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    Regulators raise concerns about safety issues in Boeing's 737 MAX assembly line

    A federal investigation centers around ‘quality-control lapses’

    The Boeing 737 MAX jet is currently in production in the wake of being grounded over safety issues, and now federal prosecutors are raising alarm about potential safety shortcomings on the assembly line. 

    The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Aviation Administration are both investigating safety problems on the assembly lines of the planes. 

    Inspections found that rags and other debris was left in the fuel tanks or other interior spaces of roughly half of undelivered 737 MAX jets. Debris may be present as a result of “quality-control lapses,” according to the Journal.

    The investigations being carried out are in addition to a grand jury probe of the MAX’s flight control systems, which were found to have been a key factor in two crashes that killed 346 people. 

    Boeing didn’t comment on the investigations, but the company said it launched an internal investigation and took corrective actions after finding debris in undelivered 737 MAX planes.

    “Safely returning the 737 MAX to service is our top priority,” Boeing said in a statement.

    Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX jet is expected to remain grounded until at least August, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Earlier this month, the company said it needed to make two new software updates to the plane’s flight control computer.

    The Boeing 737 MAX jet is currently in production in the wake of being grounded over safety issues, and now federal prosecutors are raising alarm about pot...
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    Homestead Creamery recalls unsalted butter

    The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Homestead Creamery of Wirtz, Va., is recalling unsalted butter.

    The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    No illnesses have been reported to date.

    The recalled product, which butter comes in a ½ pound plastic package with an expiration date of 04/30, was sold to the firm's distribution partners through its home delivery service and retail store.

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

    Consumers with questions may contact the company at (540) 721-2045.

    Homestead Creamery of Wirtz, Va., is recalling unsalted butter. The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been r...
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      Ford issues recall for incorrect replacement headlamps for Lincoln MKZs

      The units do not comply with federal safety standards

      Ford Motor Company recalling 130 replacement handlamps on 37 model year 2013-16 Lincoln MKZs.

      Some dealers began ordering and installing headlamp assemblies designed for the Korea and China markets due to a backorder in North America.

      While similar in design to North America units, the headlamp assemblies did not comply with U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

      There are no reports of accident or injury related to this condition.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect headlamps in affected vehicles and replace them as needed free of charge.

      Dealers will also contact customers who purchased over-the-counter parts and provide replacements.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20C10.

      Ford Motor Company recalling 130 replacement handlamps on 37 model year 2013-16 Lincoln MKZs. Some dealers began ordering and installing headlamp assemb...
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      6 ways to make Mother's Day special from home

      Here are 6 safe and unique ways to celebrate mothers on their special day

      Mother's Day is a time to celebrate all the hard work that every mother does when raising her children. Under normal circumstances, it's a time to pop in for a visit, bring flowers and maybe take her out for a meal. However, this year will have to be a little different. Fortunately, with a bit of time, thought and some of our ideas, your mother can enjoy the day she truly deserves from the safety of her own home.

      1. Video chat with your mom

      Although you may not be able to see your mom face-to-face, you can still have a great virtual conversation using any number of live video chat apps. Assign a time, invite other family members to join the stream and enjoy! Remember: You will need to thoroughly explain each video app option to your mom, so she doesn't miss a minute of her special Mother's Day video chat.

      2. Virtual bouquet and card

      Sending your mother a card and flowers is a tradition for most people, but you can make a simple upgrade with a virtual bouquet and card! Most major florists online can send virtual flowers and a card to your loved one. With this option, you don't need to worry about postal delivery complications — your mom will receive her card and flowers via email on the day itself!

      3. Give your mom an outdoor concert

      There are several instances of people holding an outdoor concert for those struggling with self-isolation — it's a solid idea to uplift someone's spirit while following social distancing rules. Set up a chair on her front lawn, decorate the area with happy signs and play her favorite song. We can't exactly get together, but we can still dance!

      4. Reschedule Mother’s Day

      Several nations celebrate Mother's Day on different dates — for instance, Argentina has their Mother's Day on the third Sunday in October. Since the coronavirus has put many things on hold, this may be an excellent time to postpone Mother's Day to a future date to celebrate in person. You and your family can even pick things up on your own date, making this a new family tradition!

      5. Set up a virtual photo book

      Several websites host virtual photo books, and what better way to cheer up your mom than show your favorite pictures of her? Take some time, decide a theme and start uploading those thoughtful pics. You can walk down memory lane over video chat and laugh at all the great times.

      6. Make the perfect IOU

      Has your mom wanted to take a trip somewhere? Or has it been too long since she’s been pampered at the spa? Think hard about a great gift, get it set up for a better time, then create a colorful, personalized IOU that she receives via email. The best part about this gift is it gives your mother something fun to look forward to when things return to normal.

      Although these current events are unprecedented, we still have the time to celebrate our moms. Mother's Day is an important holiday for all of us to recognize our mothers’ hard work and for moms to see how much we care for them.

      Mother’s Day is still possible to celebrate, even with the current restrictions. We put together a list of great things you can do to mark the occasion....
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      Justice Department says it could intervene if stay-at-home orders go too far

      Religious discrimination and undue interference with the national economy are vital concerns

      Over the next three weeks, most U.S. states are on schedule to lift their existing stay-at-home orders brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are only five states -- California, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and West Virginia -- where the orders are indefinite.

      However, on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said his Justice Department would step in if the agency determines that stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic become too prohibitive. Barr has given federal prosecutors marching orders "to be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

      Discrimination against religion and undue interference with the economy

      Barr noted that the restrictions that have been put in place do override some rights that consumers are used to having. However, he says that they should not infringe on First Amendment rights.

      “As the Department of Justice explained recently in guidance to states and localities taking steps to battle the pandemic, even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” he wrote in a memo to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and all U.S. attorneys.

      “The legal restrictions on state and local authority are not limited to discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. For example, the Constitution also forbids, in certain circumstances, discrimination against disfavored speech and undue interference with the national economy.”

      Barr stated that there is definitely a line that states should not cross when it comes to stay-at-home restrictions. If they do, then he is ready to take action.

      “If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court,” he said.

      Straddling the fence

      Barr agreed that the pandemic has forced the “imposition of extraordinary restrictions on all of our daily lives,” and that those stopgaps were necessary to curb the spread of the virus. But, the rub for him is that those restrictions “have imposed tremendous burdens on the daily lives of all Americans.”

      Barr didn’t address it directly, but a tug-of-war is likely to come out of this if the U.S. government forces states to move too quickly and before the pandemic has plateaued.

      Earlier this month, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp gave his blessing to nail salons, tattoo parlors, and other services to resume business. While Kemp might have thought he was pleasing President Trump, Trump said that he “never gave” Kemp “an OK” on those businesses, and said Georgia should have taken “a little slower path” to reopening.

      Over the next three weeks, most U.S. states are on schedule to lift their existing stay-at-home orders brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are only...
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      Coronavirus update: Big small business loans get extra scrutiny, COVID-19 reduces highway deaths

      JetBlue will require all passengers to wear a face mask

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 994,625 (972,969)

      Total U.S. deaths: 56,749 (55,118)

      Total global cases: 3,074,948 (3,002,303)

      Total global deaths: 213,273 (208,131)

      Big small business loans to get extra scrutiny

      Large businesses that took Small Business Administration loans of more than $2 million will have to show that they needed it. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC today that companies that took large loans meant for small businesses will be subject to a government audit.

      The highly popular loan program allows a small business to turn the loan into a grant if it uses the money to pay rent and payroll and doesn’t lay off workers. Social media erupted after it was disclosed that many Main Street businesses were denied the loans while some publicly traded corporations received loans of up to $10 million.

      “This was a program designed for small businesses,” Mnuchin said. “It was not a program that was designed for public companies that had liquidity.”

      COVID-19 leads to dramatic drop in highway deaths

      The death toll from the coronavirus rises every day, but the death toll is falling dramatically on the nation’s highways. AutoinsuranceEZ, an insurance marketplace, conducted an analysis which shows that the pandemic is the number one event in history for lowering the highway death toll.

      Overall traffic deaths across the U.S. are down 38 percent during the coronavirus pandemic. Cities across the country have seen a reduction in crashes and fatal accidents, with Seattle recording the largest drop.

      The decline in auto accidents of all types is not unexpected since many fewer vehicles are on the road. Because of that, major auto insurance companies recently announced that they are temporarily reducing customers’ rates.

      JetBlue requiring all passengers to wear masks

      JetBlue is the first major airline to require all passengers on its flights to wear face masks. It’s a move favored by the flight attendant’s union, which pressed United Airlines to make that a requirement after the carrier said its flight attendants must all wear masks.

      “Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you,” said JetBlue’s President Joanna Geraghty. “This is the new flying etiquette.”

      The policy goes into effect May 4.

      Fauci: The fall months could be bad

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a key member of the White House COVID-19 task force, says we may not be in the clear when the fall months roll around.

      It’s always been assumed that the virus will return once the weather starts to cool again, and Fauci says that will be trouble unless there is an effective treatment by then. 

      “In my mind, it’s inevitable that we will have a return of the virus, or maybe even that it never went away,” he said in an interview with the Economic Club of Washington..

      At-home antibody test released

      Quest Diagnostics has announced the release of a test that consumers can take at home to determine whether they have had the coronavirus. The test will determine if there are antibodies left behind by the virus in the subject’s blood.

      The company said the tests can help identify those who were never diagnosed with COVID-19 but believe they may have contracted the virus. The test costs $119 and can be ordered here.

      Around the nation

      • North Dakota: Gov. Doug Burgum said he intends to allow closed businesses to reopen on Friday. Non-essential businesses in the state have been closed since mid-March. The sparsely populated state hasn’t been hit that hard, but cases in residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities shot up by 40 this week to 109.

      • Florida: Attorney General Ashley Moody says Sherwin-Williams worked with her office to donate and deliver 5,000 face masks to Florida law enforcement officers. Since COVID-19 began to spread in Florida, Moody says dozens of law enforcement officers have contracted the virus -- some fatally.

      • Missouri: Sen. Roy Blunt reports that Missouri hospitals will receive an additional $175 million in federal aid to cope with the pandemic. The state’s hospitals received more than $600 million under the CARES Act.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 994,625 (972,969)...
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      JetBlue to require travelers to wear face coverings

      Passengers will be required to cover their mouths and noses upon boarding their flight

      Starting May 4, passengers on JetBlue airlines will be required to wear a face covering. The airline said in a statement that its priority is protecting the health of all individuals in the cabin during travel.

      "Wearing a face covering isn't about protecting yourself, it's about protecting those around you," said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue. 

      "This is the new flying etiquette,” she added. “Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others.”

      The airline added that customers should wear a face covering in the airport as well. The CDC has recommended that all individuals cover their mouth and nose with a cloth face covering in public settings, even if they do not feel sick. 

      Safety enhancements 

      JetBlue has become the first major airline to enact the new requirement on face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, the airline only asked crew members and flight attendants to wear masks. 

      “This new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning,” the airline said in an announcement. “Customers will be reminded of this requirement before their flight via email and at the airport by both terminal signage and announcements.” 

      Small children who can't keep a mask on won’t be required to wear one, JetBlue said.

      In the interest of slowing the spread of the virus, JetBlue has also reduced the number of seats available on flights so that passengers and crew are able to put more distance between themselves and others. 

      Starting May 4, passengers on JetBlue airlines will be required to wear a face covering. The airline said in a statement that its priority is protecting th...
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      FDA clarifies rules on hand sanitizer

      It’s encouraging manufacturers to make it but is insisting on denatured alcohol

      In the early days of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), hand sanitizer was as hard to find in stores as toilet paper.

      This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took steps to address the hand sanitizer shortage. It has encouraged more than 1,500 additional manufacturers to register with the agency to produce the alcohol-based product that can be used to clean hands while on the go. 

      While encouraging more companies to make hand sanitizer, the FDA says it’s remaining on the lookout for products that don’t meet standards or are being marketed with unsubstantiated claims.

      "We appreciate industry's willingness to help supply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the market to meet the increasing demand for these products and are grateful for their efforts," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn. "With this increased supply comes our continued mission to ensure safety of these products.”

      Can’t have a pleasant smell or taste

      In particular, the FDA requires that hand sanitizers have an odor and taste that makes them unpalatable to people. The agency said it is especially concerned that young children might ingest the product if it had a pleasant smell or taste.

      To discourage this, the FDA said it has mandated the use of denatured alcohol for these products. Adding these denaturants to the alcohol renders the product more bitter and less appealing to ingest, particularly for young children, the agency said.

      To meet government safety standards, the FDA says hand sanitizers must add denaturants, even though it might add to the cost of producing the products.

      Some distilleries got warnings from the FDA

      In recent weeks, a number of distilleries that normally turn out spirits have switched over to producing hand sanitizer. In Cincinnati, five area distilleries have switched over to making hand sanitizer and donating the products to frontline workers and food banks.

      The first distilleries to take on the job of making hand sanitizer received strict guidance from the FDA on how to proceed and were warned that they could face criminal prosecution if that failed to denature the alcohol.

      “While the agency understands the economic and business reasons behind foregoing this step in the manufacturing process, such an approach undermines the agency's mission of helping to ensure the safety of FDA-regulated products for consumer use, which is the FDA's top priority,” the agency said in an update.

      “This approach is consistent with the FDA's policies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic on including denatured alcohol in hand sanitizer and is even more important now as more consumers rely on its use as a mitigation tool against the deadly virus.”

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), commercial hand sanitizers must contain 60 percent alcohol to be effective. Health experts say washing hands, however, is still the best way to kill or remove germs.

      In the early days of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), hand sanitizer was as hard to find in stores as toilet paper.This week, the Food and Dru...
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      Retailers plan to add additional coronavirus testing sites

      State officials say an increase in testing is crucial as lockdowns begin lifting

      Retailers are emphasizing efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing as some states begin easing social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions. 

      Officials from companies including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Kroger joined President Trump to speak at an event at the White House on Monday, CNBC reported. The event was held to discuss the next phase of coronavirus testing. 

      Company officials said at the meeting that they plan to add new testing sites and increase consumer access to the tests. The company also plans to grow its coronavirus testing locations to nearly 1,000 by the end of May. Walgreens said it plans to open five additional drive through testing locations in four more states this week. 

      Walmart, which currently has 20 testing sites, said it will have 45 sites by the end of next week and 100 sites by the end of May. Kroger, which currently has 30 sites, said it plans to have drive through testing available at 50 locations in more than 12 states by the end of May. 

      Contingent on supply availability 

      The shortage of testing supplies has become a source of frustration among state officials. Some have said their ability to track the spread of COVID-19 in the hope of preventing a rebound is being hampered by the current lack of swabs, reagents, and lab capacity. 

      CVS said in a statement that its plans are “subject to availability of supplies and lab capacity,” and both Walmart and Walgreens issued similar statements. 

      Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have exceeded 972,900 in the U.S. and at least 55,118 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. A survey conducted recently by WebMD found that 10 percent of Americans believe they have had the virus during the last 30 days. However, only 7 percent had been tested. 

      "The survey demonstrates the need to ramp up diagnostic testing, along with antibody testing, to fully understand the scope of the disease," said Dr. John Whyte, WebMD's chief medical officer. 

      Retailers are emphasizing efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing as some states begin easing social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions. Officials...
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      Physical activity could be beneficial following a heart attack

      Researchers say exercise improves mental and physical health benefits

      While recent studies have explored how staying active can help consumers boost their heart health, following a heart attack, it can take some time for patients to return to business as usual. 

      Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the European Society of Cardiology has found that exercise could be a great way for heart attack patients to improve their quality of life. 

      “Exercise improves fitness, which has both physical and mental health benefits,” said researcher Dr. Ben Hurdus. “If you’re more able to participate in activities that bring you happiness, then you’re more likely to have a better quality of life.” 

      Improving quality of life

      To better understand the effect that exercise can have on heart attack patients, the researchers analyzed nearly 5,000 participants for the study. All of the participants had been admitted into the hospital with heart attack-related symptoms. 

      The researchers wanted to gauge how the participants were doing following a heart attack, so they had them complete questionnaires about their quality of life and exercise routine while still in the hospital, and then at various junctures after they were discharged. 

      One key component following a heart attack is cardiac rehabilitation, which is a class that the patients attend to help them develop healthier habits. Patients learn about healthy eating and stress management, among other things, and classes often include light exercise. 

      “All heart attack patients should be referred for cardiac rehabilitation unless their healthcare professional advises against it,” said researcher Chris Gale. 

      Ultimately, the researchers learned that attending cardiac rehabilitation was crucial for patient well-being following a heart attack. Those who attended the classes and made time for exercise each day had the highest quality of life scores.  

      More satisfaction from more exercise

      Getting the body moving and incorporating that movement into the daily or weekly routine was incredibly beneficial for the participants. While the researchers recommend 150 minutes of physical activity each week, those who surpassed that benchmark reported higher quality of life measures at each checkpoint than those who weren’t staying active. 

      The researchers highly recommend that patients stay the course with cardiac rehabilitation, as the benefits are seemingly endless. 

      “Cardiac rehabilitation involves not only exercise, but also advice on lifestyle and medications which likely all contribute to making people feel better,” said Dr. Hurdus. “There are also the added social benefits such as being around other people in a similar situation and having that shared sense of community.”  

      While recent studies have explored how staying active can help consumers boost their heart health, following a heart attack, it can take some time for pati...
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      Non-verbal learning disability could affect more children than many realized

      Researchers want to raise awareness about this disorder

      A new study conducted by researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center explored a rather common learning disorder, nonverbal learning disability (NVLD), that could affect millions of children. 

      The researchers explained that the criteria for NVLD diagnosis is murky, which leads many children to go undiagnosed. Unfortunately, this means that many children are unable to receive resources that could help them. The researchers also note that while not speaking is one of the primary indicators, children with NVLD also tend to struggle with visual-spatial tasks, like tying their shoes. 

      “NVLD is a huge hidden health burden,” said researcher Jeffrey Lieberman. “Their important work might never have come to light if not for the support of dedicated advocates and their philanthropic support. We hope that these findings raise awareness of the disorder and lead to an understanding of its neurobiology and better treatments.” 

      Raising awareness

      Because many children with NVLD are undetected, or are misdiagnosed with another condition, the researchers wanted to see how widespread the disorder is. 

      They observed nearly 2,600 children between the ages of six and 19 and tracked common behaviors of NVLD, including issues with motor skills, basic math, and social skills, among others. 

      “Most parents recognize that a child who isn’t talking by age two should be evaluated for a learning disorder,” said researcher Amy E. Margolis, PhD. “But no one thinks twice about kids who have problems with visual-spatial tasks.” 

      The researchers learned that NVLD was more common than many may have realized, as roughly four percent of the children involved in the study showed characteristics indicative of the disorder. These findings are important because the results could translate to nearly three million affected children across the U.S. alone. 

      The researchers’ goal is to make NVLD more visible to ensure that children are receiving the proper diagnoses. Moving forward, they plan to get NVLD in the DSM-5, which mental health professionals use to make diagnoses for conditions like this one, under a new name: developmental visual spatial disorder. With greater awareness, families will hopefully be able to receive better resources for their children. 

      “Diagnosis can be accomplished using basic assessment tools,” said Dr. Margolis. “It doesn’t have to involve complex and costly neuropsychological testing. We envision that all clinicians who use DSM-5 will be able to use our new criteria to determine who may meet criteria. They can then send patients for basic psychological testing that is always available through schools to identify/quantify a problem with visual-spatial processing.” 

      A new study conducted by researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center explored a rather common learning disorder, nonverbal learning disabili...
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      Heartburn remedy being tested as a coronavirus cure

      The over-the-counter medication is flying off the shelves, but researchers say it’s too early to know if the drug is guaranteed to be effective

      The active ingredient in many medications used for acid reflux, peptic ulcers, and heartburn has emerged as a possible coronavirus medication. 

      Famotidine -- a combination antacid and antihistamine most commonly marketed as Pepcid and Pepcid AC -- is part of a clinical trial at Northwell Health in the New York City area, Northwell’s Dr. Kevin Tracey told Business Insider

      The randomized, double-blind trial is in its third week. To date, 187 participants have enrolled with a goal of expanding that base to 1174 individuals who are considered in critical status due to the virus.

      Anecdotal evidence

      There’s some anecdotal evidence to back up the hopes of Northwell’s researchers. According to Science Magazine, a conversation with Tracey led David Tuveson, director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center, to recommend famotidine to his 44-year-old sister -- an engineer with New York City hospitals who had tested positive for COVID-19 and developed a fever and dark blue lips from hypoxia. 

      She took her first megadose -- nine times the regular dosage -- of oral famotidine on March 28. By the next day, her fever broke and her oxygen saturation returned to the normal range. In addition, five sick co-workers, including three with confirmed COVID-19, also showed dramatic improvements after taking an over-the-counter version of the drug. 

      Science Magazine said that while COVID-19 patients often recover with simple symptom-relieving medications, Tuveson credits the heartburn drug. 

      “I would say that was a penicillin effect,” he said.

      The rush vs. wait-and-see

      And, as is the case with most every other “miracle cure,” Pepcid is flying off the shelves -- even though Tracey made it a point that the drug is still in the testing phase. “We still don’t know if it will work or not,” he said.

      When ConsumerAffairs checked the availability of Pepcid online at Amazon, Walgreens, and WalMart, we were greeted by “currently unavailable” messages. However, a quick check of local Kroger stores still showed the item as being available.

      The active ingredient in many medications used for acid reflux, peptic ulcers, and heartburn has emerged as a possible coronavirus medication. Famotidi...
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      Senator asks for criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon

      The lawmaker claims Amazon accesses third-party vendor data to launch competing products

      Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the request in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

      Hawley’s action follows a report in The Wall Street Journal which claimed that Amazon had used sales data from its third party sellers to develop competing Amazon-branded products. 

      The Journal said it interviewed more than 20 former employees of Amazon’s private-label business and reviewed documents showing the online retailer used proprietary data it got from its third-party vendors to develop competing products. Previously, the company told Congress that it does not do that.

      Amazon’s response

      In a statement, Amazon said that it looks at sales data to provide consumers with “the best possible experience” but insisted Amazon employees are barred from accessing non-public data to decide which private label products to develop and sell.

      But the newspaper article cited an example of Amazon employees obtaining data about a popular car-trunk organizer offered on its site by a third-party vendor and analyzing the information to decide whether to launch a competing product.

      In his letter to Barr, Hawley cited The Journal’s interviews with former Amazon employees and internal company documents obtained by the newspaper as strong evidence of antitrust violations.

      “Amazon abuses its position as an online platform and collects detailed data about merchandise so Amazon can create copycat products under an Amazon brand,” Hawley wrote.

      Amazon said it is conducting its own internal investigation of the issue, reiterating that company policy prohibits employees from accessing sales data from third-party vendors on the site in order to develop competing products.

      Big Tech critic

      Hawley, who was Missouri’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2018, has been a frequent critic of Amazon, as well as other large technology firms. A week ago, he fired off letters to Alphabet (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising concerns about their contact tracing projects during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

      "If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” Hawley told the executives. “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy.”

      Hawley said he is concerned that the tech firms will sell the data it collects during contact tracing to advertising firms to target products to consumers.

      Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the requ...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2020 GLE 350s and GLE 450s

      The rear seat wiring harness may be routed incorrectly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 120 model year 2020 GLE 350s and GLE 450s with an electrically adjustable second-row seat.

      The wiring harness under the seat may become pinched during seat adjustment, possibly causing damage to the wires.

      Damaged wires may cause the rear side airbags to not deploy as intended.

      Additionally, the driver may not be warned if the second row right seat is not locked into place correctly after using the "Easy Entry" function.

      Either of these can increase the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and reroute the wiring harness as necessary, and repair any wire damage free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 20, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 120 model year 2020 GLE 350s and GLE 450s with an electrically adjustable second-row seat. The wiring harness und...
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      Coronavirus update: New Jersey’s heavy toll, more states getting back to normal

      Apple may delay production of the next iPhones

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 972,969 (939,249)

      Total U.S. deaths: 55,118 (53,934)

      Total global cases: 3,002,303 (2,915,368)

      Total global deaths: 208,131 (203,432)

      New Jersey the new epicenter?

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic nearly overwhelmed the state of New York, but a new poll from Monmouth University suggests that New Jersey has suffered a similar fate. More than 70 percent of the state’s residents said the pandemic has had a “major impact” on their lives.

      To back that up, 61 percent of adults said they know someone who got the disease, compared to only 26 percent throughout the U.S. New Jersey has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, second only to neighboring New York.

      “These results should come as no surprise as they confirm what we have been seeing from other sources,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “ New Jersey has been harder hit than most of the country. And people of color, who make up a sizable proportion of the state’s diverse population, have been even harder hit overall.” .

      More states are relaxing restrictions on businesses

      Some states are taking steps to remove tight restrictions on businesses as the number of cases of the coronavirus appear to be leveling off in the U.S. and around the world. New York, the hardest hit state, has seen the number of deaths and hospitalizations fall in recent days, though there’s no talk of reopening the state.

      States such as Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are allowing consumers back into places of business, though not all business owners have reopened. Health officials have cautioned that reopening too early could lead to a spike in new cases, so these states may serve as a laboratory of sorts.

      The Trump administration has issued guidelines that call for three phases of returning to normal, but it has left it up to individual states to determine when they should begin.

      The pandemic may force Apple to delay the next iPhones

      Apple may be eyeing a delayed start to production of the next generation of iPhones. The Wall Street Journal cites people familiar with the situation who say the start of production is being pushed back by about a month.

      Those sources attribute the delay to two factors -- disruptions in the supply chain in Asia and an expected reduced demand for the product. Even with the delay, Apple is expected to release four new iPhones before the end of the year, some with 5G connectivity.

      Focus on a vaccine

      Microsoft founder Bill Gates says the non-profit foundation he operates with his wife Melinda has shifted all of its medical efforts to searching for a vaccine against COVID-19. In an interview with the Financial Times, Gates said stopping the virus is not only a health issue but an economic one.

      “You’re going to have economies with greatly reduced activity levels for years,” Gates said. The pandemic could cost the global economy “tens of trillions of dollars.” 

      Gates said the foundation has been working on ways to eradicate polio, malaria, and HIV, but it has redeployed those efforts to search for a coronavirus vaccine.

      The post-coronavirus workplace

      As many states relax restrictions and allow people to go back to work, not everyone is likely to return to the daily commute, according to data gathered by Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, an employment firm. 

      A majority of human resources (HR) executives interviewed by the firm said they plan to keep their COVID-19 plans in place for a while, with employees who can work from home doing so. In fact, Challenger predicts employees will be working from home well into next year.

      "It is crucial that companies bring back their workers who have been laid off or furloughed, but it also must happen in a way that will protect them and the public, said Andrew Challenger, a senior vice president at the firm. “Employers are prepared to keep their teams working from home well into reopening, but for those who cannot, reasonable measures must be taken to protect these workers."

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Prizker says it’s too early to know whether schools can reopen in the fall. He said teachers need to be prepared for both a return to the classroom and e-learning. Illinois schools have been closed since mid-March.

      • Nebraska: Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced plans to relax public health restrictions and allow a resumption of worship services, with some social distancing restrictions still in place. The Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha said Masses and other forms of public liturgy will be allowed again beginning May 4. 

      • Connecticut: Hospitalizations for COVID-19 dropped for a fourth straight day on Sunday. Gov. Ned Lamont said it’s evidence that the state is able to “flatten the curve” of new infections.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 972,969 (939,249)...
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