KFC to go antibiotic-free by 2018

After years from of pressure from food safety and consumer advocacy groups, the parent company of KFC has decided that it will end its purchase of chicken that is raised using antibiotics. Other food giants that have made a similar pledge include Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A.

KFC announced, “By the end of 2018, all chicken purchased by KFC in the U.S. will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. This includes our chicken tenders and popcorn chicken; but we’re especially proud to be the first major chicken chain to extend this commitment to our bone-in chicken.”

Kevin Hochman, president of KFC U.S., said, “We share the public’s concern about…antimicrobial resistance. This is something that’s important to many of our customers, and it’s something we need to do to show relevance and modernity within our brand.”

According to the Centers for Disease control, treating farm animals with antibiotics can potentially lead to resistant bacteria growing, and humans run the risk of serious diseases or even death if they get infected with these resistant bacteria during improper cooking or handling.

This decision is part of KFC’s image makeover by returning to its roots. The program is dubbed “re-Colonelization” as a tribute to KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders.

Vijay Sikumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S., said, “To extend our commitment beyond our boneless menu items to all our chicken required detailed and thoughtful planning over the past year, including utilizing the USDA’s Process Verified program to ensure our suppliers can meet our requirements. We’re proud to make a commitment this expansive and believe this change will aid in shifting the rest of the industry.”

KFC said that this program would not lead to higher prices for consumers because the company will absorb the costs. Hochman noted that growers will need to raise more chickens to meet KFC’s size demands without the use of antibiotics.

Lena Brook, food policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “With KFC’s shift, more than half of the nation’s poultry supply chain will be anti-biotic free in the near future. This commitment from the nation’s most iconic fast –food chicken chain will have a major impact on the way the birds are raised in the U.S. and in the fight against the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections.”

Another pledge of KFC is to remove artificial colors and flavors from its menu by 2018 and for all their food to be free of food dyes by the end of 2017.

Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said, “This announcement is a win for anybody who might someday depend on antibiotics to get well, or seven save their lives- i.e. everybody.”

According to a recent Reuters investigation, there is an estimated annual 23,000 Americans dead from human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Tyson, one of KFC supplier of poultry announced that starting September 2017, they will eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chickens.

KFC has around 4,200 restaurants across America.

Elon Musk To Integrate Human Brains and Computer Through Neuralink

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla has taken the first major step in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology by launching a startup called Neuralink. The startup company will focus on technologies that can integrate the human brain with computers. Until now, this is a concept reserved for the science fiction movies. It won’t be the case anymore if Neuralink develops state-of-the-art AI technology. Musk plans on revealing new plans for Neuralink in the next week. Currently, it is in an embryonic stage with a mission to integrate embedded electrodes to make brains more efficient. The company was registered in California as a medical research company.

When devices are created to implant in the human brain, it can help the human beings to easily merge with the latest AI software which could improve brain’s performance. One of the possibilities of this technology is improved memory and it could be useful in enhancing brain’s functions at various levels.

The integration between the human brain and digital computers can be utilized by the medical industry. Currently, electrode arrays and similar implants are successfully used to rearrange the adverse effects of various neurodegenerative diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and others. Only a handful of people has complicated implants in their skulls. Invasive operations on human brains are extremely dangerous and patients are willing to sign up only if they have no other option to consider.

The Silicon Valley continues to encourage futuristic ideas from some of the great minds in the industry. Bryan Johnson, co-founder of Braintree has started Kernel which focuses on human cognition abilities. Kernel employs numerous software engineers and neuroscientists to work on reversing the harmful effects of neurodegenerative diseases. Neuralink has also hired several researchers and experts in the neuroscience industry.

Before any viable device is created, the AI companies should invest a huge amount of money and time in medical researches to understand the functions of the human brain. Even with a vast study on the brain, humans know very little about the neurons and their actual functionality. New surgical techniques have to be invented to implant complex devices that have the capability to alter the functionality of the brain.

Even if the development is successful, testing human brain and digital computer integration is going to be another great challenge. A healthy human being won’t be interested in allowing invasive devices to play their games on their brain. AI industry has grown rapidly in the past 10 years and the growth is accelerating.

Elon Musk doesn’t hesitate to warn about the risks of indulging more in AI. He suggested taking measures to colonize Mars so that human beings could escape to it when a rogue AI robot brings the end of the world. Musk wants international regulatory oversight for AI devices because he doesn’t want anything foolish to be developed. Even though investors are excited about Musk’s new venture, they are also worried that he won’t have enough time to focus on SpaceX, Tesla, and Neuralink with his first two companies already facing several challenges.

GOP Health Insurance Bill Fails Questioning Trump’s Agenda

Repealing and replacing Affordable Care Act, popularly called as Obamacare is one of the most important campaign pledges of President Donald Trump. He called the ACA expensive and irresponsible. Trump moved to bring a new health care bill and had hoped that the House of Republicans would offer a great support. After all, the Republicans have been against Obamacare since it was introduced. It was considered as a significant political move for Trump. On Friday, the House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the new health care bill off the floor as he couldn’t muster enough support from his own party.

Trump administration had decided to delay the vote because the House conservatives were not supportive of the new health care bill even though they wanted to repeal Obamacare for a long time. This is a huge embarrassment for the president as his reputation was at stake. Some of the Republicans were worried that the new health care bill retains a lot of the Obamacare policies. Others believed that the new health care bill will result in too many political risks. Trump accused Democrats of not providing any support even though the bill didn’t receive support from his own party.

The Democrats were overjoyed after Trump administration failed to hold a vote. Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader even called the new administration incompetent as it couldn’t close the deal. Trump was criticized heavily for this failure as he has written a book titled, ‘Art of the Deal’ earlier. The Twitter went crazy with millions of people taking a dig at Donald Trump with his popularized political failure.

During the press conference, Paul Ryan said that Obamacare will stay put for the foreseeable future. Trump wants to move on to the tax reforms. He had tweeted that Obamacare will explode soon and then the House will come back to him for the new and improved health care bill. The Republicans have also informed that they want to move ahead in repealing and replacing Obamacare. Paul Ryan had commented that the administration will welcome positive discussions with the Democrats on the health care bill.

On Monday, the Wall Street opened with disappointed investors as the health-care reform had failed. The DOW futures lost around 150 points as the market is becoming impatient. The market experts who had hoped that Trump’s agenda including health care reforms, tax cuts, fiscal spending and tax deregulation could help them to earn big. Trump’s failure to even hold a vote has made the investors anxious. Trump’s agenda is now seriously questioned because they are unsure of the Trump White House administration’s ability.

Strategists agree that health care bill failure doesn’t mean that the rest of the agenda could fail, but it is a major setback. Even the German Xetra DAX and UK FTSE 100 lost 0.7% due to the USA politics. The dollar index was pushed to 99.02 after it enjoyed 100.00 since November. The dollar which was rallying since the Presidential elections has been losing steadily, essentially wiping out all the gains it had made earlier. The benchmark US Treasury Yields were also lower.

Consumer Data Helps Wall Street To Enjoy Gains After A Losing Streak

The positive consumer data has helped the US stocks to enjoy some gains after a losing streak last week. The consumer confidence, according to the consumer data increased to reach a 16-year high. This helped the energy and financial shares to end up with gains. S&P 500 index reached its highest in two weeks after the release of the US consumer data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also recovered from a consecutive eight-day loss, which is the longest losing period for the stocks since 2011.

The February consumer data was revealed which showed that the consumer confidence increased greatly. The labor market also showed modest improvement and the trade deficits have declined sharply. Other data also showed that the house prices have started to increase in January, which is an indication of a strong economy. After the Presidential election win by Donald Trump, the optimism and confidence are pretty high, which showed the resilience of the markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.73% to 20,701.5 and the S&P 500 index also gained 0.73%. In the past week, the stock market became hopeless as Trump failed to move his health care bill in the GOP. The setback in Trump’s agenda, caused the stock market to crash. However, investors shrugged it off as the US consumer confidence increases. Investors are still hopeful that Trump’s promised tax cuts would trigger great economic growth. This has been one of the primary reasons for the stocks soaring high after Trump took his office at the White House.

The failure of health care reform could mean that the Trump administration will quickly shift the focus on tax cuts. The staff is expected to bring out the perfect plan for tax cuts so that it is approved by the Congress. The gains of the S&P 500 index were mainly due to the increase in demand for the energy and financial shares. The financial sector gained 1.45 and the energy shares gained 1.3%. The S&P 500 index was also supported by the shares of Apple, General Motors, and Tesla. The best performer was Darden Restaurants which gained 9.3% in a single day.

The gains experienced by the energy shares were also reflected in the price of crude oil. The crude oil reached $48 per barrel, showing some signs of recovery. The yields of 10-year Treasury bonds also increased. The White House administration is keen on going forward with the tax reforms. The Federal Reserve has also indicated that there will be at least two more interest rate hikes in the upcoming months.

The stock markets of Asia also gained significantly, reflecting the improvement in Wall Street stocks. The disappointment regarding the failure of health care bill died down quickly as the investors renewed their hopes for tax cuts and deregulations. South Korean Kospi index gained 0.1% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index increased by 0.3%. Nikkei index of Japan also increased by 0.1%. The ASX 200 Australian index gained 0.8%. The Shanghai Composite Index, on the other hand, lost 0.20%.

Dog Breeds That are Easier on Your Wallet

fox hound

According to Puppy Lover News, certain dog breeds are not as expensive to raise as others. Therefore, anyone making a decision adopt a dog needs to know what to expect. For example, first you will face the initial expenses and then the annual costs. Initial expenses include the purchase of the dog, neutering or spaying, dog training, emergency cots and general supplies.

These costs alone can add up to $2,000+ per year. Annual costs, on the other hand, cover the expenses that keep your dog healthy and happy. These costs include food, vet bills, grooming, training, treats and toys, all which adds up, over time, to $2,300+. However, the above figures are median averages. The kind of breed you buy or adopt will determine what you will spend in the long run. The following listing reviews some of the lesser expensive dog breeds.

#1 – English Fox Hound

A larger dog breed, the English Foxhound weighs from 65 to 75 pounds and usually lives 10 to 13 years – not long when compared to smaller dogs. The dog has a great temperament and normally costs about $100 when it is a puppy. You will spend about $150 in the first year for food and double that amount by the second year. The dog will need to get vaccinated and medically checked (about $500 for the year). General supplies costs about $350 during the first year and then $100 for each year thereafter. After you tally the expenses, multiply the number by 12 years (the approximate average lifespan) and then include about $1,000 for any incidentals. When you calculate the figures, you end up spending about $350 per year for the hound.

#2 – The American Fox Hound

The second breed that is lower in cost is the American Fox Hound. To purchase the dog, you will need about $400. Similar in temperament and health to an English Fox Hound, an American Foxhound costs about $300 per year in vaccinations, food and medical costs. General supplies run around $350 initially and $100 each year thereafter. The breed, which also lives about 12 years, costs about $5,200 over a lifetime, or $400 per year.

#3 – The English Cocker Spaniel

The next top dog breed that is lower in cost is the English Cocker Spaniel. Living about 12 years, the dog weighs in at between 25 and 35 pounds. As a result, it is less costly to feed. For the first year, you will pay $600 to buy the dog, $125 for food, $500 for health care and around $300 in general supplies. This amount comes to $1,225 for the first year. Afterwards, the general cost is projected at $250 in food, $100 for health care, $100 in general supplies and $100 in toys and treats. The breed is just a bit more expensive to own than the English and American Fox Hounds and costs around $7,500 for 12 years.

One Final Note

To round out the list, other inexpensive dog breeds include the Miniature Schnauzer, Pomeranian, Rat Terrier, Beagle, Boxer and Dachshund.

New CFPB Rules May Eliminate 70% of Payday Loan Stores

The Money Shop

If opponents of the payday loan industry had their way the business model would be eviscerated entirely. But the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s new rules, which could go into effect as early as next year, could help the industry’s critics achieve their ultimate goal: annihilation.

Mississippi’s payday lending and auto-title lending industry could experience a transformation in a couple of years. This is when the consumer federal watchdog agency will start to fully clamp down on the these companies partaking in this business model.

As of 2018, jurisdictions across the United States could begin to witness a decline in the number of lenders. In fact, according to independent studies, the number of lenders would drop by as much as 65 percent. The CFPB has admitted that its proposal could see 70 percent of payday loan businesses go out of business.

The state of Mississippi could be impacted the most if the new regulations are adopted at the federal level. The Magnolia State has the highest concentration of payday lenders in the nation with more than 1,100 stores in operation, which means many stores could shut their doors.

One of the biggest questions that state officials have is: will new federal rules affect current statewide laws that are in the books? The CFPB says that in Mississippi’s case – officials had prohibited payday loan rollovers a couple of years ago – it would remain intact.

Many state officials since last week, including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, have complained that the federal watchdog agency didn’t consult with them. However, one CFPB official states that the proposal should serve and be viewed “as a floor and not a ceiling,” adding that “protections would be in addition to existing requirements under state or tribal law.”

Besides, even if the CFPB’s rules affected Mississippi’s consumer protection laws, it would receive immense pushback from local politicians, anti-poverty activist and community organizations. The CFPB, officials say, has no intention of eliminating local laws.

“The proposed small dollar loan rules released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will bring much-needed relief to consumers,” said Bynum, vice chairman of the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board, in a statement.

“By making sure borrowers will only be placed in loans that they can afford to repay, and not subjected to predatory cycles of debt and collections, the CFPB strikes a balance of eliminating some of the most abusive financing practices currently in use, while creating an environment where responsible credit remains available.”

In the Hospitality State and states nationwide, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) discovered that online payday lenders earn $4.1 billion annual fees from borrowers. The CRL notes that the average short-term, high-interest $350 loan elicits $458 in fees.

Ultimately, the CFPB describes itself similar to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It establishes a minimum threshold that all states have to follow, and then it is up to the states to develop their own rules and regulations that they think are in the best interest of citizens.

Costco Changes Its Credit Card Provider

Costco

Costco switched its credit card providers on June 20, 2016. The changeover caused the popular bulk retailer to end a 16-year relationship with American Express. The new credit card provider is now Citi Visa, whose Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi will now be used by members of the wholesale club – a club whose membership is comprised of approximately 81 million people. In turn, Costco’s TrueEarnings American Express card is now considered invalid.

According to the report, Costco is currently in the process of mailing out the new Visa cards. Also, members’ cash-back credits will be included on the new Citi cards. No annual fee is charged to use the new Visa card, other than the yearly $55 Costco membership fee.

The switch makes Visa the exclusive credit card for the wholesale buying company, which means other non-Visa credit cards cannot be used. However, customers do not need to use a Costco-branded Visa card. Other Visa cards will also be accepted. Buyers can still pay with checks, cash, debit cards, electronic benefit transfer (EBT) and their Costco cash cards.

The new Costco Visa care will double as a membership card as well. However, you do not have to own a Costco Visa. Customers can still use their Costco identification too. The company says they felt that the switch to the Visa brand card offers exemplary benefits when compared to those provided by American Express.

For example, customers receive 4% cash back on gas purchases up to $7,000 per year. After $7,000 is spent, customers still receive 1% cash back. The company adds that those amounts represent an increase from the 3% customers received on the first $4,000 on the old American Express Costco card.

Not only that, eligible travel and dining purchases also offer more in the way of a cash back. The new Visa card gives customers 3% back on their purchases compared to 2% on the American Express Costco Card. In addition, customers will receive 2% back for shopping at Costco or Costco.com, versus getting 1% back on the American Express card.