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Down the drain? Bar soap sales (and use) are down

A negative perception of bar soap is one of the reasons market intelligence agency Mintel cites for declining sales and use.

Despite a study that shows its unlikely even a germ-covered bar of soap could transfer harmful bacteria, nearly half of U.S. consumers think it's possible.

According to Mintel research, 48 percent of U.S. consumers think bar soap is full of germs after it's used. Sixty percent of 18- to 24-year-olds think that way. Older generations seem to be more accustomed to bar soap, with only 31 percent of people 65 and older saying bars are covered in germs after use.

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Bar soap sales dropped 2.2 percent between 2014 and 2015. And the number of households using bar soap dropped from 89 percent to 84 percent between 2010 and 2015. 

Mintel also cites in-shower moisturizers as a reason for declining sales.

A beauty analyst with the firm says people who use in-shower moisturizers are less inclined to use moisturizing bar soaps.

"This can result in consumers using more basic, lower-priced bar soap options in order to splurge on in-shower moisturizers," the analyst said.

So how can bar soap companies turn sales around? Mintel says new bars should "incorporate a wider variety of claims, especially for more luxury and premium bar soap offerings."

And they definitely shouldn't lose hope, because between 2010 and 2015, sales for soap, shower and bath products grew 15 percent.

Devastating earthquake brings up legal questions in Italy

Officials have begun investigating building code violations in central Italy where an earthquake turned structures into rubble this past week.

The 6.2-magnitude quake killed at least 290 people, most of them in the small city of Amatrice. Citizens and authorities are still searching the ruins for victims.

But the fact that the earthquake caused so many structures to collapse has many questioning whether the area's buildings were up to code. 

Buildings in Italy are sometimes more than 100 years old and not always up to seismic standards.

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But prosecutors are also looking into the possibility that some property owners altered the structures of their homes without bringing them up to code. Special attention will reportedly be paid to a bell tower restored in 2009 and an elementary school renovated to withstand earthquakes in 2012.

And while Italy might have the physical resources to renovate the century-old buildings, the holdup often comes down to money.

Voice of America quoted one man saying its "impossible or prohibitively expensive to make changes within the regulations that are drawn up by the government in Rome."

Those that did recently renovate and violate building codes could reportedly face criminal charges. The timing of the investigation has angered some survivors and families still mourning those killed by the quake.

Money isn't the only pillar the towns have to overcome. Corruption also plays a role in a city's ability to move forward.

More specifically, Italian authorities are now tasked with keeping the mafia out of rebuilding efforts.

Italy's national anti-mafia prosecutor told a local newspaper "earthquake reconstruction is a tasty morsel for criminal organizations and committees."

Victor Cruz criticizes Kaepernick's decision to sit during anthem

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was asked at a press conference Saturday what he thinks about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the national anthem.

"I'm not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said about the choice. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

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But Cruz said that certain political issues are "bigger than" Kaepernick.

Here are Cruz's full remarks:

I think, personally, the flag is the flag. Regardless of how you feel about the things that are going on in America today and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things like that. You’ve got to respect the flag and stand up with your teammates. It’s bigger than just you, in my opinion. I think you go up there. You’re with your team, and you pledge your allegiance to the flag and the national anthem as a team, and then you go about your business, whatever your beliefs are. Colin is his own man. He decided to sit down and sit out and that’s his prerogative. But from a personal standpoint, I think you have to stand out there with your team and understand that this is a game and understand that what’s going on in the country.

Louisiana bus crash kills 2, injures firefighters, passengers

Louisiana State Police confirmed two people were killed when a bus and firetruck collided on a highway Sunday. 

Among the dead was St. John the Baptist Parish district fire chief, Spencer Chauvin.

Several dozen people were injured, including two other firefighters, when the charter bus and firetruck collided, The Times-Picayune reported.

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St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said in a statement that Chauvin was "one of the bravest and most dedicated firefighters that I know."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, as well as to the families of the other two firefighters involved in the accident," Robottom said. "This type of loss will affect the entire department, and they will have our full support as they deal with the grief of losing a comrade. It is heartbreaking, especially after this same group of individuals helped to guide St. John the Baptist Parish safely through Hurricane Isaac."

Fire personnel were responding to an incident on Interstate 10 when a tour bus of volunteers going to assist flood victims in Baton Rouge hit the firetruck, The Times-Picayune reported. 

Chauvin and two other firefighters who were standing on the side of the road at the time of the collision, were injured when they were thrown over the guardrail, Trooper Melissa Matey told The New Orleans Advocate. Forty-one people were taken from the scene with various injuries.

One firefighter is in critical but stable condition and the other has moderate injuries, the Advocate reported.

A second person died while driving a Toyota Camry that was also hit by the bus, Matey said.

Criminal charges are pending for the driver of the bus, identified as Denis Rodriguez, 37, of Honduras.

State police said he is an undocumented immigrant, does not have a driver's license and was not authorized to drive a commercial vehicle, WDSU reported.

Rodriguez remains in a hospital, where he is being treated for injuries.

Read more at the Advocate.

Women find worms in food at 2 McDonald's restaurants

Two women recently took to social media to post photos of worms that they found in their food after eating sandwiches from McDonald's.

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Tuesday, Lacey Jo Lovett, of Kentucky, said she finished eating a McChicken from a McDonald's restaurant in Draffenville, Kentucky, when she picked up a piece of lettuce on the sandwich wrapper and found a worm. 

Just ate a McChicken from draffenville mcdonalds and picked up the last piece of lettuce on the wrapper and this was below it!!!! Are you serious!!!!Posted by Lacey Jo Lovett on Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Just two days prior, Madison Stephens had experienced a similar situation at a McDonald's in Mayfield, Kentucky, 25 miles away.

Stephens said she took her 1-year-old son to the restaurant and ordered a fish sandwich and a cheeseburger. 

Stephens ate half her fish sandwich when she said a worm fell out of it and started crawling towards her son's food.

"If I hadn't seen that worm, my son would have eaten that because it was already on top of his sandwich," she told WPSD. "That's how close he came to eating it."

Stephens said that initially, restaurant employees said they couldn't do anything about the order since she couldn't find her receipt.

She said she later complained to McDonald's officials, who sent her a $10 gift card in the mail.

But for Stephens, the gesture seemed like "a slap in the face," WPSD reported. She said she doesn't want money, but rather an inspection from the health department.

"That scared me, and as a mom, I don't want another child to have to experience something like that," she said.

"Food quality and safety are a top priority for us. We will continue to take all appropriate measures to gather all facts and resolve the matter," a McDonald's spokesman said in a statement following the incident.

Saturday, Michael Love, the owner-operator of the two restaurants, said he's been unable to substantiate Lovett's and Stephens' claims. He said inspections of the restaurants by health officials did not uncover any of the problems raised by the customers, the Associated Press reported.

So, got a fish sandwich and a cheeseburger for Brody and I and look what falls out my sandwich. I am COMPLETELY disgusted and will not be eating Mayfield McDonald's anymore. I thank God my son didn't eat this!Posted by Madison Stephens on Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sarah Jessica Parker ends EpiPen partnership after price hike

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker said she is "disappointed, saddened and deeply concerned" after the price of the EpiPen soared hundreds of dollars.

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The price of the product, which was less than $60 in 2007, rose to more than $600 recently. It is independently supplied by Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

"I do not condone this decision, and I have ended my relationship with Mylan as a direct result of it," Parker wrote on Instagram. "I hope (Mylan) will seriously reconsider the outpouring of voices of those millions of people who are dependent on the device, and take swift action to lower the cost to be more affordable for whom it is a life-saving necessity."

Parker, who was previously part of a campaign with Mylan, has a 13-year-old son, James, who has peanut allergies.

"The Epinephrine auto-injector is a vital part of our family's healthcare, as it is for the many who are at risk," Parker wrote.

A photo posted by SJP (@sarahjessicaparker) on Aug 25, 2016 at 4:02am PDT

The drugmaker responded to criticism Thursday by announcing it would offer discounts for the EpiPen, including coupons covering up to $300 "for patients in health plans who face higher out-of-pocket costs." Critics maintained that an unchanging list price would ultimately leave consumers bearing most of the costs.

Alabama law mandates cursive writing in schools, parents express mixed views

These days, many school assignments are completed online and essays are typed before being turned in. But a new state law in Alabama requires that schools teach children how to write in cursive.

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Lexi's Law, which went into effect Aug. 1, requires cursive handwriting to be taught by the end of third grade in all of the state’s public schools.

Cursive writing lessons will begin in second grade with instruction for how to write lower-case and upper-case letters. By third grade, students should be proficient in writing words and sentences in cursive. The writing practice is to be continued in fourth and fifth grades, the Montgomery Adviser reported.

"It's an ongoing process, just like reading. You start reading, and you read smaller words than you graduate to bigger words, and I think cursive is the same way," Stephanie Odle, an Alabama mother of five in favor of the law, told WBMA. "You can write your name, but there's more to cursive than writing your name."

Lexi's Law gets its name from State Rep. Dickie Drake, who sponsored the bill after his granddaughter, Lexi, said she wanted to learn "real writing."

"She was in the first grade and wanted to learn 'real writing,'" Drake told TODAY Parents. "After much research of schools in the state of Alabama, I found that it was not being taught all over the state -- hit and miss … This bill is for all my grandchildren and others just like them."

Cursive writing has always been a requirement in the state, but the new law requires schools to impose more standardized teaching methods, with benchmarks each school year to certify they are meeting proficiency standards. Teachers will be given more specific instructional plans, and superintendents will have to sign off that students are meeting the requirements.

State legislatures in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have passed bills and enacted similar mandates in schools to require teaching cursive.

Reactions from parents have been mixed.

Jared and Chelsea Jones are foster parents that say cursive requires less muscle control for their children, who have fine motor issues.

Andrea Overman, a teacher at Alabama Christian Academy, said cursive writing is easier to read than print.

"With cursive all letters start on the baseline, which is the same place and therefore less confusing," Overman told the Adviser. "Individual words are connected with spaces between words, which helps with word recognition."

One New York mother said she would "definitely feel sad" if cursive writing was taken away from her 6-year-old daughter's curriculum.

"Even if these kids are mostly typing when they grow up, I would still like her to learn script," Lyla Gleason said. 

But others disagree.

"When you shake through the arguments, it becomes clear that the driving force keeping cursive alive is really just nostalgia and romanticism," a June column states. "For the average person, it’s a skill that will likely not be retained and will definitely not be needed."

"Is this handwriting requirement based on anything other than the argument that we learned it and turned out fine?" wrote Jarvis DeBerry, a dad and the deputy opinions editor at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, in another column. "It would be nice if my daughter learned cursive, but not at the expense of her falling behind her counterparts around the world, whose fingers will be flying over keys."

A 2013 national survey of 612 elementary school teachers found 41 percent no longer incorporated cursive writing into their lesson plans.

Read more at TODAY Parents.

Amazon to expand physical bookstores

Amazon is expanding its brick-and-mortar bookstores.

The e-commerce front-runner opened its first physical bookstore last year in Amazon's founding city, Seattle, and so far, reports say the store has been successful. 

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Now, the company is reportedly expanding Amazon Books to Chicago.

Amazon's claim to fame is its convenience. Customers can go online and find just about anything, so why move to physical bookstores? Some say it's about branding.

The stores stock their shelves based on data from So reviews, number of sales and popularity decide what customers will see.

This is only the latest in a number of big steps to improve Amazon's reach.

Last month, the retailer unveiled its first branded cargo jet called Amazon One. The company plans to roll more jets out in the next several years.

Plus, the company's highly anticipated drone delivery service is finally going to be tested.

Amazon's expansion announcement comes after Barnes and Noble dismissed CEO Ronald Boire earlier this month. Barnes and Noble's stocks have plummeted recently, and the company determined Boire was "not a good fit" for the role.

Amazon's Chicago bookstore will join the ranks of other confirmed locations in San Diego and Portland.

Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest ignites debate on social media

Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem before the 49ers preseason game with Green Bay on Friday has ignited a fierce debate on social media among professional athletes and fans. 

>> NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking heat for national anthem protest

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>> Click here or scroll down to see what people were saying

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//;border=false"></script>[View the story "Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest ignites debate on social media" on Storify]

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