August 27, 2014

Now everyone will be able to get nutty—safely.     Photo: sheamcguier/Thinkstock

Say Goodbye to Your Peanut Allergy

Hypoallergenic legumes created

If you're one of the 2.8 million Americans affected by peanut allergies, you might be able to enjoy a spoonful of peanut butter sooner than you tihnk. 

Researchers at North Carolina A&T State University have found a way to treat peanuts and reduce their allergens by 98 to 100 percent without genetic modification. Results were confirmed through skin-prick tests on human subjects. "We found that treating peanuts with protein-breaking enzymes reduced allergenic proteins," said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Jianmai Yu, according to Reuters

The treatment works on whole, pieced, or ground peanuts—so products ranging from dry-roasted ballpark peanuts to a creamy PB&J sandwich will be safe. Additionally, the post-harvest treatment does not change the peanut's shape, shelf life, or nutritional value. "This research is also important because peanuts can be a valuable addition to a healthy diet," Dr. Jan Singleton, director if NIFA's Division of Food Safety, told the USDA. Staples in many athlete's diets, peanuts and nut butters are rich in vitamin E, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, and copper.

NC A&T has signed an exclusive licensing and patent agreement with Toronto-based food technology company Xemerge to start the process of getting the hypoallergenic peanuts in stores and on shelves “in the near future,” according to the USDA.

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SkySaver's most-recommended product allows you to safely and quickly rappel down the side of a building in an emergency.     Photo: SkySaver/Youtube

This Backpack Could Save Your Life

Portable pack lowers you safely from 35 stories

We keep life-saving devices nearby when we go on a boat, a plane, or even into the backcountry. But when we go to work or arrive home on the 15th floor of a high-rise, the stairs are likely our only escape plan. Until now. Israeli firm SkySaverUSA has created a portable escape system that looks and acts like a backpack but allows you to safely rappel from a building in an emergency.

The SkySaver personal rescue device can hold up to 290 pounds. All you have to do in the event of, say, a fire, is hook a cable to a stable anchor near a window, then rappel down the side of your building. The backpack feeds out a fire-resistant cable long enough to deliver you safely down 35 stories. 

The company's website explains, "Fire exits and escape routes are not always designed to enable all building occupants to escape in an emergency. SkySaver can be attached virtually anywhere, enabling evacuation through your nearest window rather than a congested communal exit route." 

There are a few other personal survival kits like this for occupants of multistory buildings. One notable product, SOS Parachute, also looks like a backpack but functions as a last-resort parachute for emergencies in skyscrapers. It's certainly another good option in dire straits and can carry about 100 more pounds than SkySaver supports. But there is something to be said for the simplicity and lack of skill needed to operate SkySaver. And at the very least, it's another option that could give high-rises a more robust safety plan—and for you, peace of mind.

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Will American Airlines ever trust another travel agency, what with all this baggage from the Orbitz affair?     Photo: Richie Diesterheft/Flickr

American Airlines Goes to War with Orbitz

US Airways flights to be withdrawn September 1

American Airlines pulled its flight listings from Orbitz websites on Tuesday after fee negotiations came to an impasse. The airline will also remove its US Airways fares this coming Monday.

North America's biggest airline in terms of traffic has struggled to keep up with low-cost carriers' fares featured on the travel agency's websites, which include CheapTickets.com, Orbitz.com, and Ebookers.com. To remain competitive, AA has pushed Orbitz for lower listing and booking fees so it can rationalize lower fare prices, but the two companies failed to reach a mutually agreeable contract.

"On both the cost side, the efficiency side, and the ability to deliver the product offerings we want, Orbitz just couldn't do it," said AA chief operating officer Robert Isom.

The divorce will definitely affect fliers' ease of travel, but both companies insist they don't need each other. Orbitz VP Chris Chiames insists the agency "offer[s flights from] hundreds of airlines which are eager to capture the revenue American is choosing to forego." On the other side of the aisle, AA president Scott Kirby claims "there are a multitude of other options available for our customers, including brick-and-mortar agencies, online travel agencies, and [American's] websites."

AA tickets purchased through Orbitz are still valid, though travelers should note that any changes should be made through American. Customers using the Orbitz for Business portal will still be able to purchase AA and US Airways tickets through the agency. 

AA has unlisted itself from Orbitz websites once before. The airline pulled its fares from Orbitz and Travelport websites in 2010 as a result of legal issues, but a judge later ruled that AA had to list on Orbitz. At the time, Orbitz reported that 5 percent of its revenue came from American ticket bookings and fees; neither company was willing to update the numbers this time around. Orbitz has, however, acknowledged that it doesn't see the companies making up.

Of note: Although third-party booking sites often offer the cheapest fares, they don't offer the same amenity search options (like seats with extra leg room) that airlines' upgraded websites do. Market research firm PhoCusWright predicts at least two-thirds of all commerical travel bookings will soon be conducted through airline websites. The lesson? If you want to make sure you get all the seating options you want, do it through a company website, where you can get a fare unaffected by external fees.

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