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Updated: 4 years 5 months ago

600K Baby Monitors Recalled After 2 Deaths

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 12:07pm
(WASHINGTON) — Angelcare Monitors Inc. is voluntarily recalling 600,000 baby monitors following the death of two infants due to strangulation. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday that a cord attached to the sensor pad, which is placed under the crib mattress to monitor movement, poses a strangulation risk if the child pulls the cord into the crib. Two infants have died from cord strangulation deaths with this product and two more have reportedly been entangled, but not fatally. The Angelcare Movement and Sound Monitors with Sensor Pads were sold between 1999 and 2013 for between $100 and $300 at a number of U.S. retailers, including Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Meijer, Sears, Walmart,,, and nearly 70 small baby specialty stores Consumers should stop using the product and contact the company for a repair kit. The recall involves all versions of Angelcare sensor monitors including model numbers: AC1100, AC201, AC300, AC401 AC601 and 49255 that did not include rigid cord covers. The model number is located on the back of the nursery monitor unit. Angelcare, based in Canada, is providing consumers with a repair kit that includes rigid protective cord covers, through which the sensor pad cords can be threaded, as well as a new electric cord warning label and revised instructions. The CPSC said that industrywide there have been eight reports of strangulation in baby monitor cords since 2002.
Categories: Financial News

Groupon’s New ‘Freebies’ Section Is Missing Free Stuff

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 10:26am
“Groupon is giving away stuff for free now,” a story in the Chicago Tribune begins. Well, no. There’s nothing free, or particularly special, to be had at the new “Freebies” section launched at the daily deal giant’s site. This week, Groupon introduced a new “Freebies” section to its website. What kind of stuff can consumers find in this section for free? Let’s take a look. One of the lead items in the Freebies section on Thursday was a 20% off sitewide anniversary sale for Moosejaw, the outdoor apparel specialist. First off, this is just a discount like a million other discounts out there; nothing’s being given away free. Secondly, it’s not a particularly amazing discount: On big online shopping days on or around Cyber Monday, consumers have come to expect markdowns of 40% or more. Thirdly, there’s no need to go through Groupon to secure 20% off a Moosejaw purchase. Anyone who stumbled upon the site would also be presented with the same exact sitewide 20% discount. Other offers listed in Groupon’s “Freebies” section include Walmart’s Pre-Black Friday Sale, a 20% off sale of select merchandise from Puma, and discounts up to 40% off select clearance items at Nordstrom, with free shipping included. There are plenty of ho-hum “Top Coupons” that will leave experienced shoppers seriously underwhelmed, like 15% off regularly priced items at Toys R Us and $5 off purchases over $75 at In all instances, shoppers must pay actual money to get their hands on any merchandise, which is the opposite of something being free. (MORE: The Big Lie About Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday) After clicking on “Freebies,” the shopper sees a small headline clarifying what’s truly available for free in this section: “Free coupons.” You know, as opposed to all those coupons and promotional codes that shoppers eagerly pay top dollar for. As of Thursday, Groupon was listing “Free coupons to 5,545 stores.” Now, for the Groupon business model, the concept of giving away coupons is new. Normally, a subscriber does pay something—say $10
Categories: Financial News

Emojis, Exploding Coupons Could be Snapchat’s Future

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 10:21am
The photo messaging service Snapchat has suddenly become the hottest app in the tech world. The two-year-old startup was offered a reported $3 billion cash buyout from Facebook last week, but turned it down. People were shocked not only that Facebook offered triple what it paid for Instagram just two years ago, but also that 23-year-old Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel would have the audacity to not cash out like Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom did. Either Spiegel is applying his best poker face to his Silicon Valley suitors in order to force an even pricier buyout, or he’s got a plan to make the app even bigger than a $3 billion business. Right now, Snapchat generates no revenue, and estimates of the size of its user base vary wildly. The only relevant growth metric the company has disclosed is that users receive 400 million photos and videos (called “snaps”) each day, a number that has increased quickly during 2013. Still, it’s not exactly clear how Snapchat will transform the voracious use of its app by teenagers into actual dollars. Most of its content disappears within ten seconds, and users offer up less personal data than they give to Facebook or Twitter. If the app hopes to scale to the level of those publicly traded social companies, it will likely need a variety of revenue sources. Here are five ways Snapchat could make enough money to make good on its sky-high valuation: A Subscription Model This may sound old-fashioned, but Snapchat could just charge people directly to use its service. Some mobile startups are doing this successfully. WhatsApp, a popular messaging service based in Silicon Valley, charges customers a $0.99 annual subscription fee after the first year of use. The company hasn’t disclosed revenue figures, but it now boasts more than 350 million monthly active users, dwarfing even the most generous Snapchat user base estimates. It’s staying afloat in a competitive field without selling advertising or peddling in-app purchases to users—for now. (MORE: These 8 Internet Companies Are Worth Over $1 Billion,
Categories: Financial News

How the Banks Are Winning Now

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 10:18am
One of the long-standing arguments against teaching personal finance in school is that marketing messages promoting debt and consumerism quickly overwhelm any lessons kids might receive about credit management and frugality. So it’s all a waste of time. No one knows for sure if that’s the case. But it’s sound theory, and at least now we know what we’re up against. For every $1 spent on financial education $25 is spent on financial marketing, according to a yearlong study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal watchdog agency. Calling the spending difference “staggering,” director Richard Cordray said, “That means the majority of information consumers receive about financial products comes from a company trying to sell them something.” This is hardly a surprise. Most families avoid talking about money at home and only in the last few years has there been any push to educate the public about personal finance through schools or the workplace. This financial knowledge gap clearly played a role in the recent recession—after consumers had loaded up on high-rate credit-card debt and signed up for ill-advised mortgages. (MORE: Verizon, AT&T Challenged on NSA Spying) The bureau found that the financial services industry spends $17 billion each year hawking financial products and services while government, nonprofits and financial institutions spend $670 million providing financial education. The biggest financial education chunk comes from nonprofits: $472 million. In what some have called the equivalent of beer companies’ don’t-drink-and-drive campaign, financial firms spend $31 million to educate their customers about general money issues. Officials at the bureau made no effort to gauge the effectiveness of financial education campaigns. They declined to comment on whether they expect more of an education effort from financial firms, which spend so much selling their goods and services to customers who are often unprepared and unsuspecting. Most of the marketing dollars–$12 billion a year—are spent online, on TV and radio, in newspapers and through the mail in a direct attempt to move customers to make an immediate purchase, the bureau reported. The rest is spent in
Categories: Financial News

Average U.S. Rate on 30-Year Mortgage at 4.22 Percent

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 10:06am
(WASHINGTON) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined this week after two weeks of increases, keeping home-buying affordable. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.22 percent from to 4.35 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dipped to 3.27 percent from 3.35 percent. Rates had spiked over the summer and reached a two-year high in July on speculation that the Federal Reserve would slow its bond purchases later this year. But the Fed held off in September and now appears poised to wait at least a few more months to see how the economy performs. The bond purchases are intended to keep long-term interest rates low. Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. They have stabilized since September and remain low by historical standards. Still, mortgage rates are nearly a full percentage point higher than in the spring. The uptick has contributed to a slowdown in home sales. The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes fell 3.2 percent in October, the second straight monthly decline. To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.7 point. The fee for a 15-year loan also was steady at 0.7 point. The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage held at 2.61 percent. The fee was unchanged at 0.4 point. The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage fell to 2.95 percent from 3.01 percent. The fee rose to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.
Categories: Financial News

Appeals Court in NY Sides with Starbucks Over Tips

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 10:02am
(NEW YORK) — A federal appeals court in New York has agreed that Starbucks baristas must share their tips with shift supervisors. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its finding Thursday. The decision stemmed from a lower-court ruling that found that the baristas who serve customers must share tips with shift supervisors. The courts say shift supervisors do much of the same work as the coffee servers.
Categories: Financial News

Walmart, Other Retailers Agree to Tougher Safety Standards in Bangladesh

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 9:47am
Two groups representing major retailers in the United States and Europe, including Walmart, said Wednesday that they had agreed on stricter inspection standards for thousands of garment factories in Bangladesh. The new requirements, including more sprinkler systems and fire doors, come amid concerns over garment worker conditions following a series of deadly incidents, including the collapse of a factory building in April that left more than 1,130 people dead. The two groups were formed after that disaster, representing stores like Walmart and Gap in America, and H&M and Carrefour in Europe, to help determine industry standards amid pressure from labor and consumer groups. [New York Times]
Categories: Financial News

Some People Are ALREADY Camping Out For Black Friday Sales

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 9:29am
Jonas Allooh pitched his tent at 5 p.m. Monday outside the Best Buy in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, complete with a bed, microwave, television and heaters. “It’s cold, it’s windy, and sometimes it rains and snows, so you have to be careful and make sure you stay warm,” he told Fox 8 Cleveland. Best Buy hadn’t even published its full bargain list, but a line behind Allooh was already forming. [Fox 8]
Categories: Financial News

Kia Recalling About 80,000 Vans To Fix Suspensions

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 9:23am
(DETROIT) — Kia Motors Corp. is recalling nearly 80,000 minivans in the U.S. because a suspension part can break and cause drivers to lose control of the vehicles. The recall affects Sedona minivans from 2006 through 2012. They were sold or registered in 20 states and Washington, D.C., where salt is used to clear roads in the winter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the lower control arms near the wheels can rust and break due to salt exposure. Kia dealers will inspect the parts and rustproof or replace them for free starting next month. The recall covers vans in Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, West Virginia or the District of Columbia.
Categories: Financial News

U.S. Unemployment Benefit Applications Drop to 323,000

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 8:06am
(WASHINGTON) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits fell 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 last week, the lowest since late September and further evidence of an improving job market. The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average fell for the third straight week to 338,500. Both figures are near pre-recession levels. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They had spiked in early October because of the partial government shutdown and processing backlogs in California. But first-time applications have now fallen in five of the past six weeks. The decline indicates that employers are laying off fewer workers. Hiring is also picking up. Employers added an average of 202,000 jobs per month from August through October. That’s up sharply from an average of 146,000 in May through July.
Categories: Financial News

Why Healthcare in America Is So Expensive

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 6:55am
America spends 19% of its gross domestic product on healthcare. The rest of the developed world spends around 11% to 12% and countries like Singapore, which have high quality care, spend around just 5%. The question for so many is, why? Why does America spend more and have worse health outcomes? And how are healthcare costs affecting our national competitiveness and economic growth? To find out, watch TIME economic columnist Rana Foroohar discuss the topic with some of the world’s top healthcare experts: Steven Brill, Ezekiel Emanuel, and William Haseltine, at the Council on Foreign Relations’s Renewing America panel on the cost of healthcare.
Categories: Financial News

The Big Lie About Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 6:25am
Recently released consumer surveys give the impression that roughly half of shoppers will be hitting the malls on Black Friday, and over one-third of Americans will be out at stores on Thanksgiving. Absurd. While the consensus has it that retailers will have a rough 2013 holiday season, there is plenty of data indicating that the spread of stores opening on Thanksgiving and endless Black Friday deals will succeed in drawing the masses out to stores. A post at Retail Customer Experience, for instance, cites a consumer poll conducted on the behalf of International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. and Goldman Sachs: With more retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, 13 percent of U.S. consumers plan to shop on that day. However, a hefty 46 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday (Nov. 29), as the day continues to be the prime focus for the bargain-conscious consumer. (MORE: This Year, Black Friday Basically Starts a Week Early … Thanks to Walmart) An Adweek story, meanwhile, using the research of Placed, an analytics firm that focuses on smartphone usage, states that “almost one quarter of shoppers plan to hit stores on Thanksgiving Day,” and “45% of those surveyed said they plan to shop the Friday after Thanksgiving.” Then there’s the widely-cited holiday survey from Accenture, which gives the impression than an even greater portion of consumers will be out crowding the stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Here’s how the Detroit Free Press summed up the data: This year, 38% of shoppers are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day or night, according to a survey by Accenture, a management consulting company. Add to that: 55% of shoppers are likely to hit the stores on the day after Thanksgiving, compared to 44% in 2011. What do you think such factoids truly mean? The way that press releases and news stories use phrases like “hit the stores” or simply “go shopping” seems to imply that the consumers in question will actually be venturing out to physical retail locations to do their
Categories: Financial News

The Bad News About $3 Gas

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 6:22am
Gas prices had been on the decline so steadily through the fall that it appeared like drivers would be enjoying a Christmas miracle in the form of $3 gasoline by year’s end. Lately, however, it’s looking like this miracle has no shot of becoming reality. The autumn fall in gas prices around the nation has been both dramatic and steady. Average prices at the pump dropped 10 weeks in a row, and in the period between Labor Day and November 10, the national average for a gallon of regular fell by 41¢. Drivers in 16 states were paying an average of $3.10 or lower, as the national average inched down to $3.17, the lowest it’s been in nearly three years. According to the Labor Department, gasoline prices fell 2.9% in October, and the decrease translated to weak inflation and slow increases in consumer prices for everything from food to furniture. The lower gas price trend also boded well for retailers during the all-important end-of-year winter shopping period, because shoppers who are paying less at the pump tend to spend more at the mall. (MORE: This Year, Black Friday Basically Starts a Week Early) Unfortunately for drivers—and the economy in general—this trend recently shifted into reverse. According to the most recent AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the national average for a gallon of regular has risen seven days in a row, creeping over $3.20 as of Wednesday. That’s still much better than one year ago at this time ($3.41), but in a particularly desperate season for retailers, the trajectory of prices at the pump may be as important as what consumers are paying out of pocket. Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with the price-tracking site, wrote that he “had been expecting the national average to bottom out between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as it has for the last several years,” but that pricing shifts have gotten an early start all year. The “summer” rise in prices actually began in February, for instance. Going forward, “I don’t see a whole lot of downward movement” in gas
Categories: Financial News

Verizon, AT&T Challenged on NSA Spying

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 6:20am
Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s largest phone companies, have maintained a disciplined silence about their involvement with the U.S. government’s controversial national security surveillance programs. Now, the telecom titans are facing pressure from influential shareholders to be more forthcoming about government requests for user information, including demands made by the National Security Agency (NSA) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Shareholders are asking Verizon and AT&T to follow the example of the nation’s largest Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, which all publish transparency reports. These companies are currently waging a legal battle with the government to be more forthcoming about government data demands. Internet and telecom firms alike are facing intense scrutiny following the blockbuster revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified documents describing the companies’ participation in the NSA’s snooping programs. The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which manages $160.7 billion on behalf of more than one million state employees and retirees, is leading the effort for greater transparency. “AT&T’s failure to disclose what customer information it shares with U.S. and foreign governments presents significant risk to shareholder value,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the fund. “Transparency allows investors to make informed decisions about corporate behavior. Publishing regular reports on requests for information from governments would be an appropriate response to shareholder and customer concerns about trust and privacy in the digital world.” (MORE: AT&T and Verizon Stay Silent About NSA Internet Snooping) According to published reports, AT&T and Verizon, which control key points of the nation’s communications infrastructure, have worked with the NSA to install equipment that “copies, scans and filters large amounts of the traffic that passes through.” The telecom giants have installed the filtering equipment at more than a dozen key points throughout the nation’s communications grid. In 2006, a former AT&T technician revealed that the NSA had set up a monitoring point at an AT&T facility in San Francisco — the now-legendary Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street. The purpose of the NSA’s surveillance programs is
Categories: Financial News

N.J. Becoming 3rd State to Offer Internet Gambling

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 3:35am
(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) — For the first time, people in New Jersey will be able to click a mouse or swipe a screen to gamble online. A five-day trial period of Internet gambling begins at 6 p.m. Thursday when players invited by casinos to test their systems make real-money bets online. The test period is designed to see whether sophisticated technology designed to ensure that all gamblers are within New Jersey and that they are 21 or older works correctly. The test is also designed to evaluate electronic payment technology, and the integrity and functionality of the casino games themselves. If all goes well, Internet gambling will be available to anyone within New Jersey starting Tuesday. The only other states to offer online gambling are Nevada and Delaware. Online betting will mark the biggest expansion of gambling in New Jersey since casino gambling began in 1978. “This is a very exciting time for Atlantic City and for the gaming industry,” said Alisa Cooper, a commissioner with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. “I was born and raised here in Atlantic City, and I remember all of the excitement that filled this city 35 years ago when the first casino opened. There have been a lot of challenges and a lot of changes since those early days. With the dawn of Internet gaming, we are on the cusp of perhaps the biggest change — and challenge — since the first casino opened here.” Hours before the test was to begin, one lawmaker was to unveil a proposal to expand Internet gambling in New Jersey. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the law that authorized online betting, was to unveil his proposal at a news conference Thursday morning. Then, at noon, the state was to release a list of gambling web sites that had passed rigorous testing and would be permitted to go live at 6 p.m. for the test. Regulators say anywhere from 500 to several thousand people could be online at any one time during the test period. David Rebuck,
Categories: Financial News

Photos Of Your Food? Check In on Foursquare? Not at This Restaurant

Thu, 11/21/2013 - 3:10am
From checking in on social networks to uploading photos of beautifully plated courses, smartphones have changed how we dine. But Arab-Israeli restauranteur Jawdat Ibrahim has had enough and is offering a whopping 50% discount to diners who turn off their phones while they enjoy their meals. Ibrahim, who owns the popular Abu Ghosh restaurant in a village of the same name near Jerusalem, told Associated Press that he decided to change “the culture of eating” after he saw groups of diners glued to their screens in silence and even worse, asking him to reheat their food. With almost every customer taking advantage of the offer since it began this week, Ibrahim admits he has taken a financial hit. But he believes it will pay off in the long run by enticing new customers. [AP]
Categories: Financial News

Jury Ends Day 2 of Samsung-Apple Deliberations

Wed, 11/20/2013 - 8:10pm
(SAN JOSE, Calif.) — Silicon Valley jurors are still deciding how much Samsung Electronics owes Apple for copying key features of the iPhone and iPad. They will begin a third day of deliberations Thursday in a San Jose federal courtroom after deliberating all day Wednesday. A previous jury found Samsung guilty of infringing several Apple patents. This jury is to determine damages only. Apple is demanding $380 million. Samsung argues it only owes $52 million. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Wednesday also refused Samsung’s request to halt the trial after U.S. patent regulators questioned the validity of one of Apple’s patents that Samsung was found to have infringed. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office told Apple on Wednesday that its arguments in support of a patent for the pinch-to-zoom function on iPhones and iPads “are not persuasive.”
Categories: Financial News

Costco Apologizes for Labeling Bibles as Fiction

Wed, 11/20/2013 - 6:49pm
Big box retailer Costco has apologized for accidentally labeling copies of the Bible “fiction” at a store near Los Angeles. A local pastor saw the bibles while looking for a gift for his wife and tweeted a picture to his congregation, KTLA reports. Costco has Bibles for sale under the genre of FICTION Hmmmm……— Caleb Kaltenbach (@calebwilds) November 15, 2013 Costco issued an apology Wednesday, blaming the mistake on one of its distributors. “Costco’s distributor mislabeled a small percentage of the Bibles, however we take responsibility and should have caught the mistake. We are correcting this with them for future distribution,” the statement said. “In addition, we are immediately relabeling all mislabeled Bibles. We greatly apologized for this error. [KTLA]
Categories: Financial News

New Google Debit Card Draws Funds from Your Virtual Wallet

Wed, 11/20/2013 - 6:09pm
Google will release a prepaid debit card for use in stors and at ATM machines, the company announced Wednesday. The Google Wallet Card will be tied to users’ Google Wallet accounts, an online payment and money transfer system. The card, which will only be available in the United States, will be available free of charge and not include monthly or annual fees, Reuters reports. The card can be ordered online as of Wednesday and usually takes between 10 and 12 days to arrive. [Reuters]
Categories: Financial News

Scandal-Hit Co-op Bank to Face Independent Probe

Wed, 11/20/2013 - 2:20pm
(LONDON) — Britain’s prime minister says the Co-operative Bank will face an independent inquiry into the role of its former chairman, a minister who was filmed allegedly buying crystal meth and other drugs. Paul Flowers, a Methodist minister who led the bank for three years until he stepped down in June, has apologized after footage of him allegedly buying drugs emerged this week. The Mail on Sunday reported that he bought the drugs just days after lawmakers grilled him on the bank’s disastrous finances. Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers Wednesday that “many questions have to be answered” regarding the Co-op Bank, including why Flowers was judged suitable to be its chairman in the first place. The Methodist Church said Wednesday that Flowers had been suspended indefinitely from his post as minister.
Categories: Financial News