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      Coronavirus update: Savings rate soars with no place to spend, Chicago delays reopening

      Stimulus payments look like junk mail

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,725,656 (1,703,989)

      Total U.S. deaths: 101,706 (100,651)

      Total global cases: 5,851,494 (5,731,837)

      Total global deaths: 361,270 (356,606)

      Savings rate hits record during pandemic shutdown

      With U.S. households confined to their homes for the last two months, Americans have socked away a record amount of cash. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that personal income rose sharply in April as Americans began receiving government stimulus payments.

      At the same time, consumer spending dropped sharply, leading to a savings rate of 33 percent, the highest on record. 

      It’s always a good thing when households are able to save money, but some economists think too much saving won’t help the economy recover. They say the next few weeks may be critical as consumers have more chances to spend at stores and restaurants.

      Chicago’s reopening has been delayed until next week

      Illinois joined a number of states in reopening most businesses, including hair salons, restaurants, and retail stores. But Chicago will wait until next week to join the party.

      Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has delayed the city’s limited reopening until Wednesday, June 3 after Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, expressed some concern about the city. She said the number of cases in Chicago appears to have leveled off but has not gone down as it has in some other parts of the country.

      In the rest of Illinois, restaurants can open outdoor dining areas with tables six feet apart. Retailers can reopen with no more than 50 percent of normal capacity.

      Some stimulus payments mistaken for junk mail

      Millions of Americans are still receiving their economic impact payments from the government, and some are mistaking them for junk mail. The Treasury Department has shifted from sending paper checks to sending prepaid debit cards that many recipients say look like credit card solicitations.

      Reports have begun to circulate on social media about recipients cutting up the cards or tossing them in the trash, unaware that the card contains their long-awaited payment.

      The latest round of payments come in plain white envelopes with the return address: Money Network Cardholder Services, PO Box 247022, Omaha, NE 68124-7022.

      Mixed data on housing

      The coronavirus has had a huge impact on the housing market, bringing sales and listings to a near standstill. Where the market goes from here isn’t exactly clear.

      In its monthly statement, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that pending home sales plunged more than 21 percent in April. That category is a measure of contracts for home sales that were signed but not yet closed. NAR said that’s likely the low for the year.

      At the same time, Zillow reports there is evidence that both buyers and sellers are returning to the market. However, it notes that inventory levels are still extremely tight, leading to higher prices for the homes that are selling.

      Prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine surged in March

      After President Trump mentioned the 60-year-old antiviral drug hydroxychloroquine at a briefing in March, prescriptions for the drug surged by 2,000 percent

      Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School compared the number of prescriptions issued from March 15 to March 21 with the same period in 2019. This year there were 45,858 prescriptions written compared to 2,208 the year before.

      A number of health experts have been highly skeptical of the drug as a treatment for the coronavirus. However, some doctors who have prescribed it for their patients said it is very effective, but only when taken in conjunction with zinc.

      Around the nation

      • West Virginia: The state says it has now tested 91,000 people for the coronavirus. So far, only 1,935 have tested positive, which is a rate of around 2 percent.

      • Arkansas: After reopening most businesses, Arkansas has seen a spike in new cases of the coronavirus. The state recorded 261 new cases Thursday, the largest single-day total so far.

      • Michigan: Businesses closed during the coronavirus lockdown have begun to reopen after nearly three months of inactivity and no revenue. Shopping malls are being allowed to reopen, but customers must make appointments to shop and maintain social distancing.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,725,656 (1,703,98...
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      Tyson shuts down another slaughterhouse after employees test positive for COVID-19

      Meatpackers and ranchers both are concerned about the potential ripple effect

      Tyson Foods has temporarily shuttered its pork slaughterhouses in Storm Lake, Iowa, after 555 employees -- 22 percent of the plant’s workforce -- tested positive for the coronavirus.

      The closure comes only a month after President Trump ordered meat processing plants to keep their doors open in the face of depleted meat counters at grocery stores and to prevent supply chain risks. For Tyson, the closure comes only a week after 257 of the 1,282 team members -- 20 percent of the workforce -- at its Temperanceville, Virginia poultry facility tested positive.

      Tyson says it’s doing what’s required

      Tyson spun the Storm Lake closure in a more positive light, saying it was partly due to a delay in COVID-19 test results and employee absences. Despite the setback, Tyson says it will be back up and running in the near future. In a statement, the company insisted it will resume operations next week after it conducts "additional deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire facility” and that it will conduct daily clinical symptom screenings.

      Tyson officials also assert that it’s doing everything that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ask companies like theirs to do. In fact, the company says it “meet(s) or exceed(s) CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19.”

      The company also noted that it’s doubling its “thank you” bonus for frontline workers to $120 million. The bonus plan supports members who cannot come to work because of illness or childcare issues related to COVID-19.

      Concern continues

      While Tyson might think it’s doing all that’s necessary, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) thinks meat companies and federal officials need to do even more to protect workers. 

      It points to a statistic that shows more than 3,000 infections and 44 deaths have occurred among U.S. meatpacking workers, and those numbers keep rising. 

      “Too many workers are being sent back into meatpacking plants without adequate protections in place, reigniting more outbreaks in the plants and our communities,” Nick Nemec, a South Dakota farmer and cattle producer from Holabird, SD, said in a news release.

      The ripple effect

      Another UFCW member also raised the point of the ripple effect. 

      “Safe food starts with safe workers,” said UFCW Local 304A member John Massalley who works at Smithfield in Sioux Falls, SD. “When meatpacking plants struggle to contain this virus, it’s not just the workers inside like me who are at risk, family farmers and ranchers are too.”

      “If they don’t get protective equipment and safe working conditions, the food system will remain vulnerable and we all lose – producer, workers and consumers.Regular testing is critical to stopping future outbreaks, keeping workers safe and protecting our food supply,” added Colorado rancher Kathryn Bedell.

      Tyson Foods has temporarily shuttered its pork slaughterhouses in Storm Lake, Iowa, after 555 employees -- 22 percent of the plant’s workforce -- tested po...
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      The average price of gasoline is closing in on $2 a gallon

      Prices rose in just about every state in the last week

      The price of gasoline rose in just about every state in the last week as more consumers increased their driving and states began to lift coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is closing in on $2 a gallon, rising three cents a gallon since last Friday to $1.97 a gallon. It’s 21 cents a gallon higher than a month ago. The average price of premium gas is $2.58 a gallon, four cents higher than last week. The average price of diesel fuel has remained stable over the last two weeks at $2.41 a gallon and is four cents a gallon cheaper than a month ago.

      Gas prices normally rise during the spring, but industry analysts point to two other factors contributing to higher prices at the pump. Oil prices have begun to recover from their record lows during the height of the lockdown but remain under $40 a barrel.

      Demand is also up when compared to April. However, it’s still well below demand recorded in May 2019. That’s one reason gas prices are about 90 cents a gallon less than they were last year.

      “Americans have seen significantly cheaper-than-normal gas prices the past two months,” said AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “While motorists will see pump prices continue to increase, AAA does not expect the summer average to be as expensive as last year’s season.”

      One wildcard that could send prices sharply higher is a couple of bad hurricanes. The 2020 hurricane season begins Monday, and storms that hit the Gulf Coast region particularly hard could interrupt supplies and send prices sharply higher, at least temporarily.

      The states with the most expensive gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.17)

      • California ($2.88)

      • Washington ($2.52)

      • Oregon ($2.44) 

      • Nevada ($2.43)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.23)

      • Illinois ($2.23)

      • Alaska ($2.22)

      • Utah ($2.21)

      • New York ($2.18)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Mississippi ($1.58)

      • Arkansas ($1.63)

      • Alabama ($1.63)

      • Louisiana ($1.64)

      • Texas ($1.64)

      • Oklahoma ($1.65)

      • Missouri ($1.65)

      • South Carolina ($1.67)

      • Kansas ($1.68)

      • Tennessee ($1.70)

      The price of gasoline rose in just about every state in the last week as more consumers increased their driving and states began to lift coronavirus (COVID...
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      Ford recalls model year 2020 Mustangs

      A forward-looking camera is misaligned to the vehicle

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 25 model year 2020 Mustangs sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      The vehicles are equipped with an image processing module A -- a forward-looking camera -- that is misaligned to the vehicle, and may not function as intended.

      An incorrect forward-looking camera alignment calibration may cause features to have degraded functionality during vehicle operation including Pre-Collision Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane-Keeping System, Driver Alert and Auto High-Beam Control.

      The Pre-Collision Assist system’s effectiveness in detecting a frontal collision may be compromised, increasing the risk of an accident.

      There are no reports of accident or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will reconfigure the forward-looking camera by aligning the Lane Departure Warning system camera.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S26.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 25 model year 2020 Mustangs sold in the U.S., and Canada. The vehicles are equipped with an image processing modul...
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      Primark recalls Kitten Heel Court Shoes

      The leather insock in the shoes have elevated levels of Chromium VI

      Primark US of Boston, Mass., is recalling about 1,700 pair of Wide Fit Kitten Heel Court Pumps.

      The leather insock in the shoes has elevated levels of Chromium VI, posing a risk of skin irritation.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves the Primark Wide Fit Kitten Heel Court Shoes. The pumps have an approximately 1.5 inch heel, and were sold in black and nude microfiber fabric.

      Product number 06689 and the RN code 145478 are printed on the inside of the shoe.

      The shoes, manufactured in China, were sold at Primark US stores nationwide from January 2019, through November 2019, for about $16.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled shoes and return the shoes to a Primark store for a full refund of the purchase price.

      Consumers may contact Primark US collect at (617) 946-3236 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET )Monday through Friday, or online at www.primark.com and click on “Customer Service” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Primark US of Boston, Mass., is recalling about 1,700 pair of Wide Fit Kitten Heel Court Pumps. The leather insock in the shoes has elevated levels of C...
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      5 do-it-yourself Father’s Day gift ideas

      Don’t have a big Father’s Day budget? Make these low-cost presents your dad will love

      Everyone loves presents, and Father's day is no exception. However, sometimes the gifts you make yourself may mean more than anything bought at a store. Each idea presented below is under $20, and some even cost you nothing if you have certain items just lying around the house. Make your dad feel special by utilizing any of our DIY Father's Day ideas below.

      Special picture for dad

      Everyone loves pictures of their families, especially their kids and grandkids, so why not create a special Father's Day pic for dad? All you need is a camera, some poster board and a photo frame. Get dressed in your best, make a sign with a caring message, print the pic on photo paper and order a cute frame online. The personalized message will make it even more special.

      • Attractive neutral frame
      • Fits 5” x 7” pictures

      Buy on Amazon

      • 60 count
      • 5” x 7”

      Buy on Amazon

      World’s Greatest Dad jar

      Dad will surely admire a jar with all of his favorite items. First, take some time a decorate the outside of the mason jar with Father's Day messages, then insert a ton of his number one go-to treats inside. Whether it's his preferred chocolate candies or colorful gumballs, a jar filled with all his favorite things lets dad know you care.

      • 1-pack or 4-pack
      • BPA-free

      Buy on Amazon

      Personalized BBQ flipper

      For the grilling dad, a personalized BBQ flipper is perfect for him. Grab one with a long handle online, then get creative and decorate! Color the handle with your dad's favorite team colors, paint your dad's name or even add drawings of his favorite things to it. No matter what you decide, dad will appreciate all the thought you put into his gift.

      • Good for charcoal or gas grills
      • Stay-cool handle

      Buy on Amazon

      Homemade card with coupons

      For Father's Day, a homemade card is always an easy go-to option. Have the kids go wild decorating a card for their dad, and insert cute handmade or store-bought coupons inside. These coupons will contain items like "help dad with the chores outside," "make dad breakfast" or "free sleep-in day for dad." Dad can cash in coupons at any time, and everyone must adhere to it. Remember to have fun with it!

      • 6 activities
      • Easy assembly

      Buy on Amazon

      Decorated handkerchief

      Your dad will feel dapper if you make a handkerchief just for him. All you need is a blank handkerchief, and you can paint it, stamp it or even just draw on it. Dad will treasure it as it was handmade with love.

      • 100% cotton
      • Blank canvas for creative minds

      Buy on Amazon

      Father's Day doesn't need to be extravagant to make Dad feel treasured! Make your dad a present this year, and he will love it because you took the time to make it just for him.

      Don’t have a big Father’s Day budget? Make these low-cost presents your dad will love...
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      Our 5 favorite DIY alcohol kits

      From gin to hard cider to craft beer, it’s never been easier to make drinks at home

      Picking up a new hobby is fun, and so, of course, is having a cocktail. A DIY alcohol kit lets you productively combine the two activities. We selected our five favorite DIY alcohol kits to make everything from craft beer to Pinot Grigio to honey scotch whiskey.

      Gin

      A gin martini is a classic drink. Make it even better with your own homemade gin. If you’re not a martini fan, try a gin and tonic or one of the dozens of other summery gin drinks.

      • 12 botanicals
      • Makes 2 small bottles

      Buy on Amazon

      Pinot grigio

      A glass of pinot grigio is an excellent way to unwind at the end of a long summer day. This pinot grigio kit includes everything except the wine bottles, so make sure you save a few bottles you buy from the store. This kit makes 5 good-sized bottles, and reviews rave about the taste.

      • Makes five 750mL bottles
      • 2-week fermentation

      Buy on Amazon

      Hard cider

      This kit doesn’t supply the fruit juice, but that allows you to customize the hard cider to your liking, whether you prefer cloudy apple cider or clear-as-day apple juice. Once you’ve mixed the ingredients, the cider only needs to sit for 10 days before it’s ready.

      • Makes 3 batches
      • Better than the bottled stuff

      Buy on Amazon

      Personalized whiskey making kit

      Have you ever wanted to pour a tumbler with your own, personal whiskey? Now you can! With this kit, all you need is the neutral spirit (like grain alcohol, moonshine or rail vodka), and you could have a personalized batch of aged whiskey to share with your friends!

      • Personalized barrel
      • 90-day oak barrel warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      Craft beer

      Minor things like having a large opening at the top to comfortably add the ingredients and clearly marked volumes on the side help make this craft beer kit to the next level. Simply sanitize the equipment, pour in the ingredients and add carbonation. Several reviews mention the high-quality taste and simple setup.

      • 2-gallon recipes
      • Brews in 14 days

      Buy on Amazon

      From gin to hard cider to craft beer, it’s never been easier to make drinks at home...
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      Coronavirus update: U.S. eclipses 100,000 deaths, crowds in casinos could be trouble

      Unemployment may be slowing down

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,703,989 (1,684,173)

      Total U.S. deaths: 100,651 (99,123)

      Total global cases: 5,731,837 (5,626,047)

      Total global deaths: 356,606 (351,815)

      100,000 deaths and counting

      The official U.S. death toll from the coronavirus (COVID-19) has moved past the 100,000 mark and is still climbing. Nearly all the deaths have occurred in the last four months.

      No other country has close to the number of coronavirus cases or deaths that the U.S. has faced. The next closest country is the United Kingdom, with 37,542 deaths. India, which has a much larger population than the U.S., has only 4,500 confirmed deaths.

      Don’t bet on casinos’ safety

      Cell phone tracking has shown how the huge crowds on Atlantic beaches over the Memorial Day weekend have dispersed across the country, raising concerns among health officials any infected people could set off another COVID-19 outbreak.

      While former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gotliebb says that’s concerning, he said outdoor gatherings appear less likely to spread the virus than large groups in close quarters indoors. For that reason, he says he does have some concerns about Las Vegas casinos reopening.

      “Those are the kinds of settings where I think you have more risk, where you have a lot of people crowding together, coming and going in indoor settings for sustained periods of time,” Gottlieb said on CNBC this morning.

      Nevada casinos are scheduled to reopen next week. 

      The pace of unemployment is slowing

      There were 2.1 million new claims for unemployment benefits in the previous week as the pace of joblessness continues to slow. While that number is nearly 10 times higher than a typical week before the pandemic hit, it’s well below the 6.9 million recorded at the end of March.

      Lockdowns that closed businesses and forced many to quickly go under have been the major driver of unemployment. While some economists think we’re approaching a bottom, a lot of damage has already been done.

      In a separate report today, the Commerce Department said Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measure of economic activity, shrank by 5 percent in the first quarter.

      Airlines face more turbulence

      The nation’s airlines see brighter skies ahead as travel restrictions begin to be lifted and bookings increase. At the same time, they face a decline in business and numerous restrictions that make profits out of the question.

      Delta Airlines has started offering employees buyouts as it seeks to trim its payroll. It, along with other carriers, has seen a huge drop in revenue. As passenger traffic picks up, it will not come close to the level of profitability the company enjoyed before the pandemic.

      On Wednesday, American Airlines announced that it is cutting 30 percent of its management and administrative jobs to deal with its mounting losses. “We must plan for operating a smaller airline for the foreseeable future,” Elise Eberwein, one of the airline’s executive vice presidents, wrote in a letter to employees. 

      No masks allowed

      As businesses begin to reopen, many are requiring customers to wear masks when inside their premises. In a sign of a growing culture war the pandemic and its shutdown orders have sparked, the Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin, Texas is reopening with one simple rule -- no one wearing a mask will be allowed inside.

      "If we're only allowed to be at 25 percent capacity, I want them to be 25 percent of people that aren't p-----, that aren't sheep," owner Kevin Smith told The Washington Post. "Being scared all the time isn't good for your health. It suppresses your immune system."

      Smith’s position does not appear to be an isolated case. In Kentucky, where some residents this week hanged an effigy of the state’s Democratic governor, a gas station convenience store is also barring any customers wearing a face covering.

      Around the nation

      • Illinois: Illinois has become the first state to meet all of the White House’s recommendations for safely opening businesses. Starting tomorrow, the state will begin Phase 3 of its reopening after seeing a two-week decline in positive test results per 100,000 population.

      • Oregon: Two churches have filed lawsuits against the state, targeting an order that limits the size of congregations at church services. Gov. Kate Brown’s order limits the size of gatherings at church services to no more than 25 people. 

      • Rhode Island: State Senator Elaine Morgan has penned an open letter calling on state officials to immediately reopen Rhode Island with no restrictions. Morgan, a Republican, charged that Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to slowly reopen the state is a violation of citizens’ rights. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,703,989 (1,684,17...
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      American Airlines to cut 30 percent of its management and administrative staff

      The airline industry faces the difficult task of downsizing in the COVID-19 era

      Airline stocks have rallied on Wall Street this week on growing optimism that the country is beginning to reopen and travel is about to resume. But the rising stock prices don’t reveal the economic damage to commercial air travel that’s already been done.

      American Airlines has announced it is cutting 30 percent of its management and administrative staff in an effort to stem the flow of red ink. A company memo obtained by CNBC said the airline will also begin offering buyouts to flight attendants and other frontline personnel in June.

      “We must plan for operating a smaller airline for the foreseeable future,” Elise Eberwein, one of the airline’s executive vice presidents, wrote in a letter to employees Wednesday.

      American has plenty of company in that situation because the entire industry has been turned upside down by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Consumers stopped flying well before the government issued travel restrictions. By late April, U.S. passenger traffic had fallen 90 percent.

      In the last decade, the airline industry has clawed its way back to profitability by maximizing routes -- flying planes in which every seat was sold -- and charging fees for things that were once included in the price of a ticket. Those days seem to be over.

      Half-empty planes

      In the era of social distancing -- which no one expects to end anytime soon -- American and its competitors will likely fly half-empty planes, even when consumers begin traveling again. In an announcement made Wednesday, American said it would continue to limit the number of customers on each aircraft. 

      “Additionally, American customer service agents also may reassign seats to create more space between customers or to accommodate families who need to be seated together,” the airline said in a release. “Once boarding is complete — taking into consideration any aircraft weight or balance restrictions — customers can move to another seat within their ticketed cabin subject to availability.”

      The airline said it is deploying new tools that will allow customers to more easily change their tickets to less-crowded flights, again giving up the fees that most airlines once charged for that service.

      Strings attached

      The problem for the industry -- and American in particular -- is that at the same time it is struggling against mounting financial losses, it has received financial aid from Congress that has several strings attached.

      A week ago, when Delta and JetBlue decided to reduce employee hours to cope with their loss of revenue, lawmakers were quick to say the action represented a violation of the goal of the Payroll Support Program established under the CARES Act. 

      Delta received more than $5 billion in federal support through the program, and JetBlue received $935 million. When they cut employee hours more than a dozen U.S. senators sent letters to the CEO of each airline pushing for an immediate end to the “potentially illegal” action. 

      In April, American announced that it was receiving $5.8 billion from the government to support payroll operations.

      Airline stocks have rallied on Wall Street this week on growing optimism that the country is beginning to reopen and travel is about to resume. But the ris...
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      Disney World reveals plans for a phased reopening

      Theme parks, resorts, and shops are all included, but so are a new set of guidelines for ticketing and safety precautions

      Get out your mouse ears -- Disney World is gearing up for a reopening.

      In a pitch to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force in Florida on Wednesday, Disney proposed a phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort theme parks that is planned to begin on July 11.

      With Shanghai Disney Resort and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort already reopened and operating smoothly, Disney feels it has all the proper safety and sanitation measures in place to move things forward.

      The new timeline

      Pending Orange County and state approval, here are the dates Disney World attractions will reopen:

      Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A phased reopening for the general public will begin July 11.

      EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. July 15 is the requested date for those two park sections. 

      Expect changes

      Disney’s devotees may not get the same exact experience they had the last time they visited a park if they plan to go during the reopening. The company said that visitors should expect changes on how the theme parks will be managed all the way down to how cast members will engage with guests and “create magical Disney memories.”

      Its list of modifications goes like this:

      Deliberate approach. Disney is not simply opening the gates and letting everyone in. It’s taking a phased approach with limits on attendance and controlled guest density that aligns with guidance on physical distancing. 

      Until further notice, experiences that draw large group gatherings, such as parades and nighttime spectaculars, are on hold. The “high-touch” like makeovers, playgrounds, and character meet and greets are also temporarily unavailable. Nonetheless, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Snow White will still be roaming the park grounds to entertain and bring some smiles.

      New reservation system. There will be no more going to the ticket window when you get there and buying an admission on the spot. Attendance will be managed through a new reservation system that will require all guests to secure their reservation in advance. 

      No new ticket sales or hotel reservations. For visitors who have an existing ticket, they’re good to go. However, the resort is pausing new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations. Additional details are available on the Disney Parks Blog.

      Resorts and campgrounds reopen June 15 and June 22. Disney Vacation Club resorts in Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, will open to members and guests starting on June 15. Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground plan on reopening June 22.

      Shopping and dining. The World of Disney retail shop at the Disney Springs shopping and dining complex at Walt Disney World has already reopened. The remainder of those venues will be phased in over the next month or so. 

      Enhanced safety protocols. Disney is taking its responsibility in this area seriously and asks guests to do the same. “Our destinations will continue to follow enhanced safety protocols based upon applicable guidance from health authorities and government agencies,” the company said in a news release. 

      Those new protocols include anyone 3 years old or older -- even cast members. Here are the new requirements:

      • Face coverings: Guests will be required to wear appropriate face coverings in theme parks and common areas of resort hotels. 

      • Temperature checks: All guests will undergo temperature screenings prior to entering a theme park. To add another layer of safety for visitors, cast members will also have temperature checks. 

      • Paying for things: Cashless transactions are preferred. 

      Get out your mouse ears -- Disney World is gearing up for a reopening.In a pitch to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force in Florida on Wednes...
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      BMW recalls various BMW and Mini vehicles

      The airbags may not deploy in a rollover crash

      BMW of North America is recalling 76 model year 2020 X1 xDrive28i, X1 sDrive28i, X2 xDrive28i & X2 sDrive28i, model year 2020 MINI Clubman Cooper S All4, and model year 2021 MINI Hardtop 2 Door (Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works & Cooper S E), and MINI Hardtop 4 Door (Cooper & Cooper S) vehicles.

      Due to a problem with the rollover sensor within the airbag control unit, the head air bag, seat belt pretensioners and other safety systems may not activate in a crash.

      If the safety systems do not deploy as intended in a roll over crash, the risk of injury may increase.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the air bag control unit free of charge.

      This recall is expected to begin on July 13, 2020.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at (800) 525-7417 or MINI customer service at (866) 825-1525.

      BMW of North America is recalling 76 model year 2020 X1 xDrive28i, X1 sDrive28i, X2 xDrive28i & X2 sDrive28i, model year 2020 MINI Clubman Cooper S All4, a...
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      Vantage-modified Dodge Grand Caravans recalled

      The fuel pump gasket may leak

      Vantage Mobility International is recalling122 Vantage-modified model year 2016-2019 Dodge Grand Caravans.

      The fuel pump gasket may deteriorate, allowing fuel to leak.

      A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Vantage will notify owners, and will provide parts and reimbursement to owners for repair facilities to replace the fuel tank gasket free of charge.

      The recall began May 19, 2020.

      Owners may contact Vantage customer service at (800) 488-9082.

      Vantage Mobility International is recalling122 Vantage-modified model year 2016-2019 Dodge Grand Caravans. The fuel pump gasket may deteriorate, allowin...
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      Our 7 favorite office chairs, from least to most expensive

      From basic chairs that do the job to customizable, comfortable godsends

      We selected our 7 favorite chairs from Amazon to help those of you wanting to make the leap from your awkward kitchen chair to an ergonomic chair designed for comfort.

      An affordable, basic look

      If you want an inexpensive chair, this is a good one to choose. It works well for an office, gaming center or just surfing the web at your desk. This is an excellent chair for those on a budget, and the only complaints via reviews have been customers wishing it could lean back a little further.

      • $72.87
      • Mesh back, ergonomic design

      Buy on Amazon

      Basic and cushy with great reviews

      This chair is another economically priced seat with a high star rating from Amazon. Buy a version with adjustable arms or no arms at all (the armless version is cheaper). The seat and back are cushy for those who prefer that to mesh support. Choose from 4 different colors — there’s even a camo version for the adventurer in all of us.

      • $90.60
      • Waterfall seat, arms or no arms

      Buy on Amazon

      A little out there, but this one helps improve posture

      This is one of the more interesting chairs we’ve found, but we like it a lot. Once you’ve found the correct height and setup for your build, it’s comfortable, and it helps you to sit up straight to improve your posture.

      • $199.95
      • Three-inch cushion, wheels

      Buy on Amazon

      Mesh support for comfort

      Some of us were hesitant to purchase a chair for the listed price, but when you consider you sit in your office chair more than you sit in your car, an investment in comfort and productivity is worth it. We like the mesh and adjustable headrest that make it much more comfortable.

      • $214.99
      • Adjustable headrest and armrest

      Buy on Amazon

      The midcentury look

      This chair looks a bit different from our other picks, and we like that. The midcentury vibes are classy, and the faux leather looks and feels great. Swivel, lean back and roll from left to right as you channel your inner executive.

      • $222.99
      • Faux leather

      Buy on Amazon

      A chair with high customizability

      We like that this chair has customizable, well, everything. Adjust the headrest, tilt back, adjust the lumbar support, play with the armrests and roll around to your heart’s content.

      • $299.99
      • Aluminum base, one-year warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      An executive option

      Our final pick may be the most expensive chair on our list, but its the most highly rated. We like that the chair supports up to 330 pounds and has several customizable parts.

      • $329.99
      • Mesh back, supports 330 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      From basic chairs that do the job to customizable, comfortable godsends...
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      8 great hiking accessories for the trail this summer

      We chose some clever gadgets to make hiking more fun, plus a few products for cyclists

      Whether you’re a newbie hiker who wants to take up the activity or an experienced hiker with thousands of miles of trails behind you, we’ve chosen some awesome hiking accessories that you’ll love.

      Water purifier

      For those longer hikes where you might run out of water, it’s great to have a water purifier. This ingenious purifier only takes 8 seconds to make any freshwater good to drink. The filter removes pathogens, pesticides, heavy metals and everything else that compromises the drinkability of water.

      • 24 ounces
      • Simple to use

      Buy on Amazon

      Lightweight hammock

      Have you ever been on a long, tough hike when overwhelming sleepiness hits you? Or maybe you found a peaceful clearing where you just wanted to hang out for a bit? Kick back and relax in a hammock! Even if you don't use it on your hike, this hammock is so lightweight that there's really no harm in taking it with you.

      • Lifetime warranty
      • Supports up to 400 pounds

      Buy on Amazon

      Hiking boots (for everyone)

      Tennis shoes are okay for hikes, but they wear out quickly and often aren't waterproof. It's a lot more fun to have a dedicated set of hiking boots for when you hit the trail. You'll feel like a true explorer, and you'll be less afraid to cross that shallow stream with some new waterproof duds.

      Comfortable backpack

      Everyone on a hike should wear a comfortable backpack. Fill it with snacks for the long trek, or a blanket and a book to read when you find a pleasant meadow to sit and relax.

      • 55-liter capacity
      • Lumbar pad and molded channels for comfort

      Buy on Amazon

      First aid kit

      Taking a first aid kit on a hike is a great idea. Besides being critical in emergencies, a first aid kit can help with little things like minor cuts and bruises. This kit also attaches to a vehicle headrest for easy access and storage when not outdoors.

      • Pre-stocked
      • Lifetime warranty

      Buy on Amazon

      Walking sticks

      Walking sticks are an accessory that makes things a lot more fun as you trek up and down your favorite trails. The ones below are super light and have comfortable handles, making long hikes that much easier. If you’re feeling less mobile but don’t want to limit your movement, walking sticks may help.

      • Extendable, one size fits all
      • Anti-slip cork grip

      Buy on Amazon

      Bike hitch rack

      Tired of walking the same old trails? Why not try biking a few new ones? This bike rack is easy to install and carries two bicycles, so you and a friend can go, too. Because the rack tilts away from the car, you can still access the trunk even while the bikes are loaded.

      • Carries two bikes
      • Folds up when not in use

      Buy on Amazon

      GPS bike computer

      This GPS bike computer is an incredible piece of technology if you’re looking to hit the trails on a bike. It downloads bike trails, measures your heart rate and helps cyclists reach their goals. It’s also aerodynamic and can sync with your phone so that you can receive calls and texts.

      • 15-hour battery life
      • Waterproof

      Buy on Amazon

      We chose some clever gadgets to make hiking more fun, plus a few products for cyclists...
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      Coronavirus update: Second wave of virus could be avoided, Teamsters concerned about Minnesota warehouse

      Major League Baseball may pay players a lot less

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,684,173 (1,667,154)

      Total U.S. deaths: 99,123 (98,371)

      Total global cases: 5,626,047 (5,534,728)

      Total global deaths: 351,815 (347,587)

      Fauci: Second wave of the virus ‘not inevitable’

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, has warned that the coronavirus (COVID-19) would likely return in a “second wave” in the fall. Now he appears to be more optimistic.

      In an interview on CNN today, Fauci said a second wave is “not inevitable” in the fall. But he says that all depends on how the U.S. reopens after the current first wave. 

      “Don’t start leapfrogging over the recommendations of some of the guidelines because that’s really tempting fate and asking for trouble,” he said.

      Total U.S. deaths approached the 100,000 mark at midday today, reaching 99,123, as reported by Johns Hopkins University.

      Teamsters raise food supply chain concern

      The Teamsters Union is expressing concern about mitigation efforts to control the coronavirus at the large United Natural Foods INC (UNFI) warehouse in Hopkins, Minn. The union’s Local 120 is asking state health officials to step in and is warning that the state’s grocery supply chain could be at risk.

      "Last week, UNFI brought in temporary workers from all over the country to pick orders; literally, from all over the country,” said Teamsters Local 120 Business Agent Troy Gustafson. “To our knowledge, they were not tested or quarantined prior to coming in, and they are not social distancing or following established safety protocols at the warehouse.”

      Gustafson says the warehouse is producing an increasing number of positive cases of the coronavirus. Local 120 President Tom Erickson says there were no confirmed cases at the warehouse two weeks ago. There are currently four confirmed cases and several more suspected cases.

      "This could escalate quickly if the company doesn't wake up," Erickson said.

      Play ball?

      If there is a shortened baseball season this year most players would earn a lot less than they expect. Major League Baseball (MLB) has presented a plan to its players’ union which would reduce the salaries of the highest-paid players the most.

      The proposal would cut salaries for the highest-paid players by up to 80 percent while the lowest-paid players would only have to give up 10 percent of their scheduled pay. But it’s not clear how the proposal will be received by players. Some have expressed dissatisfaction on social media.

      If the players’ union rejects the deal and an alternative isn’t worked out, it’s likely the 2020 baseball season would suffer the same fate as the NBA and NHL seasons, which were canceled in March. For its part, the MLB said the proposal is “consistent with the economic realities facing our sport.”

      Keeping the virus out of police cruisers

      Ford Motor Company says it’s helping police departments using its Ford Explorer Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to keep them free of coronavirus germs. The company said they’re doing it with a simple software update.

      The software enables a temporary rise in interior temperatures upward of 133 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Ford says that will help reduce the viral concentration inside the vehicle by more than 99 percent.

      The software update is available immediately on all 2013-2019 vehicles. Once activated, the vehicle’s powertrain and climate control systems work together to raise passenger compartment temperatures. 

      Live debate

      Tensions over the coronavirus boiled over on live television this morning as Joe Kernen and Andrew Ross Sorkin, two of the three anchors on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” shouted at one another over the nation’s death toll from the virus.

      Kernen accused Sorkin of panicking throughout the pandemic, saying “You panicked about the market, you panicked about COVID, you panicked about the ventilators, you panicked about the PPE, you panicked about ever going out again…”

      In turn, Sorkin accused Kernen of consistently underplaying the severity of the virus in order to help President Trump, accusing Kernen of “abusing” his position.

      Around the nation

      • Massachusetts: While protesters in some states argue that reopening plans are moving too slowly, Massachusetts activists staged a funeral procession protest in Boston to argue that the state is reopening too quickly. They contend that reopening prematurely puts minority communities at heightened risk.

      • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has increased the number of services and businesses that can operate in the state. Food courts in shopping malls will reopen immediately, and Abbot is giving the green light for water parks to begin operations with limited capacity starting Friday.

      • Ohio: The state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles has reopened for the first time since late March, resulting in long lines outside most locations. The state has extended expired drivers licenses for an additional 90 days.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,684,173 (1,667,15...
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      COVID-19 vaccine unlikely to be widely available by end of year, former FDA chief says

      More testing will help health officials get closer to a working treatment

      Vegas hasn’t placed any odds on when the coronavirus will be out of our lives -- or if it’ll return for an encore. But the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is betting that one thing we won’t see is a large-scale rollout of a coronavirus vaccine this year. 

      Dr. Scott Gottlieb is also laying odds that there’s another cycle of COVID-19 still to come. 

      “I think we’ll have to have one more cycle of this virus in the fall, heading into the winter, before we get to a vaccine,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I really think a vaccine is probably a 2021 event, in terms of having wide availability of a vaccine for the general population.” 

      If another outbreak happens...

      While Gottlieb’s prognostication runs contrary to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recent perspective, he thinks that if a new, “emergency” outbreak erupted in a local or regional setting, it’s likely a vaccine would be made available to fight that isolated battle. However, predicting where those outbreaks might happen is a shot in the dark. 

      “You have to really guess right now what city you’re going to have outbreaks in, because if you start doing a trial in Dallas and there’s an outbreak in Houston in the fall, or you do a city like Boise, which has been largely unexposed, and it ends up being outbreaks in Little Rock, you haven’t deployed the vaccines in the settings where you’re going to get an early answer,” he said. 

      Being prepared calls for more testing

      With the constant growth of vaccine manufacturers, Gottlieb feels that there’ll be enough vaccine on-hand by the end of the year to reach tens of millions of people.

      “What I think we’re gonna have in the fall is, hopefully, multiple manufacturers that have cleared early stage safety trials and have millions of doses that can be deployed,” Gottlieb told CBS’ Face the Nation.

      However, the sticking point for the former FDA chief is that the perfect vaccine hasn’t been found yet, and all the various trials haven't produced anything close to a definitive answer.

      “You’re going to have to test these probably in 30,000-patient clinical trials to have a reasonable data set to tell both safety and effectiveness,” he told CNBC. “With a virus where 20 to 40 percent of people develop asymptomatic disease, you have to vaccinate a lot of people to be able to discern whether or not it’s working.” 

      “Look, the more effective the vaccine is, the earlier we’re going to get a reading on whether or not it’s working,” the former FDA chief concluded.

      Vegas hasn’t placed any odds on when the coronavirus will be out of our lives -- or if it’ll return for an encore. But the former head of the U.S. Food and...
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      8 robots to brighten up your home

      We’ve chosen robots that clean, dance, answer questions and play music

      Beyond doing household chores, acting as speakers or helping as virtual assistants, robots can keep us company or keep us entertained. We’ve chosen 8 home robots that are sure to liven up your home — some are purely practical, while others are kid-friendly and ridiculously cute.

      Vector robot

      The Vector robot is voice-activated and offers Alexa functionality. This little guy moves, charges himself and knows how to avoid obstacles as it travels around your house. Like Alexa, it helps with questions and performs fun acts like dance and give little fist bumps.

      • Voice-activated
      • Can navigate on his own

      Buy on Amazon

      R2-D2

      Finally, you can have R2-D2 at home! R2’s built-in speaker means you can play whatever music you like, and kids will have a great time “driving” R2 from a compatible mobile device. You can even watch the newest "Star Wars" movies with R2 and watch as it reacts to the unfolding events.

      • Built-in speaker
      • Control R2-D2’s movements

      Buy on Amazon

      Echo Plus

      The Echo Plus is an upgrade on the Alexa system we all know and love. It has better sound quality than previous generations and can control lighting, thermostats and other house controls. The Echo Plus has over 10,000 skills and is one of our favorite smart home devices.

      • Improved sound quality
      • Answers a variety of questions

      Buy on Amazon

      Sphero BOLT robot ball

      The Sphero BOLT robot ball is great to have at home if you have a child interested in STEM subjects. Kids learn how to program the bot’s matrix to make it do cool stuff like light up its LED display and navigate an obstacle course.

      • Programmable
      • Great learning opportunity

      Buy on Amazon

      Remote Control Robot Dog

      Are your kids not quite ready for a real-life dog? Try the next best thing — an obedient, potty-trained robotic puppy! It operates by remote and voice command and can imitate 10 animals. The robot dog is just 1 foot tall, making it a fantastic size for young kids.

      • Obeys voice commands
      • Dances to tunes

      Buy on Amazon

      ECHEERS Spaceman

      The ECHEERS Spaceman loves to dance! It's programmed through a compatible app, making it another excellent learning tool for kids and a fun companion for adults. If you want to laugh and feel good, try playing some upbeat tunes and watching this adorable bot dance its heart out.

      • Programmable bot
      • Bluetooth speaker

      Buy on Amazon

      Fistone RC Robot Dinosaur

      The Fistone RC Robot Dinosaur is a fantastic, kid-friendly robot for dinosaur fans. The dino dances and even goes into “fight mode,” where it shouts and wags his tail menacingly (although it won’t harm a fly). The dino also responds to touch and to remote control commands. It isn't as education-focused as other kid-friendly robots on our list, but it's still great fun.

      • Touch-sensitive
      • Dances and battles

      Buy on Amazon

      roborock E35 robot vacuum

      The roborock E35 robot vacuum is one of the higher-rated home robot vacuums while still being relatively affordable. It vacuums both hard floors and carpeted areas and has mopping capabilities. Hundreds of reviews are highly complementary, with one of the reviews rated most helpful stated it “will change your life.”

      • 2.5 hours of cleaning on one charge
      • Vacuums and mops

      Buy on Amazon

      We’ve chosen robots that clean, dance, answer questions and play music...
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      10 common ailments & easy ways to treat them

      From stubbed toes and nose bleeds, we have simple treatments

      On any average day, you probably suffer from more minor injuries than you realize! From a stubbed toe to a splinter to having something in your eye, minor injuries are usually either ignored or quickly treated and forgotten. While the ailments on our list typically hurt for just a few seconds, sometimes they require attention. Here is our list of simple over-the-counter items to keep on-hand for relief from these unpleasant experiences.

      Cut

      A cut, scrape or scratch can happen anytime, anywhere, and usually are minor enough to where we shake it off, put it out of mind and continue with our day. According to the Mayo Clinic, if the skin is broken and you find yourself bleeding, the major steps to remedy the situation are:

      • Wash your hands before addressing the cut.
      • Clean the area around the cut with soap.
      • Apply an antibiotic jelly.
      • Cover the wound with a bandage.

      Remember to change bandages once a day or if it becomes wet.

      Band-Aids

      • 120-count
      • Various sizes

      Buy on Amazon

      Antibiotic ointment

      • For adults and children 2 and up
      • Relieves pain

      Buy on Amazon

      Stubbed toe

      One of the more painful day-to-day injuries is the stubbed toe. Bare feet leave themselves exposed to injury when we accidentally walk into obstacles. According to Healthline, if the pain doesn’t subside within a few minutes:

      • Sit down.
      • Elevate the foot.
      • Use a compression bandage and ice to reduce swelling.

      If the pain persists or you can’t walk, you may have broken your toe, and it’s time to see a doctor.

      Elastic bandage

      • Durable polyester
      • Individual protective wrapper

      Buy on Amazon

      Burned roof of mouth

      Not unlike a bitten tongue, a great meal can be ruined by taking a big bite of something far too hot. Both your tongue and the roof of your mouth can suffer burns that cause unpleasant after-effects. To soothe your mouth, Medical News Today suggests 7 possible home remedies, including:

      • Swish saltwater in your mouth.
      • Eat honey.
      • Use oral aloe vera applications.

      Oral aloe vera

      • No stinging or burning
      • Pain relief

      Buy on Amazon

      Nosebleed

      Nosebleeds can be caused by dry environment, external factors or trauma. In rare cases, nosebleeds can be severe. However, most of the time, they are a simple inconvenience that requires a few minutes to control. According to the Cleveland Clinic, two ways to help a nosebleed include:

      • Lean forward and plug your nose closed for at least five minutes to get the bleeding under control.
      • Apply ice to the nose and cheek area afterward to help healing.

      Ice pack

      • Medical grade plastic lining
      • Flexible and reusable

      Buy on Amazon

      Bitten tongue

      Nothing interrupts a delicious meal like accidentally biting down on your own tongue! It’s almost painful to think about, but at least the tongue can heal itself from such incidents in 3 - 4 days. According to a Healthline article, if it’s a mild tongue bite, swishing with salt water after eating helps clean and desensitize the area. The report also mentions holding ice to the affected area to reduce swelling.

      Saltwater rinse

      • Pleasant flavor
      • Fluoride-free

      Buy on Amazon

      Splinter or sliver

      When working around wood, there’s always a chance that a tiny fragment could dislodge and wind up under your skin, and though it’s small, it’s no picnic. If part of the splinter is still sticking out of the skin, it can be removed with tweezers, a needle or even duct tape, according to Medical News Today. If not, it’s best to visit a doctor.

      Tweezers

      • Stainless steel
      • Good for removing hairs and splinters

      Buy on Amazon

      Canker sore

      Experts aren’t entirely sure why canker sores form, but we all know how annoying they can be. While most heal on their own in days, others are more painful and need medication. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain mouth rinses and topical treatments may help, including the popular over-the-counter medication Anbesol.

      Anbesol

      • Helps fights toothaches and canker sores
      • Good for gum or dental pain

      Buy on Amazon

      Rug burn

      Unless you’ve fallen in a carpeted house recently, you probably haven’t experienced a rug burn — also known as friction burn — since childhood. A rug burn is when friction causes a wide range of skin to tear, usually exposing a very tender, sensitive underlayer. While painful, a rug burn can be treated like any other cut, according to Verywell Health. Washing with a gentle soap, covering with a dry dressing and then waiting for it to heal is about all that can be done!

      Absorbent wound dressing

      • Super absorbent
      • 4 by 4 inches

      Buy on Amazon

      Chapped lips

      Whether it’s excessive licking or just the weather, our lips are a sensitive area of the body that can dry out quickly. Without oil glands, the lips need some extra attention to receive the moisture they need to avoid painful cracking. A lip balm like Chapstick or Carmex can provide immediate, short-term relief, but be sure to up your water intake.

      Lip balm

      • 6 flavors
      • Organic

      Buy on Amazon

      Hangnail

      Dry, brittle skin can lead to the annoying, irritating hangnail. While most hangnails are not particularly painful, others can cause us severe discomfort and seem impossible to leave alone. According to Healthline, one solution is to wash in warm, soapy water and then apply mineral oil or petroleum jelly to the affected area. One can also attempt to clip the hangnail away carefully with a clipper.

      Clippers

      • Ergonomic design
      • Stainless steel blade

      Buy on Amazon

      From stubbed toes and nose bleeds, we have simple treatments...
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      Coronavirus update: Holiday crowds ignore warnings, another vaccine candidate

      Colleges could be a little emptier in the fall

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,667,154 (1,583,561)

      Total U.S. deaths: 98,371 (95,052)

      Total global cases: 5,534,728 (5,154,152)

      Total global deaths: 347,587 (335,063)

      Health officials worry about Memorial Day crowds

      Thousands of Americans ignored health officials admonishments about crowding into tight spaces and did just that over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Many people headed to beaches and lakes and observed little to no social distancing.

      Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, told a television interviewer that she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.

      “We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” Birx said on ABC’s “This Week.”

      Scientists have recently concluded that the coronavirus is much more likely to spread in large gatherings than small ones.

      Another vaccine is being tested

      There’s a new entry in the race to develop the first coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. 

      Novavax says it has begun a Phase 1 clinical trial of a novel coronavirus vaccine candidate and has signed up the test’s first participants. A Phase 1 trial determines whether a drug is safe for human consumption.

      Novavax says its vaccine candidate - given the name  NVX-CoV2373 -- has the objective of increasing the body’s immune responses. To do that, the vaccine will be combined with Novavax’s Matrix-M adjuvant.

      “Administering our vaccine in the first participants of this clinical trial is a significant achievement, bringing us one step closer toward addressing the fundamental need for a vaccine in the fight against the global COVID‑19 pandemic,” said Stanley C. Erck, Novavax’s CEO. 

      The company expects preliminary Phase 1 results from the trial in July. It joins Moderna’s experimental vaccine, which is completing a Phase 2 trial.

      Evidence points to fewer students in college this fall

      The nation’s colleges and universities have taken a financial hit amid the coronavirus pandemic. Not only have these institutions had to shift overnight to online classes, but they’ve had to refund money to students who paid for room and board, parking, and assorted activities.

      While colleges had held the line on refunding tuition, there’s new evidence that they may see fewer tuition-paying students in the fall. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program, the gateway for federal education money, reports a significant drop in requests for funds.

      Since both parents and students have told pollsters that the economic fallout from the coronavirus has reduced their ability to pay for schools, it could suggest fewer students plan to attend school in the fall.

      Health concerns decrease, financial concerns increase

      A new survey of consumers by Deloitte shows consumers have learned to live with the coronavirus, with a declining number expressing worry about getting it. At the same time, an increasing number say they’re worried about the economic harm the virus-related shutdown is causing.

      As of the middle of May, only 48 percent of consumers said they worried about their health, down from 57 percent in early April. Sixty percent said they are concerned about the health of others, down from a high of 72 percent.

      At the same time, 27 percent of consumers said they’re worried about their ability to make upcoming payments and 43 percent are putting off major purchases, with those numbers significantly higher among millennials.

      Appeal for blood plasma

      A coalition of medical and health organizations is ramping up its appeal for blood plasma donations from people who have recovered from the coronavirus. The plasma is needed to support the rapid development of potential new therapies for patients with COVID-19. 

      Advocates say timely donations are critical. They need to recruit COVID-19 survivors within two months of their recovery to ensure that their blood plasma contains a robust enough concentration of antibodies to have a positive effect and to address the substantial seasonal increase in COVID-19 cases anticipated this fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

      "Inside COVID-19 survivors is the antibody-rich blood plasma that may help stem the tide of this pandemic,” said Diana Berrent, founder of one of the participating groups. 

      Around the nation

      • Pennsylvania: The conflict between small business owners and government officials is becoming increasingly partisan. The owners of a York diner criticized Democrats for “going too far” after state officials suspended their business license for reopening in defiance of the governor’s orders. 

      • Missouri: State health officials have expressed alarm after seeing pictures of Memorial Day partiers jammed into a pool at Lake of the Ozarks. Officials say everyone who attended the party should self-quarantine for 14 days.

      • California: The state has set out rules for places of worship to reopen their doors to congregations. The rules limit worshipers to 100 or fewer, taking everyone's temperature, limiting singing and group recitations, and not sharing prayer books or other items.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,667,154 (1,583,56...
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      Volkswagen ordered to compensate owners of cars with rigged diesel engines in Germany

      The judgement is expected to pave the way for the resolution of thousands of other claims

      On Monday, roughly five years after Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” scandal began unfolding, a court ordered the automaker to return money to owners of vehicles with rigged diesel engines in Germany. 

      Germany’s federal court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), ruled that owners will be allowed to return vehicles for a partial refund of the purchase price. 

      “The verdict by the BGH draws a final line. It creates clarity on the BGH’s views on the underlying questions in the diesel proceedings for most of the 60,000 cases still pending,” Volkswagen said.

      Holding VW accountable

      In 2015, Volkwagen admitted that it manipulated the engines in its vehicles in order to perform better on emissions tests. The affected cars were banned in the U.S., and claims for compensation soon began pouring in. Affected VW vehicles weren’t banned in Europe, but VW was forced to update its engine control software. 

      Fines and vehicle refits stemming from the scandal have cost the automaker more than $33 billion. 

      The ruling is likely to serve as a template for tens of thousands of other claims against Volkwagen. Outside Germany, more than 100,000 claims for damages were still pending; 90,000 of those cases were in Britain, according to a VW spokesperson.

      In a statement sent to Euronews, VW spokesperson Nicolai Laude said the size of the one-time reimbursement to owners in Germany will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Claus Goldenstein, lawyer for plaintiff Herbert Gilbert, said the ruling “means legal certainty for millions of consumers and shows once again that even a huge corporation isn't above the law.” 

      Volkswagen said in a statement that it’s aiming to “soon bring these cases to a close in agreement with the plaintiffs.” The company said "appropriate offers" will be made to affected owners.

      On Monday, roughly five years after Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” scandal began unfolding, a court ordered the automaker to return money to owners of vehicles...
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      9 cool chess sets, from least to most expensive

      Some are themed, some are glass or metal and some are ridiculously expensive

      Even those of us who don’t know a knight from a bishop can appreciate the beauty of a chess set. We selected eight of our favorite chess sets on Amazon and listed them from least to most expensive. Prices are subject to change — costs listed here are from May 2020.

      Glass chess set

      It’s the cheapest chess set on our list, but also one of the most unique. Especially considering the price, this is truly a beautiful and eye-catching chess set. The board has alternating transparent and frosted squares so that you can see your playing surface.

      • $20.99
      • Frosted and clear pieces

      Buy on Amazon

      Fun, simple chess set for learning

      It’s always nice to see a chess set aimed at beginners that still has a sense of style. This chess set has classic black and white squares and couldn’t be easier for beginners, especially kids. The board is made of wood and lined with velvet. We highly recommend this one for teaching kids how to think critically and maybe even exercise some patience.

      • $34.99
      • Color-coded movement cards

      Buy on Amazon

      Wizard’s Chess

      Even people who haven’t read Harry Potter will be intrigued by this whimsical chess set. The board recreates the magical game known as Wizard’s Chess from the popular series. The pieces are plastic but have fantastic detail, so kids and adult fans alike are big fans of this one.

      • $39.90
      • Recreates Wizard’s Chess from Harry Potter

      Buy on Amazon

      Star Wars chess set

      Get ready for a galactic showdown! Embrace the light side or the dark side with this Star Wars-themed chess set. The chess set features Star Wars characters like Boba Fett, Darth Vader, R2 D2 and Han Solo. Even if you never play chess, this is a cool one to display in your home.

      • $39.99
      • Empire vs. Rebels

      Buy on Amazon

      Batman chess set

      It’s rare to see a chess set this colorful. This chess board pits the friends of Gotham City — including Batman — against the baddies, led by Joker. This chess set makes a great gift, especially for kids, who will be eager to learn how each piece works.

      • $43.95
      • Batman, Harley Quinn, Batmobile and more

      Buy on Amazon

      Metal chess set

      Most chess sets have wooden pieces or sometimes even plastic. To play with real gravitas, opt for metal pieces. The weight and clang make the chess battle seem even more serious. We like that this board has storage beneath it. It’s practical but also elevates the rest of the chessboard, adding again to the coolness factor.

      • $62.75
      • Metal pieces, wood board

      Buy on Amazon

      Greek and Roman chess set

      Here it is, the first set on our list over $100. The gold and bronze squares are pleasant to look at but don’t hinder the ease of play. The rooks — also known as castles — take on the forms of pillars in this chess set. Other pieces wear traditional Greek and Roman togas.

      • $159
      • Made in Greece

      Buy on Amazon

      Egyptian chess set

      This one’s pricey, but it sure is incredible, especially for Egyptologists. Four sphinxes “hold up” the board from four corners, and the board itself is decorated with hieroglyphs and scarab beetles. A pharaoh commands each team, and the other pieces take influence from Egyptian mythology.

      • $202.05
      • Sphinxes, scarabs and wolf-head gods

      Buy on Amazon

      Isle of Lewis chess set

      The one you’ve been waiting for — the priciest chess set on our list! This is one of the most expensive chess sets on Amazon, but also one of the most interesting. The Isle of Lewis chess board is based on a 12th-century chess set discovered in 1831 made from walrus ivory. This chess set was created using a laser recreation of the original Isle of Lewis chess game. With the set, you’ll feel like you own a piece of history.

      • $632.01
      • English pieces, Italian board

      Buy on Amazon

      These 9 cool chess sets will be a checkmate...
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      5 outdoor water activities to keep kids busy

      Don't have a pool? Create your own water fun at home

      Summer always includes time for some fun in the sun. If you're sharing space with your kids at home, outside water activity is a must. With some of our great ideas, you can create your own liquid entertainment at home so your kids will have lasting fun. But remember: Don't forget the sunscreen!

      Slip and slides

      Transform your backyard into a racecourse with a slip and slide. These slides are fun for kids of all ages as they race each other to the end. You can make them even more slippery by rubbing some soap on them!

      • 16’ x 82” wide
      • Includes 3 inflatable body boards

      Buy on Amazon

      Water sprinkler

      Who doesn't remember running through the sprinklers as a kid? Go one step further and purchase a crazy sprinkler to show your kids how fun this simple garden tool can be. Sprinklers are an excellent way for your kids to cool down and get some exercise while they jump and skip through the water.

      • 360-degree rotation
      • Up to 30-foot range

      Buy on Amazon

      Inflatable pools

      Want a pool for your yard but don't want all the hassle? Get an inflatable pool! It is an easy way to add a relaxing spot to any backyard, as you only need to blow it up, fill it with water and put it away when you're done. The kids can splish-splash, and the adults can use it to lounge in a cool place during the hot summer days.

      • 95” x 56” x 22”
      • Durable and wear-resistant

      Buy on Amazon

      Water balloons

      Water balloons are a vital ingredient in several outdoor games. You can play capture the flag, tag, balloon stomp, balloon toss or just mess around for some crazy fun! Keep the kids busy for hours coming up with your own spin on classic games.

      • 1000 water balloons
      • Biodegradable latex

      Buy on Amazon

      Backyard water park

      Can't visit the water park this year? You should build your own! You can purchase a great set online or make your own creation by drilling holes into PVC pipes and fasten them together. Attach your house to the structure, and voilà, you have a backyard water park!

      • 6 activities
      • Easy assembly

      Buy on Amazon

      Now that you have backyard water fun for the kids figured out, find some backyard games for the adults!

      Don't have a pool? Create your own water fun at home...
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      Fauci says COVID-19 vaccine could be available by the end of the year

      Barring unforeseen setbacks, Fauci says it’s ‘conceivable’ that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by December

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, said Friday that it is “conceivable” that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by December. 

      “Back in January of this year when we started the phase 1 trial, I said it would likely be between a year and 18 months before we would have a vaccine. I think that schedule is still intact,” he said in an interview with NPR on Friday. 

      He added that drug development can sometimes face “unanticipated setbacks.” Therefore, no one can say with absolute certainty when a vaccine will become available.

      “I think it is conceivable, if we don’t run into things that are, as they say, unanticipated setbacks, that we could have a vaccine that we could be beginning to deploy at the end of this calendar year, December 2020, or into January, 2021,” Fauci said. 

      Researchers are working as quickly as they can to develop a vaccine, but Fauci said it’s critical that scientists don’t work with such speed that they compromise safety or care. 

      “When you’re dealing with vaccines there could be so many things that get in the way like it might not be entirely effective,” Fauci told NPR. “And you wouldn’t want to deploy a vaccine that’s not effective and certainly not one that’s not safe.”

      Optimism about potential vaccine 

      More than 100 coronavirus vaccines are in the works, and at least eight are being tested on humans. U.S. biotech company Moderna just published some data from its phase one human trial on one potential vaccine. 

      Fauci cautioned that the data was only “partial data,” but scientists said phase 1 testing -- which was led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- showed that all 45 people who received the experimental vaccine produced antibodies in their blood that are believed to help prevent COVID-19 infection. 

      Dr. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna, expressed optimism about the vaccine candidate. 

      “When combined with the success in preventing viral replication in the lungs of a pre-clinical challenge model at a dose that elicited similar levels of neutralizing antibodies, these data substantiate our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease and advance our ability to select a dose for pivotal trials,” Zaks said.

      Moderna’s CEO said the Phase 2 study will be a “crucial step forward as we continue to advance the clinical development of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.” 

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, said Friday that it is “conceivable” that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by Decemb...
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      Coronavirus update: Growing optimism about a vaccine, Biden would make a vaccine free

      Trump orders flags at half-staff this weekend

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,583,561 (1,555,537)

      Total U.S. deaths: 95,052 (93,606)

      Total global cases: 5,154,152 (5,034,458)

      Total global deaths: 335,063 (329,186)

      Fauci sounding hopeful about a vaccine

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus (COVID-19) task force, is still hopeful that there could be a vaccine available by the end of the year. In an interview with NPR, Fauci -- who heads the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) -- said the schedule appears to still be intact.

      “I think it is conceivable, if we don’t run into things that are, as they say, unanticipated setbacks, that we could have a vaccine that we could be beginning to deploy at the end of this calendar year, December 2020, or into January, 2021,” he said.

      There are a number of vaccine candidates in development. One being developed by Moderna and NIAID is currently in a clinical trial to determine its effectiveness.

      Biden promises free vaccine

      Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he will make sure any vaccine against COVID-19 is available to everyone at no charge if he is elected as president.

      Interviewed on CNBC this morning, Biden also said any economic recovery from the virus-caused disruption is a long way off. He criticized the 2017 tax cut and said he would push for its repeal if he gained the White House.

      Trump orders flags at half-staff

      President Trump today ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through the Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have died from the coronavirus. The U.S. death toll may reach 100,000 by the middle of next week. It currently sits at just over 95,000.

      "I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the Coronavirus," Trump said today on Twitter.

      Flags will be lowered from Friday through sundown on Sunday. Trump said flags will be lowered again on Monday -- Memorial Day -- to honor military personnel who died in uniform.

      570 cases at poultry processing plant

      Tyson Foods has announced that 570 employees at its chicken processing facility in Wilkes County, N.C., tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s roughly 25 percent of the plant’s workforce.

      The company said the 570 employees tested positive for COVID-19, but the majority of those workers did not display any symptoms of the virus.

      The outbreak underscores the difficulties that meat processing plants have had in keeping their workforce healthy. The Tyson plant is getting back to full operations after large sections were closed for deep cleaning. Many employees have been off the job because of quarantines.

      Florida appears ready to reopen theme parks

      Officials in Florida are reviewing plans to reopen theme parks in the state that were closed as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Legoland in Winter Park and Universal may be the first two parks to get the green light. Both are awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ review of their plans

      Under the plans, employees and guests will get temperature checks on arrival, and anyone with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit won't be admitted. Universal is already using that system at its shopping and restaurant complex, which recently reopened.

      "Our guests have been very supportive of the process," said Universal’s John Sprouls. "We're not hearing a lot of complaints about that or the masks.” 

      Around the nation

      • Ohio: State officials said today that Ohio’s unemployment rate nearly tripled in April, rising to nearly 17 percent. The economic shutdown caused by the virus cost the state an estimated 823,700 jobs last month.

      • New Jersey: The political tensions over the continuing economic shutdown have reached a new level in New Jersey. The state Republican Committee has sued Gov. Phil Murphy, alleging his shutdown order is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

      • Iowa: The state’s one-day death toll hit a new high of 20 on Thursday. Gov. Kim Reynolds says that’s not a reason to push back her plans to reopen the state. Restaurants and stores were allowed to open last week. Starting today, movie theaters and museums can reopen.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,583,561 (1,555,53...
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      Netflix will start canceling inactive subscriptions soon

      The company will send out confirmation requests over the next couple of weeks

      Word came down from Netflix corporate on Friday that inactive subscriptions run the risk of being canceled. The company is asking subscribers who haven't used the service in a year or more to let them know that they still want to be a member -- even if they're going to keep their membership turned off until further notice.

      According to Netflix' Eddy Wu, the inactive accounts represent less than half of one percent of its overall member base -- about a few hundred thousand.

      Expect a nudge

      Netflix will be sending out email and in-app nudges over the next few weeks to find out what the dormant subscribers want to do. If the service doesn't receive a user's confirmation, their service will be canceled with no penalties or fees.

      "If anyone changes their mind later, it's really easy to restart Netflix," Wu said. "As always, anyone who cancels their account and then rejoins within 10 months will still have their favorites, profiles, viewing preferences and account details just as they left them. In the meantime, we hope this new approach saves people some hard-earned cash."

      CNBC's Jessica Bursztynsky called Netflix move "extremely unusual among companies that charge an annual subscription, and shows a measure of confidence in Netflix's value proposition for customers." 

      Bursztynsky also thinks a little "hello, remember us" nudge may help Netflix retain some top-of-mind recall -- especially as new competitors like Disney+ and NBCUniversal's Peacock continue elbowing in for a piece of the streaming service action.

      Word came down from Netflix corporate on Friday that inactive subscriptions run the risk of being canceled. The company is asking subscribers who haven't u...
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      Survey finds new credit card accounts have plunged 73 percent

      As unemployment spikes, consumers are losing access to credit

      Credit card companies slammed on the brakes in March as millions of consumers lost their jobs. The number of new credit card accounts plunged 73 percent between March 15th and April 15th, according to a survey by CompareCards.

      While it’s not surprising that lenders would try to reduce their risk in the face of rising unemployment, the speed in which they acted is unprecedented. Then again, the economic disaster from the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown happened virtually overnight. 

      Prior to the pandemic, credit card companies aggressively sought to open new accounts because of a robust economy. In the new environment, consumers may find it will be much harder to get all types of credit.

      Economic uncertainty

      Compared to the March-to-April periods from 2017 to 2019, the number of new cards slowed to a trickle this year. When lenders did issue cards, the credit limits were on average $700 lower.

      “When the economy is uncertain, as we are currently witnessing, plans change and lenders get nervous,” CompareCards wrote in a blog post. “When lenders become wary, they resort to reducing credit limits on existing accounts, or even close those accounts altogether, because all that available credit just looks like unnecessary risk to the bank.”

      Even if you already have a credit card, it doesn’t mean you’re going to keep it. As unemployment surged in late March, credit card companies moved quickly to close some customers’ accounts. 

      At the end of April, about 25 percent of consumers reported that their credit card company had closed an account or lowered their credit limit.

      ‘High risk of failure to pay’

      ConsumerAffairs has received scores of complaints from consumers like Robert, of Houston, who told us he had several credit cards with Synchrony, which he said had continued to increase his credit limits over the years.

      “Then, in one single day, Synchrony closed every single account without notice,” Robert wrote in his ConsumerAffairs post. ”Received a letter stating ‘Activity on accounts indicative of high risk of failure to pay.’ How is that possible when there was less than $3k total on just 2 of the several accounts I had with them?”

      Robert also said his credit score dropped by more than 100 points because of the loss of credit, which he says significantly increased his debt ratio.

      Credit card companies are often quick to react to perceived risk because credit card debt is not secured by any kind of collateral. If an account holder doesn’t pay, there is no means to secure payment without going to court.

      But in the wake of the coronavirus, some lenders are even worried about secured debt. Earlier this month, Wells Fargo announced it was temporarily suspending new home equity lines of credit (HELOC), joining other major banks moving to reduce their credit exposure.

      Consumers whose credit card accounts have been closed by their lender may be able to restore access by applying for a secured credit card. ConsumerAffairs has researched the best secured credit card companies here.

      Credit card companies slammed on the brakes in March as millions of consumers lost their jobs. The number of new credit card accounts plunged 73 percent be...
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      Memorial Day travelers will find rising gas prices this weekend

      Gas prices jump eight cents a gallon in the last week

      While it’s true that far fewer motorists are expected to be on the road this Memorial Day weekend, those who are traveling will probably face rising gasoline prices. Still, the prices will be a lot lower than at this time last year.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $1.94 a gallon, eight cents higher than last weekend. But that’s 90 cents less per gallon than last Memorial Day weekend. The average price of premium gas is $2.54 a gallon, five cents higher than last Friday. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.41, about the same as last week.

      Even though gas prices have started to move higher in the last 10 days as coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions have begun to be lifted, prices are still historically low.

      “Gas prices around Memorial Day have not been this cheap in nearly 20 years,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA’s spokesperson. “However, as the country continues to practice social distancing, this year’s unofficial kick-off to summer is not going to drive the typical millions of Americans to travel. Despite inexpensive gas prices, AAA anticipates this year’s holiday will likely set a record low for travel volume.”

      AAA says motorists can expect gas prices to continue to rise and perhaps go back over $2 a gallon in the next week. As states reopen, demand for gas will increase. At the same time, stations will switch over to summer blends of gasoline, which will cost more.

      But consumers shouldn’t face sudden spikes in prices since oil prices remain low and demand may be slow to reach pre-shutdown levels.

      The states with the most expensive gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.18)

      • California ($2.83)

      • Washington ($2.48)

      • Oregon ($2.41) 

      • Nevada ($2.37)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.20)

      • Illinois ($2.18)

      • New York ($2.17)

      • Utah ($2.14)

      • Alaska ($2.11)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Mississippi ($1.55)

      • Arkansas ($1.58)

      • Oklahoma ($1.59)

      • Texas ($1.59)

      • Alabama ($1.60)

      • Missouri ($1.61)

      • Louisiana ($1.63)

      • Kansas ($1.64)

      • South Carolina ($1.64)

      • Tennessee ($1.66)

      While it’s true that far fewer motorists are expected to be on the road this Memorial Day weekend, those who are traveling will probably face rising gasoli...
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      Model year 2019 Audi Q3s recalled

      The passenger airbag may not deploy properly

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 3,024 model year 2019 Audi Q3s.

      The passenger air bag may not deploy properly through the instrument panel tear seam.

      The passenger air bag may not properly deploy and inflate in a crash, and small plastic parts may enter the cabin, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the instrument panel and replace it -- if necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 12, 2020.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at (800) 822-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 70H7.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 3,024 model year 2019 Audi Q3s. The passenger air bag may not deploy properly through the instrument panel tear...
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      New Hoque and Sons recalls Radhuni Curry Powder

      The product maybe contaminated with Salmonella

      New Hoque and Sons of Maspeth, N.Y., is recalling Radhuni Curry Powder.

      The product maybe contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product, which comes in 400-g clear, plastic bottles, with an expiration date of 01/02/2022 on the side of the container, was sold in grocery stores in New York City including Jamaica, Jackson Heights and the Bronx, from April 17 – 21, 2020.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (718) 391-0992 from Monday - Friday between 9am and 5pm (EST).

      New Hoque and Sons of Maspeth, N.Y., is recalling Radhuni Curry Powder. The product maybe contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been report...
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      7 magazine subscriptions that open your mind

      Whether science, history or travel is your thing, a magazine subscription is a great way to lift your spirits and expand your thinking

      There’s not much better than receiving your favorite magazine in the mail, rushing inside and sinking into a cushy armchair with your favorite beverage while you flip through the pages. Check out our top 7 magazine picks for recreational and educational reads.

      National Geographic

      National Geographic is an excellent magazine with beautiful nature photography and interesting articles. Kids are in awe of the pictures (okay, we are, too), and older readers enjoy the unique editorial content covering topics as diverse as spelunking, Sputnik or an inside look at the life of a key-keeper in the Vatican.

      • Nature, science and technology
      • $24 a year, 12 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Condé Nast Traveler

      The name “Condé Nast” is reasonably well known, but not many people know the secret behind the Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Its writers travel anonymously to stunning locales around the world and pay their own way — no company credit cards here. As a result, writers must find affordable, accessible sights to see and places to eat. The magazine reads like a sleuth revealing his or her mission findings, and the pictures are something to behold.

      • Written by travelers visiting covertly
      • $5 a year, 8 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Popular Science

      Science is a fascinating subject, but we’ve found some magazines are too technical for everyday readers. However, Popular Science is a good option for a more laidback read. The magazine covers the latest in gadgets and technology while remaining down-to-earth, focusing on products families and ordinary people might purchase someday.

      • Covers new, cool technology
      • $3 a year, 6 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Popular Mechanics

      Popular Mechanics appeals to more than just those interested in tinkering with electronics and household appliances. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How does that work?” then Popular Mechanics is for you. The magazine explains how everyday products function and has recommendations for several household items.

      • Discusses cars, electronics and health
      • $12 a year, 6 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Smithsonian

      Smithsonian is an excellent choice for exploring general interests, covering topics like science, pop culture and the arts. Recent subjects include how other cultures celebrate Mother’s Day, how to virtually adopt a plant and the world’s most fascinating insects. One cool perk of subscribing to Smithsonian is receiving dining discounts for when you visit the Smithsonian Museum in person.

      • Covers popular culture, arts and sciences
      • $12 a year, 11 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Discover

      Our favorite thing about Discover is its monthly columns — one recently included a doctor explaining a real-life medical emergency and how it was resolved. Other sections involve quick write-ups of the latest scientific breakthroughs, and the Blinded by Science column mixes humor and scientific inquiry for an amusing but enlightening read. It’s the priciest mag on our list, but we like its human touch and whimsical approach to learning.

      • Good for political and science fans
      • $29.95 a year, 8 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Ask

      If you ask us, Ask is a great option for kids, especially those 6 - 9 years old and interested in science and learning. Topics include the solar system, animal behavior and ecology. The reading level is challenging but not overwhelming, and we also like that the magazine is ad-free.

      • Fun for kids 7 - 10
      • $24.95 a year, 9 issues

      Buy on Amazon

      Whether science, history or travel is your thing, a magazine subscription is a great way to lift your spirits and expand your thinking...
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      Coronavirus update: New rules for air travel, jobless claims still high but slowing

      Home sales plunged by 17.8 percent in April

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,555,537 (1,532,212)

      Total U.S. deaths: 93,606 (92,128)

      Total global cases: 5,034,458 (4,931,057)

      Total global deaths: 329,186 (324,240)

      TSA issues new rules for summer travel

      The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued a package of guidelines for summer travel, and the regulations make big changes to adapt to the coronavirus (COVID-19). In one of the biggest changes, passengers will retain control of their boarding passes at all times with no TSA agent touching them.

      Passengers are also encouraged to wear face masks, especially since some airlines now require them for all passengers. TSA says passengers may be asked to adjust their masks during the screening process.

      “In the interest of TSA frontline workers and traveler health, TSA is committed to making prudent changes to our screening processes to limit physical contact and increase physical distance as much as possible,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We continue to evaluate our security measures with an eye towards making smart, timely decisions benefiting health and safety, as well as the traveler experience.”

      New unemployment claims still slowing

      The Labor Department reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits increased in the previous week by 2.43 million -- still an extremely large number but a slowdown from previous weeks.

      In fact, it’s a decrease of 249,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 294,000 from 2,981,000 to 2,687,000. 

      The four-week moving average was 3,042,000, a decrease of 501,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 73,500 from 3,616,500 to 3,543,000.  

      April home sales plunge

      Sales of existing home sales sank 17.8 percent in April as the coronavirus lockdown kept buyers on the sidelines. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that all of the four major regions of the country experienced a decline in month-over-month and year-over-year sales, with the West seeing the greatest dip in both categories.

      “The economic lockdowns – occurring from mid-March through April in most states – have temporarily disrupted home sales,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “But the listings that are on the market are still attracting buyers and boosting home prices.”

      New testing centers in Arizona

      CVS Health has announced plans to expand its COVID-19 testing program in Arizona by opening 16 additional test sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across the state.

      The new centers will open tomorrow and increase the number of CVS testing locations in Arizona to 25.

      The testing locations will use self-swab tests and will mark the next phase of the CVS’s nationwide COVID-19 testing strategy announced last month. The pharmacy retailer expects to have nearly 1,000 locations across the country offering this service by the end of May.

      "As we move into a new phase of combatting the pandemic and as communities begin to safely open up their local economies, we need testing to be easily accessible," said Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer and executive vice president at CVS Health. "By further expanding the number of drive-thru test sites available across our retail network, more people can be tested closer to home in a familiar setting."

      COVID-19 may delay Amazon’s Prime Day

      Amazon’s highly successful Prime Day shopping spree, typically staged in mid-July, is reportedly being pushed back to September. The Wall Street Journal reports that the online retailer is still trying to keep up with the avalanche of orders from home-bound consumers seeking basic supplies. 

      The reported postponement would allow Amazon to be able to more quickly fill orders for a wider variety of products. Currently, non-essential items can take a week or more to receive.

      Amazon has declined to comment on the report.

      Around the nation

      • Indiana: To accommodate consumers during the Memorial Day weekend, state officials are lifting COVID-19 restrictions tomorrow, two days early. Gov. Eric Holcomb said a new state order will allow social gatherings of up to 100 people and retail stores and malls to operate at 75 percent capacity.

      • Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) reportedly plans to restart high school activities in three phases. The Oklahoman reports the OSSAA board will meet tomorrow to discuss the plan before sending it to school administrators and coaches.

      • Tennessee: The Tennessee Economic Recovery Group has updated its guidelines for restaurants and retail stores to reduce capacity restrictions. It also issued new guidance to help attractions and large venues to reopen while remaining safe. Gov. Bill Lee’s office says the new guidelines will go into effect tomorrow.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,555,537 (1,532,21...
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      Mortgage delinquencies surge by a record 1.6 million in April

      More than 3 million homeowners were behind on their payments last month

      Homeowners hammered by the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) are already having trouble making their mortgage payments.

      Mortgage delinquencies increased in April by 1.6 million, the largest one-month increase ever. Black Knight, the data analytics firm that compiled the report, says it’s more evidence that the millions of people thrown out of work by the virus-related economic shutdown are struggling to pay bills.

      The April numbers pushed the mortgage delinquency rate from 3.06 percent in March to 6.45 percent last month. According to Black Knight, no other single month on record comes close to that increase, not even in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

      The number of homes that were 30 or more days past due in April, but not in foreclosure, totaled 3,400,000. That’s 1,588,000 more than in April 2019.

      Where delinquencies are highest

      According to Black Knight, the five states with the largest percentage of delinquent mortgages in April were:

      • Mississippi -- 11.90 percent

      • Louisiana -- 10.91 percent

      • New York -- 9.79 percent

      • New Jersey -- 9.36 percent

      • Connecticut -- 8.94 percent

      April delinquencies include homeowners who have enrolled in mortgage forbearance plans, established under the CARES Act. Borrowers with loans backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae can defer mortgage payments for up to a year, with the missed payments added to the end of the loan.

      Last month, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported that the percentage of mortgage loans that were placed in forbearance rose from 2.73 percent during the last week of March to 3.74 during the first week of April.

      Struggling homeowners interested in enrolling in a forbearance program should contact their loan servicer to see if they qualify.

      Worst on record

      In an interview with USA Today, Black Knight Director of Market Research Andy Walden said it took a year and a half before the financial crisis produced a 1.6 million increase in mortgage delinquencies.

      “The impact of COVID-19 on the housing and mortgage markets has already been substantial," Walden says. "It will be some months before we can gauge the full extent of that impact. Whatever the ultimate scope, it is almost certain the effects will resonate for many months to come.”

      The damage may not be over, as the Labor Department reports that an additional 2,438,000 people filed initial claims for unemployment benefits in the previous week. The report shows more than 25 million people continue to draw jobless benefits.

      Homeowners hammered by the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) are already having trouble making their mortgage payments.Mortgage delinque...
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      Volkswagen recalls model year 2020 Audi Q8s

      The transmission oil pipe may leak

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 531 model year 2020 Audi Q8s.

      An insufficient weld on a transmission oil pipe may cause the vehicle to leak automatic transmission fluid.

      If transmission fluid leaks while the vehicle is being driven, the road surface may become slippery, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the transmission oil pipe and replace it -- if necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 10, 2020.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 38C7.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 531 model year 2020 Audi Q8s. An insufficient weld on a transmission oil pipe may cause the vehicle to leak aut...
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      Upgrade your bike with these 7 items

      These accessories ensure your bike has all the appropriate bells and whistles

      Biking is an activity enjoyed by numerous people each year. Everyone’s bike is particular to them in color and style, and accessories can make your bike even more personal. They can help your bike be more luxurious and make your experience easier. Upgrade your bike with these great 7 accessories.

      Bike lights

      Bike lights are an ideal way to stay safe. Give yourself extra visibility during the day and ensure drivers see you at night!

      • USB rechargeable light
      • Simple installation

      Buy on Amazon

      Bike bag

      Attaching a bag to your bike is a good idea. It not only holds your keys, your phone, a tool kit & extra clothes, but you can store some snacks if you get hungry along the way.

      • Waterproof
      • Adjustable velcro straps

      Buy on Amazon

      Gel seat cover

      Everyone knows that sitting on your bike seat for too long causes unnecessary discomfort. A gel seat cover can give you the padding you need for longer rides by minimizing soreness.

      • Comfy gel material
      • Works for spin and indoor cycling

      Buy on Amazon

      Water bottle holder

      If you’re going to bike a few miles or more, a water bottle holder is a good investment. It easily attaches to your bike frame, and you can access it without stopping as you ride. This particular holder comes in a two-pack, so you can fit them both on the frame if you’d like.

      • 26-ounce water bottles fit snugly
      • Easy installation

      Buy on Amazon

      Phone mount

      We all feel the need to remain connected, which is why a phone mount is a useful item. You will be able to adjust your phone to your needs during your ride and ensure you don’t miss out on any important calls or texts.

      • Flexible silicone
      • Seconds to install

      Buy on Amazon

      Bell

      One of the most popular accessories is the bike bell. The bell is essential for anyone to ensure others know that you are coming. They range in different sizes and colors in order to find the right one for you.

      • Loud warning bell
      • Anti-rust materialss

      Buy on Amazon

      Hands-free dog walker leash

      If you have a dog, then this is the accessory for you — you can both ride your bike and walk your dog at the same time. All you have to do is attach the bar to the back of your bike, and then take your dog for a walk. One neat thing about this particular attachment is that it has a shock-absorbing system to ensure your dog doesn’t get yanked around as you cruise over bumps in the road.

      • Durable stainless steel
      • Adjustable leash length

      Buy on Amazon

      Upgrade your bike to your own needs and wants. If a pedal bike is not an option for you, consider purchasing an exercise bike to utilize instead.

      These accessories ensure your bike has all the appropriate bells and whistles...
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      Ford temporarily closes Chicago factory after workers test positive for COVID-19

      Thousands of workers were sent home Tuesday, just one day after returning to work

      Just a day after reopening, Ford temporarily closed one of its assembly plants in Chicago after two workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

      The plant closed for part of Tuesday while the facility was deep cleaned and disinfected. Workers who had been in contact with the two infected employees were instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

      A Ford spokesperson said it’s important to note that the employees didn’t contract COVID-19 while at work “due to the incubation time” of the virus. 

      "Our protocols are in place to help stop the spread of the virus,” the spokesperson added. 

      Workers still have concerns

      Ford, along with GM and Fiat Chysler, announced this week that they would begin gradually reopening U.S. facilities after nearly two months of closures due to the pandemic. 

      The automakers said they would implement a number of measures to keep workers healthy, including requiring temperature checks and putting up plastic barriers to promote physical distancing between workstations and in common areas. 

      However, some employees said they still had reservations about returning to work. In an interview with CBS Chicago, Ford employee Michael Hopper said the facility where he is employed is “crowded” and people are “on top of each other.” 

      “How our jobs are set up, if one person gets in the hole that would affect the person behind him,” said Hopper, who added that he recently lost a brother to COVID-19.

      The Chicago facility that was shuttered after workers tested positive was reopened Tuesday night after being thoroughly cleaned, according to local news reports. 

      Just a day after reopening, Ford temporarily closed one of its assembly plants in Chicago after two workers tested positive for COVID-19. The plant clo...
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      Coronavirus update: CDC issues reopening guidance, United teams with Clorox

      The highway death rate rose in March

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,532,212 (1,510,988)

      Total U.S. deaths: 92,128 (90,432)

      Total global cases: 4,931,057 (4,836,329)

      Total global deaths: 324,240 (319,213)

      CDC issues guidance for reopening economy

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), without fanfare, has issued its 60-page guidance for reopening schools and businesses shut down by the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

      The document calls for a “three-phased approach” for reducing social distancing measures and suggests six “gating” indicators to determine when enough progress has been made to move on to the next phase. Topping the list of gating indicators is a downward trend in new cases. The CDC says jurisdictions must also be ready to act if things take a turn for the worse.

      “Given the potential for a rebound in the number of cases or level of community transmission, a low threshold for reinstating more stringent mitigation standards will be essential,” the CDC said.

      United Airlines teams with Clorox to clean up

      As airlines struggle to win back customers, United Airlines is boosting its cleaning protocols by introducing what it calls United CleanPlus. To deliver what it terms “an industry-leading standard of cleanliness” aboard its aircraft, United will work with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to inform and guide the effort.

      The cleaning, safety, and social distancing steps will include touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in, sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers, and giving customers options when flights are more full. 

      Clorox products will be used at United's hub airports, and medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic will advise on new technologies, training development, and quality assurance programming.

      Highway death rate increases in March

      With fewer cars on the nation’s highways because of the coronavirus shutdown, it was generally expected that highway deaths would go down. In fact, insurance companies rebated premiums to customers based on that belief.

      Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council suggest that the number of deaths did fall, but the death rate per miles driven went up by 14 percent year-over-year. That suggests the drivers who were still on the road were more likely to be in a fatal accident.

      The actual number of miles driven fell by nearly 19 percent compared to the same time period last year. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March compared to 1.07 in March 2019.

      Scientists: Some coronavirus patients don’t spread the disease

      From the beginning of the pandemic, doctors have warned that the coronavirus is extremely contagious and have stressed the need for social distancing and enhanced hygiene. And it is -- in some cases.

      But Science Magazine reports that scientists who have been studying the data now believe that most people who get the virus aren’t contagious at all. The data also seems to indicate that the virus is most likely to spread when people are together in large in-door groups and is less likely to spread when two or three individuals are together outdoors.

      Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a researcher at UCLA, says most people with the virus don’t spread it. Other scientists agree. “Probably about 10 percent of cases lead to 80 percent of the spread,” said Adam Kucharski, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

      Reopening businesses fear lawsuits

      The coronavirus may open up an entirely new line for personal injury lawyers, who normally focus on traffic accidents. As businesses begin to reopen in most states, small businesses are especially worried about lawsuits if employees or customers get sick.

      “There is no playbook for this,” Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, told CNBC. “Litigation is particularly damaging to Main Street because the level of potential damages can close down your doors.” 

      Kim said businesses all over the country have expressed liability concerns. He thinks there could be a surge in worker liability lawsuits if coronavirus infection rates continue to rise.

      Around the nation

      • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports that the state’s infection and death rate has gone from the worst in the nation to about average. At a news briefing, Cuomo said there were 105 deaths in the last 24 hours. At the height of the outbreak in April, more than 800 people a day died from the virus.

      • New Mexico: Officials at the University of New Mexico are telling students to be ready for just about anything this fall. Some may be on campus and some may take classes online, with school now scheduled to begin August 17. “We are planning for a hybrid in-person and online model for the fall,” said Cinnamon Blair, the chief marketing and communication officer at UNM. 

      • South Carolina: South Carolina was among the first states to reopen, but Gov. Henry McMaster says another shutdown is not out of the question. “What would have to happen is we would have to see a spike in the numbers. We would have to understand (that) we would have to do more,” the governor said in an interview with WYFF-TV in Columbia.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,532,212 (1,510,98...
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      Treasury to send out prepaid debit cards with coronavirus stimulus funds

      Those who haven’t received stimulus money may soon get a prepaid Visa debit card

      Consumers who haven’t yet received their coronavirus stimulus check could receive one in the form of a prepaid Visa debit card. 

      The Treasury Department announced Monday that, instead of sending checks, it’s sending out roughly 4 million debit cards preloaded with stimulus money to individuals who haven’t given the IRS their direct deposit information. The cards will start going out this week. 

      “Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

      Beware of scams

      The amount on each card, which the Treasury has dubbed “Economic Impact Payment cards,”  will depend on the number of people in a household. Individuals will receive up to $1,200 and couples will receive $2,400 plus $500 for each dependent. 

      Funds on the prepaid card can be spent online and at brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers can also transfer funds between bank accounts and withdrawal cash from the AllPoint network of ATMs. 

      Consumers are warned to be wary of scammers who may use this opportunity to try to steal money. The card will come in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services” and should be activated upon arrival. 

      Consumers who haven’t yet received their coronavirus stimulus check could receive one in the form of a prepaid Visa debit card. The Treasury Department...
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      Walmart to discontinue its online subsidiary Jet.com

      The company has announced that its shutting down the website four years after purchasing it

      Walmart has announced that it’s shuttering Jet.com, which it purchased in 2016 for $3 billion.

      The retailer said in its first-quarter earnings report that the acquisition of Jet.com “was critical to accelerating our omni strategy.” However, Walmart will be discontinuing the online marketplace “due to the continued strength of the Walmart.com brand.” 

      Since acquiring Jet.com, Walmart -- like many other retailers who have attempted to grow their online sales -- has faced competition from e-commerce giant Amazon. 

      Walmart’s recent efforts to head off competition from Amazon have included expanding its two-hour Express Delivery service to nearly 2,000 stores across the U.S. through the end of May. It’s also been reported that Walmart may be gearing up to test a subscription service similar to Amazon Prime. 

      Looking ahead 

      In its earnings report, Walmart said online sales increased by 74 percent year-over-year “with strong results for grocery pickup and delivery services, walmart.com and marketplace,” in part due to the sudden increase in consumers shopping online due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

      Despite the current boom in online sales, Walmart appears to be focusing on a path to long-term success. In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart’s online division lost roughly $2 billion in one fiscal year. Axing Jet.com is likely a bid at avoiding future uncertainty after the pandemic is over. 

      “Our business fundamentals are strong, and our financial position is excellent. Customers trust us to deliver on our brand promise, and I’m confident in our ability to perform well in most any environment,” said Brett Biggs, Walmart Inc. chief financial officer. “While the short-term environment will be challenging, we’re positioned well for long-term success in an increasingly omni world.” 

      Walmart has announced that it’s shuttering Jet.com, which it purchased in 2016 for $3 billion.The retailer said in its first-quarter earnings report th...
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      Our 5 favorite live feed websites

      Want to see amazing locales from the comfort of your own home? Check out our favorite live feed sites

      We’re all going a little crazy while stuck indoors; however, some great websites offer beautiful live streams of several locations, be it a tropical beach or an exotic landmark. Check out the list below to see our favorite live streams. While you're looking, make sure to explore further for more spectacular spots.

      Go on a safari

      Have you ever wanted to go on a South African Safari? Check out Africam! The Africam highlights several watering holes that are known to be wild animal hotspots and even has a library of great footage to check out for more videos of these animals as they go about their day.

      Spot the Loch Ness Monster

      There’s a monster hunter in all of us, so keep your eyes peeled for the mother of all creatures — the Loch Ness Monster! Check out the Loch Ness Live Stream for a chance to catch a glimpse of Nessie. You can also take the time to admire the beauty of the Scottish Highlands while sipping your morning tea.

      See an active volcano

      For the more adventurous among us, great active volcano cams await! The US Geological Survey has set up a few incredible static streaming cams on Hawaiin volcanoes — such as Halemaʻumaʻu and Kīlauea Caldera. The site even includes a few cameras with thermal imaging.

      Explore a tropical reef

      Explore.org has a section focusing on several tanks in The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. Check out adorable penguins in the aquarium’s Penguin Beach, spy some jellyfish in the Jellyfish Tank and watch some sharks in the Shark Lagoon. The Explore.org website also has several other nature-focused live streams.

      Visit a national park

      The US National Parks are incredibly beautiful, but what do you do when they’re closed or too far away? The National Park Service (NPS) has a great series of live stream cameras to check out on their official website. From Yellowstone to Glacier National Park, the NPS virtually takes you there. The site also has a vast library of various natural events and wild animals captured via these webcams.

      With these websites, you can visit fantastic places around the world, at least virtually! And when things open up and you're ready for a road trip to see some of these places in person, get prepared with an extended auto warranty. Check out our matching tool to help you find a car warranty that matches your needs.

      Want to see amazing locales from the comfort of your own home? Check out our favorite live feed sites...
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      4 great art projects to try at home

      Looking to add some DIY crafts to your space while keeping yourself (or your kids) busy? Check out these great ideas

      We’ve all spent a good amount of time in our homes, so why not decorate your space with some fun DIY art projects? We listed some fantastic ideas you can do on your own or with your kids that bring some color to your favorite rooms.

      1. Robot party

      We all have several boxes left over from online shopping, so why not recycle and create your own robot party? Cut the boxes into fun robot parts and decorate them with things you find around the house for a futuristic celebration. Grab some scissors, tape and markers and have a cyber-good time!

      • Ages 4+
      • Reusable plastic jar included

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Milk carton birdhouse

      With the weather warming up and the birds returning to sing their songs, it may be time to make a classic milk carton birdhouse. They’re simple — cut a few holes in a milk carton for an entrance, decorate with some great designs and fill it with seed. You and your children can watch the neighborhood birds swoop in and enjoy all the fantastic colors.

      • 11 different ingredients
      • 40% sunflower seeds

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Water bottle greenhouses

      This project is fun and a great way to teach your kids about the greenhouse effect where the sun naturally warms up the surface of the soil and circulates the water inside the bottle. Cut a two-liter bottle in half, fill the bottom half with soil, plant a seedling in the soil, add a small amount of water and cap the seedling with the top half of the bottle. Make sure it has plenty of light and watch as your plant grows from within.

      • Good for vegetable, flower and herb seed
      • Offers MicroMax nutrients

      Buy on Amazon

      4. Potato stamps

      Potato stamps are a fun, versatile project. Cut a potato in half and carefully carve a design into the underside of the potato. You now have a brand-new stamp! You can use the stamp to decorate wrapping paper, plain paper and even use the designs on your wall. The best part about these stamps is when the project is over, you can throw them away for a mess-free experience. Try using pumpkin carving tools for more detailed designs on your potato stamps.

      • 5-piece set
      • 10 patterns

      Buy on Amazon

      Looking to add some DIY crafts to your space while keeping yourself (or your kids) busy? Check out these great ideas...
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      Coronavirus update: Southwest sees signs of a turnaround, housing starts collapse

      Restaurant chain reports open dining rooms are drawing customers back

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,510,988 (1,491,547)

      Total U.S. deaths: 90,432 (89,666)

      Total global cases: 4,836,329 (4,748,937)

      Total global deaths: 319,213 (316,277)

      Southwest sees clearer skies

      Southwest Airlines has struck a hopeful note, reporting that for the first time since the pandemic began, bookings have outnumbered flight cancellations. The news comes at a good time, as the airline has previously said it expects 2020 revenue to be down 90 percent over 2019.

      Southwest isn’t alone in that regard, as all airlines are seeing a huge drop in passengers over the last two months. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that the number of people passing through TSA checkpoints at the nation’s airports was down 92 percent in the first 18 days of May.

      But carriers are already planning for better days. Delta Air Lines has pledged to add flights when business picks up so that no plane flies with more than 60 percent capacity.

      Housing starts collapse

      As predicted, the coronavirus (COVID-19) brought homebuilding activity to a near standstill. The Commerce Department reports that housing starts in April plunged more than 30 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 891,000 units, the lowest level since early 2015.

      While many homebuilders remained on the job last month, their hands were tied in some cases. Builders reported widespread disruptions in the supply chain, which made it difficult to get all of the building materials they needed.

      Meanwhile, April’s home sales also appeared to fall off a cliff. RE/MAX reports that sales in the 53 top markets in which it operates were down more than 20 percent last month.

      Going out again

      As states began lifting coronavirus restrictions at the end of April, Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden, began reopening dining rooms at reduced capacity. The company says it’s boosted business.

      In a business update today, the company’s CEO, Gene Lee, said early signs suggest that consumers are grateful for the opportunity to dine out again.

      “At the same time, our To Go business remains strong,” Lee said. “I am pleased that we are able to return some team members from furlough to support these phased openings, and we look forward to safely serving more guests as more communities begin to reopen."

      Companies warned about their claims

      Federal regulators continue their crackdown on merchants who they say are misleading consumers about their products and businesses. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Small Business Administration (SBA) have sent warning letters to two companies that may be misleading small businesses seeking SBA loans as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

      The warnings went to ITMedia Solutions, LLC and Lendio, Inc. The agencies contend the companies’ marketing could lead consumers to believe they are affiliated with the SBA, or that consumers can apply on their site for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other programs authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

      The letters warn the companies to take immediate action to ensure all deceptive claims are removed and to remediate any harm to small business consumers as a result of the claims.

      Safety first

      The National Safety Council has issued a set of guidelines for reopening businesses to help protect the health of returning employees. The group said it identified the “10 universal actions” every employer must consider before reopening.

      The actions range from phasing in operations to training supervisors on the fundamentals of safety. They also include screenings, enhanced hygiene, and tracing.

      “Protecting our workers means coalescing around sets of safety principles and ensuring those principles guide our decisions," said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "Employers are asking for help, and we've brought together leading safety experts to deliver in this time of need.”

      Around the nation

      • Oregon: A state court judge has struck down statewide restrictions on activity, put in place by Gov. Kate Brown. The judge ruled that the governor exceeded her authority because she did not seek the state legislator’s approval to extend her order.

      • Texas: When large gatherings were banned during the shutdown, it was churches that were the most vocal in their opposition. Now that some of those restrictions have been lifted, Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston is closing again after five church leaders tested positive for the coronavirus.

      • Illinois: Gun shop owners say they have never experienced an upsurge in business like the once taking place during the coronavirus shutdown. Shop owners say regular customers have been joined by newcomers who are buying weapons and ammunition and enrolling in classes.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,510,988 (1,491,54...
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      Not much coronavirus relief money has been tapped, report finds

      The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve have spent little of a $500 billion fund

      A significant amount of the government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package remains unspent amid the COVID-19 crisis, and companies and cities have continued to wait for the disbursement of unspent bailout funds, according to the Washington Post.

      This week, President Trump told restaurant executives at the White House that he was open to giving businesses more flexibility in how they use taxpayer funds, with the ultimate goal of delaying rehiring workers as quickly as initially required. 

      The Congressional Oversight Commission released a report on Monday which found that the Treasury Department had not spent much of a $500 billion fund it created through the CARES Act in March to help businesses and local governments. 

      In Tuesday’s hearing, senators are expected to bring up the fact that the Treasury Department has spent little from the fund, even though many businesses have asked for immediate help from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell.

      “If it doesn’t get out in a timely fashion, it’s not going to achieve the goal behind its creation,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.).

      Not much money dispersed

      Powell plans to say on Tuesday that the U.S. is in the midst of an economic crisis “worse than any recession since World War II” and that the Fed’s “bold steps” have helped ensure American families and businesses can borrow cheaply so they don’t go bankrupt before the economy can safely reopen.

      Powell also said Tuesday that the Fed will disclose amounts borrowed and interest rates levied under programs to provide credit for large corporations, state and local governments, and medium-sized businesses. In prepared remarks, Powell said he and other officials “recognize that the need for transparency is heightened when we are called upon to use our emergency powers.” 

      The $500 billion Treasury fund includes $46 billion to make loans and loan guarantees to the airline industry, which has significantly impacted by the pandemic. 

      “The Treasury has not disbursed any of the $46 billion it can use to provide loans and loan guarantees to the airline industry and businesses critical to maintaining national security,” the report said.

      Mnuchin and Powell are set to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee to discuss the matter.

      A significant amount of the government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package remains unspent amid the COVID-19 crisis, and companies and cities have c...
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      Massachusetts, Connecticut to begin reopening

      The states are the last in the U.S. to start reopening

      Massuachusetts and Connecticut will begin partially reopening this week after being shut down for nearly two months due to COVID-19. The states are the last to begin reopening in the wake of closures due to the pandemic. 

      Restrictions will be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said virus mitigation efforts will be a multi-phase process. Manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship will open with certain restrictions beginning Monday.

      "As I've said before, we've all been doing our jobs to fight back, and as a result, positive case rates are moving in the right direction and hospitalizations are down," Baker said. 

      Curbside pickup will be available at retail establishments starting May 25, and office spaces will be permitted to open at 25 percent capacity. Other facilities will be permitted to reopen if they follow the new guidelines. 

      People who want to use public transportation will be required to wear face coverings and maintain distance between themselves and other passengers. 

      The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been declining since late April, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Connecticut announced its reopening plan May 9 and is set to allow restaurants, offices, retail stores, and outdoor museums and zoos to reopen with certain restrictions on Wednesday.

      Massuachusetts and Connecticut will begin partially reopening this week after being shut down for nearly two months due to COVID-19. The states are the las...
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      U.S. airlines start to see a break in the clouds with reservations outpacing cancellations

      It might be a year or more before full recovery is fully achieved, but it’s a step in the right direction

      Now that the COVID-19 clouds are starting to part, it looks like airlines are beginning to gear up for their return to the skies. Delta Air Lines, Southwest, and United all reported on Tuesday that their bookings are running ahead of cancellations for the first time in a while.

      It's no giant leap forward, but the airlines were in an insufferable position -- probably more than any sector. Their only way out was to pledge assets in return for millions in bailout money that Congress granted to keep them from going under. 

      If the early news holds steady, the forecast that the airline industry won’t be back in full swing until 2023 might have to be shortened a bit. Here are what the four biggest airlines have to say.

      American Airlines

      In an American Airlines video conference viewed by ConsumerAffairs, company brass said they are "pretty well situated … to take advantage of a domestic rebound. And we do estimate it will be domestic-focused when it does come back (and) estimate that it will be more leisure than business."

      American officials said they expect changes as a result of the pandemic, and "will be incredibly flexible in terms of our capacity." But they wanted it to be made known that a low-load factor is not the goal long-term.

      Southwest Airlines

      Southwest said in a filing that it is set to cut capacity by as much as 55 percent next month from a year ago. Like American, Southwest thinks that its flights will still be somewhat sparse -- a load factor in the neighborhood of 35 to 45 percent.

      As far as Southwest's bottom line is concerned, the ink is still red. The company has experienced a modest improvement in passenger demand and bookings for June 2020. Still, the operating revenues are estimated to decrease somewhere in the range of 80 to 85 percent year-over-year. Nonetheless, the airline isn't making any steadfast commitments or promises. 

      "The revenue environment remains uncertain and may require additional capacity reductions depending on passenger demand," the company noted in the filing.

      Delta Air Lines

      In an investor presentation reported on by CNN, Delta also said its bookings have shown marked improvement. While new reservations aren't yet outpacing passenger cancellations 24/7, they're moving in that direction. 

      "We have seen a little bit of a bounce off the bottom," Delta CFO Paul Jacobson said. "My caution is not to draw too many conclusions. But there are reasons to be encouraged. Delta is being careful to make sure the improved bookings turn into actual tickets and that they are not canceled as passengers' dates of travel get closer."

      Delta is adding close to 100 flights a day going through June, but it -- unlike Southwest and American -- is at half-capacity because of the empty middle seat promise it made to consumers last month.

      United Airlines

      United also had good news in the cancellation department, saying that cancellation rates have fallen. It anticipates ticket demand for both domestic flights and some international destinations to improve by the end of June. 

      And its capacity situation? As far as that's concerned, United's crystal ball isn't as promising as its competitors. The company expects its scheduled capacity for July 2020 to be down close to 75 percent compared to a year ago. But at least it's going in the right direction, marking an improvement from the 90 percent cut it had to apply in resetting its May and June schedules.

      Now that the COVID-19 clouds are starting to part, it looks like airlines are beginning to gear up for their return to the skies. Delta Air Lines, Southwes...
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      Record levels of humidity and heat predicted to reach across the globe

      Researchers worry about the effect this could have on humans

      While many studies have reported on the consistently rising global temperatures, it’s still uncertain how such levels of heat will affect consumers

      Now, researchers from the Earth Institute at Columbia University found that parts of the world could begin to experience periods of heat and humidity that could make it dangerous for human survival. 

      “Previous studies projected that this would happen several decades from now, but this shows it’s happening right now,” said researcher Colin Raymond. “The time these events last will increase, and the areas they affect will grow in direct correlation with global warming.” 

      Bracing for the heat

      The researchers evaluated weather patterns around the world from 1979 through 2017. They learned that extreme periods of heat and humidity became twice as likely over that time period. The primary concern is that the heat will affect nearly every facet of consumers’ lives, including their physical health and finances. 

      While most consumers are used to seeing a heat index to measure the heat and humidity in their area, meteorologists use the “wet bulb” Centigrade scale. A reading of 32 C or higher is considered to be extreme heat, and the researchers explained that this threshold can make it nearly impossible for consumers to be outside. In terms of Fahrenheit, 32 C comes out to 132 degrees, making these temperatures dangerous for humans. 

      The researchers noted that the number of readings of at least 32 C have doubled over time, and periods of such intense heat and humidity are only expected to increase. “It’s hard to exaggerate the effects of anything that gets into the 30s,” said Raymond. 

      Eliminating jobs

      In addition to the risks to consumers’ health, which are amplified in the humidity, the researchers explained that these frequent high temperatures will have an effect on the economy, as many jobs will become impossible. 

      While air conditioning can certainly relieve some of the burden, many regions around the world with the highest temperatures aren’t equipped with air conditioning units, and the effects of staying indoors for long periods of time will be felt around the world. 

      “These measurements imply that some areas of Earth are much closer than expected to attaining sustained intolerable heat,” said researcher Steven Sherwood. “It was previously believed we had a much larger margin of safety.” 

      While many studies have reported on the consistently rising global temperatures, it’s still uncertain how such levels of heat will affect consumers. No...
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      Mastercard introduces new consumer protections at the gas pump

      The company says its an interim measure before all gas pumps have EMV chip technology

      To combat the growing plague of credit card fraud at the gas pump, Mastercard has launched a program to protect consumers using payment cards at gas pumps that haven’t upgraded to EMV terminals.

      At the same time, Mastercard said it is giving gas stations additional time -- until April 16, 2021 -- to make the change to the more secure system before facing liability for fraudulent transactions.

      Scammers have replaced old fashioned credit card skimmers that stole customers credit card numbers with new technology that steals the information digitally. Mastercard reports that fraud at gas pumps made up 17 percent of all credit card fraud losses in the fourth quarter of 2019.

      Safer system

      The company’s new consumer protection program is aimed at providing the merchant and lenders with tools to help them navigate the heightened risk that this particular brand of fraud is presenting.

      “Many fuel companies have made the shift to a safer and more secure EMV environment, and we applaud them for doing so,” said Kush Saxena, executive vice president, US Merchants and Acceptance, Mastercard. “However, we also recognize and respect the complexities to upgrade to safer and more secure EMV transactions at fuel dispensers over the next few months.” 

      EMV terminals read an embedded chip on the card containing encrypted data. It is now almost universally used for point-of-sale transactions. It has only been in the last few months that this technology has begun to be added to fuel pumps.

      The new Mastercard program provides a differentiated layer of protection that the company believes will make the transition from gas pump transactions using the old swipe card readers more effective and safer.

      How it works

      Mastercard issuing banks will receive enhanced data on high-risk fraud transactions at fuel merchants and will use that information to decide whether to authorize the purchase. In that way, Mastercard says fraud can be stopped before it starts.

      The company’s Safety Net and Fraud Rules Manager programs will be upgraded to aid in their decision-making criteria, providing additional protection for their cardholders at fuel pumps.

      In late 2019, Visa issued a security alert warning that gas pump thieves were stealing card information without physically altering the gas pump card reader. Instead, they breached the merchant’s payment network and planted malware to collect the data.

      To mitigate gas pump credit card fraud, BP recently introduced an app that can be used to pay for gasoline purchases online without physically using a payment card. The app automatically bills the purchase to the card on file.

      Mastercard says upgrading all gas pumps in the U.S. to use EMV technology is the best way to stop scammers in their tracks. It says payment card fraud at U.S. gas stations that installed the new technology fell 88 percent between 2015 and 2019.

      To combat the growing plague of credit card fraud at the gas pump, Mastercard has launched a program to protect consumers using payment cards at gas pumps...
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      EasyJet’s hack compromises 9 million customer records

      With the pandemic forcing businesses to work at reduced staffing, this seems to be a growing trend

      If you’re a traveler who has flown anywhere in Europe using EasyJet, heads up. Tuesday morning, the low-cost London-based airline disclosed that its customer database had been pillaged by a “highly sophisticated” source. 

      The airline told the stock market world that unauthorized access to its systems has been completely sealed off. Still, for the 9 million customers who had their email addresses and travel details compromised and the 2,208 customers who had their credit card details exposed, that’s anything but good. The airline said affected customers will be contacted by the airline no later than May 26. 

      EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement that the company takes cybersecurity seriously but that “this is an evolving threat as cyber attackers get ever more sophisticated.”

      Cyber attacks more common during pandemic

      With the pandemic forcing businesses to work with minimum staff, this digital raid might have been expected. 

      “It comes as no surprise that well-known organizations who are very publicly affected by the pandemic -- and are known to have furloughed lots of staff -- would be the targets of sophisticated cyberattacks, with the potential to cause significant reputational damage,” Andrew Tsonchev, director of technology at cybersecurity firm Darktrace told CNBC.

      While Tsonchev is only speculating, there might be a stick-up that may yet come out of this. “Globally ... we’ve seen an uptick in highly targeted and sophisticated attacks like these,” he said. 

      “Access ‘downstream’ to clients and customer data is often the goal of these attacks, as withholding this data secures not only secures a quick ransom payout at a time when companies are keen to keep cost down, but can also provide vital nuggets of information to launch secondary attacks.”

      Think you might be affected?

      As is pretty much standard in these situations, Lundgren did his best to give the airline’s customers some solace, suggesting that they be “extra vigilant” if they get an email that purportedly comes from the airline or its travel arm EasyJet Holidays. 

      ConsumerAffairs has a couple of other smart moves to suggest: If you’ve done ANY business with EasyJet, be on alert for any unusual activity on your credit cards or bank accounts, change passwords for your EasyJet and any related accounts, and check with HaveIBeenPwned to see if your email address has been compromised in this (or any other) data breach.

      If you’re a traveler who has flown anywhere in Europe using EasyJet, heads up. Tuesday morning, the low-cost London-based airline disclosed that its custom...
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      5 cute animal-inspired kitchen products

      Once you see this menagerie of kitchen products, you’ll want to start your own zoo!

      Sometimes, you see something that’s so cool you just need to buy it. These 5 fun products can bring a good measure of joy to your day, and we think that’s worth more than almost anything!

      Taco holder

      Sure, we have hands that hold tacos, but that isn’t as fun as a dinosaur taco holder. You can also replace the tacos with healthier options if you’re trying to get your children to eat better.

      • They call it the TriceraTaco
      • Holds more than just tacos

      Buy on Amazon

      Magnets of dog posteriors

      If you’re going to use magnets on your fridge, they might as well be funny! These dog behinds are oddly charming, and they bring a smile to anyone in the room. Reviewers mention how many laughs these get and how much joy the magnets bring to their day.

      • Cat, safari and whale butts also available
      • >1.25” x .625”

      Buy on Amazon

      Baby Nessie brewer

      Brewing tea can be a pretty boring household task. Why not make it exciting with this baby Nessie brewer, based on the Scottish Loch Ness Monster? If only the real-life Nessie were this easy to find.

      • Dishwasher safe
      • BPA free and dishwasher safe

      Buy on Amazon

      Elephant corkscrew

      Uncorking wine is only exciting because you’re 1 step closer to wine time, so add a cuteness factor with an adorable elephant corkscrew! This elephant bottle opener is a great conversation piece at any party.

      • Open beers and wine
      • 3.8” x 3” x 1.3”

      Buy on Amazon

      Penguin shaker

      Why didn’t we think of this? Just add in your ingredients and some ice and shake — once the penguin is icy cold, your drink is ready. Normally, gimmicky products cost a lot more than their traditional counterparts, but this one is reasonably priced.

      • Stainless steel
      • Affordably priced

      Buy on Amazon

      Once you see this menagerie of kitchen products, you’ll want to start your own zoo!...
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      8 apps to bring reading to life

      Read graphic novels, browse your local library’s collection or listen to episodic audiobooks

      Read graphic novels, browse your local library’s collection or listen to episodic audiobooks..

      5 things you can do for active service people on Armed Forces Day

      Recognize our active-duty soldiers’ hard work with these thoughtful ideas

      Every third Sunday in May, we celebrate Armed Forces Day, where we come together to appreciate what our men and women in the armed forces do year-round. Here are a few thoughtful ways to show our soldiers we care.

      Sponsor a care package

      Photo (c)eclipse_image - Getty

      The USO (United Services Organizations) has been serving the men and women in the U.S. military and their families with several great programs. Join in and donate a much-needed care package through the USO's official website. Care packages include toiletries, snacks and other needed items that active-duty troops have requested.

      Volunteer

      With the current coronavirus situation, we are limited with our outside interactions with people. However, it’s never too early to check out some worthy programs and volunteer for future positions. For instance, Operation Homefront helps military families with basic needs like rent or mortgage payments and groceries. There are several things you can do to support the organization.

      Display your admiration

      Although most parades have been canceled, you can still display your pride in our armed forces by hanging flags, streamers and patriotic decorations. You can even print out a free, full-color poster commemorating Armed Forces Day from the Department of Defense’s website and hang it in your house or business’ window.

      • 45 pieces
      • 60-day money-back guarantee

      Buy on Amazon

      Thank a service member with the hashtag

      This one is pretty easy, but just as notable. Go to your favorite social media account, share a story, show appreciation and add the hashtag #armedforcesday. It might seem like a small act of gratitude, but plenty of active military personal will see this, and your friends can join in.

      Send a troop a letter

      Plenty of troops overseas could use some recognition, and you and your family can take care of that with a thoughtful card or letter. Check out the Support our Troops website for helpful information on sending a card to an active service member — from where to send it to suggestions on what you should write.

      Armed Forces Day is an excellent time to show your support for our active-duty members, so do your best to bring a smile to those that have done so much for us and our country.

      Recognize our active-duty soldiers’ hard work with these thoughtful ideas...
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      Scientists testing COVID-19 vaccine report ‘positive’ results

      Moderna says its experimental vaccine has produced antibodies in study participants

      In the race to produce an effective vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19) Moderna may have bolted into the lead.

      The company has announced “positive interim clinical data” of its vaccine candidate against the virus. The results were produced from the Phase 1 study led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

      Specifically, the test showed that all 45 people who received the experimental vaccine produced antibodies in their blood that are believed to help prevent COVID-19 infection. Scientists say four of the participants produced enough antibodies that could provide immunity, but information is not yet available for the rest. Some participants received a 25 microgram dose twice, 28 days apart.

      About two weeks after the second dose, some participants in this group had produced antibodies at a level normally found in patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Dr. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna, says it’s encouraging that results can be produced with a small amount of the vaccine.

      “When combined with the success in preventing viral replication in the lungs of a pre-clinical challenge model at a dose that elicited similar levels of neutralizing antibodies, these data substantiate our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease and advance our ability to select a dose for pivotal trials,” Zaks said.

      Vaccine ahead of schedule

      The development of an effective vaccine appears to be ahead of schedule. Medical experts, citing past disease responses, suggested it might be two years before there was a vaccine to protect people against the coronavirus. 

      The first volunteer was inoculated with the experimental vaccine in mid-March, with officials at the time suggesting the process was moving with unusual speed. 

      “Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said when the trial began. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

      Phase 2 is next

      Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vaccine for a Phase 2 clinical trial to determine its effectiveness for its intended purpose. 

      “The imminent Phase 2 study start is a crucial step forward as we continue to advance the clinical development of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO.

      The company is already looking ahead to a Phase 3 study, which Bancel said could begin as early as this summer. 

      In the race to produce an effective vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19) Moderna may have bolted into the lead.The company has announced “positiv...
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      FDA issues emergency use authorization to another at-home COVID-19 sample collection kit

      The testing kit allows consumers to mail in a self-collected nasal samples

      On Saturday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted “emergency use authorization” to a new coronavirus testing kit that allows people to mail in nasal samples that they collect themselves. 

      The test is manufactured by Everlywell, and it’s one of three that have now received emergency use authorization from the FDA during the public health crisis. 

      Health officials are pushing to increase the number of at-home testing kits in an effort to reduce the risk of a potentially COVID-19 positive individual going to a medical facility and spreading the virus to others.  

      “The authorization of a COVID-19 at-home collection kit that can be used with multiple tests at multiple labs not only provides increased patient access to tests, but also protects others from potential exposure,” Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a statement. 

      “Today’s action is also another great example of public-private partnerships in which data from a privately funded study was used by industry to support an EUA request, saving precious time as we continue our fight against this pandemic.”  

      How it works 

      The FDA said Everywell’s kit is authorized for home use by people who have been screened using an online questionnaire that is reviewed by a health care provider. The purpose of the online survey is to confirm that the individual requesting a kit is showing symptoms or has been exposed to someone with symptoms of COVID-19. 

      After self-collecting a nasal sample, the person using the kit then places it in a saline solution and sends it in for review by health care providers in a certified lab. Between taking the online survey and getting results, the process takes between three to five days. Everywell says kits will be available in late May and cost $135. 

      The FDA has issued emergency use authorization to two other at-home diagnostic tests recently. One permits testing of a saliva sample collected by the patient at home, and the other also requires self-collecting a nasal sample. 

      On Saturday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted “emergency use authorization” to a new coronavirus testing kit that allows people to mail...
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      Giant Bicycles Canada recalls Giant Pinner DH and VP Harrier pedals

      The locking fastener can fail allowing the pedal to slide off the spindle

      Giant Bicycles Canada of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is recalling about 364 Giant Pinner DH and VP Harrier bicycle pedals sold throughout Canada.

      The locking fastener can fail allowing the pedal to slide off the spindle, posing a fall hazard.

      The company has received 20 reports of the pedal detaching, and one report of injury.

      The Giant Pinner DH pedals have the "Giant" logo marking on them, and the VP Harrier pedals are marked with "Harrier."

      The locking fasteners at the end of the spindles are attached flush to the pedals.

      Giant Pinner DH and VP Harrier pedals that have locking fasteners protruding at the end of the spindle are NOT included in this recall.

      The pedals, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold from June 2017, to May 2020.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the pedals immediately stop using and return them to the place of purchase for a free replacement.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company online at https://www.giantbicycle.ca/contact/

      Giant Bicycles Canada of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is recalling about 364 Giant Pinner DH and VP Harrier bicycle pedals sold throughout Ca...
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      Ramar Foods recalls Mint Chocolate Chip With Hidden Spinach Ice Cream

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Ramar Foods of Pittsburg, Calif., is recalling Peekaboo brand Mint Chocolate Chip with Hidden Spinach Ice Cream.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled product comes in a 14-oz. printed paper container with UPC# 8685400001, and a Best Before date of 10/08/2021 printed on the bottom, and was sold at Target stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it and will be offered a full refund.

      Consumers with questions, or who would like to request an immediate refund, may contact Ramar Foods at (844) 491-7869, Monday through Friday, from 8am – 5pm (EST) or by email at ramarfoods5691@stericycle.com.

      Ramar Foods of Pittsburg, Calif., is recalling Peekaboo brand Mint Chocolate Chip with Hidden Spinach Ice Cream. The product may be contaminated with Li...
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      Whistleblower says White House ignored warnings about mask shortages, leading to more deaths from COVID-19

      Dr. Rick Bright said his warnings were met with indifference

      Dr. Rick Bright, a former leading authority on biomedical advanced research and development, said Thursday that his warnings to the Trump administration regarding shortages of personal protective equipment were not taken seriously. 

      Bright said he received word from manufacturers that the supply chain for masks and other personal protective equipment was “diminishing rapidly” as early as January. However, his warnings to superiors and White House officials were “met with indifference.” 

      "I believe Americans need to be told the truth," Bright said. "We did not forewarn people. We did not train people. We did not educate them on social distancing and wearing a mask as we should have in January and February. All those forewarnings, all those educational opportunities, for the American public could have had an impact in further slowing this outbreak and saving more lives."

      Deadly consequences 

      During a hearing before House lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Bright said countries that the U.S. relied on to supply a large number of masks were blocking exports and stopping transfers of those masks to the United States. 

      When he told his superiors about the shortage of N95 respirators, they said they were either “too busy, they didn't have a plan, they didn't know who was responsible for procuring those," Bright said.

      He believes the lack of concern among those at the top led to shortages and a delay in production that cost lives. 

      "I believe lives were lost, and not only that, we were forced to procure these supplies from other countries without the right quality standards," Bright said. "So even our doctors and nurses in the hospitals today are wearing N95 marked masks from other countries that are not providing the sufficient protection that a U.S.-standard N95 mask would provide them."

      Vaccine distribution concerns

      Additionally, Bright warned lawmakers on Thursday that there’s no strategy for mass production of a coronavirus vaccine, should one be deemed successful enough to deploy as a treatment in the coming year.

      "If you can imagine the scenario this fall or winter, maybe even early next spring, when the vaccine becomes available, there's no one company that can produce enough for our country or for the world. It's going to be limited supplies," Bright said. "We need to have a strategy and plan in place now to make sure that we can not only fill that vaccine, make it, distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan.

      "We do not have that yet, and it is a significant concern," he said.

      Dr. Rick Bright, a former leading authority on biomedical advanced research and development, said Thursday that his warnings to the Trump administration re...
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      CDC warns of new pediatric illness possibly linked with COVID-19

      The illness causes children’s coronary arteries to become severely inflamed

      The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory to doctors, warning about a mysterious pediatric illness that may be linked to COVID-19. 

      Health officials say cases of “multisystem inflammatory syndrome” (MIS-C) have been reported across Europe and in at least 18 states and the District of Columbia. Cases started popping up more frequently in April. 

      At least 110 cases have been reported in New York, 17 in New Jersey, and at least six in California. Other states, including Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Washington, have reported small numbers of cases. In New York, three children have died from the illness. 

      "Beginning about four or five weeks ago, in Europe they started to describe a form of what really sounded like toxic shock," Dr. Jeffrey Burns of Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston told CNN. "There were just a few at first and then more.” 

      Presents in children exposed to COVID-19

      Health officials are still seeking answers to many questions about the illness. Doctors in Italy who treated children with the illness said its symptoms are similar to those of toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease. With both illnesses, children’s coronary arteries become severely inflamed. 

      However, the new illness isn’t Kawasaki disease, as was initially believed. Given the number of cases, doctors have agreed that this is a different inflammatory syndrome -- and it appears to be associated with COVID-19. Many of the children with MIS-C also tested positive either for current COVID-19 infection, or a past infection.

      "During March and April, cases of COVID-19 rapidly increased in New York City and New York State. In early May 2020, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene received reports of children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome," the CDC health advisory reads.

      Limited information 

      The CDC said in its alert that there is “limited information currently available about risk factors, pathogenesis, clinical course, and treatment for MIS-C.”

      The agency said it’s requesting that health care providers report suspected cases to public health authorities to “better characterize this newly recognized condition in the pediatric population."

      The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory to doctors, warning about a mysterious pediatric illness that may be...
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      Coronavirus update: Reopening guidelines from CDC, retail sales plunge in April

      A new free app screens for coronavirus symptoms

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,420,299 (1,395,265)

      Total U.S. deaths: 85,992 (84,313)

      Total global cases: 4,483,864 (4,387,438)

      Total global deaths: 303,825 (298,392)

      CDC issues business reopening guidelines

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a long-awaited set of guidance that offers advice on how businesses that attract crowds of people should reopen. The agency has been under pressure from elected officials to offer guidance.

      The CDC documents suggest that workplaces refrain from reopening until they are prepared to protect employees who are at a higher risk of the most severe effects of the virus -- mainly people over age 65. If businesses can meet that threshold, the CDC strongly recommends an intense cleaning and sanitation protocol.

      The CDC guidance also advises employers to require workers to stay home if they feel sick.

      Retail sales suffer record decline

      Retail sales plunged a record 16.4 percent in April as the coronavirus (COVID-19) closed many stores and forced others to operate on a limited basis. The drop was significantly worse than expected.

      “Consumers couldn’t get out to shop last month as the pandemic virus fight kept them at home, and the result is an economy that has simply collapsed,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, told CNBC. “We have never seen economic data like this before in history.”

      Consumers increased their spending online, but brick and mortar stores suffered. Sales at clothing stores were off a staggering 78.8 percent last month. Restaurant revenue is projected to drop by 25 percent this year as full-service restaurants have closed -- with some never to reopen -- and consumers have spent less. 

      Free app screens for the coronavirus

      Microsoft is teaming with United Healthcare to launch a free app to help employers screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms. It’s aimed at helping businesses reopen while keeping employees and customers safe.

      The app, called ProtectWell, incorporates CDC guidelines and the latest clinical research to limit the spread of COVID-19 by screening employees for symptoms and establishing guidelines to support the health and safety of the workforce and workplace.

      The app also includes guidelines and resources to support a safe workplace environment, including physical distancing, personal hygiene, and sanitation. Employers will be able to customize content specific to their workforce for a personalized experience.

      The toll on caregivers’ mental health

      Nearly 60 percent of health care workers believe the coronavirus and its impact on their patients have worsened their mental health. A survey by KMPG, an audit and tax advisory firm, found that to be an eight percentage point gap when compared with other industries.

      But the survey also noted a resilience among those on the front lines of health care. Personnel participating in the survey reported greater connections, collaboration, and higher quality of their work.

      "COVID-19 is a career-defining event for many health care professionals, given the severity of the condition, the necessary protocols to prevent coronavirus from spreading, and that many have families at home that are dealing with the effects of social distancing," said Ashraf Shehata, national sector leader for health care & life sciences at KPMG.

      Around the nation

      • Virginia: The state began the process of reopening today, with the first phase of removing operating restrictions beginning at midnight. Meanwhile, Virginia has separated its reporting of diagnostic and antibody test results after critics said the combined numbers gave a distorted view. 

      • Illinois: The state has launched a web portal to address the massive wave of unemployment that was triggered by the pandemic shutdown. It’s “Get Hired” page matches job seekers with companies that need employees. An estimated 1 million Illinois residents have lost their jobs since March.

      • Louisiana: One of the first states to be hit hard by the coronavirus, Louisiana today began its phase one reopening. The state is allowing a number of businesses, including restaurants and casinos, to reopen as long as strict safety protocols are followed.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,420,299 (1,395,26...
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      Coffee could help reduce body fat in women, study finds

      Reaching for that extra cup of coffee could come with added health benefits

      While many consumers worry about their coffee intake, recent studies have found that the popular morning beverage could come with countless health benefits, including fighting obesity.

      Now, researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have found that having two to three cups of coffee per day could help women keep off excess body fat. 

      “Our research suggests that there may be bioactive compounds in coffee other than caffeine that regulate weight which could potentially be used as antiobesity compounds,” said researcher Dr. Lee Smith. “It could be that coffee, or its effective ingredients, could be integrated into a healthy diet strategy to reduce the burden of chronic conditions related to the obesity epidemic.” 

      Health benefits of caffeine 

      To understand what health benefits consumers can reap from coffee, the researchers evaluated responses to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They looked specifically at how coffee consumption affected consumers’ trunk fat and overall body fat. 

      Overall, greater coffee consumption was linked with a reduction in body fat, but more significant changes were seen in women than in men. 

      The researchers learned that body fat was nearly three percent lower overall for women who drank two to three cups of coffee per day, but older women benefitted even more from the extra boost of caffeine. For those in the 45-69 year-old age group, having two to three coffees each day was linked with over four percent lower body fat, whereas for younger women, body fat was lowered by roughly 3.5 percent. 

      The study also found that it didn’t matter whether the participants drank decaf or fully caffeinated coffee, as the results remained consistent. 

      Because caffeine affects everyone differently, it’s important that consumers to know how much their bodies can handle before upping their coffee intake each day. However, for those that can manage adding an extra cup or two each day, coffee could help maintain a healthy weight. 

      While many consumers worry about their coffee intake, recent studies have found that the popular morning beverage could come with countless health benefits...
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      Big increases in the Midwest send national gas prices higher

      Demand has also increased as more states open up

      Gasoline prices resumed their seasonal climb over the last week as more states lifted stay-at-home restrictions and motorists started buying more fuel. Some of the biggest increases occurred in the Midwest and Great Lakes states.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of gasoline is $1.87 a gallon, a nickel increase over last Friday. The average is $1 less than at this time last year. The average price of premium gas is $2.49, four cents higher than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.41, a penny less than last week.

      “Pump prices are fluctuating throughout the country as demand increases and gasoline stocks decrease,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson. “The boost in demand continues to push pump prices up around the country, as more states re-open businesses. Motorists in the Great Lakes, Central, South, and Southeast states are seeing the most volatility at the pump.”

      For those in the Southeast, it was the good kind of volatility. At a time when prices are rising in most states, motorists in Georgia enjoyed a four cents a gallon drop in the average price of gas. 

      The Southeast is once again the region with the lowest fuel prices while low prices in the Great Lakes states have evaporated over the last two weeks. Wisconsin, which led the nation with the lowest prices for gas, has seen its statewide average surge 46 cents a gallon in the last two weeks.

      “For those wondering where those low gas prices in the Great Lakes went, spot gasoline in Chicago, the foundation for the Great Lakes, has surged 286% over the last ~4 weeks,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, wrote in a tweet.

      The states with the most expensive gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.18)

      • California ($2.77)

      • Washington ($2.45)

      • Oregon ($2.38) 

      • Nevada ($2.33)

      • New York ($2.16)

      • Illinois ($2.13)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.11)

      • Arizona ($2.08)

      • Alaska ($2.06)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Oklahoma ($1.51)

      • Arkansas ($1.51)

      • Mississippi ($1.51)

      • Missouri ($1.53)

      • Texas ($1.54)

      • Kansas ($1.56)

      • Alabama ($1.57)

      • South Carolina ($1.59)

      • Louisiana ($1.61)

      • Tennessee ($1.62)

      Gasoline prices resumed their seasonal climb over the last week as more states lifted stay-at-home restrictions and motorists started buying more fuel. Som...
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      8 fun items that put the "happy" in happy hour

      Wine accessories, trendy drinking glasses and the ultimate happy hour gag gift

      Happy hour is supposed to be one thing — happy. Bring some joy to your happy hour with these clever, useful alcohol accessories that also make great conversation pieces.

      Gin-making kit

      Alcohol-making is a centuries-old process, and everyone from medieval Franciscan monks to modern-day Americans have taken part. Bring the tradition to your home with this nifty gin-making kit. You and your friends can enjoy the big flavors that come from the juniper berries and a secret spice blend.

      • Makes 750ml
      • Includes everything you’ll need

      Buy on Amazon

      Wine bottle/glass

      The wine bottle with a wine glass topper is a hilarious product. If you happy hour with wine snobs, this will bring some smiles amongst the sniffing, aerating and tasting. Just uncork a bottle, pour it into this funky product and you’re ready to go!

      • Holds a 750mL bottle
      • 11.4” tall x 2.8” wide

      Buy on Amazon

      Charcuterie cutting board

      What’s a happy hour without something to nibble on? We’re new to the word “charcuterie," but it seems to involve cheese, so we’re excited about it. Add some olives, fruit and crackers for a better selection on your hors d'oeuvres platter.

      • Made from bamboo
      • Stainless steel cutting knives

      Buy on Amazon

      Wine tumbler

      Wine glasses are functional, but they break easily, and white wine gets warm reasonably fast — especially if you're sipping outdoors. These wine tumblers are an excellent way to keep wine cold and stop wine glass breakage.

      • Keep wine cold for 9 hours
      • Stainless steel

      Buy on Amazon

      Stemless aerating wine glasses

      If you’re feeling fancy, these aerating wine glasses are a fun way to make your wine taste even better. Aerating wine — i.e., exposing it to air — alters the flavor, improving it in many cases.

      • Set of two
      • Pyrex glass

      Buy on Amazon

      Whiskey glasses

      Some people prefer a cocktail — and it tastes even better when sipped from a well-made glass. These whiskey glasses’ freeform shape looks plain cool, and they’re easier to hold onto than traditional tumblers.

      • Great for scotch, whiskey and spirits
      • Man cave must-have

      Buy on Amazon

      128-ounce carbonated growler

      With a carbonated growler, you can say goodbye to flat beer. The carbonation cap lets you determine the level of carbonation you want in your brew. The growler also has a pressure gauge and a sight glass, so you see how much beer you have left. You’ll have an "ale of a time" with this one.

      • Co2 cartridge
      • Vacuum-insulated

      Buy on Amazon

      Tea tumbler

      We have an answer for all those teetotalers out there that want to enjoy a sober happy hour. Tea is a good alternative — it has numerous health benefits, brewing it is simple and it tastes good. This tea tumbler makes drinking tea fun, and it looks excellent as well.

      • Built-in infuser
      • Double-walled to prevent leaks

      Buy on Amazon

      Wine accessories, trendy drinking glasses and the ultimate happy hour gag gift...
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      7 addictive podcast apps you can try

      Whether you want to laugh, learn or just need entertainment, our list of great podcast apps can help

      Whether you want to laugh, learn or just need entertainment, our list of great podcast apps can help..

      10 effective ways to ward off mosquitoes this summer

      If you haven’t had luck fighting mosquitoes in the past, try one of these methods

      Depending on where you live in the US, mosquitoes are either here or well on their way. Residents of every state seem to claim their mosquitoes are the worst, biggest or hungriest. Minnesota, Louisiana, Alaska and residents of several other states even joke that the mosquito is their state bird!

      Itchy bites aside, mosquitoes often carry dangerous diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus. Luckily, there are several ways you can handle a mosquito problem. See a rundown of conventional methods of keeping mosquitoes at bay and the pros and cons of each solution.

      Wear a wristband

      Wristbands are a safe, somewhat effective alternative to spray. They are made with a variety of essential oils like citronella, and it’s easy to put a band on your arm and travel outdoors. However, while wristbands help a little, they won’t completely eliminate bites.

      Pros: Convenient, inexpensive, great for travel

      Cons: Strong scent, not foolproof

      • Scents made with essential oils
      • One-size-fits-all design

      Buy on Amazon

      Wear a net

      A reasonable alternative to bug spray is wearing a net over your head. Many nets can be placed easily over a hat, while others feature a built-in cap. The upside is that it protects your face, is inexpensive and you don’t need to spray repellent. The downside is you’ll still have to cover the rest of your skin with another solution, and many people find wearing a net an unpleasant experience, especially in social situations.

      Pros: Effective, inexpensive

      Cons: Awkward, only protects face

      • Fine mesh
      • Large enough to fit over hats

      Buy on Amazon

      Light a candle

      Another common approach to keeping mosquitoes away is lighting a citronella candle. Citronella is a natural oil that has proven somewhat effective in defending against mosquitoes, as it masks the scents that typically attract mosquitoes. To be particularly useful, one should set up a perimeter of candles in a small area.

      Pros: Pleasant scent, useful in small areas

      Cons: Short lifespan, may need more than one

      • 40 hours of protection
      • Made with citronella oil

      Buy on Amazon

      Light a coil

      Somewhat along the same lines as a citronella candle is the mosquito coil. These coils are said to be effective in repelling mosquitoes for up to 7 hours within a small radius using various chemicals — including pyrethrum — to produce smoke. Unfortunately, they can break easily, and you must be mindful of fire safety.

      Pros: Effective for small outdoor areas, relatively odorless

      Cons: Break easily, can catch fire

      • EPA approved
      • Lasts up to 12 hours

      Buy on Amazon

      Zap them

      One of the more satisfying approaches to mosquito control can be the bug zapper. These devices attract bugs with their bright UV lights, then electrocute them. The insects fall into a tray, which is easily removed and emptied. While zappers get strong customer reviews, not all bugs will fly straight for the zapper.

      Pros: Effective, environmentally friendly, fun to watch

      Cons: May not immediately work, works best in the shade or night

      • Just plug it in
      • Pet-friendly

      Buy on Amazon

      Trap them

      An alternative to the zapper is a fan trap. The fan trap is relatively simple: it is either perched atop a pole or hung from a convenient location. A light attached to the device attracts mosquitoes, then a quiet fan motor sucks bugs inward, trapping and killing them. Reviews are generally positive, though it can take 3 - 6 weeks to truly make a difference.

      Pros: Effective long-term, quiet, attractive

      Cons: Can take weeks to begin working

      • Operates quietly
      • Protects up to half an acre

      Buy on Amazon

      Repel them with ultrasonic waves

      One of the more high-tech ways to rid yourself of mosquitoes indoors is with an electronic repellent. The device plugs into the wall and emits an ultrasonic sound undetectable to humans and pets. However, these devices may not work on all pests and only agitate certain species.

      Pros: Works well indoors, effective against more than just bugs

      Cons: Only agitates some bugs with limited results

      • Safe for pets
      • Covers 80 to 120 square meters

      Buy on Amazon

      Set up a barrier

      A long-term strategy that keeps mosquitoes away for 3 - 4 weeks is a healthy application of a garlic barrier fluid to plants and foliage in your yard. Mosquitoes hate the scent of garlic; therefore, surrounding your home with a garlicky smell is effective in keeping them away for some time. Unfortunately, there are mixed reviews regarding its full performance.

      Pros: All natural, long lifespan

      Cons: Requires a sprayer, mixed reviews on effectiveness

      • Garlic and cedarwood-based
      • Safe for children and pets

      Buy on Amazon

      Spray yourself

      The most common, least expensive and easiest way to keep bugs from bothering you is to spray your skin with a repellent. The upside is it’s very effective; the downsides are it’s a quick fix, you’ll be spraying yourself every time you leave your house and it’s very unpleasant to get in your eyes or mouth. Some people don’t like to use repellent due to the scent, while others are worried about the side effects of DEET, repellents’ active chemical.

      Pros: Effective, inexpensive, convenient

      Cons: Unpleasant odor, potentially harmful chemicals, short-term fix

      • 25% DEET
      • Dry formula

      Buy on Amazon

      Hire a pro

      The most effective method for keeping mosquitoes away for the season is simply hiring a professional pest control expert. Not only are professionals equipped with the best equipment, they know what they’re doing and typically guarantee their work. You may end up paying more over the long run, but you’re likely to get the best results. Check out ConsumerAffairs’ Pest Control Buyers Guide for more information.

      If you haven’t had luck fighting mosquitoes in the past, try one of these methods...
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      5 forward-thinking ways to use your stimulus check

      From investing in gold to paying less on home repairs, we have ideas to help you save in the long-term

      Have you received your stimulus check yet? It’s tempting to spend it on a flashy new TV or tablet, but here are a few excellent long-term investments consumers can make with their stimulus checks.

      1. Buy a home warranty

      Photo (c) Hamza Jawaid - Getty

      With consumers spending more time at home, they’re increasing the wear and tear on their home systems and appliances and noticing little problems they hadn’t seen before. A home warranty can help. The average home warranty costs $300 to $600 a year, meaning you can purchase one using funds from a $1,200 stimulus check and still have plenty of cash leftover.

      Find my match

      2. Buy an auto warranty

      With our cars sitting idle a little more than usual, we’re all a bit more worried about the state of our vehicles. Have you considered protecting your car with an auto warranty? If you need a repair, and the cause is from manufacturer error or default in materials, you’ll only have to pay a small premium for the repair. Together with car insurance, an extended auto warranty protects you from paying hefty one-time fees. The average auto warranty costs $350 to $700 per year, so most stimulus check recipients should be able to cover the cost.

      Find my match

      3. Try to settle your debt

      Sometimes we find ourselves in sticky financial situations, and we need help with our debt. Debt settlement is one solution that may work for you. Although the industry has some scammers you need to look out for, ConsumerAffairs authorized brands are legitimate options to help reduce your debt. To determine if debt settlement is right for you, read the ConsumerAffairs debt settlement guide, or get matched with a partner below.

      Find my match

      4. Invest in gold

      Generally, when the market does poorly, gold does well. For this reason, investing in gold now could be a wise decision, especially if you’re looking to diversify your portfolio. A gold IRA is a great way to start. Gold IRAs work similarly to traditional IRAs, except the account is backed by gold or other precious metals. Get started with our matching tool below and connect with an authorized partner that can get you more information.

      Find my match

      5. Buy a new mattress

      It’s essential to take your long-term health seriously, and a good night's rest is a part of that. Several luxury mattresses made with quality materials cost less than $1,000 and are available for online delivery.

      From investing in gold to paying less on home repairs, we have ideas to help you save in the long-term...
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      Coronavirus update: Blood plasma treatment declared safe, McDonald’s lays out rules for reopening

      New claims for unemployment benefits are still in the millions

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,395,265 (1,372,855)

      Total U.S. deaths: 84,313 (82,548 )

      Total global cases: 4,387,438 (4,298,269)

      Total global deaths: 298,392 (293,514)

      Scientists give blood plasma treatments a green light

      Another potential treatment for the coronavirus (COVID-19) appears to be headed for the fast track. Researchers at Mayo Clinic, Michigan State University, and Johns Hopkins University are reporting that their study shows administering blood plasma from recovered patients to those with the disease is safe.

      The research team looked at the cases of 5,000 hospitalized patients in the U.S. who underwent the convalescent plasma treatment. It found the blood transfusions caused few serious side effects, and there wasn’t an excessive mortality rate.

      The antibody treatment has been used in the past to treat other forms of virus. The successful results should lead to a Phase 2 clinical trial which will determine how effective the treatment is against COVID-19.

      McDonald’s sets rules for re-opening

      In an exclusive report, The Wall Street Journal cites a 59-page memo from McDonald’s to its franchisees which sets guidelines for reopening dining areas that have been closed since mid-March.

      The company is asking owners to commit to cleaning bathrooms every half-hour and cleaning ordering kiosks after each use. Besides the extra labor costs, McDonald’s is asking for infrastructure investments, including devices to open bathroom doors with feet instead of hands.

      The fast-food chain also wants restaurants to spend $310 on automatic towel dispensers and $718 for touchless sinks, according to the report.

      Millions more unemployment claims

      The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits went down in the last week but remains in the millions. The Labor Department reported today that 2,981,000 people filed for benefits in the week ending May 9.

      The previous week's level was revised up by 7,000 from 3,169,000 to 3,176,000. The four-week moving average of claims is 3,616,500, a decrease of 564,000 from the previous week's revised average. 

      Since the coronavirus caused the shutdown of wide areas of the U.S. economy, more than 36 million people have filed claims for unemployment benefits

      Baseball in July?

      Sports leagues have been sidelined by the coronavirus, but Major League Baseball is actively discussing how to salvage part of its season. In a proposal to the players’ union, the league has suggested an 82-game season that would kick off in July.

      The Wall Street Journal reports that the proposal involves a number of safety steps, including frequent testing of all personnel for the virus. Even so, league officials acknowledge that someone is likely to test positive at some point during the shortened season.

      For there to be a baseball season starting in July, it’s likely agreement between the league and its players must come soon. Spring training was interrupted in early March and would need to resume before the players take the field.

      Permanent virus

      Here’s a sobering through: the coronavirus might never go away. That possibility comes from Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) health emergencies program.

      At a media briefing in Geneva today, Ryan said there may be treatments, and even a vaccine, but COVID-19 may become one of the viruses that kill people each year.

      HIV hasn't gone away," Ryan said. "I'm not comparing the two diseases, but I think it is important that we're realistic. I don't think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear." 

      Around the nation

      • Massachusetts: CVS Health said it is opening 10 new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites across the state tomorrow as part of its efforts to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The additional sites will utilize self-swab tests and are part of the first rollout of new CVS testing sites across the country.

      • Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s feud with state residents protesting her orders shutting down the state continues. Asked about the daily protests at the Michigan capital, Whitmer told interviewers that the protests are making it more likely that she will extend the shutdown order beyond May 28.

      • Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis has put out the welcome mat for professional sports teams that want to play and practice in Florida. Fans, however, would not be allowed in the stands. DeSantis has already declared sports to be “essential services” and has allowed WWE and UFC events to be staged in the state without fans.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,395,265 (1,372,85...
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      Amazon asks Congress to enact anti-price gouging legislation

      The online giant feels it can’t fight this consumer rip-off alone no matter how hard it tries

      When the pandemic started to hit its stride, Amazon found itself in a swamp of carpetbaggers who were holding consumers hostage on essentials like toilet paper and face masks. The company subsequently booted thousands of sellers from its platform. 

      Nonetheless, there's still plenty who are trying to profit on pandemic-related necessities, albeit at a lower ransom. As an example, ConsumerAffairs found a five-pack of 2 oz. hand sanitizer on Amazon for $22.99 (plus $7.99 s/h) where at CVS, you can buy five of its store-branded products for $7.95.

      Fast forward to Thursday, and it looks like Amazon has had its fill of price gougers. The online retail giant is asking Congress to pass a law to help stop the consumer stick-up once and for all.

      No surprise

      It's nothing new to see entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on a large event. However, profiting off a pandemic is not the same as hawking World Series t-shirts to the winning team's fans.

      "This isn't a surprise. Whenever the demand for basic necessities increases, there are bad actors who try to exploit circumstances by marking up goods in a way that goes far beyond the laws of supply and demand," Amazon's Brian Huseman -- who oversees public policy for the Americas at Amazon and is a former consumer protection attorney at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission -- wrote in a blog post.

      Huseman says the company has done everything in its power to stop the overcharging. It removed more than 500,000 rip-offs and turned over a volume of suspected sellers to federal prosecutors and state attorneys general. However, the company feels this is a battle that it can't fight by itself.

      Officials say it’s difficult to go state-to-state to try to stop gougers on their home turf. That state-to-state element is particularly challenging to wrestle because some states define gouging as a price ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent above average sales prices, and some states have no price-gouging laws at all.

      "Our collaborative efforts to hold price gougers accountable have clarified one thing: to keep pace with bad actors and protect consumers, we need a strong federal anti-price gouging law," Huseman said. “The disparate standards among states present a significant challenge for retailers working to assist law enforcement, protect consumers, and comply with the law.”

      Amazon offers a solution

      To help grease the skids for federal regulators, Amazon has crafted a blueprint that it thinks could do the trick. When the federal government declares a public health crisis or national emergency, the law kicks in immediately. 

      Amazon suggests that pricing prohibitions be defined as "unconscionable or grossly excessive or unconscionably excessive." 

      "Put simply, we want to avoid the $400 bottle of Purell for sale right after an emergency goes into effect, while not punishing unavoidable price increases that emergencies can cause, especially as supply chains are disrupted," Huseman said.

      Protecting consumers is the important thing

      The bottom line is that Amazon can't afford to tick off its customers. When a price-gouger fleeces a consumer, it's usually Amazon who catches grief, not the gouger. And while this move may be a few months too late, it could bode well for both the company and consumers.

      "A federal price-gouging law would ensure that there are no gaps in protection for consumers. This would also help retailers like Amazon more effectively prevent bad actors and ensure fair prices," Huseman said. 

      Huseman feels that having the U.S. government driving this enforcement can make everyone happy. "We believe any new legislative proposal should provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to go after scammers," he concluded. 

      "This would complement the great work being done by state attorneys general nationwide and allow for more expeditious enforcement, while also sending a warning shot to price gougers and enabling honest sellers to operate without disruption."

      When the pandemic started to hit its stride, Amazon found itself in a swamp of carpetbaggers who were holding consumers hostage on essentials like toilet p...
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      Uber outlines additional efforts to curb spread of COVID-19

      Drivers and passengers will be required to wear face masks

      Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi announced during a conference call on Wednesday that, starting Monday, all drivers and riders must wear face masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

      The ride-hailing company will also take several other measures to alleviate consumer concern about the possibility of exposure to the illness, including requiring drivers to have to take a photo of themselves with their mask on before they begin driving and confirming that they aren’t experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

      Drivers will also have to prove that they sufficiently sanitized their vehicle and agree to drive with their windows down. Khosrowshahi noted on the call that Uber has allocated $50 million for masks and sanitation products for its drivers.

      "As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution. Today, we continue to ask riders to stay home if they can, while shipping safety supplies to drivers who are providing essential trips. At the same time, our teams are preparing for the next phase of recovery, where we will all have a role to play," said Uber's head of safety communications Andrew Hasbun in a statement to CNN Business.

      Virus prevention measures

      Starting Monday, May 18, Uber will also limit the number of passengers allowed in each vehicle to three. Additionally, passengers won’t be allowed to ride in the front seat in order to ensure proper social distancing. 

      “We do not want them to be in the front seat because we want them to be physically distanced as much as possible from the driver,” Sachin Kansal, Uber’s head of safety, said in a video conference with reporters. “We want all the members of that party to be sitting in the backseat.” As for passengers crammed into the backseat, Kansal said, “These are people who are typically from the same household, so they’re already living together.”

      Uber’s business has been hit hard by the pandemic. Khosrowshahi said on the call that Uber drivers have seen their income drop by as much as 80 percent. The company announced this week that it would lay off 3,500 full-time employees. 

      Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi announced during a conference call on Wednesday that, starting Monday, all drivers and riders must wear face masks t...
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      Ford recalls Transit Connect vehicles

      The panoramic roof could separate from the vehicle

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 5,100 model year 2014-17 Transit Connect vehicles with the panoramic vista roof.

      An improper bond may exist between the panoramic roof and the vehicle body that could result in wind noise, water leaks and -- in some cases -- separation from the vehicle.

      There are no reports of accident or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will remove, clean and reinstall the panoramic roof glass at now charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S22.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 5,100 model year 2014-17 Transit Connect vehicles with the panoramic vista roof. An improper bond may exist betwee...
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      Coronavirus update: ‘Potentially positive’ treatments, food delivery firms still struggling

      Former FDA commissioner see kids returning to the classroom this fall

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,372,855 (1,354,504)

      Total U.S. deaths: 82,548 (80,900)

      Total global cases: 4,298,269 (4,215,514)

      Total global deaths: 293,514  (287,809)

      WHO cites ‘potentially positive’ treatments

      The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that some coronavirus (COVID-19) treatments appear to be limiting the severity or length of the disease. The next step, it says, is to learn more about four or five of the most promising ones.

      Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the organization, told reporters that early studies show some treatments have been effective when given to patients. But she says research is in its early stages.

      Harris stopped short of naming the treatments and admitted that, while the results are promising, “we do not have anything that can kill or stop the virus.”

      Elusive profits for food delivery companies 

      With so many consumers stuck at home, you would think companies that deliver food would be doing a banner business. While it’s true they’re as busy as they’ve ever been, The Wall Street Journal reports that those extra trips aren’t resulting in extra profits.

      “Companies including Grubhub Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.’s Uber Eats division, are losing money on delivery orders or barely breaking even,” the publication reports. “And they say they aren’t sure how many diners will stick with delivery after stay-at-home orders are relaxed.”

      Even so, credit card data -- along with company statements -- show that sales for GrubHub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Postmates have grown in the last 60 days.

      Back to school

      A day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cast doubt on school resuming in the fall, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, expressed a more optimistic view, at least in terms of higher education.

      “I think we’ll be in a position where we’re going to give a try at opening schools, opening residential college campuses in the fall because I’m hopeful that coming off of July and August, we’re going to see some declines in cases in the summer,” Gottlieb told CNBC this morning. “I think there will be a seasonal effect here.”

      In a remote appearance before a Senate committee Tuesday, Fauci said he didn’t think there would be treatments in place by the fall, and therefore children should not return to the classroom.

      U.S. preparing for future vaccine

      The U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services have awarded a contract for up to 500 million “medical-grade injection devices” that would be used to administer a vaccine against COVID-19, whenever one is approved.

      The $138 million contract with ApiJect Systems America for “Project Jumpstart” and “RAPID USA” is aimed at expanding U.S. production capability for domestically manufactured devices to administer a vaccine, starting in October.

      “The contract will support ‘Jumpstart’ to create a U.S.-based, high-speed supply chain for prefilled syringes beginning later this year by using well-established Blow-Fill-Seal (BFS) aseptic plastics manufacturing technology, suitable for combatting COVID-19 when a safe and proven vaccine becomes available,” said  Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman.

      Powell warns of deep economic damage

      The Federal Reserve has been active in supporting businesses and industries that have been hammered by the economic effects of the coronavirus, but Chairman Jerome Powell says there’s a limit to those measures’ ability to limit the damage.

      In a speech to the Peterson Institute for International Economics today, Powell suggested it will take longer for the economy to recover than many people think. If things get really bad, he says it would leave “lasting damage” to economic productivity.

      Powell’s colleague, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, has expressed an equally sober view, saying she expects unemployment to hit or top 20 percent and second-quarter economic activity to plunge by 40 percent before the economy begins to recover in the second half of the year.

      Around the nation

      • California: Two men were arrested at a Los Angeles Target after they refused an employee’s order to put on masks and got into a fight. According to CNN, the Target employee got the worst of it, suffering a broken arm.

      • Texas: State officials are sending 1,200 vials of the Gilead drug remdesivir to Texas hospitals to treat coronavirus patients. The state this week received 30 cases of the experimental drug from the federal government. 

      • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott says Vermont has the third-lowest rate of growth in coronavirus cases in the nation, but he’s taking a cautious approach to reopening the state. Retail stores will be allowed to open next week at 25 percent capacity and must abide by health and safety requirements.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,372,855 (1,354,50...
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      Amazon shows signs of resuming normal service

      The company told sellers that it will no longer restrict new product shipments by quantity

      Amazon has made moves to suggest that it is easing COVID-19 shipping restrictions, such as delaying shipments of nonessential items. 

      Over the weekend, the company began informing third-party sellers that it would no longer limit the number of units that sellers could send per order to its warehouses. Amazon previously placed a cap on nonessential inventory restocks as it dealt with the sudden surge in consumer demand for products on its marketplace.  

      Now, sellers have been informed that they can send in an unrestricted quantity of inventory. 

      “We removed quantity limits on products our suppliers can send to our fulfillment centers,” Kristen Kish, an Amazon spokeswoman told CNBC. “We continue to adhere to extensive health and safety measures to protect our associates as they pick, pack and ship products to customers, and are improving delivery speeds across our store.” 

      Amazon has also brought back the “Featured deals” and “Frequently bought together” sections on its website, indicating that the company isn’t as crushed by demand as it was in the initial stages of the pandemic. 

      The e-commerce giant hasn’t yet restored its one- and two-day delivery options, but next-day delivery is now starting to come back online for select cities in the U.S.

      Hazard pay for workers

      In addition to loosening some shipping restrictions, Amazon will be extending hazard pay to warehouse workers through the end of May. The company will stop offering the extra pay in June, according to a Recode report.  

      Amazon has faced criticism over its treatment of front-line workers during the pandemic. Lawmakers and activist groups have argued that the company isn’t doing enough to protect warehouse workers who have continued to work during the health crisis and have been forced to work in facilities where other employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

      Amazon is currently being investigated by The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its recent firing of at least four workers who spoke out about the company’s allegedly unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus crisis. 

      In mid-March, the company increased warehouse and delivery employee pay by $2 per hour and instated double overtime pay. After extending the pay hike several times, the increases will now end on May 31.

      “We continue to see incredible demand from customers right now and … our team’s response in coming back to work has been really great as well,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, told Recode. “We think it’s the right thing for employees and the right thing for customers to keep it on for a couple of weeks.”

      Amazon has made moves to suggest that it is easing COVID-19 shipping restrictions, such as delaying shipments of nonessential items. Over the weekend,...
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      Twitter announces long-term work-from-home policy

      CEO Jack Dorsey told employees that they will be allowed to continue working from home forever

      In an email to employees on Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said his company’s team members will have the option of working from home indefinitely, according to BuzzFeed News

      Dorsey said it was unlikely that offices will open back up before September -- but even after the worst of the pandemic is over, employees can remain at home. 

      “Opening offices will be our decision,” a company spokesperson said. “When and if our employees come back, will be theirs.”

      Dorsey noted that Twitter was one of the first companies to move to a work-from-home model when the health crisis began unfolding. He said the company will “continue to put the safety of our people and communities first.”

      Working from home forever

      Given that COVID-19 mitigation efforts are still active and the virus is continuing to spread, Twitter has cancelled all in-person events for the remainder of the year. Twitter officials said they will assess plans for 2021 events later this year.

      The company also increased its allowance for work-from-home supplies to $1,000 for all employees. Twitter said the past two months have proven that it’s possible for remote workers to thrive and produce quality work.

      “The past few months have proven we can make that work,” a spokesperson said. “So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

      In an email to employees on Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said his company’s team members will have the option of working from home indefinitely, accord...
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      Ford recalls Mustangs and Expeditions

      The “transmission not in park” warning message and chime may malfunction

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 10,600 model year 2019-20 Mustangs and model year 2019 Expeditions.

      The “transmission not in park” warning message and associated chime are only active for three seconds when the transmission is not in park, the ignition is off, and the driver’s door is closed.

      The chime should remain active for 10 seconds and the transmission not in park warning message should display for 30 minutes when the driver’s door is closed.

      A transmission not in park warning and chime with a shorter than designed duration could result in the driver exiting the vehicle when it is not in park and experiencing unintended vehicle movement, increasing the risk of injury or crash.

      Ford is not aware of any reports of accident or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the instrument panel cluster free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S21.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 10,600 model year 2019-20 Mustangs and model year 2019 Expeditions. The “transmission not in park” warning message...
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      Dr. Anthony Fauci warns reopening too soon could cause future COVID-19 outbreaks

      Reopening states too early could lead to ‘needless suffering and death,’ he said

      As some states begin to reopen businesses, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that reopening too soon could lead to “little spikes” in coronavirus cases that could turn into further outbreaks. 

      Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, told Congress on Tuesday that he’s concerned some states may be easing measures to curb the spread of the virus prematurely. Failing to adhere to the White House’s multi-phase plan for gradually reopening could be a step backward for the nation in combating the outbreak.

      "My concern [is] that if some areas, city, states, or what have you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Fauci said in response to a question from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

      Fauci raised these concerns during a videoconference hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 

      Slowing the spread

      In addition to expressing concern about future outbreaks stemming from opening back up too early, Fauci discussed the likely timeline for the rollout of a vaccine. Fauci said he was optimistic that health experts will find a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus, but schools shouldn’t expect a vaccine or widely available treatment for COVID-19 by fall.

      “Even at the top speed we’re going, we don’t see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school this term,” he said.

      In the meantime, the nation’s COVID-19 response is “currently focused on the proven public health practices of containment and mitigation,” Fauci said. 

      “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote in an email to New York Times health policy reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.” 

      Vaccine progress

      More than 100 potential vaccines are being looked into as potential treatments, but Fauci said “there’s no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective.” He noted that two vaccines have produced a “suboptimal response.” 

      “And when the person gets exposed, they actually have an enhanced pathogenesis of the disease, which is always worrisome. So we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Those are the two major unknowns,” he said.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave the biopharma firm Moderna “fast track” status for its experimental vaccine, mRNA-1273. The drug entered Phase 2 clinical trials last week. 

      The number of COVID-19 cases has exceeded one million and the number of deaths is now at least 80,684, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. U.S. health officials say the figures are likely much higher as some people with the illness are asymptomatic. 

      As some states begin to reopen businesses, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that reopening too soon could lead to “little spikes” in...
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      Coronavirus update: A vaccine is on the fast track, Burger King reopening dining room

      Are we about to lose an airline to the coronavirus?

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,354,504 (1,332,609)

      Total U.S. deaths: 80,900 (79,699)

      Total global cases: 4,215,514 (4,137,591)

      Total global deaths: 287,809  (283,526 )

      Moderna vaccine gets FDA ‘fast track’

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to move with unprecedented speed on vaccines and therapeutics to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reuters reports that the biopharma firm Moderna has gained FDA “fast track” status for its experimental vaccine, which just last week entered Phase 2 clinical trials.

      Being placed on the fast track means the agency will expedite its review of the drug for safety and efficacy. The vaccine, dubbed mRNA-1273, received approval last week to begin the next round of clinical trials. 

      The company is already looking ahead to a Phase 3 study, which Moderna CEO Stephanie Bancel said could begin as early as this summer. “Moderna is now preparing to potentially have its first BLA approved as soon as 2021,” she said. 

      Burger King begins reopening dining rooms

      Fast-food chain Burger King says it has begun to reopen its dining rooms with new social distancing protocols in place. In a letter to customers, Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil said company restaurants have installed acrylic shields and contactless service at most locations.

      "We will be sanitizing tables and chairs after each use and will have hand sanitizer available in the dining room for our guests," Cil wrote. "We have turned off our self-serve soda fountains and are offering beverages, extra condiments, and trays from the behind the front counter.

      Besides Burger King, the company also operates Tim Hortons and Popeyes restaurants.

      Fewer airlines in the future

      Once the public is ready to travel again, it is likely to find its choices of airlines a bit smaller. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun predicts that at least one U.S. airline will not survive the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.

      Appearing on the NBC Today Show, Calhoun said the economic damage airlines are currently encountering cannot be overstated. Passenger traffic for all domestic carriers is down an average of more than 90 percent.

      Calhoun did not single out an airline, and Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe told NBC that Calhoun “was speaking in general about the uncertainty in the sector, not about any one particular airline.”

      New cases rising in some areas

      As states and counties around the U.S. eased some of their COVID-19 restrictions, health officials have reported an uptick in new cases of the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned a Senate committee today about reopening the country prematurely.

      Fauci told lawmakers that a vaccine will be necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus and lower the number of deaths from the virus. He also expressed doubt that school children would be able to return to the classroom in the fall.

      Elon Musk takes a stand

      One high-profile business executive taking a stand against government shutdown orders is Tesla CEO Elon Musk. In defiance of an Alameda County, California order closing Tesla’s assembly plant, Musk has called workers back on the job.

      After multiple tweets expressing anger at the order, Musk said he plans to be on the production line all week, daring county officials to do something about it. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” he wrote.

      Musk has claimed that state guidelines allow him to resume production and that overly restrictive local interpretations of the rules have prevented him from doing so. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has attempted to referee the dispute and says he hopes the company could get back to work “as early as next week.”

      Around the nation

      • New York: While many states are reopening non-essential businesses this week, New York City officials are not ready to take that step. Mayor Bill de Blasio says a ban on non-essential businesses and large gatherings won’t be lifted until the summer, at the earliest.

      • Colorado: State health officials have shut down C&C Coffee and Kitchen in Castle Rock for at least 30 days after the shop posted on Twitter that it was welcoming crowds on Mother's Day. Restaurants are limited to take out service under the state’s emergency order.

      • Montana: Businesses in the sparsely populated state opened three weeks ago, so health officials have been curious to see whether the virus spiked. So far, it hasn’t. New cases have declined over the last two weeks. 

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,354,504 (1,332,60...
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      DOT addresses airline refunds and carrier obligations in new guidance

      Secretary Chao reminds the airline industry that it needs to follow the CARES Act as it was written

      Early Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao delivered good news to consumers and a little of both good and bad news to the airline industry. 

      For the consumers, the DOT stepped up its enforcement concerning ticket refunds brought on by the pandemic. And for the airlines? A little breather on their total service obligation.

      For the consumers

      Given the sloth-like pace the airlines were moving at to fulfill the DOT's mandate on refunds vs. vouchers, the Department felt it had no recourse but to tell the airlines that they needed to shape up. 

      According to Chao's office, the DOT received more than 25,000 air travel service complaints and inquiries between March and April -- many of which concerned refunds. In a typical month, it might receive only about 1,500.

      "The Department has received an unprecedented volume of complaints from passengers and is examining this issue closely to ensure that airlines' policies and practices conform to DOT's refund rules," said Secretary Chao. 

      "The Department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time."

      To help travelers holding tickets and wondering what the best steps to take are, the DOT has produced a guide covering questions such as:

      • What rights do passengers have if an airline cancels a flight or makes a significant schedule change? What is a "significant change" or "cancellation" requiring a refund?

      • What rights do passengers have if they choose not to travel due to safety or health concerns related to the COVID-19 public health emergency?

      • What rights do passengers have if they choose not to travel due to safety or health concerns related to the COVID-19 public health emergency?

      • May airlines and ticket agents retroactively apply new refund policies?

      • May airlines or ticket agents offer credits or vouchers to consumers instead of refunds?

      • How quickly must airlines and ticket agents process refunds?

      The answers to those questions can be found here, but a fair warning -- the Department couched its notice purely as “guidance,” saying that “it does not have the force and effect of law and is not meant to bind the regulated entities in any way.” 

      Consumers who have additional questions are encouraged to contact the DOT directly at this email address: C70Notice@dot.gov.

      For the airlines

      When it comes to airlines’ service obligations, the Department relaxed its position a bit. Rather than force airlines to serve the same number of markets they did before COVID-19, the DOT now gives airlines the green light to "reduce the number of points they must serve as a proportion of their total service obligation."

      To that end, the Department simply asks the carriers to make sure that at least one airline continues to cover every community. That might require some arm wrestling, though. There are lots of markets where multiple airlines fly the same route. For example, between Cincinnati (CVG) and Atlanta (ATL), there are five different airlines that fly the same route; four airlines that fly Dallas (DFW) to Seattle (SEA); and five that fly Orlando (ORL) to New York's LaGuardia (LGA).

      Remember who's in charge

      Secretary Chao didn't pull any punches in reminding airlines who's in charge when it comes to the requirements they need to follow under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

      The legislation authorized the Secretary to require an airline carrier receiving financial assistance under the act to maintain scheduled air transportation service "to the extent reasonable and practicable" to any point served by that air carrier before March 1, 2020. 

      And if the airlines don't like Chao's updated directives? They have until May 18 to respond to the service obligation adjustments notice. The trade association Airlines For America (A4A) said that airlines are doing everything they can to comply with the government’s request.

      “U.S. carriers have worked since the early stages of this pandemic to respond to customers and update travel policies to offer increased flexibility,” the organization told ConsumerAffairs. “We understand that these are difficult times for our country, our passengers, and our employees. U.S. airlines remain committed to making accommodations that are responsive to travelers’ needs during this unprecedented time.”

      Early Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao delivered good news to consumers and a little of both good and bad news to the airline indus...
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      Model year 2020 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators recalled

      The vehicles Pre-Collison Assist can't be enabled

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 25,081 model year 2020 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators with the camera-only Pre-Collision Assist feature.

      Vehicles built with the optional radar-plus-camera Pre-Collision Assist system are not affected.

      Due to incorrect coding of interfacing modules, the Pre-Collision Assist feature is not enabled, and the driver cannot access the menu functions necessary to enable the Pre-Collision Assist feature.

      Drivers unaware that the Pre-Collision Assist feature is not enabled may rely on a system that is not functional, increasing the risk of a crash or injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram software for the Body Control Module, Antilock Braking System, Instrument Panel Cluster and Headlamp Control Modules, and reset the Tire Pressure Monitor System free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin May 25, 2020.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 20S20.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 25,081 model year 2020 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators with the camera-only Pre-Collision Assist feature. Vehicl...
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      GM recalls Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit and SS vehicles

      The vehicles may lose electric power steering assist

      General Motors is recalling 1,826 model year 2015-2016 Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit (PPV) and SS vehicles.

      Corrosion of the connector between the electric power steering module and the torque sensor connector may cause a loss of electric power steering assist.

      A greater steering effort would be needed to control the vehicle if power steering is lost, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering gear assembly free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 22, 2020.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at (800) 222-1020. GM's number for this recall is N192285350.

      General Motors is recalling 1,826 model year 2015-2016 Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit (PPV) and SS vehicles. Corrosion of the connector between the el...
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      3 tips to get a good workout while walking

      Our walking tips increase the challenge of walking for added exercise

      Experts say walking is one of the most underrated exercises. It is easy on your joints, works your large muscles and drives your heart and lung strength. Walking is something that most people can do, but how do you take it to another level? We have 3 simple solutions to help you burn more calories on your daily walks.

      1. Add in weights

      Carrying or adding weights to yourself during a walk helps you utilize more muscles because it makes it harder to walk. Adding weights in varying steps per your workout level is safe and allows you to improve your overall strength and burn more calories.

      Weighted vest

      This option is a vest you wear that has little weights attached to it. The vest can evenly distribute the weight over your shoulder, back, chest and core.

      • Water bottle holder
      • Phone pocket

      Buy on Amazon

      Weighted backpack

      Another option is a weighted backpack or a rucksack. You can add or remove weights with this option, and it is also an excellent way to carry other items like a wallet or snacks.

      • Water-resistant polyester
      • Side pouch for water bottle

      Buy on Amazon

      Light dumbbells

      If you prefer not to strap anything to your body, simply holding and walking with light dumbbells will do the trick.

      • Comfortable foam covers
      • Helps tone your arms

      Buy on Amazon

      2. Add in bodyweight exercises

      If you prefer not to carry weights, then adding in bodyweight exercises every few minutes incorporates strength training to your walk. Some bodyweight exercises to include are:

      • Push-ups
      • Planks
      • Jumping jacks
      • Skips
      • Lunges
      • Squats

      Grab yourself a timer and add in these bodyweight exercises every 5 minutes for a minute or so and then continue your walk.

      Exercise timer
      • Chime and vibration notifications
      • Stopwatch and interval feature

      Buy on Amazon

      3. Walk uphill

      Switching up your walking path is a nice change of scenery and helps alleviate the boredom of walking the same route, so why not find a hill nearby for increased intensity? Walking up and down an incline a few times is a great cardio drill and helps you work your glutes more often. You can even add in some walking sticks for extra balance.

      Walking sticks
      • Tough lightweight aluminum
      • Comfortable cork handles

      Buy on Amazon

      Overall, walking is an easy option for everyone to get their exercise done, but make sure to speak to your healthcare professional before increasing your intensity.

      Enjoy walking, but want a tougher workout? We have 3 tips for adding challenge to a tried and true exercise, plus some products that can help....
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      Coronavirus update: a warning about ‘vehement’ debt collectors, less need for ventilators

      Some consumers' utility bills are going down

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,332,609 (1,309,698)

      Total U.S. deaths: 79,699 (78,799)

      Total global cases: 4,137,591 (4,051,431)

      Total global deaths: 283,526  (279,734)

      Former CFPB director warns consumers about overly aggressive debt collectors

      In stark contrast to the 2008/2009 financial crisis, Congress has passed sweeping aid packages to help consumers weather the economic storm. One thing that might not be different, however, is the behavior of debt collectors.

      In an interview with CNBC, Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under President Obama, predicted debt collectors would become “vehement” in their pursuit of people who owe money. Cordray says he’s concerned that the estimated 30 million unemployed are going to have trouble paying their bills and will get no mercy from debt collectors, based on what happened 12 years ago.

      “They’ll potentially go over the legal lines they’re not supposed to cross in terms of pursuing debt collection,” said Cordray. 

      Brush up on your legal rights here

      Less need for ventilators

      A growing number of doctors treating COVID-19 patients are delaying placing them on ventilators, and many say they aren’t using ventilators at all, despite their patients’ low blood oxygen levels. For some reason, they say many patients in that state have no trouble breathing on their own.

      Scientists have no explanation for this so far. The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors at Stony Brook Hospital in New York have used ventilators less on these patients, turning instead to the CPAP or BiPAP machines or high-flow nasal cannulas.

      At the beginning of the pandemic, it was feared that the number of people with the virus would overwhelm hospital intensive care units (ICU) because there might not be enough ventilators. As doctors begin to wait longer to see if a patient actually needs a ventilator, the pressure on ICUs is expected to subside.

      Some consumers see lower electric bills

      Since the pandemic began, consumers have paid a lot less for gasoline. They should also be paying less for electricity, though not all are.

      Offices, stores, and restaurants across the U.S. have closed their doors. These businesses had been big consumers of electricity but no longer are. As a result, utility companies are paying less for electricity.

      Some are actually passing the savings on to customers through lower rates. In Fort Meade, Fla., the local power company has reduced the residential and commercial rate for its electricity customers, reducing the average residential bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity from $116 to $110 per month. 

      FDA approves new antigen test

      Testing got off to a slow start, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is making up for lost time. Over the weekend, the agency granted emergency use authorization (EAU) to a new antigen test that reportedly provides faster and more accurate results when patients are tested for the coronavirus.

      The test is produced by Quidel Corporation and checks for virus proteins on samples collected from a patient’s nasal cavity. It reportedly has an 85 percent accuracy rating and yields results in about five minutes on machines found in most doctors’ offices.

      Writing in The Wall Street Journal, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the test is important because it tells doctors which patients have already been infected and may now be immune to the disease.

      Automotive delivery service

      It’s well documented that some restaurants have seen a surge of delivery orders from consumers who are abiding by shelter-in-place guidelines. Amazon also reports record orders.

      Delivery also extends to automotive services, including filling your gas tank. Yoshi is an app that lets you dispatch a truck that will come to your home and top off your car’s tank with fuel. The service tech can also check tires and change the oil. 

      A report and receipt are then sent to the customer’s smartphone, explaining what services were provided and alerting the owner to any potential issues with the vehicle, such as excessive tire wear. The app is for Android or iOS. Users can set up a profile that includes vehicle details, payment information, membership plan, and preferred fuel grade.

      Around the nation

      • Oklahoma: With coronavirus restrictions starting to be lifted, congregations were allowed to gather Sunday in small numbers. To play it safe, Putnam City Baptist Church established what it called a “lawn chair church,” holding services outside and asking worshipers to bring and sit in lawn chairs -- six feet apart, of course. 

      • Nebraska: State education officials believe public schools will be able to open as scheduled in the fall. Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt says reopening will depend on local health conditions and that some districts should be prepared to continue online classes.

      • Washington: Some residents who reported violators of the state’s state-at-home orders say they are being threatened. They say the threats were generated by Facebook posts that gave their personal information.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,332,609 (1,309,69...
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      Sobeauty recalls 'Mag Cube' magnetic ball sets

      The magnet sets violate the federal standard for children’s toys

      Sobeauty of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., is recalling about 600 “Mag Cube” magnetic ball sets.

      The magnet sets contain high-powered magnets and violate the federal standard for children’s toys.

      When two or more high-powered magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside a child’s intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death.

      Internal injury from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.

      While no incidents or injuries have been reported with these recalled magnet sets, CPSC staff has received numerous incident reports of ingestion involving other small, high-powered magnets, including many that required surgery.

      This recall includes “Mag Cube” magnetic ball sets labeled as “3D MAGNETIC PUZZLE”, “MAGCUBE BUCKYBALLS” and “JOYNOTE” with “MAG CUBE” on the back of the box.

      The magnet ball sets contain 216 spherical high-power rare earth magnets. The gold-colored spherical magnets is about 3 millimeters in diameter each, and the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple-colored spherical magnets are about 5 millimeters in diameter each.

      The box contains: a drum-shape, dark blue-colored metal container, a black velvet pouch, a plastic separator, and an instructional paper.

      “MAG CUBE” and “BUCKYBALLS” are printed on the metal container.

      The metal container has the following cautionary statement “WARNING Keep Away From All Children! Do not put in nose or mouth. This product contains small magnet(s). Swallowed magnets can stick together across intestines causing serious infections and death. Seek immediate medical attention if magnet(s) are swallowed or inhaled. AGES 14+.”

      The magnet sets, manufactured in China, were sold online at Walmart.com from March 2018, through December 2019, for between $13 and $20.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled magnetic balls and take them away from children. If the recalled magnetic balls were purchased for someone else, notify the recipient immediately.

      Consumers should contact Sobeauty Inc. for instructions on returning the product and receiving a full refund including taxes and the original shipping cost.

      Consumers may contact Sobeauty toll-free at (844) 946-7437 anytime or by email at recall@sobeautyinc.com for more information.

      Sobeauty of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., is recalling about 600 “Mag Cube” magnetic ball sets.The magnet sets contain high-powered magnets and violate...
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      Becca Cosmetics recalls Light Shifter Brightening Concealer

      A common household mold was found on the sponge-tip applicator

      Becca Cosmetics is recalling all shades of its Light Shifter Brightening Concealer.

      A brownish-black material identified as a common household mold was found on the sponge-tip applicator of some units.

      No adverse reactions or injuries have been reported to date.

      The following product, manufactured in the U.S. and sold nationwide, is being recalled:

      Product NameBatchSizeProduct DescriptionUPC
      Becca Cosmetics
      Light Shifter Brightening Concealer
      0030A,
      9308A,
      0052A,
      0052C,
      9291A,
      9309A,
      0036A,
      0037A,
      0038A,
      0038B,
      0041A,
      9289A,
      0062A,
      0062B,
      0062C,
      9283A,
      9284A,
      9287A,
      9288A
      3.2 mL (only size available)Concealer wand with silver overlay, and a white secondary carton9331137030037
      9331137030044
      9331137030051
      9331137030068
      9331137030075
      9331137030099
      9331137030082
      9331137030105

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop using it and contact the place of purchase regarding a refund.

      Consumers may contact the firm by email at jduntonr@beccacosmetics.com

      Becca Cosmetics is recalling all shades of its Light Shifter Brightening Concealer.A brownish-black material identified as a common household mold was...
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      Coronavirus update: New antibody treatment in the works, a record number of Americans lost their jobs last month

      Your favorite restaurant may stay closed

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,259,777 (1,231,992)

      Total U.S. deaths: 75,852 (73,573)

      Total global cases: 3,877,914 (3,784,085)

      Total global deaths: 270,537 (264,679)

      New hope for an antibody treatment

      On the heels of regulatory approval of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine trial, Sorrento Therapeutics and Mount Sinai Health have announced they are working on developing an antibody cocktail against the virus. The drug would not be a vaccine, but scientists say it could protect against the disease for about two months.

      “The collaboration between Mount Sinai and Sorrento aims to generate antibody products that would act as a ‘protective shield’ against SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection, potentially blocking and neutralizing the activity of the virus in naïve at-risk populations as well as recently infected individuals,” the two organizations said in a news release.

      If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s expected that the antibody cocktail, known as COVI-SHIELD, will be offered to people returning to work and as a therapeutic to those who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

      Unprecedented job loss in April

      An economy that had produced hundreds of thousands of new jobs each month through February suffered record job loss in April. The Labor Department reports that the economy lost 20.5 million jobs last month. The unemployment rate shot up to 14.7 percent.

      To put those numbers in perspective, the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus wiped out the same number of jobs in the month of April that were created over the previous 10 years.

      Ironically, health care workers suffered some of the steepest job cuts last month. That’s because hospitals and other medical facilities stopped elective procedures and doctors’ and dentists’ offices closed their doors. 

      Your favorite restaurant may never reopen

      The hospitality industry --primarily bars and restaurants -- has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown. While some restaurants have stayed open serving takeout and delivery orders, others have closed -- many of them for good.

      A survey by the National Restaurant Association shows operators expect April losses to total more than $50 billion. Combined with the estimated $30 billion in lost sales in March, the restaurants could see combined losses of $80 billion for the two months -- and up to $240 billion by the end of the year.

      Restaurants forced to close their doors may not be able to reopen in the face of that kind of lost business. The California Restaurant Association has estimated that 30 percent of the state’s 90,000 eating establishments will not survive.

      Mortgage lenders slam on the brakes

      Assuming you’re able to find a home you’d like to buy amid the pandemic, it may be even harder in May to get a mortgage than it was last month. Bloomberg reports that lenders have raised underwriting standards yet again, increasing the amount of down payments and minimum credit scores for approval.

      Industry analysts say lenders have become more risk-averse because so many people have lost income. They also point to the unintended consequence of the CARES Act, which allows current homeowners to put off making mortgage payments.

      Bloomberg cites one model showing mortgage credit availability has dropped by more than 25 percent since the virus began to spread across the U.S.

      Ford going back to work

      Ford motor company is getting ready to resume vehicle production at plants idled since the coronavirus shutdown began. The automaker is targeting a phased restart for its North America operations beginning May 18, including restarting vehicle production in North America and bringing back the first wave of employees. 

      “We’ve been working intently with state and federal governments, our union partners, and a cross-section of our workforce to reopen our North American facilities,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer. “We have reopened our facilities in China, successfully begun our phased restart in Europe, and have been producing medical equipment in Michigan for more than six weeks.”

      Ford used one of its plants in Michigan to turn out respirators for health care workers and partnered with other manufacturers to build ventilators for hospitals.

      Around the nation

      • North Carolina: As the state begins to reopen, thrift stores are clearing space for an expected surge in donations. "In the last five days, we have had an unbelievable surge in donations, as you would expect,” said one store operator, who told a Raleigh TV station that people have spent their time at home cleaning out closets.

      • Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended the state’s stay at home order until May 28. The state has already been marked by widespread protests from business owners who say the shutdown is contributing to unsustainable losses.

      • Utah: Churches throughout the state will be allowed to reopen under revised guidelines. However, officials say members of the congregation must continue to practice social distancing during worship services.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,259,777 (1,231,99...
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      Consumers to spend more than $26 billion on Mother’s Day gifts

      The coronavirus pandemic is expected to change the way people celebrate the occasion

      Mother’s Day celebrations may look a little different this year due to social distancing guidelines and other COVID-19 restrictions, but most consumers plan on celebrating the holiday nonetheless. 

      More than 8 in 10 consumers will be celebrating Mother’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Two-thirds of those polled by the NRF said they plan to celebrate the occasion virtually.

      “Whether they are able to gather in person or will connect through phone calls or video chats, consumers want to use Mother’s Day to show their moms, grandmothers and the other maternal figures in their lives that they care,” the NRF said in a statement. 

      Spending a little more 

      This year, consumers will spend about $8 more on Mother’s Day gifts. The average spending total on gifts for mom will be $205. Total expected spending on moms is expected to be $26.7 billion. 

      Categories like electronics, housewares, gardening tools, and books are more popular this year than they have been in over a decade, according to the NRF’s survey of 8,294 adults. 

      While many consumers plan to celebrate virtually, such as via video chat, the NRF found that 46 percent of people still want to celebrate the day in traditional ways, such as with brunch or a special outing. 

      The survey, which was conducted in early April, found that more than three-quarters of consumers spending less on Mother’s Day this year cited limitations stemming from COVID-19.

      “Families are in an unusual position this year. Some consumers are looking to make up for the fact they can’t take mom out by sending her something a little extra special this year,” Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy for Prosper Insights, told the NRF.

      Getting creative

      Google said searches for “Mother’s Day gifts during quarantine” recently saw a 600 percent increase across the U.S., the Associated Press reported

      Some ways consumers plan on celebrating in the midst of the pandemic include socially distanced brunches, creating a “thank you” video for mom, and making the most of isolation by organizing a special indoor event. 

      Mother’s Day celebrations may look a little different this year due to social distancing guidelines and other COVID-19 restrictions, but most consumers pla...
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      Water treatment systems can help track the spread of COVID-19

      Experts are pushing to analyze untreated wastewater

      Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have been looking for better ways of tracing contact and exposure of the virus between consumers. Google and Apple have even created an app in an effort to keep records of those who are infected and alert those who could potentially be at risk. 

      Now, experts say one method for more streamlined tracking could come from testing untreated wastewater. Various studies around the world have found that analyzing samples of untreated water can be an effective means of tracing coronavirus exposure. 

      Tracking the spread

      While water treatment systems can be useful in getting rid of bacteria and viruses, analyzing untreated water can be helpful in tracking infections. Studies have been conducted around the world to test its viability, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. 

      Treating sewage has led experts to discover communities that could be vulnerable to coronavirus, or provide more precise figures on the number of cases in a given area. For example, in one area in Massachusetts, there were under 500 recorded cases of the virus. However, after treating the water in the area, over 2,000 residents were found to be infected. 

      The experts explained that this process is also beneficial because it can reveal the prevalence of the virus days before consumers feel symptoms. Their work found that traces of coronavirus can be present in sewage after just three days, which can give great insight into how and where the virus can spread among communities. 

      Because of these positive steps, legislators are hoping to make this practice more common across the United States. This would give consumers and lawmakers a better idea of the infection rate, and what areas are most in need of resources. 

      As an added positive, consumers who work in water treatment can rest assured by knowing that the virus cannot be transmitted from untreated sewage water. So, as these endeavors continue to become more popular, water treatment workers can be making headway on tracing and tracking the spread of COVID-19 while staying safe. 

      To learn more about water treatment services, check out our guide here

      Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have been looking for better ways of tracing contact and exposure of the virus between consumers. Go...
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      Senators question Amazon over termination of COVID-19 whistleblowers

      Democratic senators want to know why the company fired people who spoke publicly about concerns

      Amazon has fired at least four employees who publicly expressed concern about the company’s COVID-19 health and safety measures, and now a group of senators want to know why.  

      On Wednesday, senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker sent a letter to Amazon asking about its “policies for discipline and termination regarding workers who raise health and safety concerns.” 

      The group of senators noted that more than 100 Amazon workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least three fulfillment center employees have died. In light of these numbers, the senators asserted that Amazon’s efforts to boost worker safety during the health crisis have been insufficient. 

      Employees have the right to speak up 

      The letter stated that employers have a duty to ensure that workplaces are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.” Additionally, employees should have the right to speak up about concerns “without fear of retaliation.”

      “Given the clear public history of these four workers’ advocacy on behalf of health and safety conditions for workers in Amazon warehouses preceding their terminations, and Amazon’s vague public statements regarding violations of ‘internal policies,’ we are seeking additional information to understand exactly what those internal policies are,” the senators wrote.

      Amazon has until May 20 to provide answers to nine questions raised by the group of senators. The company has maintained that it terminated the employees in question for repeatedly violating policies such as physical distancing, not for talking publicly about working conditions or safety. 

      “We support every employees’ right to criticize or protest their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to explaining in more detail in our response to the Senators’ letter.”

      Amazon has fired at least four employees who publicly expressed concern about the company’s COVID-19 health and safety measures, and now a group of senator...
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      Reverse mortgage closing firms forced to make changes due to COVID-19

      Curbside signings and document sanitization efforts are being employed

      Reverse mortgage closings, which often entail in-person meetings, are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, several new working conditions have unfolded in the wake of the health crisis which have allowed reverse mortgage lenders to continue conducting business. 

      Ami Kellogg, president of Premier Reverse Closings (PRC) based in Roseville, Calif., said social distance guidelines have led her company to ramp up efforts to make work-from-home plans a reality. 

      “Our American Land Title Association (ALTA) best practices we had already put in place years prior to COVID-19 allowed us the ability to work remote efficiently,” Kellogg told Reverse Mortgage Daily. “The use of the ResWare platform has been a huge benefit to our remote work. The staff that work from home chose the decision to work remote mainly due to childcare issues and/or their school age children sent home to distance-learn due to school closures.”

      Kellogg said PRC has taken steps to ensure the safety of employees that must come into the office in order to receive loan packages, scan, and disburse files, such as making hand sanitizer available and making hand washing a required hourly task. 

      Changes that have been made

      While virus mitigation efforts remain active, PRC is making sure that all loan packages are individually sanitized when they arrive in the office. All packages are handled with gloves and aren’t picked up again until they’re fully dry. 

      Online meetings have taken the place of in-person meetings, which enables employees to keep working during this unprecedented time. For notaries, curbside signings are being used.  

      Another change PRC has seen is an uptick in attempted wire fraud. Kellogg told RMD that fraud attempts to divert loan payoff funds are on the rise as the nation continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. 

      “Phishing emails are also higher than ever, so people should be cautious and careful,” she said. 

      Kellogg said she’s optimistic about the rest of the year because Home Equity Conversion Mortgages orders have increased. PRC predicts “a better-than-projected order count for 2020,” which will allow the firm to bring on more employees.   

      “I have seen many new opportunities these past six weeks, created by strong communication, staying positive and caring for each other,” Kellogg said. “We are essential. Together, we can do this.”

      For more information about reverse mortgage lenders, visit ConsumerAffairs guide here.

      Reverse mortgage closings, which often entail in-person meetings, are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, several new working conditions h...
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      Gas prices start moving higher

      Big price increases in the Midwest have raised the national average

      Gasoline prices have ended their freefall caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and have begun moving higher this week, but only in certain parts of the country.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the average price of regular gas is $1.82 a gallon, five cents more than last Friday. However, it’s still $1.06 less than it was a year ago. The average price of premium gas is $2.44 a gallon, three cents more than a week ago. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.42 a gallon, also two cents more than last week.

      The price hikes were highly localized. In all 10 states with the most expensive gas, the statewide average price either went down slightly or stayed the same. The biggest changes occurred in the 10 states with the cheapest gas.

      Wisconsin, which had the cheapest gas in the nation for the last three weeks, fell out of the top 10 when its average price surged 36 cents a gallon in seven days. It was joined by Ohio and Michigan, both of which saw double-digit price increases.

      Prices had been held artificially low over the last seven weeks as people who normally drove their cars to work were working from home. A lack of gasoline demand and falling crude oil prices combined to offset the usual price hikes this time of year, when refineries curtail output as they perform seasonal maintenance and switch over to producing more expensive summer blends.

      Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokesperson, says motorists can expect to see prices at the pump continue to edge higher.

      “As some states begin to re-open businesses, those states will likely see demand increase and pump prices will likely follow suit,” she said. “Although U.S. gasoline demand has incrementally increased, it remains below six million barrels a day.”

      The states with the most expensive gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.18)

      • California ($2.74)

      • Washington ($2.43)

      • Oregon ($2.38) 

      • Nevada ($2.31)

      • New York ($2.15)

      • Arizona ($2.08)

      • Illinois ($2.04)

      •  Pennsylvania ($2.03)

      • Alaska ($2.01)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Oklahoma ($1.42)

      • Arkansas ($1.43)

      • Missouri ($1.46)

      • Mississippi ($1.48)

      • Kansas ($1.48)

      • Texas ($1.50)

      • Tennessee ($1.54)

      • Kentucky ($1.55)

      • Alabama ($1.55)

      • South Carolina ($1.56)

      Gasoline prices have ended their freefall caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and have begun moving higher this week, but only in certain parts of the cou...
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      Hyundai recalls model year 2016 Genesis Coupes

      The driver's airbag may be insufficiently tightened

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 1,295 model year 2016 Genesis Coupes.

      The mounting bolts securing the driver-side front airbag may have been insufficiently tightened, potentially causing the airbag to detach from the steering wheel.

      A detached driver's airbag increases the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the mounting bolts and retighten them as necessary free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 26, 2020.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at (800) 633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 192.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 1,295 model year 2016 Genesis Coupes.The mounting bolts securing the driver-side front airbag may have been insuffic...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2020 GLB 250s

      Water may enter into the front occupant foot wells

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 26 model year 2020 GLB 250s.

      Water may enter through the wheel well area into the front occupant foot wells, potentially damaging certain electrical components.

      This may result in the instrument cluster going blank, or an engine stall while driving without the ability to restart the vehicle.

      A blank instrument cluster display or an engine stall can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will seal the vehicle body in the wheel well area and inspect the front foot wells for water intrusion -- repairing as necessary -- free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 30, 2020.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 26 model year 2020 GLB 250s. Water may enter through the wheel well area into the front occupant foot wells, pote...
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      How to fix a spotty WiFi signal

      Is your WiFi’s slow speed frustrating? We have 6 ideas for quick fixes. If that fails, setting up your WiFi again is easy, and we explain how.

      Is your WiFi’s slow speed frustrating? We have 6 ideas for quick fixes. If that fails, setting up your WiFi again is easy, and we explain how...

      Coronavirus update: Florida gets more good news, no CDC guidance on reopenings

      A new vaccine has been cleared for a Phase 2 clinical trial

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

      Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,231,992 (1,210,822)

      Total U.S. deaths: 73,573 (71,463)

      Total global cases: 3,784,085 (3,709,800)

      Total global deaths: 264,679 (259,695)

      Florida’s story keeps getting better

      Health officials are still trying to figure out how Florida avoided becoming a coronavirus (COVID-19) hot spot after it was slow to close down and quick to reopen.

      Despite that, it’s case total and death toll puts it at eighth-highest in the nation, even though it’s the third-largest state in terms of population. When you consider its miles of beaches, its large population of elderly residents, and its tourist attractions, the state was expected to be a disaster area.

      Instead, most of the state has entered into a phase one reopening, with retail stores and restaurants allowed to operate at up to 25 percent capacity. “The fact of the matter is, Florida has met all the gating criteria to be into phase one,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press briefing.

      No guidance from CDC

      States, cities, and counties expecting guidance from federal health officials on how to reopen their jurisdictions are apparently not going to get it. The Associated Press reports that the blueprint, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is apparently being withheld. It was supposed to be released at the end of last week.

      The AP cites two sources as saying CDC scientists were told the document “would never see the light of day.” It was developed to help local governments determine when and how to reopen businesses and churches closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

      Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb expressed surprise at the report, tweeting that “a lot of business literally can’t reopen without it (the guidance) because CDC is a de-facto regulator in a public health crisis.”

      Vaccine cleared for Phase 2 clinical trial

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved drugmaker Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for Phase 2 clinical trials, which will determine whether it’s effective against the virus. The vaccine entered a Phase 1 trial in mid-March. The company said the next trial, using 600 volunteers, will begin soon. 

      “The imminent Phase 2 study start is a crucial step forward as we continue to advance the clinical development of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO.

      The company is already looking ahead to a Phase 3 trial, which Bancel said could begin as early as this summer.

      Jobless claims rise but at a slower pace

      Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose by 3.3 million in the last week, about half the rate from the first couple of weeks of the economic shutdown. About 33 million people have filed for jobless benefits in the last seven weeks.

      “The steady decline in jobless claims over the past five weeks signals that the initial shock to the jobs market is over,” John Silvia, an economist at Dynamic Economic Strategy, told The Wall Street Journal.

      But a lot of the damage has been done, with many jobs in hard-hit industries disappearing for good. Tomorrow, the government will issue its employment report for April, which is likely to show a record high jobless rate.

      New York may have spread COVID-19 throughout the U.S. 

      If the coronavirus originally came from Wuhan, China, new research suggests it spread in the U.S. largely from New York City. The New York Times cites research suggesting that travelers from New York to other parts of the U.S. spread the virus.

      Scientists say they tracked signature mutations of the virus, reviewed travel histories of infected people, and examined models of the outbreak by infectious disease experts.

      “We now have enough data to feel pretty confident that New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country,” Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, told the Times.

      Around the nation

      • Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee has taken sharp exception to a lawsuit filed against his administration that seeks to overturn his stay-at-home order and reopen the state. “It’s about biological ignorance and human heartlessness,” Inslee said on CNN. “It’s just trying to ignore the clear science of biology, which from an epidemiological standpoint is very clear that if we abandon our efforts, this beast is going to get off the floor and bite us back.”

      • Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam says some parts of the state may keep coronavirus-related restrictions in place longer than the rest of the state. The Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and the Richmond area have most of the state’s cases while rural areas have far fewer. Virginia is set to begin reopening May 15.  

      • Kansas: