fresh coat of nail polish. But there’s always the possibility t...

It's been six months since the official switch-over from magnetic strip credit cards to ones with embedded computer chips. The new EMV technology, used in...

America's preoccupation with food is evolving from what tastes good to what is healthy. Younger consumers, especially, are being more careful about what th...

The Department of Labor (DOL) is expected to finalize new rules soon, governing what financial advisors, who often guide consumers' retirement saving effor...

In what one analyst called “promising strides,” pending home sales rose to their highest level in seven months during February.The National Association...

Consumers tended to hang on to what little increase in incomes they enjoyed in February.The Commerce department reports personal income was up $23.7 bi...

Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 46,700 model year 2011-2016 Touaregs. The brake pedal pivot pin may be missing a circlip, allowing the piv...

The brake pedal pivot pin may be missing a circlip, allowing the pivot pin to move and the brake pedal to dislodge.

If the brake pedal dislodges, the driver may not be able to apply the brakes, increasing the risk of a crash.

Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the brake pedal assembly to verify the presence of the circlip and install any missing circlips, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 46G4.

Smartphones are often the last thing we see at night and the first thing we look at in the morning -- but gazing into the glow of screens is not at all con...

Students at 91 former Corinthian College campuses in 24 states will have an clearer path to loan forgiveness, U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. sai...

Students at 91 former Corinthian College campuses in 24 states will have an clearer path to loan forgiveness, U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said today.

The action comes just one day after Corinthian was hit with a $1.1 billion judgment that may help provide additional relief to struggling ex-students.

The 91 campuses were identified as having the largest groups of borrowers eligible for loan relief by investigators from the Department of Education and state attorneys general.

If that includes you, you can apply for debt relief through a form posted here. The Department is reaching out to those students through postal mail, email, partner organizations and other means.

The DOE has approved loan discharges for more than 8,800 former Corinthian students nationwide, totaling more than $130 million.

The DOE's efforts are not a raging success in the eyes of critics, however. One non-profit group, The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) said the debt relief program so far has been "like draining a swimming pool with a straw."

"Despite the Department’s outreach to date, few students are aware that debt relief is available.  Only a fraction of eligible Corinthian students have applied and less than three percent have been approved (with most approved because their school closed, not based on fraud), TICAS vice president Pauline Abernathy said in a statement.   "It’s like draining a swimming pool with a straw -- even a streamlined application is an unnecessary barrier to the relief these students deserve because the Department has already determined that their school committed fraud," Abernathy said. "We urge the Department to provide automatic discharges to all groups of students covered by findings of fraud, rather than requiring them to submit individual applications."  

King made the announcement in Boston with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who said her investigation found that Corinthian's two Everest Institute campuses in Massachusetts misrepresented their job placement rates.

"When Americans invest their time, money and effort to gain new skills, they have a right to expect they'll get an education that leads to a better life for them and their families. Corinthian was more worried about profits than about students' lives," King said.

Last summer, the DOE created a similar form for students at 12 Heald College campuses after fining the institution $30 million for misrepresenting job placement rates to current and prospective students. In November 2015, the department published additional findings of misrepresentation at 20 Everest and WyoTech campuses in California and Florida.

What’s it like to be a New York City insider? Insiders seek unique and authentic experiences that showcase the flavor of a locality. If you enjoy history, ...

What’s it like to be a New York City insider? Insiders seek unique and authentic experiences that showcase the flavor of a locality. If you enjoy history, art, architecture, and culture, learn to be an insider whenever and wherever your travels take you.   

Aptly nicknamed the showplace of the nation, Radio City Musical Hall is the largest indoor theatre in the world with a marquee stretching a full city block. Its art deco interior spaces and décor are stunning and elegant. The Rockettes, a precision dance company renowned for their high kicks, have performed at the theater since 1932.

Take a 75-minute backstage tour of the theater and see firsthand the art deco masterpieces in the public and private spaces and meet a Rockette. She will be in full costume, answer your questions, and take a photo with you.  

The majestic Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the Metropolitan Opera House lobby were a gift from the Austrian government to thank the United States for its aid in the years after World War II. This is just one of many facts you’ll learn on a 75-minute tour of the stunning performance venues of Lincoln Center. Each tour is different, based on the performance schedule, but you may be lucky and get to see a working rehearsal. Specialty tours include Art & Architecture and American Sign Language Interpretation.

Purchase your tour tickets online, by phone (212) 875-5350, or in person at the David Rubenstein Atrium.

Purchase both the Radio City Musical Hall and Lincoln Center Tour together and save over 25%. The Combo Tour: $32.50 can be purchased at either theater.

Where else can you see the city shimmer? The Empire State Building, one of the most iconic tourist attractions in New York City, offers beautiful views of the city’s skyline; visit at night when the city is ablaze in lights and the skyline dazzles. With your first step out to the Observation Deck, you’ll feel as if you are opening a jewel box as buildings and bridges sparkle in an array of colors. An added bonus, the lines in the evening are not as long as daytime hours.

The Empire State Building is open every day, including all holidays and in all weather, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. (the last elevator goes up at 1:15 a.m.). For an extra treat visit Thursday through Saturday from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. when a saxophonist performs.

A critical part of buying a car or truck these days is the financing. Almost no one pays cash for their ride, so finding a loan with the best terms – or at...

A critical part of buying a car or truck these days is the financing. Almost no one pays cash for their ride, so finding a loan with the best terms – or at least terms that won't come back to bite you – is pretty important.

In that light, Nick Clements, a former banker who founded MagnifyMoney, uncovered some discouraging data when he conducted a survey of 673 consumers who recently made an auto purchase.

The survey found that 64.4% of auto loan borrowers let the dealer find the loan for them, while 52.1% of borrowers said their income was never verified during the process.

While a four year loan term is ideal for an auto loan, nearly all who took out a loan longer than five years said they did so to lower the monthly payment.

Only 34.9% of borrowers – just over a third – actually did it the right way, shopping for the best interest rate before arriving at the car dealer.

Clements says he's concerned because he believes many of the things that went wrong in the subprime mortgage market could go wrong in the subprime auto market. Clenents says car dealers are playing the role of mortgage brokers in the previous crisis, making money on the sale of vehicles while pocketing a discount from lenders.

“Extending the term on an automobile loan, especially for used cars, can be dangerous,” the survey warns. “The car loan will lose value much faster than the loan will be paid off. The concern for subprime borrowers is that the used car will break down and the borrower will be upside down.”

Clements says that on a seven-year loan, a borrower will have paid only about 25% of the loan balance after two years. If the car's value has declined by 25%, he or she is in a similar situation to the homeowner who bought a house with a subprime loan in 2006.

Once you have decided on the car you would like to buy, figure out how you would finance it before talking to a dealer. A good place to start is with your bank or credit union.

Talk to a loan officer about the vehicle you intend to buy, the price you expect to pay, and how much of a down payment you can make. The loan officer should then be able to quote you a rate.

It's also a good idea to compare those terms with another bank or financial institution. The Internet makes that process fairly easy.

When you go to the dealer, you'll already have an idea what your monthly payments will be. Don't discuss financing with the dealer until you've negotiated the price of the car.

Food prices are often blamed for increases in the cost of living but grocers will tell you consumers need a better understanding of why food prices fluctua...

Food prices are often blamed for increases in the cost of living but grocers will tell you consumers need a better understanding of why food prices fluctuate.

Industry analyst Phil Lempert, who writes the Supermarket Guru blog, says that while it's true food prices are up significantly from ten years ago, the Consumer Price Index for food has declined each month since November 2015.

"For many shoppers, there still is sticker shock at each checkout experience, and frankly I think the industry needs to do a better job communicating why prices did go up so much and why they are falling now," Lempert writes. "Most shoppers still do not have a clue where their food comes from and how weather conditions around the planet has affected supplies and costs."

The highest increases over that ten-year period were for ground beef -- more than 65% -- and eggs, which went up 110% because of the Bird Flu epidemic, Lempert notes. But such spikes aren't permanent and Lempert says the price of beef is expected to drop as much as 17% this year, thanks to heavier cattle and an increase in production.

Lempert also predicts falling prices for boneless chicken breast meat and pork, both expected to fall by as much as four percent this year despite the drive for better living conditions at chicken farms.

Consumers tend to forget that rising restaurant prices reflect a lot more than the cost of food. In recent years, higher minimum wages and healthcare costs have played a much larger factor, he says.

Food and energy are, of course, the most volatile factors in the Consumer Price Index and the decline in energy prices in recent months has helped keep overall living costs in check despite increases in housing costs.

The Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) dipped a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in February, thanks in large part to falling energy costs. During the last 12 months, prices have risen just 1%.

Families of the future are in for a tech-immersive child-rearing experience if Fisher-Price’s vision of the future is any indication. The toy company recen...

Families of the future are in for a tech-immersive child-rearing experience if Fisher-Price’s vision of the future is any indication. The toy company recently teamed up with Continuum, a global innovation design consultancy based in Boston, to create a short video called “The Future of Parenting.”

The video -- which debuted earlier this month at South by Southwest (SXSW) -- sought to imagine all the ways technology will help next generation of families raise and care for children.

While some of the hologram-filled video is a bit idealistic and “may never happen,” Fisher Price believes many of the possibilities illustrated may not be too far off.

In the video, a 3D printing device is shown helping a child’s depiction of an owl come to life in the form of a new toy. A digital-age version of Fisher Price’s classic “Rock-a-Stack” rings also makes an appearance in the video, but the new version is smarter.

Fisher Price, a company that focuses heavily on learning through play, imagines that the stacking rings of the future actually recognize that the child has never stacked the rings in order before and offers up a little victory celebration upon completion.

The video also focuses on the values of younger Millennials and seeks to imagine what the Fitbit-wearing, smartphone savvy group will covet as parents. High-quality items and the less-is-more approach are both featured concepts.

"We know the parents, the younger millennial parents, do have that desire [to own less]," Mark Zeller, head of design at Fisher Price, tells FastCompany. "And I think that speaks to us to raise the quality of materials. That way, parents are buying fewer, higher-quality products and toys.”

Younger Millennials, who seem infatuated by tracking devices, might indeed be intrigued by the smart feeding tray featured in the video. The tray is user-connected, shown helping mom determine how much of certain foods a child should eat based on age and weight.

But, says Zeller, the difference between the data trackers of now and the data trackers of tomorrow is that they'll be less judgemental -- focused on information rather than assessment. 

Are you getting enough sleep at night? If you’re not, then you may have more problems than being groggy at work the next day. ...

Are you getting enough sleep at night? If you’re not, then you may have more problems than being groggy at work the next day. Sleeping habits are closely associated with your metabolism, so if you aren’t getting enough then you can expect symptoms like increased appetite and insulin insensitivity.

As a result, many people who don’t get enough sleep end up developing serious health problems, like obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Understanding that this link is problematic is important, but why are sleep and these issues connected in the first place?

It’s a question that researchers from Florida Atlantic University have been trying to answer, and it’s possible that they may have figured it out. In a study that examined fruit flies, the researchers found that a conserved gene called translin was responsible for modulating sleep in response to metabolic changes.

The researchers point out that, up to this point, there have not been many answers when it came to linking metabolic problems with lack of sleep. “Despite widespread evidence for interactions between sleep loss and metabolic dysfunction, little is known about the molecular basis of this interaction and how these processes integrate within the brain,” said corresponding author Alex C. Keene.

So in order to fill in that knowledge gap, researchers began studying fruit flies, who are shockingly similar to humans when it comes to their sleeping habits. For example, if fruit flies do not get enough sleep then their memory performance drops. Their sleep can also be negatively affected by stimulants like caffeine, which any person who has mistakenly drank a cup of regular coffee late at night can also attest to.

Like humans, fruit flies also have trouble going to sleep if they are hungry; the tiny insects will often sacrifice sleep time in order to go out and scavenge for food. Knowing this, researchers created scenarios for the fruit flies that would either encourage them to sleep or go out and forage for food. During these scenarios, the researchers tested and manipulated gene levels to see if they could provoke an abnormal response.

Eventually, the researchers found that altering translin in the fruit flies led to atypical actions. When the number of neurons were decreased in translin, the insects were able to sleep despite being on an empty stomach.

The results of the study indicate that translin is not needed in order to experience feelings of starvation, but it does have a large effect on our inability to go to sleep if we are hungry.

“While many genes have been identified as genetic regulators of sleep or metabolic state, mounting evidence from our study indicates that translin functions as a unique integrator of these processes,” said study co-first author Kazuma Murakami.

“The identification of genes regulating sleep-feeding interactions will provide important insight into how the brain integrates and controls the expression of complex behaviors,” added Keene.

General Electric (GE) launched a creative and amusing television advertising campaign last fall, built around a recent college grad named Owen.Owen pro...

With U.S. oil refineries cutting back on gasoline production during spring maintenance, and the switch over to summer blend fuel, the price of gasoline is ...

As you pick up and put away around the house, and maybe even dust and scrub, don't overlook your checkbook.Every once in a while your finances need som...

As you pick up and put away around the house, and maybe even dust and scrub, don't overlook your checkbook.

“The arrival of spring motivates people to renew their surroundings, and what better way to focus that momentum than to check off everything on your financial to-do list?” Corey Carlisle, executive director of the American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation, said in a release.

So what exactly is on a financial spring cleaning to-do list? Dealing with debt is a good place to start.

It's a fact that most U.S. households carry a balance on their credit cards. Review how much you owe – and how much has been paid down, or added, over the last six months. If the balance is going down, that's good. If it's going up, put a plan in place to start reducing it each month.

If you have pretty good credit, explore opening a new credit card account with a long introductory 0% rate on balance transfers. The Chase Freedom Card, which has no annual fee, currently offers a 0% rate for 15 months. Eliminating interest charges over that time will help you chip away at the debt balance even faster.

Another chore is reviewing your budget. Of course, that might be hard if you don't have one. Needless to say, if you've been operating without a budget, sit down and make one.

This may require reducing some of the money you are now spending, which is never enjoyable. But figure out where it makes the most sense to reduce spending and make cuts you can live with.

If you are one of the lucky few whose income has risen lately, it's all the more urgent to have a budget. You may find you are able to start saving more money each month than you thought.

At least once a year you should take advantage of the law that allows you to review your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies at no charge. If there are mistakes in your report, it can drag down your credit score. You can also make sure no one has compromised your identity and is running up bogus accounts.

Other tasks include downloading your bank's mobile app and signing up for e-statements, paperless billing, and text alerts. Reducing the amount of paper coming into your home each month not only makes it easier to keep track of your finances, it might reduce the actual spring cleaning you have to do each year.

Final figures for economic performance at the end of last year are out, and the news isn't particularly encouraging.According to the Bureau of Economic...

Final figures for economic performance at the end of last year are out, and the news isn't particularly encouraging.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) real gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes -- grew at an annual rate of 1.4% in the fourth quarter.

While that's a little better that the 1.0% reported a month ago, it's also a little worse than the 2.0% annual rate in the third quarter.

The final fourth quarter figures are based on more complete information than was available a month ago. The increase reflected increases in consumer spending, residential fixed investment, and federal government spending. Those were partly offset by declines in nonresidential fixed investment, exports, private inventory investment, and state and local government spending.

Profits from current production, as it's called, fell by $159.6 billion on top of a drop of $33.0 billion in the third quarter.

An inflation measure tied to GDP, was up 0.4%, compared with an increase of 1.3 percent in the third. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” rate of GDP inflation rose 1.0% after increasing 1.3% in the prior three months.

American Gourmet of Vista, Calif., is recalling American Gourmet Roasted/Salted Pistachios. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. ...

The following product, which was sold in retail stores in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in California, are being recalled:

General Motors is recalling 3,137 model year 2016 Malibus manufactured February 16, 2016, to March 5, 2016. The two weld studs that mount the front...

General Motors is recalling 3,137 model year 2016 Malibus manufactured February 16, 2016, to March 5, 2016.

The two weld studs that mount the front and rear side impact air bags may fracture and separate from the air bag during deployment. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 214, "Side Impact Protection."

Fractured weld studs may allow the side air bag to move out of position during deployment, increasing the risk of injury.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the side air bag modules, 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 31820.

A U.S. District Court judge has given Volkswagen one more month to come up with an acceptable plan to get its rigged diesel engines off the road, after the...

A U.S. District Court judge has given Volkswagen one more month to come up with an acceptable plan to get its rigged diesel engines off the road, after the automaker failed to meet today's deadline. 

A VW attorney said the company's engineers are "working around the clock" to find a fix for a software device that gives deceptively low emission readings when a TDI "clean diesel" car is being tested, but then pollutes at as much as 40 times the legal limit when the test is over.

But while Volkswagen engineers may or may not be working around the clock, some consumers are wondering how they are supposed to get around now that their VW diesels have been outed as anything but clean.

That's the fix California motorist Christianne finds herself in. She bought a diesel-powered Volkswagen in 2012, thinking she was doing something good for the environment. But now she's unable to renew her registration because the car can't pass California's tough smog test, she told ConsumerAffairs. 

"The DMV states I need a smog check and a certificate from VW dealership for a proof of correction certificate," Christianne said. That, of course, is something she won't be able to get for as long as Volkswagen fails to get approval from state and federal agencies for its plan to make the cars meet the specifications it originally promised.

"I am stuck in a bind, it seems," Christianne said, reflecting the position a growing number of consumers are likely to face as their registrations come up for renewal, a procedure that in most states requires a smog test.

The delays are causing environmental damage as well as hurting individual consumers, according to Sierra Club California Chapter Director Kathryn Phillips who said the polluting vehicles "need to be fixed or taken off the road, and the consumers who trusted they were buying less-polluting cars need to be compensated. Period."

"Otherwise the legacy of Volkswagen’s deceitful actions will be as dirty and dangerous as the smog left behind by their vehicles -- people will continue to breathe dirtier air, consumers will lose faith in watchdog agencies, and manufacturers will believe they can cheat and get away without feeling the full consequence," Phillips said.

In court today, judge Charles Breyer said he wants a "concrete proposal" by April 21. Options include a technical fix approved by federal and state environmental agencies and a buyback plan or other remedies no one has yet thought of. At a hearing in February, Breyer had given VW one month to come up with a plan that could be executed within six months. 

Breyer said today that if the latest deadline isn't met, he will consider setting a trial date for this summer to hear more than 500 consumer lawsuits that are being consolidated into a single trial through a process called multidistrict litigation.

That could potentially allow the court to impose a settlement on VW, which initially denied it had phonied up the emission controls, then admitted it had but claimed only a handful of engineers know about it. Now the company says it needs more time to organize a defense. 

Corinthian Colleges, Inc., the defunct chain of for-profit schools that filed for bankruptcy in 2015, faces a $1.1 billion court judgment that may help pro...

Corinthian Colleges, Inc., the defunct chain of for-profit schools that filed for bankruptcy in 2015, faces a $1.1 billion court judgment that may help provide additional relief to struggling ex-students.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed suit against Corinthian in October 2013, alleging that Corinthian subsidiaries Everest, Heald, and Wyotech colleges victimized students through predatory lending and unlawful marketing practices.

The schools collapsed under the weight of multiple investigations and lawsuits in 2015, leaving thousands of students with large debts and no degrees or certificates. 

Harris' office has established an online tool to help students find resources that may be able to help them.

In yesterday's action, California Superior Court Judge Curtis E. A. Karnow granted a default judgment against CCI, ordering $820 million in restitution to students and civil penalties totaling $350 million.

“For years, Corinthian profited off the backs of poor people – now they have to pay. This judgment sends a clear message: there is a cost to this kind of predatory conduct,” said Harris. “My office will continue to do everything in our power to help these vulnerable students obtain all available relief, as they work to achieve their academic and professional goals.”

In her complaint, Harris alleged that CCI intentionally targeted low-income, vulnerable Californians through deceptive and false advertisements and aggressive marketing campaigns that misrepresented job placement rates and school programs.

The complaint also alleged that Corinthian executives knowingly misrepresented job placement rates to investors and accrediting agencies, which harmed students, investors, and taxpayers.

In its final judgment, the court found that Corinthian made untrue and misleading job placement claims, unlawfully used the official seals of U.S. military forces, engaged in unlawful debt collection practices, misrepresented the transferability of credits, and misrepresented its financial stability.

The threat of Alzheimer’s disease continues to weigh heavily on nations across the world. An increasing number of people will soon reach the age where the ...

The threat of Alzheimer’s disease continues to weigh heavily on nations across the world. An increasing number of people will soon reach the age where the disease may start to affect them, and experts believe that unless new treatment options are discovered, over 100 million people across the globe will be affected by it by the year 2050.

With the timeline constantly shrinking, medical experts and scientists are doing their best to find ways to avert the cognitive decline that is the trademark of the disease. One such researcher is Dr. Riqiang Yan, who recently discovered a way to disrupt the formation of dystrophic neurites (DN), constructions that are especially prominent in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

DNs are made up of nerve components that have a tendency to cluster together in the brain, especially in people over the age of 65. Dr. Yan and his team were able to trace these formations back to a problem in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which is a structure found in our cells. When DNs contain too many proteins, they can warp the structure of the ER and impair cellular function.

The researchers found that this excess of proteins was especially prominent in Alzheimer’s patients. One protein in particular, called RTN3, was not easily found in the brains of patients under the age of 60, but flourished in those over the age of 65.

When the researchers decreased concentrations of RTN3 in a rodent model, they found that the formation of DNs was also stunted. This could mean that targeting this particular protein could lead to improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients and the elderly, although much more testing will need to be conducted before the theory could be tested on humans.

Juices are adored by many children, and often, the colorful concoctions are a regular part of kids' diets. Labels on juices and smoothies seem to assure pa...

Juices are adored by many children, and often, the colorful concoctions are a regular part of kids' diets. Labels on juices and smoothies seem to assure parents that what they’re giving their children is healthy -- or at least healthier than soda. A new study suggests, however, that parents may have been misled.

The study -- published recently in the online journal BMJ open -- finds that kids are getting a full day’s amount of sugar from many commercially-sold fruit drinks.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool examined over two hundred 100% natural juices and smoothies marketed to children in the UK and found sugar content to be “unacceptably high.” Smoothies contained the highest amount of sugar.

The team -- led by Professor Simon Capewell -- found that almost half of the juices contained a child’s maximum daily sugar intake of 19 grams (five teaspoons). The researchers say that the labels included a reference on intake, but the guidelines were specific to an active, average-sized adult.

Although the study looked at juice marketed to children in the UK, experts in the U.S. say the results would likely be very similar had the study been conducted here.

Nancy Copperman, a nutritionist and assistant vice president of public health at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., believes the excessive amount of added sugars in kids’ fruit drinks significantly adds to empty calories. She believes it’s a problem that “crosses continents.”

"The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of children's total calories and promotes eating fruit, rather than drinking 100 percent juice, to meet the suggested daily servings of fruits and vegetables," Copperman tells HealthDay.com.

Public health officials -- who often call fruit juices “liquid candy” -- say it’s especially important to monitor kids' intake of sugary juices here in the U.S., where one in six children are overweight. 

The researchers recommend following a few guidelines in order to prevent children from consuming sugar in excess:

The workplace has changed since the Great Recession. Full-time jobs with generous benefits are still available, but there are far fewer than there was a de...

The workplace has changed since the Great Recession. Full-time jobs with generous benefits are still available, but there are far fewer than there was a decade ago.

Instead, we have begun to move into what some call the on-demand economy and others call the freelance economy. Instead of one job, an individual might have three and get paid as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

This arrangement can have its advantages. A freelance worker is his or her own boss, choosing when to work and what jobs to take. That's the theory, anyway.

The downside, of course, is lack of job security and a lot of other unknowns – such as retirement. When you aren't sure how much money is coming in each month, how do you plan for retirement?

The R Street Institute, a Washington think tank, has studied the problem, concluding that reforms are needed to create a retirement system less tied to employers and controlled more by the employee.

“Under the current system, assets in employees’ 401(k) accounts do not actually belong to the employees,” R Street Associate Fellow Oren Litwin said in a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs. “Instead they belong to the sponsor company – the employer – and are held in trust for the employees’ eventual benefit.”

Litwin said reforms that give employees direct control of retirement accounts would be a step in the right direction.

A gathering of government, academic, and private sector players at MIT earlier this month also tackled issues arising from the on-demand economy, concluding it's time for a new social contract, built on the assumption that Americans will often hold down more than one job.

“How do we allow the innovation of the on-demand economy, but also recognize that we’ve got to maintain consumer protections and we’ve got to make sure that workers are treated fairly?” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) asked at the event.

Warner noted that when you get to choose when to work, the whole notion of unemployment insurance and vacation time “is a foreign concept.”

Jonas Prising, CEO and chairman of staffing firm ManpowerGroup, said he has seen a distinct trend in the last decade. More older people are seeking work, he says, and are having a greater say in when and where they work.

Going forward, Litwin says a typical worker is likely to have two or three retirement accounts over his or her working life. The downside to that is these accounts may be neglected, or even forgotten.

Under current law, self-employed workers may set up a simplified employee pension IRA (SEP IRA), with full control of the account. If the employee moves back and forth from employment with benefits and freelancing, his or her 401(k) with the employer may be rolled over into the SEP IRA.

Virgin America may be about to hit puberty. The luxurious little carrier has become a takeover target after announcing that it was being courted by an unna...

Virgin America may be about to hit puberty. The luxurious little carrier has become a takeover target after announcing that it was being courted by an unnamed suitor, thought in some circles to be a Chinese holding company that has been amassing an airline collection, according to SeekingAlpha, a trade journal.

Founded in 2004 and nurtured through its infancy by billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin went public in 2014 and has expanded its route structure to accommodate more mid-continent destinations, though it remains primarily an East-West conduit beloved by its loyal bicoastal passengers.

But love is fickle, and all the customer loyalty on earth won't make up for a huge chunk of cash, which is what Virgin shareholders are dreaming of now that the airline is in play.

Virgin has cultivated an image of upscale service (mood lighting, cool snacks) while maintaining fares that are competitive if not rock-bottom. It was able to do so mostly because of its relative youth (translation: no union contracts and new airplanes that don't require as much maintenance). Now that it is entering its teen years, margins are looking thinner.

There are numerous possible bidders other than the rumored Chinese. Virgin's route structure and aircraft fleet would almost be a perfect fit for JetBlue. Its San Francisco hub would be a boon to Delta and it would jettison Alaska Air onto the East Coast in a big way.

Or it could just be swallowed up by a private-equity firm. Just sit back, relax, and we'll see where we land.

As warmer weather approaches, many homeowners are planning to tackle outdoor renovations. Nine in ten homeowners are planning on sprucing up their yard in ...

As warmer weather approaches, many homeowners are planning to tackle outdoor renovations. Nine in ten homeowners are planning on sprucing up their yard in some way this year, according to a survey by Houzz.

What projects will they be taking on? The majority said they’ll be updating outdoor systems (82%), beds and borders (80%), and structural elements (72%). But when it comes to actually executing these projects, it seems homeowners know their limits -- over half (52%) said they'll be enlisting the help of a landscape contractor, architect, or designer for their projects.

But that still leaves an admirable percentage of folks who plan to take matters into their own hands. So what are some of the more painless outdoor renovations a homeowner can take on?

Outdoor updates for children and pets will both be popular upgrades this year, according to the survey. But interestingly, pet-related upgrades are sought after by a higher percentage of people (42% vs. 33%).

Those looking to turn their yards into a pet-friendly oasis for their lucky pets may be thinking of planting some toxin-free plants. Indeed, if your furry companions are allowed in the backyard, it’s important to keep them in mind when selecting plants.

If you’ve got a backyard digger on your hands, steer clear of bulbs (such as Tulips and Daffodils). According to experts, when the plant parts or bulbs are chewed or swallowed, it can lead to tissue irritation in the mouth and esophagus. Resulting symptoms will require immediate attention and include profuse drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea.

But opting for pet-friendly plants doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the aesthetic appeal of your yard. Many non-toxic plants are as lovely as they are pet-safe. Zinnias, Snapdragons, Celosia Plumosa, China aster, and Petunias are all on this handy list of pet-friendly, non-toxic plants.

Upgrading the back yard doesn't stop with pet owners, though. Seventy-eight percent of homeowners are planning on adding some low-maintenance plantings to their yard. It’s a project that will pay off in the long-haul, in the form of backyard beauty that’s easily manageable.

When planning a low-maintenance landscape, be sure to pick plants specific to your USDA Hardiness Zone and plant to your yard’s conditions. A little pre-planning can go a long way towards avoiding the frustration of a plant that doesn't make it.

Yuccas are low-maintenance favorite of many. Its spiky foliage lasts all season, and it'll even offer up a few white blooms mid-summer. It can grow up to five feet wide, which means you can fill a big space with just a few yuccas. Fewer plants can often make a big impact.

The Endless Summer Hydrangea is another low-maintenance favorite. Hydrangeas are tolerant of most soil conditions with moderate moisture, but keep in mind that deer love hydrangeas. Be sure to plant them in a deer-free area to avoid having this low-maintenance beauty consumed as a snack. 

That huge Volvo semi-trailer truck bearing down on your rear bumper? It may have a safety defect that could cause the driver to lose control at any moment....

Researchers are still working hard to understand the Zika virus and stop it from spreading. The illness, which has been connected to cases of microcephaly ...

Researchers are still working hard to understand the Zika virus and stop it from spreading. The illness, which has been connected to cases of microcephaly and rare instances of Guillain-Barré syndrome, has flourished in areas of South and Central America, with many experts believing that it could make its way to the U.S. in the coming months.

However, earlier this week, there was some progress made in the battle against it. Experts at Southern Research in Birmingham, Alabama have developed an antiviral assay that will allow researchers around the world to detect Zika virus in cell cultures. Having the assay gives researchers access to more information and allows them to test strategies and methods that could eventually halt the spread of the virus.

Dr. Jonathan Rayner at Southern Research explains that developing an assay is an integral part of the research process. “This assay represents a crucial step in the global search for a vaccine, and we’re proud to be able to contribute to the growing body of science in this impactful way,” he said.

For those who don’t know, Zika virus is contracted when a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms of the virus are similar to the flu and include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, and red eyes. It can last anywhere from a few days to a week.

Although these symptoms are not generally fatal, Zika virus can be very dangerous to certain people. Pregnant women who contract the virus can pass on microcephaly to their unborn child, a condition that causes brain and developmental disorders.  

If you believe that you have contracted the Zika virus, the CDC says that you should see your healthcare provider immediately. Patients should be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take acetaminophen to assuage any fever-like symptoms. However, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin should be avoided so that the symptoms do not worsen.

After the housing market inflated into a huge bubble in the early 2000s, crashing in 2008, policymakers wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.They...

After the housing market inflated into a huge bubble in the early 2000s, crashing in 2008, policymakers wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

They tightened up lending standards. Borrowers had to show they had the income and resources to buy the home. Subprime mortgages, the major cause of the crash, were all but done away with.

Maybe not. With an improving economy, there are more borrowers who can meet those tight lending standards. But as we reported earlier this week, there are fewer homes for them to buy. That's a big reason home prices continue to rise. Supply isn't keeping up with demand.

Online real estate marketplace RealtyTrac now reports its analysis of the first quarter of this year shows 9% of U.S. housing markets are less affordable than their historical norm.

The report looked at the median home prices from actual sales, pairing the data up with average wages. The formula for affordability index is based on the percentage of average wages a homeowner needed to make monthly house payments on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed rate and a 3% down payment, including property taxes and insurance.

Out of 456 U.S. counties, 43 – or 9% – recorded an affordability index below 100 in the first quarter of 2016. The 100 level marks the the historically normal level.

A year ago, only 33 counties were below the 100 mark, suggesting U.S. homes – new and existing – are becoming less affordable.

“While the vast majority of housing markets are still affordable by their own historic standards, home prices are floating out of reach for average wage earners in a growing number of U.S. housing markets,” Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

Still-low interest rates have helped somewhat. Even with rising prices, monthly payments on many homes remain affordable because there are plenty of mortgages with interest rates below 4%. At the height of the housing bubble, the prevailing rate was around 6% or more.

Over the last few years, home prices have risen the most in metro areas where the economy has recovered and there are plenty of good-paying jobs. Even so, the RealtyTrac Index shows some of the markets were good jobs and plentiful – Denver, New York, Dallas, and San Francisco – are where home affordability is slipping away.

On a national basis, the average worker needed to apply more than 30% of monthly wages to make a mortgage payment on a median priced home in the first quarter of this year. It's a big jump from the same period last year, when it only required 26.4%.

The Chase Freedom Card and the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express are both very good cards to carry in your wallet. But which one is better?...

In that bygone era, when cigarette advertisements were everywhere, Camel had a campaign that asked, “are you smoking more but enjoying it less?”As anyo...

In that bygone era, when cigarette advertisements were everywhere, Camel had a campaign that asked, “are you smoking more but enjoying it less?”

As anyone who watched episodes of Mad Men knows, everyone seemed to be smoking a lot during the 1960s. But those days are over.

Cigarette marketing is tightly limited by a court settlement and, not surprisingly, Americans are smoking less. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which keeps track of cigarette sales in the U.S., reports the number of cigarettes sold by the major tobacco companies to U.S. wholesalers and retailers fell from 267.7 billion in 2012 to 256.7 billion in 2013.

Tobacco companies also spent less on advertising and promotion during that time. Marketing dollars dropped from $9.17 billion to $8.95 billion. Much of the decline was linked to a reduction in discounts retailers and wholesalers received in order to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers.

If it looks like tobacco companies are withering away, they aren't. Stock in tobacco companies remains strong on Wall Street. The tobacco companies have simply found ways to diversify and adapt.

First, American tobacco companies have looked beyond U.S. borders. Smoking is declining in the U.S. but overseas – particularly in the developing world – it's a different story.

According to The Tobacco Atlas, decades of scientific and medical evidence linking smoking to cancer and other health issues has done nothing to deter about one billion people world-wide from lighting up.

“The decline in smoking rates in high-income countries is more than offset by increased tobacco use in middle- and low-income countries,” the Atlas authors write. “Tobacco companies know they must find replacement smokers, and focus much of their effort in these low- and middle-income markets, which have the potential for economic and demographic growth, and thus increased profits.”

Tobacco companies have also moved more heavily into smokeless tobacco and e-cigarette products. The FTC report advertising spending for smokeless tobacco products bucked the trend, actually increasing from 2012 to 2013.

At the same time, tobacco companies sold 125.5 million pounds of smokeless tobacco in 2012, then boosted it to 128.0 million pounds in 2013. In all, smokeless tobacco revenue rose by $180 million.

Fifty-five in a row.That's how many weeks the new jobless claims total has been under the 300,000 mark.The Department of Labor (DOL) is reporting f...

Until now, most of the companies working on self-driving vehicles have been household names -- Google, Ford, Tesla, and so forth. But now along comes Zoox,...

Until now, most of the companies working on self-driving vehicles have been household names -- Google, Ford, Tesla, and so forth. But now along comes Zoox, a stealthy start-up that has just won permission to begin operating on California streets.

Zoox is a little bit different in a lot of ways. Perhaps the most important is that it is designing its cars from the ground up to be taxis, or at least what we used to call taxis -- you know, cars that come and pick you up one place and drop you at another.

This has allowed Zoox to do a little creative thinking about what would be ideal in a taxi-type vehicle. First off, it can go in either direction, sort of like a subway car. There's no front or back -- no windshield or rear window. There is seating for four, but it's two seats facing each other rather than the old schoolroom-style seating found in most passenger cars today.

Zoox applied to the California DMV on March 16 and the permit was issued Tuesday, an agency spokeswoman said. That brings to 12 the number of companies allowed to operate driverless cars on the state's roads.

Zoox is keeping a low profile and saying very little about itself. But a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum, an engineering journal, lifted the curtain a bit.

It identified the key players as Tim Kentley-Klay, an Australian designer, and Jesse Levinson, who worked at Stanford University with Sebastian Thrun, co-creator of Google’s driverless car project.

While Zoox doesn't say much publicly, Kentley-Klay has been quoted as saying that rather than just building a self-driving car, he is trying to rethink the whole idea of mobility.

“At the moment, mobility is crushing the soul: Don’t speed, don’t drink, don’t text," Kentley-Klay said at a conference in Berlin last year. "What inspires me…is giving back people their lifestyles, so they can do what they want to do: texting, vegging out, drinking.”

Kentley-Klay's earlier projects have mostly revolved around media. He created an animation company and was working in commercial production when the Zoox concept came to him.

The California permit at the moment is for only one car, so it's not likely that there'll be a fleet of Zooxs in your neighborhood quite yet. Zoox is planning to be in production mode by 2020.

Financial exploitation costs America's seniors billions of dollars per year, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants banks and credit uni...

Financial exploitation costs America's seniors billions of dollars per year, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants banks and credit unions to play a bigger role in detecting and responding to it.

The agency today issued an advisory for financial institutions that is supposed to help them be more proactive in protecting older consumers from the most common form of elder abuse.

“This action gives financial institutions best practices and tools to protect older consumers from financial abuse,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “When seniors fall prey to a scam by a stranger or to theft by a family member, they may be too embarrassed or too frail to report it. Banks and credit unions are uniquely positioned to look out for older Americans and take action to protect them.”

Seniors are common targets of financial abuse, often by family members. They tend to have significant assets and often have a regular source of income such as Social Security. They may also be vulnerable becauase of cognitive decline, physical disability, and isolation.

In recent studies, about 17 percent of seniors reported that they have been the victim of financial exploitation, but few bother to report it.

Since banks and credit unions often have face-to-face contact with their older customers, they are in a prime position to detect and report financial abuse, the CFPB said, as it issued a set of voluntary best practices that can help fight the problem.

The advisory includes information on training tellers and other front-line staff, using fraud detection technology, offering age-friendly services and reporting suspicious activity to authorities.

Consumers who think that they or a loved one may have been a victim of financial exploitation can visit eldercare.gov to find a local adult protective services agency that can help.

For years, we've heard jokes about doctors' bad handwriting, but communicating prescriptions accurately is no joking matter. That's why New York and Minnes...

For years, we've heard jokes about doctors' bad handwriting, but communicating prescriptions accurately is no joking matter. That's why New York and Minnesota are requiring that all prescriptions be filed electronically.

Minnesota has had the requirement for awhile. New York's becomes effective March 27 and provides criminal penalties for those who don't comply. Other states are considering similar measures, according to Rx411.

While the requirement should help eliminate errors caused by misreading handwritten prescriptions, it's primarily aimed at cutting down on opioid abuse, a growing problem nationwide.

New York's program, called I-Stop, first went into effect in 2013 and required doctors to check an online prescription monitoring problem before writing prescriptions for controlled substances. That was supposed to help spot abusive patterns in a patient's history.

The second phase of I-Stop requires doctors to write all prescriptions electronically and send them to the pharmacy chosen by the patient. Previously, patients could take paper prescriptions and modify or even copy them and fill prescriptions at multiple pharmacies.

Both healthcare providers and patients should expect problems during the transition period, said Julie Kaplan, a pharmacist and senior medical writer at Rx411.

Doctors may seek to avoid the hassles associated with the tighter regulations and prescribe more traditional regimens instead while patients will need to know in advance which pharmacy they want to use, she said. It will also be more difficult to take the prescription to another pharmacy if their preferred pharmacy is out of stock.

In an increasingly connected world, new products and services are coming out all the time that can improve the lives of consumers. Solutions to many of lif...

In an increasingly connected world, new products and services are coming out all the time that can improve the lives of consumers. Solutions to many of life’s problems can be solved with a few taps on a smartphone, and many services are being optimized for mobile and online access.

One market that is taking full advantage of this increased connectivity is home security, and consumers are responding in a big way. A recent report by Security Sales & Integration (SSI) predicts that the global connected home security market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48.06% between now and the year 2020.

Many upgrades to home security products are contributing to the growth of the market, and they are making homes safer than ever. Some of these devices include electronic locks, motion sensors, burglar alarms, and home security cameras. Additionally, members of the SSI staff say that improvements in pricing and advancements in technology are leading to growth.

"Connected home security market innovations such as decreased hardware prices, advances in wireless standards, smartphone penetration, improved bandwidth and well-positioned apps for accessing home systems are fueling growth in the market," they said.

Being able to access security features when away from the home affords consumers a greater sense of safety. Earlier this month, ABC News released a video where a homeowner was alerted to a break-in at her home via her smartphone. The recording even gave her video footage and audio of the incident and led to the arrest of one of the would-be burglars.

The report also states that many key vendors, who include companies like ADT, AT&T, Comcast, Honeywell Total Connect, and Verizon, are funneling money into increasing distribution channels and expanding research and development.

These investments could pay dividends for consumers, who may see even better products and enhanced security features in the future. 

Some dogs are just better suited to certain humans than others. That’s the idea behind PawsLikeMe, a pet adoption website that describes itself as “Eharmon...

Some dogs are just better suited to certain humans than others. That’s the idea behind PawsLikeMe, a pet adoption website that describes itself as “Eharmony for dogs.” Since 2015, the site has used its pet-matching algorithm to help over two million people find a shelter dog in their area.

Now, the site -- which boasts an algorithm proven to be 90% accurate in predicting people-to-pet compatibility -- plans to include cats in its matchmaking services.

"Ever since we started our company, the vision has always been to add cats into our platform," said Elizabeth Holmes, co-founder and CEO of PawsLikeMe, in a statement. She adds, however, that doing so will require special considerations. Cats and dogs are very different, after all.

Analyzing cats isn’t as easy, explains Holmes, as they tend to be a little more guarded with their personalities. Where dogs are pack animals with on-the-surface emotions, cats are more reserved she says, adding that a specialized “cat algorithm” had to be created to match cats with people.

"We ask questions where there is no right or wrong answer,” Holmes says of the site’s algorithm, which matches based on four qualities: energy, confidence, focus, and independence.

“For cats, we had to give a specific example. So, does the cat run between your legs? That's a cat that's affectionate and demanding attention."

The new algorithm has already been developed, but to get it to market will require a little financial help. To come up with the $15,000 needed to launch the service, PawsLikeMe has set up an Indiegogo crowd-sourcing effort to raise the money.

If the $15,000 goal is exceeded, Holmes and co-founder Marianna Benko plan to use the money to set up pet-matching kiosks (which cost $500 each) in participating shelters.

Benko explains that she and Holmes hope the matchmaking service helps people look at animal adoption differently. By highlighting a pet’s inner beauty rather than just focusing on the cuteness factor, the team hopes to set the stage for highly compatible pet-human relationships.

For many consumers, breakfast is a meal that must somehow be incorporated into the workday. No longer do busy Americans have time for sit-down pancake brea...

For many consumers, breakfast is a meal that must somehow be incorporated into the workday. No longer do busy Americans have time for sit-down pancake breakfasts or a leisurely cup of coffee in the morning. These days, breakfast is whatever can be consumed quickly and on the run.

For Millennials, especially, convenience seems to be the name of the game when it comes to the first meal of the day. A recent Mintel report offered up the interesting finding that 40% of Millennials are no longer fond of cereal in the morning as it “takes too long to clean up.” While this finding led many to jump at another opportunity to call the group “lazy,” the actual root of the issue at that consumers of every age are increasingly pressed for time.

So how has breakfast changed as a result? According to the March issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the emphasis is now on portability, high protein, and great taste.

Approximately 80% of consumers eat frozen breakfast foods and 25% opt to eat them on the go. A poll by Instantly, an LA-based marketing research firm, revealed that the number of people who eat breakfast on the run has climbed quite a bit over the last decade.

“One of the things we found is that 28% of consumers usually eat breakfast away from home,” content strategist Jared Smith tells IFT, adding that ten years ago, that figure was only 11%. “We think this is indicative of our busier lifestyle today.”

Author Carolyn Schierhorn explains that, indeed, convenient breakfast foods have seen a huge surge in interest. Breakfast items that fall under the “shelf-stable and convenient” category have seen gains of over 40%, according to a report.

Schierhorn explains that breakfast is the fastest-growing meal purchased at restaurants. And if their recently unveiled all-day breakfast menu is any indication, McDonald’s was informed of this early on. 

The restaurant chain bearing the golden arches saw a 5.7% spike in U.S. sales in its fourth quarter last year, more than likely due to the launch of their all-day breakfast menu.

Fast-food breakfasts seemed to scratch an itch for consumers in 2015, as it was also the top food news story of the year, according to a survey by Hunter Public Relations. Industry experts say that breakfast is the fastest-growing foodservice and continues to accelerate.

However, if time is limited in the morning, 21% of Americans say they’re likely to skip breakfast altogether.

The banking landscape today is very different from just a couple of decades ago. Banks get a lot more of their income from fees than from lending money....

The banking landscape today is very different from just a couple of decades ago. Banks get a lot more of their income from fees than from lending money.

But in rural areas, independent community banks tend to operate a lot like most banks did years ago. They don't give toasters for opening a new account, but they normally have fewer, and lower, fees and make more loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has finalized a new rule that broadens the availablity of certain provisions for small financial institutions that operate in rural and underserved markets.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray says the rule will allow more rural banks to originate balloon-payment qualified and high-cost mortgages. As a result, he says these banks will be in a better position to provide credit to more borrowers.

Camden Fine, CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said the new rule will expand access to credit by easing the regulatory burdens on community banks operating in rural areas – where most such banks are located.

“Community banks that are small creditors will be able to continue to offer balloon payment mortgages and be exempt from mandatory escrow rules for higher-priced mortgages if they make at least one loan in a rural or underserved area,” Fine said in a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs. “This will allow many more community banks in rural or underserved areas to meet the needs of their customers and communities.”

Under recently passed bank regulations, major lenders are precluded from making balloon-payment loans if they later want to sell those loans. The provision gives small banks an advantage that the larger banks don't enjoy.

CFPB says its monitoring of the mortgage market and solicitation of feedback from the public led it to loosen some of the regulatory requirements and alter its definitions of “small creditor” and “rural area.” Congressional action at the end of last year, the agency said, broadened the categories even more.

Before the rule, fewer banks were considered “small” and to be operating in “rural or under served areas.” With the rule, more banks – and more of their loans – qualify.

Insurance companies have the same problem everyone else does -- poor return on their investments. With their investment portfolios lagging, insurers are ja...

Well, here we are less than a month before your 2016 federal tax return is due at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office, and you still haven't decided ...

Well, here we are less than a month before your 2016 federal tax return is due at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office, and you still haven't decided who will prepare your taxes for you.

It doesn't have to be that hard. One way of deciding is to use the www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro website. It contains a list of tips for making that decision. There's even a gateway page with links to national nonprofit tax professional groups, which can help provide additional information for taxpayers seeking the right type of qualified help.

“The filing of a federal income tax return represents one of the biggest financial transactions of the year for many Americans, whether they are getting a refund or paying tax due,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected.”

Here are some basic tips taxpayers can keep in mind when selecting a tax professional, courtesy of the IRS:

The IRS has a Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on its website to help you verify credentials and qualifications of tax professionals.

The Directory is a searchable, sortable database with the name, city, state, and zip code of credentialed return preparers as well as those who have completed the requirements for the IRS Annual Filing Season Program.

As new car sales post monthly sales records, so do their prices. The average transaction price on a new car last month was nearly $34,000, according to Kel...

As new car sales post monthly sales records, so do their prices. The average transaction price on a new car last month was nearly $34,000, according to Kelley Blue Book.

The high cost of a new car is one reason that leases have become a large part of new vehicle transactions each month. To afford monthly payments, consumers have been turning in greater numbers to leasing. Since you pay only to use the vehicle for two or three years, the monthly payments are lower.

But instead of obtaining a vehicle you can't really afford, why not purchase one you can afford? The average transaction price of a new car is approaching that of a condo, only because consumers are insisting on buying more expensive cars and trucks, with more expensive options.

There are cheaper alternatives, you know. So if you would rather purchase a car and drive it until the doors fall off, here are five affordable options. We priced these base model cars using TrueCar's “exceptional buy” rating for Richmond, Va. Your location might be higher or lower.

The Chevrolet Cruze is a compact sedan in the same class as the Honda Accord or Toyota Corolla. It has its share of high-tech features and a smooth ride. It can be purchased for $18,687, with a down payment of $1,868 and a monthly payment of $298 a month for five years. If you can afford to put 20% down, the payment would be even lower.

Another compact, the Ford Focus is quiet, attractive, and offers good fuel economy. We found a base model at $14,715. With $1,471 down the payment is just $235 a month for five years.

The Elantra offers a smooth ride, deceptively large trunk, and a nice long warranty. It goes for under $19,000. With a down payment of $1,859, the payment is $297 for five years.

Volkwagen's high-profile emissions cheating scandal has hurt the brand, meaning you can probably drive a pretty hard bargain at your local dealer. You can probably buy a gasoline-powered Jetta – not affected by the scandal – for under $18,000. With $1,741 down, that works out to $278 a month over five years.

The Kia Forte is another compact introduced in 2010, and has benefited from Kia's improved reputation. It's economical to buy yet fun to drive. You can probably find one for just over $15,000. Put down $1,519 and finance it over five years and you're looking at a payment of $243 a month.

For any of these cars, if you can afford to put 20% down and finance over four years instead of five, so much the better. Still, for those who would rather purchase a car instead of lease it, there are still plenty of affordable options.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved to stem the tide of opioid painkiller misuse, announcing class-wide safety label changes for immediate-rel...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved to stem the tide of opioid painkiller misuse, announcing class-wide safety label changes for immediate-release opioid drugs.

The new regulations call for a boxed warning that outlines the potential dangers – misuse, abuse, addiction, and overdose, which can be fatal.

The agency said the move is an attempt to thread the needle – dealing with the mounting misuse of these powerful drugs while leaving physicians enough leeway to provide patients with needed relief from pain.

The action comes on the heels of new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that ask doctors to limit the prescribing of opioid painkillers. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said it is hoped that the recommendations for doctors will bring about “a culture shift for patients and doctors.”

The FDA's new plan requires a number of additional safety labeling changes, to include information about the risks the medications pose.

“Opioid addiction and overdose have reached epidemic levels over the past decade, and the FDA remains steadfast in our commitment to do our part to help reverse the devastating impact of the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement. “Today’s actions are one of the largest undertakings for informing prescribers of risks across opioid products, and one of many steps the FDA intends to take this year as part of our comprehensive action plan to reverse this epidemic.”

Opioid drugs include many widely-prescribed painkillers, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. They are generally divided into two categories – immediate-release products that are effective over a shorter time frame, and extended-release products, intended to be taken once or twice a day.

The new boxed warning on immediate release opioid analgesics will include a precaution that chronic maternal use of opioids during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS), a potentially life-threatening condition in newborns.

Some illegal drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, are also classified as opioid drugs. Some rural states, such as Maine and Indiana, where drug abuse has not been a problem in the past, have recently grappled with the misuse of these drugs, both legal and illegal. Overdoes deaths from these drugs spiked 14% in 2014.

Lumber Liquidators and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have resolved the state's inquiry into some of the company's laminate flooring imported fr...

Lumber Liquidators and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have resolved the state's inquiry into some of the company's laminate flooring imported from China.

The company said CARB concluded its review of the products without finding any violation of laws or regulations and the company has admitted no wrongdoing. Lumber Liquidators said it has not sold the flooring in question since May of 2015.

That's when a CBS “60 Minutes” broadcast alleged that some of the company's laminate flooring imported from China contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde, a carcinogen, occurs naturally in many manufactured products, including paneling, cabinetry, and furniture. The company said formaldehyde may be present in some of the glues the company uses, but top executives at the time insisted the company complies with all regulations, including those required by CARB, generally considered the toughest in the nation.

Under the agreement with CARB, the company will take a number of voluntary steps to make sure all of its products meet California's formaldehyde standards. It will also pay the state $2.5 million.

In return, Lumber Liquidators says it secured from CARB a recognition of the actions it has taken and “the lack of evidence of actual harm to public health, safety and welfare.”

Company CEO John Presley said Lumber Liquidators has already implemented a number of initiatives he says will improve customer safety.

"We strengthened our quality assurance procedures, launched the largest voluntary testing program in our nation's history and, in May 2015, voluntarily suspended the sale of all laminate flooring sourced from China,” he said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lumber Liquidators said it will work with CARB to establish new industry standards for flooring product testing.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated last month that laminate flooring sold at Lumber Liquidators had formaldehyde levels that, on a worst case basis, could cause between six and 30 extra cases of cancer for every 100,000 people breathing in the chemical daily.

New home sales rebounded last month from their January decline.In a joint report, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Develo...

Mortgage applications were down for the second week in a row and the fourth time in five weeks.The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports applicati...

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports applications fell 3.3% during the week ending March 18.

The Refinance Index took another hit, falling 5%, sending the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 53.9% of total applications from 55.0% the previous week.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity was unchanged at 4.9% of total applications, the FHA share inched up to 11.8% from 11.7% the week prior, the VA share rose to 12.6% from 12.3%, and the USDA share of total applications came in at 0.9%.

General Motors is recalling 1,579 model year 2016 Chevrolet Colorados manufactured January 19, 2016, to February 2, 2016; Chevrolet Malibus manufactured Ja...

General Motors is recalling 1,579 model year 2016 Chevrolet Colorados manufactured January 19, 2016, to February 2, 2016; Chevrolet Malibus manufactured January 9, 2016, to January 26, 2016; and 2016 GMC Canyon vehicles manufactured January 21, 2016, to February 4, 2016.

The driver-side front air bag may inflate improperly during second-stage deployment in the event of a high speed crash.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver-side front air bag module, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020, and GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM's number for this recall is 28030.

In a recent story, we reported that Toyota is rolling out a program to lease more used cars. As a postscript, w...

Airlines are allowing travelers to rebook flights to, from, and through Brussels in light of today's terror attacks that killed more than 30 people at the ...

Airlines are allowing travelers to rebook flights to, from, and through Brussels in light of today's terror attacks that killed more than 30 people at the Belgian airport and metro subway stations.

Many flights to Brussels' Zavemtem Airport were canceled or diverted after the attacks. While many carriers have or soon will resume their normal schedules, thousands of travelers have been stranded elsewhere or have decided to abandon their travel plans because of the attacks.

Those whose flights were canceled will receive a full refund or credit and most U.S. carriers are saying they are waiving fees for passengers who rebook or cancel upcoming flights.

USA Today reported that Delta, American, and United are waiving fees for those who make a one-time change in flights booked through the end of the month. Most are requiring travelers to do so by Sunday.

International carriers are expected to follow similar procedures. Some may also allow fee-free rebooking even on flights that do not go through Brussels.

If you are scheduled to travel to and within Europe in the next few days, you should immediately contact your airline to find out what options are open. Carriers are not obligated to waive fees but most will do so if asked.

In the middle of last year, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and lawmakers began raising a stink about skyrocketing drug prices.They focused att...

In the middle of last year, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and lawmakers began raising a stink about skyrocketing drug prices.

They focused attention on pharmaceutical companies that jacked up the prices of drugs – not new cutting edge medicines that cost millions to develop – but for older prescription drugs that had been around for years.

Former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, who founded a drug company called Turing Pharmaceutical, was the target of most of the wrath for his brazen and unapologetic defense of his business model – buying older drugs from competitors and dramatically raising the price – in his case as much as 5000%.

But Shkreli was hardly alone. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a larger and more established drug company, also came under scrutiny and criticism. It too had profited by rapidly raising the price of an old drug, in this case the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL.

As Bloomberg News recently recounted, Valeant raised the price of the 30-year old drug 11 times over a two year period. As it did, it's stock price soared, hitting an intraday high of $263.81 a share on August 6.

That's when building outrage exploded into the headlines and Congress was compelled to take a look at drug prices. In December, a Senate committee held hearings on the issue of drug costs as lawmakers took turns expressing indignation.

“My biggest challenge today is to not lose my temper—the facts underlying this hearing are so egregious it’s hard not to get emotional about it,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). “It’s imperative that we find out if our system is being taken advantage of by companies or individuals that seek deep profits while contributing little or nothing to advances in medical treatment.”

But so far, Congress has taken no action. However, that doesn't mean punishment hasn't been handed out.

In the case of Valeant, the company has been rocked by admissions of “wrongdoing” that prompted the board this week to dismiss two top executives. Wall Street has responded by treating Valeant stock like a pinata. From its August high, the value of the stock plunged this week to around $26 a share Monday.

While many traders expect the company's stock to recover a bit after Valeant announced some reforms, most agree it faces difficult challenges. Ritholtz Wealth Management CEO Josh Brown, appearing on CNBC, expressed strong skepticism that the company can recover its once lofty stock price.

“The people who are saying things like 'taking steps in the right direction' are people who had buy recommendations on this stock 200 points higher," Brown said. “You're going to see toosh-covering going on over the next three months like you cannot imagine.”

Grandmothers often make the best -- and most willing -- babysitters. For many families, grandma even takes the place of day care during the workweek. I...

Grandmothers often make the best -- and most willing -- babysitters. For many families, grandma even takes the place of day care during the workweek.

It's a dream scenario (or so it would appear), teeming with intergenerational bonding opportunities and financial perks for mom and dad. Plus, studies show that when a child is under grandma’s care, it reduces their risk of injury by half compared to organized day care.

But as it turns out, this arrangement might not be quite the win-win it seems. Too much caregiving could have some less-than-desirable effects on grandma’s brain.

A Women’s Healthy Aging Project study -- published in the online journal Menopause -- finds that grandmothers who care for their grandchildren once a week experience a boost in mental sharpness.

Some of the brain benefits included lowered risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders. Researchers say this finding could be tied to a larger body of research that finds regular social interaction can help seniors stay mentally healthy. 

But grandmothers who dedicate five or more days a week to caregiving may experience the opposite effect: a duller mental state with more memory and cognitive problems.

The researchers speculate that highly frequent grandparenting may predict lower cognitive performance -- but the effects of excessive caregiving may also have something to do with mood. The more time grandmothers reported spending with their grandkids, the more they felt that the children had been demanding of them. 

The study -- which included 120 grandmothers ages 57 to 68 -- could play an important role in helping researchers determine the psychological impact of playing caregiver among post-menopausal women.

“Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for post-menopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health,” said NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass MD. “This study is a good start.”

The researchers hope to discover the full scope of cognitive effects produced by post-menopausal caregiving through further studies with larger samples of seniors. 

Not to be personal, but your baby couldn't read back in 2014 and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) says that not much has changed in two ...

Tis the season for sniffling and watery eyes. Although the warmer weather is usually welcome after a cold winter season, there are many people who dread th...

Tis the season for sniffling and watery eyes. Although the warmer weather is usually welcome after a cold winter season, there are many people who dread the onset of allergy symptoms. But what separates the red-nosed, sneezing, itchy-eyed person from the one that isn’t affected at all by the change of season?

Researchers at the University of Southampton think they may have an answer to that question. By examining specific genetic markers, they have found that the season in which a person is born has a large bearing on whether or not they will develop allergies later in life.

Scientists have known for some time that the season that a person is born in affects several things about them, including things like height and lifespan. However, linking allergies to season of birth can have additional further-reaching implications.

“These are interesting results. We know that season of birth has an effect on people throughout their lives. For example, generally, people born in autumn and winter are at increased risk for allergic diseases such as asthma. However, until now, we did not know how the effects can be so long lasting,” said John Holloway, professor of Allergy and Respiratory Genetics at Southampton and one of the study’s authors.

He explains that the epigenetic marks that the researchers discovered attach to DNA and create a protein that can force genes to express certain behaviors, like allergic tendencies, for years. In some cases, this can even be passed down to future generations. The implications of the discovery could go even further than just understanding allergies, though.

“It might sound like a horoscope by the seasons, but now we have scientific evidence for how that horoscope could work. Because season of birth influences so many things, the epigenetic marks discovered in this study could also potentially be the mechanism for other seasonally influenced diseases and traits too, not just allergy,” said Dr. Gabrielle Lockett, first author of the study.

Although the study has already been certified through another testing of Dutch children, the researchers admit that there is more work to be done before they completely understand how seasons change the risk of allergies and disease.

Although the research may lead to greater understanding on how to avoid the risk of allergies, the researchers want to stress that their initial research should not act as a guide for parents-to-be on when they should plan to have children. “While these results have clinical implications in mediating against allergy risk, we are not advising altering pregnancy timing,” said Holloway.

You’ve heard of white bread, wheat bread, and maybe even cloud bread -- but what about purple bread? It might sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss book,...

Health officials have begun to pay more attention to the drugs that doctors are prescribing. In recent weeks, the attention has been on opoid painkillers, ...

Health officials have begun to pay more attention to the drugs that doctors are prescribing. In recent weeks, the attention has been on opoid painkillers, which are highly addictive and prone to abuse.

Now researchers are taking a closer look at drug combinations. Specially, the combination of drugs taken by older consumers.

Seniors tend to take more prescription medication than anyone else, and very often they are taking several different drugs. Researchers at the University of Chicago now estimate that one in six are regularly swallowing potentially deadly combinations of pills – prescription, non-prescription, and dietary supplements.

A team led by assistant professor of pharmacy systems Dima Mazen Qato studied a sample of consumers between the ages of 62 and 85. It found that the percentage taking at least five prescription medications rose from 30% in 2005 to nearly 36% in 2011.

Why so many drugs? Perhaps because they are available and often covered by health benefits, meaning the consumer doesn't pay the direct cost.

Here's an example; the use of simvastatin – whose brand name is Zocor – is the most commonly prescribed medication for older consumers. When it became available as a generic in 2006, its use doubled from 10.3% to 22.5%.

There has also been a spike in the use of dietary supplements, which Qato says has limited evidence of benefits to support their widespread use. Over the course of the study, it traced an increase in use from 51.8% to 63.7%. The biggest jump was in the use of omega-3 fish oils.

The study identified 15 potentially life-threatening drug combinations of the most commonly used prescriptions and supplements. The number of seniors taking this potentially lethal drug combination nearly doubled between 2005 and 2011. Qato says it poses a dangerous irony.

"Many older patients seeking to improve their cardiovascular health are also regularly using interacting drug combinations that may worsen cardiovascular risk," she said.

The responsibility falls on health care providers, Qato maintains. She says doctors need to more carefully consider the adverse effects that combinations of drugs and supplements can have, especially on older patients.

If you or a family member are taking five or more medications, it's a good idea to have a discussion about it with your health care provider. Before the meeting, do an Internet search for each of the medications, looking for warnings of dangerous combinations.

We've all heard how criminals impersonating IRS agents threaten various actions to relieve you of money you supposedly owe the government.Now, however,...

The cost of a car doesn't end when you drive it off the lot. What you pay a dealer just gets it on the road. Keeping it on the road is going to take more m...

The cost of a car doesn't end when you drive it off the lot. What you pay a dealer just gets it on the road. Keeping it on the road is going to take more money.

It turns out just how much money it will take to operate your car or truck depends heavily on where you live. In some states the costs will be significantly higher than others.

The personal finance website GoBankingRates.com did an analysis and concluded that it will cost $7,216 more to own a car in Michigan than it would in New Hampshire – the most and least expensive states in the analysis.

The site arrived at its numbers by following a simple formula. It looked at the sales tax consumers are required to pay, title fees, registration fees, average car insurance, gasoline expenses, and average maintenance and repair costs.

“The common costs of owning a car outside of the car payment quickly add up — our survey found that the average costs of owning a car for three years is $11,227,” said Elyssa Kirkham, lead reporter on the study for GOBankingRates.

Since car owners are usually advised to keep auto costs low – around 15% of their income – it matters a lot where you live.

New Hampshire, Alaska, Oregon, and Montana are among the least expensive states for car ownership because they are the only states that don't charge a sales tax on the purchase of a car – removing one of the most significant costs.

Missouri ranks near the bottom because it almost always has among the cheapest fuel prices in the nation.

Home sales are suddenly on the decline, but not for the reason you might think. There continues to be plenty of willing buyers, but they just aren't findin...

Home sales are suddenly on the decline, but not for the reason you might think. There continues to be plenty of willing buyers, but they just aren't finding that many homes for sale.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), admits that affordability is becoming a problem, with many housing markets showing strong year-over-year price increases.

“The main issue continues to be a supply and affordability problem,” Yun said in a release announcing a drop in February's existing home sales. "Finding the right property at an affordable price is burdening many potential buyers."

Yun notes that the total housing inventory in February was 1.1% lower than it was in February 2015. There are two main reasons for that.

Fewer homeowners are putting their existing homes up for sale, and homebuilders are building fewer new homes. With the economy looking up a bit, there is an increase in the number of people who would like to buy a home, but not an increase in the number of homes for sale.

First, let's look at new home construction – and for data we'll go to the U.S. Census Bureau. It has compiled the numbers on single-family home construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate from 1968 through this year.

At the beginning of 2002, as the housing bubble began to inflate, new home construction was occurring at an annual rate of about 1.3 million new homes. By the middle of 2003 it was up to 1.4 million.

Home construction peaked in mid 2006, occurring at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.7 million homes. Then, the financial crisis of 2008 hit.

By January 2010, the annual rate of new home construction had plunged to 448,000 – down 75% from the peak. At the beginning of 2016, the rate had only grown to about half of what homebuilders were producing in 2002.

In fact, you have to go back to 1982, when interest rates were 20%, to find a time when homebuilders were putting up as few houses as they are now. Of course, the population of potential homebuyers is much bigger now.

If there are fewer new homes being built, the problem is compounded by the fact that there are fewer existing homes for sale. It's not clear why current homeowners aren't moving up, but one reason might be the still significant number of people who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.

Earlier this month Zillow reported 13.1% of homeowners with a mortgage had negative equity, blocking them from selling without a loss. More than 820,000 underwater homeowners owed more than twice as much on their mortgages as their homes are worth.

"Things are moving in the right direction, but some owners are still deeply underwater,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “As we move into the home shopping season, inventory is already low, and negative equity is keeping potential additional stock from becoming available.”

That means consumers looking for their dream home this Spring may be disappointed. Homes will cost more and there will be far fewer to choose from.

Prices for homes were on the rise again in January.The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its monthly House Price Index (HPI) was up a seaso...

Panasonic Corporation of North America of Newark, N.J., is recalling about 500 lithium-ion (Li-ion) computer battery packs in the U.S. and Canada. ...

Panasonic Corporation of North America of Newark, N.J., is recalling about 500 lithium-ion (Li-ion) computer battery packs in the U.S. and Canada.

Conductive foreign material was mixed into the battery cells during manufacturing, posing a risk of fire.

This recall involves Panasonic six-cell Li-ion battery packs sold in Panasonic CF-S10 Series laptop computers. “Panasonic” and “CF-S10” are on the surface of the laptop on the left side below the keyboard.

The battery packs, manufactured in Japan, were sold at Panasonic dealers from December 2011, through August 2013, for about $2,000 for the laptop.

Consumers should immediately stop using the laptop computer with the recalled battery, power off the device, remove the battery pack and contact Panasonic for a free replacement battery pack.

Consumers may contact Panasonic toll-free at 855-772-8324 anytime or visit www.panasonic.com for more information.

If you had put money on DraftKings and FanDuel, the two daily fantasy sports (DFS) giants, prevailing over New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, you...

If you had put money on DraftKings and FanDuel, the two daily fantasy sports (DFS) giants, prevailing over New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, you would have lost money.

Schneiderman issued a statement Monday, saying his office had reached settlements with both DraftKings and FanDuel, which calls for both companies to no longer accept players from New York state.

“I’m pleased to announce that both FanDuel and DraftKings will stop taking bets in New York State, consistent with New York State law and the cease-and-desist orders my office issued at the outset of this matter,” Schneiderman said in his statement. “As I've said from the start, my job is to enforce the law, and starting today, DraftKings and FanDuel will abide by it.”

Schneiderman sued both companies in October, claiming their DFS games amounted to illegal gambling. After he issued a cease and desist order, both companies appealed, saying their games require skill and are legal under federal law.

Then Schneiderman raised the ante, amending his complaint to demand civil damages from the two companies and to require them to pay millions in restitution to New York players who had lost money.

Knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, the two companies agreed to give up the lucrative New York market, at least for now. In its statement, DraftKings suggested the withdrawal from New York might be temporary.

“We will continue to work with state lawmakers to enact fantasy sports legislation so that New Yorkers can play the fantasy games they love,” the company said.

Earlier this month, Virginia became the first state to enact legislation that specifically declares DFS games to be legal. Both companies are actively encouraging other states to take similar action.

Schneiderman, meanwhile, made it clear his case against DraftKings and FanDuel has not been affected by the settlement. He said he will continue to press false advertising and consumer fraud charges in court.

Leasing has become a popular way for consumers to get their hands on a car that's a bit more expensive than they can afford. It's also a way for dealers to...

Leasing has become a popular way for consumers to get their hands on a car that's a bit more expensive than they can afford. It's also a way for dealers to make sales they wouldn't otherwise make. So everybody's happy, right?

Everyone is presumably happy for the three years or so that most leases last, but, like all things good or bad, the lease eventually comes to an end. The consumer must then buy or lease another car. And the dealer must dispose of the car the consumer has just turned in.

Leasing's popularity took off a few years back as the new car prices soared into the mid-$30,000 range, and now all those cars are about to come flooding back onto dealers' lots as the leases expire.

Hoping to avoid drowning in used cars, Toyota is rolling out a program to offer more leases on its "certified" used cars and trucks, Automotive News reports. It's estimated that 275,000 Toyotas will be coming off lease this year, the highest number ever. Other manufacturers are in the same fix.

Toyota has been leasing used cars for years but only in very small numbers. The company says it is stepping up dealer education this year in hopes of writing more business and moving more cars.

Some auto industry insiders have been warning that manufacturers are creating a leasing bubble and Toyota's move could be seen as an attempt to deal with a glut of cars that aren't worth as much as the company had anticipated three years ago. 

“You don't want to do too much leasing because the cars aren't really sold,” former GM, Ford, and Chrysler exec Bob Lutz warned recently. “Your lease rate is essentially a bet on the residual value of the vehicle after two or three years. If you get that residual guess wrong, you can stand to lose a lot of money.”

Leasing the returned lease cars is a way for manufacturers to cover their tracks and recover more of the value than they might otherwise do if the cars were sold outright. 

So is leasing a used car a good idea? Maybe, but consumers should keep in mind that manufacturers are eager to lease used cars because in many cases they can get a higher return than if they sold it. 

Buyers with good credit and some ready cash may be better off doing a purchase rather than a lease. 

While leases may appear to offer more car for the money, consumers don't have anything to show for their monthly payments at the end of the lease and often find themselves facing lots of unexpected costs, including excess mileage, charges for minor damage, and the ubiquitous "end of lease fee," which is just what it sounds like, a fee for nothing. 

Years ago, Google vowed not to be evil, providing a handy hook for anyone wanting to criticize its subsequent actions. The same might be said of the Honest...

Years ago, Google vowed not to be evil, providing a handy hook for anyone wanting to criticize its subsequent actions. The same might be said of the Honest Co., which sells such things as diapers, soap, and lotions, swearing that all of them are free of "harsh chemicals." Honest.

But the Wall Street Journal says it hired two labs to test Honest's detergent and both found it contained sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), something the company's founder, actress Jessica Alba, has said is a "toxin" that should be avoided by consumers. 

SLS is listed as "forbidden" in the company’s Honestly Free Guarantee, which is posted on its website. The chemical is widely used in toothpaste, and detergent and is often blamed for causing skin irritation.

One of the labs used by the Journal, Impact Analytical, said it found "a significant amount" of SLS in Honest's detergent. The other, Chemir, said it found about the same concentration as Tide. 

“It was not a trace amount,” said Matthew Hynes, a chemist at Chemir who conducted the test, according to the Journal's report.

Honest has hotly denied the Journal's findings, calling them wrong and "reckless" and saying it conducted "rigorous testing" that did not find SLS in its product. However, Honest said that its detergent does contain sodium coco sulfate, which is says is a "gentler alternative" to SLS. 

Honest said its chemical supplier, Trichromatic, had tested for SLS but found none. But the Journal pointed out that Trichromatic said that statement was based on a "misunderstanding" and that it had not tested for SLS because "none was used in the manufacturing process."

It's not the first time Honest's representations have been called into question. Critics have said its sunscreen is ineffective and wrongly claims to be made with only "natural" ingredients. At least two class action lawsuits are pending against the company over claims it made for its sunscreen. 

Ask anyone who has an iPhone 6S Plus how they like it and you'll most likely hear all the usual gushing about the resolution, the apps, the battery life, a...

Ask anyone who has an iPhone 6S Plus how they like it and you'll most likely hear all the usual gushing about the resolution, the apps, the battery life, and so forth. Then you're likely to hear something like, "It is a little bulky though."

One iPhone 6S Plus owner I see in the mirror each morning carries his 6S in his hip pocket and recently found himself stuck when the tip of the phone got wedged under the front seat of his cramped Audi A3. Escaping without ripping the pocket was a feat worthy of Houdini. 

Hoping to appeal to those seeking something a bit smaller, Apple today unveiled the iPhone SE. It used its gift for putting the best face on nearly any situation by describing the new gadget as "the most powerful phone with a four-inch display, in a beloved compact aluminum design."

"Beloved" is usually used in obituaries, but let's not quibble. Apple assures us the SE offers the same "exceptional performance" as the 6S and 6S Plus.

“iPhone SE is an exciting new idea — we started with a beloved, iconic design and reinvented it from the inside out. The result is the most beautiful and powerful phone with a four-inch display in the world,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Everyone who wants a smaller phone is going to love iPhone SE.”

In other words, the SE is a smaller version of the iPhone 6S series instead of a successor to the older four-inch iPhone, the 5S. It comes with features like Apple Pay and Apple's fastest processor, which have previously been offered only on versions of the iPhone 6.   The $399 starting price is well below the $649 for the current top iPhone model without a contract. 

“iPad Pro is a new generation of iPad that is indispensable and immersive, enabling people to be more productive and more creative. It’s incredibly fast, extremely portable, and completely natural to use with your fingers, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. And now it comes in two sizes,” said Schiller. It is the ultimate upgrade for existing iPad users and replacement for PC users.”

Some choose to garden for the experience, but for others, the joy of gardening can be found in the end result. Successfully growing your own herbs and vege...

Some choose to garden for the experience, but for others, the joy of gardening can be found in the end result. Successfully growing your own herbs and vegetables can provide an undeniable sense of pride and may even help you save a little money at the grocery store.

Fifty-four percent of gardeners say they grow produce to save on food bills, according to the National Gardening Association. But as it turns out, some veggie varieties will save you more green than others. Mel Bartholomew, founder of Square Foot Gardening, says that, in ranking the 59 most popular vegetables by value, there are definite winners and losers.

"There are real costs involved in growing," said Bartholomew in a statement. "If you're going to make an investment in edibles, treat your garden the same way you treat your 401K. It all comes down to ROI."

Indeed, when factoring in the initial cost of setting up a garden, the desired output can become more of a concern.

According to David Greenberg, executive director of Growing Gardens, a home garden made of two 4x8-foot in-ground beds will cost gardeners about $200, including the cost of soil, lime, compost, and straw. From there, gardeners are looking at an upkeep cost of about $50 per year. 

To help balance the cost, it's important to choose vegetables and herbs that will work for you in the long run. Doing so will entail steering clear of certain types of produce that ultimately cost more to grow than to buy from the store.

Bartholomew's study, which used data form the U.S. Department of Agriculture and price surveys of produce costs in U.S. stores, details which vegetables to seek out -- and which to avoid -- if it's value you're after.

In the bottom five for value were potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Bell Peppers, Swiss Chard, and Asparagus.

While herbs such as cilantro, oregano, and thyme offered a return of almost $70 worth of produce for every square foot planted, Bartholomew found that gardeners who grow potatoes see a return of negative $6 per square foot compared to buying them.

Detailed results of the study can be found in his book: Square Foot Gardening High Value Veggies: Homegrown Produce Ranked By Value.

With the flourishing of online communities and forums, it’s easier than ever to get an opinion on anything that you can think of. This is especially useful...

With the flourishing of online communities and forums, it’s easier than ever to get an opinion on anything that you can think of. This is especially useful when you want to get a review on a product or service, and consumers have begun placing a large amount of trust in these sources.

However, there is one type of review that consumers have been slow to embrace. According to a national poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, consumers who are looking for a new doctor are skeptical when it comes to online reviews. In particular, parents seem to think online doctor reviews are less trustworthy and hold them to higher scrutiny.

“Online rating sites are becoming an increasingly common and potentially influential source of information for parents as they choose a doctor. . . Websites reviewing doctors are readily available, but concerns about how trustworthy they are may be preventing parents from using them broadly,” said Dr. David Hanauer, lead author of the study.

The results of the poll show that over two-thirds of all parents think that online doctor reviews are completely fake, while over half say that the ratings that appear are influenced by the doctor being rated. A smaller number of parents say that there aren’t enough ratings in order to make an informed decision.

Despite these misgivings, many parents are still looking at online doctor reviews for guidance. One-third of respondents admitted to doing so before selecting a doctor for their child in the past year. Out of those who did factor online ratings into their decision, two-thirds said the online reviews led to them either choosing or avoiding a particular doctor.

The poll did reveal that there may be a generational gap when it came to trusting online sources as well. Seventy-one percent of parents over the age of 30 said that they were concerned about fake reviews, compared with only 59% of parents under the age of 30.

Interestingly enough, 87% of parents who selected a doctor based on ratings said that the online reviews reflected their own experiences with the doctor, begging the question of whether this inherent mistrust is justified or not.

Whatever the case may be, Dr. Hanauer says that changing this negative perception is important to being able to use these online reviews in a positive way. He further states that some of the burden for changing this negative perception rests on the doctors themselves.

“Doctor rating sites have the potential to help make the patient-physician relationship more service-oriented. In order for online rating sites to become a more accepted and useful tool, doctors will need to be more engaged in the process, in ways that assure that ratings are authentic,” he said. 

Spring travel season is upon us, and airlines are predicting record-high numbers of air travelers this March and April. But while a stress-free vacation ma...

Spring travel season is upon us, and airlines are predicting record-high numbers of air travelers this March and April. But while a stress-free vacation may be waiting for you on the other side of your flight, it may be a different story while you’re up in the air -- especially if Fido is up the air with you.

Bringing the family dog on vacation comes with plenty of benefits, from not having to board him to getting to enjoy your pup’s company in a new location. But before it comes time for sandy paws and beach walks, you’ll have to get him from point A to point B.

Flying with your dog can often come with its share of stresses and hiccups, but a little pre-planning can help the experience go smoothly for everyone.

There are a few things you can do before the flight to help ensure your canine companion stays safe and calm en route: 

Once the flight is behind you, the fun can begin! Check out DogFriendly.com for a list of dog-friendly attractions in the U.S. and Canada. From beaches where dogs can run off-leash to resort hotels with doggy room service, DogFriendly lists all the places where dogs can have just as much fun as people on vacation. 

You probably hear it a lot – Americans aren't saving enough for retirement. So you finally decide to do something about it and open an Individual Retiremen...

You probably hear it a lot – Americans aren't saving enough for retirement. So you finally decide to do something about it and open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

Now, you have to make a choice between opening a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. There are important differences.

A Traditional IRA provides a tax break when you save. Suppose you put away $2000 in a Traditional IRA this year. On your 2016 federal and state tax returns, you get a $2,000 deduction. Better still, you don't pay taxes on capital gains or dividends, as long as the money stays in the account.

However, when you are 70.5 years old, you must begin making withdrawals from the account and the money you withdraw is taxed as ordinary income. If you make a withdrawal before the age of 59.5, you'll pay a 10% penalty on top of the income tax.

A Roth IRA's primary difference is the contributions to the account are not tax deductible and the money is not taxed when you pull it out. However, the money the account produces over the years, in the form of capital gains and dividends, is never taxed.

So which is better? Increasingly, financial advisors favor the Roth, but it's going to depend on your individual circumstances.

When the Traditional IRA was established, it was generally accepted that most people would retire when they could start receiving social security. If they had high incomes during their working years, they were in higher tax brackets and those deductible contributions saved them money at tax time each year.

When they started making withdrawals, the reasoning went, they would be in a lower tax bracket and therefore, would pay less tax on their savings.

But people are working longer, and many continue to earn high incomes in retirement, through part-time work and income from businesses and investments. The tax bite on Traditional IRA distributions may be greater than anticipated.

If you own a Roth IRA, your withdrawals are not taxed. True, you passed up a tax deduction for most of your working life, but if your investment of $50,000 has doubled over the years, you have essentially earned $50,000 in tax-free income.

There are also fewer distribution restrictions on a Roth IRA. Generally, you can withdraw money without penalty under age 59.5 if you have owned the account for more than five years.

There are limits to the money you can put into an IRA each year, but the amount is the same for both the Traditional and Roth IRAs. For the 2016 tax year consumers can put in up to $5,500. If you are 50 or older, you can put in $6,500.

If you own a kindle purchased before 2013, Amazon says you'll need to install a critical software update before Tuesday, March 22, or lose access to the In...

If you own a kindle purchased before 2013, Amazon says you'll need to install a critical software update before Tuesday, March 22, or lose access to the Internet.

Without Internet access, of course, you would be limited to reading the books and magazines currently on your e-reader – you would not be able to download more. The update is required on devices sold in 2012 or before.

Updating before March 22 is fairly simple. If your Kindle e-reader does not have the latest software version, connect your device to Wi-Fi to receive the software update.

Amazon says the new software will download automatically and self-install. The device may restart multiple times during the process.

If you don't update the software by the deadline, you can still install it – but it will have to be done manually, since you will no longer have Internet access. You will be able to download the software update to a PC, then connect the Kindle via USB port, and transfer it that way.

Once you have successfully installed the update, you'll receive a message on your screen to that effect.

Fortunately for consumers, the credit card business is highly competitive. Different issuers compete, not so much on the rates they charge borrowers – almo...

Fortunately for consumers, the credit card business is highly competitive. Different issuers compete, not so much on the rates they charge borrowers – almost all are at least in the double digits – but in the rewards they offer for using the cards.

The problem for consumers is picking which rewards card is best. It isn't easy to do because it is all going to depend on the kinds of rewards that make the most sense for the individual consumer.

For example, if you are a frequent traveler, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card may be a good choice. New customers who put $4,000 on the card in the first three months get $50,000 in bonus points. That's good for $625 toward airfare and lodging when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

There is no fee the first year, but cardholders are charged $95 a year after that. If you don't plan to aggressively take advantage of the rewards, this probably isn't the card for you.

Maybe you aren't much of a traveler, but need a card for day-to-day purchases. Then the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express might be your ticket.

Currently, you can get $150 cash back just by spending $1,000 in the first three months. That will pay the first two years of $75 annual fees.

The real rewards of the card come in the form of 6% cash back on up to $6,000 dollars per year on groceries – $360 – and 1% cash back on purchases over $6,000. You'll get 3% back at gas stations and department stores. As with most rewards cards, the cash back is applied as statement credits.

For those who make a lot of purchases from online retailers, the Discover It Card might be an attractive choice. Right off the bat, one of the best features of this rewards card is no annual fee. Saving $75 to $100 a year is a nice reward in and of itself.

The card pays 5% cash back on some, but not all, online purchases, and on other types of purchases as well. Categories are always changing, so you have to keep up. You can do so here.

Suppose you have enough to do without keeping up with changing categories and just want a simple, all-purpose cash back card. Then you might consider the Citi Double Cash Card.

It pays 1% cash back on everything you buy, then gives you an additional 1% credit when you pay for it. As an added bonus, there is no annual fee.

Let's say your credit report has a few dents and scratches. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy some credit card rewards.

The Discover It Secured Credit Card is designed for consumers who are rebuilding their credit. Your credit limit is determined by the amount of money you deposit to secure your account. Deposit $500, and you can charge up to $500 each billing cycle. Deposit more and you can charge more.

You earn 1% cash back on every purchase and 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Best of all, there is no annual fee and you get rewarded while rebuilding your credit.

Some companies provide college tuition assistance for their employees, a nice perk when the cost of a college degree keeps rising.But many employees – ...

Some companies provide college tuition assistance for their employees, a nice perk when the cost of a college degree keeps rising.

But many employees – especially in the fast food industry – can't take advantage of that perk because they lack a high school diploma. Church's, the fried chicken franchise, is now addressing that.

The company has announced it is expanding its Stride for Success program to all company-owned restaurants. Employees can earn a high school diploma while working by participating in a company-funded partnership with Penn Foster, which operates an accredited online high school diploma program.

According to the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Penn Foster has been accredited since 1972 and is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools. The school has a focus on lifelong learning as well as traditional high school education.

The company says its education program is designed to encourage Church's employees to reach educational milestones and advance within the company. For example, for someone to become a manager of a company-owned Church's store, he or she must be a high school graduate.

Under this program, Church's covers 100% of the cost associated with the program. Penn Foster designed a curriculum specifically for online study, allowing students to complete their diploma around their work schedules.

"Our people are and always have been our strongest assets," CEO Jim Hyatt said in a statement. "Laying the foundation for our employees to reach integral milestones and harness their potential will serve to both enrich their lives personally and strengthen our brand as a whole."

The program can not only help employees move up within the company, a diploma also clears the way for college work as well, perhaps moving on to a job in another industry.

For years, jobs in fast food were highly transitory, with people moving on after just a few months. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, many employees work at fast food restaurants for years because there are so few other jobs.

Church's said it hopes to expand the education benefit to franchisees in the future. Church's Chicken has more than 1,600 stores in 30 countries.

Companies that provide help with a high school diploma are more rare than those helping employees with college tuition. GED Easy reports several large, mostly minimum wage employers, such as KFC and Walmart, provide help to employees preparing to take a GED exam.

The rise in existing-home sales in January to the highest annual rate in six months was undone in February.The National Association of Realtors reports...

RacerMate of Seattle, Wash., is recalling about 25,000 CompuTrainer blue flywheels. The blue flywheel can shatter while in use and throw metal piec...

The blue flywheel can shatter while in use and throw metal pieces into the air. This poses a risk of injury from impact to the rider and any bystanders.

The company has received five reports of flywheels that have shattered, including three reports of injuries, including lacerations and leg bruises.

This recall involves blue CompuTrainer Flywheels manufactured before 2008. The CompuTrainer Flywheels are used to make bicycles stationary for indoor training.

The blue flywheel is a die casting made of zinc. It measures 4.75 inches in diameter and weighs 1.1 pounds. Flywheels manufactured after 2008 are not included in this recall.

The flywheels, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at RacerMate and bicycle stores nationwide from November 1997, through November 2008, for about $1,500.

Consumers should immediately stop using and remove the recalled blue flywheels. Consumers can contact RacerMate for instructions on receiving a free, silver replacement flywheel.

Consumers may contact RacerMate at 800-522-3610 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at http://www.racermateinc.com/blue-flywheel-recall/ to access the Blue Flywheel Recall form. Consumers may also email the firm at sales@racermate.inc.

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 34,200 model year 2016-2017 Santa Fe vehicles manufactured September 1, 2015 to February 12, 2016. The wires in ...

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 34,200 model year 2016-2017 Santa Fe vehicles manufactured September 1, 2015 to February 12, 2016.

The wires in the front seat belt buckle harnesses may be damaged by the seat's height adjuster mechanism, resulting in a failure to provide an audible warning when front seat occupants do not fasten their seat belts. Thus, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, "Occupant Crash Protection."

Without a reminder, the front seat occupants may forget to buckle their seat belt, increasing their risk of injury in the event of a crash.

Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and reroute the wires in the front seat belt buckle harnesses to their proper locations, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 6, 2016.

Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 141.

Nissan North America is recalling 46,671 model year 2014 Nissan Rogues manufactured July 25, 2013, to December 21, 2013, and February 1, 2014, to June 7, 2...

Nissan North America is recalling 46,671 model year 2014 Nissan Rogues manufactured July 25, 2013, to December 21, 2013, and February 1, 2014, to June 7, 2014.

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

In all the back-and-forth sabre rattling over the FBI's demand that Apple help it break into the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists, there...

In all the back-and-forth sabre rattling over the FBI's demand that Apple help it break into the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists, there's one element no one has previously discussed -- Apple's engineers.

If the courts eventually rule that Apple must give the FBI access to the phone's contents, that's a chore that will presumably be handled by Apple's engineers, who may well be the only people on Earth who know how to reliably de-encrypt the iPhone.

That's the possibility raised by The New York Times, which reports today that Apple's employees are already discussing what they will do if their employer is ordered to, in effect, become an arm of law enforcement. 

It wouldn't be the first time individuals have refused to carry out the law because of their personal beliefs. Remember the county clerk who wouldn't issue a marriage license to gay couples, the nurses who won't participate in abortions, and all the other cases that have hit the headlines in recent years?

That's basically the argument Apple has made in its court briefs; it has said that forcing Apple employees to do things they find offensive amounts to a violation of their First Amendment rights.

If Apple is finally ordered to comply with the government's wishes and the engineers then refuse or resign, the government is back where it started. It would have to start over and pursue legal actions against all of the engineers who designed the encryption methods used in the iPhone, assuming it could learn their identities.

The Times noted that Apple CEO chief executive Tim Cook made that very argument in an email to customers, writing that “The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.” 

In that email, Cook noted that Apple has in the past provided information the FBI requested when it actually had the information in its possession.

But in this case, the information exists only in the shooter's iPhone. Cracking open that iPhone would involve creating a "backdoor" that would provide access to everyone's iPhone, exposing millions of consumers to invasion of privacy, financial skullduggery, and even physical harm, Cook said:

"Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession."

Apple said it would take six to ten engineers up to a month to meet the government's request but said it would be difficult to ramp up to build what it is calling "GovtOS" if key employees refused to do the work.

Meanwhile, another group of engineers would have to build software to be used by the FBI to access the iPhone's back door. Since many of these engineers would likely be the very ones who had worked on the original encryption system, it's not likely they would be very eager to undertake the task, the Times noted.

Some might recall that it was no lesser power than the Supreme Court that, in the Citizens United decision, held that corporations are essentially people and thus endowed with inalienable rights to give money to super PACs. 

Could be, but corporations -- virtual people if you will -- can't do much if the real people who make up that corporation refuse.  

All cruise lines offer a variety of restaurants for which there is no fee; a main dining room, buffet, and smaller and larger venues, depending on the size...

Andy Puzder, CEO of the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardees, has seen the future of fast food – and there aren't very many people in it. At least on t...

Andy Puzder, CEO of the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardees, has seen the future of fast food – and there aren't very many people in it. At least on the restaurant's side of the counter.

In an interview with Business Insider, Puzder says he's intrigued by the concept of a restaurant where patrons enter their orders on kiosks, pay with plastic, and are served by a conveyor belt. Such a restaurant, he maintains, would not just be more efficient, but a lot less expensive to operate.

"With government driving up the cost of labor, it's driving down the number of jobs," he told the publication. "You're going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants."

Puzder has visited this idea before. In 2014, after President Obama called for a large increase in the minimum wage, Puzder penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, warning such a move would speed up the automation process where most minimum wage workers are employed.

Puzder concedes that it would be very difficult to replace people with machines at Carl's Jr., Hardees, and many other existing franchises. That's because the operations are complex and were designeed around humans.

Rather, he sees the automated restaurant concept as part of a new restaurant's overall design. In the Business Insider interview, he points to something like Eatsa, and envisions a menu heavy with all-natural products.

Pedictably, Puzder's comments have created something of a storm on social media. On Twitter, one poster named Edward wrote, “Andy, please automatic (sic) YOUR JOB! You make 721 times more than your minimum wage worker. Your FRONT Line employees matter.

Puzder took to Twitter to answer his critics, telling them to read the article and not just the headline.

McDonald's has already stuck a toe into the world of automation, installing ordering kiosks at some of its New York City restaurants. This video shows how it works.

Staying by your child's bedside until they fall asleep may take some of the fuss out of bedtime, but new research shows that doing so may have adverse effe...

Hoverboards just can't catch a break. First they were taking heat because their batteries had an unfortunate tendency to catch fire. And now they're being ...

Hoverboards just can't catch a break. First they were taking heat because their batteries had an unfortunate tendency to catch fire. And now they're being banned from these shores because of a patent dispute.

Segway, the company that makes the computerized scooters that never quite caught on as a consumer gadget, holds more than 400 patents involving balancing technology and claims the hoverboards violate several of them.

The U.S. International Trade Commission agrees and has banned the import of hoverboards into the United States, at least for now. Manufacturers affected by the ban include UPTECH, FreeGo China, Roboscooters, U.P. Technology, U.P. Robotics, and EcoBoomer.

EcoBoomer has not only been banned from further imports but has also been ordered not to sell any of the boards it previously imported.

Companies that want to continue importing hoverboards while the legal battle plays out will have to post a large bond. 

The boards -- which are sort of like self-balancing skateboards -- have already been banned from airlines and other sasfety-conscious venues. They're also being investigated by federal safety regulators, who recently declared that the devices lack UL safety certification and are subject to seizure or recall. 

The latest research on ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, might be a game changer in how this devastating condition is treated, according to researchers at Ceda...

The latest research on ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, might be a game changer in how this devastating condition is treated, according to researchers at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

They've discovered that immune cells located in the brain play a direct role in the development of the disease, which gradually leads to paralysis and death. In particular, the scientists focused on a genetic mutation believed to cause the disease.

“The C9orf72 gene is critical for the function of immune cells in the brain, adding to growing evidence that the brain’s immune system actively contributes to disease rather than simply responding to injury,” senior author Robert Baloh said in a release.

Baloh calls it a “paradigm shift” in the way doctors think about conditions like ALS and Alzheimer's, which attack brain cells. He and his colleagues think these findings may point to new therapies that directly target immune cell dysfunction, especially if the patient is a carrier of the C9orf72 gene mutation.

One possible result could be drugs that decrease the levels of the gene, but the researchers caution there could be serious drawbacks, such as a further disruption of the immune system.

At any rate, the new research may offer a glimmer of home in dealing with a fatal condition that is increasingly widespread.

ALS research and visibility got a strong boost in the summer of 2014 from “the ice bucket challenge.” Thousands of people, including many celebrities, were photographed dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads as way to raise money for ALS research.

Originally, people challenged other individuals to either give $100 or take the ice water bath. It quickly became a case where the challenged would do both – they wrote a check and took the bath, with many of the videos going viral.

The ALS Association says the money and attention has paid off. It says there is currently one FDA approved drug, riluzole, that has shown some progress in slowing ALS in some people.

Back in December, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put its foot down, saying that a merger between Staples and Office Depot would give the former an unfa...

Back in December, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put its foot down, saying that a merger between Staples and Office Depot would give the former an unfair advantage in the competitive market. The agency filed a lawsuit that is scheduled to be decided in court soon.

But Staples is tryiing to head off the court proceedings. It has released a statement reaffirming its position, saying that the FTC was “simply wrong” in opposing the merger.

The company alleges that the agency conducted a flawed analysis of the office supplies marketplace and does not understand the current competitive marketplace, according to a Reuters report.

The FTC believes otherwise, though. It even went so far as to reject another Staples proposal that would have had the company divest up to $1.25 billion in commercial contracts in order for a deal to be struck. Staples has also said that the digital economy has disrupted its business and that companies like Amazon.com Inc. increase competition, but the FTC has not acknowledged these claims.

Despite the opposition, both Staples and Office Depot say they welcome the coming court proceedings and are confident in their legal position. “This has been a long and frustrating road, but we look forward to a fair and impartial hearing,” said the companies in a statement. 

Plant-based proteins are the answer to a variety of consumer concerns, from health or moral to environmental. Whatever the reason you’re looking to cut bac...

Plant-based proteins are the answer to a variety of consumer concerns, from health or moral to environmental. Whatever the reason you’re looking to cut back on meat, alternative proteins will welcome you with open arms.

Industry insiders say plant-based proteins are one of the biggest trends of 2016. With popularity only rising, it's estimated that alternative proteins could make up one-third of the market by 2054. But while tofu, tempeh, and seitan might be the first alternative proteins that jump to mind, there are others to be found by diving deeper.

In the March issue of Food Technology, Toni Tarver describes three lesser known alternative protein sources. They’re as palatable as they are nutrient-dense ... and they were all born under water.

If you're looking for the highest protein content, be sure to look for red seaweed (such as dulse or nori), rather than green or brown seaweeds. Nori is particularly high in protein; 100 grams contains 50 grams of protein. It's also full of amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids and is a good source of vitamin B12. All in all, an overachiever in the nutrient department.

Nori can be purchased in sheets, which can then be used to wrap rice or fish (or both, in the case of sushi). Many also choose to sprinkle smaller pieces of the red seaweed onto soups and noodle dishes.

Algae, as we've reported, is chock full of nutrients. There are two types of algae: macro and micro. You may have seen macroalgae floating in an ocean, lake, or pond. Microalgae, on the other hand, grows in freshwater and cannot be seen without a microscope. Both varieties of algae contain a great deal of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, folate, calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3s, and carbohydrates (to name a few).

As far as protein content, macroalgae contains between 3 to 50 percent, while its freshwater counterpart, microalgae, can contain up to 70 percent.

Duckweed grows in still or slow-moving water. With a protein content of up to 45 percent, this exceptionally tiny flowering plant has among the highest protein levels in the plant kingdom. Birds and fish love to eat duckweed, but it’s also a centuries-old favorite of people in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and parts of Africa.

Two types of Duckweed are recommended for human consumption: Lentein Plus and Mankai. Available fresh or as a dry food powder, duckweed can be blended into a shake, smoothie, or added to pasta or baked goods. 

Because the traditional tax deadline of April 15 is a holiday this year, the deadline for filing your 2015 federal income tax return has been extended to A...

State financial regulators in New York said a company called Blue Global LLC made two big mistakes.First, it marketed payday loans to New Yorkers. Payd...

Second, it failed to adequately protect the personal information it collected on New Yorkers, and some of that information ended up in the hands of scammers.

As a result, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) has entered into a settlement with Blue Global, requiring it to pay a $1 million penalty and stop its payday loan-generation activities in the state of New York.

The settlement follows a DFS investigation that reportedly found Blue Global had suggested to consumers that any personal information collected through its web sites was perfectly safe. It was also charged with marketing illegal payday loans to New Yorkers.

“Payday lending is illegal in New York and lead generators such as Blue Global, who acquire and profit from New Yorkers’ personal information and advertise that payday loans are legitimate and lawful, violate New York’s Financial Services Law and will be held accountable,” Acting Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said in a statement.

When a consumer went to a Blue Global website, he or she was promised the personal information submitted was a top priority. In reality, the DFS says its investigation showed Blue Global took no measures to protect the information when it was shared with third parties. As a result, it often ended up in the hands of scammers.

DFS says these scammers used names, telephone numbers, email addresses, and even bank account numbers to commit fraud and harass consumers. It may have very well been a source, at least partially, for a notorious payday loan scam going back several years.

At the beginning of the decade a widespread scam involved a caller telephoning victims, telling them they had defaulted on a payday loan and they were about to go to jail. They could avoid this embarrassment by making a payment, right now, over the phone.

The scary thing was the scammer seemed to have a lot of personal information about the victims, most of whom said they never took out a payday loan. However, many reported beginning the application process for one online, at a website.

The DFS says Blue Global used the information it collected to sell leads to payday loan companies. These leads contained personal data on some 180,000 New Yorkers. In all, the agency says Blue Global collected data on about 350,000 consumers in the state.

Although it's not roaring back, the U.S. economy appears poised to continue expanding in the early part of this year.The Conference Board reports its L...

Although it's not roaring back, the U.S. economy appears poised to continue expanding in the early part of this year.

The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) inched up 0.1% last month following declines of 0.2% and 0.3% in January and December, respectively.

While there was a slight increase in February, Ataman Ozyildirim, Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board notes that housing permits, stock prices, consumer expectations, and new orders remain sources of weakness. Still, he adds, “The outlook remains positive with little chance of a downturn in the near-term.”

The LEI is constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component -- primarily because it smooths out some of the volatility of individual components.

For the first time in six years customer satisfaction with dealer service related to an automotive recall has declined, according to J.D. Power.The dro...

For the first time in six years customer satisfaction with dealer service related to an automotive recall has declined, according to J.D. Power.

The drop, which came amid a record number of recalls, is the result of customers feeling that dealers don't give the same level of attention to recall work as they do to non-recall maintenance and repairs.

The firm's U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) study measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 5-year-old vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 51 million vehicles were recalled last year. And, as recall numbers soared, customer satisfaction with recall service dropped to 781 on a 1,000-point scale in 2016 -- a drop of eight points. Satisfaction among customers with non-recall servicing averages 809.

Compared with customers having non-recall work performed, those having recall work done are less likely to have their vehicle returned to them cleaner and with the same settings as when they brought it in, and less likely to be contacted by the dealer after the service is complete.

"While it may be tempting for dealers to focus more on repair or maintenance work, recall customers represent both an opportunity and a risk to the brand and dealer," said Chris Sutton, vice president, U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. "There is a need for consistency in the service experience, regardless of the reason for the visit. A lack of consistency, particularly for recall work, can damage customers' perceptions of the brand and negatively impact their likelihood to recommend and repurchase the brand."

Audi ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands, with a score of 874. It's followed by Lexus (869), Cadillac (863), Mercedes-Benz (857), and Jaguar and Lincoln in a tie (856 each).

MINI ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among mass market brands, at 858. Buick (849), GMC (830), Chevrolet (818), and Hyundai (814) round out the top five.

New moms and pregnant women often suffer from bouts of depression, leading a government panel to recommend recently that all such women be screened for the...

New moms and pregnant women often suffer from bouts of depression, leading a government panel to recommend recently that all such women be screened for the condition.

But while such screening may prevent complications from depression, it can also result in hefty increases in life and disability insurance premiums, as insurance companies try to anticipate who is likely to become disabled or commit suicide, a recent New York Times investigation found.

In some cases, insurers may even decline to write a policy for someone who was diagnosed with depression, however fleeting. In others, they may exclude mental health conditions from coverage.

The problem is that the actuaries who calculate premiums are using data on depression that includes more general and long-term cases as well as prenatal and postnatal depression, which tend to be short-term if promptly treated.

While no one is suggesting new and potential mothers should avoid being screened for depression, there are a few defenses available.

The simplest is that young women should buy as much life and disability insurance as they can afford before becoming pregnant.  

The good news on that front is that life insurance rates in general have never been lower, according to a recent survey by Lifequotes.com, an online exchange that provides quotes from up to 50 insurers.

The survey not only found premiums at an all-time low but also discovered that companies are loosening their underwriting standards somewhat, offering more coverage to consumers with risk factors than before.

New moms' problems aside, most Americans actually have too little insurance today, at least according to the insurance industry. 

The Life Insurance Market Research Association (LIMRA) reports that 30% of U.S. households (35 million) do not have any life insurance and only 44% of U.S. households own an individual life insurance policy. 

For most families, a term life policy provides the most coverage at the lowest cost over the term of the policy.

It looks like U.S. roads may be getting a little safer in the future. According to a report by Consumer Reports, a group of major automakers have come to a...

It looks like U.S. roads may be getting a little safer in the future. According to a report by Consumer Reports, a group of major automakers have come to an agreement with the government to include forward crash-prevention systems as a standard feature in all of their passenger vehicles by 2022.

 Some participants in the deal include Ford, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Hyundai, and Toyota, according to The Detroit News. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will announce the news at a press conference later today.

Forward crash-prevention systems aren’t a completely new concept to the automotive industry. When buying a new car, consumers can elect to have forward collision warning installed, but it is mostly used in luxury vehicles.

The system works by using information from a combination of cameras, lasers, and radar equipment, depending on the car model. If these instruments detect that a driver is going to hit an obstacle or crash, they can automatically engage the brakes and slow or stop the vehicle. Safety regulators have high hopes that the technology can help prevent many of the 1.7 million rear-end crashes that occur every year.

“We have been calling on automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard in all new vehicles, and today is an important step toward reaching that goal. . . This proven technology is among the most promising safety advances we’ve seen since electronic stability control almost two decades ago. We look forward to working with NHTSA and IIHS to help put this plan into action and hold automakers accountable for their commitments,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

While the 2022 deadline may seem far away, many car manufacturers have already stepped up to the plate and stated that they would start adding the feature to redesigned models before that time.

While the agreement currently covers the vast majority of passenger cars that will go into production, there are still some vehicles that may take longer to implement the new technology. Specifically, high-performance sports cars, other specialty cars, and commercial trucks are not included in the agreement. However, an addendum is expected to be added in the near future so that they are covered.

Consumers are usually getting a windfall of cash about this time of year, making them feel a little wealthier.It's not from winning the lottery. Actual...

Consumers are usually getting a windfall of cash about this time of year, making them feel a little wealthier.

It's not from winning the lottery. Actually, it's their own money that the U.S. government has been sitting on for a year without paying any interest.

Tax refunds are eagerly anticipated, in part, because they are forced savings programs. The employer takes money out of each paycheck so the consumer never really sees it. So while it probably isn't the best way to go about saving, at least it's one way to save.

The question now, of course, is what do you do with the money you get back from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The tax agency estimates the average taxpayer will get a $3,211 refund, so it's not exactly chump change.

One productive use of a tax refund is to start, or add to, an emergency fund. This is money you would tap if you faced an unexpected car repair bill or had to replace a water heater in your home.

Without an emergency savings account, most consumers would be forced to add to their credit card balances. Worse still, some would seek cash from a payday lender.

So even though an emergency savings account will earn almost no interest, it could keep you out of debt in the long run – which is a pretty good return.

Michael Wesley, head of KeyBank's financial wellness initiative, says an initial goal should be an emergency fund equal to three months take-home pay.

"Build on those savings until your emergency fund is the equivalent of six months of take home pay," Wesley said in a release.

If you already have an adequate emergency fund, you could also consider using a tax refund to start a health savings account (HSA). With high-deductible health policies, an accident or illness could present you with high out-of-pocket medical bills.

There are also some tax benefits to HSA contributions, meaning you might get an even bigger refund check next year.

Studies have shown that Americans are not doing a very good job of saving for retirement. So why not use your tax refund to start, or add to, an individual retirement account (IRA).

Again, there are tax benefits. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax deductible but Roth IRA contributions are not. If you go this route make sure you get some qualified financial and tax advice.

Finally, use your tax refund to pay down credit card balances. Credit card debt can often seem overwhelming. Here's the opportunity to pay off a big chunk of it in one payment.

True, tucking your windfall away or spending it to pay off debt isn't nearly a fun as taking a vacation or buying a new refrigerator, but it can be a solid step toward improving your financial well-being.

Homes are getting smarter and cars are driving themselves. Up next? App-connected appliances that help users turn out better meals with ease and comfort. ...

Homes are getting smarter and cars are driving themselves. Up next? App-connected appliances that help users turn out better meals with ease and comfort. 

Jenn-Air announced at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show that it’s working with Nest on an integration that will allow the Jenn-Air connected wall oven to work with Nest. The two companies -- both known for their sleek-looking, intuitive home technology -- are well-matched, according to Brian Maynard, director of marketing for Jenn-Air.

“By linking our appliances with Nest, we deliver immediate benefits and pave the way for future enhancements that will appeal to the luxury consumer,” said Maynard of the integration, which is expected to be available this summer.

More details will be announced in the coming months, but Maynard says the integration will focus on users’ peace of mind and comfort. It will come in the form of an update in the Jenn-Air Wi-Fi app.

The app currently offers users access to the Jenn-Air Culinary Center, through which they can use an interactive system (complete with algorithms, visuals, and chef-tested cooking programs). The goal of the app is to help home cooks whip up a magazine-worthy meal by helping them achieve optimal results.

As far as functionality, it remains to be seen what the Nest integration will bring to the app. But it seems likely that it will grant users the ability to stay connected to Jenn-Air appliances, thereby doing away with such pesky thoughts as, "Did I leave the oven on?" Previous Nest collaborations have produced similar results.

In 2014, Whirlpool successfully integrated some of their products with Nest in an effort to give users added peace of mind. Whirlpool’s Smart Front Load Washer and Dryer integrated Nest’s home and away modes, which enabled the appliances to keep clothes fresh if a cycle ends while the consumer is away. The dryer can even switch to a slightly longer, more energy-efficient cycle if the user is out.

Whirlpool’s smart front control range with Nest integration is also slated for 2016 release. Through the Whirlpool app, users of the range will be sent an alert if their oven is on but their Nest thermostat is set to away.

It stands to reason that Jenn-Air’s integration with Nest will include similar notifications and energy-saving features to help users feel more comfortable and connected to their appliance.

According to Nest’s website, the Works with Nest program seeks to help users securely interact with the things they use every day to create a connected home experience -- which, indeed, seems like the recipe for added comfort and peace of mind.

If you rent your home, you almost certainly were required to give the landlord a security deposit before moving in.The deposit is to cover damage and b...

If you rent your home, you almost certainly were required to give the landlord a security deposit before moving in.

The deposit is to cover damage and back rent but is generally expected to be returned to the tenant at the end of the lease. These deposits are often the most common source of disagreement between tenant and landlord.

A case in New York highlights this conflict. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began an investigation when he began to get complaints about a particular landlord in St. Lawrence County who rented apartments to students attending Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam.

Schneiderman said the investigation revealed a large number of complaints that the deposits were not returned, and that they were often kept in the landlord's personal account, rather than a separate interest-bearing account. In the wake of the probe, the landlord agreed to a settlement with the state that involved changes in the way he handled security deposits.

“Tenants have a right to their own hard-earned money,” Schneiderman said in a release. “Likewise, landlords have an obligation to follow the law and not treat security deposits like personal funds. Landlords who fail to uphold that obligation will be held accountable.”

Different states have different rules regarding how landlords must treat security deposits. Before signing a release, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with your state's laws in this area.

While state requirements may vary a bit, FreeAdvice.com, a legal advice website, says in general landlords must return a security deposit within a specific time after the tenant moves out. If the landlord keeps all or a portion of the deposit, the landlord must give the tenant an accounting and list the reason.

Tenants sometimes confuse the security payment with the last month's rent. That's not what it is. You can't simply skip the last month's rent, assuming the deposit will cover it. It won't.

Unless the landlord has specifically collected the last month's rent, in addition to the security deposit at the beginning of the lease, you'll have to make the final rent payment and then wait for the return of your deposit.

The best way to make sure you get your deposit back is to leave the property in as good a condition as you found it. Every state allows landlords to charge for damage that is beyond normal wear and tear.

It is always a good idea to create a photographic record of the property before you move it. At the very least, you should do so once you have moved out.

If the landlord refuses to return your deposit for an unfair reason, or does not abide by the time period specified in the law, you have legal recourse.

Legal website Nolo.com has this resource, including advice on how to take your landlord to small claims court.

It may sometimes seem that telemarketers are using the Do Not Call Registry as a phone book. While it may not be quite that bad, the fact is that robocalls...

It may sometimes seem that telemarketers are using the Do Not Call Registry as a phone book. While it may not be quite that bad, the fact is that robocalls are so cheap to make -- less than one cent each -- that telemarketers just can't help themselves.

Thus it was that an Orlando company, Lilly Management and Marketing, felt compelled to call more than 100,000 consumers for each of the vacation packages it was hawking, even though many of them were on the Do Not Call list, drawing the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.

“We've halted this intrusive and troubling unlawful robocalling campaign and deprived defendants of the full revenues they obtained,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC’s complaint charges Lilly and its owner, Kevin W. Lawrence, with making millions of illegal robocalls to sell deals offered by a number of vacation package companies. Many of those called were not only on the Do Not Call Registry but had specifically asked Lilly not to call them again, the complaint alleges.

Operating under the name “USA Vacation Station,” Lilly allegedly bought lists of consumers’ telephone numbers, then cranked up its autodialers to begin bombarding those consumers with prerecorded pitches.

If a consumer picked up, listened to the pitch, and pressed “one,” they were transferred to a sales agent who tried to sell them a “magical Walt Disney World area holiday special” for which they “had been selected.”

Under a proposed civil penalty, the defendants would agree to a $1.2 million penalty but would only have to pay $19,000 because they claim not to be able to pay the full amount.

Chicken is America's favorite -- or at least most eaten -- meat but many consumer and animal welfare advocates say the modern chicken has become a monstros...

Trying to find the lowest car insurance premium can be a time-consuming task. There are online sites that claim to offer unbiased information but many are...

Trying to find the lowest car insurance premium can be a time-consuming task. There are online sites that claim to offer unbiased information but many are really advertising in disguise and may mislead you.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is offering what he sees as a partial solution to the problem. It's an online rate comparison tool that lists average premium rates from local and national insurers.

Consumers can find the companies with the lowest premiums in their area and then contact the companies directly for an actual quote.

“Consumers know the insurers that advertise on television and radio, but they may not know about the companies that serve their neighborhood and may offer a lower price,” said Jones. “The auto rate price comparison tool shows consumers all the insurers that write policies in the area and the average premium prices. Consumers can identify the lowest prices and contact the company for a quote. Often, it pays to shop around.”

Jones notes that premiums can vary from one insurer to the next and rates are affected by a number of factors, including the number of miles driven annually, whether the driver has been in any at-fault accidents, and the driver’s experience behind the wheel. The comparison tool helps consumers see the range in prices, based on factors that are specific to them.

The differences can be significant. Jones quotes the example of a Santa Monica-area married couple shopping for standard insurance. They could find premiums ranging from $2,762 to $10,036 annually -- a price difference of more than $7,200.

Of course, the premium is only part of the picture. No one wants insurance that doesn't pay or that is quick to cancel a policyholder for minor accidents or driving infractions. So, perhaps taking a page from review sites like this one, Jones' tool includes complaints collected by his agency for each company over the past three years.

Obviously, the tool is only valid for California but it's worth looking at, no matter where you live, just to drive home how widely premiums can vary. While it may be a lot of trouble to shop for the best rate, it may well be worth it if you can save several thousand dollars per year.

The bond between humans and their pets is special and often quite strong. Dogs and cats are like members of the family -- which is why losing one can bring...

The bond between humans and their pets is special and often quite strong. Dogs and cats are like members of the family -- which is why losing one can bring such immense grief and stress.

To honor this difficult time, some companies have begun offering their employees paid time off for pet bereavement.

It doesn’t fall under the genre of “vacation” or “sick” day, and pet bereavement days aren’t required under any federal or state law. But several companies -- including VM Ware, Maxwell Health, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, and pet insurance firm Trupanion -- compassionately choose to offer their employees time off to grieve the loss of their pet.

“We allow people to actually do that grieving process and just be able to heal,” said Dani Kahn, coordinator at Trupanion. “I think you need closure when you lose a pet, and it’s important to have the time to do that.”

Studies show that, emotionally, the loss of a pet gets processed the same as the loss of a close friend or family member. After the initial shock, there are four painful stages of grief to wade through before reaching the “acceptance” stage.  

When a person or employer devalues the loss of a pet (for instance, in saying that it’s, “just a dog” or “just a cat”), experts say it can hinder the grieving process.

Pet loss counselor Janet Zimmerman believes it’s critical for pet owners to take time off following the loss of a pet.

"It's really very, very difficult to function, and if you can't function, you certainly can't function at work, and you're really not the person you were before,” Zimmerman told CBS News Miami. “You need the time to get back to some sense of normality.”

Software companies VM Ware and Maxwell Health offer flexible days off to their employees following the loss of a pet. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants allow managers to grant their employees up to three days off from work, and Trupanion offers one paid pet bereavement day.

While some say this should be the norm for businesses, others wonder if pet bereavement days have the potential for misuse. What happens, for instance, if an employee is dealing with the death of a fish?

Easter has long been a favorite holiday for consumers – in many ways, it can be the definitive marker for the arrival of Spring, and children are always ex...

Easter has long been a favorite holiday for consumers – in many ways, it can be the definitive marker for the arrival of Spring, and children are always excited to see what the Easter bunny has brought them. This year, it seems that our lapine friend will really be loading up his basket.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that consumer spending on Easter will be greater than ever this year. According to the group's Easter Spending Survey, it calculates that each person celebrating the holiday will spend an average of $146 dollars, for a grand total of $17.3 billion – the most spent in the 13 years since the annual survey began.

This year’s estimate is up dramatically from last year’s numbers, when consumers spent $16.4 billion on the holiday. Part of the reason may be that “Easter shopping” may include more general items that people want for the Spring.

“Retailers are beginning one of their busiest times of year and are more than ready as consumers shop for spring essentials. . . Shoppers will find promotions on a number of items on their lists, from Easter baskets to sports equipment, home goods, garden tools and more,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the NRF.

When spending was broken down, the survey predicted that consumers will spend $5.5 billion on food, $3 billion on clothing, $2.7 billion on gifts, $2.4 billion on candy, and $1.2 billion on flowers. As for where shoppers will go to find their products, 58.4% said they would go to a discount store, 41.4% will visit department stores, and 24.7% will head for local, small businesses.

A good number of shoppers (21.4%) will forego going out to shop altogether and will purchase items online. A slightly higher number of people (22.8%) will use their smartphone to research products, with 14.9% going a step further and completing a purchase on their handheld device.

Activities for the holiday are varied, but many of the old staples remain popular – 57.8% say they will visit with family and friends, 51.3% will go to church, and 15.6% will go out to a restaurant to eat. Many children will be getting in on the festivities as well, with 31.4% expected to participate in an Easter egg hunt and 13.9% predicted to open gifts. 

Wednesday's release of new home construction data showed a sharp rise in homebuilding activity, but it might not be enough to meet demand.A survey by t...

Wednesday's release of new home construction data showed a sharp rise in homebuilding activity, but it might not be enough to meet demand.

A survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows strong preference among consumers for single-family homes in the suburbs, but those homes are getting hard to find.

For the last year there has been a decline in inventories of existing homes for sale. For far longer, new homes – especially those with entry level prices – have been even harder to find.

The NAR survey data reveals that 85% of current homeowners and 75% of renters would prefer to buy a single-family home. And they aren't looking for homes in the city. Only 15% of homeowners and 21% of renters would choose to by a home in an urban area.

The NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, says the current imbalance between supply and demand has caused prices to rapidly escalate in several of the “hot” markets in the U.S. There's plenty of demand, Yun says, but not enough supply. He says homebuilders need to start turning out more single-family homes.

But another housing economist, Jonathan Smoke, of Realtor.com, sees trouble in this week's report on housing starts.

“It is somewhat concerning that the pace of starts is now greater than the pace of permits,” Smoke said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “This could be a one-month anomaly given the tendency of the starts data to be revised, but if the pattern holds, it would signal slower growth ahead in construction activity. That is not what the market needs to address the undersupply of both for sale and for rent units on the market.”

New home construction slowed almost to a standstill in the wake of the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market. When it resumed, builders tended to concentrate on more expensive homes because entry level houses are less profitable.

The lack of new homes, coupled with fewer homeowners putting their houses on the market, has created a shortage in some markets, and bidding wars by potential buyers. Yun worries it could eventually hurt the housing market.

“A high number of homeowners are expressing that it’s a good time to buy and this sentiment is no doubt being fueled by the $4.4 trillion in housing equity accumulation in the past three years,” Yun said in a release. “On the other hand, accelerating home prices and the perceived difficulty in obtaining a mortgage appears to be tugging at the confidence of renters.”

Nearly everyone pursues love with high hopes and stars in their eyes. But when a relationship ends, there can be a range of negative emotions – anger, sorr...

Nearly everyone pursues love with high hopes and stars in their eyes. But when a relationship ends, there can be a range of negative emotions – anger, sorrow, and regret.

That's why many personal finance experts advise quickly severing financial ties when emotional ones crash and burn.

The personal finance site Creditcards.com warns that an angry ex-partner can quickly cause a lot of financial damage if the two of you share a credit card account.

It interviewed a New York CPA who recounts some financial horror stories in the wake of a bad break-up. There is apparently something called “revenge spending,” where the dumped partner takes the credit card on a shopping spree, with the sole purpose of running up a huge bill.

If your ex is an authorized user on any of your credit cards, contact the issuer and have him or her removed as quickly as possible. If possible, avoid cancelling the card, since closing a credit account will ding your credit score

British media reported a few years back on the case of a man who exacted revenge on his estranged wife by running up a huge tab on her credit card. Strangely, he had already established a new relationship with a girlfriend, who apparently became his willing accomplice.

The man was said to be angry that his wife was vacationing with her boyfriend, and charged several thousand dollars to her card while she was away.

One way to minimize this threat is to avoid anger and emotion in the split. Also, if the partner who is leaving has been the main financial contributor, making it clear up front that some support will be provided may make it less likely that the other partner will ty to use the joint credit card as a weapon.

If it is a marriage that is ending, the courts will be involved. Still, it is important to defuse anger and a thirst for vengeance in the time before the case gets to a judge. There's a good chance both spouses will be on the hook for any revenge spending once the lawyers get involved.

By the way, a divorce is going to adversely affect both parties' credit. That's because joint credit accounts will be closed, resulting in a lowering of both credit scores.

There were 5.5 million job openings in January, a gain of 260,000 from the month before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).Hires, on th...

SRAM LLC of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 57,000 Zipp 88 aluminum front hubs in the U.S and Canada. The hub flanges on the front hubs can fail,...

SRAM LLC of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 57,000 Zipp 88 aluminum front hubs in the U.S and Canada.

The company has received one report in the U.S. of hub flange failure that could have led to wheel collapse. No injuries have been reported in the U.S.

This recall includes SRAM’s Zipp bicycle wheel hubs, models ZIPP 88v6, 88v7 and 88v8. The Z logo is printed on the hub. The wheel hubs come in black, silver and falcon grey. The diameter of the clinch nut is approximately 1.46 inches.

Some of the hubs were sold as part of wheel sets installed on new bicycles. SRAM will post a list of affected bicycle brands and models on its website at www.sram.com.

The hubs, manufactured in the U.S. and Spain, were sold at speciality bicycle stores nationwide from May 2010, through January 2015. The front hubs sold for about $215. Complete front wheels with the hubs sold for between $1,035 and $1,325. The front wheel was also sold as a wheel set with a rear wheel for between $2,300 and $2,950.

Consumers should immediately stop using bicycles equipped with the recalled front hubs and contact SRAM or local bicycle dealer for a free replacement hub.

Consumers may contact SRAM at 800-346-2928 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday, or visit www.sram.com or www.zipp.com and click on “Recall Notice” for more information.  

Ashland Food Co-op (AFC) of Ashland, Ore., is recalling organic raw macadamia nuts that may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been...

Ashland Food Co-op (AFC) of Ashland, Ore., is recalling organic raw macadamia nuts that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it but return it to AFC for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 541-482-2237 between 8:30am and 4:30am (PST), Monday thru Friday.

SRAM LLC, of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 6,400 Zipp bicycle quick releases. The quick releases can fail to engage in the closed position, pos...

The quick releases can fail to engage in the closed position, posing crash and injury hazards to the rider.

The firm has received three incident reports of the quick release failing. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves SRAM’s Zipp stainless steel or titanium quick releases. They were sold as aftermarket components or as part of the 202 DB V2, 303 DB V2, 404 Firestrike V2, 202 Firecrest V3, 303 Firecrest V3, 404 Firecrest V3, 808 Firecrest V3 or 808 NSW wheel sets.

The quick release has a curved, black lever. Zipp appears on the lever. Only quick releases without a marking at the center of the underside of the lever, below the Zipp logo are included on this recall.

The quick releases, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at specialty bicycle stores nationwide from March 2015, through December 2015, for about $47 for the stainless steel quick release and about $84 for the titanium quick release. Wheel sets equipped with the quick releases were sold for between $1,000 and $3,600.

Consumers should immediately stop using any bicycles equipped with the recalled quick releases and contact SRAM or their local bicycle dealer for a free replacement quick release.

Consumers may contact SRAM at 800-346-2928 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) on Fridays, or visit www.sram.com or www.zipp.com and click on Recall Notice for more information.

Opioid use in the U.S. has ballooned out of control in recent years, leading to increased numbers of overdoses and a general dependence on pain killers tha...

Opioid use in the U.S. has ballooned out of control in recent years, leading to increased numbers of overdoses and a general dependence on pain killers that is unhealthy. In order to curb this negative behavior, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has entered a plea aimed at healthcare professionals in the form of new guidelines.

The guidelines ask doctors to limit prescribing painkillers, which have proven to be very addictive and dangerous to many consumers. They lays out recommendations for doctors that will hopefully bring about “a culture shift for patients and doctors,” according to Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.

This action by the CDC comes as a relief to many who believe that the problem has grown out of control in recent years. “For the first time, the federal government is communicating clearly that the widespread practice of prescribing opioids for chronic pain is inappropriate, that the risks outweigh the benefits,” said Andrew Kolodny, executive director of the nonprofit group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescirbing.

However, the CDC is not the only agency attempting to change the current culture on opioids. As reported by the Washington Post, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun combing over its policies on opioid medication, legislation has been passed by the Senate to expand treatment for drug abuse and encourage prevention programs, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is cracking down on physicians who aren’t prescribing medications correctly.

Senatorial support for change has also come to the forefront lately. Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has come out as a staunch backer for reform and the new CDC guidelines. “I have pushed for the release of these guidelines because I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse on individuals, families, and communities,” he said.

In the end, though, the burden of change lays on doctors and healthcare providers. And, as with many things, these changes may take some time for them to get used to. Doctors point out that not too long ago, many healthcare professionals were criticized for undertreating pain. Add in the enormous sums of money paid by drug companies to push their drugs and you may have a recipe for our current state of affairs.

Other factors play a part too, of course. Many doctors prescribe medication for pain simply because they are trying to avoid low satisfaction scores from patients. Advances in understanding opioids and addiction may have also passed many doctors by.

“When I went to medical school I had exactly one lecture on pain, and the lecture said if you give an opioid to a patient in pain, they will not get addicted. . . Completely wrong, and yet a generation of doctors grew up being taught that,” said Dr. Frieden.

Solutions for helping doctors get up to speed may include refresher training on opioid use and the effects it can have. The CDC also recommends that doctors be vigilant in monitoring how effective a drug they prescribe is. They should also check if there is a danger to the patient taking it and determine if the drug is being abused or causing addiction.

Recent outbreaks of Salmonella, norovirus, and E. coli have plagued Chipotle Mexican Grill. Back in November, an E. coli outbreak in two states was linked ...

iRobot’s fleet of sweeping and mopping bots recently acquired a new member: the Braava Jet mopping robot. It may be the smallest player on the iRobot autom...

While it has seen its share of controversy in the past, stem cell research has proven to be one of the most promising areas of study in the scientific comm...

While it has seen its share of controversy in the past, stem cell research has proven to be one of the most promising areas of study in the scientific community. However, up to this point, the process of gathering enough stem cells from donors has been invasive and can lead to some nasty side effects.

But researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia have found a new way to harvest stem cells that might change that. The premise is that, instead of working with the growth factors that are currently being used, scientists can utilize a molecule that is able to better mobilize stem cells so that they can be extracted safely, quickly, and without side effects.

Dr. Susie Nilsson and her team at CSIRO explain how current methods are not optimal and make many potential candidates hesitant to donate stem cells. The process involves injecting a growth factor into a donor for several days, after which the stem cells are able to be harvested. Unfortunately, this process, in addition to being time consuming, can cause side effects that include bone pain and spleen enlargement, according to Nilsson. But even if the side effects don’t proliferate, some donors are never able to produce the amount of stem cells needed, making the whole process pointless.

The new process would eliminate many of these problems by using a newly discovered molecule known as BOP. Researchers found that when they combined BOP with another molecule, called AMD3100, the stem cells were able to mobilize much more quickly. Nilsson explains that “a procedure that once took days can be reduced to around an hour.”

Additionally, since the previous injections don’t need to be used, the harmful side effects would no longer be an issue. This could greatly increase the confidence of potential candidates so that more donors are willing to go through the process.

The next step for researchers will be to conduct a phase 1 clinical trial using the BOP molecule. They will first be testing it in tandem with the growth factor that is currently being used before moving on to using it with AMD3100.

The tests have given researchers and scientists hope that their discovery can be worthwhile and help people. “We’re looking forward to seeing patients benefit from this discovery,” said Professor Peter Currie, director of Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).

There's a lot to consider before deciding on a refrigerator. French door or top freezer? Stainless or white? Is it large enough to store a Thanksgiving tur...

Since the financial crisis, brought on by the collapse of the housing market, getting a mortgage has been a frustrating process, even for many creditworthy...

Colleges are full of smart people. But when it comes to managing debt, there appears to be a huge knowledge gap at our institutions of higher learning....

Colleges are full of smart people. But when it comes to managing debt, there appears to be a huge knowledge gap at our institutions of higher learning.

A couple of months ago a student loan site, LendEdu.com, visited a few California colleges and asked students a series of general questions about student debt.

“The results of the survey were equal parts surprising and disturbing,” the group said in an email to ConsumerAffairs.

So this month the survey team went back to the same campuses and asked a series of questions relating to credit, how to build it, and how it's measured with credit scores. The team talked to a wide range of students, both undergraduates and those pursuing graduate degrees.

The organization says the results might not be all that surprising, in light of the fact that only 17 states require high school students to take even one course in personal finance. California is not one of those states.

“Our results are once again startling, disturbing, and showcase the appalling level of financial illiteracy among our country’s brightest minds,” the authors conclude.

Financial literacy isn't hard or complicated, and there are a number of free resources to help you learn the basics.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers what it calls 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. It's designed to help people understand their personal finances through every stage of life.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards provides a financial planning resource kit to help consumers learn the basics of financial planning.

PracticalMoneySkills.com offers these free resources, some of which can be downloaded, to help teach financial literacy skills.

One way to gauge consumers' financial health is to look at their credit payments. If they pay on time, they're generally doing well. If they are in default...

One way to gauge consumers' financial health is to look at their credit payments. If they pay on time, they're generally doing well. If they are in default, that's something to worry about.

The latest S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices, measuring changes in consumer credit defaults, shows the consumer is relatively stable. The credit card default rate is nearly flat from the previous month. So was the mortgage default rate.

Another recent consumer concern has been auto loans. New car prices are at record highs, and the average new car loan is for more than $29,000. Even so, the consumer default rate for auto loans held steady in February – both from the month before and from February 2015.

Three major cities saw significant improvement in creditworthiness. Consumers in Miami had a default rate of 1.07%, down 10 basis points from January. Dallas and New York also reported similar improvements.

David Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says the numbers confirm an increasingly positive view of the consumer economy.

"Other positive indicators of the consumer economy include continued strong auto sales and rising home prices,” Blitzer said in a statement. “Measures of consumer confidence and sentiment remain at high levels after slipping a bit in January and February.”

Meanwhile consumers continue to expand their use of credit – which may or may not be a healthy sign. The key is whether they can repay it. The default data suggests that at least so far, they can.

Blitzer credits low and falling gasoline prices for giving consumers a little breathing room and some extra spending money. Economists had expected the sharp decline in gasoline prices over the last 18 months to ignite the economy, something that did not happen.

Increasingly though, it's becoming apparent that the role low fuel prices have played is simply to keep things from getting worse. The U.S. is at least recording some modest growth. Much of the rest of the world is sliding into recession.

Low fuel prices might not be sending consumers on a shopping spree, but they may be helping consumers pay their bills each month.

Debt can be a sensitive subject. There are those who firmly believe there is no such thing as “good” debt, while others look at it sort of like fire – it c...

Debt can be a sensitive subject. There are those who firmly believe there is no such thing as “good” debt, while others look at it sort of like fire – it can be a useful thing as long as it's properly controlled.

So the personal finance website Credit.com this week asked the provocative question, “is there such a thing as good debt?” Answering its own question, it lays out five questions that must first be answered in the affirmative before debt can be classified as “good.”

First, a potential borrower should ask if going into debt is the best way to get something. If so, the borrower should determine whether the monthly payments are affordable.

Next, a borrower should look in the credit mirror to determine what his or her credit picture looks like. If it's bad, it means either being rejected for the loan or being saddled with an expensive subprime loan.

Now, ask how the payment will fit into a monthly budget. Will it end up taking away from grocery money, or a child's music lessons?

Finally, ask if you are borrowing money from a reputable lender. That's important for avoiding unfair terms and burdensome fees.

Debt, by its very nature, is inflationary. It makes something that is very expensive obtainable now, but does so at a cost.

Debt allows you to spend money you will earn in the future to purchase something now. Unfortunately, consumers sometimes lose sight of the paying-back part. But debt takes money from the future to pay for something today, meaning you won't have as much money in the future.

That's why it is never a good idea to go to a payday lender for $200 to meet an immediate need. In the case of a payday loan, the $200 has to be paid back in two weeks.

Where will that $200 come from? You don't have it now – which is why you are at the payday loan store. What makes you think you'll magically have the money to repay the loan in two weeks?

Nearly everyone borrows money if they buy a home. Here, you could make a strong case for “good” debt, as long as it makes more sense to buy than rent and you get a fixed rate, low interest loan. After all, you will pay something each month for putting a roof over your head, whether its is rent or a mortgage payment. In many instances a monthly mortgage rate is less than rent.

There is a bit more debate about going into debt to buy a car. After all, a car is a depreciating asset, meaning it is worth less the longer you own it. The danger is not putting enough money down and financing the vehicle over too long a term. At some point, a consumer could owe more than the vehicle is worth.

Besides the five questions Credit.com asks, here's one more. Does the thing I am financing have lasting value? That question can apply to a college education or remodeling a kitchen.

It's important because you are paying for something with money you'll earn in the future. Only, you won't be able to spend it on future needs because you'll be spending it to pay down your debt.

After tumbling in January, the pace of new home constructions stepped it up last month.A joint announcement from the Census Bureau and the Department o...

A joint announcement from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows ground was broken for construction of privately-owned homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,178,000. That's a gain of 5.2% from January, and 30.9% above the year-ago rate of 900,000.

At the same time, the government revised its January figure upward to show an annual construction rate of 1,120,000 instead of the earlier estimate of 1,099,000.

Starts on single-family homes rose 7.2% from January to a rate of 822,000 -- the highest level since November 2007. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 341,000, up 8,000 from the previous month.

"February's single-family gains indicate that this sector is strengthening in line with our forecast," said David Crowe chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. "As the U.S. economy firms, job creation continues and mortgage interest rates remain low, we should see further growth in housing production moving forward."

Building permits, on the other hand, were on the decline. Authorizations for construction in the months ahead fell 3.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,167,000. Still, that's 6.3% above the February 2015.

Permits for single-family homes were up 4.1%, but multi-unit authorizations were at a rate of 401,000 -- a drop of 41,000.

The Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) dipped a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in February, thanks in large part to falling energy costs. Dur...

Mortgage applications fell last week for the third time in four weeks, with applications for refinancing continuing their decline.The Mortgage Bankers ...

Mortgage applications fell last week for the third time in four weeks, with applications for refinancing continuing their decline.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports applications overall were down 3.3% in the week ending March 11, 2016.

The Refinance Index plunged 6%, pushing the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 55.0% of total applications from 56.7% the previous week -- the lowest level since August 2015. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity dropped to 4.9% of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications dipped to 11.7% from 12.0% the week before, the VA share was 12.3%, and the USDA share of total applications was unchanged at 0.8 percent%.

Texas Star Nut & Food Company is expanding its previous recall of pistachios. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella. The expande...

The recalled products were sold through retailers nationwide between August 13, 2015, and February 24, 2016.

Customers who purchased any of the recalled products should discontinue consuming them and return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

Google is determined to get its self-driving cars on the road and doesn't want any roadblocks being erected by the states, so today it will ask Congress to...

Google is determined to get its self-driving cars on the road and doesn't want any roadblocks being erected by the states, so today it will ask Congress to give federal regulators the authority to override state wishes, billing it as a safety measure.

"We propose that Congress move swiftly to provide the secretary of transportation with new authority to approve lifesaving safety innovations," says Google self-driving czar Chris Urmson in remarks prepared for testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee.

"This new authority would permit the deployment of innovative safety technologies that meet or exceed the level of safety required by existing federal standards, while ensuring a prompt and transparent process," Urmson argues.

“Rushing new technology to the roads will leave safety by the wayside and put drivers at risk. Federal regulators have a process for writing rules to keep the public safe, and Congress shouldn’t skirt those rules just because tech industry giants like Google ask them to. Speed is not a friend to safety,” said John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit advocacy group based in Santa Monica, Calif.

In fact, it's California that is currently tying up Google's plans. The state DMV wants a licensed driver at the wheel of every autonomous vehicle, ready and able to take control if there's a misfunction.

California-based Google and other companies racing to get their autonomous autos on the street say they can't be bothered dealing with individual rules in each state, even though carmakers for decades have installed tougher emissions control equipment in California cars to comply with the state's tougher clean air laws.

Consumer Watchdog said that Google’s own test results demonstrate the need for a driver who can intervene.  A required report filed with the DMV showed the self-driving robot car technology failed 341 times during the reporting period.  The self-driving technology could not cope and turned over control 272 times, while the test driver felt compelled to intervene 69 times.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in January that it might be willing to waive some vehicle safety rules to mollify the driverless car lobby but has since conceded that there are serious legal issues in allowing cars without streering wheels or other control devices.

The NHTSA is in the process of writing rules for driverless cars and has said it will be done in six months. The agency is not exactly famous for meeting deadlines, however, and there is some skepticism that it will accomplish much between now and autumn.

It's not helping matters that the latest scrape involving a self-driving car occurred Feb. 14 when a Google car and a bus rubbed shoulders. There were no injuries and only minor damage, but the timing was unfortunate.

“Given the current state of robot car technology, it’s clear that there should be a driver behind a steering wheel and brake pedal capable of taking control when necessary,” said Consumer Watchdog's Simpson.

Consumer Watchdog and several other groups are calling on the Department of Transportation to hold public -- not secret, closed-door --  meetings to discuss the NHTSA's forthcoming rules and to take testimony from citizens and organizations.

The organizations, including Consumers Union, the Center for Auto Safety, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, and former NHTSA Administrator and Public Citizen President Emeritus Joan Claybrook made the request in a recent letter to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.  

None other than David Strickland has been speaking out lately on Google's behalf. He was the chief NHTSA administrator at the time of the notorious secret O'Hare Airport meeting that resulted in the much-reviled deal involving fire-prone Jeep Cherokees. He and Ray LaHood, former Transportation Secretary, both resigned shortly after the deal and are now laboring in the vineyards of the Washington influence, lobbying, and "public affairs" business.

Of course, federal officials can't go to work as lobbyists immediately after leaving the public payroll so Strickland's current job description is attorney at the law firm Venable, a venerable player in the D.C. influence field. 

In recent remarks, Strickland has described the self-driving car debate not as a safety matter but as a "speed issue," eerily echoing Simpson's remarks but inverting their meaning. 

"Without clarity from Congress, self-driving cars may still find a place on U.S. roads, but "it will just take a really, really long time," Strickland said, Politico reported.

Airbnb is popular with renters and property owners but not so popular with neighbors, who say the short-term rentals are turning their apartment and condo ...

Popular, national retailer Lord & Taylor has agreed to settle a complaint made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it did not disclose that it paid...

Popular, national retailer Lord & Taylor has agreed to settle a complaint made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it did not disclose that it paid for endorsements and an online article in Nylon, a pop-culture and fashion magazine. The agency stated that these advertisements, which included 50 Instagram posts from fashion “influencers,” took advantage of consumers for the company's own profit.

“Lord & Taylor needs to be straight with consumers in its online marketing campaigns. . . Consumers have the right to know when they are looking at paid advertising,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

In a prepared statement, Lord & Taylor said any deception was unintentional: "Lord & Taylor is deeply committed to our customers and we never sought to deceive them in any way, nor would we ever."

Much of the controversy surrounding the paid advertisements centered on a paisley dress (shown to the right). In March of 2015, Lord & Taylor began promoting its Design Lab rollout, which included said dress. After giving the dress to 50 “select fashion influencers,” the company paid them between $1,000 and $4,000 to create posts on Instagram and other social media sites showing it off.

The influencers could wear the dress according to their own style in their individual picture, but they had to include the “@lordandtaylor” user designation and the hashtag “#DesignLab” in their post.

The FTC took umbrage with this because the influencers were not required to disclose that they were being paid for their posts. This led many consumers to believe that the dress was a hot commodity. In little more than two days, the posts had reached well over 11 million Instagram users, Lord & Taylor’s Instagram handle was engaged 328,000 times, and the dress was completely sold out.

The deceptive marketing strategy was used in the company’s editorial piece in Nylon. While many consumers assumed that the article was an objective piece written by the magazine’s staff, it was actually paid for and edited by Lord & Taylor without any kind of disclosure.

Lord & Taylor said it took immediate action to resolve the issues and "cooperated fully with the FTC's inquiry into the marketing of this dress and have of course agreed to uphold the current version of the guidelines." 

"The FTC has changed its guidelines since last year and we applaud the new guidelines that clarify the rules," the company said. "Further, we encourage the FTC to continue to update and communicate their guidelines clearly and swiftly as the digital and social media landscape rapidly evolves. We remain dedicated to our core values of transparency and honesty in everything that we do for our customers."

The settlement that has been proposed by the FTC stipulates that Lord & Taylor will no longer misrepresent paid advertising that comes from independent or objective sources. Any individual who is paid for endorsing a product must also disclose that information in the future so that they are not billed as an objective source.

The FTC has also required the company to create a monitoring and review program for its endorsement campaigns. The agency says that this system is responsible for “monitoring and reviewing its endorsers’ print, radio, television, online, or digital advertisements or communications made as part of an Influencer Campaign.”

The desire to give your first born a buddy to play with might factor into your decision to have another baby. But research shows there is another benefit t...

The desire to give your first born a buddy to play with might factor into your decision to have another baby. But research shows there is another benefit to giving your child a younger sibling.

Children who become a big brother or sister before first grade may see a lower chance of becoming obese, according to a study led by the University of Michigan.

The study -- set to appear in the April issue of Pediatrics -- discovered a link between the birth of a sibling and a healthier BMI by first grade. This was especially true when the newly crowned big brother or sister was between the ages of two and four at the time of their sibling’s arrival.

According to senior author Julie Lumeng, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, this study is the first to track increases in BMI following the arrival of a baby brother or sister.

The research, she explains, suggests that younger siblings -- compared with older or no siblings -- play a role in lowering a child's risk of being overweight. As to why this association might be, the authors believe changes in eating habits and activity levels could be to thank.

After a new sibling is born, parents might change the way they feed their child. The timing of this change -- around age three, when children are developing long-lasting eating habits -- might alter the way they eat for years to come.

The presence of a busy little brother or sister might also translate to less screen time for older siblings. (After all, who needs Dora when there’s an exciting new buddy in the house?) The researchers say this increase in “active play” could also help define the association between younger siblings and a healthier BMI.

While further study is needed to examine the effect of having a sibling on mealtime behaviors and physical activity, Lumeng says studies like these can help increase our understanding of how to fight childhood obesity.

“If the birth of a sibling changes behaviors within a family in ways that protect against obesity, these may be patterns other families can try to create in their own homes,” said Lumeng, adding that understanding such associations can help families and doctors create new strategies for helping children grow up healthy.

For the last decade or so, honeybees have been disappearing at an alarming rate. There's a name for it – colony collapse disorder (CCD).There have been...

For the last decade or so, honeybees have been disappearing at an alarming rate. There's a name for it – colony collapse disorder (CCD).

There have been a number of theories as to why this is happening, including the proliferation of cellular powers. Increasingly, however, suspicion is focusing on one answer to the mystery – pesticides.

Researchers in Europe have provided the latest evidence. Their findings, published in the Journal of Chromatography A, found dead honeybees they examined had traces of 57 different pesticides.

"Bee health is a matter of public concern -- bees are considered critically important for the environment and agriculture by pollinating more than 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe," Tomasz Kiljanek, lead author of the study, said in a release.

The problem is also of great concern in the U.S. Agriculture officials worry that CCD, should it continue unabated, could put food production at risk.

While previous research has suggested pesticides might be what is killing off the bee population, the question has been, which pesticide. This latest study, from the National Veterinary Research Institute in Poland, suggests it's not just one pesticide, but a combination of many.

And with many pesticides now in use, scientists are left with the difficult task of finding which ones are proving lethal to the bees. They also have to take into consideration the possibility that certain combinations of pesticides, or prolonged exposure, could be doing the damage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that to date, there has been no scientific cause of CCD that has been conclusively proven. While pesticides may be a prime suspect, since the 1980s bees have been under attack from new pathogens, from deformed wing virus to nosema fungi.

“CCD may even be a result of a combination of two or more of these factors and not necessarily the same factors in the same order in every instance,” the USDA concluded.

The nature of CCD is extremely odd. Not all of the bees die. The majority of the worker bees simply disappear, leaving behind the queen and immature bees. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports observed cases of CCD have actually declined over the last five years.

If pesticides are indeed behind CCD, it has yet to be explained why it only affects the worker bees and is not continuing to claim increasing numbers of victims.

A Virginia man who operated call centers in Costa Rica has been sentenced to nine years in prison for his part in a sweepstakes scam that defrauded elderly...

A Virginia man who operated call centers in Costa Rica has been sentenced to nine years in prison for his part in a sweepstakes scam that defrauded elderly Americans of nearly $2 million.

Geoffrey Ramer, 36, of Falls Church, Va., was ordered to pay $2.8 million in restitution to victims of the scam and to forfeit an additional $1.8 million. He had earlier entered guilty pleas to charges including wire fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors said that from 2008 through 2013, Ramer's Costa Rica call centers called U.S. residents and falsely informed them they had won a large cash prize in a sweepstakes.

To collect their supposed winnings, the victims were told to send money to Costa Rica for an "insurance policy." Those who fell for the scheme would then get a second call telling them the amount of their prize had been increased and they needed to send more money for a large insurance policy.

The calls would continue until the victims either went broke or wised up to the scheme, prosecutors said.

Ramer admitted using an Internet-based phone system that displayed a Washington, D.C. area and said his employees sometimes falsely claimed to be calling on behalf of a federal agency.  

The victims never received any sweepstakes winnings and were unsuccessful in attempts to get their "insurance" money back.

Ramer was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. of the Western District of North Carolina.

Have we really come as far as we think we have in combating traditional gender stereotypes over the years? As it turns out, maybe not. Women and men ha...

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is purchasing  Honest Dollar, which operates retirement plans for employees of small companies that don't have an employer-sp...

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is purchasing  Honest Dollar, which operates retirement plans for employees of small companies that don't have an employer-sponsored retirement savings program.

The deal sheds some light on a small company that doesn't get much attention, but which may hold the potential to help solve a pressing need – encourage more workers to put money away for retirement. Currently, an estimated 45 million Americans don't have access to a retirement savings plan at work.

Honest Dollar is a web and mobile platform offering retirement plans for employees who work at small-and medium-sized businesses. There are also plans for people who are self-employed or who work as independent contractors. The system uses currently available individual retirement account (IRA)-based savings programs.

In a statement, Timothy J. O’Neill and Eric S. Lane, co-heads of the Investment Management Division at Goldman Sachs, said Honest Dollar has created a simple solution to a complex retirement savings problem.

“Together, we have the potential to help millions of people achieve their investing goals,” they said.

Goldman Sachs believes the Honest Dollar approach also has potential to change the retirement investment landscape. Signing up is easy. Both employers and employees can do it online in less than two minutes.

The company offers two savings plans. The Basic Plan allows employers to provide employees access to individual IRAs. Depending on qualifications, employees will be able to choose from either a traditional or Roth IRA.

Under The Basic Plan, employees make all the contributions to their own accounts. Employers do not contribute.

The Flexible Plan contains a few added benefits. It allows employers to define eligible employees for participation in an employer sponsored SEP IRA. Employer contributions are at the discretion of the employer, but all eligible employees must participate.

Independent contractors and self-employed can also set up retirement accounts using Honest Dollar. Depending on how you qualify, you may be able to use either a Roth IRA or SEP (self-employed pension) IRA. Naturally, you'll be responsible for making all your contributions.

Employers pay $10 per month per employee to provide access to a retirement account. Employees pay nothing, except when they withdraw funds or close their accounts.

The business environment today is hyper competitive. There are lots of businesses selling things and only so many consumers buying them.The fact that t...

The business environment today is hyper competitive. There are lots of businesses selling things and only so many consumers buying them.

The fact that those consumers haven't gotten raises in quite a while means the competition to reach them is even greater.

When CreditCards.com recently surveyed consumers, it found that 89% of them who asked their credit card company to waive a late fee had their request granted. Even more amazing, 78% said they were granted a lower interest rate simply because they asked for one.

You would think with that kind of success, every consumer would be asking for discounts and price breaks, but CreditCards.com says that doesn't appear to be the case. It estimates only about 20% of consumers have ever asked for a break.

“Consumers just don’t realize how much card companies want to keep them,” Bill McCracken, president of Synergistics Research Corp., said in a statement. “Issuers know ...it’s a lot more expensive to acquire a customer these days than it is to retain one, so they do what they can to keep you.”

Credit cards aren't the only category where you can ask for and get savings; senior citizens can get all sorts of discounts if they ask. Some don't ask because they aren't aware of them. Some don't ask because they don't think of themselves as a senior.

Writing for AARP's blog last year, journalist Julianne Malveaux admitted to being somewhat reluctant to ask for a senior discount, even when she would be able to save about $5 on her purchase. But she quickly got over it.

“We can ask retail establishments if they offer a senior discount, and use our AARP membership card to get discounts when we can,” she wrote. “Ten percent here, 15% there add up. Sometimes we have to ask and resist the vanity that tells us that we don’t look 60, and don’t want to act that way either.”

As we reported a couple of years ago, you can often get a much lower rate from your auto insurance company if you ask. Research has shown rates can creep up, even for good drivers, the longer you remain with one company.

When asking for anything, your chances of success are going to be better if you ask nicely. But if you are pleasant and armed with the facts, you just might get fees dropped, rates lowered, and a discount on the price.

Years ago most consumers parked spare cash in a passbook savings account at their bank, a place where money could be separated from cash needed for day to ...

Years ago most consumers parked spare cash in a passbook savings account at their bank, a place where money could be separated from cash needed for day to day expenses and, where it could earn a little interest as well.

But in an era of rock bottom interest rates and the addition of numerous bank fees, many have come to question whether it makes sense to have a savings account.

Many banks – especially the larger national ones – have scaled back their savings account options and the rates they pay. Bank of America has what it calls its basic savings account, as well as a Rewards Money Market Savings account, with higher rates and added benefits. They are fairly typical of the industry standard these days.

The basic account currently pays an interest rate of 0.01% APY. If that sounds very low, it is. If you had $1,000 in an account for one year, you'd earn almost nothing in interest.

While that's definitely on the low end, at least it's something, and safer than sticking your cash in a mattress.

These days, few consumers put money in a savings account to earn interest. Rather, it's a way to wall off the money so it doesn't get spent on other things.

With online banking, it is easy to transfer money from a checking account into savings without having to make a trip to the bank.

Bank of America, along with many other banks, also offers a “Keep the Change” program. If you opt-in, the bank will round up every debit card purchase to the next dollar, transferring small amounts of change into your savings account. It's a fairly painless way to save.

You can also use your savings account for overdraft protection. Should you overdraw your checking account, the bank can transfer money from savings to cover it.

So there are some advantages to having a savings account, even though they don't earn any interest to speak of. And while online banks, like Ally, pay a higher rate on passbook savings, it's still a far cry from the rate paid a couple of decades ago.

Of course, there are some requirements to maintain a savings account without incurring fees. For the Bank of America basic account, you must maintain a $300 minimum daily balance, or link to your Bank of America Interest Checking Account, or make combined monthly automatic transfers of $25 or more from your checking account during the preceding billing cycle.

Bank of America's Rewards Money Market Savings account pays a slightly higher interest rate – 0.03% to 0.06% – but has steeper requirements, like maintaining a $2,500 minimum daily balance. Failure to meet all the requirements results in a $12 monthly fee.

While a savings account is not going to grow your money in any real sense, it might prevent you from spending it. It's a fact that some consumers need a separate account as a way to exercise financial discipline. And if you can meet all the requirements so that monthly fees are not eating into your savings, that's a perfectly legitimate reason.

For those who can carefully track their spending and exercise tight discipline, however, a rewards checking account might be a better solution. Some banks will pay a higher interest rate – in some cases over 2% APY – on balances up to $15,000 or so.

By meeting all the requirements – usually a certain number of debit purchases each month and at least one direct deposit – consumers can avoid fees, earn interest, and sometimes receive other benefits, such as having all out of network ATM fees refunded.

Builders remained confident in March in the market for newly-built single-family homes.The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Hou...

Consumers remained sluggish in the early part of 2016.The Commerce Department reports retail sales for February were down a seasonally adjusted 0.1% fr...

The Commerce Department reports retail sales for February were down a seasonally adjusted 0.1% from the previous month at $447.3 billion.

If that's not enough bad news, the government revised its January report to show that instead of rising 0.2%, sales actually fell 0.4%.

The February decline was led by a 4,4% plunge in sales at gas stations. Also registering lower sales were miscellaneous stores (-1.1%), furniture & home furnishings stores (-0.5%), department stores (-0.4%), and grocery stores (-0.3%)

Sales gains were enjoyed by building material, garden equipment, and supplies dealers (+1.6%), porting goods, hobby, book & music stores (+1.2%), and clothing & clothing accessories stores (+0.9%).

"Without a meaningful pickup in spending," she says, "the U.S. economy will be hard pressed to maintain a stagnant 2% pace, let alone gain additional traction from here."

The cost of living on the wholesale level ticked lower last month.Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), show the Producer Price Ind...

Airline on-time arrival rates showed improvement in January on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.According to the Department of Transpor...

Airline on-time arrival rates showed improvement in January on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

According to the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report, the January on-time arrival rate was 81.3%, an improvement from both the 76.8% rate posted a year earlier and the 77.8% in December.

In even more good news, there were no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights. However, there were eight tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights. All delays are under investigation.

As far as cancellations go, carriers scratched 2.6% of their scheduled domestic flights. The year before, the rate was 2.5% and in December it was 1.7%.

The consumer report also includes information on chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays along with such issues as flight problems, baggage, reservation, and ticketing issues.

Kanan Enterprises is recalling natural in-shell pistachios. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. Favorites Natural Pistachios c...

Favorites Natural Pistachios come in a 4.5-oz. stand-up pouch bag with a UPC 0 38445 12286 5 and a date code of 15 Feb 2017 and 16 Feb 2017.

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

Consumers often search high and low for the best life insurance rate but then neglect to inform their beneficiaries about the details of their policy. The...

Consumers often search high and low for the best life insurance rate but then neglect to inform their beneficiaries about the details of their policy. The result is often that when the consumer dies, no one knows about the policy and the money goes unclaimed.

Many consumers think that life insurance companies will go to the ends of the earth to learn of policyholders' deaths and rush to pay the insured person's heirs.

But in all too many cases, that doesn't happen. In fact, more than $1 billion in unclaimed benefits are gathering dust and earning interest for insurance carriers today. A bill just passed in Florida seeks to change that, requiring companies to use available technology to scour death records and pay death benefits promptly. The bill has passed both houses of the legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. Rick Scott.

About $8 billion has already been returned to consumers nationwide after a Florida-led investigation found that many insurers had failed to pay up. Ironically, many of the companies were using death records to stop payments on annuities when the annuity holder died but were failing to use the death records to pay beneficiaries.

The sponsors of the Florida measure say many companies are still “intentionally shielding themselves” from knowledge about policyholders’ deaths.

“I am proud to stand on the right side of this consumer-friendly public policy,” said Rep. Bill Hager (R-Delray Beach), who sponsored the bill in the Florida House, according to a Palm Beach Post report.

Florida Insurance Commission Kevin McCarty said the bill will require all companies to get their records up to date and keep them that way. 

"By searching all their records, both going forward and then retroactively to 1992 against the United States Social Security Death Master File, life insurance companies would have to make a reasonable effort to investigate a claim when they have actual knowledge of a life insurance policyholders death and either return those monies to the beneficiary or report and remit it to the [state] unclaimed property unit, who will forever have these funds available for the owners to collect," McCarty said in a prepared statement.

On the most basic level, you should be sure to tell your family members where they can find your insurance policy. It should be kept in a safe place but not in a safety deposit box, which may be sealed by the court pending probate.

If you think you may be due the proceeds of a deceased relative or friend's policy, the first place to check is www.missingmoney.com, a website maintained by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. 

Besides a searchable database, the site contains a directory of the various state agencies that regulate insurance. 

Pregnant women who contract the Zika virus may be at heightened risk of delivering a baby with birth defects. Scientists at Florida State University say th...

Pregnant women who contract the Zika virus may be at heightened risk of delivering a baby with birth defects. Scientists at Florida State University say they think they have discovered why.

In what they call a “major breakthrough,” researchers say they have found that the virus, spread by mosquitoes, is directly targeting brain development cells and limiting their growth.

As the virus has spread through Brazil, a number of women have given birth to children with abnormally small heads. The researchers say they are the first to find that the virus poses a direct threat to critical brain development cells.

“We’re trying to fill the knowledge gap between infection and the neurological defects,” lead author Hengli Tang said in a statement. “This research is the very first step in that, but it’s answering a critical question.”

Tang says the discovery is helpful because it allows future research of the Zika virus to be more targeted.

The Zika virus has been around for decades. It popped onto health researchers' radar only recently with the suspected link to birth defects. Previously, the virus was not thought to be all that harmful.

Over the winter the only cases of the virus showing up in the continental United States were in people who had traveled to warm weather, mostly Latin America locations where mosquitoes carrying the virus are plentiful.

The concern now is that, when warmer weather returns to the U.S., mosquitoes will also return and begin spreading the virus. In its latest update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 193 cases of Zika virus in the U.S., all from travel related contact. So far, it says it is not aware of any locally-acquired cases.

Richard Duhrkopf, associate professor of biology in Baylor, is an expert in mosquitoes. He has predicted quite confidently that mosquitoes will begin spreading the disease in the U.S. later this spring and summer.

Duhrkopf says the main carriers of the virus, the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, are plentiful in the southern U.S., especially in Texas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or red eyes.

To protect yourself, use insect repellent when outdoors this spring and summer. Also, make sure there are no upturned containers outdoors that can collect water, providing a place for mosquitoes to breed.

The idea behind an annuity is that, in exchange for an upfront investment, it guarantees you an agreed-upon income for the rest of your life. But annuities...

The idea behind an annuity is that, in exchange for an upfront investment, it guarantees you an agreed-upon income for the rest of your life. But annuities have never sold as well as most economists think they should and no one seems to know why.

Two Boston College marketing professors say they think they have found the answer: people don't like to think about dying. 

This doesn't appear to make sense on the surface. After all, the whole idea of an annuity is that it keeps you from outliving your money -- no small concern in an era when people are routinely living into their 90s. You may be old, tired, sick, or whatever, but at least you have a few bucks coming in each month. But the process of setting up an annuity forces you to think about how long you have left and therein lies the rub, says Gergana Nenkov, Associate Professor of Marketing with the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.

"When you think about an annuity, you have to think about how long you have left to live, how many years you need to finance," says Nenkov. "You have to think about dying -- that's part of the annuity process, and when people do that, it turns them away."

Previous explanations for Americans' poor record of annuity purchases have focused on low retirement savings, unfair pricing, and decreased flexibility in accessing one's money. 

Nenkov and fellow BC professor Linda Court Salisbury say they applied psychological theory to answer the question that's usually posed in economic terms. 

"Nobody has ever looked at it from the psychology of making the decision and going through with the decision," says Salisbury. "Our idea was the averseness of thinking about your own death is enough to make you use what we call 'mortality salience defense strategy,' which is to avoid it."

In other words, by not thinking about death and not planning for it, we're hoping it will go away. The theory was supported in four studies that included 748 adults. 

One study asked participants whether they would rather roll their retirement savings in an Individual Retirement Account, or purchase an annuity.

"When people considered an IRA, very few thought about dying or how long they have left to live," says Nenkov. "But when the people considered an annuity, a big proportion of them had those kinds of thoughts related to death."

Two of the studies presented participants with annuity descriptions that contained subtle differences. One description indicated the annuity "guaranteed payments for as long as you live," while another "guaranteed payments for as long as you live until you die." Whenever an annuity mentioned death, interest plummeted.

"We showed that even those subtle mentions of death decreased further the rate of choosing an annuity and made people stay away from the product even more than if we just talked about years left to live," says Nenkov.

"Wills, life insurance, estate planning -- all of those decisions are sometimes put off, and we think this issue of not wanting to think about death has a role," says Nenkov. "Maybe finding ways to deal with that anxiety could help consumers overcome it and make the important decisions because if they don't, there are devastating consequences later in life."

Diapers fall under the “necessary, but expensive” category. They're an ongoing expense that can put a strain on any budget. But while middle-class and ...

Diapers fall under the “necessary, but expensive” category. They're an ongoing expense that can put a strain on any budget.

But while middle-class and wealthy parents have seen diapers become a little more budget-friendly thanks to sites like Amazon Prime, parents in the lower-income bracket haven’t been as fortunate.

Low-income families receive no federal assistance for diapers. Neither medicaid nor food stamps can step in to help with costs, and special nutrition benefits for mothers and infants do not include diapers.

With no federal aid being granted, what happens to the lives and budgets of those who can’t afford this parenting essential?

There’s a “diaper loophole,” said Luke Tate, a special assistant to the president for economic mobility in a statement to the Washington Post.

Diapers are an essential item -- as vital to the health of a baby as the roof over its head. But while federal aid may help with the roof, it’s not helping with the cost of diapers.

Tate says a poor family could spend $1,000 per child per year on diapers. He, on the other hand, estimates that he’s paying half that amount as a result of having the money to enjoy the benefits of the digital age.

“I'm able to order in bulk,” said Tate, “because I have the capital, the Internet, the device, and I’m able to receive packages in the place where I live.”

Government data from 2014 proved that families of different incomes do, indeed, have very different financial experiences when it comes to buying diapers. The data showed that families in the lowest-income quintile spend nearly 14% of their after-tax income on diapers, while families in the middle quintile spend less than three percent.

For baby, a lack of clean diapers could mean diaper rash, urinary tract infection, and even hospital visits, according to Megan Smith, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

For mothers, Smith notes there is a psychological component to not having enough diapers. The inability to soothe a crying child, she says, “really decreases your sense of being a good parent.”

It goes without saying that keeping families stocked with new diapers is essential. But the road to relieving the financial burden of diapers has been slow -- and even laced with ridicule. 

In 2011, Rep. Rosa DeLauro's (D - Conn.) Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery (DIAPER) Act sought to provide financial assistance for diapers, as did her more recently introduced Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act.

Both have yet to gain traction and have been mocked by conservatives who see no merit in giving away diapers. 

However, a new White House initiative, called the Community Diaper Program, hopes to mitigate the surge pricing that poor families experience when buying diapers.  Jet, an e-commerce company, has offered use of its warehouse to sell diapers in bulk to nonprofit groups. More than 15 million diapers are expected to be bought through the program this year.

Ensuring that privacy and security can be maintained in their homes is important to many consumers. But no matter where you live, there is always the chanc...

Ensuring that privacy and security can be maintained in their homes is important to many consumers. But no matter where you live, there is always the chance that a break-in or other wrongdoing may occur.

To combat this problem, many people look to home security solutions like alarms – but perhaps one of the best things that a homeowner can install is a set of security cameras. But if you, like many others, don’t know the first thing about security cameras, then where do you start? To narrow down the choices, you may want to think about how you want your video stored.

According to a recent CNET article, you have two primary choices when it comes to storing video – either by local storage or cloud storage. While each offers a different set of benefits, choosing which one works best for you will depend on your security priorities.

Local storage saves your security video clips just like it sounds – locally. Cameras that support local storage usually come with a slot where you can insert a microSD card, usually ranging from 16GB worth of storage to 128GB. Depending on the brand of camera you buy, you may have to go out and pick up a microSD card separately.

As is the case with many security systems, there are some options you can choose from in terms of what your camera will record. For those who want to make sure every second is recorded, the cameras can be set in continuous recording mode. If you’re less scrupulous, you can also set your camera to event-based recording mode. In this setting, the camera will only record when it detects motion, allowing you to get a little more out of your microSD card before you run out of space.

No matter what your preference is, when your card is finally full you can elect to overwrite the information and keep recording or take the card out and assess the footage. If you want to save any video that was picked up on the card, but want to continue using it, you can buy a card reader and card adapter to convert the information.

For those who don’t want to buy any extra equipment, like the microSD cards, card reader, or adapter, cloud storage can provide an alternative that is a little more hands-off. Instead of physically having to manage a microSD card, cameras that operate using cloud storage save footage in – you guessed it – the cloud.

Depending on the service you use, your footage is sent to a remote server that is managed by a company. You will have to pay a fee to use the company’s service, which can vary in price. Currently, cloud-based security storage offered by Alphabet/Google costs $10 per month for 10 hours of continuous recording.

Local storage and cloud-based storage come with their own set of benefits, but choosing which one really comes down to personal preference. Local storage is preferred by many consumers because it gives you the greatest amount of access to your video, but if you want to save your video then you will have to buy extra equipment to do that. Also, managing the microSD cards manually could become tiresome after a while.

Cloud-based storage is much more hands-off in this regard, and you don’t have to worry as much about overwriting data. However, you will have to pay a monthly fee to access your video footage and technical problems with the company hosting the servers could lead to you not being able to access it in some cases. Also, since the information is hosted on a server, hackers could potentially get hold of your videos – making privacy a concern.

Of course, video storage is not the only consideration when it comes to buying security cameras – it’s just a good starting point for narrowing down choices. Be sure to do your research before committing to any one course of action so that you can get the best home security that works for you.

It should be noted upfront that an airline credit card won't be the best choice for most consumers. Unless you travel a lot, a card offering a generous cas...

Experts have become increasingly worried about the ability of U.S. citizens to save for retirement. A recent report from 2015 showed that up to 30 million ...

Experts have become increasingly worried about the ability of U.S. citizens to save for retirement. A recent report from 2015 showed that up to 30 million people dipped into their retirement savings to pay for some sort of emergency. Another showed that over half of older Americans had no retirement savings to speak of.

While the implications of these reports are bad enough on a financial level, a new study shows that those missing out on a proper retirement may also be missing out on some health benefits. Researchers from the University of Sydney found that people sleep better and become more active in general after they retire, factors that contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

The researchers were able to come to their conclusions after analyzing the behaviors of 25,000 older Australian citizens. Some of the factors that were scrutinized included sleeping patterns, physical activity, sedentary behavior, alcohol use, and diet.

In all, the data suggested that retirement actually improved the lives of many older participants. Dr. Melody Ding, lead researcher for the study, explains how positive lifestyle improvements can be made by leaving the workforce.

“Compared with people who were still working, retirees had increased physical activity levels, reduced sitting time, were less likely to smoke, and had healthier sleep patterns. . . A major life change like retirement creates a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes – it’s a chance to get rid of bad routines and engineer new, healthier behaviours,” she said.

The numbers don’t lie. The researchers found that, on average, those surveyed increased physical activity by93 minutes per week, decreased the amount of time spent sedentary by 63 minutes per day, and increased sleep by 11 minutes per day. They also found that half of all female smokers quit after going into retirement.

The researchers suspect that many of these positive changes are simply the result of having more personal time.

“The lifestyle changes were most pronounced in people who retire after working full-time. When people are working and commuting, it eats a lot of time out of their day. When they retire, they have time to be physically active and sleep more,” said Dr. Ding.

She and her colleagues state that many of these positive lifestyle changes actively work against diseases and health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They hope that their research will make an impact so that proactive policies can be put in place to encourage positive lifestyle changes in retirees.

“The findings suggest that both health professionals and policy makers should consider developing special programs for retirees to capitalise on the health transitions through retirement,” said Dr. Ding.

Breakfast: it’s been called the most important meal of the day. But can skipping it really lead to weight gain -- or is this just a myth invented by cereal...

Breakfast: it’s been called the most important meal of the day. But can skipping it really lead to weight gain -- or is this just a myth invented by cereal companies to push product? According to scientific research, there’s more truth to the latter.

In a study, Columbia University researchers found the old “skip breakfast, get fat” idea to be unsubstantiated. Overweight participants who skipped breakfast every day over a four-week period actually ended up losing weight.

The researchers hypothesize that even though skipping breakfast can make you a little more likely to eat bigger meals later, your body will still be unable to make up for the lost calories in that missing meal.

The Columbia study -- published in the Journal of Nutritional Science -- contradicts earlier research from 2007, in which breakfast was found to contribute to weight gain in adult males.

The difference between the two studies, however, is that the 2007 research was an observational study. Observational studies, scientists note, produce findings that are more prone to misinterpretation. For example, the male participants in the study may also have had another trait that contributed to their weight gain, such as sedentary lifestyle.

By contrast, the Columbia study examined participants through randomized controlled trial, which enables scientists to control every part of the study.

But while skipping breakfast might not lead a person down the path to weight gain, experts say it's still not a good idea to frequently skip meals. 

Routinely skipping breakfast can lead to a variety of problems, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

According to Dr. Leah Cahill of the Harvard School of Health, breakfast is a key player in helping the body maintain healthy levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol, hormones such as insulin, and normal blood pressure. 

"As we sleep all night we are fasting," said Cahill in Prevention.com, "So if we do not normally 'break fast' in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and blood pressure problems."

Nothing blows your monthly budget faster than an expensive and unanticipated car repair bill. Sadly, car repairs appear to be a major reason people head fo...

Nothing blows your monthly budget faster than an expensive and unanticipated car repair bill. Sadly, car repairs appear to be a major reason people head for payday loan storefronts, where they begin a cycle of debt.

The RepairPal Institute, a research affiliate of the auto repair resource RepairPal, has surveyed all 50 states to determine where it costs the most to get your car back on the road. The research looked at the average repair bill for three common repairs – water pump, alternator, and brake pad replacements.

To further make sure apples were compared to apples, the study looked at repairs on just three widely-owned vehicles – the 2010 Ford F-150, 2010 Honda Accord, and 2010 BMW 328i.

States in colder climates are at the top of the list, suggesting harsh weather might be a contributing factor requiring more major repairs. Alaska leads the way at $1,374, followed by Michigan at $1,289 and Connecticut at $1,271.

West Virgina consumers pay the lowest average repair bill, at $1,033; Kentucky is the second most affordable state, at $1,087; Arkansas is a close third at $1,088.

The study also found the national average for the three repairs was a bill of $1,176. Alaska was 17% above the average while West Virginia was 12% below it.

The biggest states in terms of population were not the most expensive places to get a car repaired. California was the 11th most expensive state. New York was 23rd.

In general, the researchers say you'll tend to pay less for a car repair if you live in a southern state.

Regular maintenance is one way to avoid big car repair bills that often crop up at the absolute worst times. Besides regular oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, it is a good idea to follow the manufacturers recommended service schedule.

When a large car repair bill does present itself, how you deal with the repair shop may determine whether you get a fair quote. Bankrate.com recommends asking probing questions before agreeing to the repairs. It's helpful if it appears you are an informed consumer.

You should also check out the shops qualifications and reputation. The Internet makes that a lot easier to do than in the past.

Motorists nationwide may have noticed gasoline prices are rising faster in some areas than others. Two things are responsible.The price of oil has rall...

Motorists nationwide may have noticed gasoline prices are rising faster in some areas than others. Two things are responsible.

The price of oil has rallied from a low of about $27 a barrel in January to around $37 a barrel this month. Still, a far cry from the time not long ago when oil routinely sold for well over $100 a barrel.

The second factor is the switch over to summer blend gasoline at the nation's refineries. Summer blends cost more, and since production just began, supplies are limited. Each year, fuel prices begin rising in late winter into early spring, only to begin to fall again around July 4.

The national average price of gasoline, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey, is $1.93 a gallon. While that's still relatively cheap compared to recent averages of $3 or more, the sudden rise may be taking some consumers by surprise.

The national average price has jumped 11 cents a gallon in the last seven days. It's up about 22 cents a gallon from a month ago. But to keep things in perspective, it's down about 52 cents a gallon from last March.

Consumers in some states are feeling more pain than in others. The statewide average price of gasoline is back over $2 a gallon in Alaska, California, Washington, DC, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

In California, gasoline prices have jumped 13 cents a gallon in the last seven days. They've risen 17 cents a gallon in the last week in Illinois.

In a tweet, Gasbuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan notes that 99.4% of the nation's gas stations are selling regular for more than $1.50 a gallon. A month ago, only 68.8% of stations were. Today's most common fuel price, he says, is $1.99 a gallon.

AAA says the recent move in prices at the pump is the largest in any seven day period so far this year. The auto club says this year's seasonal rise in fuel prices, due to refinery issues, started later than usual so the increase – while occurring quickly – hasn't been as high as in the last couple of years.

Because of that, AAA says some refineries have reduced capacity at a faster clip in order to draw down abundant supplies of fuel.

AAA says the still-low price of crude oil and generous supplies should keep gas prices from escalating too much as we head into the summer months.

Room & Board of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 1,500 Doyle arm chairs and side chairs. The backrest can break during normal use, posing a l...

The firm has received 10 incident reports of the chair backrest breaking, including one report of a scratch.

This recalls involves Room & Board’s Doyle arm chairs and side chairs. The wood chairs were sold with and without an upholstered seat and in five different finishes: Charcoal, cherry, maple, shell and walnut.

Each chair has a barcode printed on a label located under the seat on the inside of the seat frame. “Room & Board–Handcrafted in Vermont” is inscribed on the seat frame next to the barcode. A complete list of bar codes included in this recall can be found on the firm's website.

The chairs, manufactured in the U.S., were exclusively at Room & Board stores nationwide and online at www.roomandboard.com from May 2015, through December 2015, for between $350 and $520 for the arm chairs and between $300 and $400 for the side chairs‎.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and contact Room & Board ‎to receive a free replacement chair or a full refund. Room & Board is contacting consumers directly‎.

Consumers may contact Room & Board toll-free at 855-246-0974 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at updates@roomandboard.com or online at www.roomandboard.com and click on the Product Recall link located at the bottom of the page for more information.

Awareness Corp. of Mesa, Ariz., is recalling its 7.4-oz. container of Boost Tea. The product may be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnes...

The recalled product, distributed nationwide on or about December 15, 2015, comes in a white plastic container marked with Lot #022615 on the bottom panel and with an expiration date of 10/17.

Nissan North America is recalling 46,859 model year 2013-2015 LEAF vehicles manufactured November 19, 2012, to July 31, 2015. In very cold temperat...

Nissan North America is recalling 46,859 model year 2013-2015 LEAF vehicles manufactured November 19, 2012, to July 31, 2015.

In very cold temperatures, the relay inside the electronic brake booster may freeze, requiring the driver to exert more effort to slow the vehicle down. Longer distances or additional brake effort required to stop the vehicle could increase the risk of a crash.

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the Intelligent Brake Control Unit software, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Cruising is ranked as one of the best overall vacation options. How else can you can travel to multiple countries or cities and unpack just once? A vacatio...

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will consider new rules for Internet service providers (ISP) that would limit their ability to use consumer's br...

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will consider new rules for Internet service providers (ISP) that would limit their ability to use consumer's browsing habits to narrowly target ads.

Currently, when consumers browse online, looking at cars, furniture or books, ads for those kinds of products follow them around the Internet, popping up on other websites they visit. That's because consumers' browsing habits are a product, sold to marketers who want to make their ads more effective.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to give consumers tools to determine how that information about them is used and shared by their ISPs.

Under the proposal, the privacy requirements of the Communications Act would apply to the Internet. The proposal will be voted on by the full Commission at the March 31 Open Meeting. Assuming it is adopted, it will be subject to a comment period.

The proposed rule would allow ISPs to continue to use customer data for marketing and other communications-related services by their affiliates unless the customer opted out. If the ISP wanted to continue selling customer data to third-party marketers, it would have to get the customer's permission through an opt-in process first.

Wheeler also says the rule would place stronger security requirements on ISPs, noting that security protections are crucial to protecting consumers’ data from breaches.

A number of privacy advocates have urged the FCC to implement stronger Internet privacy safeguards. In a recent letter to the agency, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) lobbied for opt-in consent for the use of all customer data for marketing purposes. It said an opt-in framework would better protect individuals’ rights, and is consistent with most United States privacy laws.

The letter noted that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Cable Communications Policy Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Video Privacy Protection Act, Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act all require individual consent before gathered information can be used for any secondary purpose.

Earlier this week the FCC reached a settlement with Verizon Wireless over its use of customer data and so-called “super cookies.” The settlement contained some of the same features contained in the proposed new rule.

Verizon Wireless agreed to allow customers to opt-out of its internal use of gathered customer data. It also agreed to an opt-in feature, saying it would not sell that information to third parties without a customer's consent.

Releasing some steam by way of complaining may seem like a healthier alternative to keeping it all inside. But according to author and human nature researc...

Releasing some steam by way of complaining may seem like a healthier alternative to keeping it all inside. But according to author and human nature researcher Steven Parton, the logic behind thinking that complaining will make you feel better is flawed.

Not only is complaining ineffectual, it can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health, he explains. Beyond that, the health of our listeners will also be negatively affected.

We all know it’s unpleasant to be around the Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers of the world, but the reason why might surprise you.

As it turns out, the brain is hardwired to try to duplicate the emotions -- or, fire the same synapses -- of whomever we’re talking to.

“This is basically empathy,” explains Parton via Psych Pedia. “It is how we get the mob mentality ... It is our shared bliss at music festivals. But it is also your night at the bar with your friends who love to constantly bitch."

Complaining is also shown to do a number on the complainer’s own physical health. According to Parton, the body doesn't react too kindly to an abundance of negative emotions.

"When your brain is firing off these synapses of anger, you're weakening your immune system,” explains Parton. “You're raising your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and a plethora of other negative ailments."

The reason for this is the stress hormone cortisol, which is released in greater quantities when you’re expressing negative thoughts and emotions, says Parton. Stress hormones can take a toll on a whole host of bodily functions, including learning and memory, blood pressure, weight, bone density, immune health, and cholesterol.

But while complaining may not be the healthiest way of letting go of negative thoughts, there's also research to show that bottled up emotions can do just as much harm. One study found that bottling emotions can even shorten your life. 

So how can one slip into that healthy middle ground between complaining and bottling? Experts say a technique called "effective complaining" may be useful. Where regular complaining is essentially just passively "admiring" the problem, effective complaining (also called "positive complaining") is doing something to change it. 

There is also the "but-positive" technique, which entails tacking on a positive addition to your complaint. (For example, "I don't like driving to work, but I'm thankful I can drive and I even have a job.")

Joe Gordon, author of The No Complaining Rule, recommends this technique as a way to deal with our natural desire to complain. Gordon says this kind of "complaint filtration system" can be an effective first step towards eradicating unnecessary complaining from your everyday life, especially for those who might find complaining hard to vanquish altogether.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) has introduced a bill that would place limits on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) power to regulate the auto finan...

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) has introduced a bill that would place limits on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) power to regulate the auto finance market.

The legislation is the same as the house version, passed last November. The measure would “nullify certain guidance of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and to provide requirements for guidance issued by the Bureau with respect to indirect auto lending.”

Indirect auto financing is done through auto dealers, where the loan is obtained through a third party. Sometimes it's a bank, sometimes it is another type of finance company.

The legislation introduced in the Senate specifically would nullify CFPB's Bulletin 2013-02, declaring it “shall have no force or effect.”

Bulletin 2013-02, issued three years ago, gave guidance to all indirect auto lenders within CFPB's jurisdiction. It said indirect financing transactions would be monitored to make sure they are fair to all consumers.

At the time, CFPB said it knew that some indirect lenders have policies to allow car dealers to mark up the interest rate and compensate dealers in other ways.

“Because of the incentives these policies create, and the discretion they permit, there is a significant risk that they will result in pricing disparities on the basis of race, national origin, and potentially other prohibited bases,” CFPB said in the bulletin.

Car dealers support the legislation to nullify the guidance on indirect auto financing. The National Association of Auto Dealers (NADA) said the measure would bring “transparency and accountability” to the watchdog agency's regulation of the auto finance market.

"Every consumer deserves access to competitive financing and great rates when they buy a new car or truck, but the CFPB’s misguided policy of eliminating consumer discounts on auto loans is making financing more expensive and harming many of the very people the agency is trying to help,” NADA President Peter Welch said in a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs.

A number of consumer groups have lined up in opposition, however. The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) has said claims about process and regulatory jurisdiction are just a “smokescreen.” It says the measure is really about what it calls unfair and discriminatory interest rate mark-ups by car dealers.

Meanwhile, 17 consumer groups have signed a letter to billionaire investor Warren Buffet, urging him to help stop discriminatory auto lending. Buffet's company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns The Van Tuyl Group, the nation's largest auto dealer company.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against a company she accuses of violating Florida's Timeshare Resale Accountability Act.Florida...

If you didn't filed a federal income tax return for 2012, you may be poorer for it.The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has refunds totaling $950 million...

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has refunds totaling $950 million for an estimated one million taxpayers. All you have to do to collect is file a 2012 tax return no later than this year's April tax deadline.

"A surprising number of people across the country overlook claiming tax refunds each year. But the clock is ticking for taxpayers who didn’t file a 2012 federal income tax return, leaving nearly $1 billion in refunds unclaimed," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "We especially encourage students and others who didn't earn much money to look into this situation because they may still be entitled to a refund. Don't forget, there’s no penalty for filing a late return if you’re due a refund.”

The median for potential refunds for 2012 is estimated at $718, with half being worth more and half less.

The law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund if they haven't filed. If no return is filed to claim a refund within that period, the money goes to the U.S. Treasury.

There is a catch of sorts. Your 2012 refund may be withheld if you haven't filed tax returns for 2013 and 2014. And, it will be applied to any amounts you owed the feds or your state tax agency, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

Move over, Mother-In-Law suites -- there’s a new backyard dwelling for the family matriarch. “Granny Pods” are the latest in multi-generational living, and...

When you pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, the label may say it should be taken "everyday" or "once daily." While that's clear enough, it leaves open...

When you pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, the label may say it should be taken "everyday" or "once daily." While that's clear enough, it leaves open the question of whether one time of the day is better than others.

For most drugs, it doesn't matter all that much, but it is important to take it at roughly the same time each day, according to pharmacist Julie Kaplan, senior medical writer at Rx411.net. If the prescription calls for taking the medication several times a day, you should try to evenly space out the doses so that roughly the same amount of time passes between each dose.

For example, if you are taking a diuretic for high blood pressure or certain heart conditions, it's better to take it in the morning, since the medication causes increased urination. Take it at night and you'll have a hard time getting a good night's sleep.

Or say you're taking a drug for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). These medications increase concentration and can cause insomnia if taken at night.

Drugs that block the production of stomach acid, like Nexium and Prevacid, are also best taken in the morning, when your body is most likely to be producing large amounts of acid to aid in digestion, Kaplan says.

Some drugs need to be taken on an empty stomach -- like the osteoporosis drugs Boniva and Fosamax. These drugs interact with food in a way that decreases their effectiveness so they do better when taken as soon as you wake up.

How is a consumer supposed to know all this? Kaplan says it's simple -- you're not. That's why there are pharmacists. If you have any questions about a drug, it only takes a second to ask your pharmacist about it. Although pharmacists today are busier than ever, they're nearly always happy to answer questions, so don't be afraid to ask.

As airlines work to squeeze in a few more passengers, they may collide with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who wants to require that airlines p...

As airlines work to squeeze in a few more passengers, they may collide with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who wants to require that airlines provide enough seat width and leg room to protect passengers' health and safety.

“The incredible shrinking airline seat is more than an inconvenience, it is a serious threat to the health and safety of passengers that requires immediate FAA action," Blumenthal said in a prepared statement. "I am calling on the FAA to adopt minimum seat space standards, and to enforce a moratorium on further shrinkage of space until safe standards are adopted."

The news coincides with a report that United Airlines is adding a seat to each row on 19 of its 74 Boeing 777 wide-bodied jets, for a total of 10 seats per row. 

Blumenthal says the cramped conditions on airliners raises doubts that passengers can be evacuated quickly in an emergency. Also, he says medical experts have raised serious concerns about increased risk for deadly blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. Passengers themselves are so fed up that there have been increased reports of fights over seat space, Blumenthal notes.

"We require minimum cargo space for traveling animals, yet inexplicably and inexcusably have no such measure to protect human passengers. A sardine may in fact enjoy greater protections than the flying public today," he said.

Blumenthal plans to file an amendment to the FAA’s reauthorization bill when it’s considered before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, on which Blumenthal sits.

Joining in the effort is Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who says shrinking legroom and cramped seats are the number one complaint he hears from his traveling constituents.

“Consumers are tired of being packed into airplanes like sardines, and so, it’s time for the FAA to step up and stop this deep-seated problem from continuing," Schumer said.

Flying coach is about to get a little more uncomfortable. United Airlines has confirmed to USA Today that it is adding a seat to each row on 19 of its 74 B...

Flying coach is about to get a little more uncomfortable. United Airlines has confirmed to USA Today that it is adding a seat to each row on 19 of its 74 Boeing 777 wide-bodied jets.

Currently, United's 777s have 9 seats per row. Since it is impossible to make the aircraft any wider, adding a seat to each row is going to make all other seats a little more cramped.

But United isn't setting the pace in making customers more uncomfortable. It's simply catching up with an industry trend. Several other airlines have already moved to the ten abreast seating on the 777 to make each flight a little more profitable.

And profit is what is driving the effort to move more people with fewer flights. Adding seats raises the profit margin on each flight, making stock in the company more attractive to shareholders.

According to USA Today, American Airlines, Emirates, All Nippon Airways, Air New Zealand, KLM, and Air France are just some of the carriers that have ordered Boeing 777s with 10 seats per row.

A few years ago airlines were bouncing in and out of bankruptcy. Now, profits are flying high. CBS News recently reported that U.S. airlines made almost $18 billion in profit in the first three quarters of 2015.

Lower fuel costs are helping, but it was the addition of fees for things like checked bags, meals, and pillows that have helped carriers move from red ink to black.

CBS News quotes airline industry spokeswoman Jean Medina as saying consumers benefit when the airlines rack up profits because the airlines are reinvesting those profits back into the business.

Texas Star Nut and Food Co., is recalling the following product: Brand Product Size Lot Code Best Buy Date ...

The recalled product was distributed to retail stores in Texas and Louisiana and sold between January 22, 2016, and February 3, 2016.

Customers who purchased the recalled product should not eat it, but return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-844-571-5555 from 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday-Friday (CST).

Anchor Industries of Evansville, Ind., is recalling about 350 safety pool covers. The brass-plated snap hooks used to connect the cover’s cables to...

The brass-plated snap hooks used to connect the cover’s cables to the wall can break, posing a drowning risk.

This recall involves mesh and solid-material Anchor 5-Star, Anchor Mesh, Classic Solid and Defender Mesh brand custom safety pool covers. The covers’ cables are connected to the pool wall using brass-plated snap hooks with a gold-tone spring tab, a seam and a hook end with a bezel.

The date of manufacture appears on the warning label on the underside of each pool cover. Manufacture dates of “Sep 14,” “Oct 14” and “Nov 14” are subject to the recall. “Manufactured by Anchor Industries, Inc.” also appears on the label.  

The pool covers, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at independent pool supply stores and dealers nationwide from September 2014, to November 2014, for about $3,000.

Consumers should immediately contact their pool cover dealer to schedule an inspection and replacement of the snap hooks.

Consumers may contact Anchor Industries toll-free at 800-255-5552 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at http://anchorinc.com/products/safety-pool-covers/safety-pool-covers for more information.

President Obama has his critics, but the refrigerator industry loves him. That's because his drive to clean up power plant emissions is making refrigerator...

President Obama has his critics, but the refrigerator industry loves him. That's because his drive to clean up power plant emissions is making refrigerator sales red hot.

Utilities like Dominion Virginia are offering to give customers a $50 incentive towards a new refrigerator and will also pick up and recycle their old refrigerators and freezers at no charge.

"This energy conservation program has proven to be popular with our customers, with thousands of them participating since it began last summer," said Brett Crable, director-New Technology and Energy Conservation. "It not only helps save energy costs, but lessens the environmental impact of appliance disposal."

It also helps Dominion as it tries to meet Obama's goal of cutting power plant emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers estimates there are 10 million old, inefficient refrigerators still chugging away in consumers' homes, burning excess energy and running up consumers' power bills.

Replacing those 10 million obsolete refrigerators and 5 million more that will become obsolete over the next few years would save 36 million metric tons of emissions over five years and shave consumers' power bills by $50 to $100 per year, $6.8 billion nationwide.

Today's refrigerators use half the energy of models offered 20 years ago and are prime targets for carbon-cutting efforts. 

Obama's Clean Power Plan is currently under review by the Supreme Court, but five states -- California, Colorado, New York, Virginia, and Washington -- are still pursuing its goals, at least for now.

If you live in any of those states, it might pay you to contact your local utility and find out if it is offering a similar refrigerator replacement plan. Here are some programs we found. There may be others, so be sure to check with your local utility or state utilities commission. 

Over 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and over eight million who have it are undiagnosed, according to a 2014 statistical analysis. Although th...

Over 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and over eight million who have it are undiagnosed, according to a 2014 statistical analysis. Although the disease affects so many, it has been hard for scientists and researchers to nail down a cure. This is due, in part, to the fact that the disease can take different forms, and there are still some things that researchers do not know about them.

However, a recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania has shed some light on type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine believe that they have finally found the cause of insulin resistance, which is characteristic of this particular type of the disease.

Many people attribute insulin resistance to fluctuating sugar levels in the body, but researchers say that it also has to do with the amount of fat in the body. In particular, too much fat inside of skeletal muscle is one main cause of insulin resistance.

With this in mind, scientists went about trying to find out how excess fat could be removed from skeletal muscle. If this fat could be removed, they reasoned, then it would also be possible to prevent insulin resistance from occurring. But in order to do that, there were some questions that had to be answered first.

“This research sought to answer a few large questions. . . How does fat get into skeletal muscle? And how is the elevation of certain amino acids in people with diabetes related to insulin resistance?” asked Dr. Zoltan Arany, senior author of the study. “We have appreciated for over ten years that diabetes is accompanied by elevations in the blood of branched-chain amino acids, which humans can only obtain in their diet. However, we didn’t understand how this could cause insulin resistance and diabetes. How is elevated blood sugar related to these amino acids?”

In order to answer these questions, Dr. Arany and his team began examining amino acids and what happened when they broke down. They found that when these compounds broke down, a byproduct called 3-HIB was created. After being secreted by muscle cells, 3-HIB activated certain cells which resulted in more fat being stored in skeletal muscle tissue.

Researchers observed this phenomenon in mice and saw that when it happened it led to insulin resistance. By blocking 3-HIB from synthesizing, researchers were able to keep excess fat from going to the skeletal muscle and insulin resistance was no longer a problem.

Dr. Arany is quick to note that 3-HIB byproducts are also plentiful in humans who have type-2 diabetes, so although there will need to be more research to prove that there is a link, he is confident that one may be discovered in the future.

“The discovery of this novel pathway – the way the body breaks down these amino acids that drives more fat into the muscles – opens new avenues for future research on insulin resistance, and introduces a conceptually entirely new way to target treatment for diabetes,” he said.

A telemarketer who hounded consumers about solar panels faces a federal lawsuit that alleges his companies made more than one million illegal phone calls t...

As we previously reported, it seems 2016 will be the year of consumers favoring better-for-you snacks that can be consumed on the go. In a blog post, M...

As we previously reported, it seems 2016 will be the year of consumers favoring better-for-you snacks that can be consumed on the go.

In a blog post, MarketResearch.com echoed this finding and noted that 2016 will also see the influence of a few other food trends. Among them: asian noodles, plant proteins, and an emphasis on avoided ingredients.

As consumers begin to walk on the wild side a bit more when it comes to their food choices, they’re finding Asian noodles are the perfect out-of-the-ordinary option. As a result, restaurants are getting creative with how they serve up Asian noodle dishes.

While some still take an authentic approach to their Asian noodle offerings, many restaurants are coming up with new and innovative ways to feature the dish on their menus.

Experts say the potential is great for this highly versatile food. The presence of Asian noodles on both mainstream American and non-Asian ethnic menus -- whether in its authentic form or with a new twist -- will help expose the dish to more diners.

The spotlight is on soy this year, as environmentally and economically-conscious Americans turn to vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian lifestyles.

More than ever, consumers seem to be taking note of the resource-depleting nature of the average meat-based lifestyle. Thirty-seven percent of consumers ages 25 to 39 are likely to seek out proteins, according to a survey by Packaged Facts. The survey also found that half of respondents said they've eaten less meat in the past several years.

The growing number of plant protein options in stores could also be swaying more Americans to go a little easier on the meat consumption front. In response to consumers' rising interest in plant-based proteins, retailers are taking a new approach towards marketing meat and poultry.

According to the report, Meat and Poultry: U.S. Retail Market Trends and Opportunities, grocers and restaurants have already begun featuring locally produced meats and “free from” products.

Growing numbers of people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease have more Americans focusing on what’s not going into their bodies. Gluten-free foods, non-GMOs, and ancient grains have been big money makers in the food industry recently, and consumers seem happy with the added presence of such foods in restaurants and grocery stores.

Fifteen percent of consumers said they have chosen a gluten-free product while dining out without three months of buying a gluten-free product at the store, according to the report, Gluten-Free Foods in the U.S., Fifth Edition.

Non-GMO items are also in high demand. An estimated $200 billion was spent on non-GMO items in 2014, and analysts expect sales to increase by 65% in the next three years.

Rest assured that the projected growth of the non-GMO industry hasn’t gone unnoticed by marketers. They’re already busy marking items as non-GMO -- including products that have not ever been sold with GMOs.

Phishing scams are usually pretty easy to spot. An email arrives in your inbox telling you some urgent action is required and providing a handy link to tak...

Volkswagen CEO Michael Horn's sudden resignation this week is the prelude to an even bigger drama coming up at the end of the month. That's when VW lawyers...

Volkswagen CEO Michael Horn's sudden resignation this week is the prelude to an even bigger drama coming up at the end of the month. That's when VW lawyers must appear before a federal judge and explain how the carmaker plans to fix nearly 600,000 “clean diesel” cars in the U.S. that cheat on emissions tests.

Meanwhile, automotive site Autolist has presented more evidence of a damaged VW brand and how U.S. automakers are benefiting.

Autolist is an online automotive marketplace where cars are listed for sale. Autolist has monitored recent search traffic and concluded that, as the VW emissions cheating scandal has unfolded, Volkswagen has fallen in the eyes of the American consumer while the status of U.S. carmakers has risen.

The site says its most recent analysis of 42 million bits of data shows that list prices for Volkswagens among the 600,000 models tainted by the scandal have fallen to all-time lows. The price of those cars are 6.4% less than expected while the list price of VW models not involved in the scandal are down 2.4%.

It's also taking a lot longer to sell a Volkswagen. The Autolist report shows the time spent on the market by scandal-tainted cars is 88% above average, at 178 days. But even the VWs not touched by scandal are taking longer to sell, 13% above average at 106 days.

Volkswagen's losses appear to be American carmakers' gains. Chevrolet and Ford are both selling faster since the diesel scandal, with Chevy selling 13.5 days faster and Ford shedding 14.5 days on the market.

Autolist says that trend might continue for a while, since public opinion about U.S. brands is on the rise. Again, it appears to be Ford and Chevrolet that have benefited most.

When it comes to searches for specific brands, Autolist says volume for comparable Fords and Chevrolets have increased 14% and 12.3% since the scandal. At the same time, the VW search line is on a downward trend.

Once upon a time, moms could only embarrass their children in person. But these days, a kid doesn’t have to be at a family gathering or social event in ord...

Your local supermarket offers a rich bounty of food choices, a variety that was unimaginable 100 years ago. In spite of that, most of us seem to gravitate ...

Your local supermarket offers a rich bounty of food choices, a variety that was unimaginable 100 years ago. In spite of that, most of us seem to gravitate to what's cheap and easy.

As a result, researchers say the average American gets too many of his or her calories from “ultra processed” food.

What is that, exactly? Researchers publishing their study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) define it this way: “industrial formulations which, besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, include substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations.”

In other words, ingredients not typically used in food but used, in this case, because they imitate the real thing, but are either cheaper, or have a much longer shelf life.

The study included nearly 10,000 people of all ages, who could recall everything they ate in a 24-hour period. The study concluded that Americans get 57.9% of their calories from ultra processed food, with nearly 90% of their energy intake coming from added sugars.

The study determined that the added sugar content in ultra processed food made up over 21% of caloric intake and is eight times higher than the added sugar content in processed food. The researchers maintain that for every 5% in proportional energy intake from ultra processed foods, there was a corresponding 1% increase in added sugar consumption.

Perhaps most disturbing is that this trend is widespread. Just over 82% of U.S. consumers who consumed the most ultra processed food exceeded the recommended limit of no more than 10% of calories from added sugar.

According to Emma Gray, writing in the BMJ Blog, examples of ultra processed food include most soft drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, packaged baked food, confectionery and desserts, soups, chicken and fish nuggets, and other reconstituted meal products.

Gray writes that many health authorities, including the American Heart Association and U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee, have concluded that too much added sugar not only contributes to obesity, but also diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay.

How do you avoid too much added sugar in your diet? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you have to be something of a detective.

On the Nutrition Facts label, sugars – both natural and added – are listed in grams. The AHA says there are four calories per gram, so 15 grams of sugar per serving adds up to 60 calories – just from sugar.

Another way to avoid too much added sugar is to prepare meals with lots of fresh produce. You'll find it in your local supermarket, along with the frozen pizza.

A new report from the real estate industry explores two myths about Millennials – that they aren't buying homes and that they wouldn't be caught dead in th...

Volkswagen still said how it plans to fix all those diesel powered cars with software designed to help them fool U.S. emissions test. And it will be up to ...

Volkswagen still said how it plans to fix all those diesel powered cars with software designed to help them fool U.S. emissions test. And it will be up to a new CEO to figure out how to do it.

Michael Horn, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America, has resigned effective immediately. A statement from the company said the decision was mutual.

Hinrich Woebcken, another top VW executive, will assume the duties of CEO. He will have a tough task in preparing the automaker to meet a court-imposed deadline to explain by March 24 how it plans to repair nearly 600,000 cars in the U.S. that fail to meet emissions standards.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer gave the German automaker one month to come up with a plan to bring the offending vehicles into compliance. As it stands now, the cars do not meet U.S. clean air standards.

At the hearing last month. Breyer reminded VW's lawyers that with each day without a fix, the cars are belching excess pollution into the air. As we reported in late February, MIT researchers conclude that the extra diesel pollution from the non-compliant cars will directly contribute to 60 deaths in the U.S.

If the offending cars are recalled in the short term, the researchers said another 130 premature deaths could be avoided.

In September, Volkswagen apologized and stopped the sales of “clean diesel” vehicles in the U.S., after it was shown that the onboard software was programmed to trick emissions testing equipment, to show the cars were in compliance with clean air standards, when in fact they were emitting 40 times the allowed pollution.

Since then, the Volkswagen brand has taken a hit as the company has struggled to find a way to make the vehicles perform within emissions standards.

It's that time of year when business productivity is about to go down the drain.According to outplacement consultanc...

According to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the opening week of March Madness -- the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- could cost employers nearly $4 billion. So, what's a boss to do?

The natural inclination may be to crack down on office pools or other non-work activities related to the games. But Challenger, Gray & Christmas Vice President Andrew Challenger says that may be the wrong way to handle things.

“We are approaching full employment across the country. In some metropolitan areas, the unemployment is well below the threshold where talent is readily available. In this environment, employers should be taking steps to increase engagement and loyalty, not find ways to crush morale and employee camaraderie” he said.

How much of a drain is March Madness? According to a Careerbuilder.com survey taken last year, 15% of workers planned to participate in March Madness office pools, 4% more than in 2014. Based on that growth rate, Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates that as many as 20% or 50.5 million of the 252.6 million U.S. workers could join office pools this year.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing average hourly earnings of $25.35, each hour of the workday devoted to bracket-building or watching games will cost employers $1.3 billion. Challenger says the first week of the tournament alone could mean $3.9 billion in lost wages paid to workers who are, basically, goofing off.

“Efforts to suppress the Madness would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty, and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity,” he said. In fact, he believes encouraging March Madness participation may be the way to go.

“With labor markets getting tighter and tighter, employers would be better off embracing March Madness,” Challenger advises. “For example, start a company-wide office pool that is free to enter and offers a free lunch or gift card for the winner. Or, allow workers to come to work during the tournament in apparel supporting their favorite college team (even if that team is not in the tournament). Employers may even want to consider setting up a television in a break room or conference room, so employees can check scores.”

While we're on the subject of work, the number of applications for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 259,000 in the week ending March 5. The Department of Labor (DOL) says that's 18,000 lower than the previous week's level, which was revised down by 1,000.

The more reliable and less volatile four-week moving average was down 2,500 from the previous week at 267,500.

Wonderful Pistachios is recalling a limited number of flavors and sizes of in-shell and shelled pistachios. The products may be contaminated with S...

Wonderful Pistachios is recalling a limited number of flavors and sizes of in-shell and shelled pistachios.

The products, distributed through several retailers across the U.S. and in Canada, can be identified by a 13-digit lot code number that can be found on the lower back or bottom panel of the package.

2016 OCT 28 – 1509123256501 2016 OCT 29 – 1509123256401 2016 OCT 30 – 1509123256601 2016 NOV 03 – 1510123307101 2016 NOV 04 – 15101233072011510123307301

Customers may return the recalled for a refund by sending the product back or bottom portion of the package that contains the lot code to Wonderful Pistachios, 13646 Hwy 33, Lost Hills, CA 93249.

They may also return the product to the store from which it was purchased for a refund. The nuts should be discarded prior to the return of the entire package or lot code panel to the retail store.

On our first trip to Italy, my spouse and I confidently navigated Rome on our own. While taking a local bus, my husband realized we did not know which stop...

On our first trip to Italy, my spouse and I confidently navigated Rome on our own. While taking a local bus, my husband realized we did not know which stop to get off at so he rushed to the front of the bus to ask the driver. When he returned to his seat he asked, “Where’s my back pack?” He had left it right by my side; sitting untethered on the seat, it took just seconds for it to disappear.

When you return home from vacation, the story of how you got robbed is not one of the memories you want to share. Sadly, it often is. Even the most experienced travelers can find themselves victims.  

Pickpockets and thieves have more experience than you so it is hard to fully thwart them. Some wise pre-planning can help.

Many consumers have become fixated on dietary supplements or other nonprescription drugs that boast that they are “all natural.” But beware – many such pro...

Many consumers have become fixated on dietary supplements or other nonprescription drugs that boast that they are “all natural.” But beware – many such products intend to take advantage of your shopping tendencies and may cause serious harm.

Cariny Nunez, an FDA health advisor for the Office of Minority Health, says that many scammers take advantage of consumers who shop at non-traditional markets – such as international stores, flea markets, or swap meets – do not speak English well, or do not have access to health care services or information.

“These scammers know that ethnic groups who may not speak or read English well, or who hold certain cultural beliefs, can be easy targets,” he said.

One such belief that many hold is that a “natural” product is inherently better than others. Gary Coody, an FDA national health fraud coordinator, says that this is not necessarily the case. Many of these natural products are not all that they claim to be; in fact, in some cases they can contain hidden ingredients that actually make them less safe for some consumers.

But even when a nonprescription drug uses an approved drug ingredient, that doesn’t mean that it is using it in the right way. Many people forget that just because a drug ingredient is approved by the FDA, that does not mean that it is healthy at the amounts that a non-prescription drug might utilize it. Boosting the dosage of any drug ingredient can cause harm, even for those that may seem more innocuous.

But neither of these points accounts for much if the drug is not approved by doctors or regulating agencies. Non-traditional markets are well-known for stocking their shelves with items that cater to the ethnicities of those who shop there.

“It’s not surprising that people are more comfortable with familiar products that claim to come from their home country or are labeled and marketed in the consumer’s native language, whether they buy them at a U.S. market or get them from friends and family who have brought them from home,” said Nunez.

But this does not guarantee that these drugs are safe. The same can be said of weight loss pills that boast that they are “Made in the USA.” There is currently no law that prohibits companies from marketing a dietary supplement without FDA approval, so many of them could actually be dangerous to your health.

The FDA website lists several ways that consumers can identify if a drug or supplement is unsafe or a scam. Some of them include the use of personal testimonials in place of scientific evidence, buzz words like “miracle drug,” “new discovery,” or scientific breakthrough, and claims that the drug can act as a “quick fix” for any ailment.

As always, check to see if any domestic drug has FDA approval before buying or using it. But remember, dietary supplements do NOT need FDA approval to be marketed – whether they come from the U.S. or abroad. If you have any doubts about a drug or supplement, contact your doctor or healthcare provider to get their opinion.

For those who have taken a supplement or drug and had an adverse reaction, contact an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator here. You can also submit a report online via the FDA’s Medwatch.

There are many traps that await students seeking to finance their college education. One of the most common involves co-signers, usually the student's pare...

Michigan, Montana, and New Jersey are the three most expensive states to insure a car, according to a new survey. Louisiana and Oklahoma round out the top...

Michigan, Montana, and New Jersey are the three most expensive states to insure a car, according to a new survey. Louisiana and Oklahoma round out the top five, with the District of Columbia, California, Florida, Maryland, and Rhode Island next.

On the other end of the chart, Maine had the cheapest average rates, edging out Ohio and Wisconsin in the Insure.com tally. 

These are just averages, of course, and individual rates may vary widely based on your driving record, credit rating, neighborhood, type of car, and other factors.

Nationwide, Insure.com found that the national average rate was $1,325, up about $15 from last year. Average rates ranged from $2,738 in Michigan to just $808 in Maine.

Why the difference? Factors influencing rates from one state to another include traffic, crime rates, the percentage of uninsured drivers, crime rates, and the number of insurance companies competing for business.

Also, some states are much more aggressive at policing insurance rates than others. In California, for example, insurance rates have risen much more slowly -- not at all some years -- than other states. The Consumer Federation of America says it's because of a voter-passed initiative that requires the state to more tightly regulate rates.  

Some states place a higher value on medical coverage than others. An example is top-ranked Michigan, where the high rates are blamed on the state's requirement that consumers buy unlimited, lifetime medical benefits as part of their policy. This costs individual consumers but, in theory anyway, holds down taxpayers' expense to cover seriously injured motorists.

In Florida, by contrast, drivers must only carry $10,000 worth of personal injury protection -- hardly enough to cover even minor injuries. 

In Montana, the nation's second-highest average rate is blamed on the state's wide open spaces and lonely roads. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the state has the highest fatality rate in the country -- 22.6 deaths per 100,000 people, twice the national average. 

New Jersey's high rates, on the other hand, are blamed on the state's population density, the highest in the nation. With so many drivers in a relatively small space, the chance of having an accident is higher. But thanks to the congestion, speeds aren't as high as in Montana, which keeps the fatality rate down. 

Like Michigan, New Jersey also requires a lot of personal injury protection. Drivers must carry a minimum of $250,000, second only to Michigan.

And then, since this is New Jersey we're talking about, there's the little matter of fraud. High levels of personal injury fraud cost everyone money.

As for Maine, the low premiums are due mostly to the state's rural nature, Insure.com found. Traffic congestion's not that bad, and the weather is cold but lacks the tornadoes and hurricanes that drive up costs in many other states.  

The post-Baby Boomer shift is currently underway, and it’s bringing with it some interesting changes to workplace environments.As the youth bubble cont...

Economists and stock market prognosticators appear sharply divided. Things are about to get really bad, or maybe not.True, the world economy isn't grow...

Economists and stock market prognosticators appear sharply divided. Things are about to get really bad, or maybe not.

True, the world economy isn't growing much. The U.S. economy, outside of the oil industry, isn't doing too badly. And even oil prices have risen lately, leading some to speculate that the market has bottomed.

Personal finance website CardHub.com uses consumer's household debt data to chart economic progress. In it's latest study, the site is issuing some warnings.

The study authors say in the second half of 2015, consumers went on the biggest credit card binges in the history of the annual review. Total credit card debt for the year rose by $71 billion.

One particularly troubling statistic – consumers took on as much new debt in the last three months of last year as they did in all of 2014.

At the end of the year, CardHub found that the average household had credit card balances of $7,879. The authors say that is “perilously close to a tipping point” that sinks consumers under the increasing weight of debt.

To CardHub, the fourth quarter of last year was the killer. Consumers added $52.4 billion to their credit card balances, the largest buildup in that quarter since the Great Recession. It was twice the amount consumers put on their plastic in the prior three months.

Credit card balances in the fourth quarter of 2015 were 24% greater than 2014, 77% greater than 2013, and 95% greater than 2012. That suggests one of two things. Consumers are either feeling more confidence in their ability to repay debt, or economic circumstances are prompting them to rely more on credit to maintain their standard of living.

Other data, showing consumer incomes have remained static for several years, suggests the latter scenario.

CardHub offers several tips for managing debt that some you may have heard before, like making a budget and sticking to it and building up an emergency fund.

Others are more novel, such as the “island approach” to credit cards. That's a strategy of using different cards for different purchases.

If you use a credit card for day to day expenses, make sure that gets paid off at the end of every billing cycle. Transfer balances to a 0% credit card and don't use it until it's paid off.

Way back in December of 2013, Amazon unveiled its concept for Amazon Prime Air – a drone delivery service that would be able to deliver packages to custome...

Way back in December of 2013, Amazon unveiled its concept for Amazon Prime Air – a drone delivery service that would be able to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. While the service has yet to take off, so to say, Amazon is not sitting back and waiting to take to the skies.

Reuters reports that Amazon has struck a deal to lease 20 Boeing 767 aircraft from Air Transport Services Group Inc (ATSG). With the move, Amazon will be able to take more control over its shipping and business operations while allowing them to deliver packages at an even faster rate. The lease agreement will last anywhere from five to seven years, according to ATSG.

Included in the deal is an option for Amazon to buy up to 19.9% of ATSG’s stock over five years. Word of the deal has moved quickly and investors have begun to respond. ATSG shares jumped 21% in premarket trading on Wednesday. 

Practicing mindfulness comes with a myriad of scientifically proven benefits. From mood improvement and stress reduction to higher levels of optimism and s...

Practicing mindfulness comes with a myriad of scientifically proven benefits. From mood improvement and stress reduction to higher levels of optimism and self-control.

Now, studies show that mindfulness is also linked to healthy glucose levels. Researchers have discovered that people with higher levels of mindfulness are more likely to have healthy glucose levels.  

A Brown University-led study of 399 people yielded the overall hypothesis that people who regularly practice mindfulness may be better self-regulators -- better able to motivate themselves to stick to diet and exercise regimens. This may, in turn, have a positive impact on glucose levels.

Mindful people were less likely to be obese and more likely to believe they can change certain things in their life. Researchers say that while the results of the study show an association and do not prove a cause, they hope to discover whether interventions to increase mindfulness can improve cardiovascular health.

"This study demonstrated a significant association of dispositional mindfulness with glucose regulation, and provided novel evidence that obesity and sense of control may serve as potential mediators of this association," said the authors, led by Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health.

Participants’ mindfulness was measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) -- a questionnaire which ranks dispositional mindfulness on a scale of 1 to 7. MAAS scores of 6 or 7 were 35% more likely to have healthy glucose levels than people with scores below 4.

Loucks says this is one of the first observational studies to investigate the relationship of mindfulness with diabetes or any cardiovascular risk factor.

"We're getting a signal,” said Loucks of the study, published recently in the American Journal of Health Behavior. “I'd love to see it replicated in larger sample sizes and prospective studies as well."

From a health standpoint, mindfulness -- or the act of being aware of your own thoughts and feelings -- can be beneficial and transformative. To increase your own level of mindfulness, Mindful.org recommends the following tips to get started.

Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you are eating, notice the color, texture, and taste of food. When you are walking, focus more on how it feels to walk and less on where you are headed.

Notice where you tend to zone out (driving, emailing, feeding the dog, etc), and practice bringing more awareness to that activity.

Amazon.com's foray into video streaming will take another turn tonight when the online giant premiers its first live show. The program is not just entertai...

Amazon.com's foray into video streaming will take another turn tonight when the online giant premiers its first live show. The program is not just entertainment, but is designed to sell product.

Unlike other streaming offerings that are provided on-demand, Style Code Live will stream live weeknights at 9 ET/6PT. It will cover fashion and beauty, featuring interviews with style experts.

It will also show products that viewers can purchase and make it easy to buy them at Amazon.com. Unlike Amazon's other video offerings, Style Code Live will be free to all viewers. You can access it here.

The program will feature three hosts – Lyndsey Rodrigues, Rachel Smith, and Frankie Grande. Rodrigues has hosted shows including MTV’s Total Request Live and has interviewed a range of film and music stars. Smith is a correspondent at ABC News for Good Morning America and Nightline. Grande is a television personality and theatre actor who has appeared on CBS’s Big Brother 16.

Amazon says the show will have interactive features such as live chat, allowing audience members to join the conversation or pose questions. It will also prominently display products available through Amazon.

A “Style Carousel” directly under the Style Code Live player constantly updates to highlight products available on Amazon as they are featured in the show.

The program is perhaps the natural evolution for a company that is firmly embedded in both the media and retail worlds.

“Our customers love fashion, and have wanted a place to keep up with new trends and get expert tips. We created Style Code Live for them, and we are just getting started with this show,” executive producer Munira Rahemtulla, said in a statement. “The team can't wait for tonight’s premiere.”

Amazon hopes to compete with HSN, QVC, and ShopNBC, three of the major shop at home television networks. According to Racked.com, HSN sold $2.5 billion in merchandise in 2014.

Boston media sources are reporting that Chipotle has closed a Massachusetts store temporarily after several employees got sick, at least one with a confirm...

Boston media sources are reporting that Chipotle has closed a Massachusetts store temporarily after several employees got sick, at least one with a confirmed case of norovirus.

The move appears to be a preemptive one, in the wake of the company's well publicized and damaging E. coli outbreak late last year. In December, a Boston-area Chipotle was shuttered for a while after customers – including some Boston College basketball players – came down with norovirus after eating there.

In the case of the Billerica, Mass., restaurant, no customers have yet been reported sick. WBZ-TV reports that the company closed the restaurant after an employee was diagnosed with norovirus and two others reported similar symptoms.

WBZ quotes Sandra Giroux of the Billerica Board of Health as saying she believes the restaurant is doing everything possible to clean up the facility and reopen. Sanitation trucks arrived on the scene late Tuesday and work is expected to continue for the rest of the week.

Reuters quotes a Chipotle spokesman as saying no customers have reported getting sick, and that employees at all Chipotle restaurants have been instructed to never report for work when they are ill.

After last year's E. coli outbreak, which occurred in several states, Chipotle's profits and stock price took a severe hit. The company has responded by implementing what it says are enhanced food safety practices.

“Over the last few months, we have been implementing an enhanced food safety plan that will establish Chipotle as an industry leader in food safety,” Steve Ells, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle, said in a January statement. “Most of the new protocols are already in place, thanks to the hard work and dedication [of] our excellent restaurant teams. Additionally, we have implemented unprecedented food safety standards with our suppliers, which make the food coming into our restaurants safer than ever before.”

Some industry analysts have speculated the very qualities prized by Chipotle customers have made the chain more vulnerable. The company promotes organic, natural, and fresh ingredients from local sources. Those kinds of supply chains, it is said, can be more difficult to monitor.

Among the food safety changes that Chipotle has implemented are changes to food prep and food handling practices, including washing and cutting of some produce items and shredding cheese in central kitchens.

The company is also now providing employees with paid sick days in order to encourage them to stay home when they get sick.

As the cost of new cars keeps going up – and the average transaction price is now north of $34,000 – leasing becomes a more popular option for consumers....

As the cost of new cars keeps going up – and the average transaction price is now north of $34,000 – leasing becomes a more popular option for consumers.

Experian Automotive reports the average amount financed and the average monthly payment for a new vehicle continued to climb in the last quarter of 2015, breaking the previous records. The company says the amount financed on a new car during the quarter was $29,551, up $1,170 from the fourth quarter of 2014.

“People shop for vehicles largely based on monthly price, and right now, average dollar amounts for new vehicle loans are soaring,” Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive credit for Experian Automotive, said in a statement. “In order to stay within their budget goals, we have seen that more consumers — even those within the prime and super-prime risk categories — are turning to leasing and used vehicles as cost-effective alternatives to buying new.”

The report shows the average lease payment was $81 dollars a month less than the purchase payment, and dealers were only too happy to lease a new car rather than sell it. Leasing reached another record high of 33.6% of all new financing during the quarter.

But one auto industry insider, Bob Lutz, a former executive at GM, Ford, and Chrysler, is warning car companies they are dangerously close to doing too many leases.

“You don't want to do too much leasing because the cars aren't really sold,” Lutz said in an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box. “Your lease rate is essentially a bet on the residual value of the vehicle after two or three years. If you get that residual guess wrong, you can stand to lose a lot of money.”

But Lutz's concern for automakers may suggest that leasing can be advantageous to consumers. It all has to do with how leases are structured.

When you lease a car, you pay only for the part of the car you will be using. After the two or three year term is up, you return the car.

At the beginning of the lease, the consumer and the leasing company agree on what the car's value will be at the end of the lease. That's important, because the monthly payments are based on the purchase price minus the residual price. The higher the residual price, the lower your payments will be.

Lutz worries that car companies have overestimated those residual prices. With so many leases, that means a huge number of vehicles hit the used car market at the same time, when those lease terms are up.

“If you go over 30% leasing in any one particular model, all those cars flood the used car market at the same time, driving down prices,” Lutz said.

So if you've been leasing a vehicle, chances are you've gotten a pretty good deal, because the car you will turn in will be worth less than the car company thought. But be warned – they'll probably try to make it up on leases in the future.

When negotiating a new lease, the car company will likely try to lower the residual value of the car you are leasing. To prepare, check with a source like Kelley Blue Book and price a three year old model of the car you plan to lease. That should give you a rough idea of what the residual value will be in three years.

In the meantime, consumers might want to consider purchasing a used car rather than leasing. The influx of two and three year old cars coming off leases should produce plenty of deals.

“Over leasing will certainly depress used car prices,” Lutz said. “As used car prices are sufficiently depressed, the used car market is strong.”

The Experian data shows consumers are already moving in that direction. Used vehicle loans made up 62.8% of all vehicle financing, and the gap between payments on new and used vehicles averaged $134 in the last quarter, an all-time high.

The wearin' o' the green may not boost the spendin' o' the green.The National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual St. Patrick’s Day Spending Survey conduc...

After posting two drops in as many weeks, mortgage applications have turned higher.The Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey from the Mortgage Bankers As...

The Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) shows mortgage applications were up 0.2% in the week ending March 4.

The Refinance Index, meanwhile, fell 2%, sending the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 56.7% of total applications from 58.6% the week before.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity dipped to 5.2 percent of total applications, the FHA share was unchanged at 12.0%, the VA share rose to 12.6% from 12.1%, and the USDA share increased to 0.8% from 0.7% the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) was up six basis points -- from 3.83% to 3.89%, with points decreasing to 0.38 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The inventory of foreclosed houses continued to shrink in January.Property information, analytics, and data-enabled services provider CoreLogic reports...

Maxi Canada of Quebec, Canada, is recalling 103,752 pounds of chicken product exported to the United States. The product may be contaminated with m...

Maxi Canada of Quebec, Canada, is recalling 103,752 pounds of chicken product exported to the United States.

The following chicken nugget item, produced in July 2015, and imported to the U.S. between July 30, 2015, and March 5, 2016, is being recalled:

The recalled product bears establishment number “Canada Est. 348” and UPC number 064563225782 and was shipped to retail locations in the United States nationwide. It can be found at retailers such as Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Safeway.

Is it fair that women must pay sales tax on tampons while men's health products like Rogaine are tax-free in many states? Women around the country say it's...

Virginia has become the first state to formally establish the legality of daily fantasy sports (DFS), which many other states have declared to be illegal g...

Virginia has become the first state to formally establish the legality of daily fantasy sports (DFS), which many other states have declared to be illegal gambling.

Virginia Governor Terry McAullife signed a measure passed by the Virginia General Assembly in late February.

For those who watched no television during the late summer and early fall, and thus missed the thousands of TV commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel, DFS is, in fact, a lot like gambling.

Instead of betting on teams to win or beat the spread, DFS players assemble fantasy teams of actual players who compete in an actual league. They are assigned points for how well each player performs in a given game and the DFS league player with the most points wins money. Those who don't win forfeit the money they paid to play.

See, a lot like gambling. So much so that a handful of states declared the games illegal from the get-go. Nevada later declared them to be gambling, followed by New York, where Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has gone to court seeking restitution for players and civil penalties.

The Virginia legislation, in effect, says the games are legal, whether they are gambling or not. DFS enterprises like FanDuel and DraftKings, that allow players from Virginia to participate, must pay a $50,000 fee to the state.

Requiring fantasy sports sites to implement policies intended to verify that all participants are 18 years or older

Preventing the sharing of confidential information that could affect fantasy contest play with third parties until the information is made publicly available

Banning employees of fantasy sports sites (as well as relatives living in the same household) from competing in public fantasy sports contests for cash prizes on any site, and

Requiring fantasy sports companies to undergo two independent yearly audits of their operations to ensure compliance with all regulations.

A spokesman for FanDuel said the company hopes other states that have questioned DFS' legality will pass similar legislation.  

Software developers have been saying that virtual reality will hit consumers like a wildly hypnotic and habit-forming drug. Maybe, but a new study released...

Software developers have been saying that virtual reality will hit consumers like a wildly hypnotic and habit-forming drug. Maybe, but a new study released today finds interest in virtual reality is, well, virtually non-existent.

The study of 3,000 Americans found that two-thirds of them were either unaware of virtual reality (VR) or didn't care anything about it, according to Horizon Media. 

Those who had some interest said they were most likely to use VR for travel, viewing infrequent live events (like the Olympics and SXSW), seeing concerts, and playing sports.

Gaming and viewing sporting events are usually mentioned as top drivers of VR usage but, in fact, rank at the bottom two interests for the general population. However, online conversation tells a different story, Horizon researchers said.

In an analysis of VR related posts mentioning one of these same six usage interest areas, gaming claimed a 93% share of the discussion, proving that gamers are by far the biggest drivers of online buzz. 

“The research helps explain why gaming is the most likely first frontier for virtual reality devices,” said Kirk Olson, VP, Trendsights at Horizon Media. “Core gamers aren’t a large audience, but they’re passionate about new technology. That makes them much more likely to pay for premium devices like Oculus Rift.” 

The Horizon team said that 10% of negative conversation about virtual reality devices is connected to discussion about price, with many consumers saying the price of VR is prohibitive, with few consumers wanting to spend more than $250 on a virtual reality device, less than half the price of Oculus Rift.

“Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard are low-cost alternatives that lower the barrier to entry,” said Olson. “That benefits marketers because the sooner we see more consumers using VR devices, the sooner we’ll understand what they’re truly good for. Not just what they can do, but what they can do that consumers CARE about. The ‘caring’ part is the key to creating meaningful and effective consumer connections.”

After years of appeals and court proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court has closed the book on a suit against Apple. On Monday, the court ruled that the compa...

After years of appeals and court proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court has closed the book on a suit against Apple. On Monday, the court ruled that the company will be forced to pay a $450 million settlement for its role in fixing prices on e-books on the Apple iBooks platform. Consumers of those inflated e-books will receive $400 million in the settlement and $50 million will go towards plaintiff lawyer fees.

“Apple’s liability for knowingly conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books is settled once and for all,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

The case goes back to 2012, when Apple and five book publishers – Macmillan, HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster – were sued by the Justice Department and the attorney generals of 33 states. The charges were that the companies conspired to raise e-book prices, working together to take undue money from consumers.

While all of the book publishers eventually settled the case, Apple continued to fight the decision. The company made an appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that it was simply raising prices to encourage competition and that it was not in violation of any antitrust laws.

With an appeal pending, Apple agreed to pay $450 million if they lost the case in court. However, if it won a retrial, then it would only pay out $70 million. If it won that retrial, then the company would not be on the hook for any payment.

Unfortunately for Apple, the court determined that the company had engaged in price-fixing. In one last-ditch effort, Apple tried to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court – but its plea was denied on Monday.

“The outstanding work of the Department of Justice team – working with our steadfast state attorney general partners – exposed this cynical misconduct by Apple and its book publisher co-conspirators and ensured that justice was done,” said Baer.

Hand a screaming child an iPad, and in a split second you’ll see a radically different child -- one who is calm, quiet, and focused on the screen.Using...

Hand a screaming child an iPad, and in a split second you’ll see a radically different child -- one who is calm, quiet, and focused on the screen.

Using mobile technology to help settle a child is a tempting quick fix for any parent. But are parents of “difficult” children more likely to reach for iPads and smartphones? According to the results of a new study, the answer is yes.

The study, led by a pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, found that children with social and emotional difficulties in low income homes were more likely to be given mobile technology to calm them down.

Studies have already proven that parents of babies and toddlers with difficult behavior are more likely to use TV and videos as calming agents. The purpose of this study was to see whether the same is true for mobile technology, such as iPads and smartphones.

According to lead author Jenny Radesky, M.D., a child behavior expert and assistant professor in pediatrics at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the results of the study suggest a link between the lack of control a parent feels and their use of digital pacifiers.

“We found that the less control and more frustration parents felt over their children’s behavior, the more likely they were to turn to mobile devices to help calm their kids down,” said Radesky, who conducted the study while at Boston Medical Center.

Radesky says that more research is needed to see whether this relationship between mobile technology and social-emotional development difficulties applies to the general population of parents, as well. She believes excessive device use could have an impact on children’s longer-term outcomes.

The dangerous flip side to keeping a kid quiet via use of mobile technology is that there is much less human-to-human interaction. Other studies have already proven that this can have an impact on young children’s language and social development, notes Radesky.

But now that screens are cordless and easy to travel with, they play a much larger role in our lives -- a role that can impact families for better or for worse.

“We’re interested in identifying the ways that mobile devices sometimes interfere with family dynamics,” said Radesky in a statement, “But also how we can use them as a tool to increase parent-child connection.”

Devices -- as well as electronic toys -- do have the potential to be engaging and interactive. But experts say parents should be careful not to let their kids get stuck in the closed loop of the app or toy.

According to another recent study on the subject (of which Radesky also took part), apps and electronic toys should provide transferrable lessons. 

"Any digital enhancement should serve a clear purpose to engage the child not only with the toy/app, but also transfer that engagement to others and the world around them to make what they learned meaningful and generalizable," concluded the study.

Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed an expansion of the FCC's Lifeline program to include help in paying for broadband...

Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed an expansion of the FCC's Lifeline program to include help in paying for broadband Internet service.

The Lifeline program began in 1985, making subsidies available to low-income consumers to offset the cost of telephone service. The idea being that in the 1980s everyone needed access to telephone service.

The communication landscape has changed a bit since then and Wheeler says the program needs to be modernized to meet 21st century communication needs.

The program was updated in 2005, when Lifeline discounts were made available to qualifying low-income consumers on pre-paid wireless service plans, in addition to traditional landline service. The money comes from the Universal Service Fund, a small fee every telephone customer pays.

The plan proposed by Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addresses the affordability issue, expanding Lifeline to enable low-income consumers to apply the $9.25 per month support to stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages.

Wheeler says the change would free up the Lifeline marketplace to encourage wide participation in the program by broadband providers, giving consumers competitive service options. Under the plan, Internet providers would have to meet minimum service standards in the service they provide to Lifeline participants.

If participants were offered a measured broadband service, the minimum monthly fixed broadband usage allowance would be 150 GB.

The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. Consumers with proper proof of eligibility may be qualified to enroll.

To participate, consumers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or participate in a public assistance program.

The price of oil may be down but you'd never know it from looking at airline surcharges. And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) doesn't think that's right....

The price of oil may be down but you'd never know it from looking at airline surcharges. And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) doesn't think that's right.

Blumenthal has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to look into why airlines are continuing to hit travelers with surcharges that can add hundreds of dollars in fees to tickets, especially on international flights.

“It is an unfair and deceptive practice when airlines convince consumers they are earning thousands of miles to use with award programs only to be surprised by hundreds of dollars in hidden fees at the checkout page,” Blumenthal wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The DOT regulations state that airline surcharges must be baed on a "reasonable estimate" of the per-passenger fuel expense above a baseline fuel cost. Blumenthal says carriers are getting around that by using such vague descriptions as "carrier-imposed charges" or "international/domestic surcharges."

Also calling on the DOT to act is the Business Travel Coalition, which said the "continued, widespread imposition of these substantial, add-on fuel surcharges in the face of plummeting jet fuel prices cannot be justified."

In its letter to Foxx, the coalition -- which represents business travelers -- said the continued imposition of surcharges "constitutes an unfair and deceptive act or practice and an unfair method of competition" which "inflict massive overcharges on consumers.”

Both Blumenthal and the business travelers group note that the surcharges have continued despite the price of oil plummeting from a high of $147 per barrel in 2008 to approximately $30 per barrel today. 

Blumenthal said the surcharges have had an especially devastating impact on the value of frequent-flyer programs.

“That carrier-imposed surcharges sometimes only surface when a consumer attempts to redeem an award ticket through an airline loyalty program seems to further confirm the deceptive nature of these surcharges,” he wrote.

Keeping a child’s life consistent is the name of the game for divorced parents. But even the most organized parents can find it difficult to orchestrate th...

After opening its first bookstore in Seattle this past November, Amazon is staging to open another literary location in San Diego this summer. Original rum...

After opening its first bookstore in Seattle this past November, Amazon is staging to open another literary location in San Diego this summer. Original rumors of the store opening started circulating in February when job listings for the store were posted, but it was recently confirmed by an Amazon representative in a report by The San Diego Union- Tribune.

If the Seattle location is any indicator, the new bookstore will be offering an array of best-selling books and electronic equipment; these include Amazon products like Kindles, Fire TVs and tablets, and the Echo. The San Diego Union- Tribune also reports that the new store will have an “upscale” style, one that matches its location at the University Towne Center Mall.

While the induction of these physical bookstores has been slow to start, there has been some speculation that as many as 400 stores may be planned to open across the nation. The quote was provided by General Growth Properties (GGP) after analyzing an earning’s call.

"You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400,” said a GGP executive at the time. However, the company quickly stepped back from this statement, saying that its suggestion was “not intended to represent Amazon’s plans.”

Whatever their eventual plans may be for the chain, Amazon states that it is happy to be moving forward with its second location. “We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to the University Towne Center Mall in San Diego and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” said Amazon spokesperson Sarah Gelman. “Stay tuned for additional details down the road.”

Let's say you and your family are considering a weekend getaway – maybe to an exciting city or the peaceful countryside.One way to cut costs is with an...

Doctors aren't sure what causes Alzheimer's disease, a cognitive degeneration that is ultimately fatal. There may be a number of contributing factors. That...

Doctors aren't sure what causes Alzheimer's disease, a cognitive degeneration that is ultimately fatal. There may be a number of contributing factors. That may be why it has been so difficult to find a cure.

However, intriguing research is exploring the link between a Western diet and sedentary lifestyle and the risk of developing the disease.

Tufts University researchers experimented with mice and found that prolonged consumption of the Western diet led to a dramatic increase in immune response activity in the brains of all mice, including those that don’t model Alzheimer’s disease.

The diet greatly increased the activity of microglia, which function as the brain’s immune cells. It also stimulates monocytes, circulating white blood cells that may cross into the brain in response to immune signaling.

The researchers were following up on previous findings that suggest some elements of the western diet have been associated with the development of peripheral inflammation over time.

The researchers conclude that it is becoming more likely that immune activity in the brain increases Alzheimer’s disease risk.

The Alzheimer's Association has long stressed diet as one way to help reduce the risk of developing the disease.

It recommends eating a heart-healthy diet, saying it will benefit not just your body, but your brain.

“In general, this is a diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit,” the group says on its website. “Research in the area of the relationship between diet and cognitive functioning is somewhat limited, but it does point to the benefits of two diets in particular: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet. These diets can help reduce heart disease and may also be able to reduce risk of dementia.”

The association has also been an advocate for physical activity, calling it a valuable part of any overall body wellness plan that is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline.

Regular exercise will increase the blood flow to your brain and body, providing additional nourishment while reducing potential dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

It's also important to start these habits at a young age, but always clear any new exercise program with your doctor.

Coffee drinkers, especially those who load up on the beverage each day, may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS).That's the conclusion of ...

Coffee drinkers, especially those who load up on the beverage each day, may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS).

That's the conclusion of research published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. The researchers say it has neuroprotective properties and can suppress the production of chemicals involved in the inflammatory response, which may explain their findings.

They say consuming a lot of coffee every day – around six cups--is linked to a reduced risk of MS. An accompanying editorial cautions that the link remains to be conclusively proven. However, the research is just the latest to suggest that coffee has some beneficial health effects.

The research is based on two studies, one in the U.S. and the other in Sweden. The results showed that the risk of MS was consistently higher among people who drank fewer cups of coffee every day, and the results were virtually the same in both studies.

It's just the latest study to find health benefits in coffee, which was thought to be a heart risk in 1970s research.

Among the more recent research is the suggestion that coffee and cranberries help fight colon cancer; that coffee grounds contain 500 times the antioxidant properties of vitamin C; and that green coffee might even help you lose weight.

Caffeine has only recently come to be viewed as potentially beneficial. In the past health experts were skeptical of the drug because of its tendency to temporarily increase the heart rate and elevate blood pressure.

But coffee's health benefits apparently extend beyond caffeine to the properties in the bean itself. A 2014 study by the National Cancer Institute found that even decaffeinated coffee may be good for the liver.

That's because coffee's health inducing qualities might not come from caffeine, but from something else. Researchers say some other chemical component of coffee, rather than caffeine, may be responsible for the fact that heavy coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from MS.

Google is extending its Project Fi mobile network, which lets customers pay only for the data they actually use, making it available to anyone with a recen...

Google is extending its Project Fi mobile network, which lets customers pay only for the data they actually use, making it available to anyone with a recent Nexus phone. It had previously been available by invitation only. 

Google is also offering the Nexus 5X phone for $199 for the next month for customers who sign up and activate a Project Fi account.

Fi uses the cellular networks of Sprint and T-Mobile but also connects whenever possible to public Wi-Fi networks to hold down data costs. Google says it has found more than half of its early users connecting to Wi-Fi at least weekly.

Google said it has also found that more than 15% of its early Project Fi customers have traveled abroad, visting 110 of the 120 countries supported by the service, while paying the same rate for data that they would in the U.S. 

Most major wireless networks require that consumers buy a certain amount of bandwidth upfront, although most offer at least some carryover options. Fi comes with only one plan at one price -- $20 a month gets you the basics: talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering and international coverage. It's $10 per gigabyte of data after that for cellular data while in the U.S. and abroad. The plan refunds any data you don't use.

Consumers with existing Google Voice numbers have the option of transferring their number to their Project Fi account.

One of the defendants in the I Works scheme faces a $7 million judgment as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Loyd Johnston is one of ...

One of the defendants in the I Works scheme faces a $7 million judgment as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Loyd Johnston is one of eleven defendants who allegedly took more than $280 million from consumers via deceptive “trial” memberships for bogus government-grant and money-making schemes.

The judgment has been suspended based on Johnston's claim that he is unable to pay but will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.

In December 2010, the FTC filed a complaint against the defendants and froze the assets of 61 corporate defendants. It has since reached settlements with three of the defendants in addition to Johnston.

The settlement order against Loyd Johnston bans him from engaging in lines of business like those that were used in the I Works scheme.

Got a gripe about online lending? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants to hear it.The agency is now accepting complaints from consumer...

The agency is now accepting complaints from consumers encountering problems with loans from online marketplace lenders. At the same time, it's releasing a consumer bulletin that provides an overview of marketplace lending and outlines tips for consumers who are considering taking out loans from these types of lenders.

“When consumers shop for a loan online we want them to be informed and to understand what they are signing up for,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “All lenders, from online startups to large banks, must follow consumer financial protection laws. By accepting these consumer complaints, we are giving people a greater voice in these markets and a place to turn to when they encounter problems.”

Marketplace lending -- often referred to as “peer-to-peer” or “platform” lending -- is a relatively new kind of online lending. A marketplace lender uses an online interface to connect consumers or businesses seeking to borrow money with investors willing to buy or invest in the loan.

Generally, the marketplace lending platform handles all underwriting and customer service interactions with the borrower. Once a loan is originated, the company generally makes arrangements to transfer ownership to the investors while it continues to service the loan.

Because marketplace lenders offer several types of consumer loans, a consumer submitting a complaint should select among the different complaint categories for products and services that best apply to their situation.

For example, a consumer can select products such as “mortgage,” “consumer loan,” or “student loan.” The CFPB forwards complaints to the marketplace lender and works to get a response -- generally within 15 days.

Consumers are given a tracking number after submitting a complaint and can check the status of their complaint by logging on to the CFPB website. The CFPB expects companies to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days.

The CFPB provides complaint-handling services to consumers in more than 180 languages and to consumers who are deaf, have hearing loss, or have speech disabilities via the Bureau’s toll-free telephone number.

Additionally, through AskCFPB, consumers can get clear, unbiased answers to their questions about financial products and services at consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).

A marketplace lender may offer different types of financial products such as installment loans, mortgages, student loans, or auto loans. Marketplace lending platforms generally market both new loans and loans that can be used to refinance or consolidate existing debt.

The consumer bulletin offers information for consumers who are considering a loan from a marketplace lender, including:

The consumer bulletin also highlights general steps consumers should take when shopping for a loan, including a loan from a marketplace lender. Key tips include:

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 78 model year 2015 Chrysler 200 vehicles manufactured April 7, 2014, to August 3, 2015. During service work, the...

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 78 model year 2015 Chrysler 200 vehicles manufactured April 7, 2014, to August 3, 2015.

During service work, the affected vehicles may have had either the Occupant Classification Module (OCM) or the Seat Cushion Foam (SCF) of the front passenger seat replaced instead of the both pieces together, which make up a complete calibrated set.

If both pieces were not replaced together, the occupant detection and classification system may not be properly calibrated and the passenger air bag may improperly deploy in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will install a new OCM-SCF seat service kit, 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 S09.

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,232 model year 2016 Dodge Darts manufactured July 25, 2015, to December 16, 2015 and equipped with a 2.0L engine and a...

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,232 model year 2016 Dodge Darts manufactured July 25, 2015, to December 16, 2015 and equipped with a 2.0L engine and a manual transmission. Also included are certain 2015 Dodge Dart vehicles similarly equipped and brought in for dealer service between September 15, 2015 and January 12, 2016.

The powertrain control module that monitors the engine torque output may be missing a backup layer of software.

Without a backup layer of software, the control module may fail to prevent an un-commanded torque event, increasing the risk of a crash.

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the Engine Control Module software, 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 S10.

American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 1,984 model year 2014 NSS300 and NSS300A scooters manufactured June 18, 2013, to September 12, 2013. The rear...

American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 1,984 model year 2014 NSS300 and NSS300A scooters manufactured June 18, 2013, to September 12, 2013.

The rear brake line connection on the recalled vehicles may have been improperly tightened, allowing brake fluid to leak.

If the rear brake line leaks, there would be a reduction in rear brake pressure and therefore rear braking function, increasing the risk of a crash.

Honda will notify owners, and dealers will tighten the rear brake line connection to specification, and fill the rear brake fluid reservoir, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 18,700 model year 2012 Genesis vehicles manufactured August 1, 2011, to April 30, 2012, and 2011-2013 Equus vehicles man...

Hyundai Motor America is recalling 18,700 model year 2012 Genesis vehicles manufactured August 1, 2011, to April 30, 2012, and 2011-2013 Equus vehicles manufactured July 10, 2011, to June 12, 2012.

The windshield wiper motor cover seal on the recalled vehicles may degrade allowing corrosion on the wiper motor's circuit board. The corrosion can cause intermittent or total loss of wiper function.

Inoperative wipers during bad weather can decrease driver visibility, increasing the risk of a crash.

Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will replace the wiper motor cover and seal, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 22, 2016.

Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 140.

Researchers at Palo Alto Networks say they discovered what appears to be the first ransomware attack on Apple MacIntosh users over the weekend.Ransomwa...

Researchers at Palo Alto Networks say they discovered what appears to be the first ransomware attack on Apple MacIntosh users over the weekend.

Ransomware is a particularly scary form of malware. Once downloaded to a computer or network, it encrypts all files. The operator will only provide a key to unlock the encryption if the victim agrees to pay a ransom using Bitcoins.

“On March 4, we detected that the Transmission BitTorrent client installer for OS X was infected with ransomware, just a few hours after installers were initially posted,” Palo Alto posted on its website.

“We have named this Ransomware KeRanger. The only previous ransomware for OS X we are aware of is FileCoder, discovered by Kaspersky Lab in 2014. As FileCoder was incomplete at the time of its discovery, we believe KeRanger is the first fully functional ransomware seen on the OS X platform.”

In a high profile case last month, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom after its files were encrypted.

Ransomware has become highly profitable for cybercriminals, but in the past they have targeted systems running Microsoft Windows. In this latest case, Palo Alto Networks said the hackers were successful in the Mac attack through a compromised copy of Transmission, a widely-used program to transfer data.

“Attackers infected two installers of Transmission version 2.90 with KeRanger on the morning of March 4,” Palo Alto Networks reports. “When we identified the issue, the infected DMG files were still available for downloading from the Transmission site.

The company said it is possible that Transmission’s official website was compromised and the files were replaced by re-compiled malicious versions, but said it can’t confirm how this infection occurred.

Most consumers victimized by ransomware fall into the trap by clicking on a link in an email. Since a growing number of consumers now know not to do that, scammers are working extra hard to trick them.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that one of the latest tricks is to send what looks like a courtesy email to track a package. With the growing popularity of online shopping, the chances a recipient of the phishing email has actually just ordered something are great, and the target might be more likely to click on a link.

Besides diligence, the FTC says the best way to protect yourself from the ransomeware threat is to faithfully back up your data. If you back up to an external hard drive, make sure it is connected to your PC only when it is actively receiving files.

As if Volkswagen hadn't done enough to besmirch the image of diesel fuel, a Houston man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for selling frau...

As if Volkswagen hadn't done enough to besmirch the image of diesel fuel, a Houston man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for selling fraudulent biodiesel cedits in the federal renewable fuel program.

Philip Rivkin had pleaded guilty iin June 2015 to mail fraud and making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. He was sentenced today to 121 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $87 million in restitution and forfeit $51 million.

"Rivkin’s abuse of the biodiesel program, a program designed to further our nation’s energy independence and combat climate change, was an abuse against the American people,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “This sentence should send a strong message that those committing fraud in the bio-diesel program will be vigorously prosecuted and sent to prison.”

A 2007 federal law created monetary incentives for the production of renewable fuels, including biodiesel, allowing authorized biodiesel producers and importers to generate and attach credits—known as renewable identification numbers (RINs)—to biodiesel fuel.

Rivkin controlled several companies in the fuel and biodiesel industries, including Green Diesel LLC, Fuel Streamers Inc., and Petro Constructors LLC, all based in Houston. He claimed to produce millions of gallons of biodiesel at the Green Diesel’s Houston facility and then generated and sold RINs based upon those claims.

But in reality, prosecutors said, no biodiesel was ever produced at the Green Diesel facility.  This scheme allowed the defendant to generate over 60 million fraudulent RINs that were then sold to companies that needed to obtain them and resulted in millions of dollars in sales. 

Before social media, it would seem strange -- at least somewhat -- to see someone snapping a photo of their meal before eating it. But nowadays, it’s becom...

Before social media, it would seem strange -- at least somewhat -- to see someone snapping a photo of their meal before eating it. But nowadays, it’s become common to see someone pick up their phone before they pick up their fork.

Young people, especially, seem to believe that the internet should be apprised of all things, including the fact that they are about to consume a particularly pretty meal. Food-related hashtags rack up millions of posts on Instagram and other social media platforms. But why?

What is driving consumers’ newfound desire to postpone the consumption of a meal in favor of sharing a photo of it? This new social norm carries with it some interesting impacts and implications, according to experts.

Consumer-generated images of food play a big role in marketing, according to Sean Coary, Ph.D., assistant professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“When we take a photo of something before eating, we create a momentary but intentional delay in consumption, allowing all of the senses to be engaged and building the anticipation of enjoyment,” says Coary, who teamed up with Morgan Poor, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at the University of San Diego, to study the effects of taking a photo of food prior to eating it.

The team’s research, published recently in the Journal for Consumer Marketing, showed that taking a picture of food prior to consumption leads to greater overall satisfaction. And consquently, more favorable evaluations of the dish -- but only when the dish was considered “indulgent.”

Photographing healthy dishes played a similarly large role in influencing consumer satisfaction. Taking photos of healthy dishes can help people share their healthy motives with their friends and social networks, the researchers said.

“Diners want to remember the visual aesthetic of their food, especially when it’s something indulgent,” said Coary. But they also want to “signal to others that they are part of the ‘fit’ club,” he explains.

When consumers are aware of the healthy eating habits of others, the satisfaction-generating effects of photographic food can be seen.

Poor says these studies and the ‘amateur food-photographer phenomenon’ they’re centered around have implications for brands and restaurants. She also predicts “this is only the beginning.”

The researchers say more restaurants and brands should embrace the trend and capitalize on their customers’ eagerness to share photos of their product. In a world where 'likes' are currency for consumers, there are advantages to be had for marketers.

“If your food is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, your customers will want to take a photograph and potentially share it,” said Coary. “Training staff who understand the importance of aesthetics and finding creative ways to take advantage of this free advertising are crucial for both brands and restaurants”

As long as your cell phone and your wallet are in the same place, a new security effort by banks should improve your protection against credit card fraud....

The concept of “fairness” is one that many parents of young children know well. Whether you’re doling out a punishment or doing something that a youngster ...

The concept of “fairness” is one that many parents of young children know well. Whether you’re doling out a punishment or doing something that a youngster doesn’t like or agree with, you’re sure to hear all about the unfairness of it all.

While you may write these complaints off as kids just being kids, a study from the University of Michigan suggests that young children actually do look at fairness much differently than adults, or even older children.

To put it in context, the researchers point to examples that are common in a school setting. “A teacher who rewards or punishes a whole class for the good deed or misdeed of just one student is more likely to be seen as fair by 4-to-5-year-olds but as less fair by older children,” said Craig Smith, a research investigator for the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan.

But while children in this age range might see this action as justifiable, older children and adults would completely disagree. Smith agrees, saying that “the data suggest that most older children and adults will feel that the common practice of punishing everyone for the misdeed of one or a few is unfair.”

But what exactly is behind this reaction from younger children? Are they simply less forgiving at this age? According to the study, not necessarily. In fact, the decision to punish everyone actually comes down to compassion. The researchers found that young children were hesitant to single out one person when it came to providing discipline.

This rationale is backed up in another line of questioning that researchers used. They asked children between the ages of 4 and 10 the best way to dispense punishments and rewards. Overwhelmingly, the children said the best way was for everyone to receive the same thing. Smith adds that, over time, children develop a sense that people get what they deserve, which changes the notion of fairness.

For years Verizon Wireless has been inserting unique identifier headers (UIDH) – known as “supercookies” – into its customers’ mobile Internet traffic. Cus...

For years Verizon Wireless has been inserting unique identifier headers (UIDH) – known as “supercookies” – into its customers’ mobile Internet traffic. Customers weren't asked or informed.

These headers were used to target specific ads to specific consumers. Verizon used the data in its own advertising programs and marketed the data to third parties.

After a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation, Verizon has agreed to obtain customers’ opt-in consent before sharing this information with third parties, and will obtain customers’ opt-in or opt-out consent before using it within the Verizon corporate family.

“Consumers care about privacy and should have a say in how their personal information is used, especially when it comes to who knows what they’re doing online,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. “Privacy and innovation are not incompatible. This agreement shows that companies can offer meaningful transparency and consumer choice while at the same time continuing to innovate.”

The investigation began in late 2014. The issue at hand was whether Verizon Wireless failed to appropriately protect customer proprietary information and whether it provided the proper disclosures.

The investigation found that Verizon Wireless began inserting UIDH into consumer Internet traffic as early as December 2012, but didn't disclose it was doing it until October 2014.

Verizon Wireless tried to assure regulators that the third-party companies that were getting the information were unlikely to use it to build profiles on Verizon Wireless customers. But just over a year ago there were news reports that one of these partners used the data for unauthorized purposes – restoring cookie IDs that users had cleared from their browsers.

Under the terms of the settlement with the FCC, the company must pay a fine of $1.35 million and adopt a three-year compliance plan.

The company must abide by Section 222 of the Communications Act, which requires carriers to protect their customers’ proprietary information and use such information only for authorized purposes. It also expressly prohibits carriers that obtain proprietary information from other carriers for the provision of telecommunications services to use such information for any other purpose.

The settlement is the second of the agency's Open Internet enforcement actions. Last June it proposed a $100 million fine against AT&T Mobility for misleading its customers about the data speed limits on its so-called “unlimited” mobile data plans.

Researchers from around the world have been working tirelessly towards understanding, and hopefully one day curing, Alzheimer’s disease. While experts stil...

Researchers from around the world have been working tirelessly towards understanding, and hopefully one day curing, Alzheimer’s disease. While experts still do not understand every facet of the cognitive ailment, a team from Lund University in Sweden may have taken a crucial step towards that goal.

The researchers have found that amyloid plaque, the build-up of which is a marker for Alzheimer’s, is much more versatile than previously suspected. Before now, many believed that the build-up of amyloid plaque was hereditary; in short, if you possessed the gene that caused your body to overproduce amyloid plaque, then you were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

However, researchers have found that having this hereditary trait is not necessary for developing the disease. In fact, one does not need any such gene in order to develop Alzheimer’s.

“In our study, we show that accumulation of amyloid in the brain is associated with high levels of specific amyloid peptides in the cerebrospinal fluid,” said Niklas Mattsson, a researcher at Lund University. “This means that overproduction of amyloid beta may contribute to development of Alzheimer’s disease in some people, even if they do not carry the hereditary risk gene for Alzheimer’s.”

The researchers made their discovery after examining patients without the hereditary gene for amyloid plaque build-up. Over 330 people participated in the study – they included people with mild cognitive disorders (which can be an indicator for Alzheimer’s) and a control group who had no impairment.

Cerebrospinal fluid samples were collected from each participant and then examined. Results showed that there were increased levels of amyloid beta in some patients in the experimental group, even though they did not have the hereditary gene.

“We were surprised by the results. Our study emphasizes that Alzheimer’s is probably a more heterogeneous disease than we previously believed,” said Mattsson. “The results are important because they increase the understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease arises,” added Oskar Hansson, a reader at Lund University and consultant at Skåne University Hospital.

While future studies will be necessary in order to verify the results, the researchers are hopeful that their work will help in the development of new medications.

“Our hope is that this and other similar studies can increase the possibilities of personalizing treatments that slow down the disease in the future,” said Hansson.

For weeks now, the chatter in the oil industry has been that OPEC would finally get its act together and agree to limit production. That, the reasoning wen...

For weeks now, the chatter in the oil industry has been that OPEC would finally get its act together and agree to limit production. That, the reasoning went, would boost oil prices.

While the oil glut is still a reality, oil prices have been rising over the last couple of weeks, hitting a three month high in Monday's trading. On the futures market, Brent crude broke $40 for the first time in months. West Texas crude was not far behind.

There is still a fierce debate over whether oil has bottomed, or if this rally is just a head fake, with lower prices still to come. However, more and more analysts are saying prices could top out at $50 a barrel by the end of the year.

On one hand, $50 a barrel oil would be helpful to the U.S. economy and very helpful to people who live in Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and North Dakota. Those states' economies have been crushed by the collapse in oil prices.

But what about consumers who have been enjoying cheap gasoline for a year and a half? Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, tells ConsumerAffairs that consumers would definitely see higher prices at the pump, but nothing like 2010 to 2014.

“I’d say $50 oil during the summer could potentially equate to a national average gas price of $2.40 a gallon, while during the winter, it’d mean $2.20 to $2.30,” DeHaan said.

In other words, $50 a barrel for oil might be a sweet spot, allowing the U.S. oil industry to recover but not causing undue pain to consumers.

Of course, it's still an open question as to whether oil prices can climb back to $50, or how soon that would happen.

Reuters reports oil stockpiles increased by 670,000 barrels last week at Cushing, Okla., where reserves now total almost 69 million barrels.

Bees are small but mighty creatures. Some of their buzzworthy accomplishments include pollinating 75% of our flowering plants, beautifying our planet, and ...

Bees are small but mighty creatures. Some of their buzzworthy accomplishments include pollinating 75% of our flowering plants, beautifying our planet, and of course, making honey. Their pollination efforts are said to help produce approximately one-third of what we eat.

For all they do for us, why not help them out a little? Creating a bee garden can help you do just that.

Not only will bees appreciate your gift of a flower-rich habitat, they’ll return your kindness in the form of a healthy, bountiful garden.

Plant native flowers. Choose native flowers that are specifically adapted to your region, as well as your region’s local bees. For more info on bee-friendly plants, try visiting the websites of local botanical garden and nurseries.

Select single flower tops. While you might enjoy the fuller look of double flower tops (such as double impatiens), they produce less nectar and make it more difficult for bees to access pollen. Single flower tops, like daisies and marigolds, are much more bee-friendly.

Skip the hybridized plants. Because highly hybridized plants have been bred not to seed, they produce little pollen for bees. Opt for non-hybridized plants to provide bees with more pollen.

Season-round blooms. By planting at least three different types of flowers, you’ll see blooms throughout as many seasons as possible. This will provide bees with a constant source of food.

Build homes for solitary bees. Leave some empty space in your garden for solitary bees that burrow. Choose a sunny spot with access to soil surface. (For wood and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, reeds, or nesting blocks made from untreated wood; Mason bees will need a source of water and mud.)

Use natural pesticides and fertilizers. Use of herbicides or pesticides can be toxic to bees, as well as any human company your garden may have. When it comes to keeping pests at bay, mother nature has already got it under control -- ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises all naturally help to keep pest populations in check.

Create a “bee bath”. Like any other creature, bees need a place to get clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking. To make sure the bees know it’s a reliable source of water, be sure to fill the container with fresh water daily.

Smartphones have gotten smarter than ever in recent years, having evolved to even be able to help with a user’s health needs. They can monitor heart rate, ...

Smartphones have gotten smarter than ever in recent years, having evolved to even be able to help with a user’s health needs. They can monitor heart rate, connect patients with doctors, and even help manage Type 1 diabetes.

Our pocket-dwelling digital companions certainly have a lot to brag about these days, but one popular health app recently proved to be unreliable.

Instant Blood Pressure, an app downloaded over 100,000 times, was supposed to give users an accurate measure of their blood pressure. To get a read, a user would simply place the cell phone on their chest with one finger over the built-in camera lens.

But according to research from Johns Hopkins, the app misses high blood pressure in eight out of 10 patients, putting users’ health at risk.

Although the $4.99 app was pulled from the app store in late August 2015, the researchers say it is still functional on phones. Those who downloaded the app should be aware of its problems with accuracy. 

Researcher Timothy B. Plante, a member of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes there is a role for smartphone technology in health care, but there is also the need for scientific validation and regulation of the apps before they reach consumers.

“Because this app does such a terrible job measuring blood pressure,” said Plante, “it could lead to irreparable harm by masking the true risk of heart attacks and strokes in people who rely on the accuracy of this information.”

The study was conducted by Plante and Seth Martin, M.D., M.H.S., an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The researchers say blood pressure is best measured using the well-established technique of inflating a cuff attached around the brachial artery in the arm to detect the force of blood flowing when the heart is beating and at rest.

In a statement, Martin said they conducted the study because they “were skeptical that even very talented people could design an app that could accurately measure blood pressure in such a different way.”

Each of the study's 85 participants had his or her blood pressure measured twice using an accurate, reliable blood pressure monitor often used in research studies in order to avoid error. On the same day, participants also used the app to measure their blood pressure.

Results showed that close to 80% of those with high blood pressure (140/90 or above) showed normal blood pressure with the app.

As to how the app arrives at its blood pressure number, the authors say it remains unclear. They suggest, however, that the app gives a population-derived estimate (based on a user’s age, sex, height, weight, and heart rate) instead of attempting to measure true blood pressure.

Martin and Plante say that while the results of this study were discouraging, improvements in technology could eventually make blood pressure measurement apps accurate and helpful.

“The next big step in health care is to further engage folks in their own care and motivate them to reduce risks associated with diseases like high blood pressure,” Plante says. “But care must be taken to make sure they get the accurate ways to do that.”

New research has confirmed the long-held belief that a diet rich in protein makes you feel more full and less prone to over-eat.Purdue University resea...

New research has confirmed the long-held belief that a diet rich in protein makes you feel more full and less prone to over-eat.

Purdue University researchers said they were surprised when they discovered there really had never been any empirical research to back up this belief. Their study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviews the evidence on the effect of protein intake on perceived fullness and confirmed that protein does, in fact, make us feel fuller.

"A good deal of evidence suggests that protein activates satiety hormone release and so should be most strongly tied with fullness ratings," lead investigator Richard Mattes said in a statement.

But Mattes says individual studies are often conducted in small populations or with different approaches that can make interpretation of results problematic. The Purdue study combined multiple experiments to confirm the presence of an effect.

A high-protein diet is often associated with a low carb diet – such as the Atkins diet. Even though protein usually contains higher levels of fat, you tend to eat less of it. Dieters may feel fuller after eating protein, even if their overall calorie consumption is lower.

The research team used a variety of statistical approaches to make sense of the data. Each approach, the scientists said, pointed to the same conclusion; higher protein loads have a greater effect on fullness than lower ones.

If you decide to consider a high-protein diet, you should first consult your healthcare provider. Not all protein is the same and a protein-rich diet might not be best for everyone.

However, the Mayo Clinic advises that a high-protein diet generally isn't harmful for most healthy people, especially if you are on it for a short time. Such diets may help with weight loss by making you feel fuller. The Clinic staff says the potential risks of a high-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for the long term are still under study.

A healthy and successful high protein diet, the Clinic says, all depends on the foods in that diet. It says good choices include soy protein, beans, nuts, fish, skinless poultry, lean beef, pork, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid processed meats, it says.

And even though they confirmed that protein consumption makes you feel full, the researchers caution that a protein-rich diet won't work miracles.

"Feelings like hunger and fullness are not the only factors that influence intake,” Mattes said. “We often eat for other reasons. Anyone who has ever felt too full to finish their meal but has room for dessert knows this all too well." 

Once upon a time the average American consumer worked at the same place for 30 or 40 years and retired with a modest pension and Social Security, enough to...

Once upon a time the average American consumer worked at the same place for 30 or 40 years and retired with a modest pension and Social Security, enough to live out their days in relative comfort.

That was before escalating medical costs, longer lifespans, and the wholesale replacement of defined pensions with individual retirement savings plans.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that an increasing number of Americans have saved little or nothing for retirement, and has focused on characteristics of savers.

The study found that retirement wealth more than kept pace with incomes over the past 25 years. It nearly doubled as a share of personal disposable income between 1989 and 2013, with retirement account savings exceeding pension fund assets after 2012. While that seems to be a positive, the study notes that there is a distinct disparity among those who are saving and those who are not.

It suggests the shift from traditional pensions to individual savings has widened retirement gaps. High-income, white, college-educated, and married workers participate in defined-benefit pensions at a higher rate than other workers, but participation gaps are much larger under defined-contribution plans.

For many groups—lower-income, black, Hispanic, non-college-educated, and unmarried Americans—the typical working-age family or individual has no savings at all in retirement accounts.

“And for those who do have savings, the median balances in retirement accounts are very low,” the authors write.

The report also finds that economic turmoil takes a toll on retirement savings. Much of the 401(k) era coincided with rising stock and housing prices that propped up family wealth measures even as the savings rate declined.

This house of cards collapsed in 2000–2001 and again in 2007–2009. By 2013 most families were still feeling the impact from the financial crisis and Great Recession, reducing, if not eliminating, their ability to save for retirement.

At this point, the authors believe younger generations should be stepping up their retirement savings in defined-contribution plans. But while the retirement account savings of families approaching retirement grew before the financial crisis and Great Recession, those of younger families stayed flat.

At this point, the report notes the much discussed income inequality extends to retirement savings. The rich have gotten better prepared while the poor continue to lose ground.

“Participation in retirement savings plans is highly unequal across income groups,” the authors write. “In 2013, nearly nine in 10 families in the top income fifth had retirement account savings, compared with fewer than one in 10 families in the bottom income fifth.”

The report says the disparity has grown in the last decade as the share of working-age families with retirement account savings declined for all except the top income group. It concludes that it may be normal for higher-income families to have more savings, but it is not normal for most families in the bottom half of the income distribution to have no retirement account savings at all. That, the authors say, is a serious policy failure.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has had its hands full so far this year dealing with fraud.In late February the tax agency announced that last year'...

In late February the tax agency announced that last year's breach of its “Get Transcript” app was worse than originally reported. A further review found potential access of approximately 390,000 additional taxpayer accounts during the period from January 2014 through May 2015. The “Get Transcript” web application has been offline since this incident was discovered in May.

If that weren't bad enough, the IRS is dealing with an explosion in new attempts to steal money by filing fake tax returns. Fraudsters who obtain a taxpayer's name and Social Security number can make up a return claiming a large refund, which often gets paid before the real taxpayer gets around to filing a return.

Now, the IRS is worried about a new wrinkle on an old scam that has the potential to make the bogus tax return scam even more profitable – and dangerous.

People are receiving a phishing email that is made to look like it is coming from a top executive at the victim's place of employment. It asks that payroll data on all employees be sent via email for a review. That data contains all the information a scammer needs to file hundreds, maybe thousands of fake tax return.

“This is a new twist on an old scheme using the cover of the tax season and W-2 filings to try tricking people into sharing personal data,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “Now the criminals are focusing their schemes on company payroll departments.”

This scam marks a departure from previous versions, when a fraudster sends out millions of phishing emails, hoping to get lucky with just a few. Instead of picking victims at random, it appears scammers are scanning social media sites, looking for people who work in payroll or human resources at their places of employment.

The scammer then spoofs the email address of an actual CEO or department head. It's a lot of work, but if the scammer can trick just one HR person at a large company, the payoff could be thousands of personnel files, containing the most sensitive information.

The IRS is issuing a special warning to people who work in payroll or HR positions to be extra vigilant.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” Koskinen said. “Everyone has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

Koskinen says IRS criminal investigators are reviewing several cases in which people have been tricked into sharing Social Security numbers with cybercriminals.

After years of increasing refund fraud, the IRS said it is working with state tax officials to identify fraudulent returns faster. It also instituted new security requirements this year for filing of online returns. Even so, the IRS is expected to send out $21 billion in fraudulent refunds this year.

Perdue Foods of Gainesville, Ga., is recalling approximately 4,530 pounds of chicken nugget products produced for Applegate Farms. The products may...

Perdue Foods of Gainesville, Ga., is recalling approximately 4,530 pounds of chicken nugget products produced for Applegate Farms.

The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-2617” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail distribution centers in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas.

Customers who purchased these products should not consume them but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Applegate consumer relations, at 1-866-587-5858.

Progressive Gourmet of Wilmington, Mass., is recalling its 6-oz. packages of Sausage, Egg, and Cheddar Cheese on English Muffin breakfast sandwiches manufa...

Progressive Gourmet of Wilmington, Mass., is recalling its 6-oz. packages of Sausage, Egg, and Cheddar Cheese on English Muffin breakfast sandwiches manufactured for Starbucks.

The product, which comes in a 6 -oz., clear plastic labeled package marked with Best Before: 07-AUG-2016 on the top, was possibly sold to consumers by 250 Starbucks stores in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma on March 3-4, 2016. The sandwiches may be heated at the store level for immediate consumption.

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

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-224-7630 from 9:00 am-5:00 pm (EST) Monday through Friday.

Maytag Blue Cheese has been recalled from 17 Schnucks Markets locations in the Midwest. The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogene...

Maytag Blue Cheese, various sizes (approximately 3-4 oz) sold cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with Maytag Blue Cheese Dairy Farms label and scale label from the cheese department, UPC 0021806200000

Customers who purchased the recalled products should discard it, and may bring their receipt to the store of purchase for a full refund.

Customers with questions may contact Maytag Dairy Farms Monday - Friday at 800-247-2458 or 641-791-2010 or the Schnucks consumer affairs department Monday - Friday 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (CST) at 800-264-4400 or 314-994-4400.

When AT&T bought DirecTV, it was seen as a rather traditional -- even backward -- move. After all, the common wisdom is that satellite TV is old hat, soon...

When AT&T; bought DirecTV, it was seen as a rather traditional -- even backward -- move. After all, the common wisdom is that satellite TV is old hat, soon to be replaced by streaming TV.

Could be, but DirecTV has what in the retail world would be called inventory -- it has contracts with top content producers, everyone from ESPN to HBO, and AT&T; is now in the process of making much of that content availble as streaming video.

It will be making cable TV programming available without the cable or the satellite, much as Dish Network is doing with its Sling TV. It will also have a mobile version and a free, ad-supported version, the company said.

AT&T; announced its plans for the service earlier this week but released few pricing or content details. That's because it is still renegotiating its contracts with the program producers, some of whom may not be too eager to see their shows streaming on the Internet. 

Cable companies aren't thrilled with the prospect either. As we reported last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is investigating whether cable companies are putting pressure on program producers to keep their shows off the Internet.

It's not pretty to watch but the cable and TV businesses as we know them are starting to crumble. Consumers are fed up with constantly rising cable rates, ridiculously dated proprietary set-top boxes and other absurdities of the now-fading cable monopoly era. 

Streaming pioneers like Netflix have a head start, but AT&T; and other big players bring a lot of heft to the game. AT&T; not only owns DirecTV but also has its own cable networks, as do Verizon, Comcast, and other big telecom and cable players. They may not be consumers' favorites, but they wield a lot of negotiating power with program providers.

Separately, AT&T; has said it is working on a system that will let advertisers buy ads through a digital interface similar to that used by advertisers who buy those ubiquitous Google ads. That system could presumably be used to buy ads on the streaming video channels as well.

Anyway you look at it, this is an adventure series that will last a lot longer than 13 weeks. Stay tuned.

The Takata airbag recall list keeps getting longer. So far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the total at 28 million vehicle...

The Takata airbag recall list keeps getting longer. So far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the total at 28 million vehicles from 14 car companies.

Besides the 10 fatalities and over 100 injuries linked to the defective airbags, the economic toll has been huge. A Rice University professor suggests the toll may be hard for Takata to ever overcome.

Anastasiya Zavyalova, assistant professor of strategic management at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, is an expert in reputation management. She looks at countless cases where a company runs into a major issue with its customers. It is either able to recover from that adversity and move on, or it goes down for the third time.

In the Takata situation, Zavyalova says the severity and consequences of the problem make it especially difficult.

"The consequences suffered by drivers and passengers of the vehicles with defective airbags are severe,” she said, in a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs. “And, as many studies suggest, the more severe the consequences, the higher the market and customer penalties imposed on the company."

If that weren't difficult enough, Zavyalova points to another problem. Takata has not been able to conclusively point to the cause of the rupturing airbags, which then spray the vehicle's occupants with shrapnel.

"Years after the first recall involving Takata airbags, the company still has ‘little clue as to which cars used its defective inflators, or even what the root cause was.’Without conducting an internal investigation and identifying the cause of the problem, the company cannot assure its buyers that it has dealt with the issue,” she said.

She says that has caused some big customers, such as Honda and Toyota, to look elsewhere for airbags. Then last week came another huge problem for the company.

A U.S. Senate investigation into the airbags found what investigators said was widespread manipulation of airbag inflator test data by Takata employees, with some occurring after the recalls began.

The Senate findings, by the minority staff of the Commerce Committee, were disclosed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the panel's ranking member. Nelson said committee investigators made the findings after reviewing thousands of company documents and emails dating back more than a decade.

Zavyalova says a pattern of unethical decisions by a company is a self-inflicted wound, from which it is hard to recover.

"Perhaps, the most important characteristic of the scandal is how Takata tackled the warning signs,” she said, citing the committee report. “As such, the scandal was not a result of one bad decision, but a consequence of a ‘pattern of deceit at Takata that continued long after the severity of the airbag defect came to light.’”

“Because of the severe consequences associated with the defective airbags, the company’s inability to pinpoint the underlying cause of the problem and the revelation of its unethical decision-making throughout the process, Takata may be facing a long road to recovery,” she said.

The abuse of prescription drugs has continued to plague consumers in the U.S. Deaths due to overdose continue to rise and state agencies are still trying t...

The abuse of prescription drugs has continued to plague consumers in the U.S. Deaths due to overdose continue to rise and state agencies are still trying to find the best solutions.

Now, a new study has put into focus how prescription drugs are being abused by adolescents. Researchers found that when it came to drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and other drugs used to treat ADHD, 88% of people who used them in the past 30 days had gotten them from someone else.

Medication for ADHD is usually prescribed for people who have trouble staying focused on a task or exhibit behavioral problems. Unfortunately, the increased ability to focus has become very desirable for students from middle school all the way through college; many believe it gives them an edge when studying for a test or getting a paper done.

And with ADHD diagnoses becoming more common, it has become very easy for young people to get a hold of these medications. “In the last 10 years a number of new stimulant medications have been approved for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, treatment, and the expansion of this market, coupled with the increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis, provides greater availability of these drugs,” said Yanning Wang, lead author of the study.

Wang believes that this increased availability can have very troubling implications. If taken in excess or by someone without a prescription, there are a variety of health issues that can arise. They include increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, decreased appetite, and a decreased need to sleep. If the dosage is too high, cardiovascular problems can also emerge.

For the purposes of the study, Wang and other researchers at the University of Florida examined survey data taken from 11,000 people ranging in age from 10 to 18 in 10 U.S. cities between 2008 and 2011. They found that 7% of those surveyed, or around 750 participants, had used a prescription drug in the past 30 days.

Of those 750 participants, 54% admitted that they had taken the medication for non-medical purposes; this included taking more than the recommended dosage, using another person’s medication, or ingesting it by smoking, snorting, or sniffing it instead of taking it orally. Eighty-eight percent of respondents admitted to taking someone else’s medication and 39% said they took more than the recommended dosage.

Using medication that has not been prescribed to you is extremely dangerous. Making sure young people know this is of the utmost importance. “It is so important for physicians and parents to counsel youth who have prescription stimulants to never share their medications,” said Linda B. Cottier, co-author of the study.

Abusing prescriptions medications also serves as a marker for other risky behavior, according to the study. The researchers point out that teenagers who do so are more likely to have conduct problems at home and school and are more likely to abuse other substances, like tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

There has been so much back-and-forth in the Apple-FBI dispute that it has at times resembled one of this year's jousting contests posing as presidential d...

There has been so much back-and-forth in the Apple-FBI dispute that it has at times resembled one of this year's jousting contests posing as presidential debates.

In an attempt to get the argument back on track, a group of consumer privacy organizations have filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Apple. The Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and eight other organizations argued that the "security features in dispute in this case were adopted to protect consumers from crime."

The brief quotes security experts as saying, in effect, that cell phone security either protects everyone or no one. 

"The security of cell phones is of critical importance to millions of consumers who rely on these devices to protect their most sensitive personal data," the privacy groups argue in their brief. "As the theft of consumer devices continues to rise—millions of cell phones are stolen every year—the associated crimes of financial fraud and identity theft also increase."

Security features on Apple's iPhone and other smartphones help to limit such crimes, limited financial and emotional harm to consumers, the groups say. "If these safeguards are weakened, consumers will suffer, crime will increase, and the work of law enforcement will be made more difficult," the brief argues.

The brief notes that the Supreme Court recently found that modern phones store so much sensitive data that they deserve special constitutional protections. 

Apple's encryption software amounts to a digital lock that keeps consumer data safe and should not be disabled for the sake of a single investigation, the organizations say.

"This Court should not order Apple or any company to weaken their digital locks because, if they do, consumers will suffer, crime will increase, and any shortterm benefit that the Bureau may obtain in this case will be more than outweighed by the increase in crime across the country that will result," according to the brief.

Besides EPIC, organizations filing the brief are the Center for Digital Democracy, Constitutional Alliance, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, the Cyber Privacy Project, Patient Privacy Rights, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Privacy Times. 

A Senate bill seeks to end the tax break drug companies enjoy when they spend money advertising prescription drugs to consumers."Doctors and medical pr...

A Senate bill seeks to end the tax break drug companies enjoy when they spend money advertising prescription drugs to consumers.

"Doctors and medical professionals are in the best position to provide information to patients, not drug company advertisers aiming to make a profit," said Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who introduced the measure. 

"As it stands now, prescription drug companies have been spending billions of advertising dollars trying to encourage Americans to buy the most expensive drugs -- even when cheaper, equally effective drugs are on the market," said Franken, a member of the Senate Health Committee. "My bill would end tax breaks that encourage brand name drug advertising, and I'm going to be fighting to get it passed into law. This is just a commonsense measure to help cut down health care costs."

Not surprisingly, drug companies and the advertising industry aren't on board. The Association for National Advertisers called Franken's bill a "misguided attack on an important speech category."

"Advertisers big and small firmly believe that any change in the treatment of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising would set the U.S. back decades in terms of the information available to consumers and patients. Consumers should have more information about their health, not less," said Dan Jaffe of the advertisers association, whose members include not only consumer goods manufacturers but also such well-known non-profits as the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, and Sesame Workshop.

Franken's bill would eliminate tax deductions for direct-to-consumer ads, which Franken said would encourage drug companies to focus on developing new drugs instead of "marketing schemes."

In a news release, Franken said the consumer ads "drive up demand for new and higher-cost prescriptions and treatments, which increases overall medical costs for American families and seniors."

Moreover, he said, the ads tends to minimize the risks of the medications being promoted while overemphasizing their benefits, possibly discouraging patients and providers from seeking out more appropriate and effective medications.

In 2014, spending on prescription drug advertisements reached $4.5 billion - a 30 percent increase from 2012. The United States and New Zealand are the only countries that explicitly allow direct-to-consumer marketing for prescription drugs. The American Medical Association (AMA) has called for a ban, indicating that these advertisements encourage expensive treatments, despite the existence of more affordable alternatives.

"They provide consumers information on prescription drugs that often can be lifesaving or life enhancing," he said in a statement to ConsumerAffairs. "Studies by the Center for Disease Control have demonstrated that consumers are often seriously under informed about dangerous health risks such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and many other categories. Also, many of these risks are not immediately apparent so consumers may not go to a doctor till they have a serious health event."

People are living longer, reaching age 90 and beyond in greater numbers than ever before.But as you age, keeping engaged in social activities and using...

But as you age, keeping engaged in social activities and using a computer to email friends and stay connected to the world may be key to an improved quality of life.

A study to be presented at a medical conference next month finds an active brain appears to help older adults reduce their risk of developing memory and thinking problems.

“The results show the importance of keeping the mind active as we age,” study author Janina Krell-Roesch, with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a statement. “While this study only shows association, not cause and effect, as people age, they may want to consider participating in activities like these because they may keep a mind healthier, longer.”

The study followed nearly 2,000 people who were at least 70 years old and had no cognitive impairment. Four years later they were tested again and those who had begun to experience memory decline were identified.

Each participant's profile went into detail about their mental activities, including their computer use.

The study found that people who used a computer once per week or more were 42% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who did not.

Engaging in regular social activity was also helpful, but not quite as effective as regular computer use. Those engaging in social activities were only 23% less likely to develop cognitive issues than people who didn't.

Other activities that were somewhat effective in keeping aging minds sharp included crafts, such as knitting; reading regularly; and playing games.

Kids question everything, and the internet has an answer to everything. This would be a match made in heaven, if it weren’t for the f...

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he has reached a settlement agreement with Endo Health Solutions and Endo Pharmaceutical, makers and distr...

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he has reached a settlement agreement with Endo Health Solutions and Endo Pharmaceutical, makers and distributors of the opioid drug Opana ER.

Under the agreement, the companies will not misrepresent the properties of Opana ER, will accurately describe the risk of addiction to Opana ER, and will summarize studies regarding Opana ER on its website.

Additioinally, Endo will be required to establish a program to prevent its sales staff from promoting the narcotic painkiller to health care providers who may be involved in the abuse and illegal diversion of opioids.

The action comes amid mounting nationwide concern over opioid abuse and deaths and injuries from overdose. These deaths and injuries have been on the rise for years, slowing recently only because of the presence of so much heroin, which is often cheaper and easier to obtain.

Last month researchers at the University of Michigan studied records from Veterans Administration hospitals and concluded that doctors have been too quick to prescribe high quantities opioid painkillers, linking stronger dosage to overdose death and injuries.

Under pressure from various state attorneys general who are grappling with the problem at the state level, the Food and Drug Administration recently announced it will begin a review of its opioid drug policy.

“The public health crisis created by improper opioid prescribing in New York remains pervasive and extremely dangerous,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “My office is committed to ensuring that prescription drugs are marketed and prescribed responsibly – and that consumers get the information they need about the serious risks associated with painkillers, such as addiction.”

Endo, an Irish company with U.S. headquarters in Pennsylvania, makes a variety of prescription drugs. Schneiderman maintains Endo’s opioid drug Opana ER has been widely abused in New York.

In May 2011, after a spike in opioid prescribing and abuse, Nassau County issued a Public Health Alert on the increasing abuse of Opana ER, warning the public and law enforcement of the dangers associated with the drug.

Schneiderman cites a July 2012 report in USA Today that said Opana ER had become the drug of choice for people seeking narcotics, and that hundreds of people in Nassau County, hundreds of people each month were seeking treatment for addiction to Opana ER each month.

Other opioid painkillers that are often abused include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs.

Gas prices are lower than they were last year, but that's not the only reason your spring break getaway will probably be cheaper than it was in 2015.Ex...

Low gasoline prices have reignited America's love affair with the sports utility vehicle. SUV and truck sales powered U.S. auto sales higher in 2015, as co...

The effects of excessive smartphone use -- on our brains, specifically -- has come under question in recent years. Many say too much cell phone use can ven...

Another 242,000 jobs were created in February, led by employment gains in health care and social assistance and retail trade. At the same time, according t...

Another 242,000 jobs were created in February, led by employment gains in health care and social assistance and retail trade. At the same time, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), the jobless rate held steady at 4.9%.

Not all the news was good though, as average hourly earnings fell by three cents to $25.35, following an increase of 12 cents in January. Over the last 12 months, hourly earnings have risen by 2.2%.

The number of long-term unemployed (those out of work for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.2 million in February, accounting for 27.7% of the unemployed.

Health care and social assistance employment increased by 57,000 last month. Also adding jobs were retail trade (+55,000), food services and drinking places (+40,000), private educational services (+28,000), and construction (+19,000). Mining, on the other hand, lost 19,000 jobs.

Employment in other major industries -- manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, professional and business services, and government -- showed little change.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.5%), adult women (4.5%), teenagers (15.6%), Whites (4.3%), Blacks (8.8%), Asians (3.8%), and Hispanics (5.4%) showed little or no change in February.

The employment-population ratio edged up to 59.8%, while the labor force participation rate edged up to 62.9 percent. Both measures have increased by 0.5% since September.

In February, 1.8 million people were marginally attached to the labor force -- down by 356,000 from a year earlier. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

At the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia put Henry’s Farm, Inc., in Woodford,...

At the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia put Henry’s Farm, Inc., in Woodford, Virginia, and its owner, Soo C. Park, out of business.

A consent decree, sought by Justice Department, prohibits the company from receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding, and distributing ready-to-eat soybean and mung-bean sprouts.

Multiple inspections were conducted and an extensive amount of environmental, in-process, and finished sprout product samples were collected from Henry’s Farm, several of which tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono). The foodborne pathogen can cause serious illness or even death in vulnerable groups, such as elderly adults and those with impaired immune systems (including those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients).

Investigators also documented insanitary conditions at the facility, including a persistent rodent infestation and dirty food processing equipment.

“It’s the FDA’s responsibility to protect consumers from potentially harmful food entering the food supply,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “When a company continues to produce food that presents a risk for consumers, the FDA will take whatever steps necessary to protect public health.”

Under the consent decree, the company cannot process or distribute food until it demonstrates that its facility and processing equipment are suitable to prevent contamination in the food that it processes, prepares, stores, and handles.

Henry’s Farm must -- among other things -- retain an independent laboratory to collect and analyze samples for the presence of L. mono, retain an independent sanitation expert, and develop a program to control L. mono and to eliminate unsanitary conditions at its facility.

Once the company is permitted to resume operations, the FDA may still require the company to take action if the agency discovers future violations of food safety practices.

A single BI-LO store in Glennville, Ga., is recalling fresh products containing cantaloupe. The fruit may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogen...

The product is marked on the scale label as "BI-LO Cantaloupe Chunks Medium," in medium plastic bowls with a lid, and a sell-by date of 2/24/16.

The following BI-LO brand products containing fresh cantaloupe with a sell-by date of 2/24/16, are being recalled at this store:

Customers should not consume these products and should return them to the store for a full refund. To receive the refund, customers may present proof of purchase through a receipt or the product-packaging label.

Consumers with questions about the recalled products may contact the customer call center toll free at 866-946-6349, Mon. - Fri., 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. (EDT), and Sat., 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).

Loki Fish Company of Seattle, Wash., is recalling two lots of Wild Smoked Pink Salmon Portions. The product is contaminated with Listeria monocytog...

The recalled product comes in a 4-7-oz., clear plastic package, with the lot numbers 121215 5594 or 121215 5613 found on the back of the package.

It was distributed to retail stores in Oregon and Washington, via mail order, and sold at Seattle area farmers markets. A list of retail outlets and farmers markets that may have carried the recalled product may be found at www.lokifish.com.

Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Namias of Arizona of Tucson, Ariz., is recalling approximately 19,200 pounds of chicken products. The products contain hydrolyzed soy protein, an a...

The following fully-cooked chicken items, produced between September 2, 2015, and March 1, 2016, are being recalled:

The chicken chile verde items were shipped to the company’s restaurant in Nevada. The sports chicken items were shipped to the company’s restaurants in Arizona.

Customers who purchased these products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

Hy-Vee of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling Maytag Raw Milk Blue Cheese across its eight-state region. The product may be contaminated with Liste...

Hy-Vee of West Des Moines, Iowa, is recalling Maytag Raw Milk Blue Cheese across its eight-state region.

The recalled product was sold in whole wheels and cuts, and re-packaged in foil or clear plastic wrap with scale labels in various weights. Blue cheese crumbles were also sold in plastic containers.

All product was labeled as "Maytag Blue Raw Milk," "Maytag Blue" or "Maytag Iowa Blue Cheese" and with PLU numbers beginning with 854089001 and with "use by" dates between Jan. 20, 2016 and May 3, 2016.

It was sold from cheese cases in all of Hy-Vee's 240 stores in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin between November 20, 2015 and March 2, 2016.

Customers who purchased this product should discard it or return it to their local Hy-Vee store for a full refund.

In an odd way, Takata's explosion-prone airbags may be contributing to highway safety. As the owner of two cars with the recalled devices, I can testify th...

In an odd way, Takata's explosion-prone airbags may be contributing to highway safety. As the owner of two cars with the recalled devices, I can testify that I am much less likely to mercilessly tailgate slower drivers, knowing that bashing the car in front of me could result in shards of metal penetrating my neck.

But snarking aside, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been putting pressure on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall all airbags that use ammonium nitrate to inflate the airbag when a crash occurs. He also wants the NHTSA to require that new airbags use something else.

"With all that we know about these things, they should not be used. This ammonium nitrate should not be used as replacements for the old Takata inflators, and certainly shouldn't be used in the new cars that are produced and sold to consumers," Nelson said in comments on the Senate floor earlier this week.

Nelson made the request in a letter to NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, adding that he thinks all Takata airbgs that use ammonium nitrate should be recalled.

But Rosekind says granting Nelson's request would make a bad situation worse. It would "needlessly impose new hardships" on the supply of replacement parts for the 29 million Takata inflators already recalled, he said in a letter to Nelson.

"Will Takata continue to produce millions of these things? We don't know. We don't know the answer. And are consumers today basically getting a newer version of the old version that has been so defective? No answer to that either," he said. "In other words, are we going to replace an old live grenade with a new live grenade?"

For their part, automakers continue to issue new recalls as they find evidence of potentially defective inflators. Toyota today recalled another 198,000 Toyota and Lexus vehicles.  

Would you like help preparing your tax returns? How about some FREE help?You may be eligible to receive free tax help at more than 12,000 preparation s...

You may be eligible to receive free tax help at more than 12,000 preparation sites nationwide that are generally located at community and neighborhood centers.

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to individuals who generally make $54,000 or less, people with disabilities, the elderly, and those with limited English proficiency who need assistance in preparing their taxes.

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 and older. VITA and TCE volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS to help with many tax questions, including credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a significant tax credit for workers who earned $53,267 or less in 2015. Last year, more than 27.5 million eligible workers and families received almost $66.7 billion in EITC, with an average EITC amount of more than $2,400. The maximum EITC amount for 2015 is $6,242 for qualifying families.

In order to receive the credit, eligible taxpayers must file a tax return, even if they do not have a filing requirement. The VITA and TCE programs can help answer many EITC questions and help taxpayers claim the credit if they qualify. Taxpayers may also use the IRS.gov EITC Assistant to help them determine their eligibility.

Before visiting a VITA or TCE site, taxpayers should review Publication 3676-B to be aware of the services provided. To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, taxpayers can use the VITA and TCE locator tool, download the IRS smartphone app IRS2GO or call 800-906-9887.

For assistance preparing a tax return at a VITA or TCE site, bring all required documents and information including:

The military also partners with the IRS to provide free tax assistance to military personnel and their families. The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

The AFTC oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide, and serves as the main conduit for outreach by the IRS to military personnel and their families. Volunteers are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the effect of the EITC guidelines.

In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, most sites will file returns electronically for free. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and most accurate way to file. The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in 21 days or less. Paper returns take longer to process.

Taxpayers who chose to file electronically and owe can make a payment by the April 18, 2016, deadline using Direct Pay. This IRS free service allows taxpayers to make secure payments from a checking or savings account.

Those who prefer to file their own tax returns electronically have the option of using IRS Free File, which offers brand-name tax software to taxpayers who earned $62,000 or less in 2015 to file their returns for free.

Anyone who earned more can use Free Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. IRS Free File is available only through the IRS website.

An estimated 6 billion emojis are sent each day, according to Swyft Media, and over a billion are sent by girls. But how many of those girls are represente...

Why should you have to wrestle your smartphone from your pocket to pay for that double grande caramel macchiato?Google doesn't think you should. It's w...

Why should you have to wrestle your smartphone from your pocket to pay for that double grande caramel macchiato?

Google doesn't think you should. It's working on a new facial recognition app called Hands Free that lets you pay for items in stores without takng your phone out of your pocket or purse.

Google released the experimental app today. The iOS and Android app relies on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS to detect when you're near a participating retailer.

If so, all you have to do is walk up to the cashier and say, "I'll pay with Google" and the money is automatically transferred. It's currently operating in a small portion of the San Francisco Bay Area.

It's designed to be a companion to Android Pay, a separate payment service that now has about 9 million registered members. 

"We ... wanted to explore what the future of mobile payments could look like. Imagine if you could rush through a drive-thru without reaching for your wallet, or pick up a hot dog at the ballpark without fumbling to pass coins or your credit card to the cashier," wrote Pali Bhat, a senior director on the project. "This prompted us to build a pilot app called Hands Free that we’re now in the early stages of testing. It lets you pay in stores quickly, easily, and completely hands-free."

This might be a little too creepy for many consumers, and privacy advocates are likely to object to the idea of identifying consumers through a massive database of facial images. Google appears to be proceeding cautiously as it tests the reaction.

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has released a seven point health care policy containing items that likely both delight and horrify elemen...

Lots of proud parents and grandparents have framed "fetal photos" of their offspring proudly displayed. Soon they'll be able to add before-and-after images...

Lots of proud parents and grandparents have framed "fetal photos" of their offspring proudly displayed. Soon they'll be able to add before-and-after images of their own clogged-up arteries. 

That's because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a device called the Pantheris -- an image-guided gadget that, to put it plainly, scrapes built-up plaque out of patients' plumbing. 

What's different about the Pantheris, technically called a lumivascular atherectomy system, is that it contains a tiny camera that lets the surgeon see what he or she is doing more clearly than with the X-ray-guided devices now being used.

"We are excited to introduce the system to patients and physicians, fulfilling our mission to radically change the treatment of vascular disease,” said John B. Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., founder and chairman of Avinger, Inc., which manufactures the Pantheris. "I offer a special thanks to all the patients and investigators who have made this possible.”

The Pantheris is the first device that lets physicians actually see inside the artery during an artherectomy procedure, reducing the patient's exposure to X-rays and giving the surgeon a real-time view of the interior of the artery instead of relying on X-rays and touch and feel. 

The artherectomy procedure is used to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD), which afflicts nearly 20 million adults in the U.S. The condition is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries that blocks blood flow to the legs and feet.

Often dismissed as normal signs of aging, symptoms of PAD include painful cramping, numbness, or discoloration in the legs or feet. PAD can become so severe that patients and physicians often resort to invasive bypass surgeries, which can result in even greater health risks and lengthy, painful recoveries. In severe cases, patients often face amputation, the worst-case scenario associated with PAD.

“Atherectomy is a proven treatment that relieves pain and restores blood flow, and Pantheris has been eagerly anticipated in the clinical community because it is a leap forward in atherectomy technology compared to what we have had in the past,” said Thomas Davis, M.D., of St. John Hospital and Medical Center in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. “Now, for the first time, we are able to see exactly where we are removing the plaque, and are better able to leave the healthy artery alone."

Avinger received preliminary clearance from the FDA for the Pantheris system in October 2015. Since then, 130 patients were treated and followed for six months with not a single event of vessel perforation, clinically significant dissection, or late aneurysm, the company said.

Social media and other online distractions are a force to be reckoned with in the battle for our attention. The average person logs 1.72 hours on social me...

Regulators are serving notice a fast-growing online money-transfer business, stating that they must safeguard consumers' private data and live up to the pr...

Regulators are serving notice a fast-growing online money-transfer business, stating that they must safeguard consumers' private data and live up to the promises they make about their security procedures.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered Dwolla to pay a $100,000 penalty for misleading consumers about its data security practices and instructed the company to fix its security practices.

Dwolla, based in Des Moines, Iowa, said the procedures questioned by the CFPB had taken place in earlier years and said it has improved its practices since then.

Dwolla, like others in the online payments business, takes much of the grunt work out of moving money online by simplifying the automated clearing house (ACH) process.

"Our ACH transfer platform securely verifies and connects your customers to their bank or credit union accounts for safe and quick transactions," the company says on its website, saying it offers "a fast, lightweight onboarding experience."

“Consumers entrust digital payment companies with significant amounts of sensitive personal information,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “With data breaches becoming commonplace and more consumers using these online payment systems, the risk to consumers is growing. It is crucial that companies put systems in place to protect this information and accurately inform consumers about their data security practices.”

Dwolla said it has more than 650,000 users and moves as much as $5 million per day. It noted it has not been hacked or experienced any known loss of consumer data. 

From December 2010 until 2014, Dwolla claimed to protect consumer data from unauthorized access with “safe” and “secure” transactions. But the CFPB said that, rather than setting “a new precedent for the payments industry,” Dwolla’s data security practices fell far short of its claims.

The headline probably looks like it's from Bizarro World. Can that be right? The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is going to reduce the cost of mailing a letter...

The headline probably looks like it's from Bizarro World. Can that be right? The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is going to reduce the cost of mailing a letter?

Without Congress or the courts getting involved, the USPS will be forced to reduce certain prices on Sunday, April 10, 2016. That's because the last time it raised rates, it was allowed to do so through a surcharge. Unless renewed, authorization for that surcharge runs out next month.

The USPS says if it is forced to cut rates, it will worsen its financial condition and increase its net losses by approximately $2 billion per year.

The USPS was once a government agency, the U.S. Post Office Department. The taxpayers subsidized operation of the mail service so that consumers and businesses paid a tiny fraction of the real cost of delivering mail.

In the early 1970s, with costs mounting, Congress altered that relationship, creating the USPS as a semi-private corporation that remained under strong Congressional influence. Looking back, most agree it hasn't worked out all that well.

“The exigent surcharge granted to the Postal Service last year only partially alleviated our extreme multi-year revenue declines resulting from the Great Recession, which exceeded $7 billion in 2009 alone,” Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan said in a statement. “Removing the surcharge and reducing our prices is an irrational outcome considering the Postal Service’s precarious financial condition.”

To help the service regain its financial footing, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) approved a 4.3% exigent surcharge on rates, but said it had to be reversed after the Postal Service has collected surcharges totaling $4.6 billion. That's expected to occur April 10.

The rates consumers are charged for mail services are capped by law at the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U). However, the law does allow for exigent pricing due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.

But even though the economy has recovered somewhat, first class mail volume continues to decline, largely because of electronic mail. Documents can be digitized and sent via email much faster and cheaper.

Currently, consumers pay 49 cents to mail a first class letter. The default rate on April 10, absent intervention, will be 47 cents.

Why can't USPS be profitable at those rates? That might seem like a reasonable question, but consider this: to send a document using one of the private delivery services like Fed Ex or United Parcel Service costs several dollars. That may, in fact, be a more accurate reflection of the cost of sending a letter than 49 cents.

Meanwhile, the USPS has become less reliant on consumers sending cards and letters to friends and relatives. Rather, in recent years its main customers have been the direct mail businesses sending consumers unwanted catalogs, advertisements, and credit card offers.

In the early 2000s, easy money and lax lending standards fueled a housing bubble that crashed with devastating impact in 2008.Home prices are rising on...

In the early 2000s, easy money and lax lending standards fueled a housing bubble that crashed with devastating impact in 2008.

Home prices are rising once again, but this time it's for a different set of reasons. Mortgage money is much harder to come by. Prices have risen in part because of a shortage of new and existing homes for sale.

And there may be another reason. RealtyTrac, a real estate foreclosure marketplace, tracks the number of house “flips” and reports they made up 5.5% of last year's real estate sales.

A flip is when an investor purchases a property at a discounted price, makes a few improvements, and sells it within a 12 month period. Hit reality TV shows like “Flip This House” and “Flip or Flop” have served to popularize the practice, even drawing amateurs into the process.

Since the housing crash, investors have consistently made up a significant portion of home buyers, but they largely purchased homes to convert to rental property. In the last couple of years, RealtyTrac says the trend has been toward flips.

The share of homes flipped in 2015 increased from the previous year in 83 of 110 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas analyzed for the report.

“As confidence in the housing recovery spreads, more real estate investors and would-be real estate investors are hopping on the home flipping bandwagon,” Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement. “Not only is the share of home flips on the rise again, but we also see the flipping trend trickling down to smaller investors who are completing fewer flips per year. The total number of investors who completed at least one flip in 2015 was at the highest level since 2007, and the number of flips per investor was at the lowest level since 2008.”

Blomquist is concerned that inexperienced home flippers that are not adequately capitalized rushing into the market could be a sign that speculation is getting out of hand. But he admits that, at least until now, people have been making money.

“Homes flipped in 2015 were on average purchased at a 26% discount below estimated market value and re-sold by the flipper at a 5% premium above estimated market value,” Blomquist said.

There are a number of things that can go wrong for an inexperienced home flipper. If the home is a distressed property that has been vacant a while, there may be serious but hidden flaws that will be expensive to correct.

The house may require more spending than the market can support to make it attractive to a buyer. The house might linger on the market, putting a financial strain on an under capitalized flipper.

Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate in the Seattle market, says when home flipping numbers go up, it is usually an indication that the housing market is in trouble. He says home flipping tends to artificially inflate home prices. That makes houses less affordable and increases the risk of a bubble.

On Wall Street in recent weeks, stock prices for pharmaceutical companies have led market declines as investors have tended to avoid the sector. It's an el...

On Wall Street in recent weeks, stock prices for pharmaceutical companies have led market declines as investors have tended to avoid the sector. It's an election year and drug companies have become political targets.

Last week, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton unveiled a new political ad in which she attacked, not her rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, but Valeant Pharmaceuticals – a company that has drawn the wrath of consumers for sharply raising drug prices.

In a 30 second spot entitled “Predatory,” Clinton vows to “go after” Valeant. In the spot Clinton claims the company hiked the price of one of its drug therapies from $180 in the 1980s to over $14,000 now.

Valeant is hardly alone. Nearly a year ago we reported researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Oregon State University (OSU) determination that there had been an “alarming rise” in multiple sclerosis drug prices over the last two decades.

During that time, new drugs have been introduced to cope with the disease. Normal laws of economics might suggest the introduction of competing drugs into the marketplace would bring all the drug prices down.

That hasn't happened, the researchers said. Instead, even the cost of the older MS drugs – the ones improved upon by the newer generations of medications – has skyrocketed.

"The inexplicable increase in the cost of MS drugs, particularly older, first- generation drugs, is at odds with how we think the marketplace should work,” said Daniel Hartung, lead author of the study.

Then in August, Turing Pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli gained notoriety by jacking up the price of a 60 year old drug 5000% overnight. Critics accused the industry of being too focused on increasing profits.

A Harvard-Dartmouth study recently looked at drug industry research efforts, dividing them between the development of vaccines – to prevent diseases – and the development of drugs to treat them. It found that drug development was usually the higher priority because it was more profitable.

It also found efforts were usually concentrated on diseases that affected the most people, since it presented the greatest opportunity for profit. That leaves fewer drugs – and less competition – when it comes to treating rare diseases.

Fewer drugs and less competition almost always leads to higher prices. And in a political year, that's focusing critical attention on drug companies.

Meanwhile, Valeant Pharmaceutical's problems deepened this week with the announcement that the company is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The services, or non-manufacturing, sector of the economy continued to chug along in February.In their latest Non-Manufacturing...

In their latest Non-Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management (ISM) report on business, the nation’s purchasing and supply executives say the sector grew for the 73rd consecutive month.

Specifically, the Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI) registered 53.4% -- down 0.1% from the January reading, representing continued growth, but at a slightly slower rate. A reading above 50 indicates expansion; below 50 means contraction.

A closer look at the report shows the Business Activity Index jumped 3.9% to 57.8%, reflecting growth at a faster rate for the 79th consecutive month. The New Orders Index dipped 1.0%, while the Employment fell 2.4%, contracting after 23 consecutive months of growth. It's the first time the this index has contracted since February 2014.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports that first-time applications for state unemployment benefits rose by 6,000 in the week ending February 27 to seasonally adjusted total of 278,000. The government says there were no special factors affecting claims level.

The four-week moving average, which is less volatile and seen by some economists as a more accurate picture of the labor market, came in at 270,250, a decline of 1,750.

The pace of job-cutting posted a decline last month after kicking off the new year with a surge to a six-month high.Outplacement consultancy Challenger...

The pace of job-cutting posted a decline last month after kicking off the new year with a surge to a six-month high.

Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports US-based employers announced 61,599 terminations in February -- down 18% from the month before but up 22 % from a year earlier.

And, as was the case in 2015, the energy sector has seen the heaviest job cutting in the opening months of the year. There were another 25,051 job cuts in February, bringing the year-to-date total to 45,154. Most are blamed on low oil prices.

The year-to-date tally represents a 24% surge from 2015, when employers canned 36,532 workers in the opening two months of the year.

“Low oil prices continue to take a toll on workers in the energy and industrial goods sectors,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Since January of 2015, these two sectors alone have seen workforce reductions in excess of 200,000, the majority of which were attributed to oil prices. The major concern is that the job losses in cities and towns that rely heavily on oil production will begin to drag down other parts of the local economy,” .

Challenger notes that there has not been a precipitous rise in unemployment in the many cities that were benefiting from the recent oil boom, suggesting that the job losses are contained to the energy sector, for the moment.

Several energy-centric metropolitan areas have seen unemployment rates increase, but most are still enjoying rates that are below the national average. The latest available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the unemployment rate in Houston rose from 4.0% in December 2014 to 4.6% in December 2015.

In Midland, Texas, the unemployment rate increased by more than one percentage point in 2015, but remains at an enviable 3.3%. As of December, Bismarck, North Dakota -- another city that benefited significantly from the oil boom -- still has an unemployment rate of 2.7%, which is actually lower than the rate of 3.1% recorded in December 2014.

In addition to energy, another area experiencing increased job cuts is the technology sector. Announced firings by computer firms this year total 16,006 -- up a whopping 143% from the 6,582 job cuts recorded in the first two months of last year.

“There will always be heavy churn in the tech sector,” said Challenger. “It is an area that embodies change, trial and error, and constant reinvention. There is more start-up activity in the sector, but that also means there are more failures. Even among the more established firms in the industry, we see workforce volatility, as they branch into new products or services, some of which may or may not succeed.”   

Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling 2,894 model year 2016 F-150 trucks manufactured April 27, 2015, to November 22, 2015, and equipped with Multi-Contou...

Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling 2,894 model year 2016 F-150 trucks manufactured April 27, 2015, to November 22, 2015, and equipped with Multi-Contour Seats (MCS).

The front passenger seat Occupant Classification System (OCS) that calibrates the air bag deployment level may incorrectly classify an adult as a child when the seat massage feature is activated.

If an adult is incorrectly classified as a child, the passenger front air bag will not deploy during a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will update the Occupant Classification System Module (OCSM) with new software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 7, 2016.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA is expanding two of its recalls involving Takata front passenger air bag inflators. The recalled vehicles are equipped with...

Toyota Motor Sales, USA is expanding two of its recalls involving Takata front passenger air bag inflators.

The recalled vehicles are equipped with a Takata-produced dual-stage front passenger airbag inflator which could potentially be susceptible to rupture when deployed in a crash.

The expansion will add 198,000 Model Year 2008 Corolla and Corolla Matrix and Model Year 2008-2010 Lexus SC430 vehicles, model years of certain vehicles previously recalled and will cover all remaining dual-stage front passenger inflators of a particular type.

All known owners of the affected Toyota / Lexus vehicles will be notified by first class mail. Dealers will replace the airbag inflator or the airbag assembly with a newly manufactured one at no cost.

Consumers with questions may call Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331, or Lexus customer service at 1-800-255-3987.  

The Zika virus is becoming more and more worrisome with winter coming to a close. Researchers have stated that the virus will hit the U.S. when Spring fina...

In the Internet world, programmers use a software library called OpenSSL to create applications designed to run in a highly secure environment, with protec...

In the Internet world, programmers use a software library called OpenSSL to create applications designed to run in a highly secure environment, with protections against eavesdropping.

Dr. Yuval Yarom, Research Associate at the University of Adelaide's School of Computer Science, says he and colleagues Daniel Genkin, of Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Nadia Heninger, of the University of Pennsylvania, have discovered that OpenSSL is vulnerable to what is known as a "side channel attack."

That attack enables a hacker to intercept vital information about software by getting a peek at the inner workings of a computer system – things like tiny changes in power usage, or observing changes in timing when different software is being used.

Yarom says it is even possible for a hacker to "listen in" to the workings of the OpenSSL encryption software. The team reached this conclusion by monitoring highly sensitive changes in the computer's timing – down to less than one nanosecond.

That enabled them to recover the private key which OpenSSL uses to identify the user or the computer.

"In the wrong hands, the private key can be used to 'break' the encryption and impersonate the user," Yarom said in a statement. "At this stage we have only found this vulnerability in computers with Intel's 'Sandy Bridge' processors. Computers with other Intel processors may not be affected in the same way."

OpenSSL currently encrypts a range of applications on most types of computers and is similar to the encryption packages used by the Google Chrome (BoringSSL) and Firefox (Mozilla's Network Security Service (NSS) browsers.

Should you be concerned? Concerned, maybe, but not alarmed. Yarom believes the likelihood of a hacker successfully deploying this weapon is slim.

"We seem to be the first to have done it, and under controlled conditions,” he said. "Servers, particularly Cloud servers, are a more likely target for this side-channel attack. It's less likely that someone would use it against a home computer.”

That doesn't mean your computer at home is safe. Yaron says there are just many other much easier-to-exploit vulnerabilities in home computers that it's unlikely someone would try to exploit the OpenSSL vulnerability in the real world. Unlikely, but not impossible.

"With OpenSSL being the most commonly used cryptographic software in the world right now, it's important for us to stay vigilant against any possible attack, no matter how small its chances might be,” he said.

Meanwhile, the research team has been working with the developers of OpenSSL to fix the vulnerability.

Florence Swanson's winning artwork (Photo credit: Google)New car designs are generally aimed at younger drivers, but the developers of self-driving c...

New car designs are generally aimed at younger drivers, but the developers of self-driving cars are counting on older consumers as a prime market. The reason is simple: older people are more likely to have given up driving.

Life without a car is one thing if you live in New York City or San Francisco, but most seniors live in the suburbs where they're effectively stranded without being able to jump in the car and head for the nearest Starbucks or Walmart.

It's a hard transition for someone who's been behind the wheel for 50 or more years, but it's one that millions of older Americans will be facing over the next few decades. With 95.9 million drivers aged 50 and over already on U.S. highways and 10,000 hitting their 65th birthday every day, the senior market is growing faster than just about any other, and carmakers are taking note.

John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, recently featured 96-year-old Florence Swanson in a presentation in Detroit. Swanson's painting of a guitar on the side of a Google car recently won a Google promotion in Austin and she is becoming something of the poster child for consumers who have "aged out" of driving.

“You haven’t lived until you get in one of those cars,” Swanson said after a half-hour ride in one of Google's autonomous cars, Bloomberg Business reported. “I couldn’t believe that the car could talk. I felt completely safe.”

Besides Google, Ford and Toyota are actively pursuing seniors as a major market for the autonomous cars they're racing to develop. 

The problem for older drivers is simple: they're older and nothing works the way it used to. Failing vision, slower coordination, and other problems result in many seniors giving up their keys or losing their driver's licenses.

Besides restoring lost mobility, self-driving cars would offer a much-needed safety benefit to seniors. The U.S. Department of Transportation says drivers 85 and older have the highest fatal crash rates of any age group, mostly because they are more fragile than younger drivers.

An accident that a younger driver might walk away from could be fatal for an older driver who is more prone to injury or medical complications following an injury. 

Sports Authority Inc., a chain that provides an assortment of athletic gear and recreational equipment, filed for bankruptcy today after a lackluster 2015....

Sports Authority Inc., a chain that provides an assortment of athletic gear and recreational equipment, filed for bankruptcy today after a lackluster 2015. The company had long been considered a rival of Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., but a buyout in 2006 loaded it with enough debt that it became impossible to keep up, according to a Bloomberg report.

The company has said that it will be closing up to 140 of its 463 locations; but it is hoping to take advantage of tax laws to retain $124 in tax reductions. “These tax savings could substantially enhance the Debtors’ cash position for the benefit of parties in interest,” the company stated in court papers.

2015 was not a good year for Sports Authority. Although fitness technology, equipment, and apparel are becoming more and more valuable in a health-conscious age, the company failed to cash in on its niche place in the marketplace.

Sales in 2015 were at their lowest point since 2009, a stark contrast to the success that other fitness retailers have seen as of late. Steven Ruggiero, a credit analyst for RW Pressprich & Co., estimates that Dick’s Sporting Goods stores make somewhere close to $10 million annually, whereas Sports Authority locations collect little more than half of that, at $5.75 million.

Senior members at the company are adamant that this filing is meant to allow Sports Authority to adapt to a changing retail market. “We intend to use the Chapter 11 process to streamline and strengthen our business both operationally and financially so that we have the financial flexibility to continue to make necessary investments in our operations,” said CEO Michael E. Foss.

The company will have a lot of debt to wade through during its attempted reorganization. Court papers filed by the company claim that it has accrued $1.1 billion in funded debt and 42.7 million shares of common stock that are outstanding. However, the company will have up to $595 million in bankruptcy financing to work with as it moves forward. 

For nearly as long as there have been telephones, there have been attempts to achieve the goal of "universal service" -- making telephone service available...

For nearly as long as there have been telephones, there have been attempts to achieve the goal of "universal service" -- making telephone service available to everyone. There's growing agreement that it's time to expand that effort to broadband Internet service. 

In the latest move, a coalition of 17 public interest groups and six broadband providers have announced their support of the Federal Communications Commission’s goal of bringing the Lifeline phone subsidy program into the modern era by extending the subsidy to broadband service.

Lifeline is a Reagan-era government benefit program that provides a discount on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income subscribers to help ensure they can connect to the nation's communications networks. It is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund (USF).

"There is near unanimous agreement among broadband providers, public interest advocates, and public officials from all levels of government that the FCC should modernize the Lifeline program to make broadband Internet access more affordable for low-income Americans struggling to get online," said Phillip Berenbroick, Counsel for Government Affairs at the non-profit group Public Knowledge.

"Government reports demonstrate that cost is a significant factor preventing Americans from going online to access education, employment, job training, and health care resources," Berenbroick said.

In a letter to the FCC, the groups say “it is time that Lifeline eligible consumers have the opportunity to use their benefit to reduce the cost of subscribing to broadband Internet access service.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last month that the commission was close to finalizing an overhaul of the Reagan-era subsidy program, saying there was “no good reason” that updates to the Lifeline program shouldn’t go forward.

Proposed updates to Lifeline are a key part of the FCC’s plans to address the “digital divide” and should receive a final vote soon, Wheeler said in a speech at think tank New America.

It may come as a surprise that the nation’s digital natives -- i.e. Millennials -- still prefer paper products in any facet. But as it turns out, good old ...

It may come as a surprise that the nation’s digital natives -- i.e. Millennials -- still prefer paper products in any facet. But as it turns out, good old fashioned cash is favored over apps and other payment methods when it comes to how millennials prefer to get paid.

According to a new survey, 58% of Millennials still prefer to pay and get paid with cash. This finding parallels an overall preference for cash amongst those in the 18 to 34-year-old age range.

As to why cash is still king for the demographic, experts point to the convenience factor. Where some digital payment services might have a service fee or processing time, classic cash exchanges are simple, quick, and straightforward.

“Even as our economy becomes increasingly cashless, cash is still great because it’s instantaneous and nobody takes a transaction fee,” said David Weliver, founder of Money Under 30, a personal finance site for young adults.

While the majority of millennials still prefer cash, a growing number say they prefer peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo, Google Wallet, or Square Cash.

Apps were the preferred P2P method of 26% of those surveyed. PayPal was the favorite of the four apps, chosen 80% more often than others. Venmo -- which came onto the scene in 2012 -- took second place on the list of millennials’ favorite apps to pay friends or get paid back.

But while some millennials are already on board with the ease and paperless nature of apps, experts say more would be interested if they knew they would not incur a fee.

It's no secret that the budget-conscious age group would prefer to steer clear of sneaky service fees. It seems, though, that many millennials aren't aware of the fact that most P2P payment apps do not charge a fee. 

“I think many users may not know that they can use these apps for free,” Weliver said. “There may be a perception in the marketplace that it still costs 2 to 3 percent anytime you transfer money.”

All four of the aformentioned apps included in the GoBankingRates survey offer a free way to pay. Only if the user pays by credit card will they incur a fee. For example, if you pay through either Venmo or PayPal from a linked bank account, it’s free.

You’ll only incur a processing fee (around 3%) if you’re paying from a linked debit or credit card, according to tech news site Re/code.

They found that female millennials were much more likely than men to prefer cash. Women chose cash as their preferred method of payment 21% more often than men.

Men, however, were shown to be more likely to prefer any other payment option than cash. Specifically, another kind of paper: checks. In the survey, men were 67% more likely to prefer paying and getting paid back with a check.

Most airlines have already banned e-cigarettes on their flights and now the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has made it official -- e-cigs are bann...

Most airlines have already banned e-cigarettes on their flights and now the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has made it official -- e-cigs are banned on all U.S. and foreign carriers flying into and from the United States.

“This ... rule is important because it protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes that occur when electronic cigarettes are used onboard airplanes,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “The Department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both.”

The rule clarifies that the airline smoking rule prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products in addition to the existing prohibition on the smoking of tobacco products.

The DOT said it considered its current ban on smoking to be sufficient to cover electronic cigarettes, but since it didn't explicity define "smoking," there was room for confusion. 

Electronic cigarettes cause concern because studies have shown that e-cigarette aerosol can contain a number of harmful chemicals. The DOT said it was particularly concerned that vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly, and passengers with respiratory issues) would be exposed to the aerosol within a confined space, without the opportunity to avoid the chemicals.

This rule explicitly bans the use of electronic cigarettes in all forms, including but not limited to electronic cigars, pipes, and devices designed to look like everyday products such as pens.  The ban does not include the use of medical devices such as a nebulizers.

The Department also extended the ban on smoking, including electronic cigarettes, to all charter (nonscheduled) flights of U.S. carriers and foreign air carriers where a flight attendant is a required crewmember.

The complete text of the final rule is available at www.regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2011-0044.

In October the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order that set legal limits on what jails and prisons could charge for telephone calls to ...

In October the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order that set legal limits on what jails and prisons could charge for telephone calls to inmates over what is known as an Inmate Calling System (ICS).

Now, several states have filed a lawsuit, seeking to overturn the FCC order. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a motion to join the suit, saying the order places an unreasonable financial burden on state and local governments.

“Since this order from the FCC was finalized in October, I have spoken with numerous sheriffs, the Arkansas Department of Correction and other agencies about the loss of revenue this order would impose on local communities,” Rutledge said in a statement. “Increased financial strain is not something local jails or prisons can handle at this time. Based on the feedback I received, I am seeking to join a lawsuit, brought by my colleague from Oklahoma, which will invalidate this order.”

The FCC acted after numerous complaints from families of inmates around the country, who were charged as much as $14 per minute to talk with their loved ones behind bars.

As we reported at the time, those fees were often split between private telecommunications providers and the states and private companies that operate prisons and jails throughout the country. The FCC action capped the rate at 11 cents per minute for all local and long distance calls from state and federal prisons, while providing tiered rates for jails to account for the higher costs of serving jails and smaller institutions.

At the same time, the FCC closed loopholes by barring most add-on fees imposed by inmate calling service providers. The agency also set strict limits on the few fees that remain. Extra fees and charges can increase the cost of families staying in touch by phone with loved ones who are incarcerated by as much as 40%.

Rutledge argues those high rates were justified. She says the order “ignores significant ICS- and security-related costs” that fall on states and their need to recoup these costs from ICS providers.

Her motion claims “the Order is arbitrary and capricious as it does not consider these costs and allow for reasonable cost recoupment by the states. The intervening states will also argue that the Order is unconstitutional and not authorized by federal law.”

It may also be a fact that prison budgets depend on that revenue and will now look to local and state governments to make it up.

In issuing the order late last year, the FCC cited a report showing one in three families go into debt because of the high cost of maintaining contact with incarcerated family members.

While contact between inmates and their loved ones has been shown to reduce the rate of recidivism, high inmate calling rates have made that contact unaffordable for many families, who often live in poverty, the agency said.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may have won big on Super Tuesday primary night, but earlier in the day he lost in New York's Appellate Cour...

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may have won big on Super Tuesday primary night, but earlier in the day he lost in New York's Appellate Court.

The justices declined Trump's request to dismiss fraud charges brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against Trump University.

In his complaint, Scheiderman maintains Trump and business partner Michael Sexton were operating an unlicensed educational institution since 2005.

“By letter dated May 27, 2005, the New York State Department of Education (SED) notified Donald Trump individually, Sexton, and Trump University that they were violating the New York Education Law by using the word "University" when it was not actually chartered as one,” the justices wrote in their decision. “Likewise, SED notified these respondents that Trump University was also violating the Education law because it lacked a license to offer student instruction or training in New York State. SED stated, however, that Trump University would not be subject to the license requirement if it had no physical presence in New York State, moved the business organization outside of New York, and ceased running live programs in the State. In June 2005, Sexton informed SED that Trump University would merge its operation into a new Delaware LLC, and would indeed cease holding live programming in New York State.”

But the justices agreed with Schneiderman that never happened. They also dismissed Trump's claim that the statute of limitations had expired.

“We hold that the Attorney General is, in fact, authorized to bring a cause of action for fraud under Executive Law § 63(12),” the court ruled.

In a statement, Schneiderman said the court's ruling was a “clear victory” to hold Trump and Trump University accountable for defrauding students.

“The state Supreme Court had already granted our request for summary judgment determining that Trump and his University are liable for operating illegally in New York as an unlicensed educational institution,” Schneiderman said. “Today’s decision means our entire fraud case can move forward, and confirms that the case is subject to a six year statute of limitations.”

Schneiderman sued Trump for $40 million in 2013, claiming Trump University deceived its students and failed to deliver the apprenticeships it promised. In addition to the attorney general's action, several students have also filed a class action suit against Trump University.

It has even become an issue in the presidential campaign, with Trump rival Sen. Marco Rubio (D-FL) raising it during a recent debate.

"There are people who borrowed $36,000 to go to Trump University, and they're suing now – $36,000 to go to a university that's a fake school," Rubio charged. "And you know what they got? They got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump."

“We look forward to demonstrating in a court of law that Donald Trump and his sham for-profit college defrauded more than 5,000 consumers out of millions of dollars,” he said.

Consumers filed a lot of complaints with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network last year, according to the agency’s new data book,...

Consumers filed a lot of complaints with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network last year, according to the agency’s new data book, with debt collection, identity theft, and imposter scams at the top of the list.

The fact that debt collection complaints hit the top spot was due in large part to a surge in complaints contributed by a data contributor who collects complaints via a mobile app. This change caused a spike in complaints related to unwanted debt collection mobile phone calls.

Identity theft complaints were the second most reported, increasing more than 47% from 2014 on the back of a massive jump in complaints about tax identity theft from consumers. Identity theft complaints had been the top category for the previous 15 years. Imposter scams - in which scammers impersonate someone else to commit fraud -- remained the third-most common complaint in 2015.

“We recognize that identity theft and unlawful debt collection practices continue to cause significant harm to many consumers,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

In January 2016, the FTC announced the new version of IdentityTheft.gov, which now allows consumers the ability to create a personalized identity theft recovery plan.

Throughout 2015, the agency ramped up enforcement against companies violating laws protecting consumers from illegal debt collection practices.

The FTC also coordinated the first federal-state-local initiative (Operation Collection Protection) to combat the problem, leading 70 partners to bring more than 130 actions. Twelve actions were filed directly against 52 defendants for illegal debt collection practices, and 30 companies and individuals were permanently banned from the industry. Nearly $94 million in judgments were won against debt collectors.

The Fair Housing Act was part of the landmark civil rights legislation that became law in the 1960s. It didn't eradicate racial discrimination in housing i...

The Fair Housing Act was part of the landmark civil rights legislation that became law in the 1960s. It didn't eradicate racial discrimination in housing immediately, but it began its slow death.

But a study by researchers at Marquette, Texas Christian, and Georgia State universities makes the case that housing discrimination against African-Americans is alive and well.

The problem is not with Realtors and bankers, the researchers say. Rather, the discrimination is found among mortgage loan originators (MLO), the first people a prospective homeowner comes in contact with during the home-buying process.

Their study suggests that being African-American is virtually the same as knocking 71 points off your credit score when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage.

The economists conducting the study used a matched-pair email experiment to compare MLO responses to loan inquiries from both white and African American applicants. The experiment generated 10,000 email inquiries, which were then tested for how they were treated by client race and credit score.

“We examined whether they responded to our inquiries, whether they followed up and the content of their responses to test for differential treatment,” lead author Andrew Hanson of Marquette said in a statement. “Our results show MLOs discriminate based on race and treat clients differently based on their credit score.”

Not all MLOs discriminated, but the researchers say enough did to cause concern and pose unacceptable difficulties for African-Americans applying for mortgages. The discriminating MLOs tended not to respond to inquiries if the applicant in some way identified themselves as African-American.

“We found that MLOs were more likely to send whites the information they requested and more likely to give them advice or ‘coaching’ that may help them qualify for a mortgage,” Hanson said.

The study suggests that discrimination in the information-gathering stage is harmful because it is likely to influence outcomes for minority borrowers throughout the lending and home-buying process.

“If African American borrowers are less likely to receive communication from a mortgage loan originator, or the MLO treats them differently when communication does occur, it makes submitting the loan application more difficult and the remainder of the home purchase more arduous,” Hanson said.

It also has the potential to stop the home-buying process in its tracks. Even if it does not, the authors say borrowers who are delayed or pre-approved for a smaller loan may be treated differently by the real estate agent in their choice of neighborhood. They may pay higher interest rates and larger fees.

The authors say the extensive reliance on email over in-person contact should have ended discrimination, but they say it hasn't.

“It still exists in the lending industry,” said Hanson. “To uncover the full extent of discrimination in this market and enforce fair lending laws, in-person audits should be expanded to include multiple types of communication.”

If we learned anything from Chipotle’s recent E. coli outbreak, it’s that fresh, locally sourced foods aren’t always a guaranteed slam dunk in the health d...

If we learned anything from Chipotle’s recent E. coli outbreak, it’s that fresh, locally sourced foods aren’t always a guaranteed slam dunk in the health department. In fact, all of the outbreaks on the CDC’s homepage are in the “health” food category.

Sprouts -- those spindly little veggies often perceived as a healthy addition to a sandwich or salad -- are at the top of the outbreak list.   

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced recently that it is investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella muenchen linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms. States affected include Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

Consumers who have bought sprouts produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts or Sweetwater Farms should not consume them. If you think you have consumed a contaminated sprout, the FDA advises that you contact your healthcare provider.

This isn’t the first time sprouts have been at the center of an outbreak scare, either. There have been at least 30 reported outbreaks since 1996, according to FoodSafety.gov. Due to the nature of how they are produced, sprouts carry the risk of foodborne illness and tend to make regular appearances on outbreak lists.

The warm, humid environment in which they’re grown sets the stage for harmful bacteria. If consumed raw -- or even lightly cooked -- sprouts come with an increased risk of food poisoning or contamination by E. coli or Salmonella, especially if you’re considered a “high-risk” individual. The high risk category includes children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

Though they’re considered a health food, they require careful handling and refrigeration in order for consumers to avoid falling ill.

Despite the risk of contamination, however, experts say the benefits of sprouts outweigh the risks. Sprouts are loaded with vitamins C, A, and K, and research shows they can help aid digestion.

The stage in their life cycle has a lot to do with their nutrient-dense nature. The sprouting process increases protyolitic enzymes that make carbs and proteins digestible, thus saving your body from having to produce those digestive enzymes on its own. 

Sprouts also contain a much higher dose of vitamins than their more mature counterparts. In a cup of broccoli sprouts for example, the vitamin E content can be as high as 7.5 mg compared to 1.5 mg in the same amount of raw or cooked broccoli. 

"It's essentially about getting the most benefit out of a plant in the most biologically concentrated form," says FoodFacts, in their article Shout Out for Sprouts. "So eat sprouts or sprout some -- they're a mega-healthy food we can all live with." 

Another strong month for private sector employment gains.The ADP National Employment Report says payrolls rose by 214,000 from January to February with...

Another drop in applications for mortgages -- the second in as many weeks.The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports mortgage applications were dow...

Essure, an implantable birth-control device, has been on the market for nearly 14 years, but after recent litigation and reports o...

Essure, an implantable birth-control device, has been on the market for nearly 14 years, but after recent litigation and reports of injury to thousands of women, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concedes it's time to take a closer look at its safety record.

The agency is ordering Bayer, the device's German manufacturer, to conduct a clinical study to measure the real-world safety record of Essure, a permanent form of sterilization. It will also require a "black box" warning label on the device.

Critics say the agency isn't going far enough. They want the device withdrawn from the market pending further research. "If Essure was harming and killing men, it would have been withdrawn from the market already," said a posting on the Facebook page of Essure Problems, a group of women affected by the devices.

"These studies could take several years, and leaving the device on the market will only put more women's lives at risk," the group said, while questioning why the FDA would permit Bayer to conduct the studies, basically allowing it to study itself. "We are disappointed but not surprised the FDA has once again chosen to side with industry rather than protect patients of a failed medical device."

The FDA held a day-long conference about Essure in September, where it heard from many women patients and their advocates. Critics say it's scandalous it took the agency six months just to decide to conduct a study to gather more data on the issue. 

"It’s unbelievable that it took the FDA since September to make just two recommendations with no enforcement measures and ask the manufacturer to perform another study while leaving Essure on the market," said Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who has been among Congressional critics calling on the agency to pull the device form the market.

"Frankly, I’d contend that the 25,000 women harmed by Essure are the postmarket study that FDA is ordering. It’s been done. The evidence is all there," Fitzpatrick said. As my constituent, Dr. Amy Reed, a victim of unsafe devices herself, testified at the FDA in September, ‘[w]e don’t need to hurt any more women.’ If the FDA is going to order another study, then at minimum they should take Essure off the market during that time."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said the agency's "actions mean nothing" unless the FDA is prepared to act. 

“Women and their doctors have filed more than 5,000 adverse events reports to the FDA regarding the negative side effects of Essure, yet the device is still on the market," DeLauro said. “Last year, the GAO released its findings on a report I commissioned, showing that the FDA’s requests for postmarket safety studies often take a long time to be completed, and that companies lack incentive to find participants for their studies. Now, the FDA is asking Bayer to do a postmarket study, all while there is no evidence that the FDA has remedied the issues found within the GAO report."

"FDA needs to take accountability in ensuring that these manufactures are completing these postmarket studies in a timely manner. In the meantime, Essure should be off the market until the requested studies are completed," DeLauro said.

Recent lawsuits have alleged that Bayer actively concealed adverse events from the FDA when it won pre-market approval from the FDA in 2002. 

Essure works through the insertion of flexible coils through the cervix and vagina into the fallopian tubes. Over a period of about three months, scar tissue forms around the inserts and creates a barrier that keeps sperm from reaching the eggs, thus preventing conception.

The FDA said that over the past 14 years, it has reviewed a "significant amount of information" and believes Essure remains an "appropriate option for the majority of women seeking a permanent form of birth control."

But the FDA said some women may be at risk for serious complications, including persistent pain, perforation of the uterus or fallopian tubes from device migration, abnormal bleeding, and allergy or hypersensitivity reactions.

“The actions we are taking today will encourage important conversations between women and their doctors to help patients make more informed decisions about whether or not Essure is right for them,” said William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “They also reflect our recognition that more rigorous research is needed to better understand if certain women are at heightened risk of complications.”

Besides the clinical study, the FDA said it intends to order changes to product labeling, including a boxed warning and a "patient decision checklist" to help to ensure women receive and understand information about the device.

The checklist includes proposed language for doctors to use with patients to better communicate risks and help to ensure an informed decision-making process. The checklist will also help doctors discuss the importance of undergoing a “confirmation” test three months after the device is implanted to determine whether the implants are properly placed and that scar tissue has formed to prevent pregnancy.

The checklist should be completed and signed by the patient and physician prior to proceeding with a permanent hysteroscopic sterilization procedure, such as Essure.

The post-market study that will gather data to help compare Essure and other implantable sterilization devices laparoscopic tubal ligation. The study will be looking for complications, including unplanned pregnancy, pelvic pain, and other symptoms, as well as surgery to remove the Essure device.

Additionally, the study will collect information to identify reasons for why some patients don’t have a confirmation test to ensure that Essure has been properly placed three months after insertion. The FDA will use the results of this study to determine what, if any, further actions related to Essure are needed to protect public health.

Trying to rent an apartment in New York, San Francisco, or any other high-cost city where housing is in high demand can be very tricky. It doesn't make it ...

Trying to rent an apartment in New York, San Francisco, or any other high-cost city where housing is in high demand can be very tricky. It doesn't make it any easier when rental listing sites fail to weed out scam artists and tricksters.

Yet when researchers from New York University's Tandon School of Engineering studied more than two million New York City apartment rental listings on Craiglist, they found that the site caught only 47 percent of those deemed to be fake. Suspicious postings lingered for as long as 20 hours before being removed.

While online rental scams aren't new, the NYU study is said to be the first systematic, empirical look at the problem. The NYU team analyzed more than two million rental listings on Craigslist over a five-month period to gain an end-to-end understanding of how such scams are structured and which strategies may undermine them.

"This is the first study to really unpack these rental scams and uncover their vulnerabilities," said Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering. He said most schemes that utilize credit cards are based in the United States and should be vulnerable to disciplinary or regulatory action.

"We've shown that rental scams are often built on the same foundation -- there are common templates, emails, IP addresses and other red flags that can be used to develop more sensitive detection techniques in the future," he said.

In the credit report scam, the would-be renter is told to click a link and purchase a credit report for review by the landlord. The scammer gets a referral commission from the credit reporting site even though there is no property for rent.

In the clone listing scam, legitimate rental listings are copied and posted on Craigslist at a lower price. The scammer asks for a rent deposit via a wire transfer, then disappears with the money.

Phony fees include instances in which victims are asked to pay both an upfront fee and a monthly membership fee to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

McCoy and his associates detected and analyzed about 29,000 fraudulent listings in 20 major cities, ultimately mapping the listings into seven distinct scam categories, most of which involved credit card payments.

They began by developing semi-automated detection techniques that proved highly effective at identifying potentially fraudulent listings. They isolated suspected scams based on shared characteristics; for example, common email addresses, postings with email addresses previously reported in connection to scams, or listings that appeared on other rental sites with different pricing or contact information.

Using an automated "conversation engine," the team engaged some suspicious posters by email, which yielded another set of common features associated with scam communications, namely a set of keywords and personal circumstances -- the responders always claimed to be out of the country -- as well as common IP addresses and embedded links that prospective renters were asked to click.

McCoy, along with Elaine Shi, an assistant professor of computer science at Cornell University, and Youngsam Park, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, presented the findings of their paper, "Understanding Craigslist Rental Scams" at the Proceedings of Financial Cryptography and Data Security Conference in Barbados this month.

When building a resume, job seekers are often quick to note their ability to multitask. But while it might seem like your ability to juggle multiple tasks ...

When building a resume, job seekers are often quick to note their ability to multitask. But while it might seem like your ability to juggle multiple tasks would be a valuable asset, you may want to hold off on listing it as a skill.

Employers aren’t as interested in effort as they are outcome, says Anne Grinols, assistant dean for faculty development and college initiatives in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. And multitasking is more effort-based than outcome-centric.

“I would not use the term ‘multitasking’ on my resume,” said Grinols in a statement. “Instead, I would indicate expertise in multiple areas, timely production and excellence in outcomes.”

Grinols, who teaches in Baylor’s MBA program, has published research on multitasking, including three myths of the so-called "skill." 

There are two means of accomplishment, she explains: conscious and unconscious. The subconscious -- or "autopilot," as she describes it -- does take care of some activity, but it doesn’t get the same proactive attention as conscious accomplishment.

Take long-distance driving, for example. Grinols explains that long-distance drivers can begin to think about other things, paying less attention to the road than the other drivers. And as a result, their driving suffers.

Conscious mental activity, on the other hand, happens one activity at a time. A student texting during a lecture or an employee texting during a meeting are both examples of conscious mental activity, she says. In both cases, the information being taught or discussed will be lost to the one who is texting.

Grinols’ research showed that people going back and forth between two conscious mental activities “lose some time and efficiency of brain function that robs them of effective accomplishment of one activity, or both.”

You might think you’re accomplishing more than others by focusing on multiple things at a time, but employers may view multitasking as a negative. Grinols believes this is because efforts to multitask can yield unfortunate results, such as poor outcomes and employee burnout.

“In the real world, most of the time, results count more than the process to achieve them,” says Grinols. “A good process is more likely to result in consistent, good results; so process matters. But it matters precisely because of the results, not on its own account.”

Most of us don’t monitor ourselves as well as we think we do, says Grinols. She notes the observation of a fourth grade teacher who told her class, “Do not watch TV while you do your homework, or you will find yourself doing TV while you watch your homework.”

Similarly, if your current task is to develop a new strategy to accomplish a goal while also participating in a team meeting, don’t start thinking about the strategy as you sit in the meeting. Your active participation in the meeting will suffer, says Grinols.

“You must focus on each one separately to be able to succeed at an optimal level at both. Employers expect optimal-level accomplishment,” Grinols said.

Gasoline prices are rising a bit nationwide, but it has less to do with a stabilizing price of oil than annual refinery maintenance, which reduces output a...

Gasoline prices are rising a bit nationwide, but it has less to do with a stabilizing price of oil than annual refinery maintenance, which reduces output and normally raises prices.

According to AAA, the national average price of gasoline is $1.75 a gallon, up five cents a gallon from a week ago. The increase is more dramatic in California, where Gasbuddy reports the average price of gasoline has risen 10 cents a gallon in the last week.

A reader, Robert from Oceanside, Calif., reported that diesel fuel in his area is also going up, and wonders why.

“Why does it seem that diesel prices seem to rise when the California summer blends are mandated and the price of gasoline rises?” he wrote in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “To my knowledge there is no summer blend for diesel. This seems like a rip off to me. Can you explain?”

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analysts at Gasbuddy, said his numbers show the statewide price of diesel in California has actually gone down a penny a gallon, but says its possible prices have risen in some areas.

“Some stations may have raised diesel prices as crude oil prices have risen, prompting not only gasoline to rise, but other refined fuels, such as jet fuel and diesel,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. “Keeping in mind all refined products are impacted when a refinery does maintenance as well – not just gasoline production – so diesel could rise due to refinery maintenance season.”

California is a big agricultural state and producers use a lot more diesel fuel starting in the spring. DeHaan says as agricultural consumption rises in the spring, demand goes up and so does the price. But there is some good news on the horizon.

“Usually diesel’s peak price is during winter and is lower during summer,” DeHaan said. “I expect that to be the case this summer as well.”

After the price of crude oil, refinery operations have the biggest impact on gasoline prices. Last summer, while much of the rest of the nation continued to enjoy falling fuel prices, consumers in the Midwest saw pump prices escalate because of issues at a BP refinery that sharply curtailed the delivery of fuel to several states.

A lawn mower is one of those things that is inherently unsafe. It therefore requires great caution by users and bystanders, but a new study finds that's to...

A lawn mower is one of those things that is inherently unsafe. It therefore requires great caution by users and bystanders, but a new study finds that's too often not the case.

The study, presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) found that an "alarming" number of serious injuries still occur despite the many warnings, operating instructions, design modifications, and safety tips that accompany today's mowers.

"We have to find a way to stop kids from being around mowers," said lead study author Douglas Armstrong, MD, director of pediatric orthopaedic surgery at Penn State Hershey Pediatric Bone and Joint Institute. "Many parents don't realize that the blade is such a forceful, blunt instrument -- even if it is hidden under the mower.

Researchers reviewed data from the Pennsylvania Trauma Outcome Study on the 199 children, ages 0 to 17 (mean age 8), admitted to a pediatric or adult trauma center between 2002 and 2013 with lawnmower injury. 

They found that boys accounted for 81 percent of the injuries and that 55 percent involved a riding mower. 

Accidents commonly involved children running behind a mower, slipping under the mower while riding as a passenger, and being struck by the mower blades when the machine was running in reverse.

The study authors recommend the creation of a spring education campaign to remind parents on how to keep their children safe from lawn-mower injuries.

Strawberries have already been called a nutritional “whole-in-one,” but a new study finds that people with insulin resistance (IR) may especially benefit f...

Strawberries have already been called a nutritional “whole-in-one,” but a new study finds that people with insulin resistance (IR) may especially benefit from the fruit.

Published in the February issue of Molecular Nutrition and Food Nutrition, the study found that the anthocyanin-rich nature of strawberries may help improve insulin sensitivity. This finding is important, as research has shown that prolonged IR can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

To test the effects of anthocyanins, researchers gave obese adults with insulin resistance a meal high in fat and carbohydrates paired with a beverage that contained freeze-dried whole strawberry powder (equivalent to 3 cups of strawberries). Subjects who drank the most concentrated versions of the strawberry drink produced less insulin.

Thanks to the strawberry shake, it appeared the body didn’t need much insulin to metabolize their meal. Researchers note that while the exact reason strawberries have this effect remains unclear, it may be that anthocyanins alter insulin signaling at a cellular level.

"These results add to the collective evidence that consuming strawberries may help improve insulin action," says study author Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D., MS, Director, Center for Nutrition Research, Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) at Illinois Institute of Technology

The American Diabetes Association lists strawberries as one of the top ten superfoods to include in a diabetes meal plan. Low in sugar -- but loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins -- strawberries are a highly beneficial berry for both diabetics and non-diabetics.

Experts say eating just eight medium-sized strawberries a day may improve heart health, help manage diabetes, support brain health, and reduce the risk of some cancers.

So toss a few in a salad, pair them with protein, or even freeze them to use as ice cubes. Because according to the California Strawberry Commission, we’re not eating as many strawberries as we should.

There's some debate in the fitness world about the effectiveness of what is known as “intense cardio,” a high-energy, fat-burning exercise regimen.Its ...

There's some debate in the fitness world about the effectiveness of what is known as “intense cardio,” a high-energy, fat-burning exercise regimen.

Its advocates praise it as a way to quickly burn hundreds of calories. At least one health researcher, however, is not convinced.

Writing in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, he warns that high levels of intense exercise may be “cardiotoxic.” That, he says, can lead to permanent structural changes in the heart, which can, in some individuals, predispose them to experience arrhythmias.

But Dr. André La Gerche, Head of Sports Cardiology at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, wants to make it clear that he is talking about a matter of degree.

"Much of the discussion regarding the relative risks and benefits of long-term endurance sports training is hijacked by definitive media-grabbing statements, which has fueled an environment in which one may be criticized for even questioning the benefits of exercise," La Gerche said in a statement. "This paper discusses the often questionable, incomplete, and controversial science behind the emerging concern that high levels of intense exercise may be associated with some adverse health effects."

There has been plenty of research that points to walking as an effective health and weight-maintenance strategy. But because it isn't as strenuous as a lot of other exercises, walking needs to be done on a regular basis, and for a lot longer than an intense workout to achieve the same results.

Fortunately, most of us walk as part of our normal daily lives. If we can work in about 30 minutes of brisk walking a day, the American Heart Association says, we can produce a number of healthy benefits.

For example, the Heart Association cites research showing a half-hour of walking each day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, improve both blood pressure and blood sugar levels, maintain body weight, reduce obesity risks, and even improve your mental state.

There may actually be some middle ground in the debate. As New York Times health columnist Jane Body pointed out last year, there is plenty of compelling research showing the health benefits of what's called high intensity interval training (HIIT).

It's what it sounds like -- a person engaged in moderate activity, such as brisk walking, that steps up the pace for a short interval, repeating the process throughout the workout.

“Researchers have found that repeatedly pushing the body close to its exercise limits for very brief periods, interspersed with periods of rest, is more effective than continuous moderate activity at improving cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and mechanical functions,” Brody wrote.

As with any new exercise routine, it is wise to discuss it with your healthcare provider before starting.

When you deal with a known, well-established business, you should have a pretty high level of confidence that you'll get what you pay for.When purchasi...

When you deal with a known, well-established business, you should have a pretty high level of confidence that you'll get what you pay for.

When purchasing something from a telemarketer, or from a direct mail pitch, that isn't always the case. Two recent cases – one in Florida and the other in New Jersey – underscore that point.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has entered into a consent judgment against a company that used telemarketers to sell high school and college alumni directories to consumers nationwide.

After Bondi started receiving consumer complaints, her office launched an investigation. She says it found the company, Alumni Research, solicited payments over the phone for the purchase of high school and college alumni directory books for dozens of schools nationwide. According to the investigation, the defendants either failed to publish the directories or failed to produce the directories within the time promised.

The investigation found that more than 26,000 consumers were financially harmed by the operation. Many of the victims are senior citizens who each paid approximately $70 to preorder a directory for their alma mater.

The state of New Jersey, meanwhile, has begun sending restitution checks to consumers who paid up front for travel services from Crown Travel Service.

The company, along with its affiliates and principals, were charged with violating New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations in the marketing of travel packages. The state charged the marketing efforts came at a time when the company was already insolvent.

In this case, the state was able to receive over a half-million dollars from the defendants so that restitution could be made to most of the victims. However, in many cases when consumers pay upfront to either an unscrupulous or insolvent business, the money is gone.

The lesson here is to be very careful when a business requires an advance payment. Some may be outright frauds. Others may have the best of intentions, but through poor business practices go out of business before the product or service can be delivered.

The Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) says advance fee scams have some fairly easily recognizable characteristics. They include promises to send products or services and sometimes offer the opportunity to participate in a special deal.

Skyrocketing drug prices have been in the news in recent months, with Congress holding hearings and presidential candidates turning drug costs into an elec...

Skyrocketing drug prices have been in the news in recent months, with Congress holding hearings and presidential candidates turning drug costs into an election year issue.

But while some drug prices actually surged overnight, it has been a slower process for most. AARP says the latest Rx Price Watch report traces the rise of retail drug prices between 2006 and 2013.

The report shows the retail prices for 622 brand name, generic, and specialty prescription drugs that are commonly used by seniors on Medicare rose an average of 9.4% over that seven year period. During that time, the U.S. inflation rate was 1.5%.

When the retail prices of specialty prescription drugs go up quickly, it has a snowball effect on the cost of drug therapy. The AARP report shows that the average annual retail cost of prescription drug therapy for one typical drug was over $11,000 per year in 2013.

AARP says the drug price inflation is taking place almost entirely among brand name and specialty drugs, while generics showed a slight decline.

“If these trends continue, more and more Americans will simply be unable to afford the medications that they need to get and stay healthy,” Debra Whitman, AARP’s chief public policy officer, said in a statement. “When the price of a drug goes up, someone has to pay the bill—and ultimately that someone is every taxpayer and consumer. As drug prices continue to escalate, so do our monthly premiums and our out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter.”

In the seven year period of the study, specialty drug prices rose as average 10.6% and the average brand name drug increased 12.9%. Generic drug prices actually went down an average of 4%.

“Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that we can no longer rely on decreases in generic drug prices to offset unrelenting price increases for brand name and specialty drugs,” said Leigh Purvis, co-author of the new report. “This shift has serious implications for older adults and the entire health care system.”

But the AARP study stops at 2013. More recent research, as we reported last month, now suggests that even generic drug prices are trending higher.

Researchers writing in the medical journal Blood say a number of practices by drug companies, including paying generic manufacturers to delay producing new generic products, are keeping drug prices high.

More contraction in the manufacturing sector of the economy in February.The latest Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing report on busine...

January was a good month for homeowners as prices rose on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.Property information, analytics and data-ena...

January was a good month for homeowners as prices rose on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

Property information, analytics and data-enabled services provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows home prices nationwide -- including distressed sales -- increased year over year by 6.9% and was up 1.3% from December.

“While the national market continues to steadily improve, the contours of the home price recovery are shifting,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “The northwest and Rocky Mountain states have experienced greater appreciation and account for four of the top five states for home price growth.”

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices will jump 5.5% from January 2016 to January 2017, and 0.5% from January to February.

“Heading into the spring buying season, home prices continue to rise across much of the country,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “With rates staying low for now and continued solid job and income growth, the spring buying season is shaping up to be a good one.”

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.

Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, has issued a national recall for Maytag Raw Milk Blue Cheese. The product may be contaminated with Listeria mo...

The recalled cheese was sold cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with scale labels in various weights reading “Maytag Blue Raw Milk,” “Maytag Blue” or “Maytag Iowa Blue Cheese” and with PLU numbers beginning with 293308 and “sell-by” dates of 1/20/2016 and 3/21/16.

Customers who purchased this product should discard it, and may bring their receipt into the store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call 512-477-5566, extension 20060, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CDT).

Sally Sherman Foods of Mount Vernon, N.Y., is recalling approximately 3,004 pounds of various chicken products. The products may be adulterated wit...

Sally Sherman Foods of Mount Vernon, N.Y., is recalling approximately 3,004 pounds of various chicken products.

The recalled products bear establishment number “P-4400” inside the USDA mark of inspection and were shipped to distributors in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Customers who purchased these products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

General Motors is recalling 74 model year 2016 Buick Regals manufactured August 30, 2015, to February 12, 2016. The realled vehicles have a power-s...

General Motors is recalling 74 model year 2016 Buick Regals manufactured August 30, 2015, to February 12, 2016.

The realled vehicles have a power-steering assist system that may fail, increasing the risk of a crash.

GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the electric belt drive rack and pinion steering gear assembly, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

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